4th August 2016 – Tintern Abbey and File Formats.

Tintern Abbey was our rendezvous last meeting, the next is at Gloucester Docks and we have a  themed shoot. Please see the club’s Facebook Page or email the club for details (link on the main page). Not a bad showing considering it’s the other side of the Severn Bridge, even if we seemed to lose each other when we moved on to the Old Railway Station and its sculpture trail. Possibly the others I lost track of went on to the bridge at Brockweir, or home. Still it was a rewarding evening.

 

So the Olympics have just started and on display this week were the armouries Canon and Getty have provided, several million dollars worth. Then this is an enormous event. One photographer has already had £30,000 worth of kit heisted by a street gang using distraction tactics (and that had an interesting postscript). Whatever else you might say about it, there are no small numbers involved in the providing of it. The International Olympic Committee have banned GIF’s from the attending photographers (among other formats) in an effort to maintain control on who and how money is made from the images taken of the action. GIF’s, Graphic Interchange Format, are generally thought of in their animated form these days, though it is a lossless file format for stills too, and it is this animated form that has the IOC so animated, or at least its ability to simulate film/moving pictures. Which is all very fine, but what is a lossless file?

 

Lossless files describe the performance of data compression – squeezing the raw data into smaller storage spaces without losing quality. They are not just photographic formats but audio formats too and there are general formats for other data, the most familiar of which are Zip files, but also for computer code. GIF has been around a fair few years, but it has grown in both popularity and capability, but it only handles 256 colours. Its appeal to the web is its tiny size, and of course its ability to be turned into short animations. As a format it actually predates the Web as the it has been around (unaltered) since 1989.

 

JPEG on the other hand, is a “Lossy” format. Lossy “is the class of data encoding methods that uses inexact approximations and partial data discarding to represent the content” (Wikipedia). It is a one way street, meaning it cannot be reversed. Lossless preserves the colour data (but might reduce it as in a GIF). Its irreversibility had Reuters making JPEG their only accepted format, one suspects, as there are more limitations on its ability to be manipulated as well as the economies of scale available in limiting the number of formats they have to accommodate. It is pretty universal as formats go. Outside of the personal storage areas you won’t find RAW on the web, but JPEG you will find pretty much everywhere. Most cameras shoot JPEG of course – it is the photographers format, JPEG stands for the Joint Photographic Experts Group. It will give you 16 million colours, more than you can actually see, but the trick is in the transition between colours and shades of colours, which are generally pretty vibrant. Its widely accepted of course (see above) and you would have to look long and hard to find a computer that cannot handle it.

 

We linked to the JPEG v RAW argument in the last post, but RAW doesn’t get a look-in when talking about most of the images we see. Then, in the days of film we saw a lot, lot, more prints than ever we did negatives. The world, though , has changed a lot in the last 25 years where digital is the new normal – normal for taking and displaying images. The world’s first digital SLR was a modified Nikon F3,  The Kodak Professional Digital Camera System (DCS) which was tethered to a 200MB hard drive, that the photographer carried over the shoulder. Its capacity was 156 uncompressed 1.3MP images and was yours for around $30,000 US (about £23,000 at current exchange rates, but actually closer to £40,000 when you take inflation into account). That was 1991. On the 6th August that same year Tim Berners Lee posted the first page to the World Wide Web (the internet is actually the system of computers that powers it) and though one and the other are now inseparable, the first image was posted in 1992. CERN made the code a gift to the World in 1993, and the rest, as they say, is a gloriously messy history.

 

Whereas we will find lots of JPEGs and GIF’s on the web, as presentation formats at the very least, they are by no means the only formats. BMP, often called a “Bump”, is sometimes used by photographers but it is not very flexible and the . TIFF, or Tagged Image File Format, is more common because it is the standard digital format in the printing industry. It has been controlled by Adobe since 2009 but was originally created by Aldus as a format for Desk Top Publishing, which for many years was the next big thing.  It was designed to be a very flexible format, supporting such types of compression as JPEG, LZW, ZIP (or none) and retains all colour and data information as well as being saved with layers. But the files are huge. Hence camera RAW which compresses the original data losslessly, but it isn’t a single agreed format as the camera manufacturers all have their own versions of it.

