Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why AUTO Correcting is a good start

The following photo was a opportunistic shot. I was still using settings from my previous session and without any real thought took to a few shots quickly as the pilot was getting into his plane.

I reviewed the shot on my camera soon afterwards and could tell immediately from the histogram that the image would be under exposed, but not to worry I have ACR to assist.
F8 1/500 ISO200 85mm
Back in my digital workshop I reviewed the photo.

So what shall I do first? correct, this is always a good starting point and will often give me an indication on which way to go.
It is very rare that I find the result to be terribly accurate and exciting. Why?

Well for starters my computer can’t recall the scene visually, so has no idea on what I actually saw.
And secondly it really has to rely on a series of calculations, and camera pre-sets within its internal database to work its magic. Hence why we get updates periodically to support new devices, new algorithms and other scientific magic J
ACR Auto

But  it’s not all bad and what it does do is to provide me with a very solid starting point.
So what did ACR tell me?

Firstly it suggested that the exposure needed to be increased. Fine because it was under exposed but perhaps not as much as +1.95.

Next it told me that my highlights where too much so these were reduced to -70. This might be the correct course of action considering ACR had just whacked up the exposure!

However what I thought was strange was how it dealt with the shadow and whites. I am guessing that the magic algorithm detected that I had a large Blue background covering a fair percentage of my image so it decided to perhaps leave these alone.

After further reviewing the other changes, I hit the good old Default button and went back to manual.

The exposure certainly needed adjusting but only by a small amount. Once the exposure was at a level I was comfortable with, I could see that the shadows required a tweak. The uniform had detail and by increasing the shadows (+50)I started to reveal more information.

I had to be careful not to adjust this too much so that the whiter areas started to become blow-out. By turning on the Highlight warning light, I was able to keep this to a minimum.

Next I played around with the temp setting. This really only needed a slight decrease towards the blue so I dropped this from 6200 to 6100 kelvin.
The whites I then pulled back to -70 this added a lot more depth across the sky and started to introduced more detail across the plane.

There were also a few other minor adjustments to the saturation just to make the orange of the plane stronger, and minor adjustments in the blacks. I avoided using any masks or gradient adjustments this time.

But like all photography it is of course subjective, so what I see as pleasing may be interpreted differently by others.
ACR Manual Adjustment
However as you can see by the results there is a big difference between Auto and Manual. But don’t be afraid to click auto as it will often provide you with a good starting point. Then decide what you think best fits your photo from your memory of the moment.

Happy tweaking.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Portrait Photography part Deux

Well another great summers day and my daughter once again keen to go out and do some photography.
After last weeks efforts we decided to actually find a location where we could utilise some props.
So what better place to go than our local airfield.
When we arrived both of us where very happy.
On the tarmac the Warbirds had the P51D Mustang out for running repairs, along with 2 North American Harvard's.

Normally when they are servicing  you are not allowed out by the planes, however we got there after fuel had been extracted so we could get up close.

Black and White was the theme again for our shoot.
The sun was close to getting high as it was 11:30am, so not to much of an issue except a tad hot on our heads.
Using my 28mm-300 I fixed the zoom ring to 100mm which on my camera works out to be around 160mm. (1.6x) I decide to avoid using any zoom and move in and around the subject.
This came as great amusement for my daughter.
With the plane as the back drop, I clicked away.

F5.6  1/200  ISO200 @100mm
The P51D Mustang is all polished silver metal so the reflection posed a few initial issues. I dropped my exposure down and went with a custom white balance using my calibration cards.
I used 9 point [Square] focus and targeted the subjects face.
The lens vignette was added after in Lightroom with minor shadow adjustments.

Unfortunately we where not allowed inside the service hangers for safety reasons so we stayed outside and looked to shoot in between the buildings.
F7.1 1/500 ISO200 28mm, 19AF
Between the hangers, it was obvious that the sun was going to be heavily reflected off the facing corrugated panels. This would provide enough light so no need for a flecky. The shutter speed was cranked up after the first few shots had revealed blowout in the highlight's, and I also dropped the exposure down a notch as well.

Like the first session we stayed with black and white, so the only adjustment digitally was the tweaking of the shadows by 5%.

....and finally the last one, this is a digital hack as it was the last shot of the day so a bit of dodging and burning in Photoshop with a boost in saturation and vibrancy.

