It has long been held as true that we know more about space than we do about our oceans. Quite possibly true, though I don’t know how you measure it, what I do know is that club member Julie Kaye’s presentation on underwater photography went down, if you will forgive the unintentional pun, very well. Julie brought her equipment as well as prints of her results and took us through the mechanics, the necessities of adapting the human body and her camera equipment to the realms where no human is naturally equipped but for the very briefest of visits.
The equipment needs are not merely image critical, they are life supporting and diving is a dangerous sport if the basics are not attended to. The conditions under which you are shooting are a challenge too and this is one of the more difficult areas of photography to master. For those of us brought up on the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau the mysteries of the oceans were a childhood staple.
Possibly most associated by most as branch of travel photography, the underwater milieu goes back to the end of the Nineteenth Century, the first underwater camera and lighting rig was invented by another Frenchman, Louis Marie Auguste Boutan in 1893, when certainly photographs would have been taken but the oldest extant photo of a diver, a selfie by Boutan is dated to 1899 (and apparently damned near killed him through Nitrogen narcosis in the process). The gap is accounted for by Boutan’s work on a lighting solution, a highly explosive mix of oxygen in a barrel and magnesium powder to provide a flash held in a glass container triggered by an electrical current. Remember that film (read glass plate) speed was very low at these times with normal photographs being taken with what we would consider long exposures.
Prior to Boutan, the first person to take photographs whilst submerged, there had been underwater photographs but these had been obtained by using a camera in an almost-waterproof housing lowered on a tripod, was William Thompson, who took them in Dorset in 1856. Unfortunately the glass plates don’t seem to have survived.
Colour came along in 1926, National Geographic staff photographer Charles Martin and naturalist Dr William Longley taking a picture of a Hog Fish in the Gulf of New Mexico for that august journal. Following on in Boutan’s tradition they still executed the image with pounds of explosive magnesium flash powder. The difference was that they sensibly left it floating on the surface in a raft rather than build a submersible flash unit as Boutan had.
Cousteau remains the most famous pioneer though, operating from his famous boat the RV Calypso, which came to near sticky end in Singapore in 1997 but on which restoration work began last year (after a 20 year story worthy of a soap opera), he developed not only Scuba gear but the underwater camera as well. The Calypso, before coming in to Cousteau’s hands, was built as a Minesweeper for the Royal Navy and served as such from 1943 to 1949, then as a ferry in Malta for 4 months before being bought by Thomas Loel Guinness MP and leased by him to Cousteau for one French Franc a year on grounds of anonymity for Loel Guiness. There were, at the time, around a thousand Francs to the pound, so bit of a bargain. For those of us brought up on the TV show (1968-1976 and endless repeats) the Calypso was as much of the show as Cousteau.
Cousteau wasn’t just an explorer (naturalist, conservationist, etc etc), he was an inventor too. He conceived the idea, which was designed by Jean de Wouters, of an underwater camera which was called, wait for it, the Calypso. It came with an f3.5 35mm lens, with 45mm and 28mm optional lenses and a shutter speed of 1/30th to 1/1000th of a second shutter, which was redesigned to a 1/15th to 1/500th of a second range which was the one carried on to the Nikonos, licensed and built by Nikon, through three variants and which lasted in production until from 1963 to 2001. Basically it was killed off by digital but it is still to be found second hand.
Underwater photography is also a sport, not big here, admittedly, under the auspices of CMAS. The World Championships run thus: Basically at least four 90 minute dives (including decompression time) are undertaken and the first 100 images from the relevant memory card are downloaded and then the competitor selects which images go forward to (anonymous) judging. Then it gets complicated: ” During the last day of the competition, the jury will review all submitted images to rank these within the photographic categories described in the Specific Rules. An individual classification will also be compiled by allotting scores to the top ten images in each photographic category using a fibonacci sequence. The names of top ten competitors in the photographic categories and in the individual classification will be publicly announced.” Not so catchy, maybe.
There is a wider range of photographic equipment and accessories available to the modern diver, of course, specialist housing, lighting (non explosive), but all at a price and a half. It has to be precision engineered of course, able to withstand pressure greater than found at sea level and whereas it is popular with people on holiday (who can buy pouches and boxes for their cameras for shallow depths if their camera isn’t already waterproof) who go snorkelling, if you are serious and a scuba diver and a regular photographer, then the outlay garners the returns.
