Saturday, 26 December 2009

More contrasts

This is a shot of Stonehenge in Summer 2008. The original image was very flat, so I have enhanced it to show the rugged features of the stones, which I think is a good example of 'rough'.

This was taken at a demonstration in Central London so I took several pictures just trying to capture the atmosphere and record events. Just about everyone in the procession had a placard or banner, but there were only 3 people with balloons. This got my attention and I wanted a picture. It was only after I'd taken a few shots that it ocurred to me that this image could be construed as 'intermittent'.

I converted this image to black and white because several of the demonstrators wore brightly coloured clothes. The balloons were all dark blue, so I coloured them orange to make them stand out and because I thought orange blended with the tones in the picture.

This picture represents 'continuous' and was taken just after the start of the 2009 Edinburgh Marathon. This is the debris left behind by the runners when they set off and I used a narrow depth of field to emphasise the length of the railings.

Friday, 25 December 2009


I installed Genuine Fractals and downloaded Topaz Adjust today.
Genuine Fractals will give me the option of producing poster-sized prints without degrading the sharpness of the image, and Topaz Adjust gives me more scope for post-processing my infrared images.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Contrasts: Moving

I wanted to get a shot of light trails created by moving vehicles, and read about a novel way of obtaining them from the inside of a moving car, in the February 2010 edition of 'Practical Photography' magazine. In the absence of a willing passenger, I clamped a 'magic arm' to the tray of my glove compartment with the camera pointing straight ahead, I triggered the shutter by remote control at various intervals while driving around local streets. Many images were completely ruined by the extreme blur caused by uneven road surfaces, but I got two reasonable shots, and this was the better one:

I shot this in RAW using auto white balance, which gave it an orange cast, so I changed it to tungsten simply because I prefer the effect. I've bumped up the saturation on this occasion - it's usually an adjustment that I use in moderation, but I thought I could probably get away with it being a little OTT in this image.

Sony World Photography Awards

I submitted 3 images today to the Sony World Photography Awards
I have decided to try and exhibit my work as often as possible to have it assessed both formally and informally. That way, I'll know what I need to improve on and I can also see what other photographers are producing, which gives me a useful benchmark.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Exercise: Focus at different apertures

Find a row things seen from an angle. Focus on an obvious point somewhere near the middle and take thefirst picture with the lens at its widest aperture. Take the second with the lens stopped down to the mid-point of its scale of numbers. Take the third with the lens at its smallest aperture.

The point of focus for these 3 images was the shrub second from left. I can see that the first (closest) shrub is at its most sharp in the first image and becomes softer in images 2 and 3. However, I cannot see a clearly defined area of sharpness in any of the images.

What have I learned?
This has taught me that in order to achieve a specific visual effect, it's not just about the camera settings, but the choice of subject as well.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Infrared Day

The light was good this morning, and there were lots of clouds in the sky, so I decided to just shoot in infrared today. I went to London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral and the Tate Modern.
I took some shots of a stained-glass window to represent 'opaque' and I think this works in IR because the colour of the glass is not really the object of the exercise:

I had originally thought of capturing something small through a magnifying glass to make it 'large' and taking a large object from a distance to make it 'small'. As I was crossing the Millenium Bridge, I noticed that my shadow stretched quite far along the bridge, and decided to used this to denote 'large' instead:

Looking  down onto the main entrance of the Tate, I found some 'small' people. This was converted to greyscale in RAW, but I wasn't happy with the dominant light coming from the windows in the ceiling and at the back of the hall. I cropped it, which places the subjects on a rule of thirds 'hot spot', and applied a Guassian blur to lessen the impact of the windows. I then applied a layer mask to remove the blur on the subjects and draw attention to them:

Friday, 18 December 2009

Twilight shots

I took some shots of Poplar DLR station and found an image to represent 'transparent'. I've bumped up the contrast, vibrance and saturation to try and replicate the effect of the artificial lighting:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Shopping for accessories

I'm currently reading The essential colour manual for photographers by Chris Rutter, which covers just about every aspect of colour management - colour theory, calibrating hardware, dealing with different/mixed light sources, seasonal variations in natural light and post-processing techniques. As a result, I ordered a Pantone Huey monitor calibrator. I also ordered a Manfrotto monopod to experiment with in the new year - I've never used one before. I'm looking forward to seeing what difference (if any) these purchases make to my photography.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Exercise: A sequence of composition

For this exercise, you will need a situation that involves people. Use the camera as a viewer and keep it to your eye. Take pictures as you go along and see how the sequence progresses.

