Issue 1 - Summer 2009 Price £0.



HDR - High Dynamic Range Pet Photography Tips and More...

You vs the Best Pag e 3 D i ary of an U n caffeinat ed YvB P layer Page 4 Tips for Pe t P ort rait s Page 5 A Chat wit h MMARSUP ILAMI Page 8 In troduct ory S ES S ION on HDR Page 9 Th e Pi n nacle Challenge Page 14

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To Be the Best is a spin-off eZine from the Flickr challenge group You vs. the Best. Most of our material is from our discussions and our photo pool; it is meant to inspire you to play in our Flickr group.

Space Ritual An odd conglomeration of folks who somehow manage to learn from each other and make me better as a...well, not a photographer that’s for sure, but maybe I qualify as a “picture snapper.”

And why should you play in You vs. the Best So, join the group You vs. the Best at (YvB)? com/groups/26485789@N00/. It’s easy: Shoot, - You take photographs post, and vote. - You love taking photographs - You think some of your photographs just might be The Best, and you’re willing to join a fiercely Contributors: competitive, wildly funny and, dedicated group of people who feel the same about photography. Jonas Thomén Initiative, Layout, Dictator Why fiercely competitive? Because in order to post your photo in the YvB pool, also known as the Hall of Fame (HOF), it needs to win 5 consecutive rounds of a challenge….that’s 50 winning votes!!!! And that’s why your photo would be “The Best.” Tough? Sure, but 23 challenge categories have fixed subjects. Only one challenge varies! You’re know which subjects will come up, and where you can flaunt your talents.... or, where you’ll need to get better. Tough? Yes, but here’s what some of our players say about YvB and why they like it….. Danuta M. (bear.bonnell) Writer, “Diary of an Uncaffinated YvB Player,” “You vs. the Best” and “The Pinnacle Challenge” Maneesh (mksfoto) Public Coordinator, Copyright Manager Michael (A2L) Cover Photo “Invisible Man seen in Cardiff” Andy Mullen-Cragg (amcD300) Title Credit Debbie Hopkins (blueeyeddebby) Writer and Photographer, “Session on HDR”

wratie The vast array of talent and the opportunity to go ‘head to head’ against photographers Sarah (sarah22333) Writer and Photographer, all over the world! “Session on HDR”

Tina McNeill I love this group! The admin are fair Jody (dog ma) Writer and Photographer, “Tips and don’t always vote for each other because of for Pet Portraits” their friendship, which I have ran into in other challenge groups. I also like the maturity of the Marc (mmarsupilami) YvB Player and notch photographers here! rapher, Interview Margiebean The competitiveness! I also like the quality of the photos and you guys of course:) dr ama Pinnacle Winner

-Agustín Cowper Coles- Pinnacle Winner luzzzelmann The competition; it’s hard to push a picture to the HOF. If it’s done, you can be sure, All photographs and text material are still copythat this pic ‘has something’ righted to their respective owners. Even if this is a free zine, you are not allowed to use text or photos Pedro Miguel Barreiros Because I think there for any other purpose then is intended. Everything are some good photographers to compete is used with permission from the owner. If there with. is a copyright issue, contact mksfoto (on Flickr).

Diary of an Uncaffeinated YvB Player
Getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to get out my comfort zone, like everyone says to. But just about everything is out of my comfort zone. Today, though, I finally got live captive animals, something besides those plain, boring dogs that keep winning #15. Got little Algernon eating cheese. Barry found him in the basement and put him in a glass jar. My out-of-comfort-zone brought right to me - no climbing into bizarre places, no cornering weirdos on the street, no buying new lenses, no imagination or inspiration needed here!!! OK, to work. According to Dog Ma’s “tutorial on how to photograph pets and captive animals,” I should get on eye level with them. Good thing Algernon is in a jar. Move the breakfast, lunch, dinner dishes over on the counter and put the jar up there. Move over the pots and pans from the company the other night and put camera right down next to Algernon. Snort. How do I get my eyes level with a rat’s? Mouse. Mole. Whatever. If I hadn’t gained so much weight, it’d be easier! OK. Close enough. Dogma said have some treats ready. Well, Barry’s already taken care of that - hunk of my prize aged parmesan is already in there…. But it’s all for the sake of that prize YvB photo, eh? Getting closer to him chomping away. Arrrgh. Freeking auto-focus, I don’t want the reflection of the rat on the jar, I want the rat! OK, I’ll move the jar onto the window sill. There, that does it. Good grief! He’s almost chomped through the whole hunk of cheese. Do mice have cholesterol issues? Oh wow – now there’s a thought. Get a grant to do research on the effect of gourmet cheese on photographic subject… there, I can finance my whole photography escapade! OK. Got a shot or two of those fantastic whiskers, and tiny paws. Get that posted ASAP on YvB. We’ll see if the rat that ate the cheese can scare the cat who can get the dog.