So a big club thank you to Julie for an interesting and unusual evening.
N E X T M E E T I N G
NB: The AGM has been postponed for a couple of weeks, our next session is table top photography so bring cameras, tripods and something small to photograph.
Club member David Jones was our speaker last Thursday, taking us through his fascination with all forms of documentary photography, one that stretches back to the 1970’s. Using mainly black and white, but also some colour, David has covered both film and digital and he was not alone when he spoke of the fascination of seeing a print appear in the developing bath. Things have moved on and certainly post production is much cleaner and easier than when using film. Whether that makes the final image any better though is a matter of opinion.
Documentary photography is pretty broad term. It is joined at the hip with notions of photojournalism though is not just the preserve of the professional photographer. To some extent photography is, by and large, documentary in its essence in that it is, by and large a document of record of an event. If you stretch the definition far enough. Is street photography documentary? Is environmental? The main difference, or at least a signal difference is the amount of planning and purpose behind a shot. The documentary has a particular theme, is part of a sequence or series. There is less structure in street and the subject comes to the photographer rather than the photographer finding and interacting with the subject, sometimes over a protracted period. Street photography is all about being candid.
The literal definition of candid is truthful. Within street photography we look for the truth of the instant, possibly more accurately a truth in the instant. Henri Cartier-Bresson was the originator of the term the “Decisive Moment”, when all the different elements in a scene gel together to make something greater, something truthful. The role of the photographer is … well, to be more precise, the role of the photographer isn’t. It isn’t to interact, it isn’t to interfere, it isn’t to order. It is to read the moment and capture the truth of it at the very point where it is at the height of being one thing and the very instant, the split second, before it lapses completely, irrevocably, back into the ordinary. It is the moment of clarity, essentially suggestive and very human, very fleeting.
David showed us some examples of contact sheets to put the whole idea into some context. The final print is just that, it is the process of selection, of exclusion of the ordinary in search of the extraordinary. Look at Cartier-Bresson’s contact sheets, they tell the same story. It’s hard work not magic. Cartier-Bresson was also known to study other photographers’ contact sheets (whilst carefully curating his own) and it is still a brilliant way of getting to know how a photographer works, if little harder in these days of digital. The key to this sort of photography is to be open to your surroundings, be apart from the action rather than in the action, taking time to let situations develop and getting a good sense of human interaction and detachment.
These last two may seem contradictory, but are two sides of the same coin in two senses. Firstly there is the notion of the subject interacting with their environment and the photographer as detached observer. This is pretty much read. The documenter shall not affect the outcome, because then you are documenting the interaction with the photographer, a different story. The second is about what the subject is interpreted as doing interacting with other parts and or actors in the scene, or being aloof, distracted or somehow extracted from it whilst still being a part of it – and unaffected by the photographers presence.
So far so (relatively) purist and, it has to be said, theoretical. Does it matter? Yes and yes and maybe and no (like the Mayor of London, “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it”). Yes because it defines a genre (documentary) that is distinct through its truthfulness and naturalism which speaks to integrity. Yes because by identifying with it we borrow on that pool of integrity. Maybe because as a genre it is a start in exploring and building our identity as photographers. No if the image is the thing and anonymity is the photographer’s aim. It takes practice.
Environmental photography, more specifically environmental portrait photography, is about contextualising the subject in their world. It defines, personalises, the subject through surroundings that are familiar to them. David showed us some examples, mostly deceptively simple, but drawing their power from that (some more by club member Simon Caplan). The subject is more aware of the photographer as a rule than in street photography. This doesn’t detract from the value of the document because what we are trying to achieve is a statement of the individual defined by the environment they feel most relaxed in. To some extent they are showing that off for the photographer, so their known presence adds to the overall effect. The trade, the craft, the politics of the situation all combine to make a statement, much as the photographer is doing. Permission is a far bigger thing in environmental portraiture, in that, by and large, it is harder to do surreptitiously and often is used by business for marketing purposes anyway. It can be commissioned by the individual, by magazines, by organisations as well as proposed by the photographer.
So why shouldn’t we give it a go? Expectation can be a killer of projects and images, fear of failure or frustration at not getting the results are very real. It often comes from lack of technique or an uncritical eye and the obtainable doesn’t seem good enough. As mentioned above, the contact sheet is a good way of developing that critical eye and even if not a single one is a keeper (see last week’s blog) working out why is a huge development tool. Thinking about what makes other peoples pictures work or fail for you is a good start. We will return to this later in the year, but for a short version take an image as an example and have a conversation with yourself about what strikes you about it, how you might frame it differently and where does the light come from? Do this out loud on a crowded bus and I guarantee you will end up with a seat to yourself.
