Last meeting of the season and we had a wide-ranging presentation from Bob (Fowler) Ruth (Roberts) and Bob (Bishop) from Backwell Camera Club on the whys and wherefores and, above all, opportunities that this hobby of ours presents. Good stuff.
As outlined in last weeks blog, we go on our annual Mainly-Thursday-Road-Trips for the next seven weeks and we hope as many members as possible can join us. Although they are largely unconnected they do give an excellent basis for members to mandate their own little project.
A photo project is about straitjacketing our good intentions into a purpose and constraining them with a timetable. Essentially, as has been written here before, making an appointment with ourselves. This is one where we can, for instance, make a narrative of one or two photographs from each of these evenings to present on next seasons week 1. The Doctor is in, as they say.
There are as many ways to approach the idea of a project as there are things we can use as our subject. As per usual, I am going to bang on about opportunities falling to the prepared, thinking through just what is involved helps us to set out some priorities. So, taking a lead from our presenters, shoot only black and white on the club summer photo-outings, as an example.
So, first off, with a few last-minute adjustments we have a who, a where and a when. The decision to go black and white gives us a glimpse of how. What is currently a little vague and we need to sort that out before we can start to dig down with the why, which is where the real development starts.
Now the why question can have several answers pretty much anytime that we ask it. In this case, we have to hit on the one that feels best to us. So in this case, shooting black and white on the club outings, we need to sort out what it is we expect as photographers from doing so.
It has oft been said that where we begin determines where we end up. The most common one to us as photographers is a desire to get better at shooting a subject, or a style, or something along those lines. Off we go to the internet and Bob’s your Uncle!
Well, something like that anyway. We are better informed, more often than not, but still unsatisfied. The reason often has its roots in not really having a definite destination in the first instance. Let’s look a little closer at our black and white example.
First off why black and white? One of the most common reasons I have come across are variations of the “It helps/makes me see things differently”. When you remove colour from the equation emphasis shifts to the other, compositional, elements. Lines, shape, texture, contrast and tone take on more of the burden of the feel of the photograph, as well as the look.
Looking at things differently, deliberately, critically, every once in a while, develops our photographic eye and with it we see new and more opportunities because we see our surroundings as photographers rather than navigators.
And this becomes easier because, by shooting in black and white, we eliminate the distraction of colour. And colour is a very powerful part of our world psychologically. Shooting for black and white is just as demanding as colour. A bad photograph is a bad photograph, monochrome will not redeem it, but it does force us to look at things differently.
This absence of colour means, to successfully produce an image, we have to concentrate on finding other elements, those listed above, that combine to make what we have in our viewfinder compelling on a larger screen or in a print.
And in this combination, we are attempting to create an emotion on our viewers. Black and white can look very broody. Deep contrast, rich blacks, appeals to the eye and to the emotions. And, because of the history of photography, black and white has a timeless feel about it that gives it more weight.
Somewhere in these observations, and it does not matter which one and there are certainly others, is the key to why we want to take those type of photographs. It is the one that appeals. So it could be I want to shoot a black and white project. Why? Because I want to explore [Insert Reason Here].
A project, at its basic level, needs to have a who, a what, a why, a when, a where and a how. Miss out one of those and you are going to end up a pile of images which you will spend countless hours fiddling around with in post-production, which is ok if that is your thing, but it is not a productive project in and of itself.
And to really nail it there is a Japanese Proverb, much loved by the engineers at Toyota. If you want to know the answer ask, five times, why? The idea is that somewhere the fifth time of asking you have the primary reason, or in terms of our project, our destination. Surprisingly effective in all walks of life.
So why gives us the reason, how gives us the technique, what gives us the subject, who gives us the sources we can refer to and the people who can help us (this is a Camera Club after all!), when gives us the finish or review date and the times we go a-shootin’ and where a geography we can maximise our opportunities in. Spend 10 minutes sorting these things out and your project will be a lot more effective in terms of your personal development.
See you in Bath on Thursday!
John Cuff of Lee Filters was our speaker last meeting and our thanks to him for an entertaining and informative evening. Handmade Lee Filters are definitely at the higher end of the market but the money goes into precision raw materials and quality control. Now part of Panavision, probably best known to most of us as a credit for the lens makers on the closing credits of oh so many movies, Lee have been making filters for over 30 years. So this week I thought I would take the hint and we would look at camera sensors. No, only kidding, filters. Definitely filters.
