Ian Wade was our return guest speaker and showed his grit fighting a cough that was progressively stealing his voice. Our thanks for your dedication and persistence and congratulations on getting through to the end, Ian. You delivered a good ‘un.
So a few things have changed for him since 2014 and his photography has adapted, the projects are a little more local, now and you can’t get much more local than your own back yard. Yet that is one location where he has conducted a wild life project on snails and that is a lot more interesting as it turns out than it, possibly, sounds.
The project is a sound vehicle for honing our photographic skills, but also can be useful in extending our knowledge base of a subject. In fact doing so enables us more as photographers. Photography, taken even remotely seriously, is far more than camera, point, shoot, chimp.
So there are no shortage of ideas for photographic projects. But the use of such a device is probably more critical to its outcome than the subject. What do we, as the controller of the project want to get out of it? What do we want to show? Who is our audience? What format do we want to show it in?
We need to settle these big questions first – that doesn’t mean that they are set in concrete – they can change but we need to know what they are changing from to what they are changing to. An outline to start with covering subject; goal; time-line; final format, goes a long way.
When new to photo projects it is a well to curb our initial enthusiasm for the project by making it a short one. Keep It Short and Simple. The technical challenges come in making the next image better than the last one, and in making acceptable variations.
Longer projects, especially those like a 365 (one image a day for a year), are far harder to keep going than those which have a briefer time line. Better to arrange our project around our free time than trying to arrange our lives around the project. Starting, and keeping, with the end in mind doesn’t mean you have to turn yourself into a hermit.
Who you are shooting for (yourself/friends/family/other) and how informs the whole process, guidelines are useful and not all tangents are a good idea. To this end keeping a photographic journal, in print or on line, is a great idea as it helps us to keep track of how we arrived at our end but also allows for exploring other ideas and variations for a later date.
Also it is not a bad idea to share. Sharing not just the outcome but also the labour, in other words collaborating, helps as we have other, hopefully empathetic, perspectives on the work. This can be between a day shared to a whole project, other perspectives can be very enlightening. Another photographer at least speaks some of the same language as we all share in doing the same thing.
101 Corner – Composition #2
Composition is all about how we arrange the objects in the frame we generally call the viewfinder. It is how we use the fall of light to make an interest in a subject by arranging the subject within our frame. The image is a recording of this.
We have already looked at Tools for Thirds, Leading Lines and Frames. This post we will look at three more.
Patterns and textures are something that our brains seem particularly fond of. Patterns are formed by repetition of shape and or line. Textures are the visual qualities of the surface of an object, revealed through variances in shape, tone and colour depth.
Filling the frame always brings to mind Robert Capa’s admonition that if your photographs aren’t good enough it’s because you are not close enough. Photographs work best when they are about one thing. Get closer with a longer focal length, then use a shorter focal length and your feet to zoom in on a subject. Then compare the two frames.
The tool of odds is again a way of splitting up a frame. This is something that can be contrived in such as a still life, or found in the wild and on the street. It is also probably numbering 5 or less.
Each of these is an easy half hour mini project. Work your way through each then list the things you like and dislike about the images you have captured and make a note of what you would do different next time.
Pam Lane ARPS DPAGB AFIAP and husband Eddy Lane ARPS DPAGB AFIAP were our guest speakers and a fascinating evening spent in the footsteps of Shackleton, some superb photography and a penguin quiz. Can’t say that is a common event! So I came away with a clue about how to differentiate a Magellanic from a Macoroni, a Gentoo from a Chin Strap and a Rock Hopper from a King and the fact that the World population of Penguins is around 50 million. And much, much more. An excellent and entertaining evening that was well received all round.
Earnest Shackleton is often used as an exemplar of Leadership in times of adversity (including by yours truly) and the best quote I have ever come across about that period of polar expedition goes as follows.
“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer.
The story is all out heroic, even if underlying that story are mission objectives not even remotely fulfilled. Everyone got back. What they got back to was the peak of Flesh v Steel and the new way of waging war was being worked out at the cost of hundreds of thousands dead, mutilated, shattered in mind and body. Patriotically they joined up and fought, not all of them survived, but served with distinctions nonetheless.
