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Camera Challenge 4 - Triangle Of Light – Understanding ISO

Welcome back to round 3 of the Triangle Of Light posts where we are tackling the final side of the triangle ISO.  ISO is definitely considered the poorest relation in this triangle since it doesn’t really give a visible effect on your photos, such as large apertures with blurred backgrounds or high shutter speeds freezing action, but nevertheless it definitely has its uses.

This month’s challenge is not a big one, since ISO has a limited number of observable effects, however here goes:

For the first part, find a relatively small, portable object to be the subject of your photo.  Pop your object somewhere inside near a window so that you get some outside light on it, but not bright sunlight.  Switch your camera to Aperture Priority mode with an aperture of around f5.6 and set your ISO to 100 then take your first photo.  For each subsequent photo increase your ISO by one stop – it should go 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (it may not go this high), but you may find that your camera is set up to increase in smaller increments.  Look up your manual on how to set this in full stops as above if possible.

For the second part, switch things round so that your camera is in Shutter Priority mode, with a shutter speed of around 1/60 – 1/100.  Again, starting at 100, increase your ISO with each shot.

If you want an extra bit of challenge, take your camera on a night out to somewhere where you’re hanging out in a relatively dark place.  Put your camera into Aperture Priority mode with the maximum aperture your camera will allow – for a basic zoom that’s often in the f3.5 – f5.6 range.  Starting at 100, increase the ISO to a value where the shutter speed is fast enough for you to successfully handhold the camera without getting handshake blur.

I look forward to seeing your results in a couple of weeks!
Photo Quality & Stability – Camera Challenge Bonus Post

Over the past decade digital cameras have come a long way in the quality arena.  These days even your phone camera will boast more megapixels than the original digital cameras, but for all the millions of megapixels that the manufacturers can cram into the sensor now, if you’re not using a good quality setting then their efforts have been somewhat in vain.

Picture quality is one of those universal settings whether you’re in auto/pre-set mode or in the semi-manual/manual modes when you’re taking photos as JPEGs.  If you go into the picture quality menu on your camera you will generally see JPEG options of Small/Basic, Medium/Normal, Large/Fine (or words to that effect, have a look in your manual for your exact camera options).  Some are further divided so Canons show a graphic of a smooth curve or a set of steps, and a Nikon has a set of options Small, Medium and Large.  What does all this mean though?

Well, the quality of an image is all to do with the compression that is used.  JPEGS use what is known as lossy compression, which means that any information that the camera decides that you don’t need is discarded.  The lower the quality you choose, the more information is lost – it has been suggested that the compression ratios are along the lines of: Large/Fine 1:4, Medium/Normal 1:8 and Small/Basic 1:16.  The diagram below demonstrates how many of the pixels are actually retained at each quality level.

For the subdivisions, there are two approaches, with the Canon curve versus step options, this distinguishes between using a particular kind of separation between pixels – the steps option gives a blunter gradation between tones, while the curve blends more gradually.  In Nikons, the Small, Medium and Large refers to how much of the screen is used for the picture, so the small uses a small part in the centre, and the large covers the entire screen.

Now you’re probably scratching your head here going, well my camera has a 16mb sensor, why am I losing 12 mb even at top quality, what’s the point?  Well there’s actually another set of options that you may have noticed, which covers RAW.  RAW files are effectively digital negatives, like you used to get in the old days with film, and contain almost every bit of information you can get from the sensor.  They are named because, like a film negative, they are in a raw state, so a RAW file can’t be printed out directly it must be processed through software first.  Because of the way that picture processing is carried out for the auto and preset modes, RAW is not available in these modes.  We will look more closely at RAW files later on in the series.

Many people choose the lowest common denominator in the quality settings when they buy a camera because that lets them get the most images on a card (and you know those cards are expensive when you buy them in the camera shop) but this is effectively negating all those manufacturers’ efforts to get more pixels in because you’re getting rid of most of them!  It’s kind of like buying a Ferrari that you’ll only drive in second gear because you’ve heard that that uses the least amount of fuel, and then complaining that the car won’t go fast.  Incidentally I have actually stood in a camera shop while someone ranted and raved at the shop assistant because their camera "wasn’t taking good photos" when they tried to blow them up to bigger than 6”x4”, and they had paid all that money for those megapixels which were obviously useless.  The customer eventually admitted that they had gone with the lowest quality file option because that’s how you got the most photos on the card, which meant that he’d effectively discarded the information that would allow for good quality photos at a larger size.

