Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Objective 5 – Emotion

For my regular readers you will recall about a month ago I set myself 10 objectives. So after being derailed by other challenges I'm happy to say I'm back on track.
Photography over the centuries has been a great medium to capture emotion, that fleeting moment in time when a person reaches a particular level of expression, "Click" you have frozen it in time. Or perhaps the minute a predator is about to pounce on its pray “Click” captured in time. Or perhaps that perfectly balanced pose the ballerina holds just before they gracefully drop to their next move, "Click" that moment frozen in time for ever.

For me catching the ultimate emotional shot is a challenge, and one I’m very keen to pursue.

f7, 1/320, ISO200 80mm
After reviewing a lot of my early attempts, I think there is a fine line between catching a good emotional shot versus what I call the circus shot.

The circus shots are those images whereby we capture the persons face in a strange contorted way. You know the ones I mean. One eye closed, tongue half out, the list goes on.

Ultimately even these could be reviewed as being emotional; they are normally followed by laughter at the expense of the subject and usually involve close family members.

So where do you start?.
Well you could try commandeering your daughter or son, get them to hold 3 onions under her nose then work towards getting that all important shot as the tears stream down there little faces....I did but my photos ended up looking revengeful and scouring and I got told of from the wife for wasting 3 good onions!!!

A more realistic approach would be to large and wide. For instance pop along to any community based function or gathering.

Such as a local farmers market and catch early morning shoppers going about their business. There are some interesting people around however you have to be careful not to step on anyone’s toes. The other options are to attend events such as school gala's or even weddings on public land, but just make sure you get clearance first.

So what makes an emotional shot?, some of the best emotional photos I recall are generally focused on a single subject. We have the famous Vietnam conflict photo of the young girl running away from her village after being burned by Napalm. Then we have the Russian WW2 veteran kneeling beside the tank he spent the war in, now a monument. Or perhaps The 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute: African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a gesture of solidarity at the 1968 Olympic Games. The list goes on.

For my recent outing to capture emotion, I went to a Vietnam veteran reunion whereby the Local Iwi (Maori) performed a Pƍwhiri to welcome the Overseas visitors. This is a very powerful performance if you wish to find out more about the Powhiri just pop it into wikipedia.

So to the photos did they work?, well I guess so but it’s up to you to comment and reply so here they are.

f5.6, 1/200, ISO200 100mm
f5.6 1/200 ISO200 100mm
f5.6, 1/250, IS200 250mm
f5.6, 1/400, ISO200 30mm

This next shot is of a young officer who got heat stroke during the ceremony. I reacted to the clatter on the stone cenotaph steps and as I turned around this is what I captured.
f5.6, 1/200 ISO200 135mm
My last shot is perhaps one of my favourites. I used my Black and White setting and had to reach around the kitchen window to take the shot so I was unsighted. Just a small amount of cropping. It's of a hard working mum giving the old Spuds a good shake ready to join the Sunday roast.

f4, 1/80, ISO200 30mm ( Unsighted :)


Monday, 18 May 2015

Blog Theme Change

I actually liked the theme I had previously been using however it is proving to be a little bit of a pain when you wish to view the images associated with each post. Therefore I have decided to revert to a much simpler model until the time comes for me to publish my own full Photographic website. Hope you find the content just as appealing.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Emotional Override

Yesterday I was presented “out of the blue” with the option to cover the No 9 Squadron Veteran reunion ceremony between the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) and our very own Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

Several pilots from our RNZAF were seconded to No 9 Squadron, in the RAAF to assist in flying Iroquois helicopters both as gunship pilots, rescue and in troop deployment roles. These veterans served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972.
I hadn’t planned on any serious photography as my objective was to watch and photograph the last 3 remaining flyable Iroquois pass over the Cenotaph outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Digital Composition
On my arrival an old acquaintance of mine who happened to be involved in this large special event spotted me in the crowd and pulled me aside to ask for a favour. Their photographer had not turned up and they needed someone to cover the event, I obliged and without all my usual gear and only a single memory card I began photographing the best I could do.

To find one suddenly thrust in this situation actually worked to my favour and I found myself resorting to old school tactics, and not relying on shooting digitally willy nilly. With limited storage space (single 8gig card) I worked much smarter and harder to obtain the shots required and found myself a lot more mobile than perhaps what I would normally be.

