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.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Exercise: Movement and effect of shutter speeds

This and the subsequent exercise are intended to demonstrate capturing movement and the effect of different techniques on the end result.
For me these were fun exercises, so I ventured out on a dull and cold day at the end of February, to my chosen spot. I had in mind obtaining a series of shots of cars on the fast A120 with mostly the road as a background. I had hoped, and achieved, that I will end up with a series of blurred streaks against grey tarmac, tending pretty much towards the abstract.

I set up the camera on a tripod and started off the sequence with a shutter speed of 1/1600 and ISO 1600, stepping through the speeds available until I arrived at the point where I was just getting a hint of colour on the road. This was at an exposure of 1 sec at ISO 100. I balanced my exposures by adjusting ISO, and the dullness of the day gave me a large range to work with, without the need for aids such as ND filters.

So, what were my results?
1. At this shutter speed, movement of the fast moving car, probably travelling at around 70mph, was frozen. To me this photograph is very static and the viewer is unable to tell whether the car was travelling along that road.

1. 1/1600
2. Movement is now just perceptible. With the amount showing it does not "add" to the photograph and to the viewer it is not particularly satisfying. With a different subject then it is likely that a fast shutter speed such as this would have successfully "frozen" movement.

2. 1/1000
3. Movement is visible, but this is still slight and gives more the appearance of "camera shake" than anything worthwhile. This is not pleasing to the viewer and the subject still looks static.

3. 1/640

4. For this shot, taken at 1/400, the same comments apply as to the shot taken at 1/640. Movement is perceptible, but the subject still appears static in the frame. At this shutter speed there is still no real impression of movement.

4. 1/400
5. At 1/250, there is at last an impression of movement, rather than an uncomfortable, to the viewer, impression of camera shake. To me, however, this still does not convey real movement in the subject.

5. 1/250

6. More movement visible, but to my eye this is insufficient to convey movement, or indeed speed. The cars are travelling at over 60mph, and this shot just does not give that impression of speed.

6. 1/160
7. I chose this time to show just part of the frame in order to give a better impression of what is happening. Certainly some movement, but again, at 1/100, no real impression of speed.

7. 1/100

8. At last an impression of movement which is conveying speed. To me, this sensation of speed is all important in this subject. With a different subject, the impression of speed may not be essential.

8. 1/60
9. At 1/40 I am now getting the impression of speed which I was looking for. I am surprised that it has taken until this shutter speed for this to come through, given the speed of the subject. The camera is almost perpendicular to the direction of travel, so I expected the effect to be maximised.

9. 1/40
10. Even the "AA" van appears to be travelling at speed. This is the effect I was looking for, with significant blurring giving that impression of forward motion.

10. 1/25

11. Really good sense of motion, particularly since for the car nearest the camera, the wheels have traced out an interesting pattern which further accentuates that impression of speed

11. 1/15

12. The patterns I referred to above are clearly visible in this detail. There is, to me, another curious effect happening. The direction of travel is not clear. If anything, to me, the car appears to be travelling backwards - perhaps this is the effect caused by "darker" colours being "on top" of the lighter bodywork, for example, the tax disc picked out in green.

12. 1/15 detail

13. Great impression of movement, helped by the headlight adding a "streak".

13. 1/10

14. Detail from the above shot at 1/10 second. Taking the reference of the frame away from the subject, there is clearly an impression of movement, becoming abstract, but now there is certainly no real sense of direction. Such an effect may be desired, depending upon the subject matter and what the photographer wishes to convey.

14. 1/10 detail
15. Here the car is certainly travelling faster than in reality.

15. 1/6

16. Showing just a portion of the frame shot at 1/4 second. The cars are no longer discernible and we are left with an abstract streak across the tarmac. Our knowledge of the surroundings tells us that these are cars travelling along the road; this opens up the idea of how a photographer can make use of everyday knowledge stored in the viewers' brain, to convey a greater sense of what the photograph is depicting.

16. 1/4 detail

17. 1/2 second

18. 6/10 second

19. 1 second
In the last three photographs, shot at 1/2, 6/10 and 1 second, the subject has been dissolved into a blur of colour. This conveys tremendous speed, and it is left to the viewers' own knowledge to shape the picture into their interpretation of the subject.
All in all - great fun and some interesting concepts explored beyond just movement.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Project: Focus - at different apertures

An interesting exercise, exploring the depth of field of a lens. Once again, its back to the beach huts in West Mersea. This time I used a 50mm f1.7 fixed lens and focused on the 4th upright.

50mm f1.8

The first photo in the sequence illustrates very shallow depth of field with the post really "jumping" out of the photograph. This is certainly the technique to be used to isolate the subject from both the foreground and background.

50mm f8

At f8, there is an increasing depth of field, particularly beyond the main subject. The nearer post are still not in focus, but they are much clearer than in the first photograph. I find that this is not as satisfactory visually as the first photograph, being more of a distraction, rather than a a means of accentuating the subject. It is certainly of interest that the background has been thrown into sharper focus much more extensively than the foreground.

50mm f22
At the smallest aperture available to me, the depth of field has increased and now the 3rd stanchion is sharp. The first stanchion is still not acceptably sharp, though everything beyond the 3rd stanchion is now acceptably sharp. To me this shows that to ensure maximum sharpness throughout the photograph, as in a landscape, this is the aperture to use, though I would make my focal point possibly closer to the camera if the landscape required similar treatment.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Project: Focus - at a set aperture

This exercise is one which I revisited several times - I just was not happy with the results truly illustrating what I wanted. In the end I settled for this set - the beach huts at West Mersea in Essex. I just loved the late afternoon light as the sun settled below the horizon at the end of January this year.

I felt this set best illustrated the effects of focusing at different points at the widest aperture. Here I enhanced the effect by using the telephoto end of my 24-105 zoom.

Near Focus 105mm, f4

This, first frame in the sequence, probably illustrates the effect most graphically with the focal point set close to the camera, very little is in focus with the majority of the subject out of focus.

Mid focus 105mm f4
In the "mid-focus" shot, both the foreground and the background are out of focus. The central part of the photograph is now sharply defined.

Far focus 105mm f4

Here I have focused on the beach huts beyond the central point, throwing those in the foreground and in the central area out of focus, though there is a gradual increasing sharpness of the subject as you go through the central are towards the background.

Of the three photographs in the sequence, my preferred is the last one with the sharp focus in the background. This makes the background really stand out and becomes the centre of attention. The eye is led into the photograph and depthe is given as a consequence. I feel, though, that this is going to be dependent on the subject matter and what is hoped to be achieved with the composition.