OK.... first vote against me. Humph. So the eyes are out of focus, and there’s a glare on the side. No appreciation of spontaneity. And now Barry wants to take Algernon to the nest of the redtailed hawk so he can see nature at work. You wanted out of comfort zone, he says???? There ya go!

Text and photo by: Bear Bonnell

Ti p s
Photographing Dogs

f o r

P e t

P o r t r a i t s

Because dogs have a short attention span, I make sure I set up everything BEFORE I pose the dog. I first decide what background I want to use. While doing this, I am giving the dog constant love and attention, praising him, telling him what a good boy he is, because this puts him in a good mood and he’ll more likely do what I want him to do if he trusts me and likes me. After I find the background, I decide on the depth of field. I usually blur the background because I want the eye to be drawn to the main subject... the dog. I choose a wide aperture (f1.4- f5.6), but I always try to keep the whole face in complete focus. The exception to a wide aperture is when the background is as nice as the dog, then I’ll shoot at f8 or above. Background in focus The background is in focus because it would take away from the shot if it wasn’t. Btw. these tracks are inactive. The secret weapon Once I know where and how I want to shoot the dog, I get the secret weapon... FOOD!! I use dog treats, but if your dog is picky, use what ever works. Cheese, turkey, chicken, carrots, whatever. Just break them up into very small pieces because you may need them and you don’t want to get your dog fat. Now I aim the camera at the background, get the settings right according to the light. Remember, you don’t have a lot of time to shoot the animal because they don’t sit still for more than a few minutes, so BE prepared. Now I’m ready.

Blurred background to make the dog pop.

A Couple of Important Tips

able, so be prepared to adapt. So unpredictable, that I usually shoot in shutter priority, so I can Using the treat, I set the dog in front of the back- rotate the dials quickly. Aperture priority works ground and tell them to sit. Most will do any- well too, your choice. thing for the treat, so sitting down is usual easy Or, just shoot a body part but try to make it arfor them. I can’t stress this part enough... GET tistic.. DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL!! When you shoot at the dogs eye level the shot comes out so much better. And if they are laying down, you lay down too! The floor makes a great tripod!! But sometimes the background is just not right. Then I shoot down on a dog, because the flooring makes a much better background than what’s behind the dog at eye level. Just use your common sense. Getting back to the treat, hold the treat right above the camera lens because that’s what the dog is going to be looking at. Shoot 3-4 shots, then give them the cookie. Get another piece of cookie, and do it again, and again, and again... every few shots, give them a treat or else they get bored. Change the dogs position. Or I should say, the dog will change positions and you have to be ready to change too. They are unpredict-

This is Teddy the Wheaten. He’s all over my stream because I absolutely LOVE his fur!! If you’re shooting your own dog, you already know him/her well, so get the food and go for it!! Good luck!!

Photographing Cats Cats are much harder. You can’t predict what they’ll do, so you just have to be ready for anything. Keep the camera handy because they may lay in such a cute pose and if you have to run to the other room for your camera, you’ll miss it. If you’re shooting your own cats, you know their behavior, so it’s easier to set something up. For instance, below is a shot of Ionna. I know she loves to play with water at the sink. So I just turned it on and waited.