So a big thank you to David Jones for an interesting and thought provoking evening.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Three way club battle at Portishead. Be there for 7pm, starts 7:30 prompt.
Portishead Camera Club, Redcliffe Bay Hall, Newhaven Road, Portishead. BS20 8LH
We are all photographers together but that doesn’t mean that we all have it sorted and that we cannot learn from each other. Last meeting we ran our inaugural “Ask Reflex” evening whereby members submitted questions over the previous few weeks and we took it in turns to try and answer those queries with the support of the audience. All in all it went pretty well.
Gerry Painter did a fine job of coordinating questions and answers for the last evening’s event, and a big club thank you to him for his sterling efforts and to Dan Ellis for putting the questions up on Facebook. Gerry also took on the bulk of the answers himself with his usual diligence and was aided by Steve Hallam and Ian Gearing. We may not have had time to get through all of the questions but the bulk of those submitted were answered as well as some supplementary questions and observations from members who were making up the audience.
I have set out below a rough outline of the evenings questions and answers, where this has been practical, with links where appropriate and sources where quoted. Again my thanks to Gerry for help getting this into the blog. I hope you find it useful and as stimulating as I did. There are a couple of extras in there as well that were victims of time pressure.
These were submitted over a couple of weeks by members and covered a wide range of topics. The value of this, and anyone who has run a development day or attended one will probably attest, is that the questions are actual, involved and real as opposed to what someone thinks members/readers need to know. The questions were, thereby, entirely authentic. It also reflects the strength of the club that such a forum can be run without becoming bogged down in people’s opinions. That is not to say that people don’t have them or that they are not strongly cleaved to, but the ideas exchange was positive and that plays to the clubs strengths.
Gerry split the questions into three categories: Camera, Software and The Photographer and we shall snapshot these categories in the rest of this week’s blog.
First up were questions to do with Depth of Field and that almost Sci-Fi sounding of objects the Hyperfocal distance. Both these terms are essentially about the distance from the lens that renders an object with suitable sharpness, best thought of as a “zone” and will vary according to the focal length of the lens, the aperture that is selected and the size of the sensor that it is being recorded on. This zone of in focus detail is deeper on small sensors, it is deeper on wide angle lenses and increases as the aperture gets smaller.
In layman’s terms the hyperfocal distance is the distance set on the lens to give a zone back from the horizon that is in focus to a minimum distance from the lens. The hyperfocal distance is a midpoint in this zone. Its especially useful for landscapers. Again it is relative to sensor crop, focal length and aperture. For instance, A 50mm “Standard” lens on a full frame (35mm) sensor at f11 focused at 9.3 metres would have a zone in focus, a depth of field, from 4.61 metres to a theoretical infinity. Same settings on 1.5 factor crop (APSC) sensor found in say a Nikon D3300, would give you a depth of focus from 5.58 metres you 37.86 metres(5.71 to 24.98 metres on a Canon 1.6 crop). Now this comes with a big health warning. Don’t get all hung up on the infinity thing. The actual hyperfocal length on a full frame 50mm lens set at f11 is 9.09 metres and the furthest in focus 1.75 kilometres. Now given the perspective that a 50mm renders the background is going to look relatively sharp a good deal less than one and three quarter kilometres away, depending on how big it is. Gerry’s example of the mountain at the end of the road was done with an 18mm lens on a 1.5 crop sensor (think of crop in the same term as when you crop a picture, what it is is a 1.5 time smaller sensor in surface area than a full frame 35mm sensor, which is really 36mm!) set at f11 and roughly a metre and a half away (5 feet). The hyperfocal distance of an 18mm lens is 1.8meters. If you have a smart phone get something like Photo Tools which is a free app and calculates this and a whole lot else for you. For a visual explanation of this check this out.
What is a Mirror-less camera?