Filters are essentially light modifiers, in that only certain wavelengths are allowed to meet the sensor or all wavelengths through darkening. We will come back to this shortly. Those of us long in the tooth who learned the basics of photography from film (not that you have to be that long in the tooth to have done that) will remember the 80A 80B and 80C or 3200K, 3400K and 3800K to daylight (5500K) colour correction filters. Then we had the 81 warming, 82 cooling and 85 tungsten to daylight series filters. Film, it should be remembered is a one off colour deal. There is no Auto White Balance on a film camera. There is a certain amount of dynamic range, but the colour balance is fixed. Colour filters with black and white effect how the greys are rendered, by and large. If you want to see the effect Google Picassa has a coloured filter on black and white option and it is free.
So, looking at the filters from the perspective of digital we are not looking at the colour balancing, that is done by the AWB or manual balance as we have already indicated. No need to pick the right coloured glass to screw on to your lens, you can dial in correction or you can let the camera do the work. Essentially we use the filters in a slightly more subtle way. Yes neutral density filters, polarisers and alike pre exist digital, but we are looking at the effects on digital and as light from the sun predates it by about 4.5 billion years and we have to take it as read, we are looking at the uses we can put these light manipulations to.
So let’s start with the Neutral Density filter, aka the ND, aka Stoppers. Simply put their job is reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. Essentially we are manipulating the light before we start to process it through the camera via the Exposure Triangle. The uses of such a filter include effecting the depth of field when shooting with limited options of shutter speed, ISO and or aperture. Mainly it seems to be used for the slowing down of time to alter the relationship of something in continuous movement across or within a still frame. The much seen effect of milky flowing water or cloudscape comes from applying this sort of filter, it really is quite versatile when you have got your head around it. Graduated versions of the ND allow darkening parts of the frame that are very bright, such as sky lines, whilst allowing for the correct exposure of other section of the frame. With graduated filters the rate at which they darken, how hard the line is between unfiltered and filtered, varies and John showed us how sensor size has an effect on that and why Lee now have four designs to get the most out of the effect without making things too obvious.
The polariser is a popular filter with landscapers, but not exclusive to them, as they can increase colour saturation and decrease non metallic reflections. They are also significant because their effects, by and large, cannot be replicated in post. Their use also requires some forethought and getting the most out of them is a function of familiarity and practice. As with everything else that we use to modify the light its use and impact is best regulated to specific, desired effects. They work best when perpendicular to the sun and a popular way to work it out is known as the rule of thumb where you form a right angle with your thumb and index finger and point your thumb in the direction of the sun. The direction your index finger is pointing is optimal for the polarising effects, that is to say don’t have the sun directly in front or behind you. Of course the roles of index finger and thumb can be reversed but the principle remains the same.
Filters, then are about control. They can be used in subtle ways to control light variations in different parts of the an image or used to give a whole image effect. There are also effect filters to consider, such as those that give four or eight rays to a point of light (not currently made by Lee, I feel I should point out), or which render other distortions or patterns in an image. These can be replicated in post, of course, and these days their popularity seems to have waned. When Cokin first introduced their system filters into the UK nearly 40 years ago, the principle (only) medium was chemical/film based and it wasn’t unusual for a “Serious” photographer to be seen porting around half a dozen or more filters. Cokin changed the game with its system which was square when all the others on the market were round and its catalogue was famously 100 pages thick with examples of the filters in use and quite a work of art. They certainly shook the market up.
So our thanks to John Cuff and Lee filters for a very informative and enjoyable evening. Better start saving.
Last meeting we welcomed the return visit of our WCPF confederates from Hanham Photographic Society and we thank them for their input into the evening. It is always good to see the work of other enthusiasts to compare and contrast to our own so that we may generate some new ideas, sometimes new angles on our own photography of the same subjects. We have also had a reasonable response to the survey that Gerry put together for us on Survey Monkey which has yielded some clarity around the likes and dislikes of our more active members, I am told and that will be discussed and integrated into future planning by the Committee. Thank you all those who took the time to participate.
The stories that we can project onto an image is a powerful hook for a photograph, often before other ascetic attractions. We were entertained with image spreading across decades and something we don’t see in the club very often, AV shows. In fact these were the first AV’s, certainly in the last couple of years that I have been at the club. So this week we are going to take a potter around the topic of Audio Visual Presentations.