Pam and Eddy braved the elements in somewhat more certain circumstances, nonetheless freezing waters, actually below freezing waters around minus 2 degrees Celsius, lower if the water is saltier, massive cliffs of moving pack ice and bergs and cold, cold winds all have to be taken into account. Their camera equipment they kept outside for the main part, simply because of the problems of condensation which can render equipment useless especially when it is repeatedly exposed to extremes. Unlike the Northern extreme, though, there isn’t generally wild life there that views human visitors as a welcome variation in diet. One scientist of the British Antarctic Survey was killed by a Leopard Seal whilst out snorkelling, but that was some time past now. The fact that the air is so arid means that the abandoned detritus of human occupation left behind is largely as it was when it was abandoned. South Georgia’s redundant whaling station’s iron work shows a patina of rust but that is only at the surface and many of the wooden buildings survive intact even after 50 years.
Their photographs weren’t only of penguins and wooden shacks, though there were petrels and albatross, seals aplenty and these were all executed with great skill and precision. Personal favourites were of the petrels and albatross against the background of the sea, the seals and the massive ice floes. It was, as already stated a very entertaining and informative evening.
So, carrying on from where we left off in the last post on week 2’s Q & A session we turn to:
What is the difference between RAW and JPEG?
This is also a question of RAW v Everything Else, and we have dealt with this quite recently in the blog, indeed we have visited it several times over the years, so I won’t go over in any great detail.
Much has been written about why you should use it as your standard format. RAW, in analogy, is the digital equivalent of the film negative. You expose the film you get what the lens is pointing at in all its tarnished glory. Ye-Acolytes-Of-Photoshop will tell you to use RAW because RAW retains the maximum amount of information. RAW will almost certainly need some work done on it anyway because it acts as a record, is as neutral as photographic algorithms get, even so are constructed and thus certain assumptions are made at the algorithm manufacturing stage. Way, way before you even entered the camera shop. It is why there isn’t just one edition of RAW. Camera makers, in order to optimise the electronics within their system, write their own versions of it. Programmes like Photoshop have the ability to deal with this variation built in so you won’t be conscious of this. Indeed you cannot view a RAW image by itself, it needs a suitable image programme to view it.
That, Shock! Horror! includes on your camera. What you see in Live View is actually a JPEG….
A Get-It-Right-In-The-Camera-ista will say, not without some philosophical justification, that JPEG is fine, because the decisions you make at the time of capture are the most important decisions in the timeline of any photograph, so take some time to get it right and to be fare Ye-Acolytes-Of-Photoshop wouldn’t disagree. JPEG saves you space, it saves you time and it comes in a universally acceptable ready to go format. You can do edits on a JPEG though because there isn’t as much information to edit you cannot edit to the same degree. Many of the clever things that your camera can do, like HDR, are rendered by the camera in the JPEG format. And what you see in DSLR Live View is the finished article according to JPEG (see shock! Horror! revelation above). JPEG also saves space, but it does this by binning information the algorithm decides you don’t need. It is a destructive editing method. It is great for final shots (you can’t save in RAW remember), because it is the first format that websites, editing programmes etc are set up to handle.
This is where the Histogram comes in. Always check your image against the histogram when you have a scene with high dynamic range. Indeed if you have high dynamic range in a scene (both very dark and very light) shoot RAW anyway. If you are bracketing to grab the highlights and shadows for post process later make sure that the range you are bracketing (my Sony limits automatic bracketing to ± 0.3 or 0.7 of a stop, which is pretty useless most of the time I want to use it, so intend to do this manually) has some overlap (or take three or four or more as necessary). You can then choose to layer and pick whichever is the most suitable exposure part of a scene or combine them into a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.