OK, yes it is one without a mirror. The mirror is what lets you see in your viewfinder what your lens is focussing on. A mirror-less camera does away with this making it mechanically simpler. You see what the sensor is seeing so you have the WYSISYG advantage (what you see is what you get). This makes the application of effects in camera easier because you see the exact outcome in your viewfinder as well as on your rear screen. They tend to be smaller. There are some drawbacks. Mirror-less camera like the Sony Alpha series, the Fujifilm X’s and so on (but there are exceptions), tend to show noise a stop or so lower than equivalent DSLR’s and battery life is shorter because you are powering two sensors/screens, there may be a little motion blur in the view finder (I profess I use one and frankly all the objections that I have been told people have with them don’t really add up to whole hill of beans for me). The difference in 7 seconds is explained here, though you might want to watch it a few times.
What changes do you make to your camera to make the background dark when the camera gives a lighter one?
There are a number of possible answers to this, but looking at this as a question of exposure compensation it is pretty well explained here (this is not a plug for his book, I haven’t read it). Running this with the next question,
How would you take a picture of a bird such as a swan without losing detail but not under expose the rest of the image,
you should also take the old adage that you should expose for the highlights and print for the shadows and in a difficult situation like this one shooting in RAW is definitely prudent because of the greater latitude in the format over JPEG. Essentially at the very extremes of the exposure graph (histogram) details are lost to absolute black and absolute white, more visually in the case of the whites and, I am led to believe, over a wider spectrum. Digital cameras simply assign more resources to exposing lighter elements in images than the darker ones, as explained here. It also helps if you know how to read a histogram. Shooting to the right is basically about this. Shoot for the highlights in RAW and adjust in post production.
How does White Balance affect images and how do I decide which to use?
Bright and sunny weather has a different colour temperature than say the light on a cloudy day. Fluorescent lights have different colour temperatures to say candle light or tungsten. These colour temperatures are measured in degrees Kelvin. Your camera’s idea of what white is, is actually 18% grey. These two factors affect the overall colour of your image. Explained here. Not sure what the colour of the light on your subject? There’s an app for that (Colour Temp Meter, free on Android) or practice with the adjustments in your camera menus.
Moving on to the software section of the evening:
What ways can I “Dodge” and “Burn” an image in editing software?
The terms come from the dark room where these techniques, dodging a shadow over a too dark area, being sure to keep the tool, or your hands whatever you are using to dodge (or burn) moving so you feather the edge of the effect and lighten the area in the final result. Burning is the opposite where more light is allowed onto one area than the rest of the image to make it relatively darker. This is one thing that digital has made simpler. Using the dodge and burn brushes are the most straight forward ways of doing things, but you still have to be careful not to overdo the effect. Most digital editing software that offers you these tools will allow you to exercise the effect over the shadows, highlights and mid-tones. Essentially the same methods apply, that is the tools work in the same way. Adobe say you can do it this way as shown here. In Gimp, which we will come to presently, the Q&D version here and a more detailed explanation here is backed up by a text version in the online help.
Please explain layers – Photoshop Elements – (not Lightroom).
Layers are, essentially, the building blocks of those photo editing software packages that provide for them. They are a good thing because they do not alter the original image (you will see the word “destroy” often used, which is nonsense as you might end up with a horrible mess you can’t undo – avoided by working on a copy – but you will still have an image to consign to the recycle bin. It may be beyond taste but it won’t be beyond use, unless you try very , very hard, usually with the blending tool and the save button). They give you a wide degree of control and you can blend, change opacity, and generally faff, dither and prevaricate to your heart’s content. They are most effectively used when you know the look or effect you are after. A general guide to photoshop can be found here (there are lots to be found on You Tube). As with dodging and burning they essentially work the same way where ever they are found, just the switches and toggles tend to be slightly different (to avoid “Look and Feel” law suits from Adobe). As the question specifically mentioned Elements here are two guides I found:
How do you take a step back in Camera Raw e.g. if you’ve made a mistake?
Ctrl Z is the simple answer on Windows operating systems. There will also be undo on the Edit menu of most programmes. The defining factor is how many steps are stored for you to undo. Photo editing and graphics software tend to make a feature of having more. Ctrl Y lets you reinstate what you have just rolled back. Same on the Mac but Ctrl key is the Command key only far more expensive.
Which are the best FREE image editing programs?