Primarily they do what it says on the tin, using sound and pictures, usually stills when made by photographers I guess, but often with movie elements mixed in to make a self contained presentation around a topic or theme. They can be made cheaply using software that is either not very expensive or even free, though, as with all things audio and visual you can spend up to an enormous fortune on “Essentials” and gewgaws. None of course are arbiters of quality, the biggest input, as with any IT system, is located between the keyboard and the chair. If you are serious about such things, of course, by which I mean semi/professional then custom and bespoke hardware can be bought in or built and professional market software have a pay off. For the curious existing hardware and free software are available. This piece is aimed at the curiosity end of the market.
Movie Maker (aka LIVE Movie Maker) comes packaged with Windows. At least it did before Windows 10, it is now part of the Windows Essentials Package (basically legacy programmes from previous versions of windows) and if you haven’t downloaded it into your Windows 10 then you can get it direct from Microsoft. It’s free. It is also an old version as, for some reason it didn’t make Windows 10 in updated form. So far so Microsoft. Apple’s Final Cut does the same in Apples’ own way though it is not the only option. We can also use PowerPoint, for those of us with the Microsoft Office suite, in a variety of creative ways, or Google’s free photo editing suite Picassa (https://picasa.google.co.uk/), and, of course, Photoshop (though this video is done over a PowerPoint presentation).
For recording your commentary, if you don’t already have a programme or app on your computer, and there is one in Windows, you could do a lot worse than Audacity (free) or Free Record Edit. You could also usefully employ an external microphone (quality does make a difference here, but go with what you have before splashing out). If you are going to use music, assuming it’s not your own for which there is plenty of freeware out there for you to choose from, use royalty free music offerings (those with creative commons licensing).
As with most things planning makes for a better result. The process can be as complicated as you want to make it but, as ever, KISS – Keep It Short and Simple – rules the rules. There should be a clear beginning middle and end and one item should follow on logically from the previous. Whether you match the visuals to the audio or the audio to the visuals is a judgement you have to make, but if you don’t know where you are going you are likely to find yourself somewhere else. That is to say if you don’t know the point you want to make then you are likely to end up with a bit of mess. Or a lot of one.
So, when planning for audiovisual you have to remember that there are different priorities than planning just the image alone. The soundtrack is probably the most difficult element to get right, not so much the choice of jingle jangling music in the background which can be very distracting, but the deadpan voice of the narrator is an absolute joy. Not. This can kill any interest very quickly. A little adaptation goes a long way. The ability to put some emotion into the sentences is worth its weight in gold. Difference in tone, timbre, and occasionally speed gives the presentation of some interest. It is a fine line between nearly and good enough, but the effect on the viewer is far greater than might otherwise be thought. Going over the top does no favours either. The breathlessly enthusiastic can equally kill a presentation just as fast. Basically you need to get the sound right as well as the visuals.
Professional AV’s like those used in marketing and sales, can and do use proprietary hardware and software, and that is a sky’s the limit playground for your wallet. The rules, though, stay the same. Of primary importance is to decide who your audience is and the second is to use the medium to talk to them, not at them. The materials you present have to be appropriate, they have to be made available at the right time and often, they have to be able to be played across multiple platforms. This can be where the Web comes in useful with sites like YouTube, Vimeo and so on, where the question of Windows/Mac/Linux viewed on Lap top, PC, Mac, I-Phone Android etc don’t come into play because someone else has already taken care of that. This is good for wide distribution, though controlling access can be problematic. Neither is the cost/bother of burning CD/DVD’s, printing covers and loading into boxes a factor. On the other hand there is a lot you can do with a little, so why not give it a go?
Our thanks again to Hanham Photographic Society for an entertaining evening. Next meeting, Life Begins at 40 ……
Astro, portrait- and macro-photography were the subjects of our meeting this week and our thanks go out to all who contributed and to Richard Price in particular for his introduction to the Astro-photography presentation. Those of you inspired by his talk please note the postings on the club Facebook and Flickr pages for details of the proposed outings. This week’s blog is going to talk about some basics.
