And so the season is now officially over with the presentation of the trophies, but not the events, this Thursday Weston-Super-Mare, get there early as there is lots to see, not least because Thursday night in the summer is Weston bike night. Two weeks ago there must have been a couple of hundred bikes and not a few trikes of every shape, size and paint job, so lots to look at. Starts getting busy around 6pm and there are the other, more permanent attractions to look to as well. This being the summer break from Wick Road, I thought I would use this opportunity to look at just how much is actually going on in our hobby from a quick snapshot of the photographic headlines this last week or so.
Starting, of course with our social evening. I have drawn up a table of winners which you will find in this linked document 150716 Reflex Award Winners 2014-15 and will let that and the strong forward looking feel and commentaries from the AGM speak for the club, and a special thanks to Mark O’Grady for pulling all this information and for all the behind the scenes work. There is a lot of it.
It has been quite an important ten days or so, no, strike that, a very, very important ten days or so for your rights as a photographer. The European Parliament, as I have written about elsewhere held a vote on the European Commission’s proposals, a lot of them as it turns out, for harmonising copyright across the European Union. In itself that is important for the future of photography and photographers among the 500 million EU citizens covered by such an agreement. One of the proposals was to adopt the system whereby public buildings – including furniture like statues that form part of the designed space – should have the copy right of the designers protected and thus photographing them without the architect/copyright holders permission would constitute an offence (civil rather than criminal as far as I can work out). Half a million people signed a petition against this clause which was withdrawn on the day of the vote in face of this opposition. The Freedom of Panorama as it has become known has been maintained, though you should still check what the local laws are on these things because any necessary changes have to be enacted in national legislation (and that can take years). Still, three cheers for democracy.
A triumph for UK photographic technology this week, the sensors that recoded the Pluto images were made right here. It took four and a half hours for the information to get back from Pluto and another 1 hour at Boots to get them developed, but scientists seemed very pleased with the results. It’s a fantastic achievement. OK, you can print them quicker at home, but you have to buy all the kit and have somewhere to put it, not to mention the exorbitant cost of ink and paper.
You wouldn’t want them to all be out of focus like those from the Hubble Telescope, but as of next Year that won’t be a problem for owners of the shortly-to-be-released Panasonic GX8 when a 2016 firmware update will allow the user to “Post Focus” an image – something we talked about a month or so about. The firmware update will also apply to the FZ-300. The capabilities of consumer electronics companies cameras being released now represent a step change from that being evolved by Canon and Nikon, who still have 85% of the market between them. Of course there will be arguments about whether bells and whistles are what are required, but if you’ve been around photography long enough be sure that you can save a lot of time and ear ache and get on with your photographic life by substituting the words “Film” and “Digital” with the words “Proper” and “Toy”. For those of us longer in our remaining tooth we can substitute the brands “BSA”, “Triumph” and “Norton” with “Honda”, “Yamaha” and “Suzuki”. That ended well for market leaders, didn’t it?
There again “You don’t need all that technology to make a photograph”. We’ve heard it and seen it from Justin Quinnell back in March and it’s an idea that has momentum. Pinhole photography is practical, simple and gives you time to think and reflect. The very opportunities that digital gives us can also work against us – especially the “I’ll fix that in post”. There has always been a post and there has always been fixing but there is no substitution for time and care spent on understanding then composing your subject. The idea that the image represents more than what you see because you invest in one that has a connection with you is pretty much as old as art and we’ve been over the whole Gestalt thing elsewhere. Taking time when time is what you’ve got pays dividends.
Finally, if you think that grain is a problem in your images, take a look at this adaption from the film days ….
W-S-M. Thursday 23rd. Be there!
Last meeting Mark Stone , in a well attended meeting, took us through some editing options he uses on Light Room and Photoshop. Mark is a big fan of black and white, not to the exclusion of colour, but he has a strong affinity to the ascetic and opportunities that black and white presents, so it is this that we will investigate a little further this week.
Black and white photography happened first of course. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s heliograph taken at his estate in 1826-27 gives a barely legible but still discernable image of a stand of trees, fixed in bitumen (Daguerre used copper plate, Fox-Talbot was the first to fix an image on paper), but since the invention of colour – which had a long gestation period – it has gradually receded to niche and specialist markets. To its fans and I am certainly one, it is too often overlooked (guilty), or most people who occasionally venture that way look upon as a fix for images that didn’t work but still have something but you are not sure what (“Taking the fifth” on that one, well shoot in colour and edit to black and white is my excuse). Incidentally that is a two way street. There is no doubt that there is a skill to looking at an image as a black and white one from the off.