The Daddy of free editing suites is GIMP, currently at 2.10 (the even numbers represent stable editions and the odd numbers like 2.09 beta versions). It has been around since 1996, is open source and for the money, excellent. It is a programme, i.e. it is downloaded to your computer rather than run on line through a browser. It’s not particularly resource intensive but it is pretty extensive. It does not have the slickness of the Adobe suite in operation, and it is always playing catch up and always will be. However, it is supported by an extensive community and once you get to grips with it, easy to use. Will accept JPEG RAW PNG GIF TIFF and so on
Pixlr comes as a free or a paid for edition, but at $14.99 per annum it is unlikely to break the bank.. There are desktop and browser editions. It is easy to use and comes with a range of useful tools. For quick fixes it is pretty sound and has a fairly extensive set of effects and layers that can be utilised. Works with JPEGS.
Picasa from Google has a couple of useful features, actually more than a few. It has colour correction and lighting options and a selection of filters, some of which are very useful. It will load and edit other formats but it saves in JPEG only.
There are lot of others (see here and here) and there is nothing to say that you have to pick just one. What does become important is that you sort out your workflow. I use Gimp, Picasa and Neet on a regular basis. The workflow is important, the more technical stuff is done in Gimp and any finishing desired in Picasa and Neat (noise reduction). Also working on copies is no bad idea. Doubly so if the original is in RAW, which I convert to TIFF if switching between that and certain other programmes. Gerry has made a more extensive and useful guide which can be accessed from this link >>> RCC_free_editing_software
Time was against us so we moved to the photographer section and the last three questions were rolled together as they presented a logical conclusion:
How do you motivate yourself to go out and take pictures, or, what motivates you to take pictures?
A slight liberty taken with the question but I think it makes it more accessible to more people. See this PDF for the PowerPoint slides >>> Motivation & The Photographer
What types/range of lenses would you recommend that a general photographer should have?
From basics, you don’t need a lens at all, you need a beer can with a small hole in it and a piece of 7 x 5 photographic paper for the light to focus on. This could be added to the motivation list under get yourself a new piece of kit to work with.
Having thus caused a crash in the share prices of Cosina, Nikon and Canon through such heresy, I am going to talk a little about lenses (and thereby at least partially answer the question).
THE most important item in the relationship between the sensor and the subject is the lens. It will dictate how close or far away you are from your subjects personal space (where animate) and from the object being photographed (where inanimate). Their weight can effect your ability (in the case of the $2m 132Lb f5.6 Leica 1600mm zoom, hyperfocal distance a tad under 28km, probably several you’s) to move around. Then this is the lens that has its’ own 4 x 4 carry case.
The big difference for most of us is the zoom lens v the prime lens. Zoom lens are variable focal lengths, generally they are heavier than any equivalent fixed prime, and slower, that is to say the maximum aperture is generally smaller than for a prime. The big advantage of a zoom lens is that you have a whole kit bag full of prime lenses in one. Theoretically infinite, You have a variable field of view to go with the zoom. For example with an 18-55mm “kit lens” on a 1.5 crop APSC sensor has a 63 degree field of view at 18mm and 24 degrees at 55mm and everything in between. The simplest difference in use can be boiled down to the fact that with a zoom lens it’s the focal length that moves to get you closer or wider to the subject, with a fixed lens it’s you that has to move.
With wide angle lenses, those of 35mm focal length or less (it’s all relative to sensor size but stick with this definition and you will save yourself a headache), there is likely to be more going on in the field of view, so it pays to be aware of what is going on at the edges of the frame. Perspective is lengthened, there is more in view but it will also be relatively “smaller”. The obvious reason to mount a wider angle lens is to “get more in”. The better reason for mounting wide angle lens is to get in closer.
The “standard” lens, around 50mm, is the closest to the perspective of the human eye (apparently calculated at 42mm on a full frame, 35mm sensor). A telephoto lens start at around 85mm, often referred to as a portrait (as is a 105mm). This is to do with perspective. The snoopers lens of choice, it can be sometimes necessary to overcome physical barriers, to bring the subject optically if not physically closer. The down side is that it can give you the air of a stalker. A compression of perspective is the signature of the telephoto lens, the impression of foreshortening the foreground and background. There is one other common sort of lens to be found, the macro (close up). There are two sorts of macro lenses, those the product of the engineering department and capable of 1:1 reproduction and those the product of the marketing department which get to a fraction of this.
Regardless of which focal length we are talking about, composition is everything. The lens functions as the agent of composition. The photographer selects using the lens. In a general sense a moderate wide to a moderate telephoto zoom is ideal place to start. The kit lens is as good a place to start as any. If you have a particular need such as space restrictions (mine has to fit on a motorcycle) then maybe a super zoom, but you need to be aware of the pros and cons and weigh them carefully.
