photography

Basics of the Histogram: From Foe to Friend

Basics of the Histogram: From Foe to Friend

A long, long time ago, that is, in days of film photography, it was a rather difficult task to learn how to produce properly exposed pictures. There was no instant feedback and the only way to see how good of a job you did exposing the scene was to wait until the picture was developed.

Nowadays, regardless of your skill level or how advanced are you with any photo editing software, if you are using a digital camera, there’s a slice of digital information that can help you instantly adjust your camera settings in order to take a picture with near perfect exposure. This piece of information is probably something that you might have even noticed before, but never really paid too much attention. Indeed, I’m talking about the histogram, which is often overlooked or completely ignored.

Yes, I understand, that strange diagram with mountainous peaks might seem too technical to go into too much, especially when you have an LCD display on the back of your camera showing you the picture you just took. However, I believe that there are a number of ways to improve your photography once you understand how to read the histogram.

In this article, we will explore the technical aspects of it as well as ways to incorporate it with your workflow on the field and in post-processing.

Breaking Down the Histogram

In essence, the histogram is a visual representation of the brightness values of all the pixels in your image. Generally, we use a combined histogram of the three main color channels (red, green and blue) or RGB histogram. However, if needed, you can dwell deeper into the histogram of each individual color channel.

First, let’s try to break down what exactly is represented in the histogram. If you look at any histogram you will notice two axis – horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis represents the number of tones and their level of brightness, starting from 0 (pure black) up until 255 (pure white). The vertical axis represents the number of pixels at each level of brightness.

So, if you follow the line within the histogram, those highest “mountain peaks” tell you exactly where on the brightness scale you have the most amount of information about the image. If the “mountain peaks” are stacked more towards the left side, even without looking at the actual image, it tells you that it’s dark. On the contrary, if they are towards the right side of the histogram, the image is bright. This is probably the most essential aspect of the histogram that you would need to remember.

For an image to be correctly exposed, you need to stay within those walls on each side of the histogram. If you expose beyond those walls, in photographic terms we call it clipping. So, if any part of the histogram reaches the right side of the wall, the image is considered to be overexposed and means that every single pixel that reaches this wall, will be represented as pure white.

In simpler terms, all you will see in the overexposed part of the image is nothing else but white pixels. Similarly, if the histogram touches the left side of the wall, it’s considered underexposed and you are left with pure blacks. Take a look at this picture. Here you have a visual representation of how an underexposed, overexposed and correctly exposed histogram looks like.

We established that overexposing and underexposing is something that should generally be avoided, however, there might be situations when dynamic range or difference between the darkest and brightest parts of the scene are so high, that it’s virtually impossible to capture it without clipping either shadows or highlights.

Of course, you can use neutral density graduated filters to compensate for the difference or even bracket the shot and correct the exposure in the final image during post-processing.

Let’s imagine you don’t have these options or the scene is too complex to bracket without failing miserably. In this case, it is advised to underexpose the scene rather than to overexpose. Modern digital cameras are capable to record quite a lot of information about the details in the underexposed areas and bring them out later during the post-processing of the image. However, it is virtually impossible to recover any of the information in the overexposed areas.

Additionally, some cameras are more capable in one thing than the other. For example, Nikon cameras are performing better at recording the details in shadows, so Nikon users have to worry less about underexposing than, for example, Canon users. On the other hand, Canon cameras have a higher capability to record details in the highlights than Nikon users.

Expose to the Right

I would like to mention another aspect of the histogram that might be worthwhile to learn. As I mentioned before, every scene is different and on the whole, there’s no such thing as an ideal histogram as it depends entirely on what are you shooting. However, there’s one piece of advice you might have heard before and I suggest you listen to it: expose to the right!

What it means is that you should generally push the exposure to the brighter levels of the histogram. The reason behind it is simple: the number of tones within the horizontal axis of the histogram. Let’s split the histogram into 5 equal parts starting from left to right, from darkest part to the brightest.

The first section only has 575 tones available, next one has 1149 tones. These two sections make up the so-called darks in the picture. The third section is composed of mid tones and has 2298 tones within it. Last two sections represent the brightest part of the picture and have a combined number of 13,788 tones available.

In simpler terms, if your picture is dark, you will only have a very limited amount of tones available to work with. Let’s say you would like to adjust the picture during the post-processing by increasing the brightness, contrast or do any other changes. Lack of information about the tones will manifest in banding (pixelated gradients), increased noise levels and other problems. On the contrary, if you have a picture that exposed towards the right side of the histogram, you are less likely to run into these problems during post-processing.

The Back of Your Camera Lies

Another important aspect of learning to read the histogram is that once you understand it there is no need to rely solely on LCD display built inside the camera. Why is it a good thing, you ask? Because the LCD display lies!

While it gives a reasonably good interpretation of the image, it’s far from perfect to determine, for example, how correct the exposure is. First of all, the LCD displays only a JPEG preview version of the image, even if you shoot RAW files. Besides, the LCD screen has a much lower resolution than the image itself and the brightness level of the screen might be adjusted too bright or too dim. This is especially important to remember when shooting in very bright or dark conditions.

