Thursday, 26 July 2012

Why colour space is important on the web

I recently published images taken at Brands Hatch in some posts. I was very pleased with my first set of images, not least because I processed them entirely in Lightroom 4.1 and used the built-in Flickr publication service to post onto Flickr too - sweet.

The week before I had totally rebuilt my PC, reformatting and re-installing my applications, including Lightroom, careful to set the output colour space to sRGB. See Fig. 1

Fig. 1

When I came to process the next set of images I needed to do a little cloning and tidying up so I exported these to Photoshop (CS5), saved the JPEGs and uploaded to Flickr using the normal web site Flickr upload tool.

After a day or so I became aware that this latter set of images did not look right in certain situations, specifically when using Chrome and Safari browsers, the latter of which is the default on Apple's iPAD.

I was a bit perplexed for a while but after a few searches on the web it appeared that it was due a colour space issue, in that some browsers, including Chrome and Safari will ignore any embedded profile and just use sRGB to display. Thus, images with a different colour profile may be rendered incorrectly - indeed the images look very desaturated, particularly the reds. As Firefox is my browser of choice I was oblivious to this for a while.

I had set up Lightroom correctly to use sRGB in the external editor (CS5) so what had I missed? Well, good old Photoshop has its own defaults for colour management and I'd been a bit sloppy when re-installing it!

On checking my CS5 working space I found it was on ProPhoto RGB. Once I reset it to sRGB in the Colour Settings all the issues went away.

Fig. 2

There's a very good article on why you should probably use sRGB for all web-published images written by Michael Zhang that explains the principles.

For reference I've included the images below with different colour spaces so you can see how your browser will handle them.

Adobe RGB

Prophoto RGB
On Firefox, the three images look identical. On my iPAD, the Adobe RGB version looks a little flat and the ProPhoto RGB version just looks plain wrong, with the reds appearing almost a bronze colour - not red at all.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Brands Hatch part 3 - Clearways

As improvements to health and safety lead to the erection of higher and more sturdy fences, there are now very limited spots on the Indy circuit for the amateur photographer to get a good vantage point. The inside of Druids is an excellent location for panning shots: one is close to the action, there is a 1m high fence and the sun is coming from a perfect angle in the morning. All the panning shots in my first post were taken here.

The other popular place on the circuit is Clearways, particularly late afternoon as the sun swings round. The downside is that the bikes are farther away so more reach is needed, ideally in the form of a 400mm to 500mm lens. There is a small open 'window' in the fence around Clearways where it's possible to sneak a few photographic stints. The opening in the fence is fairly narrow so panning is not possible and the stock image taken here is where the bikes are cranked over on the apex of the curve. That said, it's possible to capture the speed and skill of the riders - judge for yourself from the shots below.

In the background is the bike which did not make it round the previous corner
My favourite shot of the day

I tried to keep the shutter speed to 1/2000th or faster, achieved by shooting in aperture priority mode, carefully monitoring and selecting aperture value (f/5 to f/7.1) and ISO (400 to 800).

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Brands Hatch part 2 - a photographer's view

A large proportion of spectators at Brands last Friday are also budding photographers, trying to get some action shots of their heroes. However, this post attempts to capture the mood of the day, with 'behind the scenes' shots rather than pure action.

It was great that Ian was there to furnish us with local knowledge, including a suggestion to stroll around the Lower Paddock area. Ian wanted so get some of his prints signed by the riders so Anthony and I took time to immerse ourselves in the paddock activities, watching the teams preparing and repairing their chariots. It was clear that there is a huge range of funding behind the sport, from the overtly commercial to the 'one man and his mechanic' teams, each operating in harmony in the melting pot together.

We bumped into Ian a few times and outside of one marquee he pointed out John McGuinness, the second most successful TT racer of all time.

John McGuinness exiting his garage
I was surprised that there were still a number of two-stroke machines racing - those unmistakable engine notes and fumes! I also, from my youth, associated the Austrian KTM manufacturer with off-road bikes but this is clearly not the case.

