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Assignment 5: Personal Project

Assignment Brief

Produce 10-12 images on a subject of your choosing using techniques learnt within this course.

Background

At first I struggled with this as the brief seemed so wide open that the freedom to choose my own subject actually felt like a hindrance to me. I drafted a number of possible subject areas and then identified the individual areas I could photograph. After some debate with my tutor on finding an appropriate subject that would match the course brief but also be feasible for me to undertake, my original ideas of British icons was put back to a personal project idea and my interest in urban decay and ruined buildings came to the fore. I very much wanted to keep within my specific style of photographing the unusual and this fitted really well. I’m a very big fan of urban decay and exploration with books by Romany (2010) and Margaine (2009) being inspiring, however I have to admit that access and safety issues certainly influenced the locations I would be visiting.

My idea started off as photographing decayed buildings and structures but it evolved after I’d taken some images in the Peak District into a more rounded subject of ‘Forsaken’ featuring anything that had been abandoned, reclaimed (by nature or people) or reused. Forsaken refers to the fact that at some point a decision has been made to abandon or leave a building or item and while at some point there might be re-use, it’s not immediate and not everything gets a new lease of life.

Workflow

I copied the images into a working folder where I could work on these and still keep the originals elsewhere as a back-up. I went through and deleted those that were obviously technically imperfect and those which lacked the impact I wanted.

I then shortlisted the images twice and when I was satisfied that I’d chosen the strongest images based on the composition, technical quality and whether it matched my brief of reuse, reclaim or abandonment. I then used Photoshop CS6 to edit these and my shortlist was 22 images. For the next stage I had these printed and then I looked at them all and chose a selection of the strongest images and those that I liked. For some it was as simple as choosing the monochrome version as it had more punch and a stronger feel of the dereliction and abandonment. I shortlisted this selection down to 12 images which I would then submit in prints and book format.

Presentation

While the brief requires prints to be submitted as part of this assignment, I’d also had an idea about a supplementary method of presentation. When I’d visited the Impressions gallery in Bradford, they had a number of small 6×4 soft booklets for sale and the one that caught my eye and is now in my learning log was on ‘Vacant Possession’ where the photographer Rowan Drury had captured images of properties that had been left but where the residents had left possessions behind. The subject matter of abandoned possessions complimented my chosen area and would be something that I’d like to work in in another project. I liked the format of it and thought that it would complement my prints but also be something that could be viewed on its own. One issue that I found while researching this was that printing a small one off booklet required a minimum number of pages which was more than double the number of images I had to submit. As the booklet I’d seen had a small introduction in it, I then thought that I could intersperse the images with text about the subject to make this viable.

The Images

East Buxton Lime Works steps (reclaimed)

The East Buxton Lime works was opened in 1880 adjacent to the Midland Railway west of Millers Dale Station. The kilns were served by a narrow gauge tramway from the adjacent quarry and the tipping skips were hauled up an incline to be emptied into the two pots. While the production ended here in 1944, the path to the top of the lime kilns is still in place and you can see the old tram track and climb to the top and also go into the kilns. This image shows the steps leading up into the kilns. I also took an alternate image of just the steps which I loved but compared to this one, it didn’t tell a story, and it didn’t suggest that there was a place to explore; it could have been steps anywhere. By altering the composition within the frame and expanding this, I’m making it clear that I want the viewer to think about going up those steps and through that doorway and wondering what lies beyond.

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Broken door (abandoned)

image1) ©Mick Garratt

 

This is part of Dale View Terrace at Cressbrook close to Cressbrook Mill. These was a residence built in 1817 to house apprentices from the mill and was later changed into individual houses. As I walked past, these were sat higher up from the path I was walking on and the green door caught my eye making me wonder why it was abandoned and what was behind it. Attached to the terrace is a Victorian castle folly that was designed to disguise the workers cottages sitting behind this and when I passed it was a café that had closed down.

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I feel that the colours really work well and grab the eye with the contrast of the green door and the stone of the building surrounding it, it was important that I had the low angle so that the viewer can see the grass and weeds growing up in front of the doorway and the focus on the broken wood as only then does it become clear that this entrance is now abandoned and hints that the rest of the building has also fallen by the wayside.

Monsal trail tunnel

The Monsal trail is the converted Midland railway route running from outside of Buxton to Bakewell. While the route has been open to the public since 1981, due to safety reasons the four railway tunnels built on the route had been closed until 2011 when a full refurbishment of the trail was finished. Now the abandoned and unloved tunnels are fully open and visitors can pass through Headstone tunnel, Cressbrook tunnel, Litton tunnel and Chee Tor tunnel, the route has been lit, paved and tidied up to have a new lease of life.

 

image2) ©Rowsley Association

LMS Compound No.1050 is seen here passing over Monsal Dale viaduct having just left Headstone Tunnel

image3) ©Andrew Abbott

 

This image shows a cyclist as I wanted to capture reuse and the change from rail to cycle, giving a new lease of life to the area and the tunnels. While the tunnels are quite heavily utilised by cyclists, I had to wait to get one from the entrance coming in towards me and be ready to capture them at the point I wanted in the frame. I wanted to ensure that from the left to the right there was detail that the viewer would look at. Inside the changes extend to a newly laid flat path and lighting but the grime of the steam era is still present and the individual cut outs in the side of the tunnel are still there. I converted this to monochrome as the original image was almost there with the grey tones and helps to remove some of the yellowish artificial light in there.

