Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sometimes it's all an accident

Manila, June 2010

A case in point. Carefully composed and shot as black and white. The colours are all over the place but that was never the intention. Created with the project in mind.

As I started running through the processing steps, this jumped out at me after only the first couple of moves. Just right, without it ever being the intention. No good like this for the book, but just right as a single image. A complete accident, which I may not have found if I'd run the development steps in a different order.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: the editing process

Manila, June 2010
One of the SoFoBoMo 2010 rejects

As a progress report, I thought it might be useful to some to go through the edit ting process I've been using. I don't do bulk edits in this way very often and so SoFoBoMo is also an opportunity for me to hone my skills in that area, too. here is the step-by-step:

1. Having imported all the photos and catalogued as normal (I had 527 frames taken), I make first cut selections. I'm using Lightroom exclusively for processing and editing as it's a quick and easy one stop shop for the whole workflow. First cut is a fast process - anything that seems like it fits the theme and appears properly composed, exposed and in focus. 226 picked, took about 15 minutes.
2. Work on the first few to develop the visual look, exposure, toning, contrast etc. That takes a few minutes per photo, maybe I spent an hour sorting that out. The key parts of the development got turned into Lightroom presets, especially the toning, which speeds up the rest of the work.
3. Work through the first-cut to pick the ones to edit. Again, pretty fast and I develop a lot, rather than waste time mulling over selection. With the presets developed I spend only a couple of minutes on most photos. A few have local adjustments which take a bit longer but I doubt I spent more than 10 minutes on any one frame. As this is about a fast turn-around, I want good not perfect works of art. And consistency is more important to me than a few individual highlights. 102 edited.
4. I developed a Smart Collection to gather up the edits as they were completed, I'll use the collection for the final sorting and selection. I'm not into the book layout proper yet but I have a few distinct page forms in mind: double-truck, full bleed, single page, multiple per page. The 102 will get ratings based on likely page type and sorted into order of pages in the collection. I may or may not use them all.
5. From there, It'll be new export presets to turn the edits into the final images for the book. Part of that preset will be automated numbering and filing so they're all in order in a separate folder on my computer. Having them sorted that way speeds up entry into the book layout.

Even though I've been working on editing all week, I've actually spent very little time each day. 100 at, say, three minutes each is only 5 hours of work to get to the final cut plus the original hour to get the visual look right, meaning about an hour a night this week.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 4

These are the last (I hope) of the frames from this year's shooting. I've also processed most of the previous frames, so I already have 60 first-cut selections. Overall, this is probably the most I've had for a single SoFoBoMo book and will give me plenty of flexibility for the final product.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 3

The contacts from today's photography from around the house. My plans for going out this afternoon were rudely interrupted by a thunderstorm.

The work on my book for this year is progressing well. One more trip out for some more photographs should give me plenty to select some good shots and I've got about 3 weeks to work on the layout.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Raising the bar

Manila, June 2010

Some photos I've seen recently and some things I've read had me musing about the nature of the qualities and quality of a photograph.

What is a good photograph? And is a good one today, going to be a good one tomorrow? The thing that set me off have been some observations (mine and others') relating to digital making photography easy. For sure, compared the the days of film, more people can produce photos that are properly focussed, colour balanced and exposed. Objective measures of good. But is that good enough. I think not. now that we expect more from our cameras and sensors, so we (should) expect more from the final product. Not quite right isn't going to be acceptable.

But technical results aren't everything. Photography can be as much about content as execution. Not always but sometimes. Deliberately out of focus, or alternative exposures or grabbed shots without perfect composition can all pass muster. Maybe not as much as before - digital offering the opportunity to take many more exposures means many more chances to get things right. But there is still room for the artistically casual style.

The biggest benefit that I think digital is offering to the masses is a greater ability to precisely execute intent, which is an excellent measure of quality (but by no means the only one). And good photographers are, by inference, those who consistently achieve their intent in the final photographs. Intent is a broad church, and I think digital opens up a wider range of possible outcomes for intent than ever before. That can also make digital more demanding, the auto-everything approach won't cut it, and the ever increasingly complex devices that cameras are becoming can make it harder to find a way through the maze of controls.

Therein is the dilemma of quality photography. While auto cameras make it easier to achieve objectively measurable higher quality, that has placed higher demands, requiring a deeper understanding of the machine and the process to achieve good results on a relative scale - good may no longer be good enough.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

No frame left behind

Manila, June 2010

As I was sorting through the weekend's pictures for selections to include in the SoFoBoMo project, I realised that i was editing out a lot that were actually quite good. Mainly they are being rejected as colour images in a black and white project. However, there are enough that I could put together an entirely separate submission, with an entirely different look and feel. So that is what I'm going to do - shoot for the main project but pick up appropriate rejects for something different.
Maybe it will lead me to some insights about the things unseen when I'm out taking pictures. While the rejects were shot with one thing in mind, they're turning out to be something quite different after the fact.

Monday, 7 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 2

The second batch from yesterday's shooting.

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 1

As promised, contact sheets of my raw images for this year's project. Click each set to see it bigger.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

On a SoFoBoMo roll

I started my SoFoBoMo project today, going out and getting in the first batch of photos. Despite a short session, I got 287 frames to get me going. The most I've shot in one go for some time, helped enormously by my forward planning. It's also yielded probably enough to complete the project (although I'll be looking for more and better) which takes the pressure off. As I'm focussing more on the book part than the photo part, I don't need to be so choosy about completing a story or ultimate image quality.

I thought it would be worth sharing, for those new or struggling with this, the forward planning I did that helped make this first photo expedition easy:
1. Selecting a suitable subject. My book title "LineCurveTexture" is an easy way to encompass numerous forms of abstract image which makes getting the 35 relatively easy. that was important for me this year as I want more time for the book design. In the past, I've focussed more on story and kept the book simple.
2. Selecting a suitable location. Given the subject and way I'd be shooting, I had a good location in mind - in the modern vernacular a target rich environment. There are also 2 other ready locations I can use to gather more.
3. Selecting suitable equipment. In this case I'm hand-holding my 100mm macro lens.Abstract images using a macro lens means from a relatively small area I can gather a large number of different images. I only have to move a few inches in any direction to get whole new views.

Bringing all three of these together - subject, location, equipment - makes the photography part relatively easy. And I put some though into making it so.

Whatever your goal is, putting some thought into these three aspects, keeping it quite simple and choosing them to work together will greatly improve the success rate for gathering up enough photos.

As has been done in the past, I'll be posting my out of camera images as contact sheets so you can see the process as it happens.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Under starter's orders, they're off

The official announcement has gone up for the start of SoFoBoMo 2010. The start time is 00:01 on 1st June wherever you are - local time to give everyone an equal chance. Of course, you don't need to start right away just so long as you finish by the end of July.

If you've not already registered, why not?