Monday, 28 February 2011

Assigment 3 : a linking theme - further thoughts

Ive printed 10 and I need 8. Its like spending 4 nights at a hotel and the dinner menu has 6 main courses. You know you will go home having not tried 2 of them. Which 2 do I leave out ? Self doubt is my biggest enemy.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Assignment 3 : a linking theme - printed

A slight change for this assignment. The previous two had been in the form of Blurb books, but not three as there are only eight photographs and a book format for that number is a little unusual, so I am printing this one myself. The printer is my Epson R2400, the ink Epson Ultrachrome and the paper Harman Gloss FB AL. The icc printer profile from Harman.

The key to good print quality is the paper and I have tried many only to come back to Harman. Another print essential is soft proofing, although with this combination the adjustments are small. Next is mounting and a mat overlay.

The print set is all monochrome and mostly abstract so I am a little worried whether I should have played it simple and safe or go out on a limb.

We will see.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Assignment 3 : a linking theme - more words

I am in the process of reviewing and editing a large selection of images ( I tend to refer to my Raw files as "images" and leave the word "photograph" to describe the finished work) taken in the last year because subconsciously I think I have maybe 2 or 3 themes that run through my work. Maybe I will need to shoot a few more to complete this but I am encouraged that I need not start this from scratch.

My first choice is "The Tree". I have always been drawn to them, either singularly or collectively and used them in an abstract style a few years ago in a short article I made for a photography magazine. I have continued to shoot trees as abstract together with the conventional. I am undecided whether to make all eight photographs in the abstract or mix them with some of the conventional.

My second choice is "The Boat" When shooting at the coast, especially the local North Norfolk coast it is difficult not to be drawn to the small fishing boats and how they are part of the coastal landscape. In particular the old and disused which are often left to decay at their last mooring place.

Third choice is "Water". Not so sure about this but I have noticed myself whenever there is a chance doing water shots. Not many get used, so perhaps in hindsight I am never that pleased with them and its a bit tricky to avoid the cliché types such as the waterfall, stream with long exposure and the sea with long exposure.

Before I started this course my raison d'être with a camera was Stock Images for the Alamy library. There is a tendency within that mode to shoot anything that is a cliché due to end users who revel in them. Here we are led to believe that this is not so good, so I apologise if a few creep in.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Auto Focus - Fine Tune

In my quest for image quality I have in the past performed a "Fine Tune" to the AF on my Nikon D3. A few Canons and Nikons, maybe a Sony as well have this feature and it is well worth the time to do the set up. In the past I had used a home made target and was never that happy about the alignment of the target and the sensor. Recently however I acquired a Lens Align Mk 2 target and decided to go through all the AF lenses again to check their performance at auto focusing. It is disappointing that nearly all AF lenses do not do focusing that well. Some are spot on but some will back or front focus by as much as 20mm in my experience. This on many occasions will never be noticed ( wide angle lenses and when using say f8 due to the improved depth of field) but when working close to minimum focusing distance and wide open with a fast lens the lack of sharpness where the focus point should be can be puzzling.

The front view of the target has focus area and alongside it a sloping ruler to determine where the actual focus lies. The centre AF point is aimed at the main target for testing, with the rear alignment just visible through the small hole in the centre.

In the photograph below (600mm f4 at f4 at 25 times focal length distance) the focus is clearly behind the target. Adjustment is made in the camera menu and the camera lens combination can be forced to focus correctly. The camera memorises the serial number of the lens and changes the adjustment to suit each individual lens and up to 20 can be stored. Images are made in monochrome to allow ease of assessment and against a dark background and maybe over sharpened to evaluate the focus area. Trial and error is required and the lens should be sent through it full movement range between each test.

A chore but the results are noticeable when completed.

Friday, 11 February 2011


I am well aware that the projects are well behind schedule and I need to formulate an "action plan" to get these back up to speed. I have to admit that I am not inspired by them. For a Level 2 course they seem incredibly basic. For instance then next one to work on is No 12 contrast and exposure. It deals with a high contrast image and I need to measure the light  in the shadows and the highlights and correctly expose for this high contrast.etc. I have been using incident and spot meter readings for 20 years,  especially when  using the 5x4 or the 6x6 andall this is second nature and I am struggling to find course notes (only after 2 pages by the way do they refer to digital images, up to then its all film) that relevant. Telling me that I can change the image using "levels" is not at all progressive and there is no mention of "curves" which is the preferred environment for shadow, midtone and hightlight control, especially when working from a RAW file which will have a linear (straight line) curve. No mention of making these adjustments on layers which is considered best practice. Also no mention of dynamic range, which if we are looking at negative film, reversal film and digital as the three main sources of capture is particularly relevant.

