Sunday, 18 April 2010

Exercise: Focal lengths and different viewpoints

For this exercise, I did not venture very far - the primary subject is a statue, in Braintree, of a young boy holding a shell with sea lions around the base, sculpted by John Hodge.  The statue was commissioned by W J Courtauld in 1937.  In the background is St Michael's Church.

I endeavoured to try and match the size of the subject in both photographs.  I took the photos using my 24-105mm lens.  This allowed me to, exagerate the effect of the differences in perspective caused by changing the focal length and re-positioning the camera.

The first photograph, below, was shot at 105mm focal length.  This gives a reasonably natural look, though the perspective is somewhat flattened and very little can be seen of the church in the background.

In the second shot, below, I moved in close in order to be able to have the statue of a similar size to the previous shot.  The effect is quite staggering, in particular with the extreme compression of the background emabling the whole of the church steeple to be seen as well as the distortion of the subject due to the proximity of the lens.  Considerably more of the surroundings can be seen and it is much clearer to the viewer that the subject is part of a larger fountain and that, in the background, there is a church.

Exercise: Focal lengths

This exercise is used to demonstrate the difference in angle of view as the focal length of the lens is changed.  For this exercise I chose to use my 28-300 mm lens as I considered this to have a wide enough range to demonstrate the objectives of this exercise. 

By not moving the camera in between frames, I used a tripod to fix its position.  This exercise also shows that the perspective has not changed through the series of shots even though the main subject of the series increases in size as the series progresses.


This series of photographs was taken at one of my favourite places, which is just a short drive for me - Duxford.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Exercise: A sequence of composition

When on a week's holiday in Majorca at the beginning of February, I took the opportunity to tackle this exercise knowing that there would be markets within easy reach, almost every day.  Like others before me, I found that I ended up with a series of smaller sequences, rather than one long sequence.  Mostly because of the very short timespan which characterises the shopping people do.  Curiously, it was not as easy as I imagined, moving around in the market as there were several natural barriers - the stall and other shoppers are good examples of this as well as the need to get in close.

I am including two sequences in this blog, the first being in the fish market area of the Mercat de l'Oliver in Palma and the second being a rather rambling outdoor street market in Llucmayor.

Overall I feel pleased with the sequence in the fish market - I found this type of photography really quite stimulating and challenging and I found myself more into "telling a story" rather than concentrating on the task in hand.  The lighting was harsh, but I have left that alone as it is part of the atmosphere of the market.  The camera certaily performed well, shooting at ISO 1600.  By the time I published these Lightroom 3 Beta 2 was released with absolutely stunning luminance  noise removal which I played with on this sequence of photos.

This was rather interesting - the market trader and his customer were totally engrossed in the sale / purchase, so I was able to do an entire 360 around them.  The close-ups were in the middle of the sequence, but I also felt it was important to have them "placed" in the overall environment, hence the wider shots.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  The sequnces included were two of many - some successful, some not so.  It is certaily something I shall be doing much more of.

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

For this exercise I went to the town of Thaxted in Essex as I felt that the mill there may provide a suitable subject for illustrating how the positioning of the object in the frame.  I then took a sequence of 9 photos, positioning the windmill along the edges and in the centre of the frame.  Not all of these I have reproduced here, but, starting with the windmill positioned centrally, here are my results.

This really does not do much.  I find that with the object positioned centrally, it all seem rather static.  Ironically there are diagonals from the clouds and the lines in the field, however they lead away from the object.

Positioning the object to the right of the frame, in this case, seems to put it in greater conflict with the field and cloud diagonals which lead the eye to the left.

With the object in the bottom right, the conflicting diagonals are still impacting on the photo, though it sits more comfortably in the corner.  The large expanse of sky, though does not neccessarily add to the composition.

Now, with the windmill positioned to the bottom left, this becomes much more pleasing, with both the field lines and the clouds leading the eye to the object.

Of this sequence, I think this is the most successful positioning, though a more panoramic cropping may improve it as I'm not sure that the large expanse of field is adding anything to the photo.  Certainly, the windmill is more dominant.

This tighter crop has improved the composition providing greater impact to the windmill.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject

Choosing the subject was the most difficult aspect of this exercise.  In the end I felt that one of the churches from nearby villages would be suitable. A trip to a nearby village provided me with the subject matter.

This first shot was taken as a "standard" or conventional - taken without too much consideration for the composition.

 For this second shot I cropped as much as I could to the edges of the church - not easy as this was definitely an irregular shape.  In the end I decided that for the purpose of this exercise, I would live with a cropped spire.

In the next shot I came in very close and photographed a detail of the doorway - some very weather-worn wooden carving.

Finally, placing the church in the landscape.