For example, when shooting northern lights, while looking at the screen in these dark conditions, it might seem that the picture on the back of your LCD is correctly exposed, however, this is misleading. This is due to the way how our eyes adjust according to the viewing conditions. In this case, when viewing the picture it in the dark, it will look much brighter than it actually is.

Making Use of This Knowledge

There are a number of ways how to implement an understanding of histogram in a photographer’s workflow. First of all, most of the modern cameras have an ability to represent histogram on an LCD screen even before making a shot – through live view mode. This way you can adjust your exposure exactly, even before taking a shot.

Ideally, I would suggest making it a habit to check the histogram after each shot. If that sounds too tedious, one can at least use “highlight alert” function built in the camera. Once a shot is taken, it is possible to view the image and allow the camera to detect if there are any areas that are overexposed.

Additionally, you can use your knowledge of histogram while making adjustments to an image during the post-processing. Increasing or decreasing brightness might result in lost pixels and to prevent that you can always rely on monitoring the histogram while making sure that no clipping occurs.

It doesn’t necessarily make you a professional just because you are able to read the histogram, but learning it can be very helpful at times. I hope that this article helped you to understand the basic principles behind the histogram and with time you will be able to incorporate this knowledge in your workflow and ultimately improve your photography.


About the author: Kaspars Dzenis is a landscape photographer based in Iceland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Dzenis conducts photo tours and workshops in his country. You can find more of Dzenis’ work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

Basics of the Histogram: From Foe to Friend

The First Great Photography Craze: Cartes de Visites

The First Great Photography Craze: Cartes de Visites

Before Instagram, selfie sticks, disposable cameras, Polaroids, and box brownies, there were carte de visites — small photographic albumen prints, mounted on card, which were wildly popular during the Victorian era.

Also known as CdV, carte de visites followed the early pioneering photographic techniques such as daguerreotype and ambrotype, which were expensive and difficult to reproduce. Cartes de visites were born from calling cards, which bore the owner’s name and usually an emblem, and were presented to the host during a social visit. Homes often had a tray near the door for collecting calling cards.

In 1854, Paris photographer Andre Adolphe Disderi patented the 2 1/2″ x 4″ carte de visite format. They were created by using a sliding plate holder and a camera with four lenses. The technique spread to the photographic studios in the great cities of the world. Carte de visites were extensively used in the American Civil War era as families sought mementos before loved ones left for war. Queen Victoria had numerous albums filled with images of her extensive family.

Small and inexpensive to produce, cartes de visites became the international standard. They were collected, exchanged and placed in family albums. Most carte de visites were taken in studios but some adventurous photographers took them outdoors in early examples of photojournalism.

For many people, posing for a carte de visite was the first time they had been photographed. Smiles are almost completely absent. Some people look ill at ease. Most photographers posed their subjects as if they were being painted for a grand oil painting. Look past the stern expressions and you will see Victorian fashion, various accessories and props, uniforms, and hairstyles and epic facial hair.

From 1860 until the end of the century, carte de visites were immensely popular. But people didn’t just want pictures of themselves or loved ones, carte de visites of celebrities were also in demand. Images of politicians, authors, explorers, sports stars and other people of note were widely circulated. Eventually the larger cabinet cards replaced CdVs as the technology behind photography continued to advance.

A Selection of Carte de Visites

Bottle Corker. This undated photo was taken in Birmingham in the Midlands. We assume a bottle corker was someone who put corks into bottles rather than removed them.
Soccer Player. An unidentified Scottish footballer/soccer player. The photo was taken by John Spence of Bridge Street, Musselburgh. Circa 1880.
Australian Soldier. Taken in Sydney in 1863, the uniform appears to be that of the New South Wales Volunteer Artillery.
Mother and Baby. This was taken in the English seaside town of Torquay circa 1880. Interesting to see that the design of the baby carriage (aka the stroller) has come full circle
Kit Carson. This 1862 carte de visite shows Kit Carson (seated) and Edwin Perrin. Carson was a frontiersman and a Wild West legend in his own lifetime. Here he is pictured in his Union army coat. Perrin led the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry in the American Civil War.
General Custer. George Custer in his Union uniform in 1865. The photo is printed from a negative taken by Matthew Brady, who was best known for his Civil War photography. Custer, a Civil War hero, was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.
Man with Top Hat. This gentleman from Palermo in Italy, circa 1870, looks like a true man about town in his immaculate clothing, dapper cane and stupendous top hat laid to one side.
Alexandre Dumas Pere & Adah Isaacs Menken. Adah Isaacs Menken was the highest paid actress in the middle of the 18th century. While performing in France in 1866, she had an affair with author Alexandre Dumas, which caused a scandal as he was more than twice her age. Her only book, Infelicia, a collection of 31 poems, was published several days after her death.
Hans Christian Andersen. The Danish author of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen poses for a carte de visite. A keen traveler, Andersen died in 1875.
Victor Hugo. An 1874 carte de visite of Hugo. He published his last novel in 1874, Quatre-vingt-treize, about the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
Boy and his Toy Horse. Circa 1880s and taken in Liverpool, the smartly dressed boy is also holding a riding crop.
Little Artists. Booted and suited, two smartly dressed boys from Naples. Circa 1860.
Lady Reading. This Italian lady is completely focused on her book. Circa 1860.
Soldier and Wife. Circa 1890, this carte de visite was taken in Bury St Edmonds. The two stripes show that he was a corporal. He’s smoking while she holds a book and looks decidedly uncomfortable.
Italian Solider. This military man from Bologna looks completely at ease. Circa 1890s.
David Livingstone. “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” This is the explorer David Livingstone, who was famously found by fellow explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1871 near Lake Tanganyika in Africa.
Three Priests. A trio of Catholic priests in Rome circa 1870. Two are following instructions and posing for the shot but the third isn’t cooperating. Looks like a scene from Father Ted.
Sultan of Turkey. Abdul Aziz Khan was the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and reigned between 1861 and 1876. A formidable looking man.
William Makepeace Thackeray. Taken in London, undated. William Makepeace Thackeray was a novelist famous for writing Vanity Fair.
Edward VII. Taken in September 1863 when he was the Prince of Wales, Edward is wearing full Highland dress. Abergeldie Castle is close to the Queen’s Scottish home of Balmoral.
Randolph Churchill. Winston’s dad. Randolph was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons during his Tory political career.
Swiss Costume. Circa 1870, a lady in traditional Swiss dress.
Water Carrier. A Venetian water carrier around 1870.
Facial Hair. This gentleman from Torino has outstanding muttonchops. Circa 1870.
Dad and Kids. It must have been a cold day when this father posed with his warmly wrapped up children.