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Stone Barn (reclaimed)

While a derelict or ramshackle barn in the country isn’t an unusual site on its own, this old barn in the Peak District has very much been reclaimed by nature with the trees having grown up through the empty space and missing roof over the years. Nature is very much here to stay. I encountered this on a walk as the path led past it, and while I saw many derelict and abandoned barns, this was the first one that looked most intact apart from the trees in the middle, and it was this unusual aspect that made me stop. I took a number of different images from this one to one that was cropped closer but it didn’t have the same impact and I liked the wider angle view as the viewer could then see the fact this barn was surrounded by other trees and landscape. One thing I try and do is to place an image in the context to help a viewer read the text.

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Outhouse Manchester (reuse)

The three blocks that comprise ‘Outhouse’ used to be public toilets. Located in Manchester on the Northern Quarter’s Stevenson Square, Outhouse is an outdoor project space for public art with this being changed every three months.

image4) ©Michael Ely

This was the first time I’d visited this particular area in Manchester and wasn’t expecting to see such a large area of artwork. The strong reds caught my eye and I took a number of images from different angles, my favourite two are here, I like the wider shot as it shows the structure in the context of the street square. You can recognise that this used to be a public toilet but its new lease of life really catches the eye and attracts attention and also provides a splash of colour in the area. I had two different versions of this to choose between, I used Photoshop to draw a lasso around the building so I could then turn the background to monochrome, it was almost there with just some highlights of orange on the buildings behind. I kept the other as it was with full colour and when I compared the two printed versions, I thought that the monochrome version made the outhouse stand out even more and really show it off. In the colour version there was a distraction in the orange Koffee Pot shop front and using the monochrome conversion with the highlighted red area focuses the viewer on what I want them to look at.

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The second image was the artwork painted onto the end, I didn’t do much processing apart from slightly increase the blacks and saturation. I liked this as it could be any building that has been rescued, it’s not quite as obvious as the other as to its previous life and I found that when it was printed out it really catches the eye. The graffiti style artwork can also be viewed in two different ways, a modern way to brighten up an old unused building or as an ugly defacement in a city centre. The ways that viewers will read this differs accordingly as we all bring our own views and opinions to photography and art and as a part of this series I can influence how I want these to be seen through my theme.

Communications pylon (abandoned)

This is a former electricity/communication/telegraph pole that has been abandoned and is now mingling in with the trees. However it is quite eye-catching and still has its original earthing pots and wires attached. While this is off the path slightly, it’s easy to access through the flattened grass so I wasn’t the first person to take a closer look. I converted this to monochrome as I wanted to get a more timeless feel of when it was still working. With this, the appeal is that it’s blending into the trees and is partially hidden, and the conversion to monochrome just helped with making this match the tones and lines of the trees, aiding the reclamation effect.

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Bowling green pavilion (abandoned)

image5)  © Francis Frith

Bank Park was opened as a public park in 1873 as a welcome green space within an area of heavy industry. Adjoining Bank Hall, later to become the Town Hall, the park features a bowling pavilion that is no longer used and is abandoned and boarded up, watching over empty bowling green’s while waiting long debated regeneration. I tried a number of close up images of different sides of the pavilion but it was hard to see what the building was, with the face on view I feel that the impact is stronger as you see the whole of the building and the full extent of the graffiti and boarding up. The face on view is more a traditional viewpoint that someone would look at or photograph the building. I personally preferred the view from the front and composed the image so that the path was also leading the eye in picture. I tried a mono conversion but the colours brought this alive so I kept to the original.

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Millers Dale

Miller’s Dale was at its time an important and high volume railway junction used both for passengers moving between Manchester and London via the Midland Railway and agricultural and quarried freight.

image 6) ©John Alsop Collection

Viaduct (reclaimed)

This second viaduct was built around 1905 and was in existence until the line closed to all rail traffic in 1968. Now access is restricted and has been reclaimed by nature as the older viaduct is still open and providing part of the Monsal trail access. This caught my eye as I really like to see plants and grass interwoven with aging metal, and seeing nature reclaiming the bridge gave it a real sense of being abandoned and forsaken. I converted this to monochrome as the pattern of the bridge was really strong and fitted in well with this.

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Monsal trail via the Midland Railway line at Millers Dale (Reused)

image7) ©Chris Jennings

Since the railway was closed in 1967 the station has become a car park serving the Monsal Trail, although the main buildings remain, being used as a ranger station and public toilets .The station platforms are still there and while there is no railway line anymore, you still get a sense of the route taken. I enhanced the sky slightly using Photoshop and the dodge tool just to bring out some of the clouds and then converted it to monochrome as the leading lines are quite strong and it worked better than the colour version. It has a very lonely feel to it with no people or action taking place which is exaggerated by the strong sky and the monochrome colour.