 

PNG Portable Network Graphics), the last of the more common formats, was envisioned as a replacement for GIF. Not all web browsers – think of how we store most of our images on line these days and browsers are a very big thing – support it, though that is increasingly uncommon now. It can’t be animated like GIF’s can, which probably keeps the GIF a more common file type, and whereas it does, otherwise what GIF does, only better, those files tend to be large.

 

So there we have it, in aggregate some of the reasons why, as photographers we deal with RAW and JPEGS the majority of the time, and why TIFF is still used to store images by some. All because you can animate a GIF and the IOC voraciously defends its commercial properties….

 

 

N E X T   M E E T I N G

Costume shoot at Gloucester Docks, see Facebook/email club as per above.

28th July 2016 – Weston Super Mare: Beach, Bikes and Sunset.

_Resevoir Togs_DSC09563

Resevoir ‘Togs © Ian Gearing 2016

Last meeting was convened at the Grand Pier Weston Super Mare for a evening’s photography along the front covering both Weston Bike Night, the beach and the sunset across the Bristol Channel. Have to say that the clouds and the sun didn’t disappoint and the turn out wasn’t at all bad given the weather forecast and people’s work commitments. Certainly the black of the rain bearing clouds in banks and the gold of the setting sun made for interesting vistas out over the Channel to Flat Holm and Steep Holm. Of course there was also the Grand Pier itself, which is not exactly a hidden feature, Brean Down and Knightstone Island.

 

So this week a little on photographing motorcycles.  It goes for cars too but your Blog editor is a motorcyclist, so that’s what we are mainly going with. There are not quite a half dozen of us in the club I know as motorcyclists (there are a few more former motorcyclists)  and a couple of us have trekked with our cameras over the years to the National Exhibition Centre for Motorcycle Live and other venues and events. As machinery goes motorcycles are actually quite photogenic, but they are not, necessarily that easy to photograph well. In the street they are either moving among traffic – not the easiest of things to get a clear shot of – or parked on a side stand – occasionally a centre stand. Usually among other motorcycles, which doesn’t always work out favourably for photographers. In more rural settings they are generally a blur of noise and speed, or parked up as per the above.

 

Certainly shows and sporting events are the best way of getting chances to shoot more memorable images. Also going to and from events like the Weston Bike Nights (Thursday’s over the summer), Poole (Tuesday’s and, possibly, the biggest in the UK) and Paignton (Wednesdays) at a suitable and safe place can be good too. Static displays can be captured at wide angles but the pictures with movement in generally speak to short telephotos. This speaks to both practicality and safety for you and the riders, who, by and large, tend to be quite friendly.

 

The most important element, as ever, is the photographer, not the equipment, but as we are talking equipment then the statement about lenses made in the paragraph above needs to be qualified. The “best” focal length is probably short telephoto, certainly 50mm and above. The reason for this is that the shorter, wider lenses, add an element of distortion which can exaggerate the length of frames or make wheels look, well, not very round. This is fine if that is the look you are after, but accurate record (side on) shots, regardless of how creative, really need a perspective that 50mm and above create.

 

Apertures, more often than not, tend to favour the wide. This is because the background easily distracts and it is not unheard of for there to be gaps in the bike frames, especially on classic bikes, where in focus backgrounds can be a little diversionary. In fact one of the best pieces of advice I have been given about taking a photograph I have heard – though it can be a counsel of perfection as with any other – is start with the background first. Keep confusing strong lines and confusing strong colours that clash with the paint scheme of what you are trying to photograph out of the frame as much as possible. Of course, if you are photographing a row of motorcycles then the depth of field might well need to be deeper, but generally a moderate depth of field will allow for some background blur and sufficient depth to allow for the bits that stick out of the frame to be kept reasonably sharp. Remember here we are still talking about taking images of static bikes.