About the author: Richard Davies is the Content Manager at AbeBooks. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

The First Great Photography Craze: Cartes de Visites

15 Useful Photoshop Shortcuts You’re Probably Not Using (Yet)

15 Useful Photoshop Shortcuts You’re Probably Not Using (Yet)

If you’re always looking for ways to optimize and streamline your photography post-processing workflow, here’s an 11-minute video for you. Jesús Ramirez of Photoshop Training Channel shares 15 helpful Photoshop keyboard shortcuts (AKA hotkeys) that aren’t as commonly known.

“Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts improve your everyday workflow and give an absolute boost in your productivity,” Ramirez says. “These hotkey combinations will certainly come in handy for every Photoshop user not matter if you are a Windows or OS X user!”

Here’s an index of the topics covered in the video:

00:42: Clone Tool Shortcuts
02:02: Load Luminosity
03:01: Lock Transparent Pixels
03:36: Restore Liquify
04:28: Puppet Warp
05:08: Cycle Through Brush List
05:38: Activate Layer Mask
06:19: Fill Only Opaque Pixels
07:09: Restore Last Selection
07:30: Change Brush Size and Hardness
07:46: Revert File
08:17: Increase Space Between Characters – Kerning
08:39: Pick Colors Outside of Photoshop
09:22: Cross-Hari on Painting Tools
10:10: Bonus – Banana Tool

Perhaps you know and regularly use some or most of these, but hopefully there was at least something you’re able to glean from the video to improve your Photoshop skills.

(via Photoshop Training Channel via Fstoppers)


Source: PetaPixel

15 Useful Photoshop Shortcuts You’re Probably Not Using (Yet)

The Man Who Makes Cameras Out of Everything from Fruit to Campers

The Man Who Makes Cameras Out of Everything from Fruit to Campers

ILFORD PHOTO just released this 15-minute short film that looks at the work of Brendan Barry, a large format photographer, lecturer, and camera builder who does unusual work with cameras and photography. It’s titled, “The Camera Maker.”

Barry shared back in 2017 about how he turned a camper trailer into a giant camera and portable darkroom.

But that project is only a slice of what Barry has been working on. He builds cameras out of things like fruit (a melon) and mannequins. And using his homemade cameras, he creates prints on direct positive paper as well as black-and-white paper negatives.

The film also shows the inner workings of his camper camera on location while he shot in Dartmoor National Park. Barry also converts an abandoned Royal Air Force air traffic control tower into a camera and darkroom.


Credits: Video created by Exploredinary


Source: PetaPixel

The Man Who Makes Cameras Out of Everything from Fruit to Campers

Making MAYA, the Only Darkroom Timer You’ll Ever Need

Making MAYA, the Only Darkroom Timer You’ll Ever Need

MAYA is a darkroom timer project that was born out of necessity when my old darkroom timer had started to malfunction. It has become a pretty successful crowdfunding campaign so far, exceeding 300% of its initial goal with a few days left to go.

Like many people who still have a darkroom, I’ve bought most of the equipment in the used market. As is the case with such niche markets, you can’t always pick your choice from an endless supply of brands, models, and variations so I went for the best deal I could see, a Kaiser 6002 with several boxes loaded with all kinds of darkroom supplies. The seller was one of the nicest people I’ve met and explained in great detail what I was walking out with. In one of those boxes, there was a darkroom timer.

He had fully explained that it wasn’t the best timer in the world. It would only have two functions, turn the enlarger lamp on and off at my will so that I could focus and upon pressing the countdown button, it would turn the enlarger on for a set amount of time, making an exposure. Except that every now and then it would get stuck (usually around the 15-second mark) and give me an unending exposure, resulting in crushed blacks and grayed out highlights, depending on how late I was to react to the needle getting stuck.

