Category Archives: Barbados

The Hut of Alleged Towels

The Hut of Alleged Towels, The Crane, Barbados
Camera: Panasonic DMC-GX8 | Date: 10-11-2017 13:34 | Resolution: 5184 x 2920 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -33/100 EV | Exp. Time: 1/500s | Aperture: 5.6 | Focal Length: 27.0mm | Lens: LUMIX G VARIO 12-35/F2.8

The Crane Hotel, Barbados has a hut whose purpose is to take in used beach towels, and dispense fresh ones. It has no other purpose. It is staffed during daylight hours by a helpful young chap, but on our recent visit he seemed to rarely, if ever, have any towels to dispense. Now if I was the manager and paying that chap’s salary, I would make sure enough laundry was being done to provide a reasonable supply, but then I’m weird…

We took to calling it "The Alleged Towel Hut", but then decided that was unfair. The hut itself satisfies reasonable standards of proof of its existence. The towels do not. Hence we have decided on a better term. This is now officially "The Hut of Alleged Towels". :)

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Into the (Infra)Red

From The Crane, Barbados. Taken with the infrared-converted Panasonic GX3
Camera: Panasonic DMC-GF3 | Date: 15-04-2015 14:33 | Resolution: 4202 x 2626 | ISO: 160 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/4000s | Aperture: 3.5 | Focal Length: 14.0mm | State/Province: Christ Church | See map | Lens: LUMIX G VARIO PZ 14-42/F3.5-5.6

Last Summer I purchased a Panasonic GF3 which had been converted to infrared photography. Like with many gadgets, there’s a period where you play with the funky effects, and I quite like the way you can get a really deep blue sky if you do a "channel swap" on the processed image. However I have now established its milieu, and that’s dramatic black and white shots of either partially cloudy skies, or graphic vegetation.

To help with this, I now have it set up to record RAW+JPG, with the picture style set to monochrome. The in-camera results may be slightly different from where the processed image ends up, but they are a decent guide.

Processing is very simple: you just use the "Color Sensitivity" mode of Capture One’s Black & White tool. This is a classic channel mixer, but one in which the channels have a dramatically different effect to on a full-spectrum original. Red affects sky shadows and midtones. Yellow controls the sky and reflected highlights. Blue controls the tone of foliage with some effect from Cyan. Counter-intuitively the green and magenta mixers have almost no effect whatsoever! I now have a sensible starting point for images like the above set up as a preset, but the sliders will usually need a tweak to get the tonal balance right, and some global levels and curves tweaks may also sometimes be needed.

I’m very pleased with the image quality. The image is lower resolution than some of my others for two practical reasons: the GF3 only has a 12MP sensor, and that an older design, and infrared light simply can’t resolve the same detail as blue with its much shorter wavelengths. In practice, however, neither of these are an issue. I bought the camera after reading an article by Ctein, who complained about "hot spotting" through some Micro Four Thirds lenses. I’ll accept that I’m not as critical as he is, but I’m extremely pleased with the results from the inexpensive Panasonic 14-42mm power zoom lens. There’s slightly more visible vignetting at the widest setting than in a colour picture, but otherwise I can’t see much wrong with this.

Now I just need some more "graphic vegetation"!

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Monochrome, Sort Of…

Flower display at Clifton Hall House, Barbados
Camera: Panasonic DMC-GX7 | Date: 16-04-2014 19:20 | Resolution: 3123 x 3123 | ISO: 3200 | Exp. bias: -66/100 EV | Exp. Time: 1/8s | Aperture: 8.0 | Focal Length: 12.0mm | Lens: LUMIX G VARIO 12-35/F2.8

I’m making use of my new Windows MacBook to catch up with photo processing, including a few shots from our trip to Barbados last year. One of the things I particularly love about the Caribbean are the splashes of colour from the various flora, and I’ve noticed that an increasing proportion of my photos are nice flowers.