 

As with most forms of photography a low angle to the sun helps with illuminating the subject, so getting up early in the morning might not be avoidable, though Bike Nights cure this affliction. However, shooting from a  low angle is pretty much standard. One other piece of equipment that can prove invaluable is a reflector. You can get a 5 in 1 cheaply enough from eBay (I have seen 60cms reflectors for £5 and 110cms for a shade under £10), and it is a good investment because more often than not there will be areas around the engine that are in shadow and rather than faff around in post light reflected back onto the engine and frame can eliminate the problem at source. Also very useful for other sorts of photography too.

 

On the move there are a different set of circumstances to be taken into account. Primarily safety. It’s very easy to get lost in that narrow field of view that is the world through a viewfinder but we have to be, legally and morally, aware outside of it. If you want movement shots at the Bike Night or other event get to know the approach roads on a map before you go. Roundabouts tend to be a favourite, the larger ones at times without too much traffic flow are generally good for getting pictures of bikes at an angle of lean. Actually any bend is good that requires more than minimal input from the rider. Lenses will depend on the situation that you are taking the pictures in, but again telephoto makes more sense, especially from the point of view of safety. Of course you won’t be the only one who has thought of that, and some people make money out of doing so – some organised events have cameras at the entrance so you can see yourself arriving – for a price. Whatever the case you are going to have to sort that out according to the location and some common sense.

 

If you are at a motorsport event then there are a couple of givens. The pro’s have all the best spots. You will be a longish way back from the actual action. That said there are a couple of obvious things you can do about that. Position yourself on a or as close to a bend as you can. Easier photographing a bike doing one mile a minute rather than three miles a minute. Your autofocus will thank you. Actually it will thank you for turning it off and zone focusing (pre-focusing), but more critical is slowing the action down relative to the camera position (usually head on or as close to it as is possible safe and desirable). Motordrive is an option that shouldn’t be over looked but it has to used deliberately. Spray and pray won’t get you a huge amount of useable material. Chimping is a great way to miss the action totally. Panning is an art that requires a lot of practice but if the shutter speed is low enough and the focus on the moving object good it gives a great feeling of speed (which actually can be very low, as per most supercar on road magazine shots).  Go out and give it a go its actually rather fun.

 

 

N E X T  W E E K

Tintern: – which means bridge tolls so lifts etc might be a good idea.

Meet in the Abbey Car Park at 7:30 pm.

 

21st July 2016 – A Walk Around Town

Change of venue to a walk around the docks in pleasant company, always interesting thing to photograph going on as it is now a social centre for the city. It being evening and ending after dark rather suggested that we take a look at night photography, both with and without a tripod.

 

On the face of it, night photography is defined by two of the absolute essentials of photography. Firstly contrast, you have to go and find it. It will either be very low, which can make things muddy and ill defined or very high, which can call into question shadow and or highlight detail, losing it mainly. Then there is the whole light thing, rather the relative lack of it and the effect that has on the exposure triangle,  camera shake and sensor noise.

 

Situation is also key. This post is going to look at the urban setting as that is where we were, which sets a very different  array of questions than say, photographing the milky way in the Brecon Beacons.  Urban settings have more immediate and multiple hazards, multiple opportunities too. That is not to say that you should go prancing around the countryside with anything but due care, it is a far more dangerous place than townies think.

 

Whereas there is a joy in wondering around looking for photo-opportunities you are far more likely to find them if you know what you are looking for (planned serendipity). Let’s start with the golden hour. The Golden Hour isn’t exactly an hour, it is short hand for, in photographic terms, a quality of light that is a function of the relationship between the angle of the sun to the earth. During that time the colour temperature of the light is around 3500 Kelvin because of the greater depth of the atmosphere it has to travel through.

 

Now you say, being on the ball, that makes the light bluer than the standard daylight of around 5500 Kelvin and you would be right. That soft quality of light that makes for good portraits as well as land, urban and seascapes (we will ignore sun rise for the purposes of this piece but the golden hour is that which starts around dawn) is a product of the low angle of the sun to the horizon which scatters the blue wavelengths relative to the red/yellow wavelengths which, psychologically, look warmer to us.  Think instant no cost tanning. That low angle means long shadows too that are also softer than you will experience later in the day.

