Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maternal bond

A newborn baby looks up at her mother.

I took this using only available light and as it was going toward evening the circumstances were a bit of a challenge. Using my 70-200L lens stopped down to f4 to ensure enough depth of field but still make the best use of the light I had to bump the ISO up to 1600. Luckily the Canon 5D produces very little noise even at high ISO's.

I processed the shot out of RAW using Canon's own software, Digital Professional Photographer and then imported the image into CS2. There I converted it to monochrome via LAB colour to ensure the best grey values. Reconverted it to RGB mode and toned the image.

I wanted a soft look. In the darkroom I was quite fond of doing stocking prints. You tie a piece of stocking over the enlarger lens to diffuse the light. This causes the blacks to bleed out. I love the effect. In Photoshop you can use the glow filter to achieve a similar effect, which is what I did here. I feel it contributes to the mood and atmosphere in the image.

There you have it the final result and how I got there.

More soon....

If you found this article interesting and useful please let me know. Comments always welcome.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Great websites for photographers

I saw his wonderful glowing white beard and hair through the window of his shop, went in and asked if I could make a portrait.

Pierre agreed immediately. He was very friendly and patient. My wife and fellow photographer, Magda, chatted to him while I made several portraits.

He is a sculptor and a real craftsman with his frames. If you're in Ostend,in the Kerkstraat, pop in and visit.

I prefer not to use flash if at all possible, so these were all shot at 1600 ISO.

Now as promised here are some excellent websites for photographers

The big picture

And my friend David Toyne's new blog Digital SLR Photography Articles


All the best,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Business as usual

Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, Belgium

No rest for the wicked. I've been on my travels again, hence the recent silence on the blog front.

The image above was taken in Ostend Belgium. The Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk is a very impressive building, which was completed in 1905. The detail and ornamentation are extraordinary.

Here I attempted to balance the light inside the church, showing through the stained glass window, the light in the towers, the floodlights on the building and the ambient daylight. As you can imagine the exposure was tricky.

I really like photographing in twilight, mixing artificial and natural light. There's a small time-frame when the light is beautifully balanced. The evening glow fills in details in the shadows and the sky.

I used photoshop to correct the verticals and remove most of the wide-angle distortion.

In the end the image is quite magical and I think it complements the architect's vision. It was quite a challenge to get this shot with people wandering about and cars driving past the front of the church, but fortune favours the patient. So here it is.


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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Swan design

This swan represents the caligraphy of nature to me.

Nature's designs are wonderful and photographers have always had a fascination with them. Recently I've become increasingly fascinated with using the principles design when creating images.

However I hope my touch remains light and avoids the contrived.

This was taken on the banks of the river Wharf in Leeds where three swans seem to have taken up temporary residence.

I hope to find the time to continue my series on using design principles soon.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A question of authorship

My Head in the Clouds - Magda Indigo

My wife and fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, uploaded this image on a photo sharing website yesterday. In her text supporting the image she had said, in all her honesty, that I had pressed the shutter button for her. It was deleted by the owner of the site as someone complained that she had not actually taken the image.

This is an interesting case and it raises questions of authorship. The rules of the site say that you can only upload images that you've taken. The narrowest interpretation of this is pictures that you took by pressing the shutter button on your camera. A wider interpretation would be images of which you are the author and copyright holder.

According to the wider interpretation this image is Magda's. She had the idea. Set the composition up. Decided on the framing. She borrowed my camera and set it up on the tripod. Because of the distance involved and the precise positioning, the self timer would have been tricky to use. So she asked me to stand by till she got into position and then push the shutter button. Which I did. So is this my shot or hers?

In terms copyright law, the person taking the photograph owns the copyright automatically. However that person can choose to transfer their copyright to another individual or an organisation. Many images are sold across the world where photographers have chosen to give up their copyright.

I know a number of professional photographers who use assistants to push the button when the moment is right. The photographer has the concept and tells the assistants where to put the lights, the studio manager organises the shoot, the hairdressers and stylists do their thing and then the photographer looks at everything, and like a director, issues orders and instructs the assistant to take the shot when the moment is right. Copyright in the image belongs to the photographer or to the company the photographer and their assistants work for. This will be stipulated in their contract of employment.

