Improvements in 3-D virtual modelmaking

I’ve continued my exploration of 3-D virtual modelmaking, endeavouring to forever improve my practice. Working at the Burton Art Gallery some weeks ago I was unable to include the bases of some of the big harvest jugs and delicately decorated puzzle jugs because turning them upside down, on a turntable, would have been too dangerous because their rims were very small in comparison to the weight of their bodies, they were uneven or extremely fragile. Simply lying them on the side did not work because their smooth rounded surfaces would not stay in one place and they would always dangerously wobble!

In my studio I found that using a rubber ring in the centre of the turntable would support a spherical object very safely. At first, I tried with rubber rings or rubber washers that I had in my toolbox. The largest of these, probably from a plumbing waste pipe assembly, worked very well with some jugs that I had at hand. I would need something bigger though for the harvest jugs that I intended to photograph. We were in lockdown so I searched various online shops with little joy. I had expected DIY shops just to be selling rubber washers as part of a set for a specific use. However, B&Q had a couple of very useful items; A 2-inch cistern coupling and something similar for toilet repair. The black pure rubber items were perfect for holding these valuable delicate jugs in place on a moving turntable.

The quantity and brightness of light for photogrammetry is really important because it is necessary for closing the lens aperture down and so helps in producing a well-focused object; this in turn makes a better 3D Model with a background easier to mask out. With this in mind I had invested in a new pair of 1000-watt studio flash heads.

Another day-shoot was organised for the Burton, just before they opened again to the public. I was keen to try out my new process on the historic jugs that had been most problematic last time, and to use my new lights. I constructed a studio with a jet black background and placed my heavyweight automatic turntable on the sturdy table. The 1000 Watt studio flash heads were directed towards the white ceiling to ensure a very soft and diffused overhead light. A small reflector threw some light back from the camera view into the shadow areas underneath the jug. Another first for this shoot was syncing my heavyweight turntable, which could take loads of up to 40kg, with my Syrp Genie Mini; which was itself synced with the camera and studio flash. The first object, a large harvest jug, was placed on the rubber washer on the turntable, and it was beautifully balanced as I had hoped. A QP card was used to ensure correct white balance. A full rotation off the jug was controlled, via a Bluetooth connection, by my Syrp iPad app. The process seemed to work seamlessly. The only problem I had was that the new flash heads tended to overheat after prolonged continuous use on full power. This was overcome by allowing them to cool every so often.

280 photographs of the Harvest Jug, shot in RAW, were transferred to my computer. I performed basic adjustments in Lightroom, white balance and exposure, then exported the files as HQ Tiffs to a folder. These were fed into Metashape photogrammetry software to create the 3-D virtual model. A decimated version was then uploaded to the Sketchfab platform.

The process was repeated with a Puzzle Jug, 212 photographs were taken in a similar fashion. The computer processing time required for the virtual model making was a good 12 hours; aligning the photographs, building the dense cloud, constructing the mesh and finally adding the texture.

Camera positions

Cleaning the background









Most of this was automated and could be left over night with the monitor turned off. However, with careful selection, it ought to be possible to half the time by halving the number of photographs.

Addition: Since writing this post I have gone through the Metashape construction process with almost halved the number of photographs, 147, and made an almost identical 3D Model. See it here Model from 147 images The first stages in Metashape, Aligning Photos and Building the Dense Cloud were still very long, but there was less background to clean up and the latter stages were considerably faster. Compare the 2 models and see if you can make out any differences.

I started blogging about this part of my professional arts practice in May. If you’ve got this far down the page you might also be interested in my previous blogposts on the subject; Photogrammetry and 3D Models of Museum Objects


a Postcard from Manteo

I have a joint installation/exhibition with Sadie Green at Green House my home/studio in Bideford as a part of Art Trek 2012.

The installation of photographs, video, sound, smells and digitally generated art has transformed our home into a sensual experience of Bideford?s twin town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina USA.

The Opening Reception is on Friday 6th July 7pm?10pm where a light fare of North Carolina food can be sampled. The installation continues through the weekends of the 7th/8th and 14th/15th of July 11am-5pm. There?s an illustrated talk at 2pm on each of these days.

You’ll find my studio here: Green House, Torridge St, Bideford, Devon

Winter Workshops

Photographic Workshops in Devon, Winter 2012

Painting with Light on Westward Ho! Beach

Email to reserve a place on a workshop

Introduction to digital photography
10am – 5pm – ?50
A practical days workshop learning to gain control over your camera, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash etc, setting it up for optimum quality under any given lighting, and making better pictures through composition. Numbers limited to a hand-full.
Saturday 7th January in Bideford
Tuesday 24th January in Bideford
Saturday 28th January in Barnstaple

Half Day Intro to digital photography 2.30pm – 5pm – ?25
A ‘sit around the table’ workshop to get to know your camera better. You’ll learn about shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash and setting your camera up for optimum quality.
Wednesday 11th January in Bideford
Monday 16th January in Barnstaple
Saturday 21st January in Bideford

Painting with Light
6pm – 9.00pm – ?25
An evening workshop celebrating the dark nights of the Winter. You’ll learn how to make ‘long exposure’ photographs using coloured lights, flames, sparklers and hand-held flash.
Sunday 8th January – Northam Burrows
Sunday 12th February – Northam Burrows

Photographing your own Artwork
10am – 5pm – ?50
I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of photographing 2D artwork, jewellery and ceramics and I’m willing to pass this on to artists eager to improve their own image making camera skills. Although this workshop is for a small group (max 5) I also offer it on a 1:1 basis for ? a day for the same price.
Wednesday 18th January in Bideford

Introduction to Photoshop
10am ? 5pm – ?50
Participants will need to be computer literate i.e. use a computer on regular basis and understand the basic controls. Small group (max 4).
Saturday 14th January in Bideford

Workshop gift vouchers are always available for that special present for those people with new cameras so that they’ll get to know them better!