What should I be thinking about to make my holiday snaps into more interesting images?
In four words – all of the above. If you are still looking for ideas then see this pdf Gerry put together >>> RCC Becoming a better photographer
N E X T M E E T I N G
In honour of St Patrick >>> RCC_notice_Ian…
David Southwell ARPS, AFIAP was our judge for the creative round of the ROC. A welcome return. We have had some very good feedback from the judges this year but David’s is particularly good and those members I talked to seemed of the same opinion. My starting point on feedback, and this is particular, if not peculiar, to me and I mean in general, is the point from which I can disagree and why. All this is very contrary of me I know, but I feel that the argument should stand or fall on its own merits and for that it should be clearly expressed so that I can articulate why. Of course we all have our likes and dislikes and fashions come and fashions go, but light still travels in straight lines and all the other immutable laws of physics that make up the science still apply. There are constants. We have talked before about frameworks for making judgements and the importance of consistency. His starting point that “Photography is an art form served by science” was applied throughout and his focus on the necessary technicalities of the image capture and production supporting the image as we see it was the backbone of his judging.
And what a set he had to judge. The print section was the strongest the club has presented since I have been a member and certainly other, more longstanding, club members said it had been a long while since such a strong panel had been seen. I think we have a stronger basis for inter club battles in the print section. The recent decline in the popularity of print within the club seems to have been reversed, “A good thing”. Some more please! Also the number of digital entries was up on last year, I feel. So an increase in both quality and quantity, print and digital, long may it continue.
Before we proceed to the results, may I remind members of the following competition rules:
Maximum width of an image 1400 pixels.
Maximum height of an image 1050 pixels.
Images should be resized so that they fall within BOTH of the above dimensions. It doesn’t matter if the image falls below the these dimensions on either width or height or both.
You may have your entry withdrawn if either of these dimensions is exceeded.
Colour space must be sRGB. (Lightroom and Photoshop)
This is important, especially in external competitions but also we need to implement within the club to make sure we avoid any accidents and end up having photos withdrawn from battles and other competitions.
If unsure how to do any of these things then leave a message here, or on the club Facebook page or ask at the next meeting. Someone, infact several someones present will know how to do it and I haven’t met a member yet who hasn’t been willing to help with this sort of thing. Not knowing how doesn’t matter it can be put right. Not doing does matter if your image is withdrawn.
Tears – Julia Simone
“I am In The Pub” – Ian Coombs
“Urban Fairy” – Julia Simone
“Geisha” – Eddie Deponeo
“Let’s Pray” Eddie Deponeo
“Bulb in Bloom” – Jo Gilbert
“The Competition Judge” – Ian Coombs
“Haunted” – Ian Coombs
“Baja N Rap ” – Julia Kaye
“Eye at the Key Hole” – Simon Caplan
“The Ghostly Tree” – Simon Caplan
“Talons” – Mark O’Grady
Congratulations to all these Laureates and well done everybody for a particularly strong set.
U P C O M I N G E V E N T S
From Mr Gerry Painter, summaries of the next couple of Events at Chez Reflex. These are participative SO PLEASE READ AND TAKE PART. The club only works when you do.
19th February: A NEW club feature – “Your Picture Your Way” on Landscape and Street/Candid details here – RCC EVENTS Feb_19_15 YPYW Landscape_Candid
26th February: PRACTICAL: – for our entry into the Kingswood Salver. Details here 26th Feb Practical Kingswood Salver (1)
F8 and Be There.
Member Adrian Cooke took us through some of his favourite landscape pictures last meeting and his presentation was well received by the members. We are now regularly fielding 40+ at each meeting and that has something, a lot, actually, to do with the programme. In the words of Butler and Yeats, “A good thing”. Active members mean a healthy club.