F7 1/500 ISO200 28mm

Monday, 19 January 2015

Portrait Photography

It came as a surprise when my daughter casually asked me on a sunny Sunday if I would like to go out and take a few photos of her for a project she is working on.

Yeah why not” I said, certainly be a change from my normal sports photography, so off I trundled to my digital room to get my gear.
Then it dawned on me, I don’t really have many lenses that are suitable for portraiture. I don’t’ even have a fleckie, can you imagine running down a side line of a soccer or rugby pitch holding a fleckie while yelling out “smile”
The best I came out with was my trusty 50mm Canon prime lens. A lens I have spent very little time with but picked it up second hand for next to nothing. My Friend calls it the “Plastic Fantastic”
I also grabbed my 28-300mm, This has travelled too many destinations. It’s heavily used in media circles and I know that a fellow journalist friend swears by it when he goes after “celebs”.
So I decided to grab both and after coating ourselves with sunblock, and waiting almost a decade for my daughter to sort her hair out!!!, off we went to the local village.

As we were driving to our destination a series of questions cropped up around the subject or portraits
1)Do we focus on the natural look or go for the staged look?

My daughter suggested the natural look
2) Should I worry about the light or let this be part of the scene?

The sun can be your fiend; it just means I might have to pay special attention to my white balance and  metering choice.
3) Do I go face, half or full shot of the subject?

My daughter suggested we did all and see what we liked.
4) What is it I’m looking to portray in my image, sensual, moody, serene?,

Well my daughter can be moody but she has a lovely fun side so I might have to play a few tricks ;)

so after concluding our discussion we decided to just go with the flow.
Our local village, Howick is full old colonial late 18 early 19th century buildings so after a short stroll down a few side street we found a nice old building tucked away providing us with balance of shade and light.

I took a few basic shots to start with just to get a feel for the location and checked my histogram for the exposure distribution. I soon noticed having the subject wearing a white top, the building having a white exterior I decided to dial down my exposure by 1 stop, So a few quick re-shoots and I was happy with the new exposure distribution.
All shots were taken in Camera RAW, and then processed using ACR 8.7. I opted to leave Lightroom out of the processing stage and just focus on slight cropping and convert to Jpeg for web.

So what lessons did we learn?   Having the correct pose.
F5 1/250 80mm ISO200 Spot metering, B/W -1 Exposure
My first shot was in black and white and generally turned out ok.  We both thought that the pose could have been better.  By having the arm around the pole would have perhaps added a bit more feeling so something to remember next time.
The sun streaked across the dress and did not infiltrate the face which meant the detail was held well across the skin so no sign of any major pixel blow out across the midtones.
The second image we targeted a close-up. 
F5.6 1/50 135mm ISO200 Spot Metering, -1 Exposure
Again made sure the sun didn’t cause too much blow out across the face. The depth of field was set to low so the detail behind didn’t detract from the subject.  I called the pose “contemplation” my daughter called it something else!!

The last shot we went full body. I actually like this one out of all of the ones we took. I think the pose was good, and the subject looks relaxed.
F8 1/25 90mm ISO200 Eval Metering, AWB

The only thing I would consider is perhaps a slight crop to the right so that the subject  is perhaps more central, and maybe the depth of field could have been slightly less.
As always I have included all the camera settings used for reference. Over all it was a good to exercise, and something we are both keen to again soon.

So tips,
Make sure you use the light well, pre shoot prior will help establish your exposure readings and white balance.

Posing think about how the subject is standing, try to get them relaxed. If it’s just the face then it doesn’t really matter.
Location certainly helps depending on what you are trying to portray, but try to pick something that compliments the subject and doesn’t over power it or conflicts. After all it is about the subject.

Depth of field important, if you have detail behind the subject make sure you are using shallow depth of field otherwise it can detract.
Focus on the eyes if doing facials; consider using spot metering with a single point focus.
And always tell your subject they look beautiful.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Digital Wizardry

With the sheer number of fancy fandangle filters these days, you can pretty much create any wizzy digital artwork in Photoshop.
But for me I like to keep things simple and continue to use some of the old fashion techniques.
Using various channels, masks, layer duplications and plenty of old fashion brush work just to name a few. The results can be very interesting and fun to create.
Besides Isn't that what artists do,??

