Friday, 30 December 2011


Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast has a fabulous array of Victorian buildings, including the pier. This shelter has an elegance of design and natural proportions that could not be ignored. Leica M8 28mm Elmarit f 2.8

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

High ISO

There are occasions when the available light is so low that in order to get an image the ISO has to be set high. On a recent early morning visit to Thetford Forest the situation looked grim. It's 19th December 09:30 overcast with a slight drizzle and I am inside one of the darkest forests in the country. We have already seen Fallow and Roe although only through the binoculars and we start the stalk deeper into the forest with the breeze onto our faces. Roe in the distance but even with the 600mm f4 on the D3 they are specks and not worthy of a frame. While not well concealed 2 Fallow move out into the clearing and feed on the grass. They are over 100m away and with heavy cropping there might be a frame worth recording. As soon as I take a frame they look up. Their hearing is so acute and they stare in my direction, while I keep behind the camera, aware that my face is the only part of me not camouflaged and they will be off if they know ime human. The ISO is at 2000 and I am struggling to get anything that wont suffer from camera shake. Wide open at f4 I am just getting a reading that is maybe 1 stop underexposed at 1/125 sec. A few more frames and they quickly disappear as the camera spooks them once too often. Later that day after I had made some prints and they are laying a round so people can look at Bambi and ohh and aaah a bit I realised just how important it is to take an image, even when the technical out come is not perfect. The D3 with its legendary high ISO capability is going to struggle at -1 stop when at ISO 2000 and then later I make a crop that is only 30% of the image, but what matters is that there is an image. It wont win any prizes but myself and others have a record of that moment, the contact I made with the camera and an incredibly shy creature whose only predator is generally a man with a gun.It is a privileged to photograph wild life in their habitat, it may not be art but it is great fun.

D3, 600mm f4, ISO 2000, f4, 1/125sec

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Nene : 1

During a shoot to bring in some Winter photographs for the Final Portfolio I used a recent fog to try some Gursky styled images. Having deselected a number of snowy mountain images on the basis that they may be too close to the dreaded cliche I wonder if my Nene 1 is too close to Gursky and is in itself a cliche.

Nene: 1

Leica M8 - 28mm Elmarit f 2.8 ASPH

Resources List

Resources List (to be added to as time goes by) of my reading etc during the module.


The Photographers Eye - Michael Freeman
Perfect Exposure - Michael Freeman
The Genius of Photography - Gerry Badger
Land - Fay Godwin
The Photographers Eye - John Szarkowski
Looking at Photographs - John Szarkowski
The Nature of Photographs - Stephen Shore
The Arts Good Study Guide - E Chambers and A Northedge
Landscape Beyond - David Ward
Landscape Within - David Ward
Camera Lucida - Roland Barthes
Each Wild Idea - Geofrey Batchen
Light, Science and magic - F Hunter, S Biver, P Fuqua
Photography A Critical Introduction - Liz Wells
Land Matters - Liz Wells
The Photograph - Graham Clarke
Context and Narrative - Maria Short
Edward Weston: The Last Years in Carmel - David Travis
Edward Weston: His Life - Ben Maddow
Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers - Martin Evening
British Journal of Photography
Silvershotz, The International Journal of Contemporary Photography


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Nature of Photographs - Stephen Shore.

This book has been on my shelf for a while and has only ever had the occasional glance through and then put back. I am aware that I struggle a little with the appreciation of certain works within photography and when I look at an image and I feel uncomfortable with it, I move on quickly. My discomfort is based on (I guess) ignorance and embarrassment. In the same way that one would gloss over any subject where lingering causes discomfort. The wider problem here is that within photography I shouldn't feel like this. I want to be able to call myself a Photographer, in the widest sense. Within photography (art generally I assume) there is a hierarchy of opinion from people who by one means or another have won the right to curate exhibitions, edit books and write on the subject. These people are well educated and well read within the subject (quite rightly) and therefore become an authority. I don't have a problem with that, I consider myself a minion within photography and am willing to embrace all genre. So, I don't think that by simply looking at these difficult images I will suddenly have a divine moment and all will be well in my head. Rather than looking at photographs for anything other than the pleasure it gives me I need to consider why the author has included them in a collection.

So, we all look at art differently and Shore explores ways of understanding and looking at photography, from iconic images to the mundane, from the masters such as Stieglitz to those of today including Struth and Gursky.

Part 1 - The Nature of Photographs.

Shore looks at the very essence of the photograph. It is a physical object, a print and an illusion of a window onto the world. A rock, a landscape, a face, all have an embedded signal that works our mind. "It gives 'spin' to what the image depicts and how it is organised"  He asks us to look at the "physical and formal" attributes to define and interpret the content.

Part 2 - The Physical Level.

A back to basics approach, that on the surface seems unnecessary. However to consider the photographic print as a physical commodity is a good place to be. It is flat and it has edges, it doesn't move. "The print has physical dimensions". These attributes are important. We work in a two dimensional art and photograph a three dimensional world. The physical properties of the print determine some of the visual qualities of the photograph, such as where the edge is, what we see, what we don't see.  The tonal range and tint of monochrome  and, the palette of colour can tell us about its age. Shore also encourages us to think about it as an object. " As an object, a photograph has its own life in the world. It can be saved in a shoebox or in a museum. It can be bought and sold. It may be regarded as a utilitarian object or as a work of art. The context in which a photograph is seen effects the meaning a viewer draws from it."
Those few words are in the corner of page 26 and they have stopped me in my tracks. Looking at the last sentence again  "The context in which a photograph is seen effects the meaning a viewer draws from it.". Because photography is ubiquitous are we taking it for granted, are we fatigued by there being so much of it, or am I looking at it in the wrong context. Being in photography overload is a possibility and I need to be careful what I look at and where. Shore has made me think about the need to be selective and in some areas I am dealing with this.

Part 3 - The Depictive Level.

It is here that Shore looks at what we depict and how we need to work. "Photography is inherently an analytical discipline" , are words that seem rather frightening at first, but when he compares our work to that of a painter it does make sense. As photographers we have to impose order, a painter builds a picture, we need to frame, choose camera settings. focus and choose the moment. Much of which is of course a natural instinct of the photographer. So these formal attributes, flatness, frame, time and focus define the photograph, its depictive content and its structure.