There is mention however of processing the film to suit the contrast and that is relevant and possible but only for sheet film and processing my own sheet B&W film is something I am considering.

The techniques that are required for many of the projects are simply photographic practice that I employ to produce the assignments and therefore I need to write more about the assignments to demonstrate that I am aware of the various issues and how I have overcome them, rather than submitting work where I rely upon the end result to offer the explanation of my technique, and assume that the tutor will have noticed how I have coped with a difficult DR for instance.

The assignments are challenging and interesting but the projects seem to be included so we do "time" and having spent the "time" we have gained something from it.

So, for Project 12 I need to find a landscape image with high contrast and deal with it all over again.

Assignment 3 - a linking theme

With the technical issues of data backups and a new PC for the office / studio installed I must turn my attention away from these matters and work on Assignment 3. The course notes allow us freedom here to produce 8 images which in different ways have a common theme. The examples given include a specific colour, water, transient light and conservation.

I am particulary interested in images that are understated and maybe to the casual observer, a bit normal. The normal unspectacular image however does need to be well made and have some interest that is beyond the obvious. Next week I am spending some time in Cumbria and I will shoot with the 5x4 and the digital ragefinder. Do not expect the normal National Park type of images to return. I, like many have done to death the typical Lake District shots (which are quite satisfying and quite relevant for Library stock etc) but this time I am looking for something "different".

This posting has been in draft and I am now back from the Lake District with almost nothing to show. The weather was apalling, to a degree that is was almost impossible to do photography. The high winds would have blown the 5x4 away and the rain was dreadful. I did manage about 3 5x4 but I dont hold out much hop of them being that good.

These 8 images are proving hard to get.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

5x4 First Batch of Negs

The first batch of Delta 100 negatives have been processed and for the first time I have Large Format images. There is still work to do and much to learn not just with taking, but the scanning and the post processing. The making of images in the field (I haven't tried anything studio based) is simple but alarmingly complicated. After all, all I have is a box with film in it and a lens, but its remembering the sequence that things happen and not being impatient. Light will change during the set up and the first meter reading wont be the last. Tilt and shift is awkward but not as complicated as one might think, especially if you use a loupe and not get too geakish about the Scheimpflug rule. Knowing roughly what is happening helps but like most things in life, if it looks right then it probably is. Scanning is made complicated by the fact that the more you read on the Internet the more opinions you gather and they are not similar. I am using the Epson software with the V750 although it comes bundled with Silverfast and I also have Vuescan, the variables here are too many too soon. The only advice that I am listening to is from Ken Lee who makes a valid point that less is more when working with a scan and getting the work done in the scanner software is the best choice. Over processing in PS will destroy the analogue feel of the film.

So, here is a test image.  Delta 100 Wista Field. 150mm Rodenstock Sironar S 1sec  f 32 Front Tilt. Some small amount of dodge and burn, but generally a straight print.

Hampered here a bit by file size and resolution. I will FTP to my website and make a link to the original file soon.

PS CS5 Books

Having installed the new PC and CS5 I decided to buy a couple of new books to speed up the learning between my older CS2 and 3 to the newer version. I am generally impatient when it comes to learning functional commodities and prefer to use the trial and error method, but this seemed like a good time to buy more books, as unlike a lawnmower or multimeter the controls are hidden and you can hunt forever to just switch to Photography mode. Adobe Photoshop for Photographers and The Ultimate Workshop, both by Martin Evening arrived while I was in Cumbria,(looking for assignment 3 in 80 mph winds). It is astonishing to think that (if we knew nothing about PS) that we now need a book with 746 pages and a further one 484 pages, just to process photographs beyond the normal man in the street techniques. I know that is an exaggeration but I don't think my textbooks for my Private Pilots License had so many pages and just how much do we need to know ?. I am aware that I know enough to get by, but as a student for a degree in photography I feel I should know more and be something of an expert in the field if one day I was to say teach the subject. It would be inappropriate to not be able to answer questions on the finer points of PS and while we have no examinations I am making the effort to read more.
This of course is a further distraction from getting on with new images, but is at least "something akin to photography" and I am not watching mindless television, which could be the death of us all.