Sheila Haycock came to talk to us, all the way from Exmouth, on the first snowy day of 2019, about AV – Audio Visual if you are unfamiliar with the term – and showed us that it is a fairly straightforward technique to grasp but, like everything else in photography, something that needs a fair bit of practice to pull off.
In essence Audio Visual in a photographic sense is sequencing stills and setting them within a time frame to commentary, music and/or sound effects. As such, as Sheila amply illustrated, we can recycle our existing images or script a shoot specifically for the purpose. Or mix the two.
What this can do is spark the creative process anew, as well as be a rainy-day-nah-lets-stay-in activity that still involves photography. What it won’t do is rescue a ropey set of pictures. Sheila’s are high quality images that she weaves into stories – and wins awards for.
As for software, well there are the Adobe / Final Cut paid for (very flexible and not cheap) routes all the way down to free. Sheila uses PicturesToExe which is a mid priced alternative. You might even have a copy of Microsoft Movie Maker on your computer, depending on its age, though that is no longer supported but you might have Video Editor loaded, which includes 3D effects but is otherwise pretty basic.
The basics of telling a story, regardless of medium, are the same, including a photograph. First we need something to hook our audience, the subject in a photograph is the subject in our story. The difference with an AV is that we are going to transition between stills in order to progress the story, using words/sound and the strongest element, the picture itself.
The transition, basically the next image or set of images, purposes, in a well told story, to build the tension (and release it a little) so that we get to the crux, the point, of the story. Then the conclusion, the punchline.
This is the basic structure of a good story. Of course we can have a good structure but if the materials aren’t good enough then all we are left with is a good story poorly told. It has to be logical throughout, but it also has to be engaging.
The role of the sound track is not something to be underestimated. It effects the emotions and dictates our reactions to what we are viewing. It is a powerful point of connection with the story. With this in mind it has to be picked carefully, music especially.
There are copyright issues with the use of music, rights need to be respected, and the requisite licenses should be purchased, and though there is copyright free music to be sourced, the licensed music option opens up a much wider catalogue.
Sound effects can also add to the impression of a three dimensional place within the presentation, but again, it needs to be appropriate to what is being shown and to the direction of the story, it is both clue and environmental enrichment.
The third element is the script and that can be the hardest one to get right, not least because most people reading aloud will do so in something approaching a monotone. This can be a real buzz-kill because, if the artist is sounding like they are uninterested, how can we demand the audience stay awake, let alone engaged? It needs rehearsal and it needs a certain amount of delivery skill.
There is, then, a considerable amount of flair in putting a successful AV together, but the proficiencies themselves are there to be mastered and the tools, even beyond the basic level, are easily enough resourced. It demands a blend of talents but it can be an effective and entertaining way of telling a story, using new or existing images.
Following on from the table top week this session was a results one. These are important sessions to us as photographers even if we are looking at the same subjects we are not looking at the same interpretations and as we looked at in the last blog, these are a really good place to practice the basics in situations where we can control pretty much everything, cheaply and enjoyably.
Photography, for anyone who takes it at least a little bit seriously, is a problem solving exercise. How do we get others to see what it is that we see that bears recording? The author Flannery O’Connor is quoted as saying ‘I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.’ Substitute “write” for “photograph” and “read” for “frame” and “say” for “see” then I think a lot of us would recognise the feeling. There is a whole craft of difference between “There is something interesting” as opposed to “There should be something in that”. Don McCullin feels that “Photography … is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures,” Hence, in search of what our mind’s eye sees (visualisation) we can apply the principle of “Working the scene” as a method of seeing what we are feeling.
Worth revisiting, before we expand this, are previous considerations on rules – which those of you have persevered with this blog will remember as “Tools” – which are all about organising lines, curves, triangles and shapes for effect. There is an elemental value to thirds, leading lines, filling the frame, repeating patterns etc. etc. but not of their own. We are the difference that focuses all these things into a frame, the ultimate lens.
First off let us consider the notion of the position the camera is in when viewing a scene aka Point of View (POV). Rarely is eye-level when standing, unless you are exceptionally tall or exceptionally small, the best to be had POV. I am not sure what percentage of the images are taken from this rather inflexible POV but willing to bet it is in the high nineties. That is not to totally to dismiss it, it gives us an as seen perspective after all but it shouldn’t be left at that.
