Shoot and edit and the Quiz to end all quizzes. So what’s the link, other than they follow each other on the Club Programme?
Well, they are both tests, but only the quiz has one right answer. They are both challenges, both stimulations that get the brain working (or failing in my case, but hey, fail is just the Foundation Act In Learning). They are both social in that people with a common interest exercise that interest together, both help to keep us motivated as photographers – probably the best gift that a club can give any of us.
Essentially we added to our own knowledge bases information of varying use and the thing that varies, the thing that makes any of it relevant, is context. That was either through actively participating, discussing and/or helping out. The answer was what worked in that context.
The next step, like building up a question bank in a regular quiz setting, is to see what the context is that makes our subject interesting to us and apply the other two fundamentals of photography, light and composition.
The actual truth of that is it was something about the subject, the light and or the possibility of a composition that attracted our attention in the first place. The more we use our cameras purposefully the more we are likely to be stimulated by those questions.
Then, as we discovered in the last post, the camera becomes “A tool for seeing without a camera” (Dorothea Lange), because we use one to make that statement (our answer). That answer is refined by our use of camera technique.
But what about the editing? We started the editing process when we composed the picture and turned it into a data file (and I am including film negatives in this, because that is, exactly, what they are). Nature is all about mess and inclusion. Art is about detail and exclusion. (I am going to attribute that to Robert Louis Stevenson but I can’t find the original quote).
The data file, especially in these digital days, is a step in the editing process. How much editing and what point a photograph becomes a piece of computer art is a broad, contentious argument that rarely ends up being the same argument it started out as.
But here is a thing. Our editing programme is just another tool in our defining and or discovering that thing which drew our attention in the first place so we can make a record of it and (maybe) share it with others. We don’t even have to pay for it if we want to keep it basic.
And, in doing so, we add to our knowledge bank of photographic and photo editing techniques. The next step is a small one, but a crucial one, if we are serious about developing as photographers. There will, almost certainly and especially when things are new to us, a couple of things we do to each photo we edit.
The trick is to stop and ask ourselves whether this is something that we can rectify in camera, in which case it doesn’t need to be time wasted in editing, and a step beyond that is looking at turning that into something we consciously rectify as part of our camera technique. At that stage, it doesn’t matter whether you have a JPEG or a RAW image.
At the very least that becomes one less layer we have to flatten and combine in the final edit.
Now, it is true that the disease known as “I’ll fix that in post” exercises some people more than others and that with a certain dexterity in the use of an editing programme the joins become invisible (unless they are the point) but in the development sense it does pose a question of what else is deficient in our technique and how that is becoming a drag on our development.
Also, without some idea of the finished product at the outset, that can easily become “I’ll fix that until it’s broke”, assuming it wasn’t broke enough straight out of camera. It becomes a drag on any idea of our continuously learning as photographers because we are wondering around in the dark bumping into the furniture.
This isn’t a “Two legs good, four legs bad” sort of thing. Same as most processes in life, editing, or shooting to edit, is better when it is limited to something with a purpose and something used with a critical eye. That helps to make us better photographers.
That and taking photographs.
And that is the point, really. We buy cameras and lenses and SD cards and computers and software to make photographs. They are tools. More accurately we make computer files, but for the sake of this argument, we make photographs. All photographs are artifices, that is they are made, are artificial. We make art. We make art from light, a subject and the tools of composition.
And if we want to be taken for photographers, not just people with cameras, then it is going to take a plan, some effort and above all, a lot of fun. And if we want to make better pictures …. (Go to top of page) ….
Quiz Nights. You can’t beat them so we joined ‘em. Thanks to Myk Garton for putting the evening together, I know from first hand experience just how much effort goes into making it look effortless. And of course all participants showed themselves masters of their hobby. This week on the blog we will wrap up two of the three remaining questions from the Week 2 Q by looking at: What is front curtain, rear curtain and slow flash? And what is Back button focus? This week has also been the big European photographic trade show, Photokina, held in Germany, one year I will have sufficient time and money to go …..
