Friday, 30 July 2010

Background Reading

I received this book a couple of days ago having pre-ordered it at Focus on Imaging in March. It is very well written and contains some beautiful shots. Kerry gives sound advice, but the book is not in any way prescriptive.

What have I Learned?
The thing that stood out for me was the number of wide angle shots and the impact this has on telling the story of the day's events. I have a tendency to zoom in on what I see as the most important parts of a frame, but this has helped me to see that there is an advantage in stepping back and incorporating other subjects which sometimes provide balance or perhaps show an interesting contrast. If there is any zooming in to be done, the image can always be cropped later on.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Photographic Panoramas - Day 2

Today was all about capturing and processing spherical images and the different means of outputting them. We were shown how to stitch images in PT Gui and then fine-tune them in Photoshop.

This was taken at Somerset House using a camera and fish eye lens supplied by City Lit:

I like this image though there is some obvious lens distortion. I tried to correct this in PT Gui by adjusting the horizon, and I tried straightening by using the warp tool in Photoshop. I have not used either of these methods before, and clearly it still needs some work.

This is the same image represented as a 'little planet':

I like this, but I'm not sure that I would want to produce too many of these. The entire image is distorted so the effect of lens distortion 'disappears'.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Photographic Panoramas - Day 1

I've just completed the first day of a two-day course in panoramic photography with City Lit. We started off by taking hand-held panoramas which we stitched in Photoshop. We were advised to avoid any foreground interest because of the problems caused by parallax error.
This is an image that I took at the junction of Kemble Street and Kean Street in Holborn:

I like the overall composition, but I'm disappointed with the blown highlights on the pavement on the right. I converted the image to black and white to tone down the effect of this. I probably made an error when metering the scene because all of the camera settings were on manual. The man on the left is Michael who is one of the people on the course.

After lunch, we were shown how to set up some of the panoramic heads designed to minimise parallax error. We then ventured out to take 360 degree panoramas, which were again stitched in Photoshop.
This was taken in St Mary's Church, Aldwych:

I'm quite pleased with this as a first attempt, and would perhaps consider bracketing next time to prevent the windows from blowing out.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Location Lighting Techniques Seminar Tour

I will  attending this event today hosted by the legendary Joe McNally! It's taking place at the Business Design Centre in Islington and I'm really looking forward to it. This is the itinerary:

Off Camera Flash Essentials
10:00 to 11:00 A.M.

It all starts with getting the flash off your camera to create directional light. In this session you’ll learn how to:
1) Set up and control your flash so it doesn’t look like you used “flash” at all. 2) Use Sync Speed to your advantage to mix your flash and the ambient room light for more natural–looking images. 3) Recognize the relationship of your camera’s built-in meter to the flash settings. 4) Diffuse light from a flash to give you that large softbox look on location without using one. 5) Handle emergency situations when you have to use your built–in pop–up flash. 6) Control the direction and power of your flash, and limit where the light goes using some simple add–ons.

Multiple Flash: The Next Step
11:15 A.M. to 12:15 P.M.

Joe shows you how easy it is to add a second wireless flash to take your look to the next level. You’ll learn how to: 1) Get your flashes to talk to each other wirelessly and learn how easy it is to use more than one flash using controls already in your camera. 2) Control your flash right from your camera position, allowing you to work faster and smarter. 3) Use Joe’s own power ratios for quickly setting up creative off–camera lighting effects that really work. 4) Use Joe’s strategy for starting with one flash, and then exactly how and when to add a second (or third) flash. 5) Quickly and easily set up multiple flashes on location and break your fear of using more than one flash.

12:15 to 1:15 P.M.

Great Portraits with Multiple Flash – Live Portrait Sessions
1:15 to 2:15 P.M.

If you shoot people, this session is going to blow your mind, as Joe does a live portrait and an athletic editorial–style portrait shoot right in the class! You’ll see the entire process from beginning to end. He’ll cover: 1) The “15–minute executive portrait for tight deadline;” the bread and butter of many commercial shooters. You’ll see exactly what to do to maximize your time and profits shooting on location. 2) Analyzing the location and establishing a gameplan. 3) How to shave 5 minutes off this 15–minute timeline for on–location athletic style portraits. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in 10 minutes! 4) Secrets for working with rim light, fill light, the main and background lights.

Unleashing the Power of Your Flash
2:30 to 3:45 P.M.