Adrian shoots a lot of landscape photography, he has a lot of it on his door step, nonetheless the fact that he showed us a wide variation of images of the same landscapes just goes to prove that no two images are ever the same, even when the subject is identical (Maybe). Adrian showed some scanned slide film images among the purely digital images and the colours were quite different in comparison. Now there are a whole lot of technical issues in scanning slides to digital, and the image sensor may not have the same dynamic range as the (negative) film, and just how much information you can get on film as opposed to a modern sensor, the way that each respective medium records light, standardisation of results, and a swathe of other pros and cons constantly rumble around like a number of other technical questions that seem to get in the way of people making pictures. None of those, and all of them, are my point. It is refreshing to sit back and rediscover some of the features that many people now can’t appreciate because they have never been exposed to the processes nor the outcomes. Sometimes I suspect that the memory of those images is superior to their physical reality. One day I will go for a rummage in the attic to find out. These technicalities were hurdles and barriers to entry, the number of photographs taken was exponentially smaller, but the role of mastery has not changed. Just the size, number and relative cost of the spanners it takes to make even a poor image.
Not that Adrian’s images suffered in the quality category, familiarity and technique were in evidence aplenty. Perhaps the most consistent point to come across was the importance of the focal point. There are a number of ways to promote the (usually single) focal point. With landscapes it is generally held that greater depth of field is desirable but, nonetheless the question still remains what is the focal point and where in the frame am I going to put it. Yep we are back to the thirds, fifths, sevenths and “Golden ratio” , so I will move on. The f-stop isn’t the only way of highlighting the focal point. Careful use of, or observation of, contrast and shapes will also do it, as, of course making it the largest thing in the picture (OK, obvious, but worth mentioning). It also helps with not providing too many points for the eye to rest on, and thereby confusing things, and that is less likely to happen if there are fewer places to fill them with.
The eyes journey around the image is important. The photographer creates that journey and the elements within it make up the story. As was stated at the judging of the last round of the ROC, for a photograph to really make an impact it really should be telling one story and one story only. As Adrian implied, these images don’t just happen they are created. Another feature of Adrian’s photographs were the role that lines play in the journey we make around each image through the use of horizontal, vertical, diagonal and converging lines in making patterns to give impressions of depth and scale or leading to the focal point.
Timing is also important. Adrian related how he tended to shoot towards sunset, though there were a good few early mornings represented in his presentation. This is the period of the “Golden Hour“, where the light has a different quality to that of the rest of the day and for which The Photographers Ephemaris is a great tool. Almost by implication this brings in the idea of longer exposures, which have effects of their own, pretty much demand the use of a tripod, for lower ISO settings tend to give better results with less noise but increase the problems surrounding camera shake. Almost counter intuitively this allows for the capture in motion, especially of water and clouds. Adrian discussed using ND filters to cut down the light and ND grads to help even out the exposure (back to dynamic range again – the range of lighting that a sensor or film can represent. Of course it helps when you don’t confuse your Infra Red Filter for your big stopper ND filter as I did on Sunday (apologies to Dan Ellis who I leant it to) but then there is something there about labelling things. Or in this case not loosing your filters. Maybe I should take note. Also Dan discussed the use of a polarising filter (and when to use one) and certainly this can have a quite dramatic effect on skies and cut down on reflections when the light comes in from the side. And of course not just limited to landscape.
Adrian’s presentation provided a thoughtful and thought provoking refresher on landscape photography, and the club thanks him for his time and effort. Next meeting we have a speaker, who will talk about editing and take us through the process using some pictures from the club. Marko Nurminem has worked at the “Very high end” in editing images, including for previous speaker Damien Lovegrove. See the link RCC EVENTS Feb_05_15 Marko Nurminen_No_Images for more information.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
A reminder from Dan Ellis about the Ask The Club session. Get your questions in by 12th February, either via FB or the forms you can get from the table where the register is kept on club nights.
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”.
In the week where the Guardian carries an article on the, probable, opening of the, possibly, world’s largest photo-gallery in Marrakesh, and the unexpected but entirely predictable problems that this has generated (avoidable if someone had bothered to do their homework, or paid someone else to, or maybe it was deliberate) we at Reflex Camera Club stayed a little closer to home and set ourselves up in true Santa-at-the-Mall-in-May spirit for a little Winter Festival commonly known as Christmas (which I understand is in December). Specifically, members were tasked with producing a club Christmas card in an evening. There was, dear reader, some controversy, about which, more later.