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Garnett’s Cabinet Works (abandoned)

image Copyright unknown

Originally built in 1890 and added to over subsequent years, the building that used to be Garnett’s cabinet works has been abandoned for years and is slowly getting more and more derelict. There are parts of the building that have collapsed over time and now the safest way to see this is from the outside. It’s hard to get a clear view from the front of the site as it’s fenced off and partly obscured. I went around the back where the safer part of the building is, the windows are broken but the building looks quite intact and from this angle you don’t get an indication that it’s derelict with rotting floors inside. The dereliction is more obvious when I moved towards the end building. I kept this in colour as I liked the light, it was early in the morning and the sun was up so there is a golden glow. There was a telephone wire stretching across the middle of the image into the sky that was obvious so I used the clone stamp tool to erase this. Where there is a wire lower down, I’ve left this in the image as it’s not as obvious and to clone it out would be more obvious than leaving it in. The light is highlighting just where I wanted the viewer to look, as you then notice the darker building to the right of the image, secondly to the face on building in the light.

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Summary

Now I’m looking back at this project, I feel very much that this is just an opener for a piece of work that fascinates me and one that I will continue with as I’d like to extend this into a larger body of work. One of my reflections is that it’s important to keep an open mind as some of the buildings and locations that I expected to work just didn’t and others had a really good impact that I didn’t fully see when I took the image. I did take my time with this, I took a lot of the images early in the process, planned visits and repeat visits and then spent a lot of time viewing the images both on a PC screen and also printed considering which I liked and which worked. It took some time to research and to write up and I also had a couple of weeks delay whilst waiting for responses on the use of some photographs that I wanted to use to show how the sites used to be. I was conscious that I needed to give owners of the photographs time to come back to me with permission usage too, and at the time of finishing up this assignment I was disappointed not to have received any responses, although where a website has had open information on the re-use of photographs this has been a great help.

While I initially thought that the open brief was too challenging, it helped me to work through what I liked, what I wanted to photograph and to know that sometimes an idea has to be put aside at times to be picked up later. As much as I enjoyed the content of this, it was equally important for me to learn the processes of a project and to follow these through from the conception through to the printing and presentation so that I can apply these to further projects.


Other Images

As a sample of some of the images that were part of the series but I rejected in favour of the others.

Bibliography

Badger, Gerry 2007. The Genius of Photography. Quadrille Publishing

Barrett, Terry. 2012. Criticizing photographs: An introduction to understanding images. McCraw Hill. 5th edition.

Drury, Rowan. 2001.Vacant Possession.

Margaine, Sylvain. 2009. Forbidden Places – Exploring our abandoned heritage. Jonglez

Romany, WG. 2010. Beauty in Decay: Urbex: The Art of Urban Exploration. CarpetBombingCulture

Photograph Credits and Copyright Details

1) Broken Door- Apprentice House, Dale View Terrace ©Mick Garratt via http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2422398

2) Train over Monsal Dale viaduct. © Rowsley Association via http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/m/monsal_dale/index17.shtml

3) Closed tunnel (Monsal Head Tunnel) ©Andrew Abbott via http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1787982

4) Outhouse/Public toilet Stevenson Square ©Michael Ely via http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1082257

5) Bank Park Bowling Green © Francis Frith Collection

6) Millers Dale ©John Alsop collection via http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/m/millers_dale/index.shtml

7) Millers Dale ©Chris Jennings via http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/m/millers_dale/index40.shtml

8) Copyright unknown

All of the above work available via http://www.geograph.org.uk is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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Exercise: Raw

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the processing advantages of raw. Set your camera to record the combination of raw plus the highest quality JPEG so that for each image you take, you will get a raw and a jpeg file.

Open and process each pair of images in your usual image processing software. Any changes made to the jpeg will be post processing as the processing has already been done in camera. Use whatever options are available to make the best of the image.

Compare then two versions of each image paying attention to:-

– Dynamic range

– White balance and colour

What differences do you see between the raw and the jpeg image?

Background

For this exercise I left the jpeg images as they were straight out of the camera, I saved a copy of each raw file and then when I edited the raw image this was then saved as a jpeg with applied changes. I’ve kept the three versions as it shows the difference between jpeg and raw straight from the camera, the camera has the ability to record both at one time so there is no difference in the image, and these can be compared with the edited raw file.

I tend to use raw for the majority of the time for my images as I like to post process them to ensure they meet my personal taste. For all images I’ve just altered the saturation levels, the blacks have been increased and in the artificial light image only, I’ve increased the vibrance slightly.

I haven’t added any extra sharpening as I tend to find that in a lot of cases it takes away more from the image than gives.

Artificial Light

Jpeg                                               Raw                                

Artificial light jpegArtificial light raw

Processed raw

Artificial light raw processed

 

Natural Light

Jpeg                                                        

Daylight jpeg

Raw

Daylight Raw

Processed raw

Daylight Raw processed

High Dynamic Range

Jpeg                                                      

high dynamic range jpeg

Raw

high dynamic range raw

Processed raw

high dynamic range raw processed

When comparing the jpeg version to the raw file, there are a wider range of colours and tones in the raw file, the colours are more warmer and richer straight out of the camera so I feel that I’d have less processing to do with the raw file to get it to be a well balanced image than I would have if I always used jpeg. With the extra processing that I undertook, I noticed more with the high dynamic range image that the histogram went from very high tones on the right hand side of the image showing the high dynamic range to a move even histogram spread evenly across the whole range.

In summary, I will continue to use raw as my preferred way of capturing images but I know how to add jpeg capture at the same time with my camera for cases when I want to have a quick review of the image or don’t have the facility to view and process raw at that time such as holidays.

