Tag Archives: photography

Getting the Chimp off Your Back

The digital era truly revolutionized photography. While most of the advancements were positive, I think the instant gratification that the LCD provides also created a stumbling block. In the days of film, you either got it right or you didn’t. If you were smart you bracketed your shots, and if you knew your way around a darkroom you could make certain fixes, but when all was said and done, you either got it right or you didn’t. Digital, however, changed that– allowing us to cast away our light meters, dive right in, and check our work as we go. A good thing, right? Not entirely, because new-found convenience has also, to an extent, eroded our confidence. One photographer went so far as to tell me recently that LCD actually stands for “Lowers Confidence Dramatically.”

So, what do we do about it?

Excellent article at Digital Photography School.

The only thing I slightly disagree with is the instruction to go completely over to manual mode. I see this a lot, and I don’t think it’s entirely necessary. It’s almost as if we’re being told you can’t be a “proper” photographer unless you control every aspect of the process. I disagree with this because, while it is valuable to understand when and how to use manual controls, the camera is often much smarter than the person using it. I prefer to let my camera work out some of the hard stuff while I get on and capture that light.

Just in!

Earlier this year my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were married in 1962, and had been together for 50 years—a milestone to be admired as well as celebrated.

I was deputed as official photographer at the celebration party. Those images came out well enough, but I wanted to make something more memorable. I decided a one-off self-published photo book would be just the ticket.

I persuaded my Mum that I should pay a visit with my scanner and laptop so I could scan the original wedding photos, as well as the scrapbook from the event—Mum is a great one for scrapbooking such things: she has scrapbooks covering most of their major wedding anniversaries as well as other significant events in their lives together.

I won’t say I slaved over this book. I will say it took me ages to figure out how to join the two sets of images together in some way that made sense. In the end I hit on the idea of including information about 1962 and 2012 that would let someone looking at the book in say another 50 years understand the period, and some of the changes that happened between them.

There is a page—you can see a segment in the above image—which has each decade between 1962 and 2012. I felt this was a good way to segue between the “black and white” early 1960s to the ”technicolor multi-channel” 21st century. I spent a while picking out historical, social and family events that marked each decade, and put them across the page in a kind of grid.

I designed the book using Blurb’s book design template plugin for Adobe InDesign. This sets the page size and layout for you, with some basic instructions on making sure you have even numbers of pages and so on. Once completed, the plugin then provides a cover template design based on the number of pages and the chosen paper stock. The output was to a Blurb-specified PDF, which was then uploaded to their web site. All in all, a seamless and relatively painless process, even if the 130MB PDF took a while to upload!

I went for a hardback cover with wrapped-around colour image and reasonable quality paper stock for the insides. It’s not a fat volume, but it looks very smart indeed. Sadly, I made a silly error which resulted in each page being one place forward of where they should have been, which meant some of the spreads haven’t worked as intended. While a nuisance, and something I ought to have spotted, I am still chuffed to bits with the finished book. I hope my parents love it just as much as I do!

September Dawn – a set on Flickr

One of my infamous Dawn Raids occurred this morning. It so happened the weather was forecast to be clear, and there was a high tide coinciding with sunrise, give or take a few minutes. I headed out to Hoo St Werburgh, which has rapidly become my local sunrise location of choice.

Swapping lenses on a DSLR always increases the possibility of dust and grot getting into the camera body. Only when I got home and downloaded the images did I spot a small hair in the bottom right corner of many images, caused by my holding an uncapped lens in the crook of my arm while swapping them about. At wider apertures the fibre was all but invisible, but stopping down meant it became clearer and clearer. I’ve had to do a bit of selective cropping and cloning to tidy things up. I was lucky, really, it only encroached in a corner. It has now been removed from the camera body.

For those without Flash, here’s the direct link to the set on Flickr.

Backing up

As you may know, I am one of the four people on the planet still using Apple Aperture for processing my photos. Aperture has a feature that lets you create what the developers call a “Vault”. Essentially, it’s a locked down database of your library, including all the information such as ratings, meta data, and processing. The idea is should your main library (or libraries) become corrupted due to disk failure or similar, you can reload your library from the vault.

Which is all fine and dandy. I’ve been maintaining a vault for a couple of years. Since my library contained virtually everything I have shot since I started seriously shooting with digital, it was getting a bit unwieldy, and when it was about to outgrow its current home I made a decision to create a bunch of smaller libraries and to archive the stuff I don’t need to access regularly.