Waiting for a spare part?
All the sidecar teams were based in the Lower Paddock and they could regularly be seen cruising through.

Team colours
Of course, being part of team makes the paddock a great playground for youngsters.

Junior riding shotgun
Kent Bad Boyz Photography AKA John Manclark at Druids
Ian had met John Manclark via social networking but it was the first time they had connected in the real world. Ian introduced us and I have now joined John's virtual world. John is clearly working as hard on his marketing as he is on photography - good luck!

Back out on the track and I was looking for a few shots to capture the essence of the day.

Rounding Paddock Hill bend

On our way round the circuit towards Clearways (where we would spend most of the afternoon) we spotted this great typo on a concession stand.

Never tried them before?
I decided that a bit more reach was needed so I went back to my car and picked up my 500mm lens and set up my Wimberley for a few shots of the bikes as they negotiated the S-bend made up by Surtees and McClaren (just before the long sweeping right-hander that is Clearways). A pictorial shot: leading lines, curves and a splash or two of colour.

Out of Surtees and into McClaren
What I really appreciated during the whole course of the day was how friendly and courteous everyone was. Quite often, a few photographers try to muscle in on the best pitches but this was so not the case, making for a relaxed and enjoyable day - fantastic! I guess it's helped by the fact that the professionals are inside the safety fencing and we are on the outside.

[I'm in the process of improving my Lightroom skills at the moment and have set up a few presets for processing race track images. I put them in a Quick Collection and exported it as a set of JPEG without touching Photoshop, saving time without compromising quality]

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Brands Hatch part 1 - panning

Anthony and I spent a day with our friend Ian at Brands Hatch yesterday for British Superbikes testing and practice. We were hoping that it would be on the full GP circuit but were a little disappointed to find out that it was restricted to the Indy; nonetheless, the weather was kind and great day was had by all.

Being the first day of the school holidays meant that there was little traffic on the roads and we got there early and once we had got our bearings headed for a coffee. The smell of breakfast greeted us in the cafe and three bacon rolls were swiftly ordered and consumed.

Having spend much time recently photographic orchids and in the studio it was great to get out and do some action shots for a change. We 'limbered up' with some gentle panning at Druids in very good light, working with different angles and shutter speeds. I found that I could get a reasonable number of sharp 'keepers' at 1/100th second but below that was a disaster.

If you get some time to see some of Ian's motorsport images you'll see that he is seriously good! I could not resist a quick grab-shot of the master in action - camera and photographer working as one.

Ian 'Panning for Gold' - excuse the pun
As well as the BSB there was a myriad of other attractions on the track, including sidecars, T3 racing, juniors etc.

I filled 3x8GB CF cards on the day in single-shot mode, culling 600 of the resulting 900 images based on sharpness and composition. A further round of 'weeding' will follow - thank heavens for Adobe Lightroom and not using burst mode.

Most of my panning was done with a 70-200mm lens but after a chat with Ian I tried with my 50mm prime. I got this wide-angle vista which gives a different perspective to the closely-cropped style that we see so much.

50mm focal length; 1/40th at f/14
The T3 bikes were out early and provided great subjects as they exited Druids.

Getting in a bit tighter but keeping the advertising in-frame (Tom Ward)
Ben Taylor
Chri55y Rouse
Gary Horspole and Robert Biggs
There's only so much panning one can do so we headed of round the circuit to find some alternative vantage spots - images to come in future posts.

Some recent edits

Dawn in shadoxhurst

 Just a couple of  images that I have been working on,  I am happy with the landscape taken earlier this year in Shadoxhurst  but I am  not sure  I have finished with the portrait this may yet be re- edited .

Olympics time

The Olympic Torch passes Canterbury Cathedral

In the next few days the 2012 Olympic Games will start in London. Media hype is in full swing, and the weather is finally relenting. As I write, there is blue sky outside, the first we’ve seen for a while.

Unfortunately, the Olympics have not yet engendered much of an optimistic mood in Britain. Partly it is the weather, partly the lousy state of the economy (with everyone, including bankers, in fear for their jobs) and partly the unprecedented censorship that has descended in the wake of the IOC. The Games are represented in the media as security theatre more than a festival of sport.

