Every now and again I shoot an abstract or still life. Not with any kind of premeditation; sometimes the opportunity is just there.
This still life was taken in the La Boca district of Buenos Aires. It is a popular tourist attraction because of the Bohemian atmosphere, arts and crafts, outdoor lunch with tango shows and the over-the-top brightly coloured buildings. I’m certain the distinctive look of the place started as a deliberate cultural statement by the local inhabitants, but it is now locked into that look, more as a museum to keep the tourists coming.
I’m not certain whether this counts as a great work of still life, probably not, but I do have a certain fondness for it. For a still life to be successful, it needs to keep things simple: don’t have too many shapes or colours, avoid confusing or distracting backgrounds, look for a composition which makes some kind of bold statement with a few simple shapes while creating a sense of balance. I think I managed to do that, bearing in mind that I had to take the subject matter as I found it. The bag (which belongs to my wife and was the only item we added into the scene) is neutral, everything else is red or green and the colours are reasonably well balanced. Background is half block of red, half block of green. The main shapes are either rectangles or triangles, from the spiral staircase. The foliage provides a diagonal to draw the eye towards the bag in the lower right foreground. It all seems to work and balance out. What a shame though I didn’t spot and remove that confounded empty plastic bottle!
Hard on the heels of Ollantaytambo Woman, this is another post showcasing my new-found sense of photographic liberation. Peter Krogh’s imaginative use of post-processing has left me far more open than before to the idea of letting rip with Lightroom to lift or rescue otherwise run of the mill or dull pictures. I wasn’t exactly shy with my use of Lightroom sliders before but I was previously always targeting a naturalistic looking picture. In the main I will continue to do that, but will now be that tiny bit more open minded about more creative post-processing when the opportunity arises. Certainly I will feel more at liberty to experiment, without going too mad.
This photo was taken in Ushuaia, Argentina. I haven’t changed the colours, other than dialling up the saturation slightly. Mostly, the look comes from boosting the shadows way beyond the normal limits. It is not an HDR image.
I may have to revisit my previous statement about my style of photography. Not change it much, just extend to include the occasional indulgence in the post-processing phase.
Professional photographer Peter Krogh was interviewed on the TwiT Photo video podcast a few weeks ago. He was kind enough to give the viewers a live demo of the Lightroom technique he used on a recent shoot in Africa. He was mainly taking portraits of the locals and adopted a very stylised approach to his post-processing, producing an HDR-like look (from a single exposure) which is very effective on portraits of dark-skinned people.
I fancied trying the technique out for myself but found myself short on suitable images. Still, I decided to try it with a portrait of a Peruvian woman I took in Ollantaytambo, near Cusco, while on holiday a few weeks ago.
The technique itself is based around the idea of taking the fill light and black level sliders right up to half way or beyond, to lighten up dark skin without blowing out the highlights, but preserving and even thickening up edges, cartoon style. A liberal dose of clarity slider exaggerates the effect and heavy desaturation rounds off the rather stylised look. With the right subject matter it can be very effective, but to see it at its best look at Peter Krogh’s work not mine. For me it was just a one-off experiment inspired by Peter’s creative use of Lightroom.
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago while on a cruise around South America. It was taken at dawn while we were in the Chilean fjords area.
The rosy dawn light was reflected in the zig-zag pattern made by the ship’s bow wave ripples and I spotted an opportunity for an abstract picture. It features a lot of water so I call it an aquabstract. Maybe the start of a new genre.
I’m not sure why but I really like this picture. It may be the best out of thousands I took on the trip and that is saying something given that we visited Machu Picchu, the Iguassu Falls and other spectacular places.
We seem to have taken a lot of photos of Esther lately. I suppose it’s because she keeps attending events and getting dressed up for them so we feel obliged to capture her in her pomp for posterity.
This was taken at home just before Esther went out with her friends. Taken with available (tungsten) light, colour corrected later in Lightroom. I didn’t dare take ISO beyond 400 due to noise concerns and, being limited to an aperture of f5.6, was faced with a shutter speed of 1/5th second. I jammed my back against a door for support and seem to have avoided camera shake.
The neutral background was easy enough, we have a plain wall in our hall. The shadows were cast by the tungsten light fitting on the ceiling. Nothing I could do about them. Nor about Esther’s slightly smirky smile.
Dress by Karen Millen, courtesy of the Boxing Day Sales.
The light falling on these purple and yellow gladioli caught my eye.