The problem was I couldn’t get Aperture to make new vaults for the new libraries. Whatever the reason for the failures, in the end I gave up and developed a new backup strategy.

Having a pair of almost matched 500GB drives available, I decided to use them as backups for the RAW original image files. I plan to copy new images from the CF cards directly to Drive A, then import them into the relevant Aperture library. At regular intervals, I will use a utility to copy new files to Drive B, which will be pretty much an identical clone of Drive A. One can then be stored off-site. As the archive grows, I’ll acquire new matched drives and continue to archive to them, leaving the old ones in storage.

Now, obviously, I want all my old files on this archive. Which means I have been patiently plodding through my old library exporting originals to Drive A. I am not bothered about saving processed images. Processing originals again is easy: I may even find I process them differently if it happens. What isn’t so easy is taking the photograph again. If you like, I am backing up the negatives for the twenty-odd thousand images I have taken since 2002 or so.

Interestingly, having this opportunity to sift through my back catalogue has made me realise one or two things. First, I’ve got some awesome shots I have forgotten about, which I really ought to revisit at some stage. Second, I keep an awful lot of rubbish images. I think I will be a good deal more choosy about shots in the future, rather than just dump everything from the card into the library.

So, what’s your backup strategy for your digital photography? Do you even have one?

Common Blue Damselfly | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

I don’t do much wildlife photography, let alone macro stuff in the field. However, while photographing various species of heather, calluna, erica and daboecia, I was taken by the antics of several damsel flies. Some were hunting, but one couple were busy working on the next generation.
I was using my Sigma 28–300mm ƒ3.5–5.6 on the Canon EOS 7D for the plant work, and had been pleasantly surprised at the macro capabilities. When my colleague pointed out the damsel fly pair, I was initially sceptical I would get anything worthwhile. I was, after all, working handheld, and I wasn’t really convinced the lens would give me good results on something so small.
I perched on a small stool, rested my arms on my knees, and zoomed right out to 300mm. The camera was set at ISO400, and I’d been working in Aperture Priority mode. The insects were quite small in the frame, and the AF couldn’t quite latch on to them. I should point out I’ve adopted the back-button focus system now, leaving the shutter button for exposure reading and capturing the shot. Once the AF locked on, I took my thumb away from the button and kept shooting.
The shot above was 1/500th at ƒ/11, and I seem to have dialled in a negative third of a stop. Aside from some mild detail and contrast enhancement on import in Aperture, and a crop to home in on the critters, this shot is the best of the bunch. I am amazed at the crisp detail in the wings. Such a relatively cheap lens, and it still surprises me.

RHS Wisley – a set on Flickr

This past few weeks I have been visiting the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley, near Guildford in Surrey. It’s not that I’m a huge fan of growing things, more that a friend of mine has asked me to photograph the plants there in some detail for a project he’s working on. We’re visiting the gardens over a period that hopefully shows how the plants appear during various seasons.

If nothing else, it’ll keep me gainfully occupied for several decades! The images here are just some of the more scenic things from around the formal parts of the site. For those not blighted by Flash, here’s the Flickr page.

Natural Light Photographers vs. Flash Photographers | Alan Bailward Photography Blog

I Think (Some) Natural Light Shooters Just Don’t Understand Flash

I hear a lot of people proudly proclaim, generally amidst a discussion of flash technology, or studio lighting gear “oh I’m a ‘natural light shooter'”. Whenever I hear that I think what they’re really saying is:

“I don’t need silly flashes to make my pictures better, I use the sun and that’s it, making me a better photographer than you and your fancy gear.”

So here’s the thing. While I use flashes and reflectors and soft boxes, the light is still natural, it’s just controlled by me. The light is coming out of a flash is created in nature. The reflections in the models eyes from the umbrella? Natural as well.

So why do people get so hung up on proclaiming their status as a “natural light shooter”? It sometimes feels like one of those “doth protest too much” things sometimes.

Interesting. I’m a self-professed natural light shooter. I don’t even own a flash unit—aside from the flippy-uppy one on my camera that I usually deploy by accident. I do have a pair of redhead studio lights, and I have been known to take over our living room to do some work with them, but I currently don’t have any interest in learning to be a strobist.

Don’t get me wrong. I love looking at a well-lit photo as much as anyone. I appreciate the art and technique, too. It’s just not something I have the space and time—or budget, come to that—for in my photography right now.