Some people might think that there is a certain nostalgia attached to monochrome that is a bit off-putting and reeks of chemicals and cardigans and people (men mainly) sucking on their dentures and complaining that things aren’t like they used to be. Certainly they are not. It’s called progress. The darkroom and its arcane ways have fallen from popular use. Photography as a whole, with the digital revolution, has become far more democratic and personally I think that a good thing. This, however, is the science and we are talking here about the art. If, on the other hand, you have used a dark room over some time, then there is a pretty good chance that you keep a warm place in your heart for those processes, for the choices of paper and the effects they have on the final image (for the uninitiated it evolves mainly, but not entirely, around the question of how black is black) for the magic of the image appearing on the paper. Black and white was far cheaper and a lot less complex than colour. Not many people go back though, at least not exclusively. Digital can be just as good.
As I said, this about the art (you’ll remember that argument from last week), the perceptions, that the image creates in the viewer. In black and white contrast is king, but across a spectrum shaded in grey. Subtlety is the greater part of it. That is not to say that extremes don’t have a part to play, it is part of the process of selection that forms the backbone of the monochrome discipline – and yes that is something which can be about post production, but as with everything else, it can’t all be about post production; the initial pre-shutter decisions are still hugely important. Black and white is about texture, forms and contrast above all. When these are the most important things in an image then black and white is the medium of choice, but it remains a subjective choice. Primarily these elements become important because when you remove colour from a photograph these elements are what lead the eye.
Texture, the consistency of a surface in a photograph defined by its irregularities, provides us with basic information that we can use to comprehend what that object is or made of. It can be more important than what that actual object is especially in abstract. Form, the three dimensional representation of an object (shape is 2D), especially in the absence of colour, is probably the biggest clue we get to what we are looking at and contrast, of course, is important in all forms of photography. Black and white concentrates the eye on the intensity and differential qualities in light to a higher degree than in colour (colour, of course being the most striking and the most absent of the elements of design in monochrome).
So it helps to concentrate on lines, shadows and shapes, not ignore the basic rules of composition (master them before you break them), plan ahead and practice, practice practice! There are advantages to shooting in colour (you can always revert to it) and there are advantages in using a RAW format – as per the above plus there is more scope for capturing tones across a range of light and dark in the same frame. There is no particular reason why you shouldn’t use JPEG should you so wish, but, as always, you have lesser latitude to edit with. It also helps to know the effects of colour filters on the image, which can easily be applied post production, or by simply fixing one to the front of your lens.
We have another round of the ROC in the new year, so why not use that as a chance to get some feedback on your black and white photography? Better yet, black and white is December’s Flickr competition topic.
CONGRATULATIONS to our esteemed chair on his MBE collected Thursday last awarded for his work with youth via the Air Training Corps. Well done and well earned Maurice.
Time is running out but there are still places on the WOODLAND shoot. See Myk.
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 (again):
” 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.
8TH January 2015“What Christmas Means to me” & Mounting Prints
See everyone’s images from our Christmas Challenge of “What Christmas Means to me” followed by a demonstration on how to mount your photographs.
I bet your wondering what this “What Christmas means to me” thing is as you’ve possibly never even heard it mentioned at the club before. Well now I’ve had it explained to me with a handy infographic I can explain it all to you. Well actually no I’m not instead you can follow this link and read all about it as that’s exactly the same way I found out what it was!
15th January 2015: Club Battle, Bristol Photographic Society (Away).
Final blog from me, pretty much, until such times as I have opened the Reflex CC Overseas Branch. It will be a short post, you will be glad to hear. Meg is going to take over though there won’t be a post next week as we are both away. Last evening we went to Bath, which was warm and pleasant as any bath should be and dry which is the standout difference from the tub next to your toilet. That and a capital letter wherever it appears in a sentence, of course. Next week’s peripatetic club meeting is at Clevedon Pier, 7:30 pm.
It cannot be denied that a soft sun and Bath stone are pretty much made for each other. I have occasionally watched the Rugby and marvelled as the sun goes down over the city on an Autumn day at just how spectacular it can be. It is the interplay of tones and colours, the angles of the light and its temperature, the degree to which the air is clear or hazed that makes any photograph. It is a basic law of physics that all objects, saving a black hole, reflect right. You don’t hear a great deal about colour theory in photography, it tends to be dealt with as an incidental and a quick reference to a colour wheel and certainly there is more to it than the space I am going to give it, but a little understanding can help when working out how a photograph does or doesn’t work – or indeed might or might not.