Flatness is the transformation from three dimensions to two and the depiction of depth when projected on to a single plane is created by the juxtaposition of objects. Shore looks at images where the viewer is stopped by the picture plane and others where viewer is drawn through and into the image, describing them as opaque and transparent. This juxtaposition of objects change as we move around with the camera and a decision has to be made. Shore says " In bringing order to this situation, a photographer solves a picture, more than composes one." Certainly within landscape photography the chaos of nature, its inherent inability to conform, its seemingly endless power to entice and then disappoint is frustrating and gets "solved" by a few.

The frame is interesting. A photograph has edges and these separate not so much what is in, but what is left out. After all there is far more to leave out than put in. Shore is interested the edges and says "For some pictures the frame acts passively. It is where the picture ends.The structure of the picture begins within the image and works its way out to the frame" and "For some pictures the frame is active. The structure of the picture begins with the frame and works inwards". In my quest to read more photographs this simple but none the less (and obvious) test is a genuine tool in my newly acquired toolbox for photography.

Time, is an attribute that relies heavily on the photographer understanding the likely outcome when shooting by employing changes in technique.. Frozen time: short exposures, cutting across time to capture the infamous "decisive moment" or as Shore puts it ".. generating a new moment". Extrusive time: long exposures, capturing movement as blur. This is technique requires the camera to be still for some time and is less spontaneous. Still time: Very long exposure, maybe many minutes where a small aperture is being used to maximise depth of field. As Shore says "the content is at rest and the time is still" .  

Focus is the final component of the Depictive and primarily deals with how we can treat the plane of focus (mostly parallel to the film plane) and depth of field. Depth of field (adjusted by aperture and measured in f stops) varies with lens focal length and camera to subject distance. It being greater at wide angle and less at telephoto and less the closer the subject is to the camera. The technical and mathematical issues here are the least intuitive for the photographer and Shore offers a few examples without going into the physics preferring instead to describe narrow depth of field as "the plane of focus acts as the edge of our attention cutting through the scene". The illustration for wide depth of field is a photograph of a fence, some mid distance buildings and a mountain range in the distance. Here we are asked to look at how quickly we can see around the image as we are not tied to the narrow plane of focus as the image has depictive space.

Part 4 - The Mental Level.

So, while making an image we need to look and let our eyes work from reality to the flat sheet of paper that will be the photograph and transfer that message to our brain and allow a reaction to take place. Shore says " The mental level elaborates, refines and embellishes our perceptions of the depictive level" The techniques available at the depictive stage and how we deploy them bridge the gap to the mental level and allows us to "focus the mind". The amount that your eye changes mental focus while viewing a photograph determines the mental level, either shallow or deep and this may not coincide with level of depictive space. The images Shore uses to illustrate this are carefully chosen and his argument is clear. However , the issue of determining the mental level of images outside the comfort of the book is a challenge. It is clear that Shore recognises the difficult decisions that the photographer has to make and says "What a photographer pays attention to governs these decisions (be they conscious, intuitive or automatic)." The key here is that Shore recognices that intuition is an active element in the visual gestalt of a picture.

Part 5 - Mental Modelling

In this final section Shore is looking at the Model that a photographer has and how he uses this when making photographs and whether by taking what he does unconsciously and making that process consciously there is more control. Shore writes of his own method "When I make a photograph, my perceptions feed into my mental model. My model adjusts to accommodate my perceptions (leading me to change my photographic decisions). This modelling adjustment alters, in turn, my perceptions. And so on. It is a dynamic, self modifying process. It is what an engineer would call a feedback loop. It is a complex, ongoing, spontaneous interaction of observation, understanding, imagination and intention." 

This methodology is recognisable to me although I had never before considered it enough to write it down. I suspect that due to it being iterative it is a nuisance and when faced with needing a solution I tend to abandon the problem and move on. 


Shore has written sparingly and not used a verbose style. His words are succinct, pointed and used carefully to work through the 5 sections. The photographs are well produced and inserted carefully to illustrate the text. Like all good works I will look at the book often and reevaluate later in the course. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Assignment 5 : in the style of an influential photographer - Edward Weston

This assignment is now finished and on its way to my tutor. The final set of 12 were difficult to choose (there must be 200+ images to look through) and to decide upon a style for Edward Weston is not altogether simple as his style changed during his lifetime. To add some clarity to my work I wanted to pick a period when his work represented the best of his landscape output. Weston is not renowned for his landscape work while his studio work with shells, nudes and peppers is easily recognisable in popular culture. I have chosen the period when he lived in Carmel, California and his style during these later years of his life suited my own preference.

The images are shown here without the write up that accompanied them and are thumbnail quality. Original prints are 12.5"x10" with 2.5" white borders.


No 2

No 3

No 4

No 5

No 6

No 7

No 8

No 9

No 10

No 11

No 12

Panel Layout

Project 15 : planning your portfolio

This project requires that a series of photographs are taken from the same location, of the same view but at different times of the year. The purpose is to demonstrate how the seasons change to landscape, the changes in foliage colour (providing the trees are disiduous) and the change in colour of the light.

I probably used up 6 hrs of my time looking for the location. I needed some height, maybe looking into a valley and foloiage of correct genre. To reference the alighment for each visit a building or two would also be useful and it needed to be available all the year around. The village of Castle Acre lies in the Nar Valley and being about 10 miles from home ticked all the boxes. After the first visit it was nesseccary to take a print on return visits to get the approximate alignment for repetition.





Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Assignment 4 : feedback

This assignment did not hit the spot and I have just spent 3 days rewriting it. Much (All) of what was wrong was of course entirely of my own doing. I had (without going into all the detail) some plus points but they were not enough, and what I had in fact written was a "Historical Review" rather than the "Critical Review" that was required. My tutor has been good enough to say he will look at it again when I submit Assignment 5 to him, which by the way is almost ready to go, for once ahead of schedule.