In my eyes I did no more than what any photographer's assistant would do, push the button when told to do so. Magda chose the moment when everything was right and checked the result. The final shot was what she intended, her concept, not mine at all.

The debate is age old on copyright but traditionally the view has always been that the ownership belongs to the person who's mind generated the artistic concept. The old masters, for example Rubens, or going further back Michelangelo had teams of assitants working on their paintings. In more modern times many of the works attributed to Andy Warhol were not actually produced by his hand, but under his direction.

Who's picture is it? In my heart I know the image above is Magda's. Her concept, her idea, her composition, her timing; I was merely a technician assisting (with full responsibility for pushing a little black button).

Do remember though, that without the express handing over of copyright from the person who has taken a photograph no one else may legally use that photographer's image in any way whatsoever.

I would welcome hearing your views on authoriship, origination and copyright.


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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Feel it. How to get emotion in your images.

The series of articles on using design in photography will continue soon but first I wanted to make an important point about how to get emotion in your images.

When you see something you've got to put the feeling in the image as you are taking it. It is a real challenge for me to try to communicate what I mean here. Perhaps a few examples would help.

A photographer is commissioned to produce an image of a sports car. He looks at it and the sleek lines excite him. His challenge is to convey that feeling of excitement in the image he produces. He has to feel the excitement in order to really put what is in his mind and heart into the final image so that when the viewer sees it they also get excited. He then looks at the trim in the cockpit and admires the fine finish and quality. Now he has to find a way to show that quality to the viewer, using lighting, angles etc.

Another photographer is commissioned to do a portrait of a beautiful woman. She must look at her subject and ask herself how can the beauty I see and feel in this model be transferred to the image? What do I have to do to make her appear in print as beautiful as she can possibly be? Her eyes are lovely. They are her best feature. This has got to be a key element. So the photographer will put what she feels into the image by concentrating on the elements that evoke the feeling she gets and wants to pass onto the viewer.

Yet another photographer is asked to make an image of a chocolate cake. She thinks the cake looks delicious and after a quick taste she is not disappointed. Now she has to capture that delicious taste, the dark, rich, creamy chocolate that dissolves in a myriad of tantalising flavours on the tongue. She has to get that feeling into the image so that when the viewer sees it their mouth also waters.

A landscape photographer stands in awe looking across an amazing vista. He has to somehow convey that feeling of awe in his picture.

The key to all of the above is that the photographer has to really FEEL what they photograph. They have to love their model, delight in the taste of food and stand in awe of the landscape. In another example the thing that makes many war photographers work stand out above the rest is their sense of outrage and horror which they manage to bring across together with empathy. Its what you see in the work of people like Don McCullin. The sheer strength of feeling carries across into the print.

You've got to feel. You've got to be passionate. It's the only way to put heart and soul in your images.

Feel the love,

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Design in photography #1

As promised here is the first article in the series on using design principles to improve your photography.

The primary concepts you need to think about when designing an image in your mind are:

  1. Balance - symetrical or more pleasing to the eye, asymetrical. All images need to be in balance to work well
  2. Consistency - this applies across a whole range of aspects, whether working on a series of pictures or in the visual treatment of a single image
  3. Contrast - this is a wonderful element to play with and an essential part of design
  4. Proportion - the relative size of objects but also the relative importance of visual elements
  5. Proximity - this is the single most important design concept for creating meaning in an image. Two elements close together will effect each other's meaning in a fundamental way
  6. Simplicity - keep it simple. Single concepts work best. Try to say too much and all messages get lost
  7. Unity - this can apply to the overall colour tone, to the harmony in shapes across the frame or the relationship of elements within the image

The above are some of the most crucial mental building blocks for design. Look through your images and those of other photographers and consider each of the elements above. I've given some clues as to how you may interpret the concepts but there are many more ways to apply them. So get that brain into gear.

But for heavens sake don't try to be thinking of all of this stuff when you take an image. It will just inhibit you. The key is to look, learn and absorb information like this until it becomes intuitive. In the same way as driving a car becomes automatic, you don't have to think about changing gears, the clutch etc, you just do it. However it will sharpen your mind and your ability to be aware of what you are doing so you're really looking where you're going rather than just guessing and driving blind (if I may labour that metaphor one more time).

Plenty more ideas and advice to come. Stay tuned.


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