 

The time it is available is limited so there is a time pressure (though no excuse for bad technique, of course).  It’s all in the preparation (a point worth repeating). Cloud cover will need to be monitored and factored in too. Knowing when today’s golden hours are, or tomorrows etc, depends upon your planning window, is fairly easy to calculate.  I feel almost obliged to mention The Photographers Ephemeris at this point. It also worth persisting throughout the hour because of the speed the light changes is so rapid. ISO’s are likely to be higher and/or apertures wider and the White Balance, which will try to correct to daylight if left on auto, should be set to cloudy to preserve the warmth in the light.

 

Not that the setting of the sun should stop you, the urban landscape presents a myriad of possibilities, some of these we have spent some time on club outings photographing. The first thing to remember is a piece of advice from Scott Kelby and that is the last thing you do is put the camera on the tripod. Make up your mind what you are photographing, “Working the scene” to determine the most productive angles. Then fix the static element around that rather than restricting yourself the other way round. Handheld is also an option, depending on vibration reduction/how steady your hand/availability of something solid to brace yourself against or set the camera. Another tip I have found very useful is, when holding everything steady  as you can, is to shoot a sequence using the motor drive that is built into virtually every camera these days. Five will get you one steady shot more often than not, though there are, of course, limits to what you can achieve. Wide angle are a lot easier to get results with this way than telephoto lenses which, with exceptions, need a tripod.

 

The lights in the urban environment are both static and mobile. The very wide and the very narrow  are both good for picking image subjects. Cityscape panoramas provide, usually, both static and mobile elements. Shop windows, street lights vehicle light trails. Getting high up, windows, multi storey car parks with a view, bridges and alike offer  vantage points.  Shop windows make for a great free soft box for street portraits. Neon light always sticks out and often uses reds and yellows which are particularly striking and blues can be arresting set on a dark background. Reflections in windows or water are worth paying attention too. The light sources in the scene really are the first thing you should weigh up These are, light trails aside, entirely static. Waiting for something or someone to come along and add interest to it is really quite logical.

 

Exposure is always going to be tricky at night as we discussed above, because of the high dynamic range that you will be dealing with. This is one situation where it really does make more sense to shoot in RAW than in JPEG (or, if you want your cake and eat it, both) unless your camera is using a version of HDR with a high ISO and a black frame to reduce the noise, which will be a built in function and therefore not one where you have the data format option, necessarily. Noise reduction in camera will slow down the write to card times by approximately the same length of time as the exposure so if you are going longer than a second or so and/or shooting sequences with long exposures it probably makes sense to turn it off and do your noise reduction in post.

 

Flash has it’s uses, but not if you are trying to be discrete. Nonetheless, meter for the highlights, shoot camera RAW, accept that post production is almost inevitable in these things. Dark images are not necessarily a bad thing, you are shooting at night after all, but the mood after dark is always different.  The mood of some people is also rather different so make sure you play it safe. The tripod is a good idea, of course, especially if you are looking at longer exposures, when it becomes an essential, either because of the generally low light levels or because you want to include some blur in your subjects – also useful if you are putting in some zoom blur too – or you are looking to put some light trails in, as discussed above. And we haven’t even broached the subject of light painting.

 

All in all a great way to extend your photographic day and pretty much what e shall be doing at WSM this Thursday, with the added incentive of it being bike night. See you there.

14th July 2016 – Tony Worobiec on straight (and not so straight) lines and masses and groups

Tony Worobiec FRPS made welcome return as guest speaker at the last meeting and spoke on the subject of composition.  Tony’s opening was to challenge the idea of “Rules”, not in an attempt to throw them over, but in order to put the ideas of “The rules for composing a photograph” into a useable perspective.

 

A rule, as we generally perceive it in a photographic sense, can be defined as: “An authoritative, prescribed direction for conduct, especially one of the regulations governing procedure”.  In the photographers case this means following what books and tutorial videos tell us to do with the objects within our frame. For frame read viewfinder.  Mostly these carry the caveat that “Rules are meant to be broken”, but as with most clichés it is one that is too often lightly worn and frequently lazy – especially when not referenced with analysed examples. What we actually mean by rule is “A generalized statement that describes what is true in most or all cases”, emphasis on the most.

