Thursday, 27 March 2014

The New Camera

After a lot of deliberation, thought and considering... I have finally bought myself a New Camera!

It wasn't an easy decision.  I knew my old camera wasn't really good enough.  I need something that will take decent photos of my books and other makes, so I can make them look as good as possible for my online shops.  My photos just haven't been up to scratch - not enough contrast, no depth, no sharpness... 
The "Old Camera" was doing a much better job than "The Previous Old Camera", but it was still only a "point-and-shoot", with the various limitations of its kind. 
Yes, it was 8.2 megapixels. Yes, it had a good macro feature.  Yes, it was neat, small and easy to operate.  No, it didn't do a good enough job.
The Old Camera

I needed Something Better.  However, there were several problems/issues that I needed to consider.  Firstly, I was never particularly clever at operating a Real Camera.  I took photography as an option at art college, but wasn't very good at the technical side of working the camera.  When I took a good photo, it was because my messing around with "f-stops" and "apertures" and all that stuff had just turned out a happy accident.  I could frame a good shot. I had an eye for a decent picture. I couldn't work out the hows-whys-and-wherefores of the actual machine that took the photos.

After college, my boyfriend, who was a photography enthusiast, bought me a nice little SLR camera.  Nothing very posh or expensive - just a decent little second-hand camera (Film, of course - digi was only a dream at that point!).  He was patient and explained all the techie stuff to me.  I always understood it when it was explained, but, like mathematics, as soon as I tried to Use the information, I got in a terrible muddle.  No idea why - I'm not stupid and should really have been able to cope, but I simply never got the hang of it.  My photos were always mediocre... with the occasional "quite good" one.  That's why I've stuck with point-and-shoot since then - it's easy! 
I have developed a better knowledge of how to make the most of lighting, how to frame a shot, how to position my items / subject for a half-decent photo.  I even have a little pop-up light box and a mini-tripod, to make my photos easier to take. 
They are still not good enough.  They're too grey, even if I try hard with the lighting.  They're not sharp enough, even if the light is good and I take the shots with a tripod.

So... A New Camera had to be bought.  Scary thought!  I put it off for months... and months.... After all, a DSLR was what I needed, wasn't it - and they cost Hundreds of Pounds!

But I still needed something better.  Another point-and-shoot, only better? Blah! I didn't think that would do.  Friends recommended a few DSLR cameras which would be good.  They all cost £400-£700.  I didn't have that sort of money to spend.  And I was saving up for a Plan Chest. And a Book Press. And a Relief Printing Press.  So I really didn't want to spend £400. 

A bit of Research was required.  I discovered Bridge Cameras!  These are designed to "fill the gap" between the little point-and-shoot snapshot cameras and the large, heavy, sometimes unwieldy - and sooo expensive DSLR cameras, with their special sets of interchangeable lenses, super-powered image sensors and amazing processing power.  
A Bridge camera has a single lens, which is designed to be versatile, so it will take good shots across a wide focal range.  So, you can take "normal" range photos - shots of a room, portraits, pictures of the garden from your window - that sort of thing; then you can also get fairly decent close-up (macro) photos and also good distance photos. 
Many of them have a long zoom distance (a lot of point-and-shoot cameras have stuff like 10x zoom - but that is Digital Zoom, which is actually done with the camera's internal software, by just framing the shot "close up" in the viewfinder, but not actually magnifying what the lens sees - so those shots are grainy and lose definition). 
A Zoom Lens uses Optics to magnify the image - so it really does give a closer-up view and you get a more crisp and well-defined image.  A point-and-shoot may have an optical zoom lens feature, but it won't be able to give the magnification available on a DSLR camera, as the lens is too small and the zoom too short. 
A Bridge camera has a larger lens and can have a much longer zoom lens too, so it gives far higher quality images, although they won't match up to what's possible with a good DSLR, which could even have a huuuuuge specialist zoom lens fitted and get mega-magnification (at a cost of hundreds, even thousands of pounds!).   
Bridge cameras often use the same, or similar sensors to their more fancy (pricey!) DSLR cousins, which means that potentially they can be very good cameras for many types of photography.  Unless you really want/need a professional standard of camera, you may be able to manage very well with a good Bridge camera, rather than paying out for a DSLR.  Of course, it is all down to choice, as well as pocket money - some people would far rather pay the extra and have that super-duper extra special DSLR quality.  I don't see the point in my paying hundreds of pounds for a camera, then more money for a special macro lens, just so I can shoot most of my pictures on Auto; or get myself all worked up and miserable trying to crack the puzzling f-stops and things, so I can take decent pictures for my shop.  I am hoping that I will get a good enough improvement in image quality, without the expense of DSLR!