Approaching the zone of doom… or maybe it’ll be fine this time…

I had looked for replacement timers and I still remember closing down all the tabs in my browser in frustration. Even the simplest timers, similar to what I had, would cost more than I’m willing to pay. As I had gained more darkroom experience, I began to realize I didn’t want a similar replacement anyway. Having such a simple timer became quite limiting as I had begun to work with split grades, multiple exposures, dodging and burning, flashing the paper… Each session I was finding myself more willing to get a much more capable unit, something that would let me set it up as I want and then simply get out of the way as I was making the final print.

There’s a good deal of work behind even a simple print like this

Then on one such day, I was met with my timer’s much-worsened situation. Now it would get stuck much more often and at every single spot on the dial. It was almost impossible to even make a reliable test strip with repeated 5” exposures. So I began revisiting all the manufacturers who still make a darkroom timer, along with the used ones commonly available.

Did not like any of them.

I was looking for something more practical. Even though I shoot film, mostly using equipment that was designed and built decades ago, that doesn’t mean I want to work with a badly designed interface with 4-digit numeric codes and lookup tables requiring multiple button combinations and memorizing what and where everything is. It’s 2018 (it was back then), why can’t we have something with a proper LCD? Why is anything with F-Stops so expensive? Why am I expected to pay 350$/€/£ for some add-on which is basically a 0.20$/€/£ electronic part attached to a cable? Why do I have to buy a different model with different capabilities which clearly runs on the exact same hardware, if all I want is some of those capabilities? Why can’t this be done with a simple firmware update?

I could do better than this.

I knew people were already building simple timers using Arduino microcontrollers. So, why not build something far more advanced? It’s a small computer that is available cheaply and is easily reprogrammable. If it handles 3D printers, CNC machines and all kind of silly robots that you can find all over the Internet, how hard would it be to ask it turn a light off and on?

A few seconds after these thoughts, my industrial designer instincts kicked in. “It’s just software in a box”, a voice said from the back of my head. “Just build another box, upload the software and you have a copy that you can sell. If it turns out as good as you imagine it to be, people will buy it”.

Can you hear the people queuing up?

So I went out, bought two Arduino boards, an LCD and assorted lengths of wire and started working with them. Did a whole notebook worth of sketches of both the physical and the graphical user interface. From the start, I wanted to have dials and a few buttons that I could repurpose as I saw fit. It has a screen, after all. I could communicate with the user, telling what each of these dials and buttons does in a given menu or mode. Yet at the same time, I would keep the two most essential buttons serve only one purpose, one to focus and one to expose. No double clicks, no press and hold, no excuses. Press them and they should do their job.

First sketches of the box

Even though having an LCD is nice and informative, I wanted to have another way of displaying the most crucial information, the countdown time and the contrast filter that I’m supposed to use. For that, I added two large displays to either side of the LCD. Shortly afterward it became natural to look at those displays to figure out what I was supposed to do next when making a print; expose for a certain amount of time, replace the contrast filter, dodge or burn a certain area.

Maybe I should have gotten two egg timers. Nah, I’ll just design and build a small computer:

After deciding on the basic design language, I began to design the graphical user interface, all the menus and screens. There were many variations, seemingly good concepts that were abandoned shortly after using them in the real world and seemingly dead ends that made it back somehow into later versions.

One such concept was replacing the LCD with an E Ink display. Would’ve been easy to read under the red safelight and I liked the idea of displaying a clock face on the e-ink display to act as a progress bar. Had to abandon this idea after realizing even with partial refresh, e-ink displays have a very low refresh rate and a very annoying blink when refreshing the whole screen. Shelved the concept without building a single prototype and maybe I’ll bring it back one day but the progress bar idea made it into the next version of the hardware, as a series of LEDs that visualize my progress along the whole print recipe or the current countdown.

Here’s me making some test strips with F-Stops (don’t have to follow the time display, the progress bar tells me how long it’ll take):

Until about that point, the whole thing was still a pet project that I intended to build as a replacement for my timer. When I shared it on a few Facebook groups (The Darkroom and Medium&Large Format film Photography, both excellent places of exchanging information and photography), it was met with great encouragement, very positive feedback and quite a few new ideas. There were also the occasional “yeah cool but I like having a basic timer,” which is still valid feedback, some people don’t care for what I was after at all. That day I had made up my mind, I would prioritize this project, get it out on the market for everyone who’d like to have one and… then what?

What if I had built an enlarger as well? Or an automated film processor, some people really like that idea as it’s been demonstrated quite a few times in the last years. What else? There is quite a capable microprocessor inside MAYA and if I had planned the hardware ahead, I could’ve come up with all sorts of darkroom related hardware and make them work with it via a simple firmware update. How about an affordable densitometer? A shutter speed tester? A head probe for people who use cold light enlargers, one of the many great ideas that came from that thread on Facebook? Support for Ilford Multigrade heads? I had already separated the Power Bar (where all the darkroom appliances are connected to) from the control unit so most of these enlarger-unrelated add-ons would simply use the same interface for communication and with the right hardware, I could even use MAYA as a sous vide machine.

