Amersham Beyond Group - 4th Mar 2021

Meeting Notes on Creative Photography and Photo-Art
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Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2008 7:04 pm

Amersham Beyond Group - 4th Mar 2021

Post by spb » Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:48 pm

The meeting was held on Zoom and a recording can be viewed (by APS Members only) here.

All our 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
Please spend time viewing and commenting on the images - this is our primary source of feedback at the moment. Authors are also encouraged to provide commentary on their creations.

We viewed the current Challenges which are;



and the latest;


We enjoyed the widest interpretation of the word ‘movement’ ranging from blurred moving objects to political and orchestral movements. It was great to see the joyful, playful nature of many in these stressful COVID times and the rather too (in my opinion) exclusive club work on landscapes and street photography.

The next Challenge is;


We have spent most of the last year at home, surrounded by tangible reminders of past times, places and people significant to us. Souvenirs, knick-knacks, ephemera, everyday objects, photos etc. But have we really looked at them recently?

The Challenge is to create an image combining several such elements that evoke a memory for you. It may be created in-camera or by post-processing.

It is tempting to utilise a sepia tone to instantly infer age but I pointed out that sepia fell out of use around 1930 except for artistic purposes, so could be incongruous in a more recent memory.

Celebrating the Past with Photo Art. Although a coincidence, Maggie James’ talk this evening neatly aligned with the latest Challenge. She shared her project to record and present family objects using a fine-line drawing style of presentation and very subtle colouration.

There are many ways to convert an image to a line drawing but Maggie found the following methods to be best for her purposes;

Method 1

Method 2


The next meeting will be held on All-Fools’ Day (!) 1st April 2021 by Zoom.


Photoshop Brushes
. I have had a Wacom graphics tablet and pen for years but never really connected with it. Recently I have worked on a few images that required more control over masks and shading than offered by a mouse, so I pulled out the tablet and struggled again. Although the default brushes in Photoshop are meagre, I discovered that there are 2,000 brushes available for free download from Adobe as Kyles’s Brushes. After getting the stylus pressure sensitivity to work (which it didn’t at first) I started to get more excited by the brushes’ potential.

I then discovered the brilliant set of video tutorials by Kyle Webster the ‘Adobe Illustration Evangelist’. See an introductory one here. In particular, I related to his opening statement – “the brush settings panel is overwhelming – you see a bunch of words and shapes, sliders and do-dads, whistles and bells, that don’t mean anything and you say ‘I don’t even want to bother with that….” Been there, thought that.

Graphics Card Drivers. The driver software for our computer graphics is closely tied to the smooth running of the machine. An out of date or conflicting graphics driver can cause problems with Photoshop, cursor movement or indeed catastrophic BSOD crashes (Black/Blue Screens of Death). This was implicated in a recent problem that I had with my new computer which completely ‘lost’ Windows and was unable to boot-up at all. When switched on it could merely look forlornly to the internet for something to run!

Windows offers an Update Driver option (Device Manager>Display Adapters>Driver) but this is disappointingly useless (for most drivers not just graphics) usually offering only an old generic driver. Identify your specific graphics chip or card (from the same place in the Device Manager) and navigate to the manufacturers website for the latest driver. If offered, a ‘Clean Install’ is usually a good idea.

In-Depth Backup Strategy.
Hardly a month goes by before backups (or lack of them) are an issue for someone I know. I recently laid out my own strategy as follows in the context of someone thinking of adding a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box;

I keep the masters of all data on my primary desktop in a few high-level folders on an internal HDD (D:) for simplicity. I manually mirror these to a rotating set of external HDDs every month or so, using a simple folder mirroring app; SyncBackfree. They are not cleverly compressed or messed about in any way. Just straight copies are stored, totalling about 1.5TB. The external HDDs are always kept unplugged and hidden. These alone, cover all my essential backup needs and are all I used to recover from a catastrophic failure a year ago.

Going further, I create an image of the operating system SSD (C:) every month or two, using Macrium Reflect Free. In theory this would enable me to recreate the C: SSD in less than an hour in the event of total failure. I have done this once successfully but in practice when I have had this situation before, I have taken the decision to manually install Windows and all my apps because a) Windows has been updated bigly since the last image or b) a clean total re-install is usually beneficial after two or three years. Another benefit of Macrium Reflect is that you can mount the image with a drive letter and poke around in it for any particular file that you need. I have done this successfully. My C: images are in the region of 100GB (without any of my data) and are stored on one or more of my external HDDs.

The other scenario to cover is when you accidentally overwrite a file and you need the version from one hour ago. This is where a NAS and Windows File History has come in handy on very rare occasions. There seems to be a predominant NAS supplier of choice and that is Synology. Mainly I think because of the software that comes with it. PC Pro magazine still rate my DS218 as the best, three years after I bought it. It has 2 x 4TB HDDs pre-installed in RAID array. I wouldn't get anything smaller.

I probably don't use it in the best way. I can log onto it and store extra files there (like the disk images) but mainly I just use Windows File History to keep all past incremental versions of all files in a chosen set of folders, every hour. So, for example if I accidentally down-size and over-write a Photoshop file Tree.psd (it has happened), I can go and retrieve the full-sized version of Tree.psd (ie the same name) from an hour previously and is quite re-assuring. That's the good news. The bad news is that the MS File History feature is not bullet proof (I have found in the past that it stopped saving backups weeks back for no reason) and anything to do with using local networks in Windows is an impenetrable mess, especially regarding permissions.

Having said all that, the NAS itself has been great and it is currently burbling away on the shelf keeping my desktop and two laptops backed-up. I do go into the File History>Settings now and again to check that it is still running OK. Because you are keeping potentially many versions of large files like .PSDs, the storage does get eaten up and I am running low on my 2 x 4TB. File History can be told to clean up older versions of files to make space when necessary.

In the comprehensive suite of software that comes with the NAS is a management program that emails me regular reports on anything that needs attention such as software and security updates.

There may be better backup software out there but I have always been distrusting of software that I don't understand, because you only find out what it is doing/not doing when the sh*t hits the fan.

Cheers, Steve

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