Moving, zooming with our feet changes the perspective of foreground to background. Zooming with a lens alters the compression between foreground and background by optically cropping. Then there is the low angle and high angle perspectives and we can combine these POV’s with the tool of thirds to place objects around in different parts of the frame, and / or vary the depth of field.
All these are interactions with the thing that we saw in the first place, the thing that gave us pause. We use the frame of the viewfinder to exclude those things that get in the way of that vision and we use the principles and tools of composition to work the scene in order to explore those things that are particular about it out of which we make a story. It is worth putting in the effort to make sure we have all the angles covered, to have the material to choose from that gives us the best chance of getting on file what we saw in the first instance.
Can’t this be done in post? Technically some of it can, but, the in camera images are the raw materials, not the finished item. Indeed, it could be argued that, as pictures, this data does not exist as an image until it is printed. It is everything we can work with but it’s not everything on offer. Remember, that the camera is a tool for excluding detail from the capture of what we have visualised.
Culling the images should be the left to the start of post production. It is basically a waste of time and battery to keep on chimping (taking the photograph and then looking into the live view and going ooh,ah) and breaks the work flow when working the scene. All things at the proper time is the basis of an effective work flow.
Time spent in capture, getting it right in camera, saves on time staring at a computer screen trying to put things right. Experience tells us that we will, with the luxury of time, squander it fiddling with lifeless images, often trying to hide deformities beyond masks and filters and effects. It is the joy of being an amateur that we can do this to our heart’s content. It is death as far as anyone getting paid for it is concerned.
To get through a lot of images it is a good thing to apply the 2 second rule. Any image that does not hold your attention for longer than 2 seconds delete. No ifs’ no buts’ no maybes’. Two seconds, it appears, is about 4 times longer than it takes to form an opinion of a photograph. Anything longer is not going to make an image any better.
Then we can start working on those that are left. There are a number of different ways of doing this and everyone develops their own, but there has to be a reason for making each decision. I am doing this because … It is always because, as, as far as learning goes, there is no more powerful word in the English language than because.
So, at this point, grab the camera and off we go ….
This last fortnight we have covered ROC round 3 and it was our turn for the WCPF prints, where we could exercise our own critiquing skills. This is always popular as members can be more involved than is necessarily the case on competition nights. On my table we got into some earnest questions not so much as which pictures we favoured but why that was so. Agreement wasn’t necessarily required, and we came to our 1,2,3 decisions for each category through a simple majority vote. That wasn’t really the point of it all though. The theming of those prints gave me an idea for this weeks blog.
When we look at other people’s work we are looking at other peoples way of seeing, which is not ours. Sounds deep. Essentially if we want to improve we have, at some time or other, to challenge our own way of seeing, discuss our way of seeing. Using the WCPF and viewing the competition work we can put that into some sort of perspective. Yes I like that – why? No I don’t like that – why not? The Japanese have a saying that if you want to know the answer ask, five times, why? Basically break down the reasons to the core. That teaches us something about our own preferences and we can, if we take note of these things, start to make a difference to our own work through it. Or, as I am sure I have quoted to you before: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – get it out with Optrex” (Spike Milligan). It has to be a conscious decision though, to do something about it.
Sounds like a slow process? Well it is. Our world is awash of nail-it-in-five-easy-lessons advice, yet that isn’t how humans learn. Sure you can get the basics right in about 20 hours but making the learning our own, that takes longer. Practice makes perfect as I am sure you have been told. Along with “Fail is just the First Attempt In Learning” and other useful things you want to strangle people for. And until we start to take on the critical eye, start taking and rejecting opportunities as part of a conscious effort, we just go round in one big circle until we are torpedoed by our own failed expectations. Bit like the sinking of the Bismarck.
But it’s a hobby. We do because we enjoy. There is no other compulsion than the one that gnaws at us to get the camera out of its bag and go shoot something (in the nicest possible way). There is always something on to point the camera at, the local “What’s On” tells us so. Left to the random too much can get missed or we end up trying to do too much in too little time. Opportunity generally isn’t a problem. Having a direction, some rails to run on, some clues as to what to look for, that is a great way of focusing the attention. Welcome to the world of the photo-project.