Joe uncovers the hidden power of your off–camera flash, along with a few advanced techniques that will open up a whole new world, including: 1) Which controls on the flash you need to know about, including which are critical to moving you to the next level and which you can ignore. 2) Which syncing options really work and how to use them to your advantage. 3) Exactly when and why to use Front Curtain Sync, Rear Curtain Sync, Slow Curtain Sync, and how the pros use these to create a pro–look when shooting flash. 4) The next level of diffusion, when to use Wide Area Adapter and when to zoom the flash manually. 5) How to work with gels and get realistic–looking color from your flash. 6) Advanced Off–Camera Flash Techniques like FP High–Speed Sync Mode which allows you to sync your flash well beyond the top sync speed–great for shooting in bright sunlight outdoors when you want to stop motion.

Bringing out the “Big Guns” – Intro to Big Lights on Location
4:00 to 5:00 P.M.

One of the most popular trends in pro–lighting is to take your studio lighting on location, and now that you understand how off–camera flash works, this is surprising easy. In this session you’ll see how to: 1) Decide when to use Big Lights versus small off–camera flashes and how this affects the quality and quantity of light. 2) Incorporate the lighting tools for Big Lights to control and direct your light, including using very large soft boxes, mid–size soft boxes, and a Beauty Dish for the look the big magazines are looking for. 3) Light a group portrait. Joe takes one of the most intimidating lighting challenges and makes it so and quick and easy, you’ll never shy away from lighting a group portrait again. 4) Take all the techniques you’ve learned today and bring them together to know “what is good light,” and how to create it consistently and predictably on–location or in the studio, regardless of which type of flash you use. 5) Joe’s shortcuts, workarounds, and real–life tricks–of–the–trade that he uses every day in his work to make the most from his time behind the camera. You’ll be able to take these same techniques and put them to use today guaranteed!

What have I learned?
It was good to see a highly rated professional go through a variety of lighting settings in real time. Very few of them worked first time, and Joe made the point (several times) that mistakes are normal. There is alot of trial and error involved so I think this will help me to be less disappointed when I don't get the best results.

There was one particular scenario where Joe had placed the male model in the audience. It was supposed to represent a corporate shot of an executive amongst the shareholders. He then had to light the model, allow some ambient light for the 'shareholders' and he had a speedlight with a blue filter lighting the wall in the background. He spent well over 20 minutes on this and, although you probably wouldn't get way with that in the field, it was interesting to see him come up against the same problems as the rest of us. But he was able to talk us through what was going on and think aloud as to what he could try to fix the various glitches.

I also have a better understanding of the different modes and when to use them. Joe McNally said he always starts with TTL, but he expects to switch to manual whenever it fails. He also showed us a sequence of stunning photographs, and they were not all lit from the front.

Overall, I've come away with a renewed confidence in using speedlights and I'm looking forward to using light in more interesting ways.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

"TV Dinners"

I popped into The Printspace earlier this evening to see their latest exhibition. It's a tiny one consisting of six images by Ed James.
Four of the six feature TV dinners in fine detail and lit by strobes. The underlying premise is to show people who normally eat these meals in the dim light of a television set what they are really eating!
The colours of runner beans and tomato sauce appeared highly saturated and the texture of spaghetti and sweetcorn was very plastic in appearance. There was one image of chicken nuggets which made them look absolutely vile. I found the images both amusing and thought-provoking. You actually wonder what goes into this 'food'. It all looked very artificial which is no doubt the object of the exercise.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Monday, 19 July 2010


I haven't been able to do any coursework for a while due to all these other photographic opportunities which keep presenting themselves.
I've only just finished processing images from the T-Mobile Big Dance, I spent all day Friday and Saturday on a wedding photography course (pictures coming soon), and did a photoshoot yesterday.
In spite of falling a little behind, I am developing the art of capturing images in a range of (some very tricky) situations.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Bachata Masterclass

This is a style of dance originating from the Domican Republic and is very popular in the salsa community.
The masterclass was held on Monday in a pub in Chingford from 9:30pm until about 11:00 and was hosted by Marosh and Kristina.

I'm very pleased with these images as I managed (after a little trial and error!) to retain the ambient light and light the subjects evenly. In most of these, I bounced the flash over my shoulder.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"Siren City"

This was the title of an exhibition I went to yesterday evening at the Estorick Collection. It consisted of 50 black and white photographs of Naples taken by Johnnie Shand Kydd between 2000 and 2008. He chose to use a Rolleiflex (square format film camera) because he thought this would convey the ambience of the city better than a digital camera.

His images reveal a darker side to the city and highlight the significance of ritual, religion and superstition to its inhabitants.