The Final Word Patience is a must when shooting pets. Not only with the pet but with yourself. I sometimes take 100 pics of a dog or cat and maybe get 10 good ones. So shoot a lot of shots. As many as the animal will let you. I was lying on the ground for about 10 minutes while trying to get this shot perfect, when the neighbor across the street came running over because she thought I fell and was knocked out! She couldn’t see the camera from her angle. This is Andie at 3 months. I sat on the floor, then drew her into the natural light and shadow with a red laser cat toy. Most cats LOVE this toy and it works for me almost as good as food for a dog. HAVE FUN!!

Text and photos by: Dog Ma

Marc (mmarsupilami) recently got his 50th Hall of Fame winner. We all know how difficult that achievement is! So we caught up with Marc for a chat. YvB: Hi Marc, It is quite an achievement, you have 50 Hall of Famers in the YvB pool. Congratulations! Members are curious to know how you have so many winning fog shots. Do you have a fog machine or do you breathe on your lens (the two theories that currently abound)? Marc: This is the fog machine : Each time I go to take pictures, I go there before with a big bag and put some clouds in it. Breathe on the lens is just for beginners!!! not so difficult for the treatment of pictures. By the way, the majority of my pictures are postprocessed with Picasa (I am new in Photoshop). But Picasa is sufficenty for the web but is destructive. So, I changed. YvB: What tips would you give to members who would like to shoot landscapes. Marc: Always to search a construction in the picture. Never forget this. Why a big part of pictures of Grand Canyon (mine also) are so bad, not giving justice to the place? Because it’s not possible to find a composition. Always the same : a juniper tree in first plan of picture. For a picture, a lone tree in a field with a long road is better than Grand Canyon. It’s not the landscape that makes the picture! The photograph creates the landscape... YvB: We know you play in a lot of challenge groups. What for you sets YvB apart from the others? Marc: YvB is the more difficult. Five challenges to win, it’s not so easy when there are so good challengers... L’origine du monde nuageux / The Clouds Fabric Marc, Spring 2008 YvB: What areas of photography would you like to explore outside your current comfort zones?

YvB: Some members feel that ambience does not necessarily require fog or mist? What do you Marc: Portrait. But I have a problem with portraits. I am very astounished how a lot of photothink? graphs are easily making public these portraits. Marc: Oh, really? Some feel so? It’s misterious... I don’t dare without asking to people... YvB: Tell us a little about the equipment you use YvB: Anything else you would like to add and how you go about taking such great shots. Marc: Merci, merci. Le plus important, c’est What is the post-processing involved? de continuer à s’amuser. All this is just fun and Marc: I am mad : I just bought the Canon EOS pleasure... 5D Mark II. But i am also a fan of the Powershot in my bag when I am cycling and moutainbiking. YvB: Thank you Marc for taking out the time to For postprocessing, Photoshop is the best and talk to us.

Introductory SESSION on HDR
Some of us look at a HDR photo, say “wow, wish we knew how to do that” and move on. So we decided to ask the practitioners of this art form in the group to help us out. Debbie (blueeyeddebby) and Sarah (sarah22333) volunteered and we are extremely grateful to both of them. Both have stressed that for them photography is a hobby and they do not hold formal degrees in it. What they are happy to do is share their learnings, tips and tweaks. Debbie: If you’re out shooting and you come across the dilemma of correctly exposing for the highlights or the shadows... simply think HDR and do both!

Sarah: HDR Simplified: Take a picture. Then take another that’s exposed for the highlights. Then take another that’s exposed for the shadows. Process and tonemap them in the software of your choice. The first question to answer is always - does the shot NEED to be HDR? When The definition of HDR in our category 12 - HDR, you first start its really easy to use it unnecessarIR & Orton says: ily. Sunsets are the most obvious choice - with the bright sky and dark foreground. But start seeHDR, High Dynamic Range, a technique in which ing things in the shadows. If your shot doesn’t by combining multiple exposures with different have wide swings in the light and the dark then exposure values you get an image that has a does it really need to be tonemapped? larger dynamic range. Something closer to what the human eye can see. So what is Dynamic Range? For our purposes in photography, Dynamic range (DR) is the range of luminance values from the darkest to the brightest. The DR of the realworld scene in front of you is the range of darkest to brightest portions available to your eye, film or imaging sensor. The DR of a camera is the subset of the scene’s DR that can be captured without being clipped on the highlight end, or reduced to noise or outright blocked up on the shadow end. This brings us to why HDR? In some situations the contrast of a scene is higher then your camera can capture in a single exposure... this is why you need to take multiple exposures with varying exposure time. We will now have Debbie and Sarah take over. Over to you ladies:

Cedar Creek Grist Mill by Sarah Spring of 2007, Woodland, Washington, USA

7. Increase your shutter speed by 2 stops and take your second shot (trying not to move camera or Tripod). 8. Continue in this manner, increasing by your shutter speed by 2 stops until you reach the faster (the higher of the 2 you made a mental 1. Exposure mode to AV (Aperture Priority)... note of earlier) of your shutter speeds. This will be changed to manual mode but not 9. That’s have all the shots you require for HDR. just yet. 2. Metering mode to spot or centre weighted. 3. Select an aperture setting, in this example I’ve Now to understand exposure stops. used f/22. 4. Select your white balance setting, not the au- In photography the use of stops helps us think of light in a series of units and that makes worktomatic setting. 5. Image quality RAW (although you can still do ing out exposure values much easier. HDR in jpeg format...but some information is The amount of light that reaches your camera lost). sensor is controlled by your aperture value and 6. Set the ISO to the lowest setting. shutter values and each time your shutter speed Focusing... turn this to manual. is halved, (from 1/125sec to 1/250 sec for example), or the aperture is made smaller (say from B.) Evaluate the range. F8-F11) the amount of light that hits the sensor 1. Squint at the scene you have chosen and is halved. This halving means we’re reducing the exposure by a stop. identify the darkest and brightest areas. 2. Now point your camera at the darkest area and make a mental note of the shutter speed. Debbie: How to shoot for HDR To get all the exposures correct in a scene try this....also if your camera doesn’t support auto bracketing this method will work: A.) Pick your camera settings. 3. Now point your camera at the brightest area, the aperture will remain constant as you are in AV mode but the shutter speed will change, so make a mental note of the new shutter speed. C.) Compose your shot.

Tonal Region Darkest Shadows Shadows

Aperture f/22 f/22 f/22 f/22 f/22

Shutter Speed 1/2 sec 1/4 sec 1/8 sec 1/16 sec 1/32 sec

Stops 0 stops 1 stops 2 stops 3 stops 4 stops

1. Put your camera on a tripod. 2. Focus the lens manually (this Mid-Tones will stop it drifting between exposures). Highlights 3. Now switch the exposure mode to manual (M) making sure you set the same aperture Brightest you used for the initial read- Highlights ings. 4. Change your shutter speed to the lower of your two shutter speed readings. 5. Turn your drive mode to self timer or use a remote release/ cable release (this will prevent camera shake). 6. Take your first shot.

For HDR, if the shadows of a scene meter at 1/2sec at F22 and the highlights meter at 1/30sec at F22, then the time the shutter needs to remain open has to be halved 4 times between correctly exposing the two areas, covering 5 stops in all.

Sarah: Using auto-bracketing Unless you’re luckier than me and have one of those 17 FPS cameras, use a tripod. AND use a remote for the shutter. It really sucks to miss a great opportunity because you moved the camera when you pressed the shutter. Hopefully your camera can bracket at least 3 shots. In order to get 5 exposures, I set for 3 bracketed shots at +2 0 -2. Take those 3 shots then change the bracket settings to +1 0 -1. You’ll end up with two 0 exposures shots one stop apart. This is an arguable point, but I really truly believe that no HDR needs to be more than 5 shots. If you get your kicks taking 9 exposure brackets then you need more hobbies...