On reflection I think there are lessons to be learned here that need recording. As a mature student it has been many years since I had to write an essay and never before had I written a critical review. My career is in Civil Engineering and we tend to write quite a bit but it is all based on factual evidence, often using data to justify an opinion. As a photographer I am aware of my skill base and while not highly skilled it is not as low as my writing skill, by any means. For a few weeks I need to look at less photography and read a book I have had for some while." the arts - Good Study Guide" by The OU (ISBN 0 7492 8745 4) deals with writing essays and good writing techniques by looking at some student work and challenging their methods and techniques. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Project 34 : graduated filter

I am a regular user of the ND grad. and while this project asks for certain photography to take place it will repeat much of what has been done, and probably gone unnoticed elsewhere. ND grad. filters come in a number of guises, some with more ND and others with varying amounts of graduation. For the landscape photographer using of a DSLR and wanting to include any sky that has clouds, it is tool that will save the highlights and make the processing simpler. I do not believe though that it saves everything and there are issues with metering that need careful use. My filter (Lee System)  is the 2 stop soft gradation and is mainly used with my 77mm filter lens. The 100mm x 100mm size is too small to cover the front of the larger fast telephoto glass and for those there is no solution, and probably no need.

The course notes ask us to experiment with maximum and minimum apertures. This is probably meant to demonstrate the visibility of the graduation step. I would expect f/16 with its wider depth of field to show this step but in my testing against f/2.8 I could see no difference. I suspect this is due to the soft gradation against a hard, and while I would like to see the effects I have no need for a hard grad, so this will have to go undemonstrated.

An excursion into The Fens of North Cambridgeshire one evening provided a good opportunity to use the ND grad in a overt situation that will demonstrate how well or otherwise this filter will hold some detail in a bright sky. WE need not limit ourselves to the sky, equally valid use of the ND grad could hold detail in water. Waves breaking into white water in a seascape often suffer from over exposure due to dynamic range and the filter used upside down would deal with this.

No 1 - No Filter 

No 1 - No Filter  is typical of a scene where the DR is too wide for the camera sensor. I knew when shooting that the sky was at least 2 - 3 stops too bright. The exposure has been set to under expose the shadows and recover them later in CS5.

No 1 - No Filter - Modified in CS5

No 1 - Modified in CS5 has taken me from the Raw file towards an image that is more acceptable. The shadow detail in the stubble has been recovered and the sky has also been manipulated with some burning and selective colour. The disappointment is that there is too large an area that is white. I think a small area of white would be acceptable. However, this is about as far as we can go with the file.

No 1 - With ND Grad

No 1 - With ND Grad has taken me closer to solving the burnt out sky that the Modified in CS5 could do. The basic file is still not unpleasant but the foreground and shadow detail can be improved.

No 1 - With ND Grad and modified in CS5

The last image in the set is the combination of the ND Grad and post processing in CS5. There is still a small potion of the sky (back lit cloud) near the sun that cannot be retrieved.

Conclusions for No 1.

The use of the ND Grad (Soft 2 stop) has improved how we can process the sky while retaining enough workable detail in the shadow. The option for further improvement would be to shoot the scene with HDR in mind. This would require 5 or 7 bracketed exposures form -3 stops to + 3 stops and some experimentation with combining the ND Grad.

Example No 2 is of a similar shot and included to demonstrate the technique.

No 2 - No Filter

No 2 - ND Grad and modified in CS5

So far I have looked at the effects of using a 2 stop graduated ND filter. In addition I will show the effect of using a 10 stop ND filter. The 10 stop filter is used exclusively with a tripod and long exposures. Typically a normal exposure of say  1/60 sec will become 15 seconds. If the lens is stopped down and the exposure is 1 sec, then 10 stops of filtration will require 16 minutes. During this time any movement with the frame will become blurred.

No 3 - 10 minute exposure f/32 - 5x4 Field Camera

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Assignment 5 - Making Images - Making Prints

The assignment requires 12 photographs in the style of Edward Weston. Most of the images were shot during the summer and autumn of 2011 on the island of Menorca, around a small piece of coast at Cala de Sant Esteve and near Favoritz lighthouse with two from other locations. These quiet areas on the South East and East corner of the island are regular places for me to photograph when I am on the island as they provide some unique opportunities. While there I constantly quized myself about Weston and how would he photograph here. There are some similarities with Point Lobos, California although they are tenuous. They are by the sea, there is rock, the sun in the summer is high and intense. Weston's style had changed during the pre war years. He became interested in shape and form within the landscape, looking closely around his feet with the occasional vista. I needed to find images at these locations through the eyes of Weston. Technique was an issue. Weston used a view camera, which gave him movement of the lens and film plane. I have a 5x4 field camera but the logistics of getting film through x ray machines at airports makes it too difficult to use overseas. I had part of the solution with a 24mm tilt/shift lens for my Nikon but this looked too wide for Weston, and I was conscious that the 1:1.5 ratio of my camera was wrong for Weston as he worked with 1:1.25 using either a 5x4 or 10x8. Cropping to 1:1.25 would take place later in processing. I am wondering at this stage, while standing on a rock in the baking heat of mid June whether I am taking some of this too far. To work in the style of Weston ?, does that mean go back to the 1940's or bring Weston to today, would his style be different because he has a Nikon in his hand ?.

However, images were taken and back in the UK, editing, selection, processing, printing has to take place. My first hurdle is to remove my style for the output and final set of prints. This posting is being written during the processing (hence the rather fragmented words) and I am constantly finding myself selecting files that I think will work, only to question, would EW pick that one, I doubt it and move on.
As an example:

Old Army Building - La Mola - Menorca - 2011

Old Army Building at La Mola is the type of photograph I am happy to make. I like the shape of the building, how it sits within the rather barren landscape, its isolation ( it may have been an explosives store) and the cloud shape. I have gone towards Weston in changing the aspect ratio and I have toned it with a tritone, to mimic the colour of the prints that the chemistry of 1940 produced.

But, I don't think it is a "Weston".  There is shape (the building has symmetry and perspective), texture (in the sky and the building) and the foreground is strong and supportive, but for Weston I think it would be a tadge superficial. Weston is more intimate with the landscape, he wants you to feel as if you can touch it. The generic style of Weston at this time is Modern Realism, he had met Alfred Stieglitz in 1922 and had joined Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams and others in the infamous Group f/64 during 1933 and all of his work in the 1940's is of that style. Modern Realism and Group f/64 wasn't only about "realism" it was realism with a style, not relying wholly on technique.

