A big club thanks to Medieval Martial Arts for their visit last session, it certainly was a meeting out of the ordinary! From the postings to the club Facebook Page I see that the opportunities were well taken up. Look forward to seeing some of those on their website. Set me to thinking about action shots.
Action shots are not just sports shots. Yes sports shots are about freezing the action, but even so panning to keep the subject in focus whilst blurring the background is an important variation of the fast-lens-fast-shutter-speed-freeze-action photography that might spring to mind. But, as ever, it is NOT about the KIT, it is about the PHOTOGRAPHER. Well mostly. The equipment can help and when you are being regularly paid to get the shot, not moan about not getting the shot, then the margins, which may be small, are worth the considerable investment. Otherwise it is the case of all the gear and no idea. Not a problem if you can afford it in both the financial and the emotional senses. Big problem otherwise.
Scott Kelby reckons that there are, essentially, four identifiable elements to action photography (sports, specifically but the terms are interchangeable for our purposes): Isolation; Getting in close; Good technique for all likely environmental situations met; Equipment (see above). It is important to note that the last does not stop you taking action (specifically sports) photographs, that technique can help, but there are physical limits and those met on a regular basis might be the reason to buy – if used regularly – or hire – if not. The two things they all do is action and emotion. Hard to get the emotion when dressed head to toe in protective gear including visor, but hey, you have to look for it in the raise of an arm, the tilt of the head, in other words in the body language. The one thing that helps more than anything is knowing what is going to happen next. My contribution to the Medieval night was, admittedly of very little artistic merit, to try and show some of the flow of the action, so shot with animated Gifs in mind so as to show form, predominantly. It was a spur of the moment thing as I can’t use the clubs flash triggers with my Sony. The results show thinking is required and it is because I don’t know the activity I ended up using an ultra wide lens and high ISO and the motor drive in an effort to follow the action. The ones that worked best were the ones where I had an idea of which way the action was going, that is the ones that didn’t show the characteristics of a drive-by point and hold the trigger till the buffer gives out. A certain amount of anticipation was required as at 10 fps the buffer soon fills (tip, change from RAW to medium JPEG, you get a lot more bang for your buck).
More often than not the results were so so, but the few sequences that worked better were towards the end of the session when I had a better idea. I also tried a 50 fps video which worked better than I thought but action photographed at 1/100th of a second isn’t going to produce great stills, before you consider that 1080p produces only 2.1 mega-pixel images (fine for a web pages maybe?) NB: You can use faster shutter speeds, each frame is a separate image but the shutter speed is usually calculated at (a minimum of) twice the frame rate – as a rough guide. The 2 x frame rate shutter speed gives the sort of motion blur our eyes are used to. Go too far and the action looks jerky, rather like an animated gif, which is where I started. The exposure triangle still applies.
Not all, however, action shots are strictly sports, of course. Nature photography also is a major contributor to capturing movement. Birds in flight are a pretty good test of the four elements Kelby outlines for sport. One technique that stands out for both is rear or back button focus, where a button on the rear of the camera does the focusing for you and leaves the shutter release purely operating the shutter. This is a function to be found on most DSLR’s and DSLT’s. (This shouldn’t be confused with back and or front focusing between lens and film/sensor plain which is where the sharp focus in your images is consistently just in front or just behind what you want to focus on and is a technical problem). The reasons for the commonalities between sports, nature, air shows, dance and the rest, though the subtleties are different and multitudinous, is the fact of movement, or as we have called it, action. That is to say the techniques are worth learning even if we only apply them occasionally, in which case we need to adapt to the equipment we have as it is generally cheaper than a divorce settlement, as Kelby points out.
None of this negates the idea of the decisive moment, and certainly there is more in the elements Kelby talks about when they come together. Mark this, however, about the equipment. Cartier-Bresson didn’t have access to a motor drive, photography, for him was an “Instrument of intuition and spontaneity”. Each frame on his Leica was a double throw of the film advance lever, by which time history had moved on. Not, given his training and philosophy, that point and squirt was likely to have formed part of his working methods. As he observed, “There are no new ideas in the world, only a rearrangement of things” and he didn’t shoot movies. Nor, the odd cyclist apart, did he shoot sports, or martial arts, come to that, and if he did he kept quiet about it so it probably didn’t turn out too well!