This display appealed because it’s all related shades of red, pink and brown. This makes it almost a “monochrome”, even though there’s no black, white or grey in sight!

Barbados has an interesting little tradition that people throw open some of the larger or historically significant private houses to visitors a few days each year. Clifton Hall House had fallen into disrepair, but was recently bought up and renovated by a Massimo Franchi, an international lawyer and sports agent (Scottish, despite the Italian name). He personally made us very welcome, and after our tour of the house we spent a happy hour on the veranda discussing our shared interests, plumbing and DIY with him! Nice bloke, lovely house.

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Goodbye Dr. Love

John Holt at the Barbados Reggae Festival, 2014
Camera: Panasonic DMC-GX7 | Date: 26-04-2014 04:14 | Resolution: 3424 x 3424 | ISO: 3200 | Exp. bias: -66/100 EV | Exp. Time: 1/100s | Aperture: 5.6 | Focal Length: 300.0mm | Lens: LUMIX G VARIO 100-300/F4.0-5.6

I was very sad this morning to hear of the passing of the great reggae singer, John Holt. Help Me Make It Through The Night is very possibly my favourite reggae love song, and the contrast between his sweet voice and the electric brass section always sends shivers down my spine. We were lucky enough to see John perform several times at the Barbados Reggae Festival, most recently this April, by which time he was probably already ill, but it took nothing from his performance. A great musician, who will be sadly missed.

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Improved Capture

Fisherman casting net on Gibb's Beach, Barbados. Developed with Capture One 7
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 23-04-2008 21:58 | Resolution: 3233 x 2155 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -2 EV | Exp. Time: 1/40s | Aperture: 20.0 | Focal Length: 17.0mm (~27.6mm) | Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

Following on from the last post, I thought I’d pop up an example to highlight the improvements possible through just the right choice and use of software. The picture above was taken back in 2008, on my old Canon 40D. As soon as I’d taken it I knew that I had a great latent image, but the very high dynamic range was a real struggle. The original in-camera JPEG is long gone, but the following version with no adjustments shows the problem: the sun and its reflections are completely blown out, and the automatic metering has substantially under-exposed the darker parts of the scene:

My original development using Bibble 4 was a partial success. I could recover some of the colour in the sky (although obviously not the sun itself), and I could reveal some of the shadow detail, although the fisherman himself was never much more than a very dark silhouette. However, this was at the cost of substantial colour noise in the mid-tones, such as the breaking waves, and some very odd banding around the sun:

Onscreen this image works fairly well, but I could never get a satisfactory print, and it was rejected for stock use because as a thumbnail it just looks like a dark splodge. Successive versions of Bibble didn’t do much better, so much so that I’ve kept the Bibble 4 version as the best compromise.

Enter Capture One, and with relatively little effort I get the results shown at the top. I much prefer this version: you can see some detail even in the darkest area of the fisherman’s body, and the overall feel is not so markedly “low key”. There’s also very little noise. I haven’t tried printing it yet, but I suspect there won’t be many problems.

Oddly when I showed these to Frances she still preferred the Bibble version, because she felt it portrayed the mood better. However, I’m definitely going for the Capture One version. Which do you prefer?

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Thar She Blows!

Breaching whale off the coast of Barbados, shot from the Cool Runnings catamaran.
Camera: Canon PowerShot G10 | Date: 24-04-2012 18:03 | ISO: 80 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/1000s | Aperture: 4.0 | Focal Length: 10.8mm (~49.6mm)

The wildlife on a Barbados trip is usually pretty predictable: lizards, turtles, monkeys, flying fish, various small birds and fish. This year had already improved on the norm with a couple of hummingbird sightings, but that was before our catamaran trip last Wednesday.

