Aaaaand we’re back. A happy New Year to you all. Two things to write about from the club this week. The first was a model shoot at Leigh Woods with Paul Walker and Kelly Wolf Rogers, (and Allison’s dogs Otis and Basil) Sunday last (4th Jan) and the second was the session on club night on the process of mounting photographs.
If nothing else, then the great outdoors in January offers inspiration, even if that inspiration is to keep moving to keep warm! In fact the weather was relatively good to the two models and dozen or so club photographers who spent an interesting and fruitful day in which the rain – if not the mud – held off. Overcast meant a fairly flat light, but that is a more of a problem when taking landscapes than details in portraiture, though keeping the grey sky out of shot (unless dramatic – or plain grey is the desired effect) certainly applies and lighting from the side and shooting when the sun is low are both possibilities, of course. What can’t be escaped is that the light is both cooler and more diffuse. The former can be compensated for via the white balance control on the camera and the tonality doesn’t have to be “natural” – that’s an artistic decision. Of course the ideas of “warm” and “cool” are psychological responses, they have nothing to do with the physics of light, but there is no doubt that the feel of a photograph is effected by its white balance.
Diffuse light presents different challenges. There is no doubt that a controlled, soft light can be a tremendous influence in the composition and interpretation of an image, as can a harsh direct light. The key word is controlled. The chief problem, if problem it is, is the lack of shadow. Light from an undirected source (the sun) is bouncing about all over the place. On the other hand it tends to be a fairly even light, background and foreground, unmodified, tend to be bathed in the same light. This can lead to a lack of separation between foreground and background. This, in itself, suggests that there may be a fairly straightforward option available. Get in closer and open the aperture, either or both depending on the focal length of lens available and the desired composition. A 50mm prime at f5.6 close in (say 1.5 meters) gives the same depth of field as a 100mm at twice the distance (3 meters) or a 200mm from four times the distance (with an APS-C 1.5 crop censor the depth of field would be 0.16 meters from nearest to furthest and F5.6 is a reasonable-to-assume achievable aperture on lenses covering those focal lengths). You would capture an area 71 cm high by 46 cm wide in portrait mode, i.e. with the camera rotated 90 degrees so the controls are on the side rather than on the top (as it would be in landscape) and keeping the frame tight would let you concentrate on the details.
Before zoom lenses it was the photographer who moved, see last blog’s Cartier-Bresson quote, something we should keep in mind. It also makes communication with your model easier if you are not having to phone in your requests for a tilt of the head or a sweep of the hair. More practically the logistics of moving angle are quickly and precisely in the hands of the photographer, leaving the fine detail adjustment, a tilt of the head, a slight angling of the body, a sweep of the hair and so on, with the model.
Flash, on or off the camera and a reflector, you know the one you didn’t leave on the settee (mea culpa), can be a great boon in getting some of the light contrast back into the scene. The flash on the camera can be limited, but DSLR/SLT cameras mostly have ways of altering the power of the flash. Failing that you can diffuse the light using material in front of the on camera light source, being careful that it doesn’t give you an unwanted colour cast. A Speedlight or similar is more flexible, just remember that the needs of curtain synchronisation limit the shutter speeds you have available to you. A reflector, especially a 5-in-1, can be a cheap and easy (if you have someone to hold it for you whilst you take the photograph) way of concentrating the available light onto your subject.
Using Camera RAW and post processing is another way of giving yourself options. RAW leaves all the details in whereas JPEG makes a certain amount of processing options away by making decisions about light levels etc at the image processing stage i.e. the click. Contrast, the available dynamic range that can be manipulated using RAW, is greater than in JPEG and for these reasons many people choose to shoot in RAW as default. There are interminable arguments about this, as you may have experienced and I have voiced my opinion before and regardless of format if you don’t press the shutter the arguments are irrelevant and the shot is lost. Forever. There are options for editing in JPEG they just aren’t as wide or flexible as in RAW. Or you can use black and white either to shoot in or post production. There are lots of options, either singly or in combination to try. So try them! There are also the creative styles that cameras, even basic ones, increasingly have built in, especially the ones where you can exhibit some fine control like saturation to experiment with too.
So your masterpiece has been captured, processed and printed and it’s now ready to mount. Mounting itself can be something of an art and there are little preferences that people develop with practice. There are some choices to be made at a basic level. In terms of increasing ambition we have to decide whether our pictures are to be Card mounted (as we have to do for entering prints in the club competitions, indeed for any print competition), foam mounted or canvas mounted, aka Gallery Wraps. We can even use wood (as per canvas but with some sort of clear varnish to finish) but I prefer the more recycled approach, well we are living in the European Green Capital for 2015, after all. Card mounting is the more traditional way. For club competitions prints must be mounted on card exactly 50cms by 40cms AND a digital copy following the 1400 : 1050 width/height convention must be submitted too. Rules are to be found here. There is no doubt that the mounts have their own contribution to the aesthetic and if anyone tells you that your print has “A nice mount” and leaves it at that they are probably leaving out “Shame about the picture”. Ignore them. That said the mount must complement the image not compete with it, so the most effective colours are muted and white (in various shades) and black are the most frequently found – for a reason. They are not, however the only option.
The link for Bristol Framing Supplies is http://www.bristolframingsupplies.co.uk/
Wednesday 14th 19:30
Club Battle: Bristol Photographic Society
Where: Basement, 12 West Mall, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4BH (Downstairs Door)
Description: The return match for our club battle against Bristol Photographic. This time its at their venue. Turn up and support us.
From Myk Garton:
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY 2
On Sunday 1st March we are holding another Woodland Photography Day.
We’ll be spending a day photographing models (both male and female) in woodland and other settings at Blaise Castle Estate.
We’ll meet up at 9:30am at the main car park and start shooting by 10am. The plan is to use one location up until 12:30pm, stop for lunch and then shoot at another location until 4pm or later depending on conditions.
There will be a minimum of 2 models. one male and one female.
There will be a small charge of £10 to take part. We’ll shoot for 5 hours minimum, so you’ll be paying just £2 per hour. All money raised will be split between the models.
I’ll be adding more info soon as well as mentioning it at club meetings. We’ll work on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested in coming along please reply below.
The date is Sunday 1st March.
Any questions, please ask Myk.
And from Eddie and Roger:
“Roger and I have volunteered (for our sins) to oversee the Reflex Camera Club entry to the WCPF Kingswood Salver Competition 2015.
The competition rules are as follows:-
Entry is five prints – colour, mono, or a mixture of both, and must be from five different photographers. Mounts to be 50cm x 40cm as per usual WCPF Rules. All elements of the work must be no more than 2 years old and not previously entered into this competition.
The ideal is that all of the images are good in their own right but must fit together as a panel of five.
Follow the links below to see examples from the 2014 competition.
Our target is to make up 3 panels of 5 with different themes and then pick the best of these to enter the competition.
To start the ball rolling we would like to ask club members to suggest themes based on what we could achieve as a club, we will then choose 3 subjects to target.
We are considering using our evening on the 26th February as a practical night when we would like to set up various still life studios (with a little help) and attempt to create a panel or two based on a theme of collectables. For this we would ask members to bring along items to photograph, more details on this to follow”.