 

As there are at least a half dozen different interpretations we can put upon the idea of a rule, Tony put forward the sensible suggestion that we should, like an image that is not quite working in the viewfinder, reframe.  He offered “Principles“.  We can define that as “A basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behaviour”. This works better for us as photographers, because it carries a useful hint as to the nature of a photograph that has a lasting impact. It has interest in the subject. We talking directly of those photographs that are “Technically proficient but subject deficient”. You can follow every rule in the composition handbook and composition is simply the arrangement of objects within a frame, remember, but if the subject is soulless, if there is no hook, no emotion, then it’s just a record. A colonoscopy image may have an emotional  hook, especially if it’s your colon and even more so if there is something there that says “Get your affairs in order”, but to the general viewer not imbued with a morbid fascination, it’s just a record.

 

If the “First Rule of Photography club” were “Do not talk about photography club” then this blog would be a lot shorter.  You might consider this a mercy. If there is a first rule of photography club, aside from pay your subs, then it is, possibly, The Rule of Thirds. Tony hinted that it has an interesting if, relative to the golden ratio and so on, short history appearing sometime towards the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. Actually 1797. I don’t know about Tony’s assertion that John Thomas Smith was a “Failed artist”, (he was an engraver for at least part of his career) conjuring as that does the slow death of the young Chatterton,  but “Antiquity” Smith wrote a book “Remarks on Rural Scenery” that included the following:

 

“Analogous to this ‘Rule of thirds’, (if I may be allowed so to call it) I have presumed to think that, in connecting or in breaking the various lines of a picture, it would likewise be a good rule to do it, in general, by a similar scheme of proportion; for example, in a design of landscape, to determine the sky at about two-thirds ; or else at about one-third, so that the material objects might occupy the other two : Again, two thirds of one element, (as of water) to one third of another element (as of land); and then both together to make but one third of the picture, of which the two other thirds should go for the sky and aerial perspectives ….

…. This rule would likewise apply in breaking a length of wall, or any other too great continuation of line that it may be found necessary to break by crossing or hiding it with some other object : In short, in applying this invention, generally speaking, or to any other case, whether of light, shade, form, or colour, I have found the ratio of about two thirds to one third, or of one to two, a much better and more harmonizing proportion, than the precise formal half, the too-far-extending four-fifths—and, in short, than any other proportion whatever.”

 

If Smith’s view from posterity is that of a failure then he certainly got his revenge in first, a revenge that is built into every modern DSLR/CSC even if we can turn it off. As a precept, “A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct”, it has certainly got a hold.

 

The basic fact of the matter is that the Rule of Thirds works, as Tony amply and beautifully illustrated. Tony’s point is that it works to the point where we allow it to dictate contrary to what the viewfinder is telling us. The best is the enemy of the good, especially when the good is good enough, and pursuit of perfection comes at the price of other missed opportunities. Not just the rule of thirds, of course, but this blog would be about the length of  a PhD thesis if we examined all of the possible principles and Tony has already written a book on the matters of composition (and a good few others on different aspects of photography). What we are looking to deliver, in the words of Steve Schapiro, is an image that gives us “information, emotion and execution” (see link immediately above). Time to rewatch “Crush the Composition” I think.

 

Last words (yeah, right) on this blog at least, go to Antiquity Smith:

 

“I should think myself honoured by the opinion of any gentleman on this point; but until I shall be better informed, shall conclude this general proportion of two and one to be the most picturesque medium in all cases of breaking or otherwise qualifying straight lines and masses and groups.”

 

 

7th July 2016 – Social Evening, Television and the State of the Pound

Social evening at the Black Castle last meeting, shields and presentations made. Competitions Secretary Mark will pass on to Chris for publishing on the website the results for this year. Alison Davies’s blog was well received among the members I have talked to and again thanks to her for putting that together. We have another contributor lined up for later on in the year and hope to garner a few more as next season progresses.

 

In the news this week is one of the periodic attempts to make TV out of stills photography and you’ve guessed it, it will be on club nights (from the 21st July). OK not so much of a problem as it once would have been in these days of DVR’s, what is a problem is that Sky appear to be trying to sell it as “American Idol for Photography“. So this is not a how to, which largely is the preserve of YouTube and Vimeo etc these days, at least directly. Watching people who do things they are good at doing is often quite instructive, inspiring. The first thing the comparison tells us is that this is not aimed at the, let’s be polite here, mature audience one finds in most camera clubs. So my immediate response of “Oh for [insert adjective politer than the one I came up with] sake” that comparison prompted will please the Sky Arts marketing department no end and hey it’s being blogged about ….