The following result is a mash up of 4 layers mainly using layer masks to isolate areas, such as myself, the sea and the rock I'm standing on.
Then progressively working across these masked areas, I work with several brushes using graduated opacity levels. (Sharpen, Burn)
The lens flare is original as I purposely positioned myself in front of the sun.
I also used 2 layer blending modes with varied opacity.
One was set to luminosity the other Pin light. this gave me better definition to the edges. I avoided using any Photoshop filters.
I also duplicated one of my layers and converted to Black and white, allowing me to control the removal of colour using masks.

Below is the final result. Perhaps not an award winning image but a lot of fun all the same.

Here is the original with the appropriate camera settings for those interested.
F5 ISO200, 1/1000 18mm, Auto White Balance

News Flash!!

After 4 weeks of operation "SortYaStuffOut" I now only have 126,605 un- processed RAW images on my Computer. Prior to the clean-up I had 267,000.... now if this was 1990 when I had my film camera I would be lucky if I had 200 photos.
Something is telling me that 2015 is going to be a bumper digital year

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Looking back in time....

In 2009 I spent a weekend at Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty, and had just started to delv into Landscape photography. Previous to this it was all about running around the outside of sports fields in the rain.

During an early morning run around the mount, I noticed several people heading down from the summit with cameras and tripods in tow.
They had obviously been up to catch the sunrise.
So I thought "hey that sounds like a great idea".
So the following morning I got up at 5am and headed up the mount.

The following image was perhaps one of my best results from what now appears to be a very bad bunch. But at the time I thought they looked cool, however as we progress and strive towards photo perfection, I think it can be a very positive experience to go back over your earlier stuff and study them.
Besides you might surprise yourself :)

Of course it's fair to say that the equipment we use today is certainly assisting us in obtaining quality improvements but you still need to understand the basics and this photo has certainly reminded me of some of the key things to remember.
Canon 450D, 35mm ISO800 F5.6, 3.2secs

So what did I learn from this......

1) Always take a tripod...I left mine back in Auckland.
2) My Positioning.
This image has been heavily cropped at the bottom due to the undulating hill line. So it's important to check out the landscape first before embarking on a shoot, especially one such as a sunrise which can offer a limited capture window.
3) ISO 800, Didn't really have much choice without a tripod and needed to at least give myself the option to be steady for a few seconds.
4) FSTOP, This could have perhaps been a little higher but then again the lens I had was an EFS so my highest was 4.5. 
5)Focal Length, I would most likely go with my wide angle lens these days when dealing with landscapes, doesn't everyone???
6)Lightroom tells me that the original shot was taken using Camera Scene set at Portrait, .....Always check your camera settings before you start :)
7) focus points, zooming in on the image I can clearly see that the primary focus point was the building to the right. In those days it was all Auto focus for me. I would be more inclined to use manual these days and perhaps go for a 9 points across the middle.
8)Bracketing?, possibly but you know me and HDR it's so last decade :)

thoughts and comments anyone

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Old and Aged

No the title is not about me before you ask...., although I'm getting closer to 50 which can often make you feel old.
My subject for this post is an old boat I stumbled across high and dry on a local beach on Waiheke Island.
The lighting wasn't bad as it was just after 10:00am in the morning with average cloud cover.

What I actually liked about the structure was the aged, weathered look. I thought about HDR but as mentioned in a previous post not really my cup of tea so decided to play around with my 7D on-board colour settings and create a custom colour setup just for this subject.
The post processing was only down to converting RAW to JPEG and a slight crop nothing more.

The first shot taken through the old port hole was really about getting the background in focus and using the porthole as a natural frame.
No surf beach  in the background I'm afraid so limited in terms of what I could frame.
I even waited for about 20 minutes hoping to catch a seagull flying by, I even tempted them with half my sandwich!! but no go.
However a lot of fun and happy with the result.

F11, ISO200 1/125 28mm Evaluative Metering, Custom Saturation setting
F11, ISO200 1/125 50mm, Eval Metering,  White Balance Custom

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Early Morning Start

With the weather being exceptional of late, getting up early once and a while never does anyone any harm.
So off out to the country to take a few pictures of the sun rising. This image is perhaps the best and the last one of the morning. I walked across a small wooden bridge leading up a farm path only to come across this creek. The sun was just to the right and armed with out my tripod I dropped to ISO400 and positioned the camera on a gate post.
After a little bit of cropping in photoshop and a few tweaks here and there, I was happy with the result even with the lens flare.
ISO400, F8, 1/120 60mm