The basics of astrophotography are pretty straight forward. Yes you can buy specific cameras for it, Cannon 20DA (well probably not anymore) and 60Da were constructed with modified Infra Red (IR) filters so that other reds close in the spectrum weren’t affected so and thus the images presented are more realistic. No you don’t need to (unless overburdened with cash or taking this very seriously indeed) as long as you have a bulb setting on your camera and a rudimentary grasp of the exposure triangle and access to a Manual mode, you can make a start. Of course patience, a little technique (including in post processing) and a willingness to experiment are also part of the deal as is a tripod, but Richard reckons that a lens around f3.5 or faster and a cable release are the other things you need to get a start. Oh and no phobia’s about post processing. That is going to have to happen, though a relatively modest experience can get you some great results. It helps if you understand layers and masks, which, in essence, isn’t complicated, though the things you can do with them can be. They are not just confined to Photoshop, they can be found in other editors too, such as Gimp. Going as dark as you can, by which I mean as little light pollution as can be found, is also useful, but there are some things you can do in light polluted areas (the darker the cloudless sky the better) Richard particularly concentrated on the Milky Way, though the Moon and a solar eclipse got honourable mentions long the way, as that is the hoped for subject of the photoshoot planned.
Portrait photography is not something we have really touched on in the blog, which, considering its presence in the field of photography is a little surprising, but we have done a lot of stuff around the subject in the club without addressing the specifics directly (by which I mean since I took the blog over). Several members shared their images and experiences and thanks to Gerry in particular for the way he went through the process and reactions to the judge’s comments from the last round of the ROC (gallery pending, should be up in a separate post this week). There is a common misconception that you can’t “do” portraits properly unless you have a studio, enormous lighting rig, make-up and hair stylists and an enormous amount of gear. Whereas there are certainly people out there who would like to believe that, if not just to justify the outlay they have on these things which may not yet see a return in the quality of results, it most definitely is not. Different if it is how you make your living, however, and then it has to be the right gear for the situation.
The basics for portrait photography are the same as any other: a camera; a subject and a light source. As ever, it is how you put these things together that counts. Taking each in turn: The camera is, as ever, the one you have. Yes there are tweaks and options you can generate through the choice of glass on a DSLR or similar, and the white balance and exposure settings, but the basics for composition remain constant. As for subject, you want to do them justice, that means getting the best angle for the person you are shooting. The first accessory you will probably buy is a 5 in 1 reflector. The best accessory you will probably buy is a 5 in 1 reflector. It is a good way of getting the light available to where you need it. There are good reasons for investing in a studio set up (if you have the space) but there are DIY options too which are lighter on the pocket and from which decent results can be made. Learn the basic lighting set ups, get them off pat before moving on to something more advanced. At the centre of portrait photography though, the craft apart, is the relationship between subject and photographer. The better this works the more decent shots are likely, all other things remaining equal. It is as much part of the kit as speed lights, soft boxes or reflectors. It takes work on both sides of the camera for success.
Macro we touched upon in the Ask Reflex post so I will not rehash that, other than encourage you to give it a go if you haven’t and share Tim Cooper’s tip that the background is eveything. So a wide ranging evening with plenty to think about and a big club thank you to everyone who made it possible.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
1. A reminder to join in the clubs monthly Flickr competion.
2. And whilst we are on the subject of Flickr, there is also a club Flickr space dedicated to giving suggestions to member’s photo’s they have posted. A good resource but only if you join in. There are some guidelines on constructive criticism, they are only suggestions but can be adapted. There is an image up there now looking for suggestions.
3. Next meeting we have a guest speaker, Philipa Wood. Get the skinny from Mr Painter here >>> Meeting 30th April 2015
Apologies for the gap between posts, hopefully now we are back on track. This week I am going to over two things, not disconnected as it turns out, though through serendipity rather than design. The first is what we discovered about the rules of composition we learned from our Just-For-Fun (non) competitive round on “Geometry”, where the winning image was a light painting, the subject of our most recent practical evening, by Julia Simone. The second was our session this last Thursday on Light Painting.
About three weeks ago, I think it was, Amateur Photographer quoted Bill Brandt (1904-1983) thus: “Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. Everything should be dared and tried”. Our meeting on 6th November was an open non-competition, that is to say that the members voted on photographs inspired by “Geometry” submitted by the membership “Just for fun”, but it doesn’t count towards the Reflex Open Competition (ROC). Quite a bit was dared and tried, nature, landscape, macro, light painting and there was enough to keep both Ye Acolytes of Photoshop and the Get It Right In The Camera-istas happy, with plenty in between. It certainly was an enjoyable evening and good to see how many people put entries in. More the merrier! Special club thanks to Mark S. and Mark O. for making this happen on the evening and it was followed by a selection of the WCPF travelling exhibition images for some additional inspiration.
