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

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Update July 2011

I am conscious that I am not writing enough here, and by not doing so it indicates that nothing is happening with my photography. This is not the case, so here are a few notes on where I am and what is happening. Mostly groundwork, research and shooting raw images for editing and PP, so nothing to show for the time spent.

13th June, went to Minorca for 2 weeks. The holiday was for the normal amount of rest and relaxation in my favourite boutique hotel. Plans were made beforehand to take my newly acquired netbook so that I could write some of my assignment 4 essay and maybe shoot assignment 5 around the rocky coast with the wild flowers and succulents, and imagine myself as Edward Weston at Point Lobos in California. All plans laid, but 11th June, chest infection starts, 12th June, get antibiotics and spend the first week feeling sorry for myself, albeit in heaven. 2nd week, I did get some writing done and I did shoot enough images for assignment 5.

Returned to UK, still with chest infection. My faith in Amoxicillin destroyed, so another visit to the doctor who sends me for xray. Not feeling like a full shilling at this stage and worried by health events with a friend I decided to reduce my business workload by a considerable margin. So, with time on my hands I am catching up on a whole range of undone chores and looking to proceed asap with the course. In the meantime I have had chance to look at my Alamy account, and what a surprise, a sale, which is nice and an enquiry through Photographers Direct to photograph an altar cloth in St Margaret's church in King's Lynn for a book on ecclesiastical textiles. The publisher requires high res digital images of the whole piece, close ups of parts, something contextual and an image suitable for an exhibition banner that is 2.5m high. I pointed out that the banner requirement was going to be difficult and I will have to shoot some 5x4 and have the transparency scanned on a drum scanner. I am meeting the editor tomorrow at the church to look at the shooting options and get a feel for the publication. On assignment in the past I have often struggled with "the feel" of the whole work and like to spend time asking questions about the project that may appear intrusive to the editorial team. "Just take the photos" you can hear them saying under their breath. My main concern of course is to get it right technically as I can imagine a book as esoteric as this will have a readership who will want to see every stitch and have absolutely perfect colour. We will talk to the church people tomorrow about just how much gear they will let me set up, bearing in mind the church is open to the public. I would like a flat bright light rather than the shafts of light often associated with large church windows as a starting point, but wonder if I will get enough texture. I will take my studio strobes and soft boxes with me as these may be useful to add some side soft light. I will use the D3 to set up the lighting and check exposures for the 5x4, as there will be no time for a second visit if the trannys are poor.

100m from my office is a burger van, selling cups of tea and everything from venison burgers to salad rolls. Its a good excuse for a walk in the fresh air, a cup of tea and a read of the paper. The owner says today "you do photography, don't you". From the conversation that followed I now have Monday set aside, my small studio set up and the prospect of shooting burgers, salads, wraps etc for a new flyer campaign and an A2 laminated menu. I did a test today with a "BLT in a bun" which wasn't as easy as it seemed. A simple white curved base/background is the basic setup as this will allow cutouts. I always underestimate the amount of light needed for the background to burn it out and had to use my old Bowens to blast the back with +2 stops. If not when you go to print the background it is a muddy white and any amount of moving sliders in PS, just messes up the main subject. You also learn that lettuce isn't that green and we need greener for Monday and that Michael Douglas in the classic film "Falling Down" had every right to be angry about the Whammy Burger when it looked nothing like the picture on the wall. Food photography is fascinating and difficult, finding a balance between truthful representation and an appealing product.

2 shoots to do, so, what happened to taking it a bit easier