Another example: slightly darker tone.

Log on Rocks - Favoritz - Menorca - 2011

Log on Rocks is a probable for selection into the 12. There is more of Weston in here by way of texture and shape and its intimacy. The light is soft and allows me to see all the detail among the rock, its angularity and its roundness. There is a lot to look at and it engages the eye at many levels while the viewer can explore. The geology is interesting and varied and the log is clearly driftwood, so contextualises the scene as being near the sea. Weston was a craftsman in the darkroom. He would spend hours retouching and it is clear from his daybooks and his images that his skill with dodging and burning is a contribution to his style and his success. My work here does not include that much using of the dodging or burning tools within PS. I prefer to make layers with lasso area adjustments and use curves, selective colour, levels and vibrance.
For local small areas the history brush, with a tablet and pen using various blending modes. In particular for this image, Colour Dodge, Colour Burn and Soft Light.

During the processing constant reference is made to the Soft Proof image. For the paper I am using this tends to lighten the image very slightly and reduces the contrast.

Prints for my tutor are being sized at 12.5 inch x 10 inch.


Now on the second set, first set were oversharpened and the tone was poor. They are printed from a roll printer and this induces a slight curl. They need to be mounted on some light card (lucky that my office / studio is next door to a office supply company). Freeman suggests this assignment should take 60 hrs, well maybe it could but I seem to have entered an iterative state and cant get the result.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Assignment 4 & 5 plus other updating.

My desertion (no, its deferment) has ended and I am back in the system. Assignment 4 has been emailed to my tutor and assignment 5 is well under way. I am able for the time being to spend 3 or 4 days a week on photography due to a bit of time rearrangement with workload, so progress is brisk. A number of projects are being held in draft while I complete the processing and gather my words into some order. The next assessment slot is March 2012 and hopefully without the benevolence of clergy or police I will make it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

5x4 update

Not much in the way of activity with the 5x4 recently, mainly due to the need for speed to get projects moving forward again. Apart from the issues when using the Wista (bulk, no metering, dark cloth, tripod, dim image, inverted image, no depth of field preview) there are problems scanning film that still need ironing out. Film selection (for me) is random. Ive tried some Provia and wow, when seen on the light box they are yummy. Delta 100 is miles cheaper if monochrome is the final output and I have tried that too. The last to be tested (sounds posh) is some Portra 160 colour neg. I am led to believe that Kodak have made their new films with a eye on scanning and that sounds promising. The scanning problems so far have been the lack of dynamic range in the Provia and the grain in the Delta 100. The Portra will perhaps overcome these problems and give me a colour output if needed, but more importantly a better route to monochrome. A few scanning technique problems have been ironed out in the past. Firstly, switch everything OFF that the scanner thinks it can do best, especially the sharpening. The scanner will pick up the grain structure and when compared with digital images it is either loved or hated. I don't mind it at all, but being able to control it is where I need to be. Research suggests that wet scanning would reduce it ( a technique used in drum scanners where the film is mated to the glass drum with special fluid) and I could try that with my scanner, but at a last resort as its very smelly and a bit toxic. The alternative answer lies in the post processing in Photoshop. Grain reduction/control can be applied by using an adjustment layer of Gaussian blur (small amount) and a blending mode of Darker. A few tests shows its promising but the amount of blur and the opacity of the layer are variables that I need explore.

Just need to load the dark slides and get moving again.

Project 23 : soft light

The notes by Freeman confuse me here because while he talks about the benefits of soft light in the landscape, he illustrates his point with an image containing harsh side lighting and the use of a graduated filter. I prefer to think of soft light as that similar to a studio soft box producing small soft shadow or an overcast sky.
I enjoy the use of soft light, in any circumstances and especialy here in landscape. I am drawn to detail within any image and soft lighting is always going to allow me the opportunity of finding it. Harsh directional light blocks up shadow detail, and while not difficult to modify with fill lighting and process manipulation, it is a compromise.

No 1
Photograph No 1 shows soft light provided by an overcast sky that is slightly directional. Here the thicknes of the cloud is weak (due to the low angle of the sun). The unlit background provides an interesting alternative to a sky and holds sufficient detail in the receding tones of the slight haze.

No 2
Photograph No 2 uses typical flat overhead bright light from an overcast sky. The softness of the light compliments the softness of the tone within the landscape. A harsh high contrast light would reduce the shadow detail, produce unwanted reflections from the river and reduce the saturation in the colour.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Printing - Paper - Profiles

About a month ago I acquired an HP Z3200 24" printer and during the last few days it has undergone some intensive calibration and a host of test prints now adorn the walls.

The problems with printing are well understood but by way of a checklist and as an Aide-mémoire, this is my list, hopefully all checked and complete.

  1. A monitor that is calibrated.
  2. Ambient light levels to suit.
  3. Photo quality printer.
  4. Suitable paper.
  5. Paper profiles.
  6. Photoshop CSx
  7. Printing software. (Optional)
Some are obvious and some not quite so obvious, so I will look at them in more detail.

1. The calibrated monitor. My ASUS is  1900x1200 and does a good job but it will not calibrate properly. The calibration is by an Eye One Display 2 and it simply will not get rid of a red cast (best seen in a monochrome image, which should be entirely neutral) so, an Eizo CG241W is now used and the difference is considerable. The Eizo comes with its own calibration software and accepts the Eye One  device. The difference is that the Eizo is hardware calibrated, so therefore the vagaries of Windows, Video cards etc do not come into play. Item 1,
2. Ambient light levels. Not a huge problem but improved here by installing all lighting tubes that are daylight colour balanced, together with two desk lamps with daylight bulbs. Print evaluation under these conditions is therefore entirely neutral. Item 2,

3. Photo quality printer. The HP Z3200 is my choice. It uses 12 Vivera ink cartridges which include a gloss enhancer to eliminate bronzing and is the only printer at this size that makes its own icc profiles.
Item 3,
4. Suitable paper. This is more difficult to establish an absolute outcome. There are just so many to choose from and although it is possible to buy sample packs, they come in A4 size and only one of each type. Internet research establishes that other users have their preferences but this is such a subjective issue it is difficult to know. For now I am using HP roll paper and some sheet from Hahnemuhle and Harmon.

