Beach Walkers

Autumn has occupied my attention for several weeks to the exclusion of other images. It’s time to change the genre. Today’s image goes back a few weeks to a beautiful day when we went back to Littlehampton on the south coast, with lunch in the East beach Cafe

The tide was out, and there were people on the beach, simply walking, in groups. I took a few shots as a I walked parallel to them. Shooting groups is never easy – trying to avoid overlapping figures, people with oddly placed legs or absent arms. This image got most things right and it had something extra – a figure going the wrong way!

Does that interloper add something or should he/she be cloned out? There are arguments either way but on balance I think that extra figure adds a tension to the image the is beneficial. What do you think? Do add a comment.

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Autumn is now just about over, a few reluctant leaves cling to the trees, but the vast majority are grounded. Some rest delicately, easily lifted into the air by the lightest of breezes. Others, wet and limp, hug the ground seemingly glued to it – their flying days over.

This is the last of this series of images from my heads-down perusal of this year’s leaf litter. There have been days when seeking out compositions among the fallen has been easy, and days when I have struggled to make sense of the decaying litter.

Any challenge or project that we set ourselves pays dividends. We discover a new focus for our Eye; we find compositions in places that previously we might have thought were not photogenic; and our creativity is stirred. And we learn something new – we never stop learning on our individual visual journeys. If I was to attempt to single out one thing that I have learnt this autumn, I think it would be that slowing down brings its own rewards. I have been always been an opportunist, alert to my surrounding environment, and quick to shoot. Slowing down has been difficult for me, but it’s a modus operandi that I will practice more in future.

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Another image in this series about leaf litter. If you are new to this series, click on Home in the menu and scroll down to see previous entries.

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We will remember them

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Strolling around with a camera, on the look-out for the next image to capture, I enjoy the challenge of attempting something different. These are often experimental ideas. The results commonly end up being deleted back home, but there is sometimes that single image that grabs my intention.

The image above was the result of panning during exposure (1/8sec, F10, ISO100). A quick  vertical movement. I shot about a dozen, this is the one I saved, the rest were rubbish. There was something right about this; the panning had a clean vertical movement, there were streaks of golden light, it felt ‘magical’ somehow. I’ve done very little in processing except adjust curves and levels, and use Topaz/Clean/Curly Smooth. Click to see an enlargement.

The second image (below) was a shot taken locally looking up into the bare canopy; searching for the right composition, the right array of branches. Back home it was an OK image, but there was nothing special about it, and even reducing it to a pure silhouette didn’t get my pulse going. So I did what I occasionally do to B&W images (my idea of computer doodling, best expressed as ‘I wonder what will happen if I try this’): I solarized it.

Solarization first came into prominence in the 1930s with the work of Man Ray. In those days it was the result of briefly flashing the darkroom light on while developing a print. It reversed some tones, and created lines (the Mackie line) between areas of high contrast. The results were very unpredictable. In my experience, I experimented with this process using inter-negatives in the film era.

In the digital era, all you have to do is ‘click’ Solarize (if using Photoshop you will find this in Filter/Stylize/Solarize). The result will initially disappoint but the next step is to adjust levels and you will have an image with rich blacks and bright whites. There is an alternative method. In Photoshop, open Curves, click on the Drawing icon to the left of the window, Shift-Click bottom left corner of the curve window, repeat Shift/Click middle top, and again bottom right corner. You will now have created an inverted ‘V’ shaped curve. Job done. Voila, as the French would say.

And that is it. Simple to execute and occasionally you get an image that inspires. It’s the Mackie line that makes this print – as if hoar-frost has picked out every line of the tree and its branches. A complete transformation. Try it sometime.

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Another image in this series on leaf fall and the arrangements created by nature and the elements. We tend to look for, and be attracted to, leaves that have an individual beauty, created by shape, form and colour: Oak and Maple spring immediately to mind. But to confine one’s observation to those undeniably attractive leaves is to exclude the subtle shapes of Willows that, when blown by the wind, cluster together creating shapes that remind me of  hieroglyphs.

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Waiting to Fall

An array of leaves, low enough to allow the shot to include the parkland at Petworth. A place that is well worth a visit in Autumn.


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