Tagged: ARPS

17th March 2016: Decisions, Decisions: Robert Harvey BA (Hons) ARPS EFIAP on “Landscapes For All Seasons”.

Robert Harvey BA (Hons) ARPS EFIAP treated us to Landscapes for all Seasons on the Feast of St Patrick. Starting with a straw poll as to which was the clubs favourite season for landscapes, apparently it is always Autumn, Robert took us through a wide variety of seasonal landscapes, features and how he captured them in a richly illustrated, wide ranging evening.

 

Although the camera basics are fairly well established, let’s call this the science, for taking landscapes, as ever the art has more to it than just pointing and shooting (for which f11 and focus two steps – 5 feet – in front of your 18-50mm kit lens  set at 18mm. Gets everything in focus from 2’6″ (0.75m) up to infinity; works from 6 feet (well 5′ 9″) with a 24mm lens on a full frame. See the 30 July 15 blog post for an explanation of hyperfocal distance) of  knowing your subject, knowing the conventions, knowing the sort of things that only practice really ever teaches. The art of knowing lies in critical observation and informed practice, often known as reflective practice, and Robert has 25 years photographic experience as well as a background as a natural scientist to draw on.

 

That doesn’t mean the rest of us should pack up and go home, but it does contain a general principle we can all adhere to. When we take the camera out we do so with a purpose. That isn’t to say we should squeeze all the fun out of it, that we can only take the camera out of the bag to conduct our photography with serious academic intent. We need to recognise that any photograph is the sum of the decisions the photographer has made about his/her relative position to a subject in a given environment. More of this in a minute.

 

Landscape photographs do have their own conventions and competitions have their own conventions and rules. Certainly the do no harm principle we talked about in the last post on natural photography, is an ethical place to start. Though as with nature photographs this idea can be both selectively and subjectively applied.  But it does go deeper than that to the core idea of what a photograph actually is for, what it represents. We’ve touched on this recently with David Jones’ evening and the notions of authenticity. It is a question of what we are claiming to represent. If it is within a genre where the integrity of the image as a documentary record is sacrosanct, say photojournalism, then it is pretty straight forward. If it is more representative then it matters less. If it’s Snapchat then an altogether different, informal set of rules apply.

 

That may be the underlying code that dictates the what, the why, the where, the then of what gets captured but the how is, as we have touched on above, a process guided by the decisions we make.  So, we’ve set the camera to manual or aperture priority and we have raised to the camera to the eye because something has captured our attention. Broad vista? Enter the rule of thirds. Most cameras, including compacts, have an optional thirds grid you can put on live view or through the (E)VF. Even if yours hasn’t it’s not too difficult to imagine one over the scene.  The trick is then to align a feature on one of the lines, or at the junctions of the lines. If it’s patterns that have caught your eye then it will be a question of cropping in as tight as you can so the detail is very clear and a lot of the context available in a wider view  will not be available.

 

You can still use the rule of thirds in a detail crop, indeed it can be very advantageous to the overall effect as there is less relative information to go by (not a bad thing). In the broader landscape you are looking to put the sky one third or two thirds of the way down in the picture. In the detail shot it will be the main feature  (focus point). In both cases you really need to make the point of focus obvious using natural or man-made features, lead lines and so on.  The broad tendency is for detail shots to be more abstract, the key to both is to be as close to the subject, as cropped in, as is possible and necessary to give the image punch. If you can’t frame it change position, shapes and features make the photograph, there absence just makes for an empty space that just happens to have something in it.

 

In essence that is it, seems simple, doesn’t it? Well it is and it isn’t. It is because that is what you do with the Bakelite lump you attach the expensive glass to.  Three useful things to add: learn to use the histogram if your camera has one (or use your eyes, they tell you the same thing but the histogram measures the fall of light on the sensor and makes it obvious about spikes on the extreme left -shadows- and right – highlights);  Expose for the sky/highlights (details in shadow are easier to recover in post production than highlights); Shoot in RAW (linked to the previous point). That doesn’t mean that JPEG is evil or wrong but where there is a high dynamic range in your image RAW will leave you with more information to manipulate. JPEG makes certain decisions about what data is used as a baseline and preserves/eliminates it on that basis. What is left is less data to manipulate.