 Boris Johnson (hizzoner the Mayor of London) is doing his best: jokey, upbeat recorded announcements greet passengers on the Underground; his speeches and interviews present relentless optimism. Hitherto, however, I’ve noticed little real anticipation for the first Olympiad to be held in the UK in most people's lifetimes. 

Tower Bridge and the Rings

 I was in London for a meeting recently, and took the opportunity to pop out onto London Bridge to get a snap down the river of the Olympic rings dangling from Tower Bridge. The grey, lowering clouds above the scene seemed to sum up the pervasively miserable mood.

Rockefeller Plaza, July 4, 2005
It is all a far cry from when London was awarded the Olympics in 2005. At the time, I was working in New York, so missed out on the celebrations in the UK. In New York, though, the whole feeling was very muted: my colleagues, at least, showed no interest in Manhattan being taken over for the Games. I got the impression that New Yorkers thought it was generally a good thing the Olympics were going somewhere else. So now they’ve arrived here.

Standing in stark contrast to the broader zeitgeist, however, is the Olympic Torch. As it has made it's journey around the UK it has attracted crowds everywhere and generated real enthusiasm among most people I know.

I have very mixed feelings about the Torch, given its origins; however, bearing in mind that (a) the runners carrying it have been selected as recognition for the contribution they’ve made to their communities and (b) my next door neighbour, a silversmith, was involved in the development and fabrication of this year's model, I’m doing my best to share the enthusiasm (still doesn’t sit easily, somehow).

A day to remember

Palace Street spectators
On the afternoon the Torch came though Canterbury, the building where I work emptied as people went downtown. I joined the crowds in Palace Street an hour in advance to grab a spot of pavement, before it was entirely overrun. I chose Palace Street in order to give my pictures a sense of place: it is one of the few places on the route with a clear view of the Cathedral in the background.

Canterbury was packed – beyond anything I’d expected. I think the occupants of every office and shop must have come out. Most of all, there were foreign students everywhere: Canterbury has always hosted hordes of continental students, and they were out in force.

Wiggly worms

Selling flags in aid of Help for Heroes
While we waited for the Torch, all sorts of vendors patrolled up and down the road, selling flags, whistles, toy medals and blow up objects described with wild imagination as “Olympic Torches”.
 The whole thing was distinctly Ankh Morpork in flavour: all that was missing was Mr Dibbler and his sausages.

Torch party approaching
By the time the Torch party came up the road, it was packed; the stewards and police pretty much gave up on trying to keep everyone on the pavement – it was a bit like one of those roads on the Tour de France where all the spectators crowd in on the competitors.

Coming through

The Torch carrier, surrounded by police in grey athletic-style uniforms, hoofed through at high speed, as if trying to avoid being completely swamped. Blink and you missed it. I had time for just a couple of very quick snaps – and then it was gone.

Canterbury crowds
The crowds slowly dispersed, or, rather, melded together; the road simply disappeared under the mass of humanity. I made my way back through the hordes to the car and on to work, taking some snaps along the way.
Pictures from a window

Tourists and Morris dancers

Maybe Mr Dibbler has a new line

No Olympic rings for Canterbury 2012

Drum band outside the Marlow Theatre

Maybe we will all have a party this summer
It was clear that people really had enjoyed the occasion; there was a party mood, even if most people only saw the Torch itself for two seconds. The sun was out, and the great festival of sport is on it way. Maybe we’re going to have a good time after all.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The busy aviation photography week: Part 3 RIAT

Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet on a fast pass
RIAT is the big one of the year for me: several days of having my ribs rattled by high performance jets screaming over just above my head. I always take far too many pictures, which I never really finish editing. Anyhow, of those I’ve looked at so far, I've posted a gallery of this year's pictures on Flickr. (FWIW pictures from several previous years are still on Pbase).