 

Photography is a lot more niche than popular music, has been hit just as hard by disruptive innovation (in this case meaning more cameras everywhere, not, necessarily better pictures everywhere) as licensed Taxi Cabs by Uber and the profile of camera sales is changing.  Photography is male dominated, at least behind the camera – 5 out of the 12 contestants are female – and it  will be broadcast in a slot that tends to have a slight male bias.  The more cynical among us might think that someone decided to exchange the paint brushes of (the also Sky Arts) series  “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” with chunky full frame cameras but hey, it’s photography and it’s on the Telly. Besides the contestants there will be guest spots by professional photographers (though whether Bruce Gildern’s abusive T-Shirts – you have been warned – see a rise in sales is yet to be seen) and the contestants are drawn from across Europe (presumably national versions wouldn’t be sustainable).  It is “young” in its profile, whether it is “new” remains to be seen (not a lot new when I searched the contestants on line but that may not be indicative, though certainly there is talent).

 

If it is new you want, or innovative, maybe, certainly more affordable than it once was (I didn’t say cheap), then aerial photography could be your thing. Even has its own hip website Dronestagram. There are some simply stunning shots on their, though whether exaggerated shadows become the next smoky water cliché remains to be seen.  National Geographic have been sponsoring the annual awards these last three years. The images shown, obviously judged the best of the entries, certainly have impact, the drones have added a dimension at a lower cost. I suppose it is quite easy to get caught up in the whole flying thing, but this is still a question of the whole kit-is-the-means-to-the-photographic-ends thing.

 

Your image isn’t going to be any better because it was taken at 500 feet above the ground. The elevation will give it a certain innovative perspective, but just the same as HDR when it was new, as more and more photographs are taken using it so the novelty will wear off. The picture still needs careful composition, the exposure triangle needs attention and there has to be some interest in the subject itself for the photographer to frame. It just means that you need to get a new skills set, to fly your camera around. Which is all great fun, but along comes Amateur Photographer to spoil the fun by telling us that camera prices are set to rise 15% “Within weeks” because the value of the pound has basically tanked since 24th June, making an expensive hobby more expensive yet. Ho hum. Certainly makes any notions of making a living out of photography somewhat harder to achieve.

 

Still there are Lo-fi alternatives, starting with a small hole in a beer can, as Justin Quinell showed us last season. OK, maybe you don’t want to go quite so low in the equipment stakes but there are serious advantages to stripping things back to a minimum. The skills you need, as we have explored before, are basically the same regardless of the sophistication of the equipment employed. It still amazes me the number of photographers that you can talk to who don’t practice the basic skills on at least a sporadic basis. You aren’t going to suddenly up the skills when the occasion presents or demands and your learning curve just gets shallower and flatter and takes more time to see improvements.  There is plenty of mileage too in trying to recreate or to riff upon others ideas, or make yourself a new project, it doesn’t have to be vast or grandiose, it can (should?) involve opportunities at hand and a little invention.

 

Or, of course, go and join a decent camera club, oh, I don’t know, rather like this one.

 

 

N E X T  M E E T I N G

14 July 2016 19:30   Speaker: Tony Worobeic

30th June 2016 – Bath and Architecture.

An away day this week, some architectural photography, and though we have a lot of it right here in the city we also have a UNESCO World Heritage site just thirteen and a half miles away centre to centre and so it was to Bath that we retired in order to avail ourselves of some fine Georgian architecture. Actually I have been informed that Bristol has more Georgian buildings than Bath, but Bath is more concentrated and less broken up by interventions of later developers. I haven’t counted and there is a reason that Bath is better known as a tourist destination than Bristol. Bristol has a more working feel to it, Bath, at least in the centre, connects to a different era, a different world and in a costume drama smack down Jane Austen takes Wallace AND Gromit every time.