In its simplest form a photo project is a theme, a camera and a (regular?) space in the diary. There are as many projects as photographers, it seems, and that is because, to work, it has to be personal. We have to have some emotional attachment to what we are doing or it simply will not get done. The first point to take on board is that a 365 day project, a photo a day, sounds great when we start out but I am willing to bet that most of them don’t get completed, or get modified into something more suited to time and effort available. 30 day and 7 day projects are also popular and are more feasible. Timescale has a role to serve as we are effectively making an appointment with ourselves. The subject can be anything, but has to be something we have to put more than the usual amount of effort to complete. Then there are subject variations like: shoot 100 strangers (the serial killers favourite); A-Z; 52/26/12/any random number Photo-walks; pick a colour/theme; one focal length; the Roll of 12/24/36 (back to the old film days where you limit yourself to a film roll on a shoot); The 100 ISO challenge (fixed ISO can also be done with fixed aperture or speed); manual only focusing; plus a host of others.
Of course there is also the ongoing project, the one that lasts over months and years, that can involve deeper immersion in the subject where the style you develop adapts to the conditions your subject is most commonly found in. Osmosis, by and large is not a thing that produces results particularly quickly, if at all. The whole planned thing gets you thinking. The whole well I didn’t expect that thing we find when we get to a location challenges us to adapt. These two things help us develop but the third leg of the stool – looking critically at what other people have done and why we like it or what we would change about it and how we apply it to our own work- puts what we are trying to do in a context. That gives us something to learn and to improve with.
OK so this is based on a my-best-shot-is-my-next-one philosophy, but continuous development builds over time. It is about DELIBERATE practice. Now practice does not have to be devoid of fun, again I say this is our hobby, not our penance, but if we take Henri Cartier-Bresson’s point quoted in the last blog that “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst” we miss the point and that point is the our first ten thousand deliberate photographs are our worst. And that is OK. Deliberation is the difference, and that can be as simple as going through your latest batch of images and thinking “If I were to take that one again I would ….” and then doing it. That is where we came in. Five members of a photographic club sitting around a table deciding what attracts them to different photo’s, and why, as a basis of going out and doing something about it.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Club member Julie Kaye on underwater photography.
Speaker Clive Haynes FRPS led the evening on Topaz and it is as well to reiterate that this isn’t just an Adobe compatible plug in, but that there are a number of editors that is designed to work with, and there are fourteen or so different plug-ins Topaz offer. Adobe, of course dominate the market, but all the plug ins are available at a discount via Clive’s website. From the afters this was one of those presentations that hit home at some fundamental beliefs about photography.
On the Facebook Group there was a lot of talk about what is worth editing, reflecting last week’s theme of editing and how much of it can a photograph have before it becomes a piece of graphic design. This week we are going to look into who owns an image, and this is linked to last week’s discussion on editing and on the Mighty Book of Face discussions from this week.
A year ago a San Franciscan judge decided that, under American copyright law, a monkey could not own the rights to a picture it had taken because it was not human, even though it pressed the shutter. A new definition for “Chimping” this was not (the practice of taking a shot then reviewing it on live view and going ooh and ahh and pulling faces. Another reason to go mirrorless). It is, under English law (and not a few other jurisdictions), a question of personality, and though “Naruto” the Black Crested Macaque in question certainly seems to have bags of it in the way most of us think of personality, in law it is the capacity to hold legal rights and obligations within a legal system. This is what enables firms to go to civil law over disputes in contracts and so on.
Now you’ve seen the picture in question, I am sure, it became known as the Monkey Selfie. David Slater “took” the picture, in that he provided the materials, set up the shot and patiently waited for the Macaques to partake. Macaques have no legal personality and therefore cannot give their consent, nor withhold it to be photographed, nor profit from doing so. If the Macaque was owned by a person (it couldn’t in the UK by members of the general public, there are legal issue preventing this) or other body that has a legal personality then that animal would be their property and the prudent photographer would be careful to get a property release.