We’d already seen some sign of whales, which are very unusual off the western, Caribbean, coast, earlier in the day, but on the return trip they put on a real show for us. I managed to get this shot of one of them breaching right out of the water. Not bad for a grab shot with my camera still in its waterproof housing and on its underwater settings, if I do say so myself…

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Barbados Portfolio Update

Coral on a shipreck in Carlisle Bay
Camera: Canon PowerShot G10 | Date: 26-04-2009 18:20 | ISO: 100 | Exp. Time: 1/200s | Aperture: 3.2 | Focal Length: 6.1mm (~28.0mm)

I’ve just managed to catch up with some of my shots from recent trips to Barbados, and in particular I’ve added some wildlife, sports, entertainment and underwater shots I’m quite pleased with. Have a look and let me know what you think.

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Don’t Pose, Please, Just Act Natural

Iguana at the Barbados Wildlife Park
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 20-04-2010 20:36 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -1/3 EV | Exp. Time: 1/125s | Aperture: 5.6 | Focal Length: 300.0mm (~486.5mm) | Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

Those who follow my photography blog will know that my preferred technique for taking portraits is to use my 70-300mm lens towards the long end of the zoom range. It only works as long as the subject is effectively frozen by the available shutter speed, but for a static subject that can be as low as about 1/20s, relying on a combined steady head and image stabilisation technology to keep things sharp.

This technique works for pretty girls, character-full old men, and, as this shows, for those who might not take direction even if you wanted to provide it!

So if you see an interesting face, but it’s some way off, hold the camera steady and go for it. The results may be better than you expected.

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Red Roof Reflections

St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 20-04-2010 17:16 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -2/3 EV | Exp. Time: 1/125s | Aperture: 11.0 | Focal Length: 17.0mm (~27.6mm) | Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

As my “photographic eye” develops, I find I’m noticing much more readily the colour of light, and how it can be modified by things both inside and outside the scene. This shot of St. Nicholas Abbey on Barbados is an interesting case in point. The porch has a flat roof, and that flat roof is obviously painted red to match the railings and guttering. We can’t see it directly, but its effects are very dramatic. I’ve boosted the colour saturation slightly to make this work on the web, but only slightly – the pink glow was immediately obvious as we looked back to take this shot.

St. Nicholas Abbey, despite its name, was never an Abbey, but a plantation house. It’s recently been revived, and sits at the hub of a busy farming and rum distilling business. It’s also an interesting example of the challenges of architectural re-use. It was built from a set of plans developed and used for a similar manor house in England. These were faithfully followed, including all the fireplaces and chimneys. In nearly 400 years Barbados has never had a day cold enough for any of the fires to be lit!

In Agile development, the mantra is that you don’t build features you don’t need, but I’ve rarely seen a discussion on what to do if those features come “free with the design”. Re-using an established design has significant benefits, particularly if the architectural effort comes at a significant cost (which was obviously the driver for the decision about St. Nicholas Abbey). Tailoring that design to omit features you don’t need will have a cost, and a risk that by doing so you break some other capability. For example, chimneys tend to be built very strongly, and often have an important structural role in a building. On the other hand, building features which won’t be used is also costly. If you can’t find exactly the right design pattern, you will have an interesting decision – whether to change it, or whether to follow it regardless.

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Hallelujah! High ISO Which Works!

The Fab 5, Barbados Reggae Festival 2010
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 24-04-2010 03:38 | ISO: 3200 | Exp. bias: -1 EV | Exp. Time: 1/100s | Aperture: 6.3 | Focal Length: 190.0mm (~308.1mm) | Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

As followers of my photography will know, one of my pet subjects is indoor entertainment, photographed by available light. I like capturing memories of enjoyable events, I love the colours of interesting stage lighting, and I like the challenge of trying to capture some of the dynamic nature of a music or dance event in a static image.

By its very nature, this means working handheld in low light levels, typically with long lenses, which in turn means a genuine need for high ISO settings. Even if I can hand-hold my favourite 300mm lens at a shutter speed of 1/25s (which I can, just about, on a good day, thanks to Canon’s excellent image stabilisation technology), 1/25s of a second is just too slow to freeze moving performers. I have several pictures with nicely sharp backgrounds and blurry main subjects to prove this.

