Friday, February 23, 2007

Colour v Black and White?

Two versions of the same image. I originally liked the "near mono" version just fine. Then, I decided to make it full mono. I liked that too. Now, I can't properly decide which I actually prefer. Maybe it doesn't matter, but I kind of want to wrestle this to the ground. Can you help?

Comments welcome.


Leaf and Bark detail

I was recently out walking by the Cam, near where we live. It was a grey overcast day, and there appeared little to inspire me. So, in time-honoured tradition, I tried to look for interesting details, colour and texture.

I shot in RAW - something I am comitted to do from now on - and the result is this little image below.

Cropped a little to remove unwanted distracting leaves, and then adjusted in the supplied Canon software for 350D RAW conversion. It was great to bring back some of the detail in the shadow area - much easier and subtle than in JPEG....

Comments welcome.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cropping Assignment - Photo Mono Lake

Here are my choices of cropping for the photo Mono Lake

This is the original photo. It cries out for a panoramic format but I wanted to avoid the obvious so I spent some time really looking at the photo and tried to see the elements that appealed to me.

This salt (?) structure is what stood out for me so I took that as my focal point. Here I attempted to use the stream in the foreground to lead the viewer in, and removed some of the sky to focus the eye more on the structure.

In this crop, I used a square format and opened up the image to allow more elements to be see, such as the clouds and the subtle colour in the sky. I have also used the mountain range as a background and pulled emphasis away from the salt structure.


A Suggested Assignment on Colour

Here is a suggestion for an assignment. If you think it is not a good idea then please say so, otherwise lets see what we can produce.

Colour is a dominant theme in the images we see and in the photographs that capture those images. There may be a wide gamut of colour in a photo, for example in a Ivan T. landscape shot or a photo may have few colours but each being strong, punchy, dominant, striking.

When one focuses just on colour in the world, as one drives, bikes or walks to work, or as one putters about in the kitchen or wherever, then colour starts to jump out at you all the time. Colour is everywhere.

This assignment is really quite simple. I propose that for a few days during your busy working week you try to focus your eyes on colour. Without your camera. Leave the camera at home and use your eyes as your camera to see and capture the colours in your daily life. As you drive to work, sit at your desk, east your sandwich, hoover the lounge... Get your eyes use to seeing colour...not texture, or objects, or things just colour.

Then, after those few days, take your camera with you to work or wherever you go and try to capture the colours you see in your daily life on film.

Lets say that each person can post up to three images. The photos have to represent colour foremost. Thus, when one looks at the photo the first thing they think is colour.

Comments, suggestions welcome.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What are you thinking...?

Picture taken near the London Eye. I used my super-wide (17mm) lens to get the lady and the Eye in shot. I like her as foreground interest, and the lines of tiles leading to the Eye.

Comments welcome.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sanderlings in flight, Sable Island, Canada

Here is the first of the images that I captured on Sable Island. This photo is of a group of Sanderlings in flight with surf in the background. I shot it using the panning technique with Al Servo focusing, thus trying my best to keep the birds in focus. It was shot at 1/100 at f20, ISO 200, focus length 300mm.

Exercise in Cropping - Reculver, Kent

A while ago, I posted a couple of images as an exercise in creative cropping. Well, I have decided to give it a go for myself. This image of the ruins at Reculver, Kent, UK, has several possibilities to my eye. Here goes...

Original Image: Perhaps too much uninteresting foreground? So, we'll start here...

Crop 1: trimmed off a bit of the rocks, still leaving a base for the photo and an overall similar structure, although slightly squarer.

Crop 2: Further trimming of the rocks, squaring the image and focussing now on the groynes, sea and ruins. May suffer from not having a base to sit on. I think it's stronger than the original, but not sure why.

Crop 3: Completely focus on the shapes of the sea and the groynes, with some small fishermen as interest top left. No sky. Completely different feel. I like this one.

Crop 4: The next logical step - all about the shape of the sea and groynes, and now it feels a little claustrophobic perhaps, so I tried to offset that with leaving perhaps more sea on the right than I would normally, to create space to imagine the sea extending further out.

I am sure there are more (like a vertical crop, focussing on the more abstract shape of the groynes), but I wanted to leave some for you guys...

Thoughts and comments welcomed.


Peterhouse Black and White

A picture from Sheep's Green looking towards Peterhouse College in Cambridge. Sky was great, and low angle used to hide other non-interesting foreground. I like the BW treatment, but I overdid it on the sky a bit, so it posterises in places.

Comments welcome.


Friday, February 16, 2007

The Edge of a Picture

Do you look for elements in a scene to "frame" your images, or do you feel that it's a good discipline to frame within the confines of the viewfinder? How do you decide where to draw the edge of an image, and what steps - actual or mental - do you take to work this out? Do you leave the edges until later, when you crop as part of post-processing?



Glass Ceiling..