So what should you go for?  Well I would say go for the best quality option to avoid disappointment both in case you take a notion to blow up the photo to a bigger size, and also in case you want to manipulate the file in any way, such as to Photoshop out some rubbish from the background of a photo – every time you manipulate a JPEG it loses more information when saved, so always make sure you have a copy of the original before editing, and try and do all your editing in one go to avoid losing too much information.

As a tip for you, shop around online for memory cards for your camera – for example in store on the high street a 16mb Sandisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash card may cost you £75, but online from a memory discount store it will set you back £49.  If you’re not worried about the write speed (and that is really only an issue if you intend to do video or a lot of rapid fire shots), then an 8mb one will cost you all of £9.99.  UK shops that are good for this are mymemory.co.uk, 7dayshop.com and dabs.com.

Now that we’ve looked at quality, the next other thing to be looked at today is stability.  Keeping your camera stable in other ways than you hand holding it can be useful for many things, for example it means you can use slow shutter speeds without introducing camera shake.  It can also mean that you can set the camera up to take a photo of you, or set it up at an angle that you can’t, or don’t want to, get comfortably to for any length of time.

There are a few options:

1. Use a table or counter surface to set your camera down on.  In this case put the camera so that the end of the lens is at least level with the edge of your surface if not hanging over a bit.  This will ensure that you don’t end up filling up half the photo with table!  This option is fine if you’re staying in the one place, but is obviously not a portable option, and is somewhat limited in height.

2. Use a tripod to mount your camera on.  Tripods can come in all shapes and sizes from ones that are the same height as you right down to mini table top ones and ones with bendy legs that will wrap around trees and lampposts (amongst other things).

images from Velbon, Manfrotto & Joby
The key thing when choosing a tripod is to look at the maximum weight it will support, as this needs to be at least equal to the weight of your camera + the heaviest lens you want to use with it.  Choosing one that is too light may result in the whole thing toppling over, which will likely be the end of your camera (although there are full sized tripods that come with hanging hooks underneath for you to hang your bag on and try and weight the legs down).

Tripods come in different weights, and you can buy them as a whole unit, or as a separate head and legs.  My old one came as a complete unit:
image from Velbon
While my new one has a separate head and legs:

image from Manfrotto
image from Manfrotto
The old one was a fairly cheap model from Velbon, but I discovered limitations in it because the way the legs are attached, they are joined to the central column.  This means that there is both a limit to how wide apart the legs can be, and a limit to how low it will go, seen below:
Whereas with the new one, with Manfrotto 055 XPROB legs and Manfrotto 410 junior geared head, the legs are independent, and the central column will turn through 90 degrees, so I can get it practically flat on the ground, which is useful if you happen to like crawling around forest floors looking for mushrooms.   I can also have the legs at different angles, which is great for the sides of hills or in waterfalls.

image from Manfrotto
Of course if you are not a fan of crawling around in the mud, hiking up mountains and ploughtering through waterfalls, the style of my old one might suit you just fine!  The new one was around 4 times the price of the old one, although as I recall, I got the bits from different relatives for Christmas one year, so maybe save this knowledge until your next birthday or Christmas if you’re angling for an upgrade ;o)

3. Use a beanbag to place your camera on.  Beanbags can be very useful on rough ground or places where you don’t have enough space to spread the legs out on a tripod, say in a vehicle or on top of a dry stone wall.  They can mould themselves around both your camera and the surface they’re lying on, which gives you a stable platform to work from.  Like the table top option, beanbags have obvious height limitations, unless you can find something at the appropriate height to place them on.  The good news is that they’re pretty cheap and easy to make, especially for sewers!  I’ll have a tutorial up on how to make one soon.