Definitely sous vide

Is it sous vide if you do everything by hand? (It already does have a separate mode for film process timer and an auto-compensating thermometer)

With all my plans set, I could finally launch a crowdfunding campaign. I knew that there’s a great deal of negativity surrounding crowdfunding projects these days, especially in our community thanks to a few projects who have cheated out quite a few people by either overpromising with fancy looking non-working prototypes or cool-sounding concepts that became to no fruition of any kind. With no previous projects of this kind or a bought-and-repurposed brand name that is familiar in the industry, I had to be as transparent as possible. Which meant taking an extra month or two developing the concept into a later stage, shoot a lot of videos, share them around, show MAYA in use for everyone to see and understand.

Photo of the first prototype unit
White Edition, has mostly the same capabilities without some of the bells and whistles

Since I’m in such a late stage of design, there isn’t much to do before finalizing the product. One aspect that I had not finalized is the final choice of materials and production methods. For that, I had to see how many of these I’d expect to build. Even if I had sold only a handful of units, I could still be able to deliver by using traditional production methods. If I had approached triple digits, I could use some more sophisticated materials and techniques to build them. Deep into triple digits would’ve been pretty much mass production with me being much less involved in most of the steps, except for final assembly, quality control, and delivery.

All I had needed in the first place though, was a handful of people to believe in my project.

Met that initial goal in about than 39 hours. Had doubled it in less than a week and with only a few days to go, I’ve passed 300% of my initial goal. This could only happen with the help of some lovely people in the community. The people who spread the word around. What we see the most often is all the negativity in the comment section and forum threads but we don’t hear enough praise for people who share their enthusiasm with others.

So once again, thank you everyone who had ever left a comment on any of my posts anywhere. Thank you to everyone who shared the word around, in the forums, Facebook groups, mail groups and Discord servers they hang in. Couldn’t have done this without some people spending night after night of their own time, giving me new ideas, feedback and encouragement. We, as a photography community in general, are getting fewer in numbers (even though film photography is actually growing) and the best part of this project has been meeting all the lovely strangers over the Internet. Thank you, everyone.

And here we are. With the crowdfunding about to be completed, hard work awaits me. I have to debug my code, do a few experiments with the future projects to ensure compatibility, finalize the design, order and manufacture the parts and put everything together. With the extra funding raised, I’ve already begun working on a few of those steps and assuming everything goes smoothly, will deliver the first batch in July and the second batch in August.

Then I’ll return with another project. Something that I’ve already been working on…


About the author: Can Çevik is an industrial designer and film photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Çevik is the inventor of MAYA, an advanced darkroom timer. You can find more of his work and photos on Instagram.


Source: PetaPixel

Making MAYA, the Only Darkroom Timer You’ll Ever Need

These Car Ads Were Shot with Toy Cars

These Car Ads Were Shot with Toy Cars

A few months ago, the Czech car brand Škoda got in touch with Hungarian photographer Benedek Lampert and asked him to shoot car photos. But instead of expensive shoots featuring real Škoda cars, the company asked that Lampert only use 1:43-scale models of the cars.

“It sounded interesting, so I accepted,” the 24-year-old photographer tells PetaPixel. Lampert regularly shoots realistic small-scale photos featuring LEGO figurines in dioramas, so he had the necessary background and skills for this commission.

Lampert uses as little Photoshop manipulation as possible for his photos, opting instead to spend hours and hours creating miniature scenes with as many real elements as possible (e.g. smoke and dirt). Most of the photos took him 7 to 12 hours each to complete, but one particular shot took a whopping 10 days for set building, concept work, shooting, and post-production.

While it would be easier to fake things like motion blur using Photoshop, Lampert actually captured it on camera — the blur you see in the backgrounds and in the cars’ wheels wasn’t the result of digital manipulation.

Here are the photos that Lampert created for Škoda, with each one followed by a behind-the-scenes look at how it was created.

Here’s a 5-minute behind-the-scenes video that provides a closer look at how certain shots were done:

You can find more of Lampert’s work on 500px.


P.S. If you enjoyed these photos, other photographers who are well-known for doing amazing work with model cars include Felix Hernandez and Michael Paul Smith.


Source: PetaPixel

These Car Ads Were Shot with Toy Cars

Hungary Using ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ Couple to Tell Couples to Have Kids

Hungary Using ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ Couple to Tell Couples to Have Kids

The Hungarian government has launched a public campaign to encourage couples to have more children. What’s humorous is the choice of stock photo: whoever was responsible for the giant billboards chose the same couple that appears in the well-known “Distracted Boyfriend” photo meme.

The original “Distracted Boyfriend” photo by Antonio Guillem.

Shot by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem back in 2015, the “Distracted Boyfriend” photo went globally viral as a meme in 2017. It shows a man with his girlfriend turning around to check out another girl who’s walking by (much to the annoyance of his girlfriend).

So it’s hilarious that Hungary decided to use this same couple for its latest ad campaign that aims to increase the country’s birthrate.

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The billboard went viral after a man living in the Budapest district of Zugló shot a photo of a local billboard and shared it on Facebook.

“I was driving my kids to school and my son noticed this new billboard — it’s the Hungarian government’s new ad for their pro-family benefit programs,” the man tells BuzzFeed News. “And my son immediately said, ‘this is the couple from that meme.’”

The Internet is now poking fun at the stock photo choice.

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So it looks like the two models in “Distracted Boyfriend” will now make the rounds on the Internet again in yet another viral photo.