Assignment 2: Seeing like your camera

Assignment Brief

This assignment revolves around high contrast scenes. You will need to produce a set of photographs that demonstrate that you can pre-visualise how your digital camera ‘sees’ a scene. The ability to anticipate how your camera sensor will render a scene will help you produce higher quality images which will need less post-processing.

Part One

Choose a minimum of four situations from the following models, with the situations I picked in bold.

1) Street scene in the middle of the day with narrow streets and high buildings

2) Indoor space with strong natural light being the only light available

3) Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine

4) Early morning or late evening landscapes with low angle incident light

5) Any backlit scene whether in direct or indirect light

6) Scenes which include objects of different reflectivity

7) Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance

8) A scene with strong incident dappled light

Submit three images for each of the four situations that you choose and these must be high quality jpeg straight out of the camera with no post processing

Overview

I usually shoot in raw so using jpg was a change; I don’t usually like to do too much post processing so an exercise to get it right in camera was a good challenge. I decided to focus on areas that I could revisit if I needed to redo the image, or if the lighting wasn’t right and as usual trying to get a day when it was bright and sunny enough was more of a challenge than anything else.

Street scene in the middle of the day

Technically the hardest part of the street scenes was trying to balance the extremes of light and shadows. The narrowest streets that I had access to with high buildings to create shadow, were in the town centre. I also picked this location as I could revisit it as many times as I needed to. I took these images over the lunchtime midday period to ensure that the sun was high in the sky and deeper shadows would be created. I used aperture priority mode for these images with the ISO automatically set by the camera and due to the lighting conditions, it set it at the lowest of ISO 100.

This is especially evident in image 1 below where the sunlight is stretching across into the road and the passing pedestrian is in deep shadow.

Street Image 1

I struggled with getting an appropriate balance between the darker shadow areas as metering in evaluative mode still gave me too much of a contrast. I could have changed my composition to rectify this, however due to the road being in use through a one way system, this was not a viable option. Alternatively I could have used spot metering to see if this gave me a better effect. As you can see from the first part of the image, the shadow is caused by the building so I’d revisit this at a different time of day with more of an overcast day to even up the tones, despite the clouds this was a bright day.

Street Image 2

Image 2 above was more balanced with the shadow area much more subtle and I feel more it was accurate compared to the scene I was actually seeing, and that it was one of the images where the exposure in camera produced an image that I would not want to adjust in post processing. Despite being taken only a couple of minutes later however, the sun was at a different angle and I was able to get a more balanced and equal colour tone across the image as a result with the shadows being more even, and not as obvious as image 1. For image 3, I thought the tones in this were more in the middle ground between the darker uneven and the well exposed image of 1 and 2. There were some darker shadows from the building so I tried to meter from the left hand side of the image to ensure that the shadow areas were not too dark, the challenge here was to keep some tones in the sky and not to have the lighter areas too overexposed.

Street Image 3

Backlit scenes

I chose three different subjects for this with a mixture of lighting.

The bluebell image 4 is my favourite out of all the images I took and the one that I am most happy with straight out of the camera. I like the darker tones, the added punch of the colours and the emphasis of the darker flowers with the dew on these just catching the light. The almost purple of the flowers with the green is a real contrast and quite eye catching, and I’d feel happy just printing this straight out of the camera. In preference I’d rather have my images to be toned so that the colours have a bit more punch and I would usually have the camera on manual mode and possibly underexpose to get the image to meet my ideals.

In order to get the light coming through the flowers, I took this early on in the morning and got a low angle so that the light illuminated the flowers but the darker leaves were in shadow. I used an aperture of f3.5 so that there is a diffused light and shallow depth of field behind the flowers.

Backlit image 4

Golden Nike

The light was off to one side in this and it was shot early in the morning. The positioning of the light created a silhouette effect. While there are still colours and tones in the sky, the actual gates and statues are thrown into being dark shapes with only a hint of the gold colour of the statue being visible. If I’d used fill in flash at this angle, I think that it would have illuminated the statue but lost the blue of the sky, so if I wanted to replicate the image but with a more even colouring, I’d look to change my time of day so that the lighting was from a different angle or use a flash. I do like the shapes involved in this with the circle shape of the gate cut out acting as a frame for the sky and due to the silhouette effect where you can’t see the detail, it has almost a fantasy quality of the goddess just stood watching over the town, and it’s a different take on the usual face on view that’s taken of the golden gates.

Backlit image 5

White Memorial

Another image that was taken in the morning, the sun is to the left of the statue and I did have some glare in the image as it washed out the colours in the sky. The aperture of f3.5 also meant that the background was out of focus and while this can be used creatively, I feel in this case it works against the image and adds to the muted tones all merging together. The detail that’s engraved on the statue is also lost within the white that’s almost over exposed where the sun hits it and there are obviously a number of clipped highlights here, I tend to have the camera set with these on so I can see after I’ve taken the image if I need to adjust. In this case I left it as it was, as the point was to rectify the images in the later part of the assignment.

Backlit Image 6

Reflectivity

I didn’t want to set up still life compositions for this as I’d done in a previous exercise with The Art of Photography, my idea was to find normal situations and subjects that had reflective qualities but not something that we’d automatically think of. I managed to get the images I wanted in one visit to Cosford RAF museum where there was a wide range of different textures, metals, subjects and lighting situations.