More workshops will be added later, please let me know by email if there’s a photographic workshop you would like that I don’t offer at the moment and if there’s a location that I don’t offer.

Some recent comments about my workshops:

“I’ve had a quick look at the feedback forms from Saturday – all of which were excellent – so it sounds like it was a very successful day – WELL DONE!!”
Tilly Clark, Burton Art Gallery and Museum

“Thank you very much for an enjoyable day, I feel I learnt a lot in a short time and spent most of the evening and next day taking pictures!”
Dion Mantell  

“Thanks for a really enjoyable day ? do you have any other courses planned? All the best”
Alan Mead

“Great to see the pictures – surprisingly good viewing them now!!! Really enjoyed the day, thank you”
Gill George

“I just wanted to say thanks for a great day yesterday we learnt heaps. I am sure when we take photos in the future they will be much better.”
Jenny Smy

“Just to say many thanks for last Friday it was really helpful and enlightening.”
Wendy Allan

From Source to Sea

There is much demand for photographic workshops in 2011. This week has seen me at Budehaven School in Bude, Cornwall introducing digital photography to some 15/16 year olds, including being interviewed by them. They were a tremendous bunch of students spending 2 hours on the bitterly cold beach making some very good pictures of the natural and man-made landscape.

Clockwise, 1st & 3rd by Colin Rowland, 2nd Frank Whitehead.

Then at the weekend I had similar weather for a workshop ?Making the Most of your Digital Camera? at the Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford. This was based or inspired by an exhibition of the watercolourist Shelia Hutchinson whose exhibition ?From Source to Sea?, first shown in 1951, was in the gallery. The wonderful image above of Bideford and its historic longbridge is from the exhibition. Unlike Hutchinson who took the train, cycled and hiked the length and breadth of the Torridge Valley in the late 1940?s with painting gear in her backpack; we were restricted to just over 1 hour?s time photographing Bideford?s quay, river, bridge and quaint streets. The morning was dedicated to understanding the digital camera, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, file size, exposure etc then after lunch the photographs were made. It was an exhilarating day, it was amazing how much was learned the proof of which was in the prints, 2 each, the participants made and exhibited in the Burton?s Gallery, by the end of the afternoon. The images will be on show until 4th February.Workshop photographers: Janet Millen, Ian Penrose, Colin Rowland, Norman Tuck and Frank Whitehead

Working from the Beaford Old Archive

Recently I was asked to choose an image, any image, from the Beaford Old Archive and respond to it in a creative way. I had to limit my time to 3 hours, although this time restraint was creatively interpreted. If you want to see this image framed and hung on a wall, you’ll find it alongside other artists interpretations of Beaford Old Archive images, at the Boston Tea Party Cafe in Barnstaple, North Devon, during October and then it travels down to a cafe of the same name in Exeter.

Old Archive image chosen: ?On the beach, Appledore c1890? (ref. b08514)
Contemporary response titled: ?Still on the beach, Appledore 2009?
I?m drawn to pictures like this, they fascinate and excite me. They talk of a recent past, where our North Devon ports were full of sailing ships, importing tobacco and exporting products like our sgraffito slip-ware pottery to the Americas and all over the world. It?s surprising how few images there are showing scenes like this until they are compared to the modern day vernacular equivalent, the lorry park. I often catch myself imagining our rivers full of moored tall ships like ghosts of the past making a trace on our 21st century world. Walking on the quays in Bideford and Appledore I can feel the past, just like one can sense the layers of history in an old house.

This image from c1890 was most likely exposed onto a glass plate negative and printed onto light sensitive, fibre-based, silver-salt rich, photographic paper. It epitomises the worst attributes of the old silver based technology. Dust and hairs have left their white marks as they?ve stubbornly clung onto the negative at the printing stage; fingerprints have been left on the surface from the photographer who uses his hands to move the print from developer to fix but doesn?t clean and dry them properly; stains miraculously appear through uneven agitation, irregular fixing or uneven washing; more stains and marks are left from over 100 years of being passed from family member, to friend, to nostalgic collector. The photograph, like the image it holds, is a testament to the passing of time.

This image of Appledore?s shoreline is a fading reminder of it?s past. By this date our ports were little used, the railway had taken over transportation of goods although it hadn?t reached this village yet. Appledore here is a scant reminder of North Devon?s heyday in the Elizabethan era when ships sailed from here taking the 1st colonists to America and 5 ships under the leadership of Sir Richard Grenville left here to fight against the Spanish Armada.

We can learn a lot from old pictures, we can learn more from trying to re-photograph them. To place my camera where the original camera had be mounted I would need to dig up some of the car park today. The quay at Appledore has been raised and widened, quite considerably, although the part of the waterfront seen in this picture is relatively the same. New houses have been added and some of the original outhouses demolished.

The tide and position of the sun have proved to be my most difficult obstacles. From observing the shadow I estimated that the original picture was made mid-afternoon, and from observing where the tide was and it?s direction (or direction the boats are pointing) I estimated a couple of hours after high tide. To get the tide and sun like this I needed to make my new pictures around a neap tide, which I?d get every 2 weeks. Then, of course, I needed sunshine; something we never get on demand in North Devon. And finally 3 free hours, the allotted time for this commission, when all of the above were in place, to make my images and construct them together in PhotoShop.

I hope with this new digital image something of the view back, through the layers of time, can be seen.