For me the closely cropped shot is the least successful of the quartet.  There is little interest in it and by pulling out slightly, including more of the cross in the foreground, then this would have had more interest.  I did like the sunbleached wood and the curves within the carving and then the edge of the door way and finally the shadow.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Exercise: Shutter speed and panning best images

I selected these two photographs as my favourites. Why? Simply because to me they provide me with a real sensation of speed and movement. In the first photograph, there is no detail discernible, however to the viewer its clear that these are two vehicles travelling on a road - OK some pre-conceptions, but this is what I am looking for.
The second photograph clearly shows the car which is travelling at speed - I can feel that speed. For many of the shots I like to take, this is the effect I am aiming for.
Curiously I have gone for a mix of abstract and reality as my two favourites.

Movement: examples from my work

I thought it might be useful to show some other images which I have taken over the last couple of years. I have used mainly panning techniques, but also have used in the case of the street gymnast and the drummer, slower shutter speed to convey movement.

Using slow shutter speeds is not always the only way to demonstrate speed. My shot of the kite surfer was taken at 1/500th, but, due to the frozen spray and wake, as well as the stance adopted by the surfer, I feel there is a real feeling of speed and effort shown in the shot.

Here the pilot of the Chipmunk was picking up ribbons with its wing tips. This shot, taken at 1/60th, really has a sense of movement, not only due to the blurred background, but also the ribbons give that added sensation of motion and speed.

I was a passenger in the car for the above two shots and experimented with different exposures
shooting a series of photographs, of which the above best convey movement in the way I imagined.

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds

This time the purpose of the exercise was to show movement by using a technique called panning. The objective of this technique is to shoot at a low enough shutter speed is to blur the background, whilst keeping the subject in focus and sharp. This is a technique which can be used for most moving subjects, however there does come a point where the shutter speed is so slow, that it proves impossible to maintain a sharp image of the subject.

I shall later show photographs taken at other times of different subjects which also demonstrate panning and non-panning techniques.

1. I started the panning exercise at 1/1000th as I felt that for this subject faster shutter speeds would always freeze the movement and would not add value. Here, using ISO 1600, to get a fast enough shutter speed, all movement is frozen. To the viewer the car appears static and could be parked in that road.

1. 1/1000th

2. At 1/640th, some slight movement becomes discernible, particularly in the wheels as they have a different movement to that followed by the panning motion. Because there is this slight suggestion of movement, there is a question in the viewers' mind as to whether the car is static or parked.

2. 1/640th

3. In the photograph to the right, the car's wheels are showing definite movement and there is some perceptible movement in the background. This is giving that impression of movement, but only on close inspection. The viewer still cannot see real movement.

3. 1/400

4. At 1/250th there is definite blurring of the background due to the panning motion, however, to me this is still insufficient to show movement as a whole. Again, the wheels are nicely blurred, while the car remains sharp.
4. 1/250th
5. Panning at a shutter speed of 1/160th provides good blurring of the background and provides the viewer with a good impression of movement, though the speed of the car is not particularly well conveyed.

5. 1/160th
6. At last, at 1/100th, there is both a sensation of both movement and speed. A balance has been achieved between the shutter speed and the panning motion which is responsible for blurring the background. Whilst this is a significant improvement on all the preceding photographs, to me this is still insufficient.

6. 1/100th
7. At 1/60th, this is what I am looking for. The background is nicely blurred and a real impression of speed is conveyed to the viewer.

7. 1/60th

8. There is a real impression of movement and speed in this shot taken at 1/40th. Oh dear......the driver is talking on his hand-held mobile!! A reasonably sharp mage is maintained giving good detail due to the panning techniques.

8. 1/40th

9. This is probably my favourite in the sequence. Good image sharpness through panning, combined with a low enough shutter speed to give that all important impression of movement and speed. The buckled bodywork at the rear of the car really makes the car stand out.

9. 1/25th

10. Now, I am moving into the more difficult zone of panning - here there is a great sense of movement and speed. Does it matter that the car is not wholly sharp - probably not. This all depends on the subject matter and what the photographer is trying to convey to the viewer. Curiously, the front of the car is much sharper than the rear. I can only think that, since I am panning in an arc, then here we have a shutter speed which is just slow enough to capture the differential between front and back caused by the relative different panning speeds.

10. 1/15th

11. To me this is a pleasing shot which demonstrates movement through panning. The car is not as sharp as it could be, but I feel this does not detract from the overall shot.

11. 1/10th
12. Here we are tending somewhat more towards the abstract. It is certainly more difficult to pan successfully, however there is a real feeling of movement. To the right of the shot, I caught some bushes between the car and the camera - these are totally blurred and add, through their "streaks" to the overall impression of speed.

12. 1/6th
An interesting exercise which could be extended to all manner of subjects. To me, panning is an essential ingredient where I am trying to convey movement and speed. However, I will always need to ask myself whether the subject will lend itself better to the opposite technique of showing movement through the use of shutter speed alone.