-2 exposure

+2 exposure

-1 exposure

+1 exposure

0 exposure

And this is what the final result will look like after tone-mapping and final processing [explained later]

- Strength 70. - Colour saturation I play with but usually between 50-70. - Luminosity 0 or plus 1 but will play to see what effect I get. - Light smoothing I normally stick to the centre circle. - White point 2.5-3.5. - Black point quite close to the left hand marker... may move it just slightly. - Colour settings to my liking. - Highlight smoothing reduced to get rid of highlight artifacts. - Shadow smoothing, to my liking. Once I have the image to my liking I save it and ALWAYS finish it off in photoshop...trying to get it looking either realistic or as way out as my mood takes me at the time For sharpening which is always my final step I tend to go to filters-other- high pass and set it between 2 and 5. The picture looks greyed out but don’t panic. In the layers palette change your blending mode to overlay and voila job done.

Beached boat (HDR) by Debbie Fall of 2007, Tenby, Wales, UK

Debbie: Tips and Tweaks This is one of my personal favourite HDR images.

Sarah: Tips and Tricks - Tonemapping

I use Photomatix 3.0 Beta. I’m going to post my starting settings with a few cautions. But keep The shot is bracketed at -2, 0 and +2 exposure in mind that you should never be afraid to move at f11. I did try it with an f22 but was way over that slider all the way left or crank up a setting exposed and blown highlights. To auto bracket, and check out your options. But if you like the go to your camera menu - look for AEB, hit set look of my shots, here’s how I do it: (least it is on a Canon) and move the sliders to -2, 0 and +2 and hit set again. -Strength 70-85 *usually 80 Each of the 3 shots was loaded into photomatix pro and then tone mapped. With details enhancer selected I have my settings at: -Color Saturation 50-55 max -Luminosity 1 or 2 - I don’t use this setting to lighten the midtones. That’s what Gamma is for.... -Light Smoothing high or very high - medium will look 3d and fake. If that is your thing then so be it. -Microcontrast 6 or 7

Tone Settings - White .4 to .9 - but really play with this one depending on the shot - Black .2 to .4 - Gamma 1.0 to 1.4 - this is what I used to lighten midtones - Temp whatever you need - but get this in camera if you can - Saturation Highlights - this can help if the sun area is blown out - Saturation Shadows 0 - I don’t mess with these much - Microsmoothing 0 to 10 use this if you have fences or bridges that have halos on the lines... dont overdo it - it will also lighten midtones - Highlight, shadow smoothing - don’t use these much either. Look at this one. You can see the perfect detail in the back of the flower, but the sky is well exposed. Basking 101 by Sarah Spring 2009, Portland, Oregon, USA

Final processing If you want a natural look (that’s what I call mine) then it’s important to open it up in PS or whatever you use and layer the 0 exposure back over the top. In extreme lighting situations I will blend 2 different exposures back over the top - one for light and one for dark. I change the type of layer to overlay or soft light and reduce the opacity to anywhere between 10 and 30%. That will give you a more saturation and contrast while keeping detail. Get as dramatic as you want. My final adjustments are usually curves, contrast and sharpening. Then you have a beautiful magical mystical HDR that is guaranteed to get you into explore. As long as you’ve remembered to include a kitten posing for a emo self portrait at sunset. Here are a few links that may be helpful: Photomatix software ( If you wish to buy it, the good soul stuckincustoms is offering a Photomatix Coupon Code with 15% discount at his blog which also has a HDR tutorial ( hdr-tutorial/) range_imaging high-dynamic-range.htm

Text and photos by sarah22333 and blueeyeddebby



Twenty-eight months after You vs. the Best blossomed into life on Flickr, a “best-of-the-best” contest was organized. Named “The Pinnacles”, it was designed and built by Taryntella2 and mksfoto, 2 YvB admins. YvBers were allowed to post three of their photographs that had previously won Hall-ofFame status in a contest that lasted 4 rounds and resulted in a semi-final roster of 6 extraordinary photos. Two photos tied for first place, one taken by dr ama, a physician from India, currently living in the USA; and the other taken by Augustin Cowper Coles, a graphic design university student in Argentina. Here are their photos. Check out the this link for the 4 other photos in the semi-final round, taken by photographers from Sweden and the USA (Seattle, Virginia, NYC)

“apathy” by dr ama

“Night Vision II” by -Agustín Cowper Coles-

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