The sensible answer is to use what you are comfortable with given the job to hand or, if you work for Reuters, JPEG i.e. whatever the client demands and, of course, you have to choose a format to store your edited work in and JPEG is pretty universal.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Week 4 – 22nd Sept 2016 19:30 – Quiz Night. Teams of 3/4 members compete against each other in a photography quiz – So make sure you have caught up with ALL the past blog postings ….
Tony Byram was our most welcome returning judge for Round 4, the final round of this season, of the Reflex Open Competition. We had a very strong showing, over 100 images in the combined sections I believe and so it was a very busy night and a marathon preparative task for Tony. Thank you Tony for your succinct feedback.
Before we get on to the results there has been some confusion over the rules, especially for prints. You are still required to enter a DIGITAL COPY OF THE IMAGE YOU PRINT through Dropbox. THIS SHOULD ADHERE TO THE SAME SPECIFICATION AS A DIGITAL ENTRY i.e. no bigger than 1400 x 1050 pixels and sRGB colourspace. SEE LINKS BELOW FOR LABELLING REQUIREMENTS. If you don’t your entry will be disqualified. Also make sure that your frames are standardised at 40 x 50 cms, no bigger, no smaller. The size of the image within that is a matter for your own discretion, but it must fit within the overall dimensions or it will be disqualified.
Competition Rules can be found on the club website:
http://www.reflexcameraclub.co.uk/ under ROC on the banner or by typing http://www.reflexcameraclub.co.uk/#!reflex-open-competition/cm27 into your browser.
And so to the bit you’ve all been waiting for ………
RESULTS DIGITAL PRINT
“Porth Beach At Dawn” – Simon Caplan
“Severn Sun” – Julie Kay
“Not Quite A Pair” – Simon Caplan
“Going Fishing” – Eddie House
“I’m Vegetarian” – Julia Simone
“Weighted Down” – Julia Simone
Digital Projected Images
“Looking” – David McInich
“Nunney Castle” – Richard Price
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” – Eddie Deponeo
“In the Spotlight” – Chris Harvey
“Foggy Morning” – Eddie Deponeo
“Prague Castle” – Julie Kay
“Yet To Bloom” – Roy Williams
“Pokhara” – Julia Simone
“Victorian Tea Break” – Ian Coombs
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
Sunday – The Reflex Annual Photo Marathon. 10 images in order, on 10 topics, 4 hours!
23rd May 5pm at the M Shed – Simon Caplin is giving a talk on the crafts based photo-project he has been involved in. Be there to give him some support. Tour the rather good Industrial exhibition before hand, you know it makes sense!
Next Meeting – Ann Cook FRPS: “Granny Goes to Glastonbury” a two decade evolving project.
Our speaker Ian Wade a West Country landscape photographer, BBC Spring Watch contributor, author of Bristol Safari, traveller and photographer of wildlife near and far, professed to being a graphic designer first and foremost and that certainly comes across in his award winning photography – and even in the ones where he hasn’t won awards (yet).
Ansel Adams, wrote (and I am paraphrasing here) that no matter how devoid the image of human population there are always two people in a landscape photograph – the photographer and the viewer – and Ian’s photography and the way he talked about it underscored that observation and extended it beyond the landscape and into other areas of his photography where he challenges the normal aesthetic.
Dividing the evening up into sections Ian didn’t present a unified theme for his photography, but did give a lot of insight into what he was seeing and how he captured it and that built some common ground with his audience as most people’s photography is multi-stranded. Nonetheless, certain themes did arise.
The first of these was around people. Pointing a lens in someone’s face isn’t likely to make them feel well disposed towards you. Much can be gained by a simple and polite request and Ian suggested that sharing the result on the back of your camera always seems to seal compliance, even if that did involve the odd game of hide and seek! Ian talked about how he framed some of these with publishing in mind and about how it was important to leave space, in these instances to allow others to infill with text and other details. As we covered in last week’s presentation the advisability of release forms for commercial purposes is a concern (for minors and adults as models and property, see last week’s blog post). The UK legal position on taking photographs is covered here more fully. Ian basically concluded that you should if you can get these releases, though the practicality of getting each and every one in a crowd scene to do so isn’t practical (and may not be required – see the above advice link).