The images were divided between 2 galleries, and in each room we were given a narrative. One of the narrators was a young lady who worked for the Magnum agency and was able to put the images into context by commenting on composition, lighting and texture and making references to other photographers and cinematographers (eg Fellini).

The other narrator was a friend of Johnnie Shand Kydd who was able to give us insightful and amusing anecdotes on the stories behind the images and the thought processes of the photographer.

It was interesting to get 2 different perspectives and the ability to ask questions was a unique opportunity. The next best thing to speaking to the photographer himself.

Naples is known as the Siren City because of the legend of Parthenope who tried (unsuccessfully) to seduce Ulysses with the beauty of her song, then threw herself into the sea, only to be washed up at the place that later became known as Naples.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

T-Mobile Big Dance 2010

This is a biennial event and is "the world’s biggest and most influential dance initiative". It took place on Sunday in Trafalgar Square. A friend of mine was taking part so I went along to get some pictures.
I'm only posting a few images at this time because I plan to use them for the narrative picture essay in the final part of the course.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Mojito Free Sunday Salsa

This is a monthly event that a friend of mine hosts in Chingford. It's very popular and she often has a guest performer. On this ocassion it was Marosh and Kristina.

I'm pleased with all except the second and fourth images because you can see the effect of the flash on the wall, but I'm much more confident using the bounced flash technique.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Vampire Photoshoot

On Sunday afternoon, I met up with fellow members of a photography group for a vampire themed photoshoot in Guildhall, London. This is a selection of the colour and infrared shots that I took.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Outdoors at Night ...One Last Time

This is the Coliseum on St Martin's Lane, the home of the English National Opera. A very attractive building when it's all lit up and I wanted to capture the name in the revolving sign at the top.

This is Charing Cross Station. The mixed lighting sources played havoc with the auto white balance so I had to do some colour correction in Photoshop. With hindsight, I should have done a custom white balance setting.

This is the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I didn't have my tripod with me so I had to prop my camera on my rucksack which was carefully placed on a pillar. I always carry a hotshoe-mounted spirit level as I've had problems in the past with wonky shots.

I wanted this view of Leicester Square Gardens as it includes several types of lighting. The scrolling sign on the ticket booth has become a solid red block due to the slow shutter speed, but this complements the green foreground. This also required a camera-on-rucksack balancing act .

What have I learned?
I've noticed a huge array of lighting sources and colour combinations used to light up the city, and many buildings are totally transformed by the choice of lighting. My camera skills were put to the test and the limitations of my camera were exposed, so all in all, a long, but useful exercise.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Light Through the Day - Stills

This was taken at 04:00, just before sunrise. There is a definite warm cast to this even though WB was set to auto. This is due to the fluorescent lights which operate during the night.

This was taken at 04:30, so in the space of half an hour, the sun has risen and the artificial lighting is off to produce a much cooler image. the sun rises on the opposite side of the house from where these pictures were taken, so the light is quite subdued here.

This one was taken at 06:30. The sun is higher in the sky and is now casting shadows on this side of the house and the image has a warmer tone overall.

At 08:00 the light is flatter and softer and the shadows have started to diminished.

This was at 09:00. There is less contrast, and the colours of the clothing in the opposite garden appear less saturated. The sky looks better here because the clouds have cleared.

At 11:00 there is even less contrast as the sun is higher in the sky and the clouds have reappeared, which will soften the light even further.

At 12:00 the image is completely washed out and looks overexposed, as expected. The lack of directional light makes this a less than ideal time for colour photography, but very suitable for infrared photography.

Just an hour later at 13:00, though still overexposed, there is a slight improvement on the previous image in terms of contrast.

At 15:00 the scene is very blue and very flat due to soft lighting.

At 16:30 there are still several clouds in the sky, but the angle of the sun is sufficient enough to create glare in the upstairs bedroom windows.

At 18:00 this is the point at which the sun is at is most fierce in the rooms on the ground floor, and would be creating glare in those windows.

At 20:30 the sun is temporarily obscured by a the tree which is just visible in the top left of the frame. This is an example of how readily our eyes adapt to changing light levels because I have never been aware of the significant differential in light intensity at this time of the day.

 Light is restored at 21:00 though it is darkening when compared with the scene at 18:00.

The cycle is complete at 22:00 as the sun begins to set and the warm glow reappears.

What have I learned?
I really enjoyed this exercise, it was very interesting. I think that the ability to use available light effectively is one of the characteristics separating good photographers from great photographers.
To be able to see the numerous effects that available light has on contrast, colour temperature, saturation and brightness was insightful. This has helped me enormously.