 

Architecture creeps into our photographs a lot of the time as back drop. Incorporating interesting features of it can be both a challenge and very rewarding. Also, of course, it is a subject all of its own. The challenge with our standard kit, compacts and bridge cameras is how to get it all in when it is the point of our image and accommodate it when it is a backdrop. The two can be interchangeable as a solution for one can be a photo opportunity in another. We interact with the built environment as we do with the natural one – of course the one is imposed on top of, in and through the other – but it still, photographically, about light and dark, texture and pattern.  The devil, as is the subject, is in the detail.

 

Perspective is the first thing that strikes most of us about the photographs we take on standard kit, rather its distortion especially when we are trying to get the whole thing in. The focal plane tilts. The building  tilts, the verticals converge, when we move the camera in the vertical plane. The effect is known as the Keystone Effect. It can, of course be deliberately employed, but for most of us most of the time it’s an effect that distorts the image perspective. It is not just a problem in camera, if you don’t square up a screen and projector you will get the same effect. The name is taken from architecture, the shape of the stone at the top of an arch which is, in the wonderful world of Euclidean Geometry, trapezoid, or “a convex quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides”, though to us mere mortals either the top or the bottom is wider than the opposite giving the image a tilt. Hence the expensive corrective known as a Tilt Correction Lens, more often a  Tilt Shift Lens, aka Perspective Control lens and the less expensive post production methods for the rest of us.

 

Perspective shifts are a function of “Getting it all in”. OK  a product of physics, but physics don’t form. compose and capture. “Getting it all in” is a logical progression from “I want a photograph of that”. Perfectly natural progression, but is it the best way to capture what we are after? This want raises a fundamental question we have already introduced, why do we need to get it all in?  It’s a useful question for any photograph we take, not one that should stop us taking photographs all together but one that might help us take better photographs. Well arguments on God or the Devil being detail oriented aside (may I offer God in the detail and the Devil in the lack of details).

 

Light, dark, texture, pattern. How does the light fall, how is it contrasted by the shadows and dark tones? How are the surface details reflected, where do the lines and spaces, colours take our eyes in the frame? All questions of composition, more of which in the 14th July meeting where we have a speaker who is dedicating the evening to that very question. Essentially what draws the eye and provokes the emotions? What shouts “Look at me?” and what gives it soul? Where is, and what is, the meaning?

 

Yeah but we are talking about getting the whole thing in and buildings are big things. Well there are ways of doing that, certainly a panorama might get a wide shot in but the perspective thing with tall verticals is still a problem. You can use the Thirds squares in your view finder (assuming it has them) to line up details left and right and the use software to stitch them together if panorama isn’t a feature of your camera. Use a longer focal length,  somewhere round 50mm is a good start.  If there is enough space around your subject  this might be a solution, with the some post production voodoo, but it’s not necessarily the point.  Because it is technically feasible doesn’t mean it is desirable. What I am saying here is another view point, a detail, a group of details (patterns) all speak of the subject.  It still is documentary but it also open to artistic interpretation. David Hockney chose photo-collage for his Brooklyn Bridge piece (which fetched £44,500 at auction, by the way) and has used the technique with other subjects too.  There are other ways of dealing with big.

 

Of course another antidote to big is far away. Simply move back or get a wider lens. The wider you go the more likely that verticals will start to bow, of course, but this can be fixed in post as mentioned above, or with the application of large amounts of currency at your local photo-emporium. Or you can use diptych or triptych frames – for which post production is definitely needed – but you will have to plan it and you will need a fairly strong idea of how the finished article will look before you start pressing the shutter button. In these forms you use connected details to make a bigger statement.

 

So the whole point is, with so many opportunities on our door step, go out and use these opportunities to explore our urban environment. Apply your imagination and press the sutter.

 

N E X T   M E E T I NG

Social and Prize Giving. Black Castle, Brislington 19:30 hrs. PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE NO EVENT AT THE SCHOOL.