I've not posted for a while, so here's another from the back catalogue. An ornate glass ceiling from one of Gaudi's designs in Barcelona. I love the intricate shapes and colours.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Lens

Hi All,

First apologies for my notable absence on the blog. I am slowly learning how to manage and develop my small photography business while remaining in gainful full-time employment. So here is a short blog with promises for more to follow:

Recent Purchase

I am working on a small project at the moment. The project is to develop a calendar of the seasonal life and character of our local Farmer's Market. The reason is two-fold: to raise money for local food charities and to capture and preserve the essence of the current market which will soon move to a new location. The current market location holds a lot of charm and character so my hope is that I can capture that on film and present it to the public in the form of a calendar.

The problem I have been having using my Canon 17-85mm IS ES lens is that I never have enough light and am always shooting at ISO 1600. This of courses introduces a lot of noise into the photo. So to overcome this I recently purchased the following lens: a Canon fixed USM 50mm 1.4. I have to say that I love it. I got it for CA$495 which includes the taxes and shipping. It is solidly built with a steel base rather than plastic. The focusing is good, not too slow or noisy. You have to be careful when shooting because the depth of field can be quite shallow. The focus is sharp, the image quality is excellent, the colours are vibrant and the blur that is naturally created in the background is nice and soft.

I will post a few images later, perhaps tonight.

Because I am shooting with the Rebel XT the focal length is about 80mm or so which for me is perfect. 50mm would have been too wide. So for the style of shooting that I enjoy 80mm is great. It also provides a good exercise in shooting and composition since one cannot zoom in and out using the lens.

So, in all, I am very happy with this new addition to my arsenal.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Drive-by Shooting...

Yesterday morning I (safely) tried a photographic experient: I photographed at various points on my journey into work. This involved taking "random" snaps, trying to capture the scene as best I could without looking through the viewfinder or stopping to compose. Eyes on the road, speed moderated and only done while the traffic before and after was pretty far away. Honest officer.

It was a very sunny frosty morning. I wanted a high-contrast effect. I used a high shutter speed to create this, to encourage silhouettes and to freeze the motion of the image as much as possible. The sun was in my face most of the way too.

I got some interesting images - I have cropped these for maximum effect, rotated where they were severely squint (as most were) and with some auto balance as the only other tweak.

Not my usual sort of thing, but I'm trying to try new stuff..


Yesterday, I tried to download the beta copy of CS3 for personal evaluation. No problem doing that, but the issue is this: unless you have purchased CS2, the CS3 demo will time out after 2 days. So, this effectively means I have been penalised for "only" buying a full priced legal version of CS, and that means I am only allowed 2 days of CS3 trial! Hardly encouraging me to upgrade, is it?


Article on Cropping

From the Luminous Landscape, that reliable online source of interesting photography articles. This one delves into that favourite subject of mine: cropping, and uses one image in a few different ways to show what is achieved. I try to crop my images a few different ways as I think it not only helps develop the creative eye, but it also forces you to re-look at an image you thought was done. This may help us with our "assignment" on cropping this week.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Maybe it was last nights CCC presenter doing a slide show on frosty images (among other things) that made me grab the camera and take a few quick snaps of frosty leaves and grass in the back garden. None of these are optimised in Photoshop; they have just had a quick tweak and crop in Microsoft Photo Editor. The leaves on a black background were arranged quickly by myself, but the leaves and grass are unadulterated by human hand.
-4 degrees C out there this morning. Brrrr.

Monday, February 05, 2007

An Exercise in Cropping

A small task for the week ahead; how would you crop either or both of these images? Please take 10-15 mins this week and crop the pictures how you would were they yours. What would you do and WHY? Resulting images and brief description to be posted back to the blog.

Note: I am having problems consistently getting posted images to enlarge to their full size, rather than just the thumbnail. Not sure why, as I have made all the images roughly the same pixel dimensions (where possible) or overall file size. Let me know if you want the full size images for this.

Morning Coffee

An image of something I NEED to see every morning. My beloved espresso machine. Makes great strong coffee, even with a healthy splash of milk.

I wanted to try to photography some everyday objects in my life. As it's harder to get out to photograph at the moment, I thought I'd challenge myself to find interesting images in some of the objects and scenes I see everyday. I think looking for the new in the "old" helps one to develop a more critical eye - think of it as the equivalent of a work out for your Critical Eye...

In fact, how about we all try this? One image (or a series if you prefer) looking at an everyday object or scene in a new, fresh and interesting way? A new challenge, to add to the on-going self-portrait one?

Thoughts and comments welcome.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Self Portraits

So we talked before Christmas about self-portraits. I've got a different idea from this but it'll take some time to come to fruition. But the meantime, I grabbed this one last Saturday night when I saw my own reflection in the mirror in the hall. The only question is - to crop, or not to crop?

A Return In Blue

Dear Critical Light,

I have been so remiss. I do have you on my Google Reader - I do see your posts.

I must post and comment more. Here is a shot from today, one of my first panning shots ever. I would love any input...

My photo ambitions for 2007 are:-

1) Continue with Dubai Daily Photo
2) Improve my critical eye
3) Learn far more in camera shooting techniques
4) Use CS2 far more often.
5) Say Picasa is the easy way out 100 times a day
6) Call Ivan and Kate far more often.
7) Purchase a Canon 400D asap
8) and then some fine lenses inc. mr wide angle
9) Upgrade to Mac
10) Wonder where my life went to....

