Top Images 2014

This year I have asked each of the contributors to the Annual exhibition to give me some information on their highest scoring image.  We have had some excellent images this year and I was keen to know why and how they were taken.   I’m aware that it’s a little threatening to let people in on your techniques.  However it makes fascinating reading and I have learnt a lot from reading how these images were made.  I am extremely grateful that the contributors were happy to share their “secrets”.  I have really enjoyed putting this segment together.  I hope that you do too.

Here is the image list

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Longing  by Helen Whitfordlonging-eyes-dsc_87031

Here you go…

Mujambi, the male lion at Adelaide Zoo, is one of my favourite models.  He shares the area with two lionesses, but unfortunately is unable to be in the same enclosure with them as he has an epilepsy-like condition which means he’s prone to seizures.  He’s on medication which he gently takes from the hand of keepers each morning through the wire fence, the tablet hidden inside a morsel of meat.  He is a gorgeous looking lion with a beautiful full mane, but only a few years ago half of his mane had fallen out, he was looking unwell. He had testicular cancer.  Thankfully he was successfully treated and has returned to his glorious majestic self. He does get to rub against and kiss and cuddle the girls through the fence but would clearly love to be able to be in with them.

This photograph was taken in early September, just before 5pm closing.  He was sitting on the hill looking toward the gate where he could hear his keepers moving around out the back ready to leave for the night.  The late afternoon light was beautiful in his eyes and I moved around to try shoot from different angles (through the cyclone wire fence) to capture that beautiful longing look, being careful to get the sharp focus on the eyes.

Camera: Nikon D7000, Lens Nikkor 70 – 200 f2.8 at 200mm, f4, shutter 1/125,  ISO 800.

In post processing I wanted to create a soft feel, so desaturated the image except for the eyes, and vignetted the background, which was already blurred by the shallow depth of field.

I think this image works because of the emotional connection people feel.  I have a copy on the passage wall, and can’t walk past it without looking into his eyes!

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Elder Range by Heather Connolly05_Heather Connolly_Elder Range_Annual (landscape)

Elder Range - Heather ConnelyThe image on the right was  taken at the same time:

Hello James ,

The photos was taken at Rawnsley Park while staying in the group accommodation block “down the creek”.  It was May 23 2009.  The shot was taken at 9.30 am.  Further along the creek and over a hill (along a walking track) the morning light on the range was just beautiful.   I took several images.  As you can imagine, I sometimes look back at these files from time to time, and decided to choose one for the competition.  The camera was a then new Canon SX10is. at iso 80, 160th sec at f4.5.

The long shadows are a bit too strong in many of the images.  This first image has not been fixed at all (processed).  The second one (the one I entered in the competition) had some work done.  I added a little extra contrast and colour saturation.  The foreground grass has been sharpened, but not the background.  I feel that the haze is a natural thing and should not be altered.  I played around with the sky, but the results were not nice, so I have cropped it out, making it a panorama shot.

I chose to enter this image in the projected images competition because it is a landscape that had interesting light qualities, as well as strong image content.  Landscapes are not easy you know.  It has been my experience that the viewing platforms are always well placed where you can get the best view.  For instance at the twelve Apostles.   So it is difficult to be different.   We are often challenged to do better.   I hope that I have achieved something different with this shot.


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Mother and Child by Ashley Hoff


Here you go James:

Where was it taken?  Singapore Zoo

Is there a story behind the picture?  We had gone to Singapore zoo for the whole day and had gotten there early for the Breakfast with the Orangutans.  While it was interesting enough, it proved to be a bit of a hard time to take images of these wonderful primates.  There were too many people and the lighting was really bad.  Later in the afternoon, we were just walking near the Orangutan enclosure.  Some of the keepers had just gotten some of this mother and her babies out for some people time.  There was hardly anyone around and they were being rather playful and the light was far better.  I got half a dozen really good shots before they went back to their enclosure (including the “Not the Messiah” shot).

What Camera did you use?  Sony A700, with a Sigma 70-200 F2,8 HSM Macro II lens.

What settings?  1/250, F5.6, ISO 1600

Did you do any post processing? Yes. If so, what?  Post processing was minimal.  There was quite a bit of cropping to get really close to the subject.  Colour balance was tweaked, as well as contrast.  A bit of cleanup was done to remove a few bits of sawdust that was on the Orangutans hair.  Resized and Unsharpen Mask.