 

 

23rd June 2016 – Peter Phillips: A Journey, Image Scientist to Photographer

Peter Phillips was our speaker last meeting and he gave us  his  “Photographic Journey” from aerospace Image Scientist to his post retirement destination of Photographer. Peter gave us a chronological tour through his prints – made a refreshing change to the projected image and of course, takes most of those issues that can arise with the digital projection and colour shift that can occasionally arise. That said I wouldn’t want prints only every week.

 

Peter is unusual in his route into photography came from the technical side and the art only really appeared as a factor after 40 years at the cutting edge of aerospace imaging.  He related his landscape, pattern and street photography images through Joe Cornish’s  observations on the inter-relationships of craft, art and soul, all needing to be inherent in a  photograph for it to truly work. His approach is very particular. He knows the image he is after, plans for it, I suspect meticulously, invests the time in research and patience in execution then packs his gear away until the next time. This is quite different to the way a lot of people would go about it and opens up an interesting view on our relationship with the camera as an object and as a tool and how we approach photography in general.

 

Yes the camera is just the means to an end, that end being taking a photograph, but I suspect many people, amateurs at the very least and I suspect quite a few people who get paid to take photographs, also take a pride in ownership. I am not talking about brand obsessed fan boys, but as you get used to your equipments strengths weaknesses and quirks you do forge a working relationship with it, become comfortable with it. This is only a problem when it gets in the way of making the best images you can. For sure, it is the photographer not the camera in the end, but we have all come across people who never seem to quite get beyond the prowess that the tool supposedly confers. The fact that this is not a cheap hobby certainly can add to the mystique of the kit, but to progress you have to get all that in perspective.

 

So when we take our cameras out, even if it is to get a specific image, most of us still snap away at interesting, vaguely interesting  and what-the-hell-did-I-take-that-for? incidences of time, geography and otherwise vague intent.  It’s a hobby, it’s done for enjoyment. The single mindedness of just taking the shot, ok from several angles with exposure triangle variations then packing up and going home is something that I bet that most of us in the club lack, at least on any regular basis, but that is just a more ordered way of working. Workflow needs a defined purpose to work otherwise we just end up meandering around in the grand scenery of a general waste of time. Then there is that bit with a fancy title, “Post Production” or at least it is when they do it in the movies, the bit when the actors have finished. We might bump into something useful or interesting but it is unlikely unless we have a definite idea of what the final product looks like. We’ve talked before about how luck falls to the prepared.  It certainly helps to have that in your mind when you leave the house. Whether it is the only thing you have when you return is either the way the day was or the whole and only point of the day.

 

With the details of the craft, the technicalities are constantly changing and challenging, the key is in getting them all in order to form an image with impact. This is the art. The composition element is as much a part of the craft as it is of the art, it is I would venture where the two overlap. The art is created by melding of the craft elements to capture the imagination that sparked the interest in the first place. If missing or poorly executed the story can get lost. You can get all the elements of a picture to line up and be on your way to a great picture but is it one that elevates the imagination captures the attention and makes you pause, even briefly? Are you engaged? If you are not your viewers certainly won’t be, almost can’t be, though the visceral and compelling horrors of a murder scene as an art form may not be the best way to win friends and influence people some haunt the memory, others fade. Yes the subject can have impact but the story is still the thing. We’ve come across the phrase “Technically correct, subject deficient” before so there has to be something else.

 

Soul, Peter offered, quoting Joe Cornish’s work. Problem with that is it is something beyond the words we can use to define it: “Emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance“. Problem with it is what moves one in say, a landscape, as that was Peter’s starting point, is just a pretty picture to another. Also it is difficult to replicate, even on the same scene, but maybe that is the point. Actually, that is the point or there wouldn’t be a market for prints. This is where the conversation truly gets vague and tends to wander off on its own direction, because we are trying to define the indefinable. We cannot touch it, feel, smell it, see it or hear it but we are affected by it.

 

Maybe for photographers it is Soul in the Aristotelian sense we are looking for. Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and he defined soul as what makes us human but also as the essence in all living things that let us interact with the world around us. That is what we are trying to capture and the soul in the landscape is really the trigger in ourselves and in at looking at what is vital, essential, the thing that makes us, well, us.

 

 

N E X T  W E E K

Architecture: Meet at Bath Abbey 19:30 hours. Oh and bring you camera. No event at the school.