I will soon get some Canson as they seem to be well into HP printers and offer presets ready for profiling. Item 4, can do better

5. Paper profiles. The HP 3200 makes its own. Load some paper, two clicks later and about 30 minutes due to drying time and a bespoke .icc profile is loaded into the PC and a new Custom paper joins the list on the printer display. Apart from the correct calibration, platen distance etc the profile is essential for soft proofing. My wish list is that all paper looks the same when under soft proofing, but unfortunately that is not the case. Satin and Gloss types require less work under SP conditions. Matt goes very muddy (as it does with the profile for a Blurb book if you download their profiles) and is difficult to work with. There is work to do before the SP set up is truly correct. Under View > Proof Set Up > Custom a number of options need consideration. From the list in Device to Simulate pick up the profile of the paper. Rendering Intent is a area where there doesn't seem to be a whole amount of agreement or direction. Perceptual and Saturation seemingly produce similar results and I will choose Saturation in most instances. I keep Black Point Compensation ticked. Display options to Simulate Paper Colour and Black Ink will often horrify me as the bright screen image of the photograph now looks muddy again. The screen settings recommended by Eizo for photography are 100cd 6500k 2.20 and will always be brighter that the print. So, a few test prints are needed to establish what looks best but once recorded they will be good for 90% of printed output without any further. Save the Custom proof  with a name and date and use it as required. Control + Y toggles to the current settings.  Item 5,  with work ongoing to introduce Canson paper as soon as possible.

6. Photoshop CS5 for some post processing but I don't use it for printing.  

7. Printing software. My preferred method for output to the printer is via Qimage It is stand alone software and has a few features that are superior to the likes of CS5. The most notable is its ability to up size images from their native size with algorithms better than Bicubic found in CS5 and the output sharpening is automatically determined to suit the print size. Item 7.


Digital printing to exhibition quality is nowhere as easy as in a wet darkroom, although the angst is at least consumed in daylight and without the smelly hands. Printing with an inkjet device requires research and patience, but when it all comes together the rewards are joyous.

P.S. Use white cotton gloves when handling paper rolls. The dreaded finger prints show up if not.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Project 13 : the day

We all know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Each day throughout the year where the sun rises and where it sets is slightly different and the height it rises to at midday varies as well. In there are only two days a year that are similar, March 21 and September 21. The longest day is June 21 and the shortest December 21.So at any particular day, as photographers we have to deal with our outside light source as variable and make the most of it,mainly by planning ahead.

In a recent post here I described some software that will calculate sunrise / sunset times and positions for any location on the planet.This may seem a bit over the top but for planning I think it is worth considering especially  if precise work is required, such as the sun rising behind a glass building or setting across a lake with a reflection. Another important note to take with you when out in mountainous areas is that the early and late sun will be hidden if you are in a valley that is aligned north south. Much better to be in an east west valley, where the early and late sun will be visible. The sunrise, sunset and twilight parts of the day are often referred to as The Golden Hour because of the nature of the light, its colour and the modelling effect it has on the features within the landscape. Long shadows, warmer tones are at their simplest more interesting than high bland mid day sun. Suffice to say that map reading, compass and watch skills are part of the landscape photographers kit if control is required rather than random stumbling onto the right situation.

The course notes ask us to spend a whole day at a location with some terrain and photograph the difference in light as it occurs. If one were to photograph a flat field during the day there would be no significant change, other than maybe the colour temperature being warmer in the morning and evening, with the midday light being blue maybe around 5600K. The purpose of the exercise is to notice and comment upon the changes we see during the day.

During a visit to The Lake District (well if I need contours and relief then here is about as good as it gets) I shot a simply sequence from 0500 through to 2000 of a fell side near the village of Threlkeld. I did not spend all day on this but did try and space out the shots and while maybe predictable the effects are noticeable, not only in shadow and shape, but also in the colour temperature. The photographs below are unprocessed images to allow full demonstration of the natural light and its colour.

 05:00 hrs
At 0500 hrs the shadows are long and the light is quite warm. The lit area to the left shows good detail due to the low angle of the sun and the warm light enriches the colour. The tree to the left is almost back lit and is partially silhouette. 

09:00 hrs 

At 0900 hrs light has become cooler and more uniform. The tree is now lit and provides more interest than before. The area of hill side to the left is now less interesting due to the sun being low and filling the shadows. The overall light is uniform and not that interesting.

14:00 hrs 

By 1400 hrs the sun is just past it highest point in the sky. The rocky area on the left hand side now has shadows due to it being on a slope of approximately 45 degrees and providing a good angle for the high light.

17:00 hrs 

At 1700hrs the sun provides oblique illuminate to the left hand side slope. The detail here with two distinct ridges is pronounced and has not been visible before.The tree becomes the dominant feature and the distant area in shadow less interesting.

20:00 hrs 

By late evening the sun has set and the entire area is in a flat light.
The light during the day had changed this somewhat unremarkable small vista pretty much as one would expect. The morning light (0500) in this instance gave the richer tone but suffered from the large shadow area and may have improved at around 0600 or slightly later. The 0500 image can be improved by some local adjustment.

05:00 with PP

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Project 35 : using a polarising filter

The course note for this project describe a number of situations where to try out the filter and the results to expect. Without doubt the main requirement is a bright sunny day with some blue sky.The science and detailed explanation of polarised light is perhaps not required although some understanding of whats going on will not go a miss. I resort here to Wikipedia as my source.

"Some of the light coming from the sky is polarized (bees use this phenomenon for navigation). The electrons in the air molecules cause a scattering of sunlight in all directions. This explains why the sky is not dark during the day. But when looked at from the sides, the light emitted from a specific electron is totally polarized. Hence, a picture taken in a direction at 90 degrees from the sun can take advantage of this polarization. Actually, the effect is visible in a band of 15° to 30° measured from the optimal direction." (

A recent opportunity in Menorca, while looking for landscape images that would satisfy assignment 5 (Edward Weston style) did bring about the use of a PF. The first two examples below were taken with a very wide angle lens though so the effect on sky and reflection is graduated, which looks natural in the sky by producing receding tones.The two photographs below are "straight" images and have had no post processing. The filter used is a B+W C-POL MRC. 77mm. The time was 15:00 and the sun is to my right at about 90 degrees.