Cheers  Ashley

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 Bee-Eater by James Allan

Bee Eater 1 d

I took this picture on holiday in the Northern Territory.  It was the first time that Frances and I had been there.  We had driven a whole day in a hire car to get to Katherine from Darwin.  After the cruise on the Katherine river we were returning to the car park.  I spotted a Blue winged Kookaburra, and then a white breasted cuckoo-shrike and then some honey-eaters.  No birds all day and now there were heaps.  I was dying to get back to the car to get out my bird lens.  Once I was all setup I went back and took bad photos of all of the before mentioned birds.  However in the very car park, just meters from my car a pair of Bee Eaters were swooping for insects, perching and then swooping again.  I have always had a soft spot for bee-eaters and love their spectacular rainbow plumage.  Luckily they were so intent on the insects Rainbow Bee Eaterthey didn’t mind me creeping slowly a few paces at a time and taking photos.  Some were blurred, some were sharp, but this one where he took a look over the shoulder and stared me straight in the eye was my favourite.  I have included another shot taken around the same time, still a good shot, but not quite as dynamic.

The camera was a Nikon D7000.  The lens was Nikkor 300mm F4 with a 1.7x teleconverter.  With the cropped sensor and teleconverter this equates to a 750mm equivalent.  I used a monopod to steady the lens as it has no vibration reduction.  The camera was set to Aperture priority f6.7 with automatic ISO adjustment to achieve a shutter speed at least 1/400 sec.  The Camera selected an ISO of 640.

I used photoshop and did minor curves adjustment to improve contrast and colour.  The Bird was already exceptionally sharp in the head and back, but I was worried about the tail coming toward me which was blurred.  I gave this area a gentle sharpen.  The background was pretty good, but I removed 1 or 2 branches which were leading the eye away from the bird.  Overall the amount of post processing was not great.

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Selfie by Dean Johnson

14_Dean Johnson_Selfy_annual

Hi James,

No problem, it’d be a pleasure.

This image was taken for one the club competitions….. self portraits.

I bought a light tent cube from Ebay while back in the UK which I’ve found to be very useful, and it was quite a bargain!  This is what I used for the black background of the image, the lights I used also came with this set.

I used my Canon 550d at 100 iso, 4.5 f-stop, 1/60s shutter speed in aperture priority with a remote shutter release.

Checking the image on the rear of the camera I noticed the reflection of the light in my sunglasses so I just kept moving my head around slightly while taking lots of photo’s until I caught the reflection exactly how I wanted it.  So I guess there was an element of luck involved but hey…. there often is!

In post processing, I just altered the brightness, contrast and saturation until I achieved the desired effect (I think, it was a while ago!).

I hope this helps, James. If there’s anything else I can do just let me know.

Cheers! Dean.

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Catch Me if you can by Les LudgateCatch me if you can

This shot of a racing greyhound was photographed at “The Southern greyhound  race club “ at Strathalbyn SA. 60 K  South of Adelaide .The dogs run a variety of distances typically 319m 416m & 536m. They chase a lure which is driven around the track a few meters ahead of them. These  dogs love to run and chase yet are very placid dogs and make good pets after their racing days are over. If you see one on the street look for a green collar, this indicates it is a recycled ex racing dog.

The shot was taken on a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens

Camera settings  for this shot were White balance   “Auto “ I sometimes use 5260 K but auto works best on this track as one of the track lights has a green cast.

Manual / Raw

ISO  4000 ,  app F4,   shutter speed 1/500s

Active D lighting was “H”  this tends to lighten any under side shadows  (used mainly in daylight with the sun behind the dog  but I just leave it set on this work camera )

A point on the track where the leading dog would pass the winning post was selected and focused on. Then  the camera is taken out of auto focus. This needs to be accurate as at f4 there is not much depth of field.

The dog is followed   or  Panned  as  it runs down the track and the shot is taken as it passes the pre  selected focus point. Tip ( shoot two shots as that stops you lowering the camera too soon and gives a steadier pan.)if using a Nikon VR lens set it to “Normal “ as that will allow for panning

Post processing.

Processed in raw and saved as a Jpeg

A small  crop was done and an unsightly post was removed from the background using content aware set to ‘strict” and the clone stamp tool to tidy up a bit. Levels were set and finally  a small amount of “unsharp mask “ was used.

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 Snake Gully by Howard SeamanSnake Gully 1024x768

Hi James,

This photo was taken on a dreary and cold winter’s day, whilst I was exploring the Adelaide Hills and had just driven along Snake Gully Road (Harrogate) when I stopped by this dam and the sun showed itself at last.

At the time I was not impressed with the photo as the water appeared all muddy and brown. Back home after changing the white balance from auto to daylight, some basic adjustments to contrast and exposure and with a small crop the photo transformed.

I particularly like the impressionist feel that the breeze has given to the water whilst the trees with their reflections remain crisp and sharp. The reflection of the blue sky in the water provides added interest in the photo.

The last surprise was when I followed the GPS co-ordinates attached to the photo 34°59’60” S 139°1’19” E using the ‘Earth view’ of Google Maps, (if you zoom in far enough) you will find “Jesus Lives” written in the bushes on the hillside.