The first image ‘Propaganda’ is a piece of carved stone in a larger display. Just underneath it is a metal frame holding the light shining up onto it. I chose this as the matte red and white painted metal contrasts with the high shine of the stone under the light, and then we have a shadowed area at the top where the light doesn’t fall. I cropped tightly in for this as I was using a short lens of 24-60mm and I wanted to fill the frame to get the impact of the word and to maximise the reflection. I had trouble balancing the light and shadow as I didn’t want to use fill in flash as that would have created more reflection and some over exposure in the stone area.

Reflectivity Image 7

My second image is a more traditional reflective surface of a mirror contrasting with the matte of the tyres surface, it’s actually a helicopter but from this angle, it’s not obvious what you’re looking at. As it was lit by natural lighting, I was able to get a more even toned hue to the image. I think the different textures work well with the reflection of the mirror that’s very obvious, and allows a small cameo as I took it. The grey toned floor is also reflective where the natural lighting from the right hand side is hitting it, as you can see the left hand side under the shadow of the helicopter and with artificial light is more darker toned and matte, with the dark rubber tyres that will never be reflective as another contrast

Reflectivity Image 8

The final image in this series is the more reflective of all, the aluminium plane is highly reflective, especially with the overhead lighting and then we have the matte surface of the propeller and the steel cream hanger as contrasts. I chose this composition as it showed the reflection that I wanted, however if I was to revisit this to get a more even image, I‘d look to try a different angle, possibly from the other side. I filled the frame to ensure that the reflection was obvious and I also wanted the subject to be strong and dominating.

Reflectivity Image 9

Dappled light

For the first image, I was very keen to expose correctly to ensure that you could see the darker shadows of the trees on the ground, but also to ensure that the patches of light were still visible. I stood under the trees for this as I wanted to give the sense that I was looking out onto a clearing further ahead and that’s shown if you look towards the sunlit buildings.

Dappled image 10

Images 2 and 3 were taken in the same park different to image 1. I wanted an area with less coverage but one that still gave me the dappled light that I needed. I tried two different compositions for the second image, one landscape and one portrait. I chose the landscape image for the two reasons, it gave more room for the shadows to fall across the path and the grass, but I also wanted the symmetry of the path down the middle, leading the eye into the image and showing that the bench is also casting a shadow.

Dappled Image 11

For the final image I stood on the path we’d just seen, with the light early in the morning coming from behind me and casting shadows of the trees onto the lawn. Technically this gave me the most issues in exposing correctly, I exposed for the upright tree first but that overexposed the trees in the sky, exposing for the shadows was too dark, so I focused on the middle ground where the shadow of the tree roots and base meets the top of the tree shadow and this gave me a more even mix of colours.

Dappled image 12

Part Two

Select one of the four situations that you chose in Part One and think about what the lighting conditions should be in order to reduce the contrast of the scenes or even to make them low contrast scenes.

For this I decided to revisit the backlit images as I felt that it would be more of a challenge to counteract the brightness and the silhouette effect that I had in some of the images. Some of the different variables over which I have control include waiting for different weather to shoot in, changing the composition (to avoid deep shadows), fill in flash or additional lighting.

White Statue

With the first image I took of this having both backlight and glare, I had to give some consideration to how I could rectify this in camera. I revisited this during the middle of the day when the sun was higher in the sky and would create more equal shadow; it was also intermittently cloudy on that day so I waited until the sun was behind the cloud but used flash as well. I’d altered the aperture to f10 to ensure that all of the detail was sharp and this also improved the background giving it more contrast against the white of the subject. I changed the angle slightly compared to the original image as I felt that while the sun was from the right hand side, I needed to even out the darker tones on the left hand side to create a more equal light.

Backlit mod 1

Golden Nike

In order to avoid another silhouetted image, when it came to revisit this one, I had in mind a couple of changes I needed to make. While the second image was also taken early on in the morning, I changed the angle I took the image from. As opposed to having the light coming from the right as I took the image from the left, I changed my position and stood underneath the statue looking up at it. This small change altered the light falling onto the statue so I knew that there was already less to try and reduce. I used flash on this as it needed an extra boost for the shadowy areas of the gates which are black and gold. I think it worked as you can obviously see the difference between the two colours and you can see the statue is gold. Luckily as it’s a clear bright day, the sky was blue and this stood up against the flash whereas an overcast day usually has a grey or white sky which would have been lost with the flash.

Backlit mod 2

Bluebells

Revisiting this a week later, I actually couldn’t find the specific crop of bluebells from the original images despite being in the same area. In order to ensure that the foliage and the ground were not in shadow, I composed the image from a slightly higher viewpoint than previously, I had to increase the aperture to get wider areas of sharpness as it was quite windy and I was keen to ensure that I didn’t have a soft image. With the lighting still coming from behind the flowers towards me, I used flash from above. This helped to ‘freeze’ the movement of the flowers and ensured that the shadows were much more reduced than the original one. Despite this, I feel that the image has lost some of its appeal, the backlighting framing the flower bells in the original and the dew drops give the original image what I interpret as a magical feel and in using flash to even out the tones, its created an image that while pleasing to the eye with the contrast between purple and green, I don’t feel it has any impact as an image.