They were just in a vase in my lounge. The way the sunlight picked out the yellow ones in particular was spectacular. The effect cannot quite be captured in a photo because of the reduced contrast range but the result is not a complete failure.
This website is on the .es domain, which is the domain for Spain. Obviously, it’s not actually a Spanish website.
I was looking for a suitable name for a photography blog and wanted it to be as concise as possible. “Exposures” appealed because it has obvious photographic connotations and by using the .es domain I could have a single word URL, albeit with a dot in the middle of it.
Just thinking, what if the Spanish government wanted to hold a national exhibition, an expo event if you like, but wanted separate sites for the north and south of the country? Would they want exponorte.es and exposur.es?
My wife took this portrait of our daughter dressed up for her school leaver’s party. And while it may have been my wife who wielded the camera and pressed the shutter, I think of the end result as more of a joint effort.
I rather went to town in Lightroom to deal with a host of exposure issues. The picture was taken late afternoon on a clear, sunny day, using available light only. No fill-in flash, no reflectors, no nothing. The light is coming from behind my daughter so her face is in shadow. The contrast levels were quite high and it was a bit of a job to rescue her features without blowing out the highlights.
The biggest remaining problem is noise. The ISO setting had been left at 400 from a previous shoot, so the base image was noisier than it need have been. The fiddling with exposure in Lightroom added to the noise, particular in the area of my daughter’s face. The fact that the final image is heavily cropped has made the noise even more noticeable.
I think the tight crop works best, but my wife had originally shot a full length portrait to show off the dress. This is the image before cropping:
The much improved noise reduction system in Lightroom 3 makes a big difference. The noise is visible but has not ruined the portrait.
One benefit of the Sony Alpha system compared to say Canon or Nikon is that the image stabilisation technology (Super Steady Shot) is built into the camera body as opposed to being incorporated into just some selected lenses. That means you have stabilisation available with every lens. Canon and Nikon users only get stabilisation with a limited number of the more expensive lenses, typically the longer lenses where camera shake is more of an issue.
With a Sony DSLR you can enjoy Super Steady Shot even on wide angle lenses and this can give rise to some odd effects. Bear in mind that the wider the lens, the slower the shutter speed you can get away with, even without image stabilisation, and still avoid camera shake. Add in Super Steady Shot and you can be taking camera shake free pictures at 1/15th or 1/8th of a second. Anything in shot which is stationary will come out sharp, but anything moving could be very blurred. Remember that image stabilisation only compensates for camera movement, not subject movement.
Take this picture, for example, from the family’s Nile cruise in the summer.
Our Egyptian guide, Ayman, telling us all about the Temple of Horus at Edfu, came out sharp thanks to Super Steady Shot even in low light at 1/8th of a second because he kept reasonably still. Except his right hand – he was waving his piece of paper around so it has turned semi-transparent. And the background is sharp; but some of the tour party were moving around and have become blurred or ghostly figures.
I had all but given up on being able to use the Lightroom lens correction feature with my Sony 18-250 lens, finding myself a long way down the road to utter exifsperation.
Hardly any coverage of Sony lens profiles in Lightroom, no support in Lightroom for search of on-line profiles, and Photoshop CS5 (which does support on-line search) failed to recognise the lens identification EXIF tag because Sony use a proprietary tagging system. When the latter hurdle was finally overcome with the aid of a bespoke tagging utility, there was no on-line profile available anyway, and the only remaining option, DIY home lens profiling, is not really practical for the non-professional.
Thankfully, Tamron have come to the rescue. They have provided profiles for all their lenses and these come bundled with the latest release of Lightroom, version 3.2. So how does that help me when the lens I’m bothered about is a Sony lens? Well, my Sony DT 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 is optically identical to the Tamron 18-250 F3.5-6.3 Di II (Alpha Mount). Sony own a major share in Tamron and the Sony lens is essentially a rebrand of the Tamron with only minor changes such as more rounded aperture blades (for improved bokeh) and different focus screw gearing (for faster focusing).
I tried the Tamron lens profile with my Sony RAW images in Lightroom and it works perfectly. The distortion correction is indistinguishable from PTLens, to the naked eye at least, but with vastly greater convenience, flexibility, and automatic chromatic aberration/vignetting correction thrown in.
I now have a Lightroom user preset which applies the correction for me with one click.
Kudos to Tamron for saving the day. I know there must have been a marketing angle to their efforts but if they were looking for brownie points they have certainly won them, in my book at least.