Wednesday 30 December 2009

On Reflection - 30/12/2009

Still chucking down with rain here, thick fog, blocked drains, horrible. So, on with the photo odyssey from the archives. I was talking about altering the light. Last time I talked about fill in flash. This time let's look at reflectors. You can make your own reflector with a bit of white card, with or without silver foil, but these were done with a LaserLite reflector. Nothing very clever, just have your lovely assistant (hello Eva) aim the reflector to light the subject:

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Flashes Of Inspiration - 29/12/2009

I don't see my task as faithfully snapping what was there. The human eye (or more accurately brain, the eye being very crude) scans a scene, and corrects for light and shadow to get an overall picture. If, as a photographer, you want to catch the sense of what the observer sees, you are going to have to tamper with the light. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use fill in flash - exposing for lighter parts of the scene and then using a flash to lighten the darker parts and / or the subject.

In this shot the boat has been lit by two small macro flashes:

In this second shot, the on camera flash has been used as fill in to light the reeds:

Monday 28 December 2009

Lying In A Field, Getting Frustrated - 28/12/2009

Trying to take pictures of bees in flight is a great way to test your reflexes. Also your patience. I've never yet buried a camera in a field, but if I ever do it will be the fault of the bloody bees. I dread Spring - all that buzzing gives you no choice but to give it a go, and you really are guaranteed a day of little joy. What I hate about the buggers is the way they shoot off just as you press the button, leaving you with shot of a gently waving flower, and possibly a small bit of bee's arse. When I get to rearrange the world, bees will be a lot bigger. And slower moving. And they won't sting, either. In the meantime let me introduce you to a few of the sods. Note the full pollen sacs. Slows them down - well, that's my hope. How is it done? Fill in flash, and C-AF. Note that Oly E3 has performed just as well as the Nikon D3, despite the D3's much vaunted AF.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Shooting People Is Wrong - 27/12/2009

I've never been a huge fan of candid street shooting - it seems to me that if you have to hide what you are doing you shouldn't be doing it, or at least doing it in the privacy of your own home. Even so Portugal is home to a bizarre set of characters, especially the fishermen, and sometimes you just can't resist. Technically, this first shot is done with a long lens, which gives a perspective I prefer, and is shot more or less wide open, to give shallow depth of field and bring out the subject. In fact, if you view this at the full size, you'll see I've gone too far.

This is pretty reasonable in terms of annoying people going about their daily business - my subjects are playing up for the camera. This second shot is rather naughtier, and not something I'd normally do. I was hungover, in a bad mood, and in a park at Belem (Lisbon, more or less). This rather dodgy character scarpered as soon as I took his photo - I suspect he's probably breaking twenty laws every time he puts on his socks:

Perhaps even more cheekily, I have no idea who this couple are in front of the Thames Barrier....

While we are at it, let's see a little of what the fishermen catch...

These last three were all shot with the very fast 105mm f2 on a full frame camera, hence the very shallow DoF.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

The Line As The Subject - 22/12/2009

Well, the weather was a little better today, but not good enough. I didn't intend this blog to be a photography course, so I can only apologise to those I am patronising and suggest they check back in a few days, and if anyone finds the impromptu course useful, I'm glad. In the meantime, I'm gaining a little insight into my own techniques. I've been talking about using a line to draw the viewer into the image - but sometimes the line IS the image. Here's an example of letting a line create itself and add interest to what would otherwise be a flat landsacpe:

This is a shot that illustrates the virtue of patience. It was already taken half an hour before. But the sky was just getting better, so I sparked up a fag, went and bought a couple of beers from the bar at the corner, and waited to see how pink it would get. VERY pink. Well worth the wait.

The location is the island of Farol (Lighthouse - there's a surprise) off the Algarvian coast. 20 minute ferry ride from Olhao.

Monday 21 December 2009

Shooting A Line - 21/12/2009

Biblically awfully weather yesterday, and today is worse. Spent half of last night in conditions in which they could have filmed The Perfect Storm rescuing some giant idiot of a dog from a neighbour's swimming pool, and warming it up before it got hypothermia. I hope you'll forgive me sharing my news like this, I feel as though we're old friends by now.

The net result is we are back in the archives today, and will be tomorrow as well.

Yesterday's shot showcased the technique of dragging the eye along a line to the subject, so I though I'd show the same thing today. When setting up a shot, I always like to consider it as one of my options:

Tomorrow, I'll look at simply using the line itself.

Oh, and while I'm being chatty, this is my dog Kylix, and that's my girlfriend Eva.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Hoist By My Own Petard - 20/12/2009

A couple of days ago I posted on the importance of preparation - checking the weather, knowing the tide tables, watching the time. Yesterday I set of for Armado, a beach on the west coast with a new broadwalk which I thought would look good in the late afternoon shadows. I thought I'd make a day of it, so I checked none of those things, reckoning I'd have time to busk it. So much time in fact, that I procrastinated throughout the day.