Backlit mod 3

Revisiting other images

As part of this exercise, I also decided to revisit some of my street scenes which had very strong shadows. I changed the time of day to revisit these, as opposed to midday on a bright sunny day; this was early in the morning with some sun but also a mixture of cloud. As you can see from the image, the sun hasn’t yet risen high enough to create the shadows. I walked a little further down the street from the top end so that I was in the shadow of the building. Comparing this to the original image I took of this street, I think this actually has more shadows and tones within it, and the original seems a much flatter overall image

Street revisited

Summary

I feel that I met the requirements of the exercise in learning about how my camera sees and how to maximise getting the contrast and tones right within the camera. However what I did notice is in doing this, that sometimes you need to break the rules and use strong tones and shadows in order to create a better image. As I usually have my camera set to raw and manual mode, this exercise has taught me that aperture priority mode is something that can be used to good effect and that it’s sometimes the most appropriate method to use. I also learnt that I can anticipate the effect that different lighting will have on a subject before I take the image allowing me to consider this in the composition

Exercise: Colour Cast and White Balance

aThis exercise was very similar to an exercise that I had done previously within the Art of Photography so I knew how to change the white balance and the different effects that it has.

Find the following outdoor lighting situations, each of which has a different colour temperature

– Sunlight

– Cloudy

– Open shade on a sunny day

– Auto

For each choose a scene or object to photograph and shoot four versions, using each one of the white balance options. In your browser or processing software, compare the results for each scene.

As I’d done the exercise in TAOP, I chose to just do this on one subject under sunlight. I picked the flowers as I thought that the colours would show the differing white balances well with the cream of the wall. Looking at the composition, I like the half curve of the pots turning the image into a more considered composition as I didn’t just want to take any general image.

I set the aperture to f5.0 with the ISO on auto and aperture priority mode.

Auto White Balance

Auto WB

Cloudy White Balance

Cloudy WB

Daylight White Balance

Daylight WB

Shade White Balance

Shade WB

 

For the second part of the exercise, I had to find and shoot a mixed lighting source. One of the most predictably mixed in indoor/outdoor scene at dusk in which the interior is lit by incandescent lighting while the exterior, especially under a clear sky is bluish. I then had to shoot three different versions with the following white balance settings:-

– sunlight

– tungsten/incandescent

– auto

Sunlight

Daylight

 

Tungsten

Tungsten

Auto

Auto

If I had to choose one of the images, I’d pick the auto white balanced image as I feel that its a much more even toned one. The tungsten has given it too much of a blue colouring, and the daylight is second closest but a bit darker than the the auto.

As I shoot with raw, I followed the next step of experimenting with the white balance slider in Photoshop to find a version of white balance that I like.

Auto2

Its a darker image than the auto white balance but has a much warmer tone than the daylight/sunlight white balance but I feel that it balances the warmer colours of the indoor lighting better than the other white balances.

Exercise: Scene Dynamic Range

Take five differently lit scenes, and within each, find and measure the brightest and darkest areas.

Make sure that at least one scene has a very high dynamic range and also that one scene has a low range- appears ‘flat’.

Note the results in your learning log

SDR1

I took a photograph of this close up of a plane’s afterburner as I liked the high shine and reflectivity with the overheard lighting.

At its brightest area it measured 1/80, and at its darkest it was 1/40

SDR2

I chose this subject due to being in front of a window with natural light but also shadows at the front where the light wasn’t falling.

At its brightest area it measured 1/100 and at the darkest area it was 1/60

 

SDR3

This was another interesting choice as it was a lit neon sign within a dark display room.

At its brightest area it measured 1/00, yet in the darkest area it measures 1/30 obviously taking into account the lack of illumination

 

SDR4

This was a very different lighting to the previous images being direct and bright sunlight. At its brightest where the sky has blown highlights, its 1/8000 and at its darkest areas around the edge with the trees to the left its 1/1600.

SDR5

I chose this as a ‘flat’ lighting scene, its a dark overcast day with what I feel are quite flat tones with no strong lighting of any source. At its brightest its 1/500, and in the darker areas its 1/320.

 

Thoughts

Looking at the differences in lighting and situations, I prefer the image with the flatter light as it gives more even tones and without any post processing at all, its given me a more balanced result straight from the camera.

Exercise: Your camera’s dynamic range

Find a scene with a distinctly high dynamic range such as sunlight, an area of brightly reflecting surface and an area of deep shadow with a dark surface.

Take a large piece of white card or paper and place it near the door in bright sunlight. For this exercise I chose to use the back of a house as it got the sun more than the front, I opened the back door showing the shadows inside and I placed the white card next to the open door.

I kept the ISO at the lowest of 100 and made sure that I had highlight clipping turned on so that the exposure was correct. In order to measure the brightness of the areas, I set the metering mode to spot and focused in on the area that I wanted to measure. I don’t currently have a light meter but am looking to get one and wonder what measurements that would give me compared to the camera.

On the wider image, it was ISO 100, an aperture of f4 as I was in aperture priority mode and 1/80s for the exposure.

