photographic noise


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Cities should be studied as evolutionary hotspots, says biologist
Animals and birds evolve more quickly in urban environments than in remote habitats, Cheltenham science festival is told
By Hannah Devlin

Foxes loitering around rubbish bins and pigeons roosting in train stations: urban animals are widely regarded as the dregs of the natural world.

However, according to biologist Simon Watt, cities represent some of the world’s hotspots for evolution and behavioural adaptation. Speaking at the Cheltenham science festival, Watt, who is founder of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, said: “The ice caps are melting, the rainforest is shrinking, the one environment that is growing is cities. If we’re going to look for evolutionary shifts right now in our world, the place to look is cities.”

In his talk, Watt cited a host of examples of how the urban environment is prompting new genetic shifts and unexpected behaviours. A proportion of black cap warblers, which used to migrate to Morocco or southern Spain, have shifted their route to Britain where urban heat islands and garden bird feeders allow them to survive at more northerly latitudes than was previously possible.

“The ones that come to Britain are starting to get shorter wings – better for manoeuvrability, worse for long flights – and longer beaks, which are better to get through the wee bars of garden bird feeders, although worse for things like fruits and berries.”

Birds in cities often sing at a higher pitch, perhaps to be better heard against higher levels of background noise. Photograph: Sue Tranter RSPB Images/PA Wire

Photography Basics

This post is about basics of photography, about what you need to be careful of, specifically for DSLR cameras.

DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex. How does this camera work differently from your phone? Well, it has a mirror inside of it, that snaps up when you’re taking a picture so the sensor is exposed to capture the image. Also please understand that I had photography as a class, but I tried to simplify it as much as I could because it was simpler for me and would probably be for those that don’t understand these things as I do.

  • Don’t go for auto settings!
  • First thing, make sure that your camera is set up for the best quality, that it’s on manual and that you know where you have to press for adjusting the things I’m going to mention.
  • The first thing is aperture, which is just how wide your lens is open. It measures how much light comes through, which means that the image is lighter if it’s open wider or darker if it’s closed more. It’s marked as f/n, which means it could be f/8. And each next value is the opening increased to double or decreased to half. Something that always confuses is that the lower the number the bigger the opening. This also determines how blurred the background is (if it’s farther away from the thing that’s focused) and it’s higher if the value is smaller (f/2).
  • The next one is shutter speed, which is how long your sensor is exposed. The problem if you need slower speed is that the image will most likely be blurry, unless you have your camera on a stand. If it’s at a long speed, possibly 1 second, the sensor receives more light, but when the time is shorter like 1/1000, the sensor receives less light.
  • The next thing is ISO, which changes the sensitivity of the sensor. The problem is that when ISO is too high like 1600, there’s photographic noise. I suggest you use 100 or 200 on a regular basis, or a higher value only when it’s too dark even if you’ve done everything else with the other two.
  • Now, you need to adjust these three for whatever you need. For example, if you want to take a portrait of someone in nature, most likely you’ll want to have the background fairly blurry, so you choose f/2.8 and to not have it over exposed, you’ll have your shutter speed at 1/1000 or something like that, and ISO at 100 since you’re most likely going to take those pictures when the natural lighting is great for the picture.
  • Now, that we’ve finished talking about exposure, let’s talk about lighting. The best time for pictures is in the morning, both for the light (no strong shadows) and because there aren’t as many particles in the air as towards the evening. But if you need to use artificial lighting, you need to be careful that the light is white, as neutral as possible.
  • Connected to the previous thing, you have to be careful of white balance. This is one thing that I usually put on automatic since it’s pretty accurate, but otherwise, it just depends on the type of light you’re using.
  • Focus is very important to learn because you’ll always do it better as in on the right thing and it’s faster than auto focus. When focusing on people or animals, you’re supposed to focus on the eyes.
  • Now, the next thing is composition.
  • A rule, something you should always try to stick to because it’ll make your pictures look professional. That’s Rule of Thirds. That means that the picture is divided by two horizontal and two vertical lines, so try to stick to them or where the lines cross.
  • Use diagonal lines (guides) if you want to make something seem active or use horizontal lines (guides) to make something seem static.
  • Make sure that what you do with focus and such is with a reason. Don’t just do it because it looks better.
  • There are a few more things you should watch out for, but they’re pretty much self explanatory: perspective, framing with objects in the picture, use natural lines.
  • Now we’re moving on to post production.
  • There’s not much that I’d suggest for you to do, but the most important is to utilize the crop tool because you won’t always be satisfied with how it is because you couldn’t stand close enough or whatever. So use that, but use it wisely and don’t crop out things that are part of the message. This is specific to photographic journalism.
  • The next thing you should do is adjust brightness and everything that comes along. The pictures might look good, but there’s always room for tweaking and just a little bit more brightness could make the picture better.
  • Then, saturation. I don’t think I’ve been able to take an incredibly saturated picture (the one on top had it’s saturation adjusted to bring out all the colours). Don’t over do it because then the post production might be noticeable and the best post-production is when you can’t really tell.
  • Then you have different filters, like black and white. But I suggest you to take them with a grain of salt and don’t do every picture black and white or sepia (unless it’s a project where all the pictures are themed). An example of good use of black and white is with old things.