Monday, 21 December 2009

The real landscape

Another post, whatever next. Flight delayed, time to burn in the lounge.

An interesting article on HDR techniques up on Luminous Landscape. And just as interesting the links to the BBC website on the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year.

To start, I agree with Alexandre Buisse on using HDR (and he makes some stunning images, go check out his book). I use it quite a bit for landscape work, always striving for the sort of effects he describes. It's a technique for reducing the contrast of a scene that is beyond the reach of the sensor.

And then there are the comments on the BBC site, decrying most of the posted competition winners as HDR, although that isn't necessarily so. And I have to agree with most of the negative comments. A lot of unreal looking shots, taken of "iconic" (read clich├ęd) scenes. It's not restricted to this year's entries, either. I have the books from the previous two years of competition and the content is disappointingly similar. Far too many shot processed for a dramatic, high-contrast effect (which goes equally for the digital as the film entries). It seems the way to impress the judges (and often the masses) with British landscape work is to go for dramatic lighting of well known scenes processed with contrast and saturation up tto 11. It's a style of photography that seems rather popular in the making and the viewing.

Where are the real landscape shots? Have the judges of these competitions ever been outdoors? Or maybe they're so swamped with worse excesses that their selections look tame in comparison.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Some things seen

This is likely to be my last post before Christmas. I'm off home for a couple of weeks' vacation, to some much needed cold weather. In the meantime, here are a few of the recent pictures of stuff I found out and about. Some more festive stuff over on Impressions of Place.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Junction box, Manila, December 2009

Four tyres, Manila, December 2009

Manila, December 2009

Square and round, Manila, December 2009

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Yet another new blog

Some time ago, Paul Butzi (who seems to do a lot of my creative thinking) postulated some ideas for photographic projects. One he suggested was a long-term collection of photos: one from every month for ten years. And that got me thinking - I had a move up-coming at the time (now completed) which would form an ideal start point for collecting photos of the places I live. Over ten years I'd expect to live in 3 or 4 different locations, forming some nice sections to a developing project as my life and surrounds develop.

And so I've started such a project: Impressions of Place. I'm putting it to its own blog because then I can write about my impressions as I gather together photographs. That keeps this blog to be more directly about photography and the new project as its own entity. Along the way I'll also post my usual eclectic mix on my photo of the day, and I might well collect impressions from places I travel to in the meantime: vacations and the like - to see how those impressions compare and contrast with those of my home location. I also want to see if my impressions and photography have influences on one another.

The way I'll write it will probably be 3 or 4 posts a month, together with a number of photographs. At some point I'll need to choose the photo of the month for each month. That will be a special post at the end of each month. I've already put together the first few posts.

Urban jungle

Experiments in looking closer at things.

All: Manila, December 2009

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Releiving boredom

Or maybe exercising some creativity. I've been looking to inject a bit more self-motivation.

Bedroom abstract 1, Manila, December 2009

Bedroom abstract 2, Manila, December 2009

Bedroom abstract 3, Manila, December 2009

Bedroom abstract 4, Manila, December 2009

Monday, 14 December 2009

Amazing things with photography #4

Think your camera is fast, well check out the fastest strobe work around. Amazing shot of a hummingbird in flight.


Manila, December 2009 (as it came out of the camera)

Use a camera for any length of time, take a bunch of pictures and you get to feeling you know how it works. Conventional wisdom in the photography game. But I also realised that one needs to be familiar with the equipment in a range of situations, too.

Last week our department at work had a social, so I was snapping a bunch of pictures at the restaurant with my LX3. I've taken loads of photos with it, am comfortable with it in a range of situations. Except this was new for me. Normally I'd have a rangefinder and fast film in this sort of environment.

Getting home, I found most of my shots were rubbish, grossly under-exposed for the most part. Something I hadn't realised was that the LX3 metering is strongly protective of highlights in its matrix mode, much more so that my Canon SLRs. And so, with a mixture of bright back-lighting and darkened table lighting, I got a lot of shadows (like the one at the top of the post). No flash - I don't do that. And after a few drinks and with the general aim to be quick, I wasn't chimping and playing around with settings.

At least I've learnt for the next time, I suppose.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Learning cycles

Manila, November 2009

Two related trains of though in one post: a blogger BOGOF.

Like many amateur photographers, digital saw my skills improve dramatically. The short review cycle & low cost per exposure made it easier to experiment and review the results. Although I now have my kit mastered, and all the technical stuff down, digitial was handy to learn by playing with exposure & focus modes & all the extra bits beyond DoF. Having a screen to chimp away kept that cycle really short. Without the short feedback, the learning would be slower: for one, I'd also have to remember all the things I was doing at the time.
Having the sort of brain that likes to experiment and analyse these things also helped.

But I've really got past that. Now on a typical afternoon walk I'll take less exposures and return with more I like and develop. Hit rate has gone way up because I have the equipment nailed.

And that leads to the second train of though. Like Paul Butzi, I like to use the short feedback loop of digital to get to grips with what I've just been doing. Helps me learn about my photography and what it means. I could go out one day, try a bunch of things and use that learning the very next day. For times when I'm shooting consecutive days, that's really handy.

But there is also more to it than that. I find that keeping close to the taking of the picture helps with linking the results with the intention. What did I see, feel & understand by it? Which images reflect that state I was in? Waiting a month will have that lost, and I'd just be back to taking nice shots of stuff. I'm not an "Art is Verb" kind of guy like Paul but I find the means to the end is important in defining that end point. Understanding how I'm getting there helps me understand where I am, and can, go.

Sometimes I do go back to images after some time, or develop ones I previously overlooked. But those new images are different things than the ones of the time. And for the photographs I am taking at the moment, the understanding I get in the "right now" is important to me.