In his travel photography, Ian shared a wide variety of locations: Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Nepal were some of the destinations and he exhibited a range of topics, people, animals, landscapes, architecture in each of the sections he addressed over the evening. He related that in Cambodia he had suffered a kit failure and was forced back on a narrower selection of lenses than he had planned, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he was forced to look at potential images in different levels of detail and framing rather than succumbing to the fixed-point-and-zoom-ring solution. There is something to be said for leaving the house with just a prime lens fixed which forces you to adjust your position, to move closer or further away to get the framing that you want.
Another theme was patience. This is an absolute requirement of the wildlife photographer. Ian’s subjects ranged from arachnids to elephants and his kit from a Canon compact to a full frame 5D Mkii. He made the point that there is a limit to how much it is worth spending on glass and that is related to need. He showed some examples of wide angle macro-photography , most notably of squirrels, where a combination of patience, monkey nuts and the aforementioned Canon compact sourced from e-bay, and a wide angle converter from a video camera provided some impactful images at a very close range. Similar results, though presumably minus the monkey nuts, are to be found in his work with crabs. Both projects were shot locally. Ian spoke of a possible future project with the crabs using a fish tank to get both surface and submerged elements in the frame. His urban wildlife work on foxes has been published (Bristol Safari, Redcliffe Press) and he showed us a similar project on swans.
At the other extreme from the wide angle macro Ian has used longer focal lengths and shallow depths of field to not only isolate the subject but to reduce the form of backgrounds to daubs of colour that make the image pop. Again this strong graphic element divides opinion along a spectrum of standout feature to bokeh in crayon, but that is, as you will already have gathered, an important feature of Ian Wade’s philosophy, it appears, to challenge the viewer.
A graphic designer first and a photographer second Ian showed two images that illustrate the point, one of which seemed to work for club members and one of which didn’t, both of animals and both black and white images. The animals in question, a monkey (with a guest appearance from a dragon fly), and a fox. The monkey was jumping across the frame, just the legs and tail visible at the top. From the reaction of the members to Ian’s request for feedback it didn’t really work and the first impression that came to my mind was that it was the bottom half of a failed Qantas advert (yes wrong continent, wrong animal -by which I mean not a kangaroo- but I didn’t say it was a logical reaction, did I?) and the second impression was the content wasn’t substantial enough a part of the image. The second image, the snout and jaw of a fox in profile, was much better received, but there was more tone and fine detail and a stronger presence with the fox filling most of the frame. Ian pointed out that Foxes quite often, as a subject, don’t come across very strongly in black and white, but here it definitely did and got a lot more favourable reaction from the membership. Ian also said that he was thinking of doing a series of such close ups to cover the whole of the foxes body. This put me in mind of David Hockney’s collage of the Brooklyn Bridge, but I am not sure Ian intends to collage the results.
If you want to make a contribution to your income on a regular basis, however, convention does have to be addressed. This appears to be a part of another of the strings to Ian’s bow, and come across in his landscape photography, which still promotes his personal style. “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment. ” Thus wrote Ansel Adams. That maybe because, according to Galen Rowell, “A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy”, (The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography). It is, however, about a lot more than that. It is about the interaction of photographer and subject of which the photograph is a record as well as the technicalities. Point and shoot most often turns out looking like point and shoot. Planning and persistence, two more, inter-related themes that came across are a very big part of this. Many photographers will repeatedly revisit the same location in order to refine the images in their head and capture those images. He has some fine images from Clifton Suspension Bridge merging from the mist apparently to suspend itself on insubstantial cloud to the church on Lundy floating on a wave of corn.
All in all a very absorbing evening full of hints, tips and challenges and our thanks go to Ian and his partner for making it so.
Sunday is the PHOTO MARATHON and we have competition results next Thursday for the Creative Round.
See you there.
ON THE FLICKR COMPETITION.
Entries required folks, an Alphabetic theme was suggested, but entries to date have been low. GIVE IT A GO! You’ve nothing to loose.