It took five hours from the time I first saw this faded sign for the sun to get in the right place to cast the shadows from the peeled paint like I know it would.
This is what I saw earlier in the morning and as the light was behind the sign there was not a lot I could do with it then and there. It always pays to think about where the light is and where it can and will be.
Now I could have sat there and waited but I found other things to do. Patience in this case is more like knowing something will come and being ready for it rather than just giving up and walking away…
Most of what I have been looking at recently are lighting setups that I can use my newly acquired foam head to test out. Finding space to use for this is also sucking up my free time.
Listening to Stereopony, a now defunct Japanese band who sat on the fringe of J-pop, perhaps undeservedly, though admittedly, they don’t sound quite as intense as Monoral. What attracts me to Japanese bands is the fusion of west and east, You end up with these interesting combinations of eastern melodies or traditional percussion with western themes and instruments.
I recently mentioned the need to make opportunities and that has led me to using my phone for photography more often. I was at the bus stop with nothing better to do when I noticed the texture of the headlights grazing across the paving.
This is one of the images I made as I waited. I could crop out the blown highlight or remove the cigarette butts though I like this as is. Given this was hand-held in low light with no manual control I’m impressed and encouraged to do this more often.
All the necessary things fell into place to do a more serious session with the old tools I had collected. Since I had worked out the macro images I decided to start with them. There was also a new item that got separated from the group, so I thought I would share that this week.
These were all made in late afternoon full sun that provided a lot of light to work with but that also meant shadows. That is not a bad thing for these images as the shadows provided a bit of separation from the background but I like to see some detail in them.
I placed a large white reflector on the shadow side to put some details in the shadows. I also tried using that reflector to diffuse the light. These three images show the difference. The diffused light has very soft shadows and was a little too much, resulting an a flat lighting. The reflector was the best approach for what I wanted.
With the other tools, I repeated several of the compositions I shared previously. I made those previous images handheld and one thing I had not considered was getting the camera in the same position while on a tripod. That is proving to be difficult.
One of the reasons I’m drawn to photographers that work with celebrities is that they tend to be on top of their game and a lot can be learnt from pulling apart lighting, composition and approach. The portfolios of these three photographers are a good example.
Just ignore the “beautiful famous people” in these images for a moment and look at them as portraits…
Listening to the distinctive voice of Katie Melua covering a classic Bond theme.
Sometimes it’s okay to keep it simple, go out with minimal gear and just look around.
This weekend I spent some time in Melbourne doing just that and these are some of the images. I’m happy with the two images of the posts in terms of composition. I want to go back and see what they are like when it is not overcast. The late afternoon light will also change the way these look in terms of colour temperature. The stonework and ironwork door details were just a starting point. I want to go back when the sun is higher so that is just grazes the stonework and brings out the texture.
I tend to try and work quickly, unless there is something worth more effort it is best to keep moving. The images I make on these occasions act as a notebook to jog my memory. They prompt me so that next time I’m in that location I may be able to improve on what I saw with a different lens or time of day. My phone does a pretty good job of note-taking. I can throw together camera images, location details and other notes fairly easily.
I had a lot on this week. A final paper to draft for the semester, a few deadlines for work and a two day conference Thursday and Friday. The conference was held in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne so that provided an opportunity for some photography that I could not pass up. I know the area fairly well so I got in shortly after sunrise on Friday just as the light was clearing the top of the office buildings. I got a mix of images and it was interesting to see the colour temperature change over the 40 minutes I was there. Unfortunately, the starfish was already being fought over by a couple of Seagulls on the pier and was sadly beyond help.
After the conference wrapped that afternoon I decided to go back and see how the light direction had changed the scene. This was a much shorter session as my camera battery gave out and after two days of walking around the conference venue, talking to colleagues and listening to presenters I was pretty drained myself.
It wasn’t until I got the images up on a monitor that I was really able to appreciate the different qualities of light and shadow. Although many photographers insist that best light is found during those times around sunrise and sunset, other times can work too. Time of day does affect the direction and quality of light falling on a scene but rather than avoiding certain times entirely, I tend to look for subjects that lend themselves to the available light or for the right light to create the look I want with certain subjects. If I want high contrast with hard shadows then I will seek the time of day and conditions that deliver that. This was a great opportunity to rework a subject as the light changed and if I had the endurance (and a spare battery) it would have been good to get the sunset and twilight. That said I’m just happy to have been so busy and still find time to make images.
This weekend the light is weak and dull. I’m still recovering mentally from the paper I just submitted, so there is no energy to get out of the house. To stay motivated, I set myself a 60 minute time challenge to photograph something in my study.
It is good to occasionally give yourself restrictions and deadlines. They force you to make decisions under some pressure and strip out the unnecessary. For me, that equals simple subjects, plain backgrounds and compositional elements and basic lighting.
The subject is my favourite old pair of Blundstone boots placed on a card table and lit by a large window on the right and reflector on the left. Since the day was overcast, the window light is already diffused, otherwise I would have stuck a diffuser panel on the right or just hung a white sheet over the window. A harder light source could work if you wanted deeper shadow or wanted to emphasise textures.
These images were actually 40 minutes start to finish, including post process in Lightroom. I tried to show the age and distress in the leather by altering the orange, yellow and blue levels to increase the contrast.
Last weekend we spent a couple of days in the Riverina district on the border between Victoria and New South Wales. While this was primarily to catch up with family, there were opportunities to get out with a camera. The light at the beginning and end of the day has a marvellous quality to it and I hope this comes through in the gallery of images below.
It was a great opportunity to play with a range of techniques and get some fresh air and socializing in at the same time. I look forward to doing more of this after I graduate in 2015. In the meantime I need to get back to writing papers…
The light, the leaf and all the elements of the image above are real. What is fake is that none of it was as seen here when I first came across it. I made decisions that took these elements and arranged for them to look this way and those decisions extended to changing the light.
Let me explain. Last weekend I was out walking and I saw this bridge railing. The light was pre-dawn and a little overcast, so there was no definition. I liked the curve and I thought about what I could do to bring that out.
I made two decisions straight away. I created some contrast by using an off-camera flash coming from the right hand side and I simplified the composition by going closer and losing the top and bottom rails. I used a wide aperture to isolate a section. It looked better to me but I felt it needed more.
The next decisions resulted in the final series of images. I saw the leaf on the ground nearby and it had the right colour contrast against the steel. There was also the contrast of organic against industrial textures. I needed somewhere to place the leaf so the bottom rail came back into frame. I also shifted the flash to the left hand side to avoid shadows falling across the rail. It made more dramatic shadows as well.
Now if there is a point to this post it’s that you should always give yourself permission to change what is in front of you when it suits. It is no worse than adding a filter or making changes in post. Another point is to always ask yourself what you can add or take away.