Nikon D3 17-35 f2.8 AFS - 22mm FL
ISO 400 1/200 sec f14
 Filter at maximum effect.

Nikon D3 17-35 f2.8 AFS - 22mm FL
ISO 400 1/200 sec f14
Filter at minimum effect.

Careful inspection shows that apart from the darkening of the blue sky the most significant change is in the reduced reflection in the rock pool, mush as I would expect.
At right angle to the rock pool scene I tried the following image to see if there was any significant difference due to the camera being at a different angle now to the sun. The sun is now behind me.


Nikon D3 17-35 f2.8 AFS - 25mm FL
ISO 400 1/125 sec f14
Filter at maximum effect.

Nikon D3 17-35 f2.8 AFS - 25mm FL
ISO 400 1/125 sec f14
Filter at minimum effect.

The difference in the sky is not that striking. In fact No.4 has a slightly darker sky, which is interesting. However, the rock pool refection has almost been completely removed and is an improvement on reflection removal, than seen in No.3.

While having owned a couple of polarising filters, it has not been a habit to use one, or indeed to test the effects of one, while shooting that often. The reason  (excuse maybe) is that I am a habitual user of a lens hood and on the current crop of Nikon lenses the hoods fit on a bayonet at the outside of the lens barrel and not the 72mm thread. With hoods fitted on the filter thread, it was simple to rotate the hood and the filter. A Gobo (small square card maybe) on a support held onto the camera base could bet around the lens shading issues and give access to the filter.

All the science and the relationship of me, the sun and my subject is likely to be of a secondary consideration when in the field and making landscape images. The primary concern will always be the composition of the image based on some previsualisation in my head of the finished photograph.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Photoshelter - Educational Guide

One of the disadvantages of registering interest at some websites is that they bombard you with junk mail. I get mail from Photoshelter every week and I hardly ever open any of them. I know what they sell and I am not buying, and maybe I should find that tiny little "unsubscribe" link and stop them, but cant see it. Today though I had a second look at the mail and they were offering me an Educational Guide and it is pretty good. Called " Selling Fine Art Photography" it is a down loadable 25 page pdf with content from nine contributors offering help on getting work into galleries, being seen online and some insight from a Fine Art Printer.

The introduction has a phrase that sums up so much about photography. "..... finding the "recipe" to selling fine art proved elusive. There is no recipe, but there are common threads."

We are often tempted to go and find the recipe, especially when faced with a new or difficult situation and become disappointed when its not there. The common threads are there and although they are tricky to find they can be joined together.

The little book is an interesting read and can be found along with their other free booklets at

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Project 26 and 27 : Moonlight

I had been waiting for a full moon for a number of months. At least a full moon with no cloud cover and October 13th 2011 was an excellent evening. I had been out looking for a few more sunset shots earlier in the evening and when the sun had finally set up popped the full moon. Project 26 and 27 both require photography with moonlight. 26 should include the moon and 27 the light from the moon. The moon occupies about one degree of arc in the sky. At arms length you can cover it with your thumb, so clearly it is not at all big although on a clear night it can reflect back to earth a considerable amount of sunlight.

The shot I have chosen is of the Campbell Soup factory tower in King's Lynn. Not visible in the photograph are the cranes and excavators demolishing the factory. I had been meaning to take a photograph of the tower prior to its demolition and having done nothing so far this seemed a suitable use for this local landmark. Landscape photography that will include the moon also needs a large mass otherwise the photograph is largely sky and some ground feature. The lens I had with me was my 300mm f2.8 and on the D3 in full frame it was still a bit short. My switching to FX mode ( a 1.5x apparent increase in focal length) the image I was seeing was the equivalent to 450mm. I realise I could just have carried on using the camera in full frame mode and cropped more away later but I like to see and frame the composition in the viewfinder whenever possible. I only had the mono pod with me so elected to use a fairly high ISO (640) and that would give a shutter speed of 1/160 with an aperture of f2.8. I could have upped the ISO to 1250 or more as the D3 is very good with low noise at high ISO, but the tests looking at the magnified preview seemed sharp enough. The exposure was not at all easy. To retain detail in the moon (which is of course very bright as it is daylight) and get detail in the buildings I choose to concentrate on the moon not burning out and dealing with the buildings later in post processing. There is still a little sunset light coming from the West which has added a touch of fill light to the roofs in the foreground and the tower.

An hour or so after the above photograph I decided to shoot a detailed image of the moon. The course notes dont require this but I have often been asked for a large print of the moon for an interior so the opportunity seemed appropriate. There were two or three options to get the largest image possible. Firstly, I have a telescope but it was going to take too long to set up, has a fixed aperture and I am not sure of its optical quality. The best quality would come from my Nikon 600mm f4 AFS, and I have the 1.4 x and 2x Nikon tele converters so focal lengths in full frame of 840mm and 1200mm were available. Using FX these would be 1260mm and 3600mm. Experience tells me that using a long focal length ( beyond 600mm) and gaining sharp images is not that easy. The camera  mirror is the main source of vibration and then the movement of the shutter. All are very small but when magnified over the camera to moon distance (238,857 miles) they soon degrade image quality with camera shake. The combination chosen was the 600 plus 1.4 converter and shooting in FX to give an apparent focal length of 1260mm.

A mono pod is added to the normal set up to add a very small amount of tension into the combination (very careful not to apply too much pressure) together with mirror up and the set up was ready. Due to high trees around the garden I had to have the tripod higher than I would have liked. Had it been lower the combination would have been firmer and perhaps the image sharper.