Cheers  Howard

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Standing Proud by Jo TabeDSC_9137(sky)bw40x26.5(web)

When I was asked to do an article on my favorite picture,  this was the one I chose, “Standing Proud 2”,  mainly because the amount of work that went into it.  (Jo had to choose the best of 3 images with the same score)

DSC_9137(web)The original was taken on my way back from Swan Hill to Adelaide at about 3pm.  I used my Nikon D600 with 16-35mm lens set at 16mm,  on a tripod.  The settings were F16, 1/60sec ISO 100.  I do love old trees. The only down fall was it had a perfectly blue sky with an annoying bit of lens flare.

In the competitions I had tried a couple of others with blue sky’s as monochromes, but the judge says that I should choose a sky with more interest.  So I’m thinking it’s time to try adding a sky.  That means masking, which is not my strong point,  but I have to give it a go.  I have lots of shots with boring skies.

My first attempt was shown in the October competition.  It was a quick attempt.  It took maybe a couple of hours work and the comment from the judge was that the sky needs more punch.  Bugger!  It’s time to get serious.

DSC_9137,2(web)So this is how I went about it.

Step 1 – I processed the pic as normal.  I pushed the contrast a bit more than normal in preparation for the mono conversion.

Step 2 – I masked around the tree and foreground.  Masking took a couple of hours!  I’m not that good at it and I wanted to keep as much detail as possible .

DSC_0228sky for cloning(web)Step 3 – I wanted to find a sky.  I chose one from a Burra house shoot.  The old farmhouse was made famous by Ken Duncan and featured on the Midnight Oil Album “Diesel and Dust”.  I wasn’t using the house however, just the sky.  I use topaz plugins a lot.   I used the clarity filter for this.  I used the cloud setting and pushed the filter until I was happy with the appearance of the cloud.

DSC_9137(sky)webStep 4 – I created a new layer and cloned in the sky.  Again this was a long process with a lot of erasing and retouching.

Step 5 – I flattened the image and then went back to the Topaz plugins for a Black and White  conversion

Step 6 – Final adjustments to clean up the image.  I did a bit of dodge and burn and sharpening.  In all it took over 5 hrs.  However it was done.  I’m pleased with the result and thrilled that it did so well.

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Amazing Grace – Welcome to Country by Graham Briceamazing grace, welcome to country1

Hi James

Hope this is the size you need. I wish I had a few presets set up in Light Room to ensure they are right.  But I’ve managed to miss refresher courses on offer and my memory …well, you know…

The Image was taken with my iPhone 4.  It’s been cropped and sharpened, but that’s about all.

This is Karl Telfer, a Kaurna elder, dancer, storyteller.  He is doing a cleansing ceremony that’s been used for aeons.  I don’t know a lot about it but it was a Reconciliation event in Kingston Park that involved a walk around key heritage sites including the massive monument/scupture by John Dowie, (who also did the Victoria Square 3 Rivers sculpture).   It is about telling the story at the beginning of the Tjirbruki Dreaming Tracks.   The Kaurna people have inhabited the Adelaide plains for thousands of generations.

The photo was just a quick ‘snap’ before I put the phone away and participated in the ceremony.  I  learnt again how special the Fleurieu coastline is, to the oldest living culture in the world.  It struck me how generous and forgiving they are, given what our culture has done to theirs.  Hence they show us what is truly ‘amazing grace’ in welcoming us to Country.


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Pacific Coast Iris by Kerry MalecKerry Malec_Pacific Coast Iris_Open

Camera:  Canon Powershot A580

Date & Time:   1/10/2012 @ 4.10pm

Shutter Speed:  1/125sec,  F-Stop:  f/2.6,  ISO Speed:  80,  Focal Length:  5.8mm,  Program:  Macro

Original photoThis photo was taken in my own garden as this was the first bloom on the newly acquired plant.  As most people who know me would know that I love flowers, particularly macro photography of the stamens.  The original photo has foliage in the background which I did not like and a large rock in the foreground which shows some features but the flower colours tended to blend into the rock.

Post processing using Photoshop Elements 9 where I removed the foliage, the single iris leaf that crossed underneath the flower together with the rock and replaced with a black background.  I Used the Clone tool and the Spot Healing tool to tidy up the petals.  When applying the black background with the Paint Bucket, the stalk of the flower became mottled, so I ended up using the Cut/Paste tools to transfer the original stalk over to the duplicate copy I was working on.  There is possibly an easier way of doing the processes just mentioned, but at this stage, it is a learning curve for me with the manipulation side of photography.

James please feel free to change or correct any details before publishing.  Otherwise I hope this is all ok.  (Nothing was changed)

Cheers  Kerry

PS – Just remembered as I clicked the send button, that I always use Levels, if you would like to add into article.