Hue is probably the easiest one to discuss for photography because of that much used but frequently misunderstood tool the colour dropper. Hue is measured in degrees (from 0-359) and relates directly to the colour wheel. Not by accident is there a relationship between hue and circularity. The values you see next to the colour dialog relate to the position on the colour wheel. If you want to find a complimentary colour just add 180 to the value (0-179) or subtract 180 (180-359) shown in the box. There are other factors but the principle holds generally good.
Adobe take this further with their free tool Kuler. Now I am assuming that this is the word colour (more likely color) that crawled out of the wreckage of a creative meeting of thirty-somethings’ who just realised that “Kool” had passed to the twenty-somethings’ and their consequent desperate need to prove they still had it (high five), run by a vampire (currently very cool) wearing Google Glasses ™ and loafers who was really a two-hundred-and-twenty-something psychopath with an odd sense of humour who had, in fact, suggested “Culler”. However it is a really useful tool. Dumb spelling, but a really useful tool. This takes you through the primary, secondary and tertiary colours and half a dozen colour/color/kuler/culler rules (analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound aka composite and shades) as well as having a custom option.
Colour, no doubt, has a psychological impact. If you ever find yourself in a bar where the lighting is getting progressively more blue the closer to closing time, it’s because blue has an end of day effect on us psychologically (note the blue hour) and people are prompted to leave (reddish hues pump up the atmosphere and are used to encourage buying). It can make or break a photograph, there are many times when taking the colour out of a photograph and leaving just tones, textures and lines makes (or saves) an image. There can be some spectacular effects and, of course, in the early days of photography there was no realistic, certainly mass market, alternative to hand colouring. We may not always get to choose the colours we work with in an image but we select the content of each image and colour will have a strong pull on us. If that improvement thing is to work then we need to make it more a conscious part of our photography.
A decent turnout at the Langton Court Hotel for the annual social and awards event. The skittle alley thundered to the sounds of skittles standing resolutely in place. For a camera club there were remarkably few in evidence, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, less clutter to fall over and I don’t want to think of the consequences of joining consumer electronics with liquid (says he typing this with a cup of tea in one hand). Next year’s calendar was distributed, and I must say that it looked really interesting, and awards were bestowed thus:
Reflex Camera Club Overall Competition results for 2013 – 2014
|1st Place||82 Points||John Pike|
|2nd place||43 Points||Pauline Ewins|
|3rd Place||26 Points||Wendy Goodchild|
|1st Place||43 Points||Pauline Ewins|
|2nd place||30 Points||Mark O’Grady|
|3rd Place||26 points||Wendy Goodchild
& Angie Wallace
|1st Place||64 Points||John Pike|
|2nd place||55 Points||Mark O’Grady|
|3rd Place||35 Points||Alison Davies|
|John Hankin Shield
(Best Print of the Year)
|Stan Scantlebury Shield
(Best Projected of the Year)
|Photographer of the Year
(Overall Points Winner)
|85 Points||Mark O’Grady|
Thanks Julie for the table.
And the winner of the game of Killer in the Skittle Alley was —– Julie Coombs.
We have had a successful year in the number and variety of events, speakers and activities and a big club thank you to everyone who made that possible. The new website looks excellent and new members are joining. With the move to new premises everything seems set fair.
To a point we participate in the club in order to determine what makes a good photograph, so that we can go and take good/better photographs. Practice based learning. There are as many opinions on the “Good” as there are photographers. One of the reasons that there are competitions and judges is the idea of some sort of standard around the rules of composition, the exposure triangle and leave room for the imagination of the photographer. This year – and it is not very different year to year, nor I fancy, from club to club – we have had many different examples, from different sources. We have had competitions – the best source for individuals for what is known as reflective practice – speakers and practical evenings. We have had the benefit of the WCPF travelling show. These have also allowed us to look at wider issues too: planning, doing and reviewing, taking the opportunity, making the opportunity. We have also had the chance to talk about the giving of constructive feedback with one of our speakers and to practice it (and don’t I drone on about it every competition round?).
So, what have we learned this year? The point is the picture not the gear, Canon, Leica, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, Sony anything else, not whether it’s a RAW or a JPEG or a TIFF (note that argument, not so very long ago was about whether it was film or digital, an argument that has just gone away) or any other format that counts. If there isn’t a basic structure to grab the attention then all of the above is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter about what it is you are taking a photograph of , it is how it is represented in the frame, what is included and, frequently as important, excluded that makes it so. Vary the angles, up, down, left, right (it’s not about your comfort it’s about the shot!). Keep the viewers eye engaged in the frame – this is why a vignette sometimes helps by keeping the eye from wandering to the outside of the frame on their way out of the picture. It should tell a story, a good one, with a punch-line. That the lighting is everything.