You can contact Medieval Martial Arts through their website, for this sort of thing or, if you pefer, in slo-mo and again thanks from us for the opportunity to think about and practice our hobby on something different.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
Thursday 9th April 2015: The WCPF Travelling Critique. Entries to the WCPF competition which gives us an insight into the standard out there and also opportunities to do our own critique. For some guides to criticism click this link Reflex WCPF 2014 Blog or enter the terms in Google, it is the top two results, or keep scrolling down on the blog page till you come to the posts marked 10th and 24th of April 2014. WCPF for more details from Gerry.
Thursday 16th April 2015: Club Camera Battle at Backwell. F8 and be there. Backwell Battle Gerry tells you all about it.
“Just do it and let others sort out their problems with it”, was Justin Quinnell‘s advice to the club on Thursday night. Apparently the pinhole camera, admittedly a minority interest, is rather divisive. To artists it is science. To scientists it is art. By this division, apparently irreconcilable, a fascinating and deceptively simple technique for creating long term expressions of the passage of time and not a little mystery is largely disregarded. Links nicely with David Southwell’s definition of photography quoted in last week’s blog ,”An art supported by science”, which seems to square that circle, and, while we are on the topic, a conclusion from the blog before that, that we use tools as a means of controlling what we can in order to look for the art in the rest. Problems of the world solved we move on with this fascinating perspective.
The effect is not new, that is to say, our knowledge of the effect is not new, though its use is contested. Aristotle (384-322 BC) knew of the pinhole effect. Justin has christened it “Aristotle’s Hole” and pointed out that it’s an effect in nature traceable over 5,000,000 years, possibly more. That isn’t an argument for Intelligent Design, at least not one I recognise, but it does show that as a species we seem to be constantly trying to catch up with the rest of nature. Justin had his audience hooked from the off and a gallop through the history of the pinhole, taking in pretty much everything from nature, a sieve and leaves (Aristotle’s implements of choice), mirrors, the camera obscura, ancient Greece, the Renaissance and modern times, certainly added to the evening. Did you know that there are pinhole glasses as well as pinhole cameras? You won’t be getting them on prescription any time soon though.
So, just what is a pinhole camera? Well it’s an enclosed, dark space with a single, small, hole in it positioned so that light can enter through the hole. Light, as we know from previous blogs and those lessons in school science that we paid attention too, travels in straight lines. When it meets a surface it turns an angle and continues in straight lines. If there is a light sensitive material for those straight lines to bounce back off then an image can be fixed. If that material is translucent then it can, as long as a modicum of shade is preserved be used as a screen to view the live image on. Pretty straight forward (though you can make things as difficult for yourself as you wish). Use a mirror and you can project onto another surface, such as paper where you can trace over the image (as long as the light holds). This is a technique that has a long history, though the question of whether that is an honourable history is a provocation itself and goes to the very heart of the question of what should be called art, which I think rather nicely brings us back to where we started this post.
Justin introduced us to some major practitioners, (of whom he is one), my favourite being where whole rooms have been turned into camera obscura’s and the results captured on video or stills photography. One day, maybe. The fact is the physical limits are well known and, as usual, the most limiting factor is the imagination of the photographer. Certainly his own projects have shown that thinking unconventionally doesn’t have to mean great expense. Maybe it’s simplicity works against it. At its’ most unadorned it requires the cooperation of others, a beer can or similar container, some gaffer tape, something with a point on to make a small hole, tin opener and a photographic medium. The idea’s of short and long exposures has to be adjusted. We are talking seconds/minutes not fractions of seconds for short exposures and months (if not years) for long ones. Interestingly – though I suppose quite obviously – there is no development involved. This is because it will go completely dark when you develop the image, or try to, if the fix hasn’t washed the image away. Instead digital comes to the rescue, either using a scanner or a camera – you could probably use your camera phone – and then the reverse option in an image editing application. The truly amazing thing is the latitude the paper negative yields, meaning that the image burning out is rarely, if ever, a problem. Justine was at a loss to explain why, but that does not prevent him from exploiting the phenomenon.
All in all a fascinating evening and one which, maybe, the club could follow up with some practical work?
N E X T M E E T I N G
12th March – Tonight we’ll be answering many of the questions you submitted about photography back in January. The topics will cover all the more commonly asked questions as well as a few unusual ones. Join in the discussion afterwards. Entries for 3rd round of the Reflex Open Competition now due. Final submission for Banwell Photobattle, co-ordinate with Alison.