Source: PetaPixel

Hungary Using ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ Couple to Tell Couples to Have Kids

Sony’s FE 135mm f/1.8 GM May Be the Sharpest Lens of Its Kind

Sony’s FE 135mm f/1.8 GM May Be the Sharpest Lens of Its Kind

Sony’s new FE 135mm F1.8 GM lens will hit store shelves next month, but it’s already dropping jaws with its sharpness. According to one new test, it may be the sharpest lens of its kind on the market today.

Roger Cicala over at LensRentals has published early MTF results after testing 10 copies of the lens provided by Sony, and the numbers blew him away.

LensRentals testing the Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM.

“I mounted the first one, sipped my coffee and then lost my mind and started shouting various expletives, enough to bring Aaron running in from the other room to see what I’d broken,” Cicala writes. “I hadn’t broken anything; I just saw MTF curves higher than anything I’d ever seen in a normal-range lens.”

The $1,900 Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM hits levels of sharpness typically seen only in 400mm f/2.8 lenses, Cicala notes. But those are super-telephoto f/2.8 lenses that can cost $12,000+.

“Let’s make this simple and straightforward,” Cicala writes. “In the center, that’s the highest MTF I’ve seen on a non-supertelephoto lens. The highest.

“Let’s put particular emphasis on the purple line, which is 50 lp/mm. That’s a higher frequency than any manufacturer tests (that we know of), appropriate for fine detail on the highest resolution cameras. We would consider an MTF of 0.5 at 50 lp/mm to be very acceptable. This is hugely better, nearly 0.8 in the center. We’ve never seen that kind of resolution before.”

Cicala compared the Sony 135mm’s MTF charts to the $1,400 Sigma 135mm f/1.8 and $1,500 Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8, two lenses praised for their sharpness, and found that Sony’s sharpness is noticeably better in the center half of the image (and on par at the edges).

“[T]his lens can resolve fine details that would be a blur on excellent lenses,” Cicala writes. “What does this mean for you? Well, in a couple of years if you are shooting a 90-megapixel camera, this lens will be the one that wrings the most detail out of that sensor. Right now it looks at your 43 megapixels and goes, ‘that’s cute.’

“[T]he results are pretty simple. This is the sharpest lens we’ve tested. Period. (At last count, that’s out of 300+ lenses tested.)”


Image credits: Crown art in header illustration by Heralder and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


Source: PetaPixel

Sony’s FE 135mm f/1.8 GM May Be the Sharpest Lens of Its Kind

Portrait Mode: The End of Compact Cameras?

Portrait Mode: The End of Compact Cameras?

It seems like having dual cameras on your phone has become almost the norm nowadays, but many people don’t even know that they are there, let alone why. However, I believe that Portrait Mode is an incredible tool for the modern photographer to promote themselves — particularly on Instagram.

Portrait Mode is what Apple calls its artificial shallow depth of field tool in the camera app, although many other phones also have a similar feature. It uses the dual lenses on the back of the phone to approximate distance information of the subjects in the frame, and calculate how much to blur the background based on that.

I use a third party app called Focos, which uses the Portrait Mode engine but gives you more control over the amount of bokeh, lets you focus after the fact and gives you a few other tools.

With the right conditions, you can create great photos with your phone and continue your photography brand’s high-quality image from your phone.

I use this all the time when I’m in an interesting place or on an interesting job — for example, a food photo shoot. I’ll take a quick photo, then edit it and put it up as an Instagram story. These posts usually grab people’s attention as most other stories are low-quality shaky videos or directionless snapshots.

The Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand

Here’s the sort of photo I’d use if I was on a food shoot, with a picture of my camera and a caption saying what I’m doing, encouraging engagement:

Photo taken with Focos

I’ll leave you with a challenge I did with fellow photographer Will H Cho on the set of a music video we were working on. We took the same photo with his Mamiya Medium format film camera and my iPhone. Here are the two photos, let me know if you can see the difference! (Full disclosure, I edited the iPhone photo to match color-wise.)

(Answer: The first photo was shot with the iPhone and the second was shot with the Mamiya.)


About the author: Ben Stewart is a New Zealand based photographer and videographer specialising in events, music, portraits and commercials. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

Portrait Mode: The End of Compact Cameras?

Frozen Living for 34 Days on the Only Private Island in Central Helsinki

Frozen Living for 34 Days on the Only Private Island in Central Helsinki

Last winter, I got the beautiful chance to spend time living and photographing on a freezing island located right in the central Helsinki. I spent 24 nights there as the cold winter turned to spring.

It all started when I saw an article about an island that was for sale for one million euros. Katajanokanluoto is the only privately owned island in central Helsinki and is located just a few hundred meters from the Helsinki shoreline. I had seen the island many times before from the Suomenlinna ferry. Suomenlinna is one of the most popular locations in Helsinki among the tourists and one of my favorite places.

I emailed the owner and asked if I could live and photograph on the island. He thought the idea was great and encouraged me to carry out the plan. A few days later, I had keys for the cabin. The only thing left to figure was how to get to the island.

The owner of Katajanokanluoto island had seen this photo just a few weeks before my inquiry. This photo showing sea smoke at sunrise was featured on Finnish national television for ranking 6th in the biggest Finnish photography competition. The owner thought for a second that the photo was taken from Katajanokanluoto but actually it was from a nearby island just 500 meters away. It’s taken in 2017 from Suomenlinna ferry when the temperature was -22 degrees Celsius.