With my earlier DSLRs, ISO 800 was about the fastest speed which would deliver a usable image, and that in turn meant speeds of around 1/25s with my preferred lenses. By comparison, my newer Canons should theoretically be usable up to around ISO 3200, giving me a reasonable 1/100s shutter speed, but up until now I’ve always found the resulting images to be just too noisy.

However, I’ve finally found a combination of sharpening and noise reduction techniques which works, and I can do it entirely in Bibble, my RAW processor. The magic mix uses a Wavelet sharpening algorithm, three separate noise reduction algorithms (Wavelet denoise, Noise Ninja and “Pixie”, a hot pixel remover), and a black point adjustment to make shadow areas truly black.

This picture of the Fab 5 is from last year’s Barbados Reggae Festival, and was taken at a range of about 30m. What do you think?

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Not So Foul Bay

Sunrise at Foul Bay, Barbados
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 16-04-2010 10:55 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/200s | Aperture: 7.1 | Focal Length: 35.0mm (~56.8mm) | Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

I just realised I haven’t posted anything to my photoblog recently, so here’s one I’ve just processed from Barbados last year. I’ve never worked out why Foul Bay has its name – it’s a lovely long stretch of clean unbroken sand, and often almost empty. However, at 6am on the morning I took this it was buzzing with people out for their morning exercise. Odd…

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Sunnier Climes

Sea Turtles, Folkestone Marine Park, Barbados
Camera: Canon PowerShot G10 | Date: 21-04-2010 14:45 | ISO: 125 | Exp. bias: 2/3 EV | Exp. Time: 1/160s | Aperture: 3.5 | Focal Length: 13.8mm (~63.3mm)

With Britain well and truly in the grip of Winter (where’s that global warming, then?), and more snow on the way, I thought this might cheer people up a bit!

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The Amazing Malay Apple – Follow Up

0410 40D 0586 a TM
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 25-04-2010 21:40 | Resolution: 2577 x 3866 | ISO: 200 | Exp. Time: 1/159s | Aperture: 7.09 | Focal Length: 22.0mm (~35.7mm) | Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

I’ve been playing around with the previous image a bit more, and I’ve come up with this version – taken from a single original RAW file, but processed twice as a sort of “pseudo HDR” to knock back the highlights and open up the shadows slightly.

It conveys a completely different mood to the other version. I’m torn between them: the first conveys a slightly ethereal feel, but I suspect will look too dark on some monitors and prints. The second is a much more straightforward “happy garden” shot, really bringing out the colours, but losing some of the fascinating complexity of the tree’s shadows.

What do you think?

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The Amazing Malay Apple

Fallen blossom from a Malay Apple tree, at the Andromeda Tropical Gardens, Bathsheba, Barbados
Camera: Canon EOS 40D | Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM | Date: 25-04-2010 21:40 | ISO: 200 | Exp. bias: -2/3 EV | Exp. Time: 1/160s | Aperture: 7.1 | Focal Length: 22.0mm (~35.7mm) | Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

Although I love tropical gardens, photographing them can be a challenge: there’s often so much greenery that isolating a subject becomes a real challenge, and since most are closed during the “golden hours”, you can be battling quite harsh light and very high dynamic range. My previous visits to the Andromeda Botanic Gardens on Barbados have always suffered from this – I’ve come away failing to do justice to the beauty in front of me.

This year, however, luck was with me. We came round a bend to be met by this amazing sight – a Malay Apple tree (Syzygium malaccense), coming to the end of a dramatic blossoming, with the discarded blossoms forming a wide pink carpet.

This shot is pretty much as it came out of the camera, just a slight tweak to vibrance and curves – no HDR trickery needed on this occasion. I have done an HDR treatment which lightens up the shadows a bit, but I’m not sure it’s an improvement. I might post that as well and see what people think.

Score 1 to the Andromeda Gardens!

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