The final image. ISO 1000  1/1000 sec f10

Another, this time showing the "Terminator". The line between daylight and darkness. Shot with a DX sensored camera with a 600mm lens.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Assignment 4 - underway again

Assignment 4 - a critical review, has suffered a number of stops and starts due in part to my circumstances requiring a short deferment, and if I am truthful my hesitancy at doing this work. The human being when faced with decisions, will out of human nature take the easiest route and provide the required excuses to justify the why and wherefore as a defense. In general, within photography I will have a go at almost anything (that is legal) and produce an image to look at. Its what photographers do, we enjoy the process of taking images, the traveling, the equipment selection, the light measuring, the moment we select the shot, the taking and the later processing of the images into photographs. Its a comfortable place to be and we like it. I am not adverse to writing. In the past I wrote for Motoring News (a weekly motor sport newspaper) on something that was factual. At work now I write reports and technical output, but this whole essay business has got me hiding behind the settee. A few weeks ago I decided to try and face the demons and analyse  why was this so difficult. The answer became clear as soon as I was honest with myself about how much I understood of the subject that I was to write about. The essay is "The life and works of Edward Weston" and while I had read a biography, plenty on the Internet and a superb book on his last years in Carmel, I still didn't have original thoughts to write anything meaningful. The only way forward was to re read as much as possible and get a legitimate understanding so that I could justify to myself the authenticity of my words. I am not naive enough to think of course that when complete it will be the essay everyone has been waiting for (in fact it is likely to be the only bit of this course that doesn't get published here) but I am feeling happier now the writing is underway that I will rely less on quotations from outside sources. All of this should not of course be a surprise. "No Pain, No Gain" has been with me for many years. Sanding wood before varnishing, exercising to loose weight etc etc and now read before you write. My tutor and the assessment will of course be the judge of whether I have succeeded.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Textile photography continues with simple kit.

In July I made an entry detailing the photography of Altar frontals for a book that I was involved with  to be published at an exhibition at Alexandra Palace in October. This led to more work for the book in Chelmsford Cathedral ( a banner) and the culmination was a shoot of The Jubilee Cope at St Pauls Cathedral last week. The techniques learned in Kings Lynn were helpful although the Jubilee Cope had to be photographed flat on the floor. The only place in St Pauls that I could find was in the library, shooting from a gallery looking straight down. The space was limited and the studio lights were really too close to the item and the exposure was not even. Being a pessimist I had anticipated some kind of "problem" but didnt know where or what it would be, so I had again taken everything with me.90% of the extra kit is never used but it did include 2 panels of 25mm thick polystyrene about 4x2 feet. These simple reflectors (hand held in place by my two assistants) made all the difference and bounced some light back into the under lit areas of the fabric. So, the simplest and cheapest bit of kit saved the day. The Cope image was the last to be inserted into the book and it is now with the printers and we are all looking forward to the first print run.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Website -

My photography website is work in progress and needs further content and some minor changes to design. There will probably be fewer images in the future when I get around to the editing. For now however I am uploading regularly as I find hidden images, due largely to a folder system that needs an overhaul.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Washing Line with Chair

West Norfolk Artists Association

It is clear to me that if my ambition is to be fulfilled, i.e. that if my photography is to break away from its current subject based style and er towards conceptual, that I need to see more Art and mix with a few artists. I am clear that I find no benefit from camera clubs. I did that years ago and did quite well in the various competitions and "Battles" (what a curious word they use for competition) with other clubs, but found the institutionalised world of rules and the RPS to be so restrictive. Even though I have an LRPS I never use it as I think it says too many wrong things rather than right.

The West Norfolk Artists Association is a group of artists and a few photographers who seem to me to have moved away from the club culture and (to my untrained eye) making some interesting work. I know its not like joining the Royal Academy but I am keen to mix a bit. I will write again about these people when I have met them more. I did look at their summer exhibition a few weeks ago and they were very warm people, full of charm and enthusiasm. I will write again on this later in the year.

Monday, 8 August 2011

More Books

I love the moment new books arrive. The anticipation of how they will feel, their weight, the paper type and the smell of new ink. It reminds me of the smell when opening new film packs.

Although not particular to Landscape I am becoming engaged with the history of photography and how it will help my understanding of how image making has evolved and how that will influence my own work in the future.

So, two books.

Each Wild Idea by Geoffrey Batchen.

From the back cover " Batchen explores widely ranging aspects of photography, from the timing of photography's invention to the various implications of cyberculture." Batchen is Associate Professor of Art and Art History, at the University of New Mexico.

Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski.

100 pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Photographer's Ephemeris

This evening I set about the task of researching a "Photography Website" so that I can make use of a domain that I own, . my other .com website is used for my engineering work and the directs visitors there at the moment. I do have a copy of Dreamweaver CS5 so should build my own, but right now I need something quick to get a few photographs into the public gaze without reinventing the wheel. So, looking at Clikpic. Layerspace etc I came across a website where the photographer was using "The Photographers Ephemeris". Now I know the world is big and the www even bigger but I had never heard of this phrase, nor did I realise it was software. In a nutshell it is free software that shows you on a map where the sun/moon will rise and set at any location. For landscape and architectural work this device is another tool in the box that will take some of the hard work out of planning a shoot.

For instance:
Location : A149 Knights Hill, Kings Lynn
When will the sun set exacting along the center of the road looking towards the town ?
Answer: 15th October, 18:03

The alignment of the setting/rising sun and moon along strong topographical features will only happen twice every year and is a constant source of disappointment when the opportunity is missed.

Needles to say I haven't got much further with the website as I am now mousing a little icon all over Norfolk and The Fens looking for upcoming alignment of the sun and moon with rivers, churches etc.

The Photographers Ephemeris

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Assignment 5 - Proofs

While writing Assignment 4 I am preparing a few preliminary photographs for Assignment 5. If I publish them here it gives me the opportunity to look at them away from CS5. Apart the the "style" I am conscious of the need to replicate the finished prints. This image is a proof and is by no means a certainty for the assignment, but it is of a style and a genre.


This  image will not be included

10 stop ND Filter

Some time ago I purchased a 10 stop Neutral Density filter from Lee Systems. It is a 100mmx100mm plastic filter that has a density equivalent to approximately 10 stops. The purpose of this filter is to allow long exposures during daylight photography, thus showing movement to a degree not possible just by stopping down and using a slow IS0. The photograph below was taken on a 5x4 camera with Delta 100 film. 3mins at f11 has given the water plenty of time to show the movement, although when there are highlights it is possible the DR will exceed the film and the white burn out. Camera movement must of course be zero, even to the extent that standing still beside the tripod is essential, as any small vibration could induce movement. This example is a horizontal crop from a vertical shot. The water in the bottom half had burned out and no amount of work while scanning could find a texture in the white. This subject is of course a bit "old hat" but for experimentation has served the purpose.