4. Use a monopod to mount your camera on.  As the name suggests, these have just one leg, and often double up as a walking pole.  Monopods are particularly useful when you need to both stabilise and move your camera, such as following action shots.  They work by providing both support and a pivot point in these cases, so for example if you were following motor racing, you could focus on the subject and follow it round a bend, taking shots along the way.  My monopod is by far the least used piece of kit I own, but since I bought mine at a deep discount online for about £10 I’m not hugely upset about that.

Hopefully these will give you something to think about, but if you have any questions, please let me know.
Work In Progress Wednesday

Let's get the home decorating out of the way first - so for those of you following the fascinating tale of the excess grout on the kitchen tiles, so far the score is Grout 1 - Katy 0, but it's half time, and I'm rounding up some new subs from the bench in the form of better scouring pads - I will not be defeated!  Don't faint, but there's someone coming to fix the bath today too, so fingers crossed all my DIY will be a distant memory soon...

So when I wasn't working or cursing the tiling, I was doing a whole pile of riveting paperwork - I got the Issue 12 Quilt Now pattern written up and sent in, and my Rainy Days and Mondays pattern is out for testing - that was all by Friday night so I was feeling all efficient like after that!  After that it was all about some market research and seeing stars ready for my class starting next Thursday.  I think I need a bigger design wall (or perhaps to finish the quilt that's been on there since January *ahem*), as it was all getting a bit confusing with giant star pieces and Cherie blocks on top of each other o.O

Finishes This Week:

This little lot is now at Quilt Now HQ waiting to be photographed in its finished state:

This is out for testing:

In Progress This Week:

I've been hoarding the 7 half yard cuts from Moroccan Mirage since I started quilting and fell in love with the colours, but couldn't work out what to do with 7 prints! As fate would have it, they found themselves in close proximity to some Joel Dewberry Modern Meadow, the planets aligned and a couple of stars were born to be used as class samples.  The plan is to have one completed top that I can use to show the basting stage, and the other to be in progress - it worked perfectly, but with the crowded design wall you'll just have to take my word for it that this is now 3/4 of a completed star and a lot of cut bits, okay?

To Be Worked On This Week:

I'm hoping to get all my star bits done tonight
I have some double gauze calling my name to be turned into a summer quilt
But then I also had a brainwave for a new bag design so who knows!

Hope you all had a great week!
Camera Challenge Outtake - Where Shall I Take My 'Where I Went On My Holidays' Photos This Year?

I realised this week that I've got completely out of whack with the dates for the camera challenges this month - I was trying to post twice a month, but somehow I've posted twice every 4 weeks and gained a week!  In order to get myself back on track, I thought I'd turn things over to you guys to a certain extent this week, so that you can tell me where to go and take photos...
This year is the year of the stay-cation, or at least the not-go-very-far-cation.  I'll be heading to Anglesey and Dublin with some photography friends for a long weekend at the end of August, and down to London at the end of September for another long weekend so that I can (selflessly) accompany my dad to the rugby world cup for his Christmas.  I've also got a long weekend down south in July, but as that's for a memorial service, it's not really a photographic expedition.  After all that, I'm left with 5 days of leave to play with.  I don't need to take it all at once, in fact it might be easier to do a couple of long weekends, so I'm trying to work out what to do, and I thought it would be nice to get out with the camera both then and over the 2 May bank holiday weekends.

So here's my question to you, where would you like me to take my camera?  I'm limited really to where I can drive to in a reasonable time period.  At a push, I'll contemplate camping at my end destination (unless there's a nice comfy bed on offer for free at the other end ;o) ), but let's say for arguments' sake that my distance limit is within a 100 mile radius of Glasgow if I'm not staying over:

So is there anywhere  in the highlighted area above that you have a burning desire to see a photo of?  (Except Edinburgh, I'm sorry, but Edinburgh crowds in mid-summer freak me out more than I can possibly explain!  And I'm sorry, the North Antrim coast is also off the cards, because, well, I don't drive Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the ferry prices are eye watering!)