Within the bright area of the white card, the exposure was 1/400s which is what I’d expect from a much brighter and reflective surface. In the darker areas of inside the doorway, the exposure dropped to 1/60s, which isn’t as slow as I’d expected it to be

Image as it was taken

Dynamic range1

 

Image showing where dark and light tones were measured

dr diagram

DPP Assignment One: Workflow

Summary

Devise a themed assignment on a topic that interests you and in a field of photography with which you feel comfortable.

Use what you’ve learned to far to construct an effective workflow, all the way through to the final displayed image. Your work can be in the form of either prints or a web gallery.

List all the steps in your workflow with a commentary about what you did.

Assignment Background

For this assignment, I combined it with the previous exercise on editing as I felt that I’d be taking a number of images that could be used for both and that the editing I undertake for the assignment would also be the logical order that I would use in the exercise: editing.

My themed assignment, and one which I tend to come back to on a regular basis is wildlife photography based on a day at the zoo, I’ve used this before in previous assignments as I am always looking to improve my animal and zoo images, and I think this will be something that I continue throughout my photographic career.

I’ve broken the workflow down into the different stages and then into the steps under each for this assignment, and this logic would be applied to any future event that I was planning to photograph.

Pre-assignment

 

1) Define the scope Look at the assignment brief and decide that I want to focus on wildlife photography as that’s one of my specialisms
2) Choose location I consider the best places to go to that will meet my brief, it has to be somewhere I can get access to plenty of animals and for my own preference somewhere where I know so I can plan the route and what I want to photograph. I’ve narrowed this down to either Martin Mere or Chester Zoo. I chose Chester Zoo as I knew there were some new animals and that I would have more success with subjects there than at Martin Mere. I have a set route that I take and I know where the animals are that I want to see, so I will follow this on the day.
3) Plan kit As it’s the zoo, I know that I need to take my 100-400 telephoto lens as that’s what I’ll be using for the majority of the images, and my 100mm macro lens to use if the animal houses are quiet. As I’m walking around all day and taking the large lens I know that I have to use my Slingshot backpack to fit it in.
4) Kit preparation The night before I plan to undertake the assignment, I format my two 8gb memory cards, putting one in the camera and the other as a spare in my bag. I already have one charged battery so I put that in the camera and charge the other as a spare.

I mount the camera lens and then ensure that all the dust has been blown off and it’s been cleaned with lens fluid. I then check the smaller lens that I am taking with me and ensure that is ready to go, and put that one into my camera bag.

5) Settings Part 1 I test the camera to ensure its all working and to ensure that it’s set to manual mode (which I prefer) with centre weighted metering.

The camera is set to record in RAW to give me more flexibility. I will review the rest of the settings on the day. The camera then gets packed into my bag.

During the assignment

 

6) Settings Part 2 On arrival at the zoo, I make my way to the first location, once there I unpack my camera and check the rest of the settings, as the light is dull and cloudy; I set the white balance to cloudy and the ISO to automatic to save me from having to change this. The aperture is set at 5.6 which is my default preference and I alter the shutter speed manually. I will review the white balance and ISO throughout the day as the conditions change.
7) Location Part 1 I break the day down into parts so part one is the immediate part of the zoo. One this route there is plenty of scope to photograph different animals, and on this day I capture some images of the painted dogs sleeping. I work my way around the rest of the route managing to capture the capybara outside but being disappointed that the baby tapir is through dirty and reflective glass so I had to leave that one. This part of the route completes and I use a morning break to sit down and do a quick review of the images I’ve taken to see that I’ve managed to capture what I wanted, and if not to make a note to go back for another pass later on.
8) Location Part 2 I continue over to the further side of the zoo passing by the cheetah enclosure, unfortunately there is a big crowd around the three that are outside so I decide after waiting a few minutes to come back later, as I detour towards the butterfly house, I notice there is one cheetah on its own running about. I stop and wait for a few minutes in the hope it will come close enough for a photo and I get lucky as it decides to get playful and roll around in the dirt. Unfortunately I have obstructions of grass in front of me, so I hope that I can crop this out in post-production, or that it’s enough out of focus that it won’t create a distraction. I follow the rest of the route ensuring that I manage to capture the animals I wanted to see, I miss the butterfly house as its very busy and very humid. I don’t want to change my lens and wait for it to acclimatise as it’s that busy I don’t feel I can get the space to just wait for the butterflies. I know that I can go back on a weekday and it will be quieter so I move on deciding that the animal houses are too busy to do anything other than observe. I then move onto the giant otters who are swimming about too much for me, and then I see a large crowd gathering with the tigers so I make my way over and the two cubs are out being fed with their parents. I manage to get into the crowd but struggle to get decent images through the glass. I feel that I get something to work with, and that I might be able to use Photoshop to enhance these. I’ve realised that I have to accept the limitations of photographing through glass and after about 15 minutes, I move on to the lion enclosure where the male was out in the sun and I got some good profile shots.

At this point in time it was nearing the end of the day and I started to head back, passing the cheetahs once again, and luckily there was one sat out, and the light was still golden so I managed to get a few clear images before the light started dipping and I headed back.

