All 33 entries tagged Photography

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February 08, 2011

Eye–Fi day 2 – I'm confused

Follow-up to Playing with an Eye–Fi card from Steve's blog

Yesterday, I thought I understood the Eye-Fi architecture. The Eye-Fi card connects to your PC if it can, and transfers images to the Eye-Fi Center software running there, and from there images go the various online sharing services you’ve configured. If it can’t connect to your PC, the images stay on the camera until it can. And if you want to operate without a laptop, Eye-Fi have a hotspot service you can buy (£25/year) that allows that.

At least, that’s what I thought yesterday. A little experimentation last night and this morning has disproved all that, though. I configured my Eye-Fi to connect to my MiFi, and discovered that with my PC off images still end up in Picasa and in Eye-Fi’s own online storage system, and are eventually delivered to the PC when it is turned on. But that’s what I thought the hotspot service was.

The more expensive cards come with a year’s hotspot service bundled. Mine isn’t one of those. Perhaps it has it by mistake? If any other Eye-Fi users have any idea what’s going on, do please let me know! In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoying functionality I didn’t realise was there…

February 07, 2011

Playing with an Eye–Fi card

Writing about web page

I was a keen photographer many years ago, but when kids came along I didn’t have time to keep up with it as a serious hobby. Consequently my recent photography kit has been from the, er, consumer end of the spectrum. Recently, though, my eldest has developed an apparently quite serious interest in photography and we have, between us, invested in a digital SLR – a Sony Alpha A500.

Alongside this, I’ve been researching lots of peripheral kit (any excuse to play with gadgets:-) and one thing that caught my eye was the Eye-Fi card. This is an SD memory card with WiFi built-in, which essentially adds WiFi capabilities to almost any digital camera. After a little bit of research and conversations with a few people that have one, I’ve finally taken the plunge and bought one. There’s a range of cards that provide different capabilities. I bought the most basic one – the 4GB Connect X2.

In essence this connects to a WiFi network (infra-structure mode, not ad-hoc), and as you take photos it transfers them to a PC (Windows & MacOS supported) automatically. Once there, you can configure various photo sharing services and have the images automatically uploaded to Picasa, flickr, Facebook and others, as well as keeping the local copy on the computer. Obviously, this all depends on having a WiFi network available. What if there isn’t one?

Well, if there really isn’t one then the Eye-Fi card just keeps the photos locally – it is a 4GB SD card, remember – and will upload them when it does find a network. If you have your laptop with you, but with no WiFi, there are two options. A more expensive version of the card, the Pro X2 supports ad-hoc WiFi connections. Option 2 is to turn your laptop into a hotspot. If you are running Windows 7, then Connectify does exactly that. The Eye-Fi card will connect to the laptop’s connectify hotspot and transfer the images. If the laptop has a live internet connection the images will then be forwarded on. If not, they’ll be held on the laptop until it does, and forwarded on then. This all works just as you’d expect. Connectify has another advantage. The Eye-Fi card in unable to connect to WiFi networks that have a web-based sign-in page, like most commercial hotspots do. But if you can connect from a laptop, and then re-broadcast that via connectify, you can still use the Eye-Fi in your nearest coffee shop!

There are a couple of other advantages of the more expensive cards. My basic card will only transfer JPEG images – it won’t transfer RAW files. The Pro version of the card transfers RAW files. Also, the Pro version of the card comes with a “Hotspot” service that allows it to transfer images without a laptop. You’ll remember I said above that images go from the card to a PC and then onwards to other services. Without a laptop that doesn’t work. With the “hotspot” service on the Pro card, images will go directly from the card to Eye-Fi’s own servers “in the cloud” and from there to your configured online services. If this is important to you, it is a service that can be added to the basic cards too, for £25/year.

For £40, my basic card looks like it is going to be a useful way of getting photos off the camera and onto various of my online services quickly, easily and automatically. WiFi enabled cameras have a lot of potential, and the fact that they can fit the WiFi hardware inside an SD card along with the memory, is pretty impressive. I do wish the Pro card wasn’t twice the price of my Connect version, though. The ability to transfer RAW files would be nice, but I’m not (yet) prepared to pay the extra for that. I have my dSLR configured to shoot RAW+JPEG so the jpegs transfer automatically and I still get the RAW files to process later…

August 17, 2009

A comparison of the iPhone and Windows versions of autostitch

I’ve been a big fan of Autostitch for ages now. I’ve always found creating panoramas by hand very difficult and extremely time consuming, so I never really got into it. Autostitch automates the whole process. You just throw a collection of photos at it and it does the rest. You don’t even need to tell it the order – it figures that out by itself and does all the blending for you to hide the joins. There are times when it doesn’t do a brilliant job but most of the time it does at least as good a job as I could have done by hand, and it does it far faster and with almost zero effort.