I found that I was working through my settings smarter, I was metering better on the fly, I was ensuring correct aspect ratios so as not to crop to much…it was a great feeling and I suddenly realised how digital can be a little too easy and wasteful sometimes.  Because of this I became a lot more aware of the surroundings and the subjects including a brief moment for which I found myself in completely new territory…

After the last post was played, the wreaths where laid around the base of the Cenotaph, a RNZAF Huey flew in from the East and landed on the museum grounds. The veterans stood and cheered as this lovely beast landed.
f10, 1/100 ISO200 200mm
At this point I was on the opposite side capturing the huey as it landed. I then left the crowd to gather around the helicopter and headed back up to the Cenotaph. As I came over the grass bank I noticed 2 old Australian Veterans sitting on their own.  I moved in to compose a photograph but as I raised my camera and looked through the viewfinder the scene in front of me told me to stop.

The look on the Australian Veterans face was of pain and suffering, his eyes were flooded with tears with his wife was hugging him closely. As I looked through the viewfinder he raised his head and looked straight at me and for that fleeting moment something told me that I should not take this photo. I felt guilty, I felt as if I was invading someone’s privacy and because of this I lowered my lens and looked upon the scene in front of me.
I’m sure the Veteran knew I had not taken a photo at this point as he raised his hand to acknowledge me and nodded his head as if to say thank you for not recoding this moment.

I returned the nod apologetically, only to see his wife turn and smile whilst mouthing the words “thank you”. I then turned and slowly walked towards the cenotaph.
f7.1, 1/160 ISO 200 160mm (adjusted clarity, Saturation)
Many hours later I found myself in turmoil, I should have taken the shot it would have been fantastic and I would have captured a moment which was very unique, but then on the other hand it would have been selfish and perhaps exploitive because that moment was full of pain and suffering.

I’m sure someone around the area would have snapped the shot, but for me I felt emotional and thus could not go through with it.

Did I do the right thing?, should I have taken the shot?
It makes you wonder what these world class journalists must think when they capture those unique images, perhaps they do not succumb to the emotional component, I suppose if it’s your job and you are paid to obtain these raw emotional shots, then you perhaps have no time to worry about ethics.

It was certainly an experience I had never come across before and to think the only image I have of that very special moment is not in digital form but my own personal memory banks to treasure forever.

Original Photo by RYerson  1966 RAAF Huey in Vietnam (CC)

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Less Photoshop, More Photography

So as to not cause any legal issues by linking or show casing copyrighted images, this blog entry is I’m afraid very text orientated.

Over the years I have seen some pretty bad photo retouching and it amazes me that the most common problems still crop up today.

Just recently I was reviewing a digital image composition of a subject. On the surface it looked really good then after about 5 seconds the mental reality check kicked in and my mind was flooded with the “wait a minute…there is something wrong with this image”

…and sure enough there was.

Looking closely at what appeared to be a nicely composed landscape taken late in the afternoon started to show signs of the unreal. Sadly too this image was supposedly being entered into a competition.

So what was wrong?, a few things. But the most noticeable one was the moon which appeared to be evident In the early evening sky.

But that’s possible I hear you cry. And you are correct, however the lake scene below the moon told a different story. The image was of a little know location here in NZ called Lake Taupo, now I’m no astronomer but I reckon the moon face came from another image and nicely dropped in, however they obviously forgot that the moon face reflecting in the lake had a small amount of cloud covering it, while the one sitting proudly above the lake was actually clear and had the face most associated with the Northern hemisphere.

Of course this then lead to a couple of questions 1) Is it In fact an image of Lake Taupo?, or 2)a lake actually in the northern hemisphere and they just got their metadata wrong?. Both are plausible but I’m afraid due to possibly poor cropping there was a small amount of evidence which sealed the case.

You could just see the remains of a street sign showing the first few letter T A U M A….

So a quick search on Google maps for Lake Taupo and yep there you go, on the west side just down from the lake is a town called Taumarunui, so Lake Taupo it is.

…apart from these to mistakes the digital composition was actually very good, even thou it’s naturally inaccurate.
The next one is a very simple trap to fall into and one I have done myself on a few occasions and that is when you isolate an object and flip it or perhaps mirror it. Seems reasonable right? Not if you have text or symbols on it.
I made the mistake of creating a digital composition which did actually get me the thumbs up from a panel of judges. I had declared that it was a digital fudge, and that I had used 3 images to create the composition. However the wind was blown out of my sail when one of the panelists kindly said to me on the quite, “Excellent work on the composition, real shame you forgot to reverse the text on the underside of your left subject”. Doh!!

Corrected but too late

..Needless to say the one shown here had been fixed but too late.

So if you intend to do some digital wizardry here are a few things to remember.

1)   If you intend to include objects from other images, make sure that it is physically, and/or naturally possible If you are going for the fantasy theme then fine

2)   If you flip, rotate, mirror check for any logos or text which might get distorted. This can be ignored however if you are shooting reflections (i.e building, Mirrors etc)

3)   If you merge objects together taken during good sunlight, make sure your shadows are all going in the same direction. Most cut the shadows out al together.