Post assignment

 

9) Download Once back home I download the 134 images onto my PC and also onto my laptop as backup into a new folder. As they are in RAW format, I use the Canon ZoomBrowser software to view and sort the images. I keep the data on the memory card and will only delete that when I need to reuse the card and once I’m happy that the images have been copied and stored safely.
10) Technical edit I view each image individually, using ZoomBrowser I enlarge the first image and then scroll through and giving each image a star rating to determine if I want to keep them. I can mark them from 1 to 3 stars and just for the sorting process I always use the 3 star. At this stage anything that is not technically accurate such as a blurred subject or where the animal has moved out of shot (possible with the cheetahs) will be marked as three star and then I review them in a separate window and if I am still happy, I then delete them. I will use the three star method again for the ones that I want to edit and work with later in the process.
11) The selects After I’ve deleted the images, I then review the first pass images to ensure that I’ve got the ones that I want to keep, and to see if I can reduce the numbers, deleting any duplicates or images that are very similar as I tend to have my camera on burst mode so I end up with a lot of very similar images, I edit them down to a couple of similar images for each of the topics.
12) Group and review After having a break of a day from the images, I have another look to ensure I’m happy and repeat the selection edit if appropriate. I find that having a break and looking at something else, or doing other photography helps to clear my mind and I find I can be a bit more ruthless at deleting images, otherwise I’d have hundreds and no storage space for them.
13) Final choice Once I have my final choice, I save these in a different folder with an appropriate name where I will keep the RAW files and also converted JPGS once I have reviewed them. I keep the seconds in a generic zoo folder as I might want to come back to them at a later date.
14) Edit I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 to edit and process my images. I open each image and usually only have to tweak the settings. I increase the level of the blacks and saturation slightly to give the images some more punch, I then open the image. If it needs a crop, I’ll then try different crops, or on some I will try a conversion to monochrome. I will then save the image as a high quality jpg.
15) Print or publish I review the processed images and while I might not actually print them at the time, I might make a note to use one in a calendar or to publish on my website when it’s due for an update.
16) Storage & Archiving Once I’m happy with the final images, I will transfer them off my PC onto my external HDD. I also regularly review and backup images to DVD.

 

Findings

I think that my workflow might differ from other peoples as I tend to break it down into very defined steps and maybe go a little too granular, but I like a clear path of actions to follow. With regards to adaptations, I have a couple for the way I take and produce my photographs. Firstly one adaptation is the time I spend selecting and editing, I tend to only delete the obvious ones to start with, then I tend to ensure I have gaps in between selecting and deleting in order to ensure that I don’t just get click happy and delete everything. While it does mean it takes a little longer and I tend to keep copies of the images for longer, sometimes I can have something that could work with some work, so instead of a tweak in Photoshop, I might look to convert it to black and white and add a crop for example. The second adaptation is how I review the images as I go along, I tend to take then check the image on the screen, and if it’s something that I really want to get right, and can do, I will try again. As my photography tends to revolve around a day long event, I ensure that I have a quick image review when I have a break, that way I’m still on location if I need to revisit something, although with animals it doesn’t always work- but it did on this day as earlier on, I couldn’t get a good composition of the cheetahs, later on as I was getting ready to head back they were sat out in the sun and still as statues! I also tailor my plan of the day depending to whether I’ve been to the location before, as regular visits tend to have a routine so I can go to where I want to be for the best images first.

My workflow current uses ZoomBrowser for viewing and then Photoshop Elements 9 for editing, I have used the Canon DPP software for editing, but I prefer Photoshop for the whole process. I am considering a move over to Lightroom, and was planning on purchasing this before I undertook this assignment; however I’ve decided to hold off with the introduction of Lightroom version 4 beta to see when a proposed release data will be for this. (Note since writing this post Lightroom 4 has been released and I am currently evaluating it with a view to purchasing it)

Final Images

Out of the number images, I’ve gone through the editing process and these are my chosen seven images that hopefully show a different viewpoint to a usual animal in a zoo image.

final selection

 

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Painted Dogs

I increased the blacks and the contrast to account for the fact that I took the image through glass, and then I cropped it slightly to focus on the sleeping animal.

Painted Dog_4466

Bat

I increased the blacks slightly, I left the rest of the colour tone alone and just added some sharpening as it was a soft image on the bat as it was moving around eating from the bowl. I like the silhouette and the colours as you don’t often see an image of a bat. At Chester flash isn’t allowed and I relied on low light and the yellow sunlight on one side of the enclosure to provide enough light for me to capture this image.

 

Bat_4478

Cheetah 1

I increased the blacks and the contrast, then I cropped it to remove some of the out of focus grass in the foreground, but I kept some as its important to keep it in the right context and look like it’s a natural environment. I then converted it to black and white as I felt it worked better.

Cheetah 1_BW_4488

Cheetah 2

I increased the contrast slightly and the blacks, then just added some minor sharpening, and cropping the image to make it more focused on the animal.

Cheetah 2_4488

Tiger

For this I increased the saturation and vibrance, dropping down the brightness to remove some the glare that had come through the glass, and this gave a more even histogram.

Tiger_4560

Tiger Cub

I increased the saturation and vibrance to bring the fur up to a more realistic colouring compared to what I saw on the day and increased the blacks to reduce the glare. While tempted to crop it, I wanted to keep the environment included.

Tigercub_4586

Sitting Cheetah

I just increased the saturation and the blacks on this, I tried a crop but I liked the space around the subject as I feel that you look around the image to see the cheetah.

Sitting Cheetah_4595