The original Christmas card, at least as far as the UK (and the world) is concerned, was introduced in 1843 at the cost of 1 shilling (5p to you non duo-decimalists), which was rather pricey at £4.28 in today’s coin (that might make me look like a cheapskate, but then I am). The average retail cost of a card in 2013 was £1.44 (4d in 1843 money) according to the Greetings Card Association (Yes, there is one). The original run of 1,000 cards was followed by another of 1,050 and the ones he didn’t use Henry Cole sold at a profit. He sold them all. Today Christmas is worth £130 million in card sales, according to the GCA. The original card was also controversial, for its depiction of alcohol, but it was a sell out. One of the 18 or so thought to remain in existence was sold in 2010 for $7,500. One of our cards (which went to a tie break on a show of hands) was controversial for its more, to use a period allusion, Scrooge-like qualities (which was also alluded to in another entry with the greeting, “Bah Humbug”, I’m beginning to think that the Xmas spirit maybe a little thin this year – we will find out on the 18th December which is our Club Christmas night). In the end we decided on a more traditional offering from Roy Williams (Photography), Myk Garton (Editing) and Alec Williams (Executive Producer).
Henry Cole, the man in too much of a hurry to write to all his friends and relatives in the first place, engaged the artist JC Horsley to illustrate his innovation. That, and a DPS article this week, set me to thinking about the relationship between art and photography (writing a blog will do that to you). There does seem to be a tension between the states of “Photographer” and “Artist”. As touched on in last week’s blog, the same rules and guides apply to painters creating an image as photographers. The term “Creative” as a profession is somewhere in the middle of this. Creative, as a description of an economic sector is worth, according to the UK Treasury, £8,000,000 per hour to the UK economy. Artists, the people who create the work, form a substantial part of this but not the only part. There is a further tension between the art itself and the industry around it that makes for its consumption.
Yet there is still a cachet around the status of artist – I bet your unmade bed made less at auction than Tracy Emin’s depiction of depression – that is part of the process of selling it, regardless of the message that you were trying to get across. Exclusivity, being the owner of that Van Gogh or that Rubens or anything else creatively produced, is also a driver, not least of market value – but once a photograph is published on line anyone can consume it (as opposed to own. Or steal). Possibly this makes photographers artisans, but in a week where “snobbery” undid three establishment figures (I am thinking Andrew Mitchell, Emily Thornberry, and David Mellor) one needs to be mindful of being “All the gear and no idea”. Maybe, after all, it isn’t anything but a sterile argument, as entertainingly exposed by Richard Thripp (do take some time to read the comments under his post, they do rather prove his point).
The number of photography books both about and using it (e.g. fashion) you will find in bookshop certainly underline the point that this is a visual medium that isn’t going to go away. The craft of art is there, but some think that because the process doesn’t involve fine motor-skills with a sharpened stick dipped in something then you’re not an artist. David Hockney is less of an artist for using a camera among his tools? Around about here we mostly get into a Vicky Pollard style argument. What seems to get neglected is the argument “Does it matter if it is/is not art”? Let me pose one half of an answer. No, because, if taken seriously, any artistic endeavour is about making it as best you can and next time better. The tools don’t make the art the artist does. Photography is a representative art. The camera is a tool, the image a story. A canvas, paint and brushes are tools, the image a story. The infamous bed and detritus so many berate Ms. Emin about are the tools for her to tell a (personally painful) story.
This brings me back to the news story I started with, the planned gallery in Marrakech. There are enough problems surrounding photography, even in the UK, especially street photography, however, one of the points made in the article is about the behaviour of so many people (tourists) towards the locals and a disregard of the traditions and culture they are snapping away at. Start from a point of respect and you learn a lot more. Both sides in the photography is/isn’t art take note.
Feel free to agree/disagree with me via the comments section on the club blog page.
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
See Myk or contact him via the club Facebook Page.
UPCOMING AT THE CLUB
December 4th – Capturing Stunning B&W images plus Post Production Tips from basics to more advanced from Mr Mark Stone. Kindly take a few minutes to peruse https://www.flickr.com/photos/mark-stone/ and contact Mark via the club Facebook page with one you want to know more about.
December 11th – The second round of this year’s Reflex Open Competition (ROC) will be judged tonight.
December 18th – Christmas social evening. To quote Mark S:
” Thursday 18th December is our Christmas Social. We’re planning on doing an American Supper style evening which means we’d like you to bring some food & drink. So that you don’t all bring in a pack of Scotch Eggs we’ve created a list that will be on the sign in desk each week up until the 18th. If you’d like to take a look at what is on the list just peek at the PDF attached to this post.
It’s no good saying on here what you are planning on bringing you need to sign your name (in legible writing) next to the items on the list at the club meetings”. The List is via the link below. ‘Nuff said.