Then along came the iPhone version and I bought it instantly. I didn’t really expect it to do such a good job as the Windows version but actually I’ve been surprised at how good it is. Here’s a quick comparison. These two panoramas were created from the same set of three images taken in the iPhone. The first was done by autostitch on the iphone itself and the second by autostitch on Windows:

Hastings beach

iPhone version

Hastings beach

Windows version

It is actually quite hard to choose the better of those two. They each have good and bad points. Fairly obviously the Windows version hasn’t managed to blend the exposures very well. Because I was shooting into the sun, and the iPhone camera is completely automatic, the exposures were not consistent across the three images. The iPhone version of autostitch has handled that very well while the Windows version has pretty much failed miserably. I could even the exposures by hand first to help it out, and the result would then be much better.

However, the Windows version has matched the images up much better. If you click on the images to zoom in, you’ll see quite a lot of ghosting on the iPhone version where the separate images haven’t been properly matched up. I guess that’s where all the processing work is needed, and so where they’ve cut a few corners to get the iPhone version working at an acceptable speed. I hope they improve this in future as it really is the whole point of autostitch in the first place!

The other disappointment with the Iphone version is that the resolution of the output image is lower than I’d like. By the time the image is neatly cropped it is less than 1MP while the Windows version comes out at 2.5MP. I’m not sure of this is a limitation of the iPhone OS, or autostitch, or me not using it right. More investigation required…

Overall I’m really impressed with how good a job the iPhone version of autostitch does, and I’m happy to have paid £1.20 for it. A little bit of work on the image matching, and the ability to get higher resolution results, and it will be perfect…

October 29, 2007

At last, some photography…

I’ve not used my camera much at all this year. Very frustrating. This last weekend we went to Legoland and I used the excuse to take a lot of photos. I still need to sort through them all and figure out which are suitable for public consumption! I’ll post a few in a day or two. But there’s one picture I do want to post quickly.

At the end of the day, because of the time of year, instead of closing at 6pm as normal, they had a bit of a show (with a Halloween theme) and an enormous fireworks display. Obviously they had to wait until it was dark for this, so it was nearly 7pm before it got going. While we were all waiting, they were selling lots of flashy, lighty things to keep the kids entertained. I decided to try and get a photo, not expecting it to come out at all. The following was taken handheld (it didn’t occur to me to take a tripod and I wouldn’t have wanted to lug it about with me anyway), with a shutter speed of 4s, and it turned out remarkably well, I think (click for a larger image):

Legoland at night

I’m sure the image stabilisation in the camera had a hand in this, but I would not have expected it to work this well on a 4s exposure. And indeed it didn’t for most of my other attempts. This is by far the best of the bunch. I guess I must just have managed to keep really, really still for this one. Still enough to give the IS a chance.

April 21, 2007

Smudge the acrocat

Smudge had great fun this afternoon chasing an assortment of flying insects around the garden. This gave me an opportunity to try out a feature of my camera that I don’t get to use very often. It has a “drive mode” that causes it to take a picture every 0.1s, keeping the last 2s worth when you release the shutter. So, you point the camera at a likely subject (e.g. a cat), press the shutter, and wait for something to happen, and release the shutter immediately afterwards.

Now, the camera can’t keep this up at full resolution – in this mode the pictures are only 1024×768 – and the quality doesn’t seem to be spectacular. But it does let you get results like this:


You’ll need to click through to the full-resolution version to get the whole effect. I perhaps should have arranged them two rows rather than one!!

It is fascinating to see Smudge’s motion through the air. And remember, there are 7 photos in this sequence, all 0.1s apart, so this is just 0.6s of action!

February 25, 2007


A few days ago, just after it had been raining, I went out in the garden, camera in hand, looking for some interesting photos. I was assuming that I’d find something amongst the leaves and flowers in the garden, but nothing jumped out and screamed “Photograph me…!”. Just as I was getting a bit fed up of the whole process I spotted this:
It isn’t brilliant, but I liked the fact that you could see the house opposite through the drop, and that the drops are outlined in the green of the washing line. It also gave me a chance to play with super-macro mode on the camera – the lens was about 2cm from the drop when this was taken!