19th March – an evening in honour of St Patrick, see this PDF prepared by our own Mr Gerry Painter RCC_notice_Ian
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
Firstly a very special Reflex congratulations to Ruth on her Ruby Wedding Anniversary celebrated last Saturday with family and friends at the Pomphrey Hill Pavillion, home of the Carsons & Mangotsfield Cricket Club. I admit I was ignorant of Ruth’s passion for the game until someone passed me this photo from her wedding day of Ruth appealing for an LBW.
Secondly, well there is no secondly, how could you possibly follow that?
So second entry on our brand new website’s blog – Mark Stone a huge club thank you for all the work you have put into this – and it’s Dan Thomas (dannyt.co.uk) on the profession of wedding photographer. If I were to sum up Dan’s advice on the subject then I would use Winston Churchill’s maxim, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. Well that and the observation that your wedding video should always be played backwards so as to guarantee a happy ending.
In essence Dan made the point that there are a number of moments of truth that can be prepared for in the day because they are in the programme and as a supplier to the event it is your job to find out the who, the what, the why, the where, the when and the how it feels and record those memories – and when he says day he means a 12-14 hour shift shooting, three times that in post processing plus time consulting with the bride and groom, and the venues. That doesn’t include time spent in sales and marketing in what is a very competitive market. Yell has 141 listings of wedding photographers within a ten mile radius of Bristol. Even allowing for some multiple listings that is still a lot of competition.
It is the Bride and Grooms day, well, culturally it is the Bride’s day and the Groom does well to turn up at the right venue and look suitably grateful a lot of the time. Surprise weddings are not a large feature of the UK market, those that occur are usually small, attended by the father of the bride and his trusty 12 bore as best man. A lot of, sometimes a life time’s, planning goes into this event. On that basis the wedding photographer does not just turn up at the church take a few snaps and wonder off to the next event as already outlined. This planning forms the key points of the photographer’s and increasingly the videographer’s schedule. Dan stressed that these are unique moments that need careful planning and deft handling. Primarily this is about people, two in particular for sure, but also about everyone else. There will be a certain cohort of the families, possibly once close, who only get to meet at weddings and funerals. The day is important for them too for different reasons and sometimes with grandparents it might be the last time the whole family is together. It is not just a record of bits and pieces but a significant life event. For most people it involves being the centre of attention with an intensity that is not experienced elsewhere. Unless that 12 bore “accidently” discharges. Then there will be lots of photographers and lots of flash photography outside the Crown Court.
The basis of execution, then, is in its preparation. The wedding photographer is a supplier not an organiser, s/he does not run the day as a photo-shoot of wedding dresses might be run, s/he is not the point of the day but they are the key to unlocking the memories of it. It is a story and the photographer is the story teller. It is NOT a small job. A wedding, even a relatively simple one, has a timetable for everything. The photographer knows that timetable and those venues inside out because they dictate what s/he is going to be doing the whole day.
The question of gear was addressed. Dan expressed the reasons behind his kit list: D800; back up body; 24-70 f2.8; 70-210 f2.8; 85mm f1.8; 2 x SB 900 TTL flashguns; Coolpix compact; USB lead; Lap Top; external drive; i-Pad; batteries; battery charger; light meter; flash filters; lots and lots of 16gb flash drives; all kept in a photo-rucksack and shoots in RAW. That is RAW, not JPEG. RAW. The camera backs up to JPEG simultaneously on a separate card but Dan shoots in RAW. This gives the maximum image rescue capacity in case of the unexpected. For one offs such as these where there is not time to go back and shoot again getting the maximum amount of information recorded by the sensor onto the card makes sense. That is shoot in RAW, in case you missed the point. The rest of the kit list is optional and set by individual preferences and experience. The kit is not cheap because it has to work and still carry a back up where ever opportune. Dan shoots all his wedding events in RAW. Dan doesn’t feel the need for anything below a 24mm (16mm equivalent on a 1.5x crop), it is superfluous to the way he shoots and details are only really isolated at wider angles by getting really close – too close for the comfort of the subjects which is the point and beyond that is really very specialist and quite divides opinion. You want results you have to engage with your clients and right in their faces is not going to be very productive.
Details, details, details. Everything is in the detail. It is the small things that matter, because everything is designed around the small details and when the couple view these pictures over time those details enrich the memory and value of the day. Details can be where the cost of a wedding really begins to ramp up. Pay them the respect of an individual frame or two each because they all add up to something much bigger. As Napoleon Bonaparte, who built and lost and Empire on details and detailed planning, said, “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted” (only he said it in French). Reconnoitre the venues, get to know the key people, find out what is and what is not permissible BEFORE it gets to be a problem. Dan pointed out that trading and collaborating with the other suppliers can lead to other business. You really want to avoid extreme angles where you can unless a particular shot calls for it, but that needs to be a pre-planned event. Context is the key to all these details. The context will tell their part in the story so keep the context in mind.