 

It isn’t quite so simple because you cannot compensate for a lack of knowledge about where to be and when on a consistent basis just with luck.  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Photography. Club members Kev Speirs and Rich Price gave us a good grounding in this a couple of years back based on their 2013 trip to Iceland – which is where they are as I write this having returned to further their experience, Iceland, that is, not 2013, no not the frozen food chain either). The performance booster we are looking for is a planned serendipity. We’ve been here before so I shan’t  dwell. Robert is an environmental scientist as well as  a photographer and photography for him is more than a hobby, it is a business in more than one sense.

 

So, our thanks to Robert Harvey for a an interesting and well rounded evening.

 

N E X T   M E E T I N G.

Judging ROC Round 3.

4th June 2015 – On High Dynamic Range Imaging and Marmite questions.

HDR Imaging. What does it mean to you? Horrible Disastrous Rubbish? Highly Desirable Representation? Something in between? Our much welcome and returning speaker, David Southwell ARPS would admit that there is a lot of the former around but if done properly, High Dynamic Range images are an important tool in the photographers tool box. Most of his ARPS panel consisted of them taken in the demanding situation of the interior of Bristol Cathedral. Thoughts were certainly provoked and the discussion afterwards was more animated than usual which would suggest that this is a bit of a Marmite question, “Love, it hate it, you can’t ignore it” as per the advertising slogan. We will return to this later, for Marmite questions have a hidden truth within them.

David did an excellent job of explaining the technical origins of HDR, essentially boosting the fixed capabilities of digital images to catch a range of 6 – 6.5 EV at best (depends on the sensor construction and other factors), or about one half that of the human eye (10-14). Using software and exposures of the same scene metered between exposure for shadow detail to exposure for highlight detail and the range in between (see here for a much more detailed explanation and on how to go about creating a more natural version of the effect) a single image is produced capturing the entire range of luminosity values in the scene. There is a more technical and vastly more expensive way to create HDR using oversampled binary image sensors. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about that and for the rest of us, rest assured they will be coming to high end mobile phones in the near future.

Some DSLR’s, CSC’s, Mobile Phones have an HDR facility built in, but this will almost certainly work with JPEG’s which have a more limited dynamic range than versions of RAW or Tiff. Handled carefully they can be effective, but as always there is the question of how much control is needed, required or is desired by the photographer. The camera processor and choice of jpeg format mean that certain assumptions have been made at the coding stage you do not have an input to. David left us in no doubt that, whereas process can be automated, shoot in RAW (preferably 16 bit, but 8 bit has got him some spectacular results). Your standard 8 bit image (as used in JEPGs and a lot of cameras shooting RAW) gives you 16.8 million colours (more than you can see) and 16 bit 281 trillion (far, far, far more than you can see). 16 bit gives you far more subtlety to play with, whereas 8 bit tends towards grouping colours into bands rather than representing them as subtle variations of colours. In a not particularly accurate but certainly useful way of looking at it we can say the difference is in the ability to reproduce shades, though the human optical processing system does vary from individual to individual. David asserts that 16 bit is the future and for those interested in HDR and, eventually, all photography, so now is a good time to start working in it as far as you can.

But why bother if all we want is the picture that represents a decent looking image of the widest possible range? Well now this is the tricky bit and where its detractors get dismissive of the technique. Before we touch on that, and we can only really touch on it here for reasons of time, space and the need to preserve a semblance of sanity, we need to deal with that problematic idea that you can only make art through fine motor skills. We have treated with this before (27/11/14) so I am not going to go into it again, but part of the attraction of HDR is to make the photograph look more like a painting. OK this is a gross simplification, a minority point in a minority interest, but that does not undermine its validity. Photography’s inferiority complex has existed since print 1 frame 1 in the history of photography. Both are trying to make that emotional connection with the viewer. If that is absent it doesn’t matter how good the draughtsmanship, the image does not work.

