February 2016 Newsletter

Leap year Newsletter!

Hello Photographer!

This month’s newsletter (and the first of 2016) comes on the leap day and therefore just scrapes into February!

We’re excited to be hosting a great calendar of events throughout 2016 and hope you enjoy with us it too.

The world of digital photography is ever evolving and developing, so with that in mind we hope you find this month’s article on 3d capture by Dan Billings of interest to you.  Grab a cuppa, sit back and do read on….

Amazing photography in the palm of your hand.
When the digital revolution came many people often wondered, would last the test of time?  And to be fair at the start of it all, the high cost and low quality involved didn’t leave a good impression.  Thankfully things moved on as the industry makes it far more accessible for us to create photos.  The biggest trend currently seems to be a change in what we take our photos with.  On the photographic social media platform Flickr, uploads from DSLR cameras are losing out to those from smartphone users and Apple are leading that surge. The new digital revolution in size is well under way and it now fits in the palm of your hand!

As we all know, there are a variety of ways to manipulate a single image. We can also merge multiple images into beautiful HDR shots and join several images together to make stunningly detailed panoramic photos, but what if you could create a 3D image from your 2D photos?  There is a scene in the Mission Impossible 2 (released in 2000) movie where a person is secretly snapped by an undercover operative with a camera. From those images a latex face mask is created for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to wear as a disguise.  That seemed at the time to be a fantastic leap of imagination, but it was based entirely on reality.  The basis for this comes from photographic techniques used in geological surveying and even the probing of far off planets like Mars by NASA.  These photogrammetry techniques take a sequence of images; usually from the air (or satellite in NASA’s case), and using triangulation calculations create a 3D landscape showing the topography photographed.  As a camera view point moves between each frame, the difference between key points within the series of images can be calculated.  If the same key point can be triangulated several times during the calculations sufficient information is gathered to create a real sense of depth and scale to the landscape that has been scanned in 2D photographs.  This technique has long been used by specialist businesses and industries to carry out all manner of research and surveying in remote or inaccessible areas, NASA do it in environments too inhospitable for human exposure.  This allows us to see the world and even objects in space with far greater three dimensional understanding than ever before.

As with all things cutting edge, there is a slow filtering down process from ‘high-tech to high street’. This is also true for photogrammetry, we are now able to download and use a myriad of different applications to create amazing images which have varying 3D elements to them.

The software available ranges from the costly professional options to ones that are free to use, amazingly!  I’ll be talking about one piece of software in particular, but there are others out there. The one I’m using at the moment is created by AutoDesk; the software in question is called 123D Catch.  This is an application for both Smartphones (Apple/Android) and Desktop/Laptop machines (Software and app downloads).  In essence, using the smartphone app you take a series of images to scan around an object.  This scan can be made by only doing part of the way around something or a full 360 ̊ all the way around it.

It’s a very simple app to use and gives fairly good results too.  To use it, you need to remain a consistent distance away from the object to be photographed and keep the framing as close to the subject so that it fills the frame, unless you are doing a wider scene.  It’s worth pointing out that the main intention of the software designers is that you will ultimately be making a 3D printed version of the object you are scanning, so the focus is on the object and often the background becomes fragmented as this is considered an unwanted element in the processing of the image.

The app gives you a very handy guide hint as to where you have scanned and where you need to take the next image from.  This is all based on the smartphone’s internal accelerometer and helps with the final processing to create a perfect mesh or shell of the object you have just scanned.  The term mesh or shell refers to the surface that is created from triangulation calculations made from your images.  The result is a hollow surface which your images wrapped onto to create a 3D representation of the thing you scanned.  This can be tidied up using the desktop/laptop software, as the phone app is rather limited in what else you can do with the image.

Once you’ve completed the scan, all the images to be used are uploaded to the 123D Catch server so it can be rendered for you.  One of the down sides to this and many of the other free apps is the fact that the creator of the app/website usually retains ownership of the images uploaded and the end result too.  The output is usually much lower resolution too, based on the compression applied during the upload to increase the speed for uploading and image processing times.  So if you’re thinking of using it commercially or even getting a 3D print of your scanned image, then look for a pro version with a better licence agreement and higher resolution files at the end.

The ingenuity of the developers to make this more and more accessible to the masses and creating newer concept ideas seems limitless, the only thing we need to do is to try and keep up with it all.

This is what’s possible with 123D Catch.

The video below was created from a scan I made on my mobile phone, it was cleaned up using the desk top software to remove the remnants of the background that were not needed.  The path you take around the object in the video doesn’t follow the path I took to photograph it, but is a result of the multiple viewpoints combining to form a fully rendered free viewpoint model.  Any gaps or holes in the model are areas where not enough information could be cross referenced between multiple images to achieve a good triangulation point.  The resulting model could be exported as a file recognised by any 3D printer, this would be an obj. and stl. file.  Just imagine if you needed to create a replica of something two or more people wanted a copy of.  The secret is to take lots of images from similar viewpoints that overlap each other by a third or more if you can manage it.  This means you provide plenty of points within the images that can be triangulated.


One of the best software packages is by Capturing Reality.  This is currently a free piece of software, but only for a short period of time.  The cost will be quite high once this free trial period expires, but it has huge commercial benefits.  The software integrates with Laser scanning, Camera images, UAV and Drone scans and also Synchronised / Stereoscopic scans, making it ideal for anyone in this area of 3D capture.






Friday 29th April 2016

Papplewick has long been a favourite with Line+Light photographers and this day is a great opportunity to capture the essence and details of the boiler room, the pump house, workshops and picturesque lakeside setting.  The team at the station will be preparing the furnaces in readiness for their steaming weekend ahead.

What this means in practice is that we have activity in the boiler house, and the possibility for candid portraiture as the engineers prepare the station for steaming. We see fire through the hatches and often, smoke. Atmospheric smoke. Lots of it! Whilst we cannot always promise it, more often then not it occurs, and when it does, we get the most wonderful images.

If you’ve never seen this temple of highly decorated Victorian grandeur before, you’re in for a treat, the building is lavishly decorated and quite simply ours for the day. No public, no crowds. Just us photographers and our kit, the ability to spread our tripods out, play with lighting and create images which ooze atmosphere. Magic!


Course content – in brief

Exclusive interior and exterior access.
Opportunities to shoot the boilers being lit and stoked.
Classroom start to the day includes inspiration and how to control the scene.
Learn how to light grand interiors and apply it through out the day.
On hand help, advice and support as you take your own images.