Getting started with GIMP

If you missed our talks this week about Open Source image editing packages here is Steve Bennett’s Introduction to GIMP presentation.

GIMP is the popular Open Source alternative to packages such as Adobe’s Photoshop.

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You can also download a copy of the presentation, The GIMP software (including the RAW plugin) and sample images used at

Let us know if you have used GIMP or Hugin and share any hints, tips or success stories you have on our Facebook group.

Smoke Photography

Nick Dagger led one of the groups from this year’s Project Night about Smoke Photography. Here are his notes…

Smoke Photography by Nick Dagger Photography

What you will need

  • Camera with a manual focus over ride
  • Tripod
  • Black Cloth or Black Card for background
  • Incense Sticks and holder
  • Off Camera Flash
  • Flash cable / Wireless Flash Trigger
  • Lamp, not essential but helps light the smoke to see where to focus Photoshop * CS / Elements 5.0 or above

Setting Up Your Mini Home Studio



Now you’re set up you you’re almost ready to get your shots.

Manual all the way!

Get control of your camera, lens AND flash and set them all to manual and if your camera is not already set to RAW, now is the time!

Your camera may struggle to autofocus on the smoke so if you anticipate where the smoke will rise from and place an item there, manual focus on that point and you will much more successful.

Ready, Aim, FIRE

The following camera settings are a good place to start, somewhere between f8 and f11, 1/160 Sec, ISO 100. Try your flash in different positions and powers but half power and zoom as much as the flash will allow will give you a good starting place. If the light is spilling on to the background or flaring in to your lens then adjust the position of the flash.

Take lots of photos as the smoke will be different every time and trying different techniques will throw up some surprising shapes. If the smoke is not ‘performing’ then give it a few wafts with your hand or a light blow it to make it dance.

When you think you have enough shots take some more for good luck!


So now you’re happy with your shots it’s time to move over to your computer and process the images. Here you will get the first good view of your images, only keep the good ones, the rest can hit the ‘cutting room floor’!

Process the RAW images to your personal taste, crop and convert to black and white then open in Photoshop.

What we now need to do is invert the colours so what was white is now black and visa versa. To do this click in the menus Image > Adjustments > Invert (Ctrl+I for you shortcut fans)

Now here is where the magic happens. To add a colour tint we need to delve in to the Photoshop menus once more.

Image > Mode > RGB Colour to give us the option to add colour. Then Image > Adjustments > Colour Balance.

You will then be presented with a new menu box that you can play with. Just slide away with the three options until the desired effect has been applied then click OK.

Once happy, save and show all your friends and family the fruits of your work. 🙂

Download the Smoke Shot Notes by Nick Dagger notes as a PDF for printing.

Night Photography

Christian Cable led one of the groups in this year’s Project Night. Here are his notes about Night Photography…

Night Photography

Making photographs at night is tricky for one obvious reason, there’s very little light!

The less light you have in the visible scene the longer you must expose your image for. And the longer you expose your image for the more likely you are to shake. It’s tricky but not impossible, hopefully tonight we’ll see how it’s done.

Tonight we’re going to look a few example images you can make at night.

This isn’t intended to be a complete guide but it should be enough to get us out and making some night time shots.

1. Long Exposure of the Castle Gate

Lancaster Castle by Christian Cable

Lancaster Castle by Christian Cable

This is the simplest form of night photography.

Simply find a good view of the castle, place your camera on a tripod and make a picture.

You’ll need to use a manual focus to make sure you have a clear image and to ensure you don’t introduce any camera shake you’ll want to set your camera off with the timer or a shutter release cable.

This sort of image is best just after the Sun has set, that way you can make a good image of the castle while still getting a deep blue colour in the sky.

2. Traffic Trails

We’ll choose a spot facing across China Street near the Judge’s Lodgings where we can see the traffic passing by.

Find a good view and place your camera on a tripod and use manual focus to focus at a point in the scene where you predict a car will pass.

As with the Castle image you’ll want to use the timer mode or a shutter release cable.

The tricky part with this image is that you’ll have to take the shot as the traffic is passing by. The headlights of the passing cars should make a nice colourful streak across your image.

Later you can use Photoshop to layer the different shots on top of each other to great effect.

3. Light Painting

You’ll want the longest exposure you can get away with at the smallest aperture to get the background as dark as possible.

At home I’ve had good results with

  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: 32
  • Shutter Speed: 30 Seconds.

Use a torch to illuminate the subject and set the focus manually. If you don’t have a torch the torch mode on your phone is fine for this.

Set the shutter on a timer and then while the shutter is open use the torch to paint the subject from different sides. Try not to point the light at the camera or get the light on the background or yourself.



You’ll need a camera where you have control over the exposure time and ideally you’ll be able to set a timer. Most DSLRs will be fine. You’ll also be better using manual focus for many of your shots if you can.

If your camera can shoot in RAW mode you can change the light balance setting when you have the images on your computer to give you different effects.


Since we’ll me making very long exposures you’ll want to use a tripod if you want to avoid making blurry images.

Torch / Mobile Phone

It’s dark and you’ll not only want to see your camera to change settings but you can also use a torch to paint light into your images.

Shutter Release Cable

If you have one of these (or a shutter remote) you can use ‘Bulb mode’ on your camera to make exposures longer than 30 seconds. You’ll have to work out the exposure time yourself if you use ‘bulb mode’ but you can get good results with a little trial and error.

Download the Night Photography – Project Night 2014 notes as a PDF for printing.

Rules of Composition

Sally Anderson led one of the projects for this year’s Project Night about image composition.

Here are some of her tips…

Rules of Composition

  • Simplify the scene
  • Fill the frame
  • Avoid the middle – Rule of Thirds
  • Leading lines and diagonals
  • Space to move into
  • Backgrounds
  • Creative with colours
  • Balancing elements
  • Symmetry and pattern
  • Viewpoint
  • Depth
  • Cropping
  • Texture
  • Depth of field
  • Telling a story
  • Creating conflict
  • Breaking the rules and experiment
The Photographer's Eye

The Photographer’s Eye

Suggested Websites


Two books I found very interesting.

Download these Composition Notes by Sally Anderson as a PDF for printing.