The day usually starts with the bride getting ready. This is going to take some time and she is going to look the best she ever will hereafter. As Dan pointed out, if a male you are likely the only male in the room and have been privileged specifically for the end of making everything exciting and memorable. Take some time and make time to take the moment seriously – gravitas! The people around and her own reactions are the key things to capture, the context of the details you are framing and shooting. It is important to be relaxed, to interact and not to overshoot. Get the angles and vary your lenses and do not be afraid to wait for the moment – it will take longer to arrive than you think! And of course do not forget the dress. This should be done as an item by itself in as sympathetic a background as you can make and make sure you do not clutter your background with irrelevant detail. You may be fond of the colour yellow but a finely and painstakingly wrought garment like a wedding dress is not enhanced against the background of a skip. Pay great attention to the background and de-clutter! Dan’s pithy advice is to treat the details as exercises in real life. These can be and should be practiced because when you are being paid for it you are being paid to have it sorted before you turn up. The same logic applies to us amateurs. Why waste time missing shots when you can practise using your equipment to get it right when you want it?
On the grooms side the grooms men and the best man in particular – DO get the picture of the ring before it is on the brides finger – generally have a lot less pressure and detail to attend to. I am told, with authority, that this is because they are male and the day itself does not need to be complicated by such things for us as thinking. That is why there is so much planning to do to minimise the amount of thinking the groom has to do and the reason there is a best man is that between them they are likely to turn up at the right place at the more or less appointed time (which is way before the bride appears – a wide safety margin is the norm). Make sure you are there to be able to document that side too. The path of two committed individuals coming together to make one path ahead. In order for that story to be told the story lines have to converge at the ceremony, the place where two paths become one.
At the ceremony itself, which of course holds no surprises because you have seen the schedule, visited the venues and interviewed the participants like the person conducting the service, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before its commencement. Flash photography is likely banned, you are not going to be given access to places where you are going to get in the way – determine, and if necessary negotiate these in advance – and that can be as much a perception as anything else. This is the point where you are likely to get the closest friends and relatives and a good time for group shots. These are the people that are going to be obvious by their absence from the album so take some extra effort. Groups should be ranked from shortest to the tallest and everyone should be visible (as per the group shot at the end of the session!).
After the ceremony, the traditional confetti shots, get guests to throw the confetti upwards so that it falls from the top of the frame. Dan also mentioned that this is a good time to use manual focus as autofocus can get confused by the paper in the air. The reception can be some distance from the ceremony and this is where timings are important. It is a good time to get the couple on their own for intimate shots whilst the guests make their way to the reception, so a small detour, to a local landmark for instance, might be in order. At the reception Dan follows the bride as a back up to any other plans having been made. It is always prudent, he reckons, to make sure that the elder generation are well represented as there is a chance that this might be their last big family occasion and of course do not forget the cake.
Private moments are important, there will be intimate moments of connection and they will yield excellent photo opportunities. If there is a receiving line then allow 30 seconds per guest – make time! It is also prudent to have wet and dry weather scenarios. The wedding breakfast is the ideal time to get your shots backed up. A laptop/external drive or other device should always be on hand. Dan also uses an i-Pad to upload several of the best shots of the ceremony as a taster and places it where it will be seen by circulating guests – the bar is a good place!
The practical thing about the first dance is that it is going to be darker than a lot of the other parts of the ceremony. Push the ISO (noise reduction is available through Photoshop or programmes like Neat Image which has a very effective demo version), use flash as necessary – reflected not direct. Direct flash is harsh and unflattering. Think wide medium and close shots. The devil, as they say, is in the detail. The details let you control as much as you can without getting in the way by using your knowledge to anticipate and prepare. If you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail and that has large implications and not just for the photographer. The other key is to be able to relate to your subjects, to engage with them in such a way that they respond to what needs to be done to get the shot. In return you should make it a chore for them, but, either way, every wedding is a one off event – there are no second chances!
Our thanks to Dan for a very interesting and informative evening and to Mark O’Grady for the video which Dan will make available to club members through his website.