David made the point that it is, despite his determined advocacy of the technique, only ONE tool in the box, a very important point. We all have our favourite tools. He gave an estimate of about 3% of his own photography – and this coming from a man who needs 16 TB storage space in his computer system and a high end spec to match in terms of graphics and processors, memory and monitors. To give you an idea, that’s about 640,000 25mb raw images, if my maths is right, so 20,000 ish frames to make up his HDR section when full – with David spending up to 8 hours getting it right on each one! Slightly more involved than Justin Quinnell’s equipment needs, for sure, but they are two ways of making an artefact, two different ways of making a connection. The other 97% isn’t and that is the point. There is no technique that suits all horses on all courses but the more techniques a photographer can master the more complete that photographer will be. Not in pseudo competition with fine art, but in terms of their own personal development and capabilities. HDR has a role to play in getting emotion into an image, certainly it gets a reaction like no other photographic technique I have come across. That’s the art of photography.

OK let’s not tot up the cost of the sort of system David is talking about, he is a very experienced photographer with deep roots in computing. Looked at that from that perspective it just puts the technique out of the range of most of our pockets in the club. HDR can be done on a laptop using programmes that aren’t Photoshop. David reckons that layers and blending, cloning and careful metering are the basics and they can be practiced in any number of ways. Indeed Photoshop isn’t fully 16 bit yet and the vast majority of monitors out there cannot handle 16 bit data and the ones that do will cost you about the equivalent of the average UK wage. Start in 8 bit and make your way up. Practice, practice, practice the basics. Be critical, seek criticism, put the feedback into your practice. The same points were made by the last speaker.

So let’s come back to the Marmite question again. “Love it, hate it, you can’t ignore it”. That is simply not true. Looked at logically the vast majority of the British public remain in denial that Marmite is a big issue facing the United Kingdom. It’s a clever ruse to sell a strong tasting edible (or inedible depending on your view) spread. If a Marmite insurrection has sprung up then it has passed me by. HDR certainly provokes strong opinions, but in ten years time it may be a capability so ubiquitous in photographic equipment that we give it no thought, in exactly the same way as most people do with most Marmite questions. Depth of field may be going the same way, where the out of focus becomes a filter you apply. The technology has been around for a while, only now it’s electronic. Those that do tend to feel strongly about this sort of thing, feel very strongly indeed, how do you like Marmite?

N E X T  M E E T I N G

Your Picture Your Way – Architecture & Artistry. Bring an image or two on these themes and give us some insights on the who the what, the why, the where, the when and the how!

A N N O U N C E M E N T S

Monday June 15th – peaking between 00:30 and 02:00 The Milky Way.

12th February 2015 – On The Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition

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.

 

Jpeg

 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.

 

Digital

 Commended

C_Tears_Julia Simone

 Tears – Julia Simone

C_I am in the Pub_Ian Coombs

“I am In The Pub” – Ian Coombs

Highly Commended

HC_Urban Fairy_Julia Simone

“Urban Fairy” – Julia Simone

HC_Geisha_Eddie Deponeo

“Geisha” – Eddie Deponeo

Third

3RD_Let's Pray_Eddie Deponeo

“Let’s Pray” Eddie Deponeo

Second

2ND_Bulb In Bloom_Jo Gilbert

“Bulb in Bloom” – Jo Gilbert

First

1ST_The Competition Judge_Ian Coombs

“The Competition Judge” – Ian Coombs

Digital Print

 

Commended

C_Print_Haunted_Ian Coombs

“Haunted” – Ian Coombs

Highly Commended

HC_PRINT_BAJAN RAP _Julie Kaye

“Baja N  Rap ” – Julia Kaye

Third

3RD_PRINT_Eye At The Keyhole_Simon Caplan

“Eye at the Key Hole” – Simon Caplan

Second

2ND_PRINT_The Ghostly Tree_Simon Caplan

“The Ghostly Tree” – Simon Caplan

FIRST

1ST_PRINT_Talons_Mark OGrady

“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.