All the best,


What makes a good image?

I wonder about this a lot, and have done so more since I have entered some of my images in CCC competitions. As I mentioned before, I am inconsistent in knowing what makes an image good, having got a 50% success rate in having images graded. Therefore, I want to explore this a bit more, to improve this ratio and to build on my critical knowledge of images. I know it's not an exact science, but I think some of the factors can be better rationalised.
  1. Technical Competence - focus, exposure etc. These matter, and clearly would detract from an image were they not there. But, an can have these elements in place, and not be great. So, neccessary to have, but not sufficient.
  2. Composition - Great images have this, whether rules are followed or broken, and I think that they need that to elevate them above mere snaps. But following the compositional rules does not in itself make a great image. Like focus and exposure, it's a requirement (with a great latitude over what makes acceptable composition) but not sufficient in itself.
  3. Light - Ah, now we are getting somewhere. I think light, as the word "photography" itself means, is the most critical element. By light, I mean great light: light that shows up the texture of objects, the form of the land (modelling), adds warmth and depth to a scene. Great light can, I believe, transform an ordinary scene into something special, ethereal, a brief moment captured. Key elements in a scene (hills, mountains, rocks, topography, mist) are all influenced and accentuated (or made more subtle) by the impact of light.
  4. A sense of "place" - this, twinned with light, I think, form the basis for the emotional response to a picture. Clearly, the photographer has a link to the place or scene being captured. He/she should probably have an emotional reason for taking the picture too. This should come across in the way the image is captured. Clearly the light (above) impacts the sense of place, but the way the photographer has chosen to compose the shot is influenced by the very nature of the place itself, trying to show it in it's best light (sorry) or capture a feeling evoked, such as desolation, magnificence, warmth etc. Photographing a coastline, as I have done much of, shows this. Beach or rugged coast; calm or raging sea; detail or vista. I'm not explaining this well, but I think we know what I am getting at; by it's nature, it is the essence, or "soul" of the picture.
  5. The X-factor - not sure if this is covered in one or more of the above (it probably is, or certainly could be), but it's something that makes the image stand above the crowd; a new angle or composition. Pairing something down to it's bones and making the viewer really look. The unexpected.

Also, I wonder what proportion of your images you feel are great - 1%, 10%? And, has shooting digitally improved that percentage or not? Thoughts?


2007 Photography Goals - End of January review

As part of my on-going review of my 2007 goals (God, it's like being at work now...), I aim to review these at the first of each month. Remind me if I forget. Anyway, here we go...

1. To be a regular attendee at CCC - took a severe hit in 2006, but this should change soon UPDATE - I have been to the last two sessions, and aim to be there for the remainder of the season.

2. To complete the population of my website and to build in the purchase prints facility. UPDATE - I have put a few more images on there. Nothing done about the PayPal yet, but that's just a couple of "clicks" to enable that.

3. To have one or more of my prints available for sale in a local outlet in/around Cambridge. UPDATE - nothing to report yet.

4. To sell some of my prints to paying punters (this could be linked in to number 2). UPDATE - a friend from Cambridge wishes to purchase some prints for his home and company office. More on this later.

5. To have some more "success" in CCC competitions and perhaps inter-club competitions too. UPDATE - I got a "Highly Commended" grading in the last projected image competition.

6. To enter one image in this year's CCC Annual Exhibition. UPDATE - on reflection, this is not a "goal", as I think each member is allowed to enter one image each. However, it's on there to make sure I do it. Nothing to report yet - this is much later in the year.

7. To enter, and hopefully be placed in at least one round, a national photo competition (e.g. a magazine "Photographer of the Year" type competition. UPDATE - I am preparing 2 images to be entered in the "Practical Photography" POTY competition Round 2 - Sunset to Sunrise. As you know, I have a few of these...deadline is 15 Feb. Watch this space.

8. To obtain Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) status in Photoshop. UPDATE - nothing to report.

9. To begin the process of obtaining another photographic "qualification", through CCC. UPDATE - nothing to report.

10. To stop buying as many books and magazines, and start doing more photography!! UPDATE - I have started re-visiting my digital back-catalogue and have decided to subscribe to a magazine, rather than buy ad-hoc each month (when I tend to buy more than 1). Also, subscription will be cheaper.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Barcelona Revisited

As I mentioned in the previous post, having less opportunity to get out with the camera has prompted me to revisit my extensive archive of digital images, and see what I can produce in terms of great images.

At a rough guess, I must have about 15,000 images on the hard drive, and I have worked on a few hundred, so about 2-3%! Many of these will be out of focus, same image but at a slightly different exposure, or just plain rubbish. Assuming that this accounts for at least half of the images (it's likely more), that means that I have worked on only about 10% of useable images. There must be some good ones lurking in all those 1's and 0's.

Well, I think there are, and here are a few from Barcelona from a couple of years back. As ever, your comments on the issue(s) raised and your views on the images presented are welcomed.