This Thursday is going to be great! Why? You mean you don’t know! You’ve forgotten about the Photo Marathon!!
A cold Sunday Morning
OK let me take you back a few weeks to a very cold Sunday morning at the Bandstand in Castle Park. Where quite a few club members met up to complete a Photo Marathon. Ian & Julie spent quite a while organising it and we had a good turn out. They set 10 categories for us to create images for and we had to get them in the correct order. So off we set at 10am in the bitter cold to take the picture for the very first subject, our name. We had up until 3pm to capture the 10 images. Seems like a long time but when your wandering around scrabbling for idea’s the time flies by.
Pick the winners from the Photo Marathon
But I digress, I’m supposed to be telling you why you should come along to this weeks meeting. Well that’s simple. All of the images from the Photo Marathon have been printed & mounted onto large sheets of card. They will be put out around the meeting room and you will have the opportunity to walk around looking at them and choosing your top 3 images from each category. The totals will be added up and winners announced.
So make sure you come along as its going to be a good night. Oh I nearly forgot. There will be prizes for the winners. But I do have to warn you that Ian chose them!
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Sorry its taken me so long to get the results posted, its been a combination of problems with the server and illness. I also have to apologise to David Morgan as I can’t find what I’ve done with the digital version of his print (I know I had it, I checked, but I can’t find it anywhere). So David if you want to email me another copy I’ll add it to the slide show.
Novice winners of the Reflex Open Competition DPI Creative Round
1st FLX vs Joker by Kineta Hill
2nd Multiplicity by Gary Horne
3rd “Closing in on the Pawn” by Suzanne King
Highly Commended “Snowy Smile” by Wendy O’Brien
Novice Print Winners of the Reflex Open Competition Creative Round
1st “Oops I missed a bit” by Maurice Thompson
2nd “Bolt close up” by David Morgan
3rd “Neon Light Flowers” by Suzanne King
Advanced Print Winners of the Reflex Open Competition Creative Round
1st “Sunken” by Richard Price
2nd “Tranquillity” by Alison Davies
3rd “To Fly Away” by Angi Nelson
3rd “Jetty” by Richard Price
Highly Commended “Sgt Pepper” by Ian Coombs
Highly Commended “Tribal” by Angi Nelson
Commended “Envy” by Julie Coombs
Winners DPI section of the Reflex Open Competition, Creative Round
1st “The Rush” by Mark O’Grady
2nd “Suppertime” by Angie Nelson
3rd “Partial Light Orb” by Richard Price
Highly Commended “Event Horizon” by Mark O’Grady
Highly Commended “Flower Faerie” by Alison Davies
Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition
Thursday is the results of the first ever Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and I’ve made every effort possible to not see the entries when I collated them for the Judge. So it’s going to be as much of a surprise to me as the rest of you when they are shown at the meeting. Our Judge, Steve Cox, is going to judge them on the night, he won’t have seen any of the images before they are displayed in front of everyone. I really think it’s going to be a superb showcase of everyone’s work.
Now I bet your all wondering just why I’ve put that image up there. We’ll I just couldn’t help noticing the wonderful effort Mark O’Grady has made with his creative entry. It was so good that I just had to show it to everyone. Don’t forget to give him a pat on the back & a cheer when he walks into the Hall on Thursday.
This Thursday we are trying something we’ve never done before. But we need you to help out! We need you to Dropbox or eMail images into the club that you would like someone to edit for you. You can send in JPG’s or raw files it doesn’t matter which.
The aim of the meeting is to try and show you various ways an image can be edited.
we are going to do that is by using your own images and having someone else edit them! You may not be sure or may have already decided on the best look for one of your photographs. But what will another club member think of it? Will they edit it in a totally different way. Maybe you never even considered that it could be turned monochrome. Maybe you didn’t think a grunge look would suit it. Well hopefully our group of volunteer editors will give you some ideas for you to try out when you next edit your photographs.
Quite a few of you may recognise the two images on this Blog post. They are from exactly the same raw file! The vertical portrait one is a jpg copy (A raw file was just too big to put onto this website) of the original raw file. The larger image at the top of this post is the finished image. Now would you have deleted the original from the back of your camera when you looked after taking it? Or would you have waited until you got home and seen if anything could be rescued from it on the computer? We’re trying to make you think that there may be more to your pictures than you are currently seeing, that there may be more to them than you think. Don’t just discard an image you think isn’t good as soon as you see it on the camera screen. Take it home and look at it. You may just get something you like.