So there you are - that's what I learned about Bridge Cameras vs. Point-and-Shoot and DSLR.  Follow the link above, if you want to read what Wikipedia has to say about them!

After some more Research, I came up with a short list of cameras that had good reviews overall, seemed to fit my requirements and also came within my budget. 

And I bought this:
The New Camera: A Nikon Coolpix L820. (In Plum!)
It's not top-of-the-range. I couldn't afford the hundreds of pounds.  Neither is it cheap - it's in the middle, had very good reviews and sounded as if it would do what I need it to do.  I am hopeful!

It arrived this afternoon and I've been trying it out.  The photos above were taken with The New Camera.

This is what it did:
Self-Portrait: "Lizzie-in-the-Mirror, with New Camera!"
Our (messy) new room, on a dull day...
Portrait of Tom-the-Cat 
- see his whiskers?!
(by the way, Tom did not wish to smile at the silly, shiny new camera... he wished I would go away and stop disturbing him)  

All these were taken on the standard Auto setting - point-and-shoot.  Minimal photo editing done - just a bit of colour correction or brightening, as it was a dull day for indoor photos. 

I'm not sure yet, whether the quality is any better than The Old Camera, but I think it must be - I don't think I could have got all that detail in Tom's fur, with the little Fuji camera - not in a dark corner of the room.  Certainly, the original SOOC files are twice as large as the old camera files - which means that when they're condensed down, the detail can be retained more easily.  (I think?)   Yeah, I'm pretty sure I have got much more detail in these shots - especially the two portraits - than I could possibly get with my Fuji camera. 
So, next I have to set up a Shoot of some of the books in my stock, then replace the photos in my shop listings.  We will then see how good this camera can be!

Yay for the New Camera - watch this space!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Liberty Photo Albums

Three small concertina Photo Books, covered with Liberty prints!
The green and light pink fabrics are called "Capel" - one of my favourite designs.  The red and pink pansy pattern is "Ros" and it comes in other colourways too.
The albums measure 7.5" x 5.5", which means they will hold photos up to 7" x  5" in size. 
There are 28 pages, using both sides of the concertina (30 if you used the inside of each cover).
The pages are stiff white cartridge paper, which means photos can be fixed to both sides of each concertina page...
... but you can open the concertina like a "normal" book, by leaving the ribbons fastened at one end, or the other - or it can be opened out into a continuous strip, with photos both sides.

The books look really nice with a label on the front, which I can print with one or two lines of text... these!

And look what arrived in the post today!  
 New Liberty Print fabrics!  I love them! 
 I already have plans for more small photo albums... 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Paper Cutting

A long time ago, in a village far away (well, about 5 miles away from here actually), I used to make papercuts.  I started papercutting when I was at school and made some fun Christmas cards, using coloured papers and foil (from sweetie wrappers!) to fill in cut-outs and make The Three Kings' robes and gifts, stars, stable scene etc.  They were well received by relatives, but I never really made much after that, as I had studying to worry about.

I had another try about 10 years ago, cutting pretty paper doilies, decorations and pictures, mainly using a tiny pair of sharp scissors, but sometimes also a scalpel.  And, again, I gave it up because Life got in the way.

Recently, I've been admiring the lovely work of a couple of very accomplished papercutters, Louise Firchau (aka Paper Panda) and Jen (My Paper Cut Heart), who have pages on Facebook and sell their very beautiful cuts online. 

So, I decided to have another go.  I sat down with paper, pencil and scalpel, to make a paper cut! 

I made one on Friday evening and a second yesterday. 

This is what I made on Friday:

A Springtime Tree, with lots of wildlife. 
Cut from chocolate Murano art paper, with a scalpel.  Measures 14" x 9.5". 

I found this quite tricky to cut.  The scalpel went blunt quite fast and snagged on the mat.  But overall, I'm quite pleased with this.  It's not bad at all, for the first effort in ten years! 

For the second cut, I discovered that using my glass cutting mat makes the blade go far more smoothly, cutting through the paper like butter - and saving the blade too. It was a lot more comfortable to cut onto the glass, rather than the self-healing cutting mat.  

Saturday's effort:

Butterflies and Daisies! 
Cut from a piece of aubergine Murano paper, with a scalpel, on my glass mat.  Size A5 (8" x 6")
The first picture is going to be a Mother's Day present for my mum.  I bought a frame and I want to mount it onto nice paper and frame it up.  I have thought about trying to cut a duplicate (I drew the design onto tracing paper for the first attempt), but I'm still quite pleased with how it turned out, so I don't think I need to cut another. 