So, looking forward to next season? “F8 and be there”. See you next week.
For most of us, it appears, Adobe Lightroom is all we are ever likely to need in a photo editor, and in this insightful evening, Kevin Spiers, Mark OGrady and Dan Thomas gave us a whirlwind tour of some of the possibilities. It certainly isn’t the only editor available, Gimp, Pixlr, Picasa, Paint.Net are all free alternatives with their supporters but none, as they appear to me, have an interface quite as slick and certainly none have the full capability of the cloud based full suite (Photoshop CC and Lightroom) which can now be rented at just under £9 a month. Mind you, photo-shopping is not always approved of!
Kevin was first up and showed us the cataloguing feature. An image isn’t much use to anyone if it can’t be found, and with the ease and cheapness of taking another frame comes the problem of sheer volume. The number of images quickly adds up. Looking for that photograph can soon become evidence of that old proverb involving needles and haystacks, though why anyone would think to even begin to look for a steel needle in a stack of dried grass, much less think that was a suitable storage medium in the first place, has always defeated me. Sounds like bad filing practice, which is exactly what the cataloguing system is designed to overcome. Like trying to find a needle in a sewing box. Simples!
Frequency separation is a technique that gives the user the ability to process the surface and the depth of an image in different detail layers. The image is divided into two layers, containing the high frequencies and the low frequencies and allows the use these layers to work on colours, on broad and fine details independently, using non-destructive changes to the original image.
Definitely an advanced users technique, but one that seems to be getting wider use over the last couple of years . It is, in essence, about utilising the different strata (think of a photograph as a sandwich and each component of the sandwich is both part of the overall sandwich and a thing in itself) that make up a photograph. Or think of your favourite song played by different artists , there are individual notes and there are chords arranged together in subtly different ways that form the overall, still recognisable but differently rendered, tune. If you change the chords and notes sympathetically you change the harmonies but can still retain the tune. Frequency separation is about using these strata to enhance or alter parts of a photograph in the process of retouching and moving the image to a more striking, enhanced representation. Again not a process without controversy, but something that started when the first human artist drew the first image and the first human critic ,that is the first person the artist showed it to, thought “That ain’t right”.
The technique involves creating two layers, a high frequency layer and a low frequency layer. The low frequency layer contains large areas of colours and tones and the high frequency area fine details like skin pores and blemishes, hair and so on. Julia Kuzmenko McKim gives a blow by blow account of this and also includes a Photoshop action that automates the process (which you might use, but entirely at your own discretion). These actions can be replicated in some other programmes too, Gimp, for instance has its own frequency separation plug in.
To the low frequency layer, Mark applied desaturation (taking it to black and white) and Gaussian Blur, also known as Gaussian Smoothing. Carl Friedrich Gauss was an C18th mathematician, perhaps the greatest since antiquity, whose work has had a huge effect on the modern world. It is the application of an algorithm derived from his work and that of Fourier which we need to know not even that much about, leaving such technicalities to people who have use for them. All we need to know is that it is a blur effect that reduces image noise and detail. Mark suggested using a brush around 3.5 to 5 pixels and though the size used would depend on the job to be done and the preferences of the user he suggested that would be a happy medium. The larger the brush the bigger the effect. On the high frequency layer he changed the blending ode to linear light and talked about the relative merits of the healing brush and cloning.
Starting with the low frequency layer Mark evened out the skin tones and then switched to high frequency layer to work on the blemishes, making sure that the healing brush was set to sample from the current layer. There are a number of techniques, he assured us, that can be applied, and people derive their own favourites and short cuts. The results were quite stunning and well worth trying out, more finely controlable than just stamping around with a clone brush. Mark recommended Scott Kelby‘s book on photoshop.
After break Dan took us through the Lightroom layout, which is set out in a way as to aid workflow in that the tools that it shows you at the top of the menus the things you are more likely to productively work on first. This all helps with the work flow. Dan emphasised the lossless nature of using Photoshop, leaving the original untouched. To emphasise these points he took us through some images that he had provided earlier and applied some of the options that the abundant menus allow the user to easily apply. Dan’s top tips? Take in RAW and Slide the Sliders! RAW gives you more data to work with and the sliders let you apply effects incrementally and as long as preview is switched on you can see the effects on your image in real time, saving considerable effort in going back and forth to check your image. There is a downside of course and that is, in the words of Yogi Berra (American baseball player and yes, that was his real name), “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else”. It helps to know what you want to do before you start fiddling around.
A great evening and thanks to Kevin, Mark and Dan for making it possible.
You can find an expanded version of what Dan took us through here and includes ground covered by Kevin as well and a whole lot more too.