Tag Archives: C905

Night-time snow photos

One disturbing symptom of global warming, to those of us above a certain age, is that what I think of as proper winters have become rare in Britain. So rare, in fact, that we’ve had to wait about thirty years for a proper snowfall. As I recall, there was a string of mild winters in the mid to late eighties . . . which gradually became perceived as normal winters . . .

. . . And now, suddenly, it’s quite comforting (unless out in it) to have a normal winter for once. Finally! Except everyone is acting as though it’s never happened before.

I had forgotten a few things about these winters. For example, the noise that the snow makes when it decides it’s time to slide off the roof. But also—if I ever noticed it in the first place—the effect on the light outside.

Close to midnight, several nights running, I was struck by how remarkably light it was outside even with a cloudy sky. Almost as if the sun hadn’t quite finished going down and it were still dusk. I could see things quite clearly which normally would be in darkness. And the clouds in the sky seemed more visible than usual, too.

On reflection, this isn’t too surprising, for the simple reason that snow is white and therefore reflects a lot of light. Several things can happen:

  • Buildings and other surroundings that would normally just be illuminated by the sky will be illuminated by the ground as well, as the “snowlight” reflects onto them.
  • The “snowlight” can reflect back up onto the underside of the clouds.
  • Streetlights, which in places like Manchester already provide significant amounts of light pollution, will also be reflected off the snow onto the underside of the clouds, illuminating the sky a lot more than it usually would.

So I wondered: Is there enough light for my phone camera to manage to take a reasonable photo? I don’t have any way to control how long an exposure it uses, but on the other hand I do have a mini-tripod attachment for it and it does do OK at dusk . . . I expect the result will be quite grainy, but that might suit the kind of photo I’m taking, so let’s have a go . . .

Well, judge for yourself. The original photos I took did rather support my theory about the street lights, by having a very yellow underside to some of the clouds. The effect was a bit horrible. I converted them to black and white. Here’s my favourite of the resulting pictures:

Night-time snow landscape

Snow at night

That’s actually a detail of this larger photo:

Before cropping

Here’s a different cropped detail of the same photo. Though the tower crane, to the right of the house, is perhaps a bit of a blemish, I was surprised how clearly it shows up considering the graininess of the image.

Different detail

And here, for reference, is one of the colour photos, showing the yellow light pollution in all its “glory”:

Why I used black and white. Light pollution.

The photos are all taken on a SonyEricsson C905 camera phone, set to 3Mp resolution.

More from my phone camera

A couple of nights ago I played around some more with the camera in my new phone, taking photos out of the back bedroom window. The weather was rather grey, showing promise of a good sunset but not producing one. It did however produce some nice clouds, which in my book are much better to look at than the featureless blue sky described by many as “lovely weather”. (Apparently, weather is “good” when it saps your energy and makes you permanently uncomfortable as a continuous stream of sweat runs down into your eyes, soaks into your clothes, and makes your hands sticky; the weather in which your nose runs non-stop, the air becomes steadily less and less breatheable and everyone gets skin cancer from the direct sun . . .)

Yes, I’m glad that the hot weather of the beginning of last week has now subsided. I don’t like the summer.

I initially decided against posting these photos, but people on Twitter seemed to like them so I’ve changed my mind.

Unfortunately the silhouetted skyline in the first one isn’t as sharp as it might be. Maybe I forgot to set the focus to infinity, or maybe the camera moved. I like the sky though:

Clouds over Manchester

Clouds over Manchester

The second one is a lot sharper:

A more in-focus skyline

A more in-focus skyline.

To produce these photos, I first found an exposure setting which showed as much detail as possible in the clouds, and took the photos. Then I used the phone’s built-in picture editor to adjust the brightness and contrast, so as to make the skyline (nearly) black and highlight the cloud detail. The next step was to adjust the setting the phone calls “colour balance”, which I think is actually the saturation level (it has grey at one end of the scale, and unnaturally strong colours at the other). I wasn’t aiming for a realistic picture: I wanted to show the shape of the clouds as dramatically as possible, and to show the viewer why I think they’re worth looking at. Finally I did some cropping to get the composition how I wanted it. (On the phone for one of them, and in Windows Paint for the other.)