The second picture will be a Mother's Day card for my MIL.  Dave's very pleased with it, so I'll mount it onto some plain Murano paper and put it on a card base.
I'm very pleased with the results of my first attempts. I really enjoyed making these - something a bit different.  It's nice to have a change and try something new (or almost new), now and then. 
* * *
In case anyone else really fancies a go at this lovely papercraft, Paper Panda sells a comprehensive kit for beginners, complete with instructions and practise pieces.  You can buy the full version which includes a cutting mat, scalpel and blades, instructions, paper and practice pieces; or if you have these already, there's a version with patterns, paper and instructions only.  Louise has posted pictures of beginners' efforts and it seems to be a great way to get started.  She sells these kits through her online shop at Big There are also individual patterns, for those who are already confident enough to have a go by themselves. 
Happy cutting!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Wednesday Worktable - 5th March 2014 : My New Plan!

I haven't contributed to JuliaDunnit's WOYWW for ages.  It's been quite crazy here over the last few months and I really haven't joined in with much at all, on any blogs (even my own).   But I wanted to join in this time - because I have a Work Desk Story for you!
* * *

Last Friday I went to the local auction house and left a Bid on an item.  The auction was on Saturday morning and I was on the phone early in the afternoon, to see if my bid had been successful.  It had indeed... my invoice would arrive by e-mail on Saturday afternoon and I could collect my item on Monday or Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon, Mister Lizziemade and I went to the auction house and brought home my new...
Plan Chest!!

Woo-hoo!  I have wanted a plan chest for ever!  Especially since I have been book-binding, as I have loads of huge sheets of paper and storage has been an issue. 

My Studio was originally supposed to be The Spare Bedroom as well - there was going to be a sofa-bed along one wall; so, there wasn't really any room for a huge chest of drawers. 

However, we now have an extra room downstairs, as last year we doubled the size of the old dining room, to make a large living room, where we have plenty of space to sit and relax, as well as room for the dining table and other furniture.  The original "sitting room" is now a "snug", separated from the rest of the house by a hallway - which makes it perfect to double as a guest room.  So I no longer need to worry about trying to accommodate people - only equipment and paper!! 

I have been looking out for a plan chest online, but with little success, as I didn't want to spend the £400 or more that was necessary to buy what I saw that was suitable.  Even on EBay, a decent second-hand plan chest is selling for £300+ and almost always, these items are "Collection Only" - ie. I would have to arrange collection and delivery myself, at extra cost - or else they are being sold by dealers who arrange delivery, but at a premium. 

I decided to try the local auction and phoned on Wednesday, to ask if they had any plan chests for the coming Saturday.  I was in luck - there were two... Hence the visit on Friday and my subsequent purchase! 

As you may notice from the photo above, the chest is now filled and labelled.  I have decent storage at last!  No more hauling huge, heavy paper-storage bags from a pile and dragging them around the floor, just so I can get at a single sheet that's stored right at the bottom of the heap. I can keep them in seperate drawers and lay the bag on the top of the chest to find what I need - Yay! 

I've been having a Tidy Up in the Studio, so this new Plan Chest is the next stage in my reorganisation and clear-out.  I hope that I will soon have an organised room, where I can really get on with some work, without having to shift piles of stuff from place to place, just to make room to work.  It's still Work in Progress (my crafting desk is still pretty untidy, but you should've seen it at the start of yesterday, before I attacked the massive pile of stuff!), but I am Getting There!

And What Was on my (lovely new) Workdesk today?

Lizzie's New Workdesk!

You can see that I got it all set up pretty quickly.  The table to the right is one of those folding "banquet" tables that they have in church halls and community centres.  It has been my Bookbinding Table for a year or so, propped up on wooden blocks, to raise it to standing height.  Now I have the Plan Chest, so I can work on the top of that, with the folding table as a place to set out my tools and equipment, lay out pieces of work that are waiting for my attention etc.  Just what I need! 

And this morning, on the plan-chest-workdesk was a pocket journal, in soft, spring-green leather.  I was about to stitch in the six sets of white pages, with some lovely pale mauve linen thread...

The chest is a great height to sit when stitching, as well as to stand at when preparing book covers, or cutting paper. I'm very happy with it!

This is the result of the morning's labours:
Green Leather Journal, with decorative longstitch binding in mauve linen thread. 

I'm a Happy Lizzie!


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