It had been a record-breaking cold winter. It dropped as low as almost -20 °C in Helsinki, so the ice was really thick. The central location of the island meant that there were many open ship lanes surrounding the island. Walking there wasn’t an option. Ship lanes were opened only for huge ships, so they didn’t help for getting a small boat to the island.

I asked a ride from archipelago transportation business. Due to the coldness, they had already postponed all their transportations at that moment. I incidentally met them in Kauppatori while they were trying to free their ship from the surrounding ice.

Even with hours of hard work the ice was too thick for the boat to leave the dock.

I really didn’t want to wait until spring so I had to figure out another option. The only vehicle that can easily move on both ice and water is hovercraft. Luckily I found a guy that imports them and does some transportation as well. He said that he needs to make sure there weren’t any huge ice chunks on the way. When icebreakers operate, the edge of the open lane is sometimes piled with ice, making it dangerous to pass with hovercraft. Few days went by and I got the good news. Ice is flat enough so the adventure could begin.

Just after arriving on the island for the very first time. These sights showing Helsinki cityscape with some of the well known Helsinki landmarks felt unreal.

The trip from the nearby dock to the island was a small adventure by itself. It was really fascinating to watch how effortlessly this versatile vehicle could move over the water and ice when driven by a skilled driver. The ride was over in just a few minutes.

Being on the island for the very first time, and realizing there is no going back before the scheduled pick-up after 7 days, felt oddly relaxing. The sights were amazingly beautiful, the air was fresh, and the cabin was really comfy looking.

This traditional looking cabin served as my headquarters while I was on the island.

Katajanokanluoto island is about the size of a half soccer field, 5000 square meters (~1.24 acres). It looked much bigger on the spot than from the distances I had seen it before.

After circling the island a few times, I went to check out the cabin. Outside very traditional, warm and comfy looking cabin surprised from the inside. White painted walls, stunning board floor, minimalistic interior design with some beautiful art pieces took me far from the traditional cabin views.

Just a few hours after arriving I knew that I would enjoy my stay. The versatile presence of nature felt wholesomely good. It is really empowering to watch the madness of the city from just a few hundred meters distance and feeling mentally really far away from it. Time and events of the world lose their significance. Observing nature and surroundings felt much more important.

One of the many crow encounters.

Crows of the island were shocked about my arrival. At the beginning even opening the cabin door got them bolting to another side of the island. Day after day they approved me better. When watching swans I experienced a beautiful moment of trust. The crow flew and landed between me and the swans just under 10 meters from me. It groomed its feathers like it even didn’t notice me.

Besides the crows, blackbirds, common goldeneyes and swans inhabited the island in the winter time. Later came mallards, white wagtails, and geese. Lots of geese.

Swans swimming against the foul wind in freezing conditions.
Weather conditions varied rapidly. Snow blizzards came without warning and cleared in just minutes.
Winter seed heads between the setting sun and ice.

Ice circumstances and weather conditions varied rapidly throughout the day. Nighttime coldness halts the sea entirely while the warmth of the morning sun revived it back alive bringing chunks of ice from the distance.

As the day progressed, ice gathered on the shore. Changing ice formations, clouds and the tones from the setting sun made sure that all the nights looked different. Snow blizzards arrived in just minutes. Often making it literally snow from left to right. The wind was very piercing and combined with coldness, it effectively revealed the weak spots on clothing. Weather conditions were generally favorable and I had the chance to enjoy sunny moments almost every day.

Ice formations after sunset.
A trawler in mist a few moments before sunrise.
Helsinki shoreline in the sunset.

I spent most of the time exploring and photographing the island. Quilted trousers were needed even in temperatures around zero. Especially when observing birds. I never felt outstandingly cold. The first night I heated up the fireplace. After that, I slept without heating.

I got used to the coldness really quickly. Only the first moments after waking up and getting out from the sleeping bag felt harrowing. “Washing” myself with the snow and bathing in the sea filled with ice cubes were the most shivering experiences. The coldest temperature was 12 degrees Celsius below zero.

One of the many beautiful sunrises.

My morning routine was to get up without hesitating, get the clothes on and go outside to take photos for 2-3 hours until the sunrise. Then I ate breakfast and took a nap. After that, I continued enjoying the fresh air outside and taking photos for the moments after sunset having just a few eating, warming, and resting breaks in between the shoots.

During the first six days, preparing food took a huge amount of time. I prepared a warm meal with the stove using wet wood three times a day. Every time it was a great challenge and I got well-needed practice of patience and fire starting skills. After the first trip, I took my portable stove with me so the meal preparation was much easier and less time-consuming.

Living on the island was really relaxing, healthy and full of well being. Keeping the mobile phone silent and living without grid electricity and computer ensured uninterrupted living. Days went by on a flow state taking photos and doing small tasks. Sleeping difficulties were gone and I slept better than ever. Usually starting around 10 pm.

Geese with landing gears on.
Kaivopuisto toned by the sunset colors
Barnacle geese couple and night fog.
The birds and the moon.
Silja Line cruiser passing the island.

