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How far will you go to get a good photo? Post a comment and share what you’ve done to get a shot.

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Something different: psychedelia from editing LAB in Gimp

On Digital Photography School Helen Bradley wrote an article titled Ho-Hum to Wow! in Gimp. Here she gives very clear instructions for giving colours punch by using Gimp to edit the LAB colour space. I’m a Gimp user so I tried out the method, with the results that you see here.

What do you think of the second photo? Post a comment and share your thoughts.

Ho-Hum: here I edited the curves and levels in the conventional RGB colour space

Here I've edited the LAB colour space using Helen Bradley's method. The plastic has gone psychedelic and, as advertised, the colour and contrast of the leaves and branches has been given a real lift. This is just a quick edit and I expect that further experimentation would improve it. Putting photos on WordPress does degrade them.

A response to “Photography vs. Image-making”

Art by Xanti Rodriguez. FEP European Photographer of the Year 2011 commercial section winner

On T.O.P. Roger Overall has written an articled titled Photography vs. Image-making. He talks about heavily manipulated images such as the one you see here and asks the following questions:

What exactly is a photograph these days[*]? Should we make a distinction between photography and image-making? If so, where exactly do we place the divide?

The first step to answering those questions is to look at the two fundamental categories of art, which are (1) additive and (2) subtractive.

Arts such as drawing and painting are additive. The artist starts with a blank piece of paper and only what he decides to add to that paper will appear in the final result. His creative process is one of deciding what to include in his piece of art.

Photography is subtractive. The photographer starts with the huge world that is all around him and decides which part of it is going to appear in his photo. His creative process consists of deciding what to exclude from his final result, and whatever he does not exclude will appear in his photo.

If a photographer clones a distracting element out of a photo that is a subtractive action and he’s operating within the photographic paradigm. If that same photographer adds something to the photo – as seen on the right – he’s moving out of the photographic paradigm and into that of the traditional arts.

To answer the question, the division between “photography and image-making†” is the division between additive and subtractive art. Roger also asks if we should make such a distinction, and images such as the one you see here indicate that making such a distinction is futile because the creativity that is built into humans drives some of them to start in one paradigm and end in another.

* Strictly speaking, an image made with a digital camera isn’t a photograph: it’s a reprograph.
† Photography is image-making (not “taking”), so in this context I would prefer to say “digital art”.

Cameras are interpreters

In an article on Digital Photography School the author says

The camera is an instrument that records exactly what is there, without judgment or interpretation.

I must respectfully disagree, because a camera always interprets – alters – what is “sees”. There are many factors involved in this interpretation including shutter speed, aperture, lens (extreme example: fisheye lens), focal length, film (think about black and white), sensor, and processor (the computer in a digital camera which processes the data coming from the sensor). Just as an interpretation of language never captures the full nuances of the original speech with all its cultural connotations and subtleties of meaning that a native speaker would pick up, so does a camera never provide a true and full rendering of a scene that matches what we would see when viewing the same scene with naked eyes. If you put on rose tinted spectacles they will interpret or alter what you see, just as viewing a photo puts an interpreter/camera between you and a scene.

Consider these two examples (clicking on a photo will enlarge it):

Click to enlarge

This photo is close to what came out of the camera, but it looks nothing like what I saw at the time, because when we look at a scene we think that everything is in focus. I controlled the camera's interpretation of the scene by selecting a particular focal length and aperture (focal length is the "measurement" of a lens in mm. The same focal length and aperture would give a different result when used with a camera which had a sensor smaller or larger than the one in my camera, but I don't want to get too technical here).

Click to enlarge

This photo is close to what came out of the camera, but it looks nothing like what I saw at the time due to the shutter speed I chose and the fact that I moved the camera while the shutter was open.

The great thing about photography is that we can control the interpreter – the camera – and make it produce a pleasing interpretation of a scene: that is the skill and the art of photography. This where previsualisation is invaluable, i.e. knowing what you want the final result to look like before you pick up your camera/interpreter. When you know what the destination is you can guide the interpreter accordingly. When I was watching the people that you see below I visualised a photo with silhouettes, lots of motion blur, drama, and a strong sense of movement. In closing, this is the final interpretation of that scene, which looks completely different to what I saw at the time*:

Click to enlarge

* The great thing about digital photography is that it is easy to continue the interpretation process on a computer, as I did in this case when I converted to monochrome (black and white). Apart from that what you see in this photo is essentially what came out of the camera.

How lines affect the mood of photos

Emotion is an important factor in many types of photography, and controlling the direction of the dominant lines in your photos will help you when you want to create a mood. This effect will be strengthened if other components of the image such as lighting reinforce the effect of lines, e.g. soft, warm lighting with restful lines or dramatic lighting with dynamic lines. There are three line directions to consider (clicking on a photo will enlarge it):

vertical lines affecting the mood of a photo

Vertical lines give a sense of strength, and here the solidity of the objects reinforces this.

digaonal line affecting the mood of a photo

Diagonal lines are dynamic, lively and energetic, giving a sense of motion. Here the man's pose contributes to the dynamic feel because it is obvious that he is working (work is output of energy). Also, when objects in an image have the potential to fall - in this case the arms, upper body, and diagonal pole - they add life to the image. I cropped the photo so that the pole went from corner to corner, which harmonised the diagonal with the frame and gave the strongest possible diagonal line.

horizontal lines affecting the mood of a photo

Horizontal lines create a feeling of passivity and restfulness. Here the warm, soft, cosy light works together with the horizontal lines.

Practical tips for photography at Hamilton’s Gap (and some photos)

In August 2011 I went to Hamilton’s Gap with friends from the Manukau Photographic Society. It’s a particularly rugged and wild west coast beach that brought to mind the phrase “magnificent desolation”. I couldn’t find any useful information before I went so here’s a few tips for you:

  • Take absolutely everything you need: the only facilities are toilets. Taking a torch is a good idea.
  • Be prepared to wade an ankle-deep stream: gumboots are very practical.
  • There is 4WD access to the beach.
  • The area that gives access to the beach changes over time so be prepared for surprises.
  • If you have a self contained campervan there is parking with sea views.
  • There are no lifeguards so swimming is suicidal. People have drowned at west coast beaches because they stood at the edge of the water and were taken out by a large wave.
  • The beach is completely covered by the incoming tide so if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time you’ll be faced with climbing very steep, very crumbly hills. It’s probably more accurate to describe these hills as cliffs so getting trapped is a bad idea.
  • By about 2.5 hours after low tide the beach was inaccessible and we were shooting from an area of raised rocks adjacent to the car park: the marker on the map shows the exact spot. As the tide rises higher the path between these rocks and the car park will be covered in water.
  • On the day I went sunset was three hours after low tide and this worked very well because the water came up the foot of the rocks we were shooting from (see photo below).
  • As always, the best light is found an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. You can also find good light before sunrise and and after sunset. The west coast is great for photographers who don’t like early mornings :-).
  • If you like street photography you will probably find few people to photograph at Hamilton’s Gap. However, it’s good to try something different from time to time and thus avoid a creative rut.
  • The prevailing wind blows from the sea to the beach so there is a lot of fine, salty spray. This isn’t good for cameras, especially when changing lenses.
  • It’s a probably a spectacular location during westerly storms, as well as a potentially dangerous one.

If you like beaches that have a wild edge and few people then Hamilton’s Gap is well worth a visit.

Click on the photo below to see more shots from Hamilton’s Gap

Click to see more photos from Hamilton's Gap

Superb Steve McCurry slideshow

Click on the four arrows to go full screen. If you’re on a slow internet connection click “HD”, but keep the “HD” blue if you can.

Hat tip TOP.