Further Monochrome - Experiments with technique

The possibilities for monochrome conversion are endless and it is possible to get carried away and end up with pointless images. From time to time though I revert to this work although somewhat haunted these days by my last assignment report, and conscious of making images interesting that may be intrinsically uninteresting. I proceed with caution but optimism that my own judgement will have to prevail.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Journal update.

The Learning Journal revamp is now complete. The layout and colour was not right and I wanted the layout to have more white space and adopt a minimalist style. In addition I needed to label the posts in line with recent comments regarding assesment. This process has thrown up a number of interesting points. Early projects had hideous borders around the photographs and need changing (or maybe left alone to demonstrate how the journal has developed). I seem to have talked about project 6 but there are no photographs, so this needs revisting and I need to add more entries regarding the reading I undertake.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Beryl Dean - Ecclesiastical Embroidery - Photography - Instinct

This is not Landscape photography (I haven't defected to the Textile degree either) but there is a point to this, and as it is the only photography I have completed recently I feel the need to share a day on location working way outside my comfort zone and just how rewarding that has felt. I was contacted about 2 weeks ago to photograph three Altar frontals in St Margaret's church in King's Lynn. The brief changed from time to time but the final requirement was for High Res digital images for an exhibition catalogue/book and maybe some large panels around the exhibition or on the building exterior, and maybe some postcards, so a wide range of end usages. A visit a week beforehand satisfied myself that the shoot was possible (always a pessimist until I am assured) and that there were 13 amp sockets close by, and enough space to use some short telephoto lenses etc. My engineering background always telling me "the devil is in the detail" and that is never wrong. Then I spent some time to find out more about what it was I was doing and why were these pieces so special. Beryl Dean MBE (1911 - 2001) was a embroiderer, designer for ballet, teacher and writer and an innovator in the field of 20th century ecclesiastical embroidery. Her work is at St Georges Chapel Windsor, Chelmsford Cathedral, Guildford Cathedral, St Martin's Dorking and St Gile's in Northbrook Illinois and her "Head of Christ" is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. With a modest amount of research and talking to her official archivist I realised that these pieces were special and needed my best attention. More online research confirmed my initial thoughts on technique and that there were a number of important criteria to satisfy by way of photography as the viewer of the images are likely to be specialists in this field. The images then should have no distortion, correct colour, have maximum detail and show the depth and texture within the work. Specialists are working in this area, especially one studio in the USA where the pieces are photographed from above in a massive studio with a museum quality controlled environment. The lighting needed to be even, but not flat. I needed an overcast day as on my first visit the sun was streaming through a high window onto the Altar and this, although attractive was not what I needed. The day of the shoot I was to meet the archivist and the Dean at 10:30 to gain access to the pieces, so as usual for me I was there at 08:30 (dull overcast which was good) to unload the 3 strobes, stands, boom, cables, laptop, 2 cameras, 2 tripods, 4 lenses, gaffa tape, batteries, charger, tools, softboxes, dishes, barndoors, you name it and it was in the Landrover. By 10:30 I was ready, camera set up, laptop setup on a nice big desk sort of thing where the Bishop sits (maybe not entirely the correct etiquette) and a few test shots made to prove the lighting. Once the first piece was out and in place it was obvious the lighting was wrong. The flash meter was showing even light and no ambient in the readings but it was uneven. We switched off some high level flood lighting which did make a difference, switched off the flash and went for ambient only, 1sec at f8 with the 85mm. The symmetry of the large high windows (no stained glass so no colour cast) were giving me a soft even light that was working for me and the archivist. By using the Nikon tethered to the laptop instant viewing of the large image is possible and essential to allow the specialist an opportunity to see the detail and lighting. Three items were photographed using ambient and strobes. One in particular has gold threads and these worked better using the strobes, allowing the lights within the family of angles (FoA) to produce some reflections from gold thread, which is a characteristic of Dean's work. The second part of the shoot was to shoot close up detail and even closer towards macro. I had checked the AF Fine tune on my 60mm and 105mm macro lenses, so had confidence in correct focus and these had the wow factor, showing every thread.  It was trial and error for some part when it came to the lighting. The shiny bits in the fabric were required to shine and they were only specular highlights anyway, so moving lights in and out of the FoA allowed some variety. Working as a team with the archivist was good. Her explanation of the work was interesting and her ideas changed as I showed her the Live View on the screen and some of the shots in PS with a little work to levels and sharpening. The peace and quiet of working in the church was destroyed (harsh word maybe) when the organist for the next days lunchtime recital started her practise. She choose to only do the difficult bits though, time and time again. By 14:30 we were finished, it was a difficult decision to stop but we were over our time. Equipment back in the car and totally exhausted, physically and mentally. How difficult is it to explain to anyone that taking some photographs inside a gorgeous church of three pieces of cloth had had that effect. During a late lunch we discussed the morning's work and how the images would be used and delivered to the editor and designer. All they needed from me were RAW files, so pretty much everything that was shot went on the DVD. I did a few cropped, retouched (I really didnt know how much to do here as there was damage in places) capture sharpened versions if they want to use them. Book publishers never want final sharpened files, due to variations in sharpening requirements at printing. So, apart from the  technical issues being described, is there a point to all of this being described here ?. Recently I have read a thread on a forum discussing the issues of taking on board a tutors remarks and making adjustments to your work prior to assessment. The second chance if you like, did you get it wrong first time round and do you need to make changes. Good advice for the degree process but on a day like I have just described you have few second chances, you have to produce work that is good, maybe some that is very good, without a second chance. So, what do you do ?. You research the subject, you research some techniques and you get an opinion, but in the end its your call. Yesterday the actor Sir Patrick Stewart was at the UEA in Norwich and during the graduation ceremony had the following advice for the students.  "Timidity is a killer" "My message is also about trusting your instincts. Often people second guess too much. When your instincts tell you somethings not right, trust them and act on your instincts".

I hope my instincts were right. Sending Raw files for others to post process is perhaps a little scary, but it was what was required and the results will be on display in October at the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexander Palace in October, Dublin and Harrogate in November.

No 1

Detail 1

The setup