'Mojito Sunday Salsa'  is a monthly event hosted by a friend and I regularly take pictures for the group which is on Facebook. On this occasion, I took the opportunity to complete the exercise.

The event runs from 1pm 'til 5pm and these first shots were taken at 1:15 when the room was being set up and sound checks were done:

People start to arrive and the dancing begins:

There were 2 shows:

After the shows, the dancefloor started to fill, and then it was just a question of walking around and trying to get shots of dancers without getting in anybody's way:

I used a focal length of 135mm to get candid shots of people relaxing at the bar:

I then decided to try pick out some of the smaller details:

This is a group dance called 'La Rueda'. I held the camera above my head and by a process of trial and error, was able to get a couple of useful shots:

Shots of people bidding each other farewell and departing at the end of the event:

What have I learned?
A completely different approach - recording events as they unfold rather than just looking for interesting shots.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

Find a viewpoint outdoors that gives you a reasonably interesting landscape in which there is an unbroken and clear horizon. View the scene through the camera and consider the different positions in which you could arrange the horizon line in the frame.

Now take a picture of each so that you end up with a short sequence in which the horizon is ranged from top to bottom.

I tend to position the horizon according to whether there is more foreground interest or a dramatic sky. In this example. I would emphasise the sky, so (reading from top to bottom), images 4 and 5 would be my preferred choices.


Identify subjects that best express the extremes of different qualities and take pairs of photographs which bring out the essential qualities. make at least 8 pairs from the list provided.
In addition, produce one photograph that demonstrates contrast 'in one picture'. 

I went to Green Park and came across some pelicans which satisfied the description of 'few'. There were a couple of pigeons in the background that I cloned out because they were distracting:

For the image denoting 'still', I wanted a shot of a moving object that I could freeze and make it still. I remembered some fountains in Kensington Gardens that I photographed in IR last year, so I walked up from Green Park and found them again. I kept the top of one of the trees in the shot to give it context, otherwise it would just look like a splash of water on a blue background. I shot in RAW and processed the image to increase contrast and sharpness so the individual droplets stand out:

Just behind the fountains, is a building where several pigeons were basking in the sunshine. I thought this was a good example of 'many', but the shot was a little static. Luckily, a little patience paid off and I got a shot of a group of incoming pigeons in mid-flight. Not only does this make for a more dynamic image, but I think it also adds balance:

I walked back to Green Park and got a bus to London Bridge. It was threatening to rain by this stage, so I took some shots of dark clouds across the Thames that I hope to use for a later assignment. From there, I walked to St Katherine's Dock and found an image to fit the description 'curved':

Friday, 4 December 2009

A productive morning in Victoria Park

Exercise: Focus with a set aperture

I could not see any noticeable difference between these images (even after enlarging them) although I have shown depth of field in earlier images where the subjects were closer together.
However, I would usually focus on the subject closest to the camera. In this instance, I think that fosussing on a more distant object will lead the viewer's eye into the image.

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject

What have I learned?
In addition to the portrait and landscape formats, the frame is not a fixed shape or size, so it can be adapted to show the subject in its entirety or to emphasise an aspect of it.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Photoshop workshop

I spent the whole day in Harrow receiving one-to-one tuition from Giles Angel, who is a very talented photographer and retoucher. Ideally, I want spend as little time on post-processing as possible, but there are times (particularly with infrared) where some tidying up is required due to hot spots and lens flare.
Giles took me through Bridge, RAW and CS3, working on several of my images. He also explained the importance of colour space, and when to shoot in JPEG or RAW in order to minimise post-processing.
Alot to take in but hugely beneficial!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Manchester Weekender - Part 2

I went to Manchester Cathedral (to escape the torrential rain!) and took some shots of buildings reflected in puddles:

When I got back to the hotel, I took some early evening shots of moving traffic through the window, using a polarising filter and tripod. I reduced the orange cast caused by the street lights:

What have I learned?
I should be able to find opportunities to create lines and shapes using light trails and motion blur.
I will try to get a shot of a famous landmark reflected in a puddle as I think this might be more interesting than a direct shot.