It would have been interesting to try and get the house in focus through the drop – a serious challenge to the manual focus facility on my camera, I suspect, which on the whole is pretty difficult to use. Maybe I’ll give it a go next time…

January 09, 2007

Yesterday's sunrise

I took this yesterday morning on another slightly extended commute. It was taken from exactly the same point as last week’s.

Sunrise 8/1/2007

The panorama stitching didn’t work so well on this one because the sun is a little higher and brighter, and since my phone only does auto exposures I can’t keep the exposure consistent across the whole set. That’s why there’s an obvious dark patch in the middle. I’ll have to try again after manually tweaking the exposures of the individual shots, and see if I can get a better result.

As with all my panoramic pictures, this one was put together automatically by autostitch.

February 04, 2006

Painting with light

If you've got kids, you'll know that they are facinated with torches. At least, I was a long time ago and my two are now. That's good enough for me to base a sweeping generalisation on! Anyway, one of mine was playing with a couple of torches in a darkened lounge a few days ago and I decided to try a little experiment. Here are some of the better pictures that resulted:
Painting with light 1Painting with light 2Painting with light 3

Considering this was a spur of the moment thing with no prior thought about what might or might not work, I'm quite pleased with how these turned out. One hinderance to producing better pictures of this sort is that the longest shutter speed my camera supports is 2 seconds. It was actually surprisingly hard to get a lot of movement into the pictures in 2 seconds. Having a shutter speed of 4 or 8 seconds would have made the job a lot easier.

These were all hand-held. Given the way the pictures are produced, you can't tell if there's any camera shake. Actually, that's not quite true. The red "standby" light from my TV was visible in some of the shots, and clearly showed how unsteady my hands were – I've photoshopped that out! That's the only manipulation of these images, though.

September 19, 2005

My first 360

360o panorama, that is. This was taken from the top of Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale on Saturday afternoon, and as usual it was put together with autostitch.
360 degree panorama taken from the top of Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale
(The link goes to a full resolution version stored elsewhere as it is much too big for Blogbuilder – beware, it is a 20MB image of over 40MP)

I broke my usual rules with this, taking all the shots handheld (I wasn't about to lug a tripod up there) and left the camera on auto (I was in a hurry), but the result is not too bad. Of course it suffers from the usual autostitch curved horizon, and you can see areas where the exposure varies a bit too much. There are 17 individual pictures stitched together for this shot.

Because it is a 360o pano, and because autostitch is completely automatic, I had no idea where it would start and stop. As it turns out, the first shot I took has ended up in the middle. That's where the "ghost" is – somebody who was standing on the peak when I took the first shot but who had gone by the time I got back there after taking all the others. I'll edit that out sometime.

Thorpe Cloud is 930' about sea level (GPS height) and about a 450' climb.

September 01, 2005

Panoramic fun

Follow-up to Panoramic photos from Steve's blog

In the previous entry I gave a few rules for taking photographs for panoramas. Specifically:

  • Use a manual exposure to ensure exposure is even across the whole set.
  • Use a tripod to keep the point of view consistent and the horizon level.

Here's what happens if you don't follow the rules.
A panorama gone wrong!

This was taken on auto, and hand held. I obviously wasn't paying too much attention to keeping the camera level and look what autostitch has done to the waterline in an attempt to match everything up. You could water ski on that lake without a boat (reminds me of a joke about an Irish waterskier:-)

If you straighten up all the pieces first (some of them needed rotating by 3 degrees to get them level), then you get a much better result:

This looks a little better!

The waterline is much straighter now, but the exposure still varies a lot between segments. I could also manually tweak the exposure to match them all up before stitching them together to make it work even better.
(By the way, the ghostly child is the result of him moving between shots. I haven't got around to fixing that yet!!)

It is much better, though, to get it all right from the beginning. This one was taken with the camera on manual, and mounted on a tripod. The exposure is even across the whole panorama and the waterline is level. And no manual fiddling involved first:

A panorama of Loch Lomond, taken from Firkin Point on the West shore

The first one (in its two versions) was taken from Rowardennan Forest on the east shore of Loch Lomond, the second from Firkin Point on the west shore, both this last weekend. The mountain in the second one is Ben Lomond itself.

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