Wednesday, 26 April 2017

What we think is photography

.... is only the first step.

I wonder how many photographic journeys never actually reach an end.

A photographic print.

OK, I'm old. I can still remember how the chemicals smelled when I printed monochrome in my bathroom here, timing exposure by the immersion heater clock ticking, how my hands would smell too after getting careless fingers in the open baths.

Chemicals for colour printing didn't smell the same, warmer & softer - less biting, but were probably more toxic. I can't remember the smell of CIBAchrome chemicals at all, since this was the first printing method I learned in the mid 80's, and only ever printed 3 or 4 images at home.

This isn't about nostalgia.

I just ordered a bunch of prints, and the 12x8s arrived today. A photograph isn't real *for me* until it's been printed and I can hold it in my hand, move it between light sources of frame it and hang it on the wall. It's at this point you discover that the image that looks quite good on a backlit screen is a bit dull, or contains unbalanced blocks of light or dark, or perhaps isn't half as good as I thought it was.

Dark prints are especially difficult to get right. There's no transmitted light to bring out subtle details from shadows, so all those dark areas just block up and go dull. Strongly saturated single colours can just go 'off' a bit, making rape/canola a mustard colour instead of luminous yellow, reds turn pink & lose detail, greens go nuclear-fallout. This time the 2 mono images I had printed came back very dull & lacklustre, without any sparkle at all, and little sense of depth or texture.

There were a few images I was happy to mount & hang, replacing the prints from last year with something brighter, more exciting, more fun and a reminder of the summer to come. There's also some 16x8 panoramic canvasses on their way - I hope at least 2 of them are strong enough to use.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Your art is rubbish!

I seem to have become increasingly mono-oriented since late last year, possibly as a response to winter and a general lack of inspiring colours around. There has been an exception with the Joyful Woods series and I did process some of the North Devon work in colour, but those are an exception. To see my iamges have a look here.

Walking around the site here last week I came across some beds that were being thrown out, and seeing shapes just calling out for a mono treatment I had to grab the camera.

I also have a series from around the airbase, taken to at least partly document the changes to the site as building work progresses and more and more infrastructure is removed.

And then finally I managed to process some of the pictures taken back boxing day, when Chris and I went for a walk expecting to find a pub open, only to discover that everywhere was shut and so went hungry until we got home.

All pictures taken using a Nikon D610 and either manual 28mm 85mm and 135mm lenses or Nikon AFD 50 f1.8, basic processing in Lightroom and conversions in Nik Silver Efex and On1 Perfect Effects.

I hope this looks OK - Blogger and Flickr seem to refuse to play together well at the end of this slow connection, but apparently looks OK when viewed on other equipment. I've wondered if it's an attempt by Blogger to mae people upload their images instead of remote hosting, but I'm reluctant to do that except for those with minimal commercial value. *Just seen Blogger's embedding notice - I shall have to do something about that.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

To Infinitree (and beyond).

I inherited my fathers love of playing with words and the art of the pun, so the name for this was un-avoidable.


It looks a little crunchy here, thanks to a slightly soft lens, sharpening and then resizing and finally web presentation, but that's OK. Shot at Lacock abbey (home of William Fox-Talbot) in mid December, the trunk was really a fairly bright green, and by mild abuse of chrominance sliders in Perfect Effects, the green was adjusted to appear white like silver birch bark, while the sky was darkened.

Shot using a Nikon D610 and Sigma 21-35 zoom at 21mm (hence the slight softness).

Thursday, 23 February 2017

There's no substitute for a good lens

People who read TBOTAM will know that we went away a couple of weekends ago to north Devon, and I ended up shooting a lot of rocky beach pictures. The weekend was all about my wife & her birthday, so I whacked on an old Nikon 28-85 AF zoom and just grabbed a few pictures as the scenery went past, rather than taking my time, changing lenses and carefully composing.

When we got back I was generally quite pleased with what I had at first sight, but then came the processing. The Nikon zoom isn't bad, but it's a long way from great too. The original colour images had very soft contrast due to spray and an overcast sky, and the lens also lent a softness simply because it's not dead sharp at any aperture. I felt fairly pleased with the results in Nik Silver efex, but had to push the tonal range and sharpness/structure of the images HARD to bring out textures and and shapes in the rocks, and it's degraded the images a little on subsequent viewing.

This is an example.

I really liked this at first, but there's just too much fiddly stuff in the rocks, and the cloud on the LHS is horribly distracting. Later I ended up running a whole bunch of images through the mono module in Perfect effects but wasn't really happy due to the lack of a sense of crisp, film-like tonality and detail. I wanted everything crisper, crunchier, sharper.

At some stage these images will need a re-visit.

And like I said, there's no substitute for a good lens.

So Sunday we went to Upton House north of Banbury again, and I photographed some of their 1940s office furniture, again. This time I had a nice crisp 85mm prime lens, and immediately on processing I could see the difference. No need to go trying to boost sharpness, no hoofing structure to try to squeeze more detail out. Just simple, tone and exposure control because all the sharpness needed has been baked right in.

And then this morning, as the gales and the rain were coming along I took a picture of Ben's Guzzi, this time with an old, battered Nikon 135 f2.8 AIS manual lens. It was the same story again - no need to go scabbling around for sharpness - it's there already, even though the lens was wide open. And it's also hard to beat the bokeh from a slightly old fashioned telephoto lens that hasn't been stopped down. Just apply some tonal and exposure control and Robert is pater's brother, as they say.

I wish every photo I took looked as good as these, but sady it's not about the gear and I can still make a mess of some pics. :p

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Andrex and marmite

You can't polish a turd,as the phrase goes, but you can soften it a little so it's less turd-like.

This isn't intended to be turd-buffing. When I saw the landscape before me with the abandoned crop and the colours of the leaves & branches I knew that there was an image to create, but naturally the original was flat due to the light seeping through the clouds. My preference for creating blur is to use bokeh and movement, but in this case neither was appropriate for this image, so I did what I'd do in the days of film and tweak in processing to make something more like a painting than a photo.

Base image

Full size after adjustment

Cropped 'final' image

Woodland walk at Stowe

I've been having problems getting photos hosted on Flickr to show up here properly, and also trouble with the blogger page layout tools when the images are embedded, hence this post is a week late. Try, try again.

Last Sunday afternoon was bright and sunny with frost remaining in the shadows, so we chose to walk again around the grounds of Stowe House. The woodland walk goes around the outside of the haha, up into the woods past the gothic temple and Lord Cobham's pillar to the Bourbon tower (not shown on the map) and then back down to the lakes and across the Palladian bridge.

The Gothic castle 

The Bourbon tower

Sunset from the Palladian bridge

I also processed some up as mono images

The gothic castle

Locked gates on the way round

All photos with a D610 and either Samyang 85mm f1.4 or Nikkor 28mm f3.5 manual lenses.

Monday, 16 January 2017