For reference, this is how the weather actually looked. It’s the original version of the first photo above, before I adjusted the contrast and colour.

How the weather really was: unedited photo

Original photo, before enhancing the contrast and colour

Don’t complain about the “bad” weather. Enjoy it, and point your camera at it!

From my new phone

A few days ago I got a nice new phone, with a nice new camera in it. It’s a while since I last posted here, and I want to show off the photos, so . . . 🙂

The phone is a Sony Ericsson C905, which has some idiotically advanced features. For example, the 8Mpx camera has an option (as yet untried by me) where it waits for someone to smile before it takes the photo, and another where it looks for faces in thee picture and focuses on the nearest one rather than on the centre. No doubt in 18 months’ time they’ll all seem very primitive.

Be warned: if you click the photos for the full-size versions, some of them are pretty big.

First we have an elder tree/bush which, sadly, is no longer standing (it seemed better to cut it down before it fell down on its own…) This was photographed using approximately 2x digital zoom:

Elder trunk

Elder trunk showing signs of age: original photo

The interesting bit:

Zoomed detail of the same photo

Zoomed detail

The high resolution is quite freeing when taking pictures. Being a phone camera, it only has a digital zoom, not an optical one. With my previous camera (Sony Ericsson k750i), I had to be very careful about using the zoom, because the loss of image quality would be quite significant. With this one, it’s possible to use an appropriate zoom setting while taking the photo, then zoom some more to see the part of the photo I really want, or to improve the composition.

These flowers are behind the kitchen sink; I had to hold the phone at a rather awkward angle to take the picture, and couldn’t easily see the screen to compose it.

Original photo, using macro mode

Original photo, using macro mode

The phone has a very nice built-in photo editor, with a very silly name to make you think it won’t be any good (“PhotoDJ”). So as well as selecting the part of the picture I would have taken if I’d been able to see what I was doing, I used the editor to increase the contrast slightly. This made the colours a bit less bright, so I adjusted them back to how they originally were. (If you get confused comparing the two photos, the photo has been rotated 90 degrees.)

Zoomed, contrast slightly increased

Zoomed, contrast slightly increased

Just the one flower:

Zoomed some more

Zoomed some more

And lastly, for no particular reason other than that it was the nearest small object to hand, a photo of the charger plug, in macro mode. If I’d been using a “proper” camera, i.e. a manual one, I’d have used a wider aperture to make the background fuzzier, but I was still pleased to see that the camera doesn’t force me to have everything in focus all the time.

Sony Ericsson charger plug

Sony Ericsson charger plug

I’m pretty pleased with the camera 🙂

It does have weaknesses too though. As far as I know, all camera phones suffer from them.

Firstly, there’s no viewfinder: you can only use the screen. That might not sound like much of a problem. However, I discovered from my previous phone that it is: in bright light — e.g. outside in the sun, taking a picture of the nice sunny scene–the screen is much less visible and you find yourself wishing there were a viewfinder so you could see properly.

Second, there’s basically no manual control. You set things like brightness and zoom, whether the camera focuses on the middle of the picture or uses face recognition, the kind of lighting you’re in and so on. But you can’t say “Well I want the ugly background to melt away into fuzziness, so I’ll use the maximum aperture”. And it doesn’t tell you what settings it’s using.

The tiny lens is both a strength and a weakness. It basically means that compared to a standard SLR with a 50mm lens, the camera is living in a much bigger world. For close-up photos, this is great: one of the biggest difficulties taking them with a normal camera is that the depth of field is very shallow. That is, only a very thin slice of the scene is in focus. For a tiny lens at the same distance, the situation is more like photographing something some distance away, and more of the subject is in focus. The weakness, though, is that it’s quite hard to get things out of focus.

Now that phone cameras are turning into, well, real cameras, I hope someone will soon think of giving the user real control over them. It’s nice having the amazing resolution and all the clever electronics, but a bit good old-fashioned artistic knob-twiddling would be helpful, even if the knobs to be twiddled are virtual ones on a screen. Add a tripod bush, a viewfinder, and a way of attaching filters, and you’re just about there I think, at least for a compact camera.