Poplars

Earlier this week I discovered a Stand of Poplars (I think) that I hadn’t previously noticed. They were arranged precisely in rows and to get reasonably near them required me to trespass into a field – nothing growing and nothing grazing, so I walked in, got my images and walked out.

Two images for you. The first is a simple straight image. The light was bright, the blue sky provided a nice contrast.

_DS82236The second is an in-camera blur. No ND filter (I keep meaning to buy one), so this was simply setting the ISO at its lowest point, the shutter speed at its slowest, and a rapid handheld pan while pressing the shutter. Straight-trunked trees always suit this technique – the main difficulty is getting the pan truly vertical and I just about achieved that, it’s so easy to take a slightly diagonal line and that does not work!

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Posted in Landscapes | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

A glance doesn’t guarantee a picture

I drove to see the dentist two days ago – a totally pain-free experience for once. It was a sunny day, and strangely for me I’d left the camera at home. Perhaps the concept of dental pain and photography didn’t feel like a creative combination. Of course Sod’s law applied: when you are out without a camera that’s when you see a first-class picture and you kick yourself for being so stupid as to leave the camera at home!

Actually what I should say is you think you’ve seen a first-class picture. I was driving home happy to have survived the dental chair, glanced to my left, and there was a wonderful billowing, rolling field of green seedlings. And the sun was shining. ‘Image’ I shouted silently to myself. Damn – no camera!

I thought I’d missed my chance, but the next day (yesterday) was also fine and sunny and so early in the morning (ten o’clock for me) I was up the road with a camera. There was a convenient parking place only about only 200yds away. And there was the field… behind a hedge. Hedge? I didn’t recall the hedge. I got through the hedge and wasn’t particularly impressed with what I saw. I walked the length of the hedge taking images as I walked and then found the un-obstructed view. Yes – there was a billowing roller-coaster of a field. But beyond it there were some uninteresting fields, and ugly power lines. I didn’t recall seeing those, just like I hadn’t remembered the hedge.

I struggled to get images. I eventually got some, seeing no option other than to include the uninteresting distant fields etc, leaving the difficult decisions about how to arrive at a viable composition for later back home. This is not the first time that a ‘glance’ from a car has raised false hopes. When we glance, we see what we want to see – our Eye picks out the juicy bit of the view – but in the blur we fail to take everything else in. The foreground doesn’t register, the other messy bits within the view are disregarded too. We’ve just got this flash of something really good, without any of the downsides. Does that sound familiar to you? A glance often gives us false hope.

_DS82223The good news on this occasion is that I have managed to create two reasonably good images out of this ‘glance’. They aren’t what I imagined I saw – a wide vista. But by severely cropping everything else out so that the field is the image I’ve managed to turn a glance into an image. And I’m pleased with the eventual results._DS82214There was one final issue – and that was getting the colour right. With 90% of the image green, auto colour balance failed to record the colours accurately and I’ve found it really difficult to get the colour balance right in the final images. I struggled to recall accurately the colour I had seen, and every time I returned to look at the screen the colour seemed ‘off’. And having got it right during daylight, when I looked again with interior lights on, the colour seemed to have changed again.

Posted in Landscapes | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Colour on the Water

The colours of Autumn aren’t just to be found above ground and on the ground. Water Lily leaves die too. And as they die they too put on a display of colour before they literally rot into the water.

A recent short walk in Stowe Gardens around the Octagonal lake provided today’s image.

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Posted in Autumn | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Four simple words

Four simple words. Sit, Take, Eat, Pay. Wouldn’t it be great if so many routine tasks could be reduced to a simple few words.

IMG_6965And that set me thinking: what about the process of taking images? How about a simple mnemonic (what a daft spelling that is) to remind us of what we tend to forget.

This is what I came up with: See, Check, Take, Check. It’s so easy to get caught up in the dynamic, the excitement, the sheer joy of finding something we want to photograph, and before we know it we’ve fired off the first shot or two. And then we pause, and think: I have no idea what the settings are on my camera? What is the ISO set at? And you then remember that the last image you shot was the previous evening in dull light, and you wound up the ISO to 1000, and now you check the camera and you find the ISO is still set at 1000 – you failed to re-set that dial. Sounds familiar? We’ve all made stupid mistakes like that, haven’t we. I confess: a failure to check settings is my Achilles heel. I still make that stupid mistake.

So here’s how the mnemonic works:

See: We see something worth photographing

Check: Pause. Think about your settings. Look at your camera’s current settings and decide what, if any, you need to change to capture the image to best advantage

Take: Take the image

Check: Firstly check the Histogram, and re-shoot if necessary. Then think about your settings. Have you amended them for that most recent image? Re-set any that you have changed for a one-off image, back to what was your default so that your camera will be, more likely than not, ready for your next image.

Check before and Check after. This is the double-check. You may well forget one of these checks, but if your standard practice is to check before and after; then forgetting one of those two check-points is less likely to be catastrophic.

For a more detailed article about settings, check out an article, (click here), that I posted on my other blog – iSighting – earlier this year.

Posted in Photo Tips | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Transplant Surgery

That’s an attention grabbing headline! But to reassure you: this Post is not about a surgical operation, no blood has been spilled in the taking of today’s image nor in the making of the final result. It’s about a radical cut and paste of one part of an image to improve a composition. It was a prolonged procedure. There were one or two false starts. But after an hour or more, the image was stitched up so that hopefully there are no residual scars. The issue is this: was it worth it? You can be the judge of that.