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Harbour Dusk by Ray Goulter32_Ray Goulter_Harbour Dusk_Annual

Details as below,

Regards  Ray

Where was it taken? Taken in Sydney opposite Luna Park 27th February 2010. The image is of Luna Park just after dusk (7:30pm), taken from a restaurant where the reception was held, on the opposite side of the harbour.
Is there a story behind the picture? We were in Sydney for the wedding of a friend’s youngest son. Our table was in a position close to a corner that gave a broad view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour. I noticed the lights of Luna Park becoming brighter in the gathering gloom, pressed the camera against the glass of the restaurant, and shot the image.
What Camera did you use?  NikonD300 with 18-200mm lens.
What settings? Not recorded.
Did you do any post processing?  If so what. It would have been treated to some sharpening, but that is all.

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Lyrup Flats River Bend by Chris SchultzLyrup river bend panorama

Where was it taken?

Like the title – Lyrup Flats

Is there a story behind the picture?

As part of my work I need to travel around the state. On this occasion – mid June – I was in Renmark, and had been out since 7am that day. I was heading home and decided I’d try and get a shot or two on the River Murray.

A short drive along the road into the national park and a look on the river had still waters, interesting clouds and a sort of idyllic feel. It was about 4pm, so the light was starting to drop too – not long to golden hour (sunset was at about 5pm)

What Camera did you use?

Pentax K5 with the Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 lens (15-30mm equivalent on 35mm). This lens gives a field of view of 109o-60o on an APS-C camera.

What settings?

Lyrup river bend 2Now the fun – how do you show a panorama in sufficient detail – even with a wide angle lens?

First I tried taking the image at 10mm (ISO 100 1/80s, f10 – aperture priority), but this didn’t give me the full view of the river bend I was seeking.

Not quite what I was after as it chopped off the other half of the river bend. The framing wasn’t quite right either – because our eyes scan a scene, they seemed to show more. So I needed a wider view, but without too much distortion.

Lyrup river bendI have noticed before that this lens in portrait orientation has less perceived distortion than landscape orientation at 10mm so I took one shot to see what it looked like – not bad, and it showed more of those clouds and reflection in the water.

Maybe if I took multiple images and stitched them together I’d get what I wanted.

So, the composite view below shows a sequence of image – shot from right to left. No tripod, just me swivelling from one side to the other, overlapping each frame as I went and overlapping the images.

Did you do any post processing?  If so what.Chris Schultz_Riverbend_04b (Sequence) (2)Taking the images home, how could I stitch them? Stitching software has three step – image registration (looks for control points in common), calibration (allow for lens geometry and artefacts that may occur) and blending (correct for exposure differences between adjacent images) to give what appears to be a seamless image. If you are really interested in the process, read this article.

PhotoshopFirst I tried Photoshop, which is reported to have a reasonably good stitching algorithm. The resultant image was inadequate to put it mildly.  Lots of odd blends and blurred sections.  There was a rather disappointing blend between the grass & water at lower right.  As well as the branch at upper left which is lopped off and lacks sharpness.

I had tried a free application called Hugin ( some years ago and was interested to see how it had changed. So a download off the web, a set of TIFF images (I like my images lossless to start with), and see what Hugin could produce.

The interface can be a little daunting, but letting it do things automatically gives a fairly satisfying result. Stitching this set of 6 TIFF (each are about 94MB) took about 30 minutes. The software found common points between images, allowed for the 10mm lens (it warps each image to create the fit).

The type of projection will vary – rectilinear, cylindrical, fisheye, Mercator etc

The sequence is fairly easy:

  • Choose your photos
  • Apply any masks to the images
  • Let the software choose control points (auto works well, then you add more to make it better)
  • Stitch


I then spent a little bit of time tweaking for more common points between the images to give a better fit. This is a screen capture of the stitch points on the image – lots of them!

Crop functionOnce that is done, you need to crop the image to fit. This allows you to scale the image, change the projection etc.

You can see that grass is sharp, there is no apparent blurring, the clouds are clear in both water and the sky, and I’ve gained some height in the image. Much better than the Photoshop version.

The last step was to tweak the image a little bit back in Lightroom (my preferred image processing tool) for exposure and curves and the result is as you see above.

I recommend you read the tutorial on how to use the software though – it’s does take a little bit of work, but I think you’ll agree the results are worth it.

Chris 🙂

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2 Responses to Top Images 2014

  1. jduhb50 says:

    James very informative, it makes me look at these photos in a different light.
    Thanks for putting this together.


    • James Allan says:

      I enjoyed putting this piece together. I, like you, enjoy it when people tell their own story. More interesting than when someone else is interpreting what you have done.


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