4)   Beware extractions, Unless you have staged your original photo using a green screen, it is almost impossible to extract an image and make it fit the way it should, even for seasoned professionals. It is best to try and create the photo you want the first time around.

5)   When you are trying to get the perfect monochrome feature, less is often better and you may want to scale it down as little as possible. Resorting to using sepia tones can be unnatural and will create a photo that is muddy and overdone.

6)   Smoothing or motion blurring, water, clouds etc., even digital professionals may struggle here. So learn to use your camera to create the photo you want you will be amazed at the results and feel better for it.

Less Photoshop.. More Photography.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The First Photograph

Righto a quick History lesson...just to be a little different.
Source: Getty Images
It is often said that a Frenchman by the name of Joseph Nicephore Niepce, was the first to take the earliest known surviving photograph made by a camera in or around 1826.

The photo was taken from an upstairs window on his estate in, Le Gras, which is in the region of France called Burgundy perhaps more famous for its wines.
The scientifically minded young man, through his experimentation with Lithographic printing, lead him to invent the process known as Heliography due to his inability to draft images by hand. He spent time experimenting with light sensitive varnishes, however he faced a problem as he was unable to prevent the images from fading.

After a few years of experimenting further, finally in 1826 combing the chemical processes and the power of the camera, the successful quest for permanence all came together. He coated a pewter plate with the solution from his experiments which partly contained bitumen, and placed the plate into a camera that was looking outside his upstairs window.
f??, ISO??, Exposure 8 hours, B/W :)
After around 8 hours of exposure the plate was washed using a mixture of lavender, white petroleum and another substance which I can’t recall, dissolved away parts of the bitumen which had not hardened by the light exposure
The result was a permanent direct positive picture of the view from his window. Outbuildings, courtyard, trees and the general landscape as seen from his window.

This produced a one-of-a-kind photograph onto the pewter plate.

The interesting point note is that when we consider pre digital photography, i.e Film, that this early form of image capture did not involve the creation of an intermediate product such as a transparent negative or multiple printings on paper.

Instead it resulted in Niepce only being able to produce only a singular photograph with any exposure he made and because of the unique choice of using the pewter plate to expose onto, he could never make a duplicate of his image again.

Suggested reads: Photography the whole story , From Polaroid to the Impossible.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Lion around

The zoo is perhaps one of the best places to go when starting out in the world of photography. There are many varying degrees of subjects on display, some willing to participate and some not. I think this is why zoos in general provide a good level of variation and conditions when photographing subjects….and of course if you have children there is no better place to combine family and hobby time together.

First up the Lion. I found myself a good location and decided to setup the tripod. The conditions very good with the sun just above and slightly to the rear of me, wand very little cloud cover. The contrast between the lion and the surrounding landscape was very good. The lens used for these shots was an older Canon EF70-300mm. A tidy lens which performs well in the mid-range but does tend to introduce a little bit of chromatic aberration across the blue plane especially when shooting at maximum zoom.

With my tripod out, camera in Manual mode and the male lion subject lying on top of a grassy knoll about 20metres away, I hooked up my remote trigger and waited patiently.

After about 20 minutes the lion decided to pop its head up to survey the surrounding landscape providing me with a few opportunities to capture some little action.
f5.6 1/640 ISO250 275mm
After a few yawns and a tired sounding roar, he aptly rolled over and went back to sleep again.
f5.6 1/500 ISO250 300mm

Next I moved on to the ape enclosure. I had to survey the area first to locate where most of the apes where “Hanging” around. Unfortunately I was limited to the normal tourist viewing spots so had to make use of what space I could gain.

For this I changed my camera to Aperture Priority and went with Auto white balance. Lighting conditions tend to change rapidly around this enclosure due to dense over hanging trees and bush. Unlike the lion the monkeys can be a bit more active so I increased my ISO to 400 and changed my focus array to a single point AF so that more of the focus would be on the subject I’m tracking.
f5.6 1/250 ISO400 250mm

f5.6 1/250 ISO400 275mm

f4.5 1/200 ISO400 175mm
f4 1/160 ISO 250 120mm

Lastly was a quick walk around to see the Orang-utan. Unfortunately they were not very active today and I struggled to capture the little one as he stayed under a canvas sheet all the time. So after about 45minutes of waiting one of the Orang-utans decide to roll over in his tree house and provide me with a small window of opportunity to snap a few shots. I wonder what he was thinking.
f4.5 1/320 ISO250 170mm