Still, daydreaming aside, what is front curtain, rear curtain and slow synch flash? Flash, aka strobes, aka those lighty things, is an area that is both technical and often ignored by the amateur. Yet it is one of the most effective accessories we can purchase. After all most of us have one built into our cameras, even if it does get overlooked most of the time. There is more to this than we will look at here, indeed we will visit this in a future blog, but for now we will explore the question that was put concerning these three often found menu options.
For this specific question we do not have to differentiate between off camera flash (or strobes if you prefer) and on camera (that is pop-up or otherwise built in). The reason behind this is that this is a specific question of the firing order of the flash in relation to the curtain or shutter. Mostly this is done off the position of what is known as the front curtain. The majority of cameras have a two curtain (shutter) set up. This enables faster shutter speeds, the flash synch speed of your camera is actually around about the fastest speed that the whole of the sensor is exposed. Otherwise it is exposed through a slit formed by the front and the rear shutter curtains moving across the sensor plane at a fixed distance apart. The faster the shutter speed the closer the gap.
If you expose using a strobe/flash unit above the flash synchronisation speed you get a dark band of varying width according to the shutter speed as the duration of a flash is extremely short. Because the lens projects things upside down onto the sensor and the shutters move from top to bottom this band will appear from the bottom upwards. Not so much of a problem if you only need light at the top of the frame, but not actually something that is easy to fine control both because of the position of the shutter at any given time and how much darker the rest of the frame is.
So why have a front curtain flash and a rear curtain flash? It’s to do with the motion blur in the frame and where the pulse of light freezes that in time. The least subtle explanation, nonetheless one that actually holds true, is that you use front shutter curtain to freeze the action. You might use your maximum shutter synch speed (often automatically set but that depends upon make and model of your camera body) to give yourself the maximum chance of freezing the action. You use the rear shutter curtain and, usually, a lower shutter speed to freeze the foreground and retain some motion blur in the scene. And slow synch flash? Well that is an automatic camera mode that forces a slower shutter speed and synchronises the flash. You can get some very different looking results from the same scene using these variations. As ever, try it out for yourself.
Back button focusing, once you’ve tried it you will never go back. At least that is what its fans say and there is no denying that it is a very useful tool. We looked at this on the blog last August viz “Back Button Focusing (refer to your manual for the native translation in your Camera’s Brand-Speak) does exactly what it says on the incredibly expensive magnesium alloy tin, or plastic camera body as befits your pockets/needs/delusions of grandeur. It is a button on the back of your camera body that activates the camera’s focusing system in isolation from the shutter release. When you operate via the shutter release a half pressure triggers the autofocusing system (assuming you are not mounting a manual lens) and a full depress activates the shutter release. Usually the shutter will not fire until the camera processor detects all the algorithms are in place to produce a point of focus and an acceptable circle of confusion (i.e. something is in focus …). The button itself is usually marked AF or a version thereof and is normally accessible with the right thumb (I’ve never seen one on the left but then I haven’t conducted a survey in any depth). And it’s on the back of the camera.”
Yeah, that is what it is but what use is it? Well first off there is the fact that, whilst depressed, the AF button means that you hold whatever it is you have focused on. In the automatic modes focus shifts when you shift what you are looking at, which can be time consuming. In order to keep the focusing, for instance if you want to shift the main point of focus to the edge of the frame and blur the background. You might want to add to that you can use the continuous mode (AF-C or AF-Servo depending on your camera body manufacturer) of focusing on your camera when following action and use the AF button to freeze the most advantageous point (takes some practice but worth the effort with a high degree of movement in the frame). Or basically no more having to focus every time you let go of the shutter which takes time and can mean that you loose your shot. Annoying when it was already in focus the last time you half depressed the shutter.
So now you know. Next meeting is Table Top photography, a practical so bring your cameras and tripods. Maybe your flashes too!