Amersham Beyond Group - 3rd Dec. 2020

Meeting Notes on Creative Photography and Photo-Art
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Amersham Beyond Group - 3rd Dec. 2020

Post by spb » Sat Dec 05, 2020 8:34 pm

Face to face meetings have been cancelled due to COVID 19 but the December 2020 meeting was held on Zoom and a recording of the meeting can be viewed by APS Members here.

I presented our work to Banbury CC and Kingsbridge & District CC last month. Both clubs were very interested in what we have been doing and asked lots of questions. They would be discussing the need for a wider and more creative range of subject matter in their respective committee meetings. Kingsbridge have already pencilled in a date for a Beyond-style Challenge.

I was recently thinking that within the creative and artistic scope of this group we are all beginners. We are all learning how to use the tools and address the various Challenges that are outside the normal range of our photography, so we should cut ourselves some slack and enjoy the ups and downs along the way.

All Amersham Beyond Group Challenge images can be seen at Amersham Beyond Group on Flickr.

For APS Members only this month's images are also available for viewing and commenting at the APS Members Only Facebook Site
IMPORTANT - please spend time viewing and commenting upon the images - this is our primary source of feedback at the moment. Authors are also encouraged to provide commentary on their creations here.

We viewed the current Challenges which are;



and the latest;


Several members mentioned that this Challenge had encouraged them to get to grips with blending and masking of multiple images which is a handy re-enforcement of the recent Ask APS tutorials. Once you have mastered layers, blending and masking are powerful creative techniques but if anyone is having problems, don’t hesitate to contact me for help (Photoshop not Affinity).

Barry Hoffman also showed us a project involving Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea which co-incidentally involved double-exposure portraits of them today and in the past. He said that they mostly involved only basic masking of two images but the results were powerful and have been made into a book for the benefit of their charity. Barry is a new member this year and has already made an enthusiastic contribution to recent Challenges.

More Abstracts had been produced by a random and unrepeatable series of experiments with Photoshop and whilst this is great fun, when serendipity delivers a great result it’s always a good habit to use layers and label them as you go.

Last month I offered the concession to COVID 19 Lockdown of allowing copyright-free images from Pexels, Unsplash etc as one image of this challenge. Ken Batchelor also pointed us to websites such as which creates AI-generated faces of people that have never existed and which presumably do not raise copyright issues (?).

The next Challenge is;


‘Tis the season to be jolly/jolly careful but also to eat until we nearly burst. We’ve had some technical Challenges recently so a more straightforward topic seems timely. No further guidance is necessary but this is a Creative and Photo-Art group so something more than a snap of your dinner is expected.


The next meeting will be held on 7th January 2021 by Zoom.


Faststone. I have recommended Faststone as an excellent free lightweight image browser for Windows over more than a decade. It is widely used in the club (and worldwide) and I thought that everyone must have heard of it by now. Apparently not. It can do pretty much anything you would want of an image browser and if you put your favourite editing software into Settings>Programs, you can open any selected image by simply pressing E on the keyboard. The nearest equivalent for a Mac (and Windows too) is XNVIew which is equally good and free.
One shortcoming of Faststone is the lack of a search facility. I use the free Everything on search my PC which somehow manages to beat the endlessly lamentable Windows search just one second after being loaded!

Colour Spaces.
These define a palette of colours in an international standard and there are three that commonly cross our path in photography; sRGB which is the global default for good screens, printers, projectors and the web. AdobeRGB is slightly better at blues and greens and is achievable by professional equipment. Finally ProPhoto RGB which is the Adobe Creative Cloud default and is capable of describing trillions of colours. In short I have always set my camera, raw convertor and editor to sRGB and then happily moved on with my life. The benefits of AdobeRGB are invisible to domestic quality screens and printers. ProPhoto RGB is clearly insane. Photo snobs will tell you otherwise and they will have to convert their images to sRGB whenever sharing them with the world. Be very afraid of sending an image in ProPhoto out into the wild. When you finally click on Save As… check that the profile is stated as sRGB and that this will be saved together with the image. The APS automatic submission checker will then be happy.

Zoom Virtual Backgrounds
. In the desktop/laptop Zoom App go to Settings>Background and Filters. Either click on one of the offered backgrounds or better still, click on the + sign to navigate to an image of your own on your computer and open it. Exit the settings. Alternatively, if you are already in a meeting, click on the up arrow next to the Video button. Here choose Virtual Background and then continue as above. If the above are not available, you may have to login to then Settings>In Meeting (Advanced)>Virtual Background>On.
On a tablet, enter a meeting and then go to More…>Virtual Background.

Calculating your outline from a single, very fuzzy, webcam is difficult and requires a lot of video processing power. If none of the above work for you, it is likely that your device is not able to support Virtual Backgrounds. In this case the solution is to decorate your room.

Webcam Quality.
This year, many of us have realised that despite having a perfectly good, nay very expensive, laptop the quality of our webcam is dreadful. My expensive premium HP laptop delivered a fuzzy purple mess. Thousands of owners are online complaining about the same thing. HP were silent because they knew that this is a 15p webcam in a £1,500 laptop. Until 2019 they could get away with it but in future this will be scrutinised more closely. The only solution now is to buy an add-on USB webcam. These were totally unavailable in the lockdown spring but more are on sale now. Mostly they are more 15p rubbish selling for £25. I found a single stockist of a highly reviewed Logitech HD webcam in October but had to pay £150 for a £90 model. The results are very good and worth it for me. I had already upgraded my microphone in the summer but could probably have made do with the microphones built into the new webcam.

Cheers, Steve

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