Have at it folks!
The UK Mini Swap Mini

I always like it when I can finally do a full reveal of some secret sewing, although it's had a wee outing on IG, I wanted to look a bit more at the mini I sent for the UK mini swap, because I really loved how it came out - it went all the way to Edinburgh, so maybe I can still get visiting rights ;o)

It all started when I saw the 'January Block' by @ladyharvatine on IG.  She created it for the LAMQG for their BOM, but the block pattern is available from her shop for the princely sum of $4.

I knew my partner liked rainbows, and while casting around my potential fabric options, I suddenly remembered the bundle of Paint that I bought at Market last spring, and I knew it was meant to be.  I made this as my trial block:

Then I moved on to the option with the 'missing link' ring part (there's templates for both options):

And kept going until I had 4 blocks in total, which was just the right size for a mini at 24" square.

When it came to quilting it, I just couldn't bring myself to go down the straight line or matchstick route, those circles were calling out to me to be highlighted in some way, so I dusted off my rusty FMQ skills (18 months between projects isn't too long, right?!), and made myself a couple of paper template that allowed me to mark out the edges of where the circle would have been in the 'missing link' sections.  I had decided to do a diamond grid in the rings, with FMQ in the centres, but I started with the FMQ in case it all went a bit pear shaped, and needed to grid the whole thing!

Funnily enough, it was the circles round the edge of the flower that nearly killed me here,  I started with the flowers, and obviously got a bit cocky, because there were a good 5 sessions of un-quilting a circle or two after something went a wee bit jerky, or it didn't really look like a circle.  I think I got there okay in the end though:

For the wee diamonds between the rings I did a kind of mini flowery thing, trying to echo the shapes I used to make up the flowers, and for the rings, as mentioned before, I did a grid on the diagonal, using a grey thread so that it was cleared on the 'missing link' sections of the rings.:

Luckily my lovely friend Rachael at Imagine Gnats had made a few projects for Paint fabric designer Carrie Bloomston for Market, and had sent me her 'scraps', which were really quite large bits - enough to use the paint chips for the back, and the fab red with newspaper strips for the binding.

It was definitely a fun project, I now feel a bit of an urge to make more minis or something!
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It's been another busy week around the Thistle Patch, there's that day job that insists I turn up every.single.weekday (so unreasonable) and then my mum was up for the weekend, so I spent Friday night and Saturday with her and my gran, and finally on Sunday I was helping with a class at The Stitchery in advance of my first class there in a couple of weeks (eek, just realised that's really quite close!).

If anyone is in the Glasgow area and would like to take a beginner's quilting class, I'm teaching an evening one to make a giant star quilt while Patricia will start a Monday morning one in May for a rail fence quilt.

Anywho, in amongst all of that, I did get a little sewing done for my next Quilt Now contribution, and I also did a little research for another little venture I'm exploring. If any of you are bag makers and have a spare moment, please pop over to Monday's post here to contribute to a buying survey.

Finishes This Week:

You must be joking

In Progress This Week:

This little lot is well on its way to becoming a Quilt Now project thanks to the lovely people at Remnant Kings:

This is now done and on its way to join its other secret friends - hopefully it will get its day in the spotlight soon...

Oh, and this little lot arrived from a friend's IG destash, and has been tantalising me...

To Be Worked On This Week:

Finish my QN project
Clean the excess grout off the new kitchen tiles
Reassemble said kitchen once grout is cleaned
Maybe a little selfish sewing for a few minutes...

Hope you all have a great week!  Linking up with Lee and the gang:

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One of the biggest challenges that bag makers face is getting hold of the hardware they need.  Fabric is easily obtained, whether in person or online, but by the time we get to interfacing, well, that's kind of boring and not as easy to obtain, and I think the hardware just baffles shops entirely, so they don't stock anything for fear of never selling things.

I can totally understand the shops' point of view though, if no-one can tell them what's needed, then they won't be able to stock it, no shop owner wants to waste money and retail space.  If you have the time, I'd love it if you could complete the survey below, hopefully something will come of it in the future :o)

Create your own user feedback survey

Thanks for your time!