The cruisers passed the island from just a few hundred meters of distance. Bigger ships could be felt as a low-frequency rumbling but overall they made quite little noise and operated just a few times a day. The motor of Suomenlinna ferry kept oscillating noise which could be heard every time in advance. Cabin fever hit me so I felt the urge to go to the shore watching, wondering and photographing the ships passing the island. I can imagine ending up on many photos and videos taken by tourists. Katajanokanluoto island is a pretty popular subject of photography for the people going to Suomenlinna and back.

The first six days on the island was over in an instant and completely without the present of homesickness or getting bored of the scenery or daily routines. I was surprised how quickly the ordinary haste and stress were gone. Small challenges on the island life: trying to keep the drinking water in a liquid state, using a pit in the snow as a fridge and maintaining warmness by clothing, were just the right kind to keep the mind stimulated and to give continuous rewards from the small successes in the day.

Ever-changing ice formations.
Amazing colors of the sunset with the Katajanokka terminal and the Helsinki wheel.

My next trip happened a few weeks later. I got a lift from the same hovercraft business but this time the vehicle was a self-made hovercraft. This sportier looking vehicle turned out to be as stable as the one before and again the trip to the island was successfully over in just a few minutes.

This time the sea was partly open. The weather shifted between snowy cold and warm. First signs of spring were there. Plants sprouted, the smell of the sea was present and the bird count increased day by day. In morning and night, It was fascinating to observe the creation and the melting of the ice on the sea.

I enjoyed my stay on the island more every day. While I was there, my only concern was returning to city life. In an apartment building and in the city, concerns of humanity are present all the time. Schedules, noise pollution, and conflicts. On the island, these worries seem distant. Lack of disturbances and other people created a stronger sense of being in charge of one’s well being.

I did a quick maintenance break on the mainland. Washing clothes, copying data from the memory cards, charging batteries and preparing food. I returned to the island with a small motor boat. The remnants of winter were gone and replaced by the spring livelihood and lightness. Few times I could bathe in the sun shirtless. Birds were also on a spring mood. Moments after arriving, I witnessed the weird mating rituals of mallards and observed how the Canada geese and the barnacle geese were fighting for their territories.

Canada goose attacking its smaller cousin the barnacle goose.
Canada geese couple mating rituals in the beam of the Suomenlinna church.

In the beginning, the bigger Canada geese didn’t tolerate their smaller cousins at all. They did numerous random attacks towards them. With the tiring tactics and the bigger count, barnacle geese invaded numerous spots from the island gaining majority.

In a late evening moment, the cliff on the island was a war ground. As usual one of the defiant male Canada goose shooed away the barnacle goose couple that had come too near. This time barnacle goose had some reinforcements. Other barnacle goose couple joined the fight and the four smaller geese scolded the bully with their aggressive pecking. The Canada goose escaped dragging its neck to the pushes just to bluster and peck its mate. That night the victorious barnacle geese cackle more confident than ever before.

There was a greylag goose nesting on the island too but for some reason, other geese didn’t seem to notice it at all.

The American mink.

In the morning of the returning day, I saw something in the corner of my eye. It was an American mink with a fish on its mouth. The mink leaped under the tarps of the dock. I got a little bit closer to wait and after a few minutes, its curiosity won. The mink came back to stare me a while. This time without its fish.

After returning from the next maintenance break the atmosphere was quite different. Geese had formed their territory and maintained it with aggression. Barnacle geese had eggs on their nests and they were really defiant towards me. At first, I had to gain back my routes by walking them with a broom. Numerous of mean stares, hissings, and fake attacks later I took over their respect and could walk on the island again. It was a game of patience.

Foggy day and the building sites of Kalasatama.
Katajanokanluoto isolated by the fog.

In that week the weather conditions varied from stunningly clear and warm sunny days to cold and misty. There were gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. A few times in the middle of the day, a low flying mist cloud arrived from the horizon covering everything. The visibility was limited to just twenty or so meters. It is a surrealistic experience being on the island in the Heart of Helsinki and not seeing or hearing anything besides the foghorns echoing in the distance.

From the start to finish of the trip, the same basic routines and thoughts repeated themselves. Nevertheless, the adventure changed its shape and developed by time. In the beginning, the snow and ice dominated the landscape. The wintery peacefulness was something truly spectacular and unique. Observing the form shifting ice and getting by on the cold, felt an adequate thing just by itself. Later when animal and human contacts got more frequent, it brought hecticness to living. Advancing spring, enjoying the sun and watching birds gave lots of joy. I really felt that I was at the mercy of nature.

One of the most unique features in photographing on the island were its limitations. Many times there is a bit restlessness about whether you are on the most photographic place or not. On the island the subjects and the spots were limited. To get versatile photos I really had to challenge myself and think the photo expression again and again.

A beautiful symmetrical sunrise.
The cabin and the city in distance.

All in all, the adventure was one of the greatest I’ve experienced. Well-being, peacefulness, and the absence of stress and restlessness felt really good. I returned the island for October and Christmas week. Spending 34 days on the island in 2018.


About the author: Pasi Markkanen is a photographer, artist, and entrepreneur who lives in Porvoo, Finland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Markkanen’s work on his website and Instagram. A longer version of this article was published here.


Source: PetaPixel

Frozen Living for 34 Days on the Only Private Island in Central Helsinki