Now this isn’t the time nor the place to go into the pro’s and con’s of this case but it does illustrate something that most of the internet (i.e. the people who use the internet) is either blithely indifferent to or unaware of. Someone made that picture you are looking at. When someone makes their living from that, copyright has particular weight. Unless they give you permission to use that photograph, either directly or through a Creative Commons License, or other form of explicit license deal then we do not have the right to own their and/or use their property.
Without turning this into a Politics lecture (for that you’d have to pay me) this actually goes deeper than a feeling of “Mine”, it is an absolute foundation of our society. Let me quote from Wikipedia (Academics look away now): “Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property) . So regardless of opinions on Social Media (fancy that) demanding the right to exploit others work free of charge isn’t what the law in England and Wales licenses. Whether you agree with Pierre-Joseph “Property is theft” Proudhon or not is, as far as the law allows, irrelevant. We make property by mixing our labour (intellectual and or physical) with materials and by doing that create something that didn’t exist before and over which we have title (ownership free of valid claims by other parties). Then we can consume, alter, share, redefine etc etc it as we see fit within certain boundaries.
Fairly straightforward, at least until the lawyers get involved. There is a concept called fair use and there are questions of when others take your property as a starting point but make art of their own from it, such as sampling in music. Whose art then is it?
Artist Richard Prince was doing this with other people’s Instagram feeds and making $90,000 a pop out of it, a couple of years back (maybe still is) by altering the originals by posting a couple of words as comment underneath and then printing the whole thing. This did not please a lot of people, particularly those whose Instagram feeds he had mined for images, though others were quite accepting of it. No one sued of copyright infringement this time so its legality has not been tested. Civil law really is for the rich or otherwise well funded. Especially as he started “Rephotographing” other people’s work in 1975 and some of his work has gone for $1m or more, he would probably be in a position to afford to defend it. Indeed in 2008 he did just that and his defence of fair use (see above) was not accepted. Obviously this has not deterred him.
In fact this whole idea of other people’s stuff is quite problematic. An image can spin an idea, we might try to recreate that image or give it a new spin, either intentionally or through technical short-comings. We have in the UK the idea of freedom of panorama, which was under threat from the EU in its bid to harmonise European commercial law but was finally decided in favour of having one. If what you are taking is a view taken from common land it is not subject to copyright (though the manner you do it in might be in breach of other, criminal laws) and we have covered this before. If it involves street photography then you must not conduct yourself in such a way as to cause alarm. If it involves minors it is always best to get a responsible adult’s consent – first. If it involves making money from someone’s image or an image of something that they own you can save yourself endless by getting a properly formatted consent (you can get them as a phone app these days). Ditto if you are profiting from the image of the property of another person (it all goes back to title).
So, editing our images, well silk purses and sows ears metaphors aside – or why are you wasting your time in the first place? judgements – is a matter of personal taste, at least as far as the amateur goes, but how much, really, is it your image in the first place can be a complicated problem.
N E X T M E E T I N G
19th Jan 2017 19:30 – The Chairman’s Evening: I believe a camera will be required. Maybe a tripod too. Bring yours.
As we approach carnival season, Somerset style (see below) and the photo opportunities that creates, we spent last meeting huddled around various laptops editing in a handful of different editing programmes following on from Marko Nurinem’s virtuoso display last week. So there was Lightroom (of course) but also GIMP, Smart Photo Editor, Picasa, and Photoscape with CS2 (free from Adobe and all quite legal here is how to get it) ACDSee getting honourable mentions from new member Gary.
Now, you long term readers of this blog will know that the world divides into two camps, the Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista’s and Ye-Accolytes-of-Photoshop. As an avowed Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista I sure do a lot of editing. The argument is that the more you get it right for you in the camera the less fiddling around you have to do in post-production. In my case it comes from a youth spent shooting expensive slide film on a shoestring budget. In these digital days, when the hardware is still expensive but the marginal cost of the next image is a fraction of a penny, what that is really about is expanding the chances of achieving the image you want to capture. The principle categories in photo editing programmes are those that alter the fundamentals of the image and those that layer effects on. Of course the real world contains a bit of both usually, but the fundamental approach will be one or the other.
