Ollantaytambo Woman

 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.



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Chilean Dawn Aquabstract

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.


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Esther on New Year’s Eve

 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.

Esther on New Year's Eve

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.


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 The light falling on these purple and yellow gladioli caught my eye.

Red and Yellow Gladioli

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.


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The Domain in Spain

 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?



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Pondering Portraits

 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.

Esther Leaver's Ball #8

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:

Esther Leaver's Ball #7

The much improved noise reduction system in Lightroom 3 makes a big difference. The noise is visible but has not ruined the portrait.

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Image stabilisation does not fix everything

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.

Egypt 3545

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.

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