Last weekend we had a family get together that included a walk on Box Hill on the North Downs, south of London near Dorking. I think I might just have found a replacement for Ivinghoe Beacon that has featured a number of times on this blog (see here for example). I have to stand on a hill from time to time. It keeps me sane.

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Unedited RAW original

The first potential image I saw as we walked to the edge of the escarpment and looked south over a vast undulating area of Surrey was a father and son sitting on the edge of the hill. I had been given strict instructions by she who must be obeyed not to travel weighed down with cameras, so I just had the G10 with me. A quick snap and then I hurried to catch up. The unedited RAW file image is alongside.

I processed the image and straightened the edge of the hill. See below.

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1st processed image. Edge of hill straightened

It’s an OK image, but the more I looked at it the more I was aware of a flaw in the composition. Father and son are importantly placed on an intersection of thirds, but the man is looking left – out of the image. To my mind that just doesn’t work.

I decided I would get him looking right. I made a copy of the image and saved it and then flipped it horizontally so the figures were on the right with the man now looking right.

IMG_6998_Flip

Image copied and saved. Flipped horizontally

And I simply cloned his head across. Not difficult – I got it right first time, to my surprise. I also cropped some of the foreground out. The man was now looking across the frame. That was better. But…

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Man’s head replaced by cloning from Flipped image

I still wasn’t entirely happy with the composition. The man was looking in the right direction, but he was now looking away from his son. It felt as if they were disconnected. I had a think.

It was time to try rather more radical surgery. And this is where it became clear that the crucial final ‘transplant’ was only feasible as a consequence of the original straightening of the hill’s line.

I went back to the flipped copy of the image and cloned the entire pair of figures plus rug and a section of field overwriting the original figures. The figures now looked connected – the father now looking towards and past his son across the image.

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Man and Boy cloned from Flipped image, overwriting originals

My wife approved but pointed out that the ‘magic carpet’ on which they were sitting now looked as if it was about to slide leftwards out of the picture. So, a few final corrections were made. Transform/warp to straighten up the magic carpet, the removal of a duplicate set of cows, and I also had removed the bright highlights associated with the pylon buried in a hedgeline (which is otherwise unobtrusive). And here, below, we have the final image.

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Final image tidied up

Compositionally I think the image is now stronger. The taller figure looks better on the left of the pair and his gaze is directed across the screen, and importantly involves him looking towards his son.

Attempting something as radical as this is always a learning experience from which we come away with enhanced skills. Stretching oneself beyond one’s normal comfort zone is always worth the effort. Was the result worth the time spent? What do you think?

I’ve put the sequence of images in a gallery for you to scroll through more easily.

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Shapes and Colours

Sometimes processed images sit on my desktop for some time while I think about them and wait for my conflicting feelings about them to reach a consensus. Today’s image is a case in point. It was taken a year ago with a longish lens. I can’t remember exactly how I processed it, but the aim was to maximize the impact of the almost abstract array of colourful leaf-like shapes that comprise the image.

_DS77694Almost every leaf is misshapen, or at an odd angle and many of them seem suspended in space. I still find it a difficult image to describe. The distorted shapes remind me a little of how some painters were very ‘loose’ in their painting of detail.  What I do know is that I simply like it. Do you?

Posted in Autumn | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Through the Glass Ceiling

A few weeks ago at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, where I went to see a superb installation of sculptures by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, I happened to glance up in the building’s main foyer and saw the footprints of someone on the ceiling. Well, they weren’t actually on the ceiling, they were walking on the glass floor of the next level up, but from my point of view they appeared to be on the ceiling, if you understand me. And it was really rather surreal – you don’t often see seemingly disembodied feet walking across the ceiling._DS81054_cleancrop

Fast forward to two days ago and I was in Apple’s flagship store in Covent Garden, London (and very impressive that store is) when I glanced up and noticed another glass ceiling upon which several pairs of disembodied feet walked and stood still. I hadn’t seen feet like these in many years, if ever, and then along they come twice within a month. Strange.

_DS82097Situations like this need capturing. One has to do it with a total disregard for any one else who happens to be standing near by, and who may have paused mid-step to wonder: ‘what the heck is that man photographing?’ Or worse. And every second that I was staring ceiling-wards, camera in hand, I expected the firm hand of security to tap me on the shoulder and escort me out of the building. But it didn’t happen. I stared, and I shot, and I left the building without a second glance. It can be difficult to shoot in situations like this: no-one likes being thought stupid, or risking invading someone’s privacy, or falling foul of regulations, or being marched off by security. But sometimes we just have to be bold and accept the risk: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The first image in this post is from Compton Verney – the colours are warm and soft. In contrast, those taken in London were more industrial. Cold, contrasty, lacking colour – The type of image that I thought would look good in B&W. But I have mixed feelings about the conversions.

_DS82097_BWThe only one that I think works in B&W is the last one in the gallery below – bizarrely it’s the one that happens to have the most overall original colour, or perhaps I should call that tint. Removing the colour in my opinion does create a more powerful image in that instance. But in the case of the other two, my feeling is that by removing the colour, the image loses an added dimension. Colour is important to their impact. What do you think?

This is a point that I am sure we won’t all agree on, but I would love to hear your opinion, so do please comment. All three of the London shots are shown below – in colour and then in B&W for comparison.

One last point: a very warm welcome to a considerable number of new subscribers/readers of this blog who have discovered me as a result of my recent post ‘Hello’ being featured by WordPress in ‘Around the World in Nine Photos’. I hope you will enjoy what you see and read here, and do please click the ‘Like’ button, or better still join in the conversation by making a comment.

Posted in Eclectica | Tagged , , | 30 Comments