Geometry – basically the arrangement of points, lines, surfaces and space – in composition is far from new, of course. Much, much older than photography. What we are really talking about, pictorially, is the relationships between form, shapes and space as we interpret, capture and refine it. Basically features or points in an image that form squares, rectangles, circles, arches, polygons and or triangles. Spotting these is a good start in the following winners entries:
1st: “Alien Shapes” – Julia Simone.
2nd: “Over Head” Louise James.
3rd “Red Ball” Roy Williams.
It is, of course, not the fall of light that allows us to see the arrangement of forms, but how that light is reflected. Without reflection we could see nothing, it is how we see the world. Within that world repetition is probably the first geometric form we think of and gives a sense of stability to an image and a set of sign posts for the eye to follow in a structured sort of way. Our brains like structure and order because that way they can assess the environment for dangers more easily. A similar effect can be made through gradation either in size of objects or colour. Contrast is a form of rhythm all of its own and for many forms the attraction of black and white where distracting colours are leached out of the equation.
Then there are the composition rules of: thirds, fifths and sevenths; the “Golden” or “Fibonacci ratio”, (or even the Rule of Thirds v Golden Ratio); of leading lines, illusions of depth and perspective (eight kinds) sometimes forced by choice of angles and colour (also). These get included or become part of the armoury with practice, sometimes consciously through research, sometimes, maybe most of the time, through seeing and copying them in the works of others either consciously or otherwise. These are the things which we interpret, capture and refine in the space in which they exist. Or we arrange them.
Our light painting adventure, for which thanks to Myk in the woods and Kev and Rich back in the hall – and a big club thank you to them all for making this work – also illustrated these things, “The Rules of Composition“. The bonus with this type of photography, is that the amount of light and the source of light are added in with a higher amount of control than normal. Look at it this way. When we take our camera out in the daylight we mainly constrict the light through aperture, speed, sensitivity to light of the processor or film, or we boost certain aspects according to our concept of composition. In its simplest form light painting – the origin of the word photography is the Greek for Light drawing or painting – we are starting with dark and controlling the amount of light we put into an image, using the longer exposure times to allow for movement and blur which become light trails and patterns. The essentials are pretty basic, but as with any art form, mastery is something else. The big bonus is you get something special from the beginning.
With bigger subjects, or those where we want to isolate a subject and surround it with dark, we can light in part or as a whole or both in series using a single light source if we so wish. Of course it can get as complicated as you like.
Perhaps the most obvious defining characteristic of light painting is the high contrast of the images it produces. Those images need not be complicated to construct, though the level of complexity, layers and so on is really an individual choice and prevailed upon by individual tastes. The contrast is usually, but not always, on a scale that fades to black, so brightly lit subjects will “Pop”. The key, though, is the long exposure and the bright light source. All you need is a camera that has some form of manual control (preferably with a bulb setting that will hold the shutter open as long as the shutter button is depressed) a steady place to mount a camera (tripod would be ideal), a torch and a subject. Oh, and a willingness to experiment. Give it a go. It’s fun, relatively easy and you get some interesting results.
From Mr M. Garton of this Parish
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
Over the Christmas/New Year holiday period we are holding a Woodland Photography Day.
We’ll be spending a day photographing models (both male and female) in woodland settings
We’ll meet up at 9:30am and start shooting by 10am. The plan is to use one location up until 12:30pm and then the 2nd location until 3pm or later depending on conditions.
Any questions, please ask Myk either at the club or via the club Facebook Page.
OLD REDCLIFFIANS LADIES RUGBY TEAM
Need some publicity photographs. A non-paying gig, but something worthwhile for the community if anyone is interested. Ruth Doyle has the details.
UPCOMING AT THE CLUB
November 27th – Bring laptop (+USB) and your selected images for the MAKE A XMAS CARD event! Short presentation followed by a practical. The best one will be sent out as the club card this year!
December 4th – Capturing Stunning B&W images plus Post Production Tips from basics to more advanced from Mr Mark Stone.
December 11th – The second round of this year’s Reflex Open Competition (ROC) will be judged tonight. Get your entries in now!