This year's show was great, in terms of the aircraft and flying. Great variety, with some types (like the Osprey) that I've never previously seen. But the weather this summer has been miserable, with the jetstream stuck in the wrong place, directing cloud, cold and rain at us, and only rarely letting the sun through. Great flying, but grey skies don't make for attractive backgrounds to pictures. I was there from Thursday afternoon to Saturday, as I'll recount below.

Arrivals: Thursday

This year I was able to get there for the Thursday afternoon of the arrivals. Yay - it was hot and sunny! For the Thursday afternoon the weather relented, and I joined Graham (Flickr:nacl1) in the field at the end of the eastern end of the runway.

There was a wonderful selection of aircraft arriving of the sort that you never normally get to see, including some of those truly garish paint schemes that come up each year at RIAT.

The Atlas Arrives

 The A400M is the new military transport, now named Atlas. A huge monster.

Tiger Tornado
 I did like the look of this Tiger Tonka.


The skies were starting to cloud over when this Super Etandard Modernisé arrived. Bearing in mind this year's anniversary of the Falklands conflict, this type has a pertinent historic significance.

Al Fursan stack
Black Eagles T-50

Several teams went up for practice, including Al Fursan from UAE and RoKAF Black Eagles. The Black Eagles, in particular, put on an excellent display culminating in drawing a yin-yang sign against the blue sky -- unfortunately I only had the 200-400 mm lens on at that point, and the sign was too big to capture with that lens.

All in all, a glorious afternoon with some wonderful flying.

Practice: Friday

The weather on the Friday was simply and straightforwardly pants. There's not many pictures to show from that day, even though we did get a little bit of flying. I spent most of the day in the car sheltering from driving rain, while the occasional aircraft went up to see if there was room under the cloud base for practice. I was most impressed with the way that the Korean Black Eagles went up to probe the cloud base: they disappeared at about 400 feet, but nevertheless kept looking to try to put on a display, but in the end had to admit defeat. Later, the team captain came on Wings Radio, the RIAT FM radio station, to apologise for the “inconvenience”. We were all slightly gobsmacked about such a wonderfully polite apology, when we thought we should be apologising to them for our ghastly weather.

Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey of VMM-264
 I did at least get a sighting of the V22 Osprey: I've never seen one before. Most impressive.

Dutch F16 in the gloom
One practice that did get going at least was the Dutch F16. The pilot, Stitch, very bravely went up late in the afternoon to try a practice display. The light was so awful that his burner stood out brightly against the dark grey sky. At one point, he appeared out of the clouds and found himself still heading down at very low altitude: his wings wobbled as he pulled up as hard as he could. For a moment we all thought he was  going to end up in the pond by Rhymes Farm. As I understand it he was immediately given a red card by the controller and had to land. The Dutch team tweeted about it later. In the field, we were all joking about Stitch having to go off and land so he could change his trousers after that.

Display day: Saturday

Arriving for the day, I was worried we will get no flying at all. The cloud was again low and the rain was coming in. However midmorning, the Ospreys started to move and I got some nice vapour pushed down from the rotors. Later on the sky transiently showed some blue stuff, when the clouds got out of the way: not often, but once in a while.

Osprey with vapor

After that displays came up one after the other, although mostly they had to run a low rolling display. The Korean Black Eagles again did a wonderful job, and I hope they come back soon.
Black Eagles Burst. And I haven't desaturated the sky: just increased contrast with an L channel curve. It looks like colour popping, but isn't. The sky really was that grey!

I'll just put up a couple more pictures here to illustrate the changeable nature of the weather.

As a contrast to the previous picture: blue sky greeted the Vulcan
Likewise, the RAF Display Tucano got plenty of the blue stuff
But the grey gloom returned for the Typhoon

It was one of those days when I was quite happy to leave a little earlier than I might have, just to avoid the worst of the mud. RIAT is always a great show every year, but this is now twice in just a few years when the weather has really let us down. In 2008 the weather was so awful and the car parks were reduced to impassable mud that the whole show was cancelled. Nevertheless, three days of enjoyable displays, and types I would never otherwise see.

Roll on next year!