If you are shooting in RAW the images can seem a little flat and dull – remember that what you see in the viewfinder is either a reflected image of the actual light falling on your subject or, in CSC’s and compacts, effectively a jpeg. Sometimes a little cropping or erasing extraneous details make for a more satisfying final product. Maybe a shadow could do with lightening or a sky darkening to get back some detail, or a blemish on the skin would be more flatteringly removed from the portrait. Smart Photo Editor is the proprietary, paid for (£19.95 ‘on sale’ and a bargain stand alone and £34.95 as a Photoshop Plug in) programme I use and also Gimp and Picasa, both free. Others use other combinations, some paid for some free.
Your ambition may not quite extend to the do everything Photoshop (yet at least) and I will venture two reasons pecuniary why you may not, one more obvious than the other, viz: (A) you don’t have the set up or space or need for it to make the most of it and (B) Zombies. The former is more obviously expensive than the latter, and I don’t want to get into an endless and ultimately fruitless kit pornography rant, so ’nuff said, but the latter can have quite an impact on the pocket. Let me explain.
Fortunate as most club members are to be living in a city that has an “Official” policy for handling of a Zombie outbreak, that isn’t quite what I mean – though there are worrying sightings. Zombies are those little items, small denominations, that walk out of your bank account every month without much thought. In isolation they are not a lot. Their attraction is their affordability, the trade is made worth it by the perceived quality/quantity you get in return – at the point of purchase. You get a lot of things with Adobe’s Creative Cloud for photography for £8.57 a month, no doubt. A more detailed and flexible programme there is yet to be brought to market, though the gap may be closing. It is, I suspect, a lot more than most amateur photographers need, but it’s always nice to have some extra wumph under the bonnet. If it wasn’t no sports cars or sports bikes would ever get sold. For a vocal minority bragging rights are always the primary concern.
That, though isn’t quite the point. Are you going to pay (and keep on paying) £102.84 straight out on something you might need? No? But might pay £8.57 a month on something that is more than you need, something you can expand in to. It’s there and it ticks over and you get used to it. But, when is it just one item? When it’s a couple, or three, it grows. £20.00 a month isn’t a lot to spend on a hobby, say on editing and storage. £240 a year is not an inconsiderable amount to waste. Certainly less than a divorce lawyer when the other half finds out how much you really spent on that camera body. That’s halfway to a very decent new lens or a goodly second hand one even on £20.00 a month. The zombies keep on walking and are easy to add to, easy to forget. The costs add up. On the other hand it keeps you up to date and Adobe get a steady revenue stream, pirate copies are fewer and far between. Easier if you are self employed and you can claim it against tax, of course.
Not that I am seeking to dissuade you. The reality is Adobe first, the others a long way behind when it comes to sales and it is a de facto industry standard, which in itself generates market share for Adobe. Our focus, though, was on a broader range of editing opportunities as well as Photoshop. We looked a little at the alternatives to Photoshop on the Ask Reflex evening, this evening was a chance to get closer to the subject. From a little tour round I would say that there is a great deal that you can do with a little practice, patience and occasional lateral thinking as members showed how they adapt what they have to get what they want.
There is another benefit to using editing software that may not be immediately apparent, at least at the time of shutter release and really is about getting your money’s worth. Through cropping your original image you can often find more than one image possibility from a given frame. (Don’t confuse image crop, cutting out bits of a bigger picture with sensor crop the physics of collecting the same amount of light on different sized sensors). You effectively recompose the photograph, albeit with less data in it. It might be that the light and shadow falling across a landscape actually yield two very different moods when you isolate each area and you now have three opportunities from one frame. I would say that, in work flow terms, cropping is the first thing that you do, because you have the essential character in view that you want to work with. The crop is basically a magnification of the connection that drew you to take that frame in the first place. There are frequent chances to re-crop a frame rarely do we crop so tight that there isn’t any wriggle room and even then, sometimes, going more extreme tells a different story. Of all the editing you can do this is perhaps the simplest and the one with the biggest potential, which is why I would suggest it’s the best place to start the editing.
follow the link as it will show you the dates and also has descriptions of themes. Click on the individual carnival websites for start times etc. Below is a copy of Myk’s post on the club Facebook page:
“This year’s Someset Carnival season is almost here. If anyone would like to attend one of these events as a group, please see the dates and locations below.