Of course, by the time I finally hauled the bags out of the car, the sun was practically down, and I barely had time for a shot - a poor return for a very long drive. Distracted (I have been)? Stupid (I may be)? Losing my touch (I could be)? Anyway, here is my poor best. If I can't do better than this, maybe tiddlywinks beckons.

Ah well, art mirrors life as ever - there are days when whatever you do is wrong.

In the meantime, the techniques here are fairly straightforward. On the first shot we have a leading line down the steps and along the sunlit water. The second uses one rock to add interest to the foreground, and is done with an extreme wide angle. The first, to my mild surprise, appears to be quite popular...

Saturday 19 December 2009

Shooting Long And Shallow - 19/12/2009

A lot of people think long lenses are a way of avoiding having to walk. They aren't. They are for compressing distances and creating shots where everything seems much more tightly packed than it actually is. I've also used a shallow depth of field, or opened the lens up, to focus the eye on the central action - the background is deliberately soft.

Having said yesterday that photography is hard, street shooting like this is easy (in terms of physical effort anyway). You just need to keep your eyes open, and imagine how things would look through different lenses and from different angles. In turn, wandering around a city trying to find photo opportunities, as opposed to snapping obvious landmarks, is a great way to develop a sense of place.

The location, of course, is my favourite city, Lisbon. Lisboa is what Paris is supposed to be, but so very rarely is: scattered with pavement cafes, featuring a busy nightlife, laden with wonderful street scenes, full of friendly people, and easy to get around. When I'm in a city mood, this is where I want to be. I can't think of a better place to conduct a romance either. Mind you, I find my liver needs a few days off afterwards.

The weather has returned to normal now, so the cameras are packed, the car is loaded, and we'll see if we can make this a blog as opposed to a photography course tomorrow.

Friday 18 December 2009

You're Going To Hurt Yourself Doing That - 18/12/2009

This isn't going well. The idea was that, as I eased my way back into full time photography, I'd share what I did, and how, and why, with anyone daft enough to read about it. However, although the cameras are packed and ready to roll, the weather is against me. So here we are again, back in the archives.

This is one of those shots that always attracts the inane and ignorant question "Did you Photoshop that?" And the answer is "No, or not in the sense you mean." You don't get good photos by wandering about, having a nice time, and clicking when you feel like it (or not often, anyway). You get good shots by watching the weather, being aware of things like tide tables, knowing your locations, carting piles of junk around to places far away when you'd rather be at home, taking risks, getting wet, and hurting yourself.

The smooth silky water here has been got with a low shutter speed, and some Neutral Density filters. Which means a tripod. And how do you use a tripod in a raging sea? By standing on a wet, slippery, rock, and hopping into the water like an arthritic penguin as the sea makes it possible. You get wet, you get cold, you don't know if it is going to work, and, if, like me, you think water should be warm and have bath salts in it, by scaring the living shit out of yourself.

Photography hurts. Get used to it.

On the other hand, you get to see some breathtaking scenery, while everyone else is safely in the bar - so it isn't all bad.

Done with my much loved Olympus E3, now passed on to Eva.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Use A Candle - 17/12/2009

Christmas comes but once a year, thank Christ (literally), and the place is probably full of candles. If you're really lucky, it will be full of pretty girls (or boys, if you prefer) too... Anyone looks good in candlelight, even me.

Shoot on a tripod, work the exposure via a histogram (because your screen will be bright, so don't just guess), bracket, focus with the room lights on (because otherwise your AF will relentlessly pick up on the candles), have fun.

Maybe you'll get a Christmas kiss.

This one was done with an Olympus E500 (terrible low light camera, but we managed, just) and a 50mm f2, which is the equivalent of a 100mm on a Full Frame camera. Always use a longish lens when photographing glamour, or the poor girl will end up looking like Schnozzle Durante.

Here I Am, Polishing My Tool - 16/12/2009

So here I am again, polishing my tool, which will come as no surprise to those of you who thought I was a bit of a wanker. For one reason or another, mainly 'elf, people, work and cynicism, photography has taken a bit of a back seat this last eighteen months, but the Winter skies are here and it is time to get on.

That, of course, is one of the differences between the Gentleman Snapper and the Workaday Pro - the pro takes more photos to eat, the GS takes less.

Over the coming days and weeks I'll hopefully be discussing those differences further, answering the question "Did You Photoshop That?", finding some toys for Christmas, looking at tripods, and many other such things I haven't thought of yet. For now, let's have some pictures. Taken half an hour apart at Santa Maria da Luz, near Tavira, in Southern Portugal.

Nothing very complicated here, take one Nikon D3, one tripod, one 14-24, and (the magic bit) one Lee ND filter, and shoot. Developed in CaptureNX.

Right, that'll do for today, I'll go back to cleaning the dust magnet that is the D3.