We’ll be making announcements on club meetings so everyone will get to hear about it.
Monday 09/11/15 – Burnham on Sea
Friday 13/11/15 – Weston Super Mare
Monday 16/11/15 – Midsomer Norton
Wednesday 18/11/15 – Shepton Mallet
Friday 20/11/15 – Wells
Saturday 21/11/15 – Glastonbury
The preferred date/venue is Wells on 20/11 as they have market stalls, hot food/drinks and a fairground in the market square”.
Reflex Open Competition Round 1.
Please note that there will not be a meeting at the club next week instead we are away at Backwell for a club camera battle. Said battle commences at 19:30 hours come along and support the club. Details are as per Gerry’s flyer here>>> Backwell Battle.
We were fortunate to have to the WCPF travelling exhibition again with us at the last club meeting, these prints were the ones that didn’t make it to the final cut. It was, as ever, as instructive as it was occasionally puzzling. We also had gold silver and bronze award prints to compare these to and there was much lively discussion about the relative merits. As has been said before, beyond the basic and accepted technicalities of the exposure triangle, focus, composition and subject and competition specific rules lies the more fraught ideas of what makes a good subject and a good image. What follows are some reflections from comments made and brief discussions had on the evening.
There were a couple of things that stood out quite strongly in the negative camp: one was to do with the style of mounting and the other was the overuse of the clarity slider in post production.
Let’s take the mounting issues first. Nothing says that the print has to be bang in the middle with an even border all the way around in order for a printer to be properly presented. Indeed variation can really bring a print to life. There were, and not just in this correspondent’s view, a number of prints that used letterboxing but set them in the top third of the frame in portrait giving undue prominence to the thickness of the bottom border. The effect of this was to immediately draw attention to the frame and distract from the picture because of the depth of the bottom part of the mount. Never in human history has the utterance “Nice frame” been a compliment. It was a shame that the frames swamp out some rather interesting images which were otherwise of very good, certainly club level, competition standard.
The Golden Ratio again rears its head and is supposed to produce the optimum border calculation (I will save you the maths, 6.05 cms on a 40 x 50 mount, for other sizes I direct your attention to the calculator at the bottom of the link). Nothing, though, says that a border has to be the same all round, it is a question of perspective. Think of the hinges on a door. When properly hung the top and bottom hinges are set at different depths from those extremities because we generally view these things from a standing position and if evenly spaced the perspective looks wrong. The bottom hinge is actually set higher so as to create an illusion of even spacing. otherwise it looks “wrong”. The frame of a print can be a powerful statement, but shouldn’t be so powerful as to overwhelm the statement the image itself is supposed to be making.
The clarity slider is a great way to boost mid-tones, or cut them back. It is an invaluable tool. Like everything else it can be overdone. There were a couple of black and white images that had the grit in the mid-tone turned up to eleven. Clarity works by increasing contrast but with a bigger effect on both the highlights and the shadows, essentially pulling out the histogram from the centre. Texture is more refined and certainly there is a case for a higher input when it is in need of a boost, and it does seem to work more effectively in black and white. Move the slider to the left then it has a softening effect (often the chief culprit in the charges of unrealistic portraiture or death by post-production). It’s not just clarity that can be overdone of course, saturation can become garish with very little input in the right (if that is the correct word) circumstances. Vibrance is the smarter sibling of saturation. It will select the dull colours and boost them whilst leaving the vibrant ones alone. It will leave skin tones untouched. Taken as a trio these are very powerful tools but need to be handled with care.
For all that these things are a matter of taste and therefore personal. Judging – and these were the entries that just fell short in the judges view – is as subject to fashion as anything else. HDR, partial colour remain controversial, not least because they are difficult to do subtly. That said, how dull would it be if every photograph was conducted purely to competition standard? I, for one, am glad of the variation.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S.
Next Meeting at Backwell Camera Club
Station Road BACKWELL
Bristol BS48 3QW. Starts 19:30 (7:30 pm).
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.