Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sensor linear Capture

In this exercise I am investigating how the camera sensor captures the image and the processing that is carried out by the camera to make the image more acceptable to us.

The camera sensor captures the image in a linear fashion which results in a very dark picture. We can mimic this by applying curves to a sample picture. The picture has been converted to 16 bit to avoid any image 'banding' that may happen if we process this as 8 bit.

Here is the image as it came from the camera. Note that the histogram has a good spread of tones.

The picture straight from the camera.

Now compare the image above to the one below that has been adjusted to resemble the linear capture from the sensor. This has been done by applying curves.

How the sensor captures the picture.
All the tones are squashed up to the left of the histogram (not to the right as the workbook states. We learnt earlier that dark tones sit at the left of the histogram!)

Finally we bring the image back to it's original state by applying another curve, the opposite to the curve applied to the picture above.

The dark image (top) with curves applied to bring the tones back to the original (bottom).
We have now mimicked what the camera sensor does for us. The importance of this to us comes when we have a lot of noise in the shadow areas. See the sharp incline in the curve in the last image. With the camera making this adjustment to bring the image up to an acceptable looking picture, it would also be increasing the visibility of any noise!

* Note that all the images on this page have been converted to 8 bit to enable them to be used in this exercise!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Investigating other artists - Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore (b 1947) first came to my attention in the book "The photograph as contemporary art" in the chapter discussing deadpan photography. His image "Untitled  28a" (1972) caught my attention for its 'ordinary-ness' and the colour tones of the photograph. I started reading more about Shore and was surprised I had not come across him before. I have an interest in Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston, who alongside Shore are often named as leading the way in the acceptance of colour film into the art world.

Shore is represented by 303 Gallery, New York, where a good selection of his images can be viewed on-line (link). The vernacular style of the photographs bring to mind the snap-shots we may have taken when first venturing into photography.

It is difficult to analyse and pinpointing why this work it grabs ones attention. Perhaps viewing the images does take us back to our first attempts at photography? Maybe we feel slightly voyeuristic due to the subject matter, as if we are looking at somebody else's private shots. In many of the images you get the feeling of being there with the subjects or present in  the street scene depicted.

Technically there does seem to be a geometric thread that can be followed through many of the pictures. This is starting to become apparent even in Shore's earlier work 'The velvet years'. The centre of the image often holds a point of interest, even if that comprises of a simple table lamp (Room 110, Holiday Inn, Brainerd, MI, ) or TV set (Stampeder Motel, Ontario, Oregon, July 19, 1973) . The eye is often 'pushed' to this point by leading lines from surrounding objects. In many of the shots it is possible to find a triangular composition hidden away in the everyday surroundings.

Shore has been acknowledged as an influence by Martin Par and Nan Goldin among others.

One of the challenges I have set myself when investigating other artists, is to try and initially mimic and subsequently build on their style. I believe this will open up my experience of trying things that I may never have tried of my own accord.

Cotton, C , "'The photograph as contemporary art',Thames & Hudson world of art.
Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Shore (accessed February 2012).
303 Gallery representing Stephen Shore. (accessed February 2012).

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Assignment 1. Workflow

For my first assignment I have chosen to photograph some beach huts near where I live. I have photographed them before but in a very clich├ęd fashion. The challenge I put myself was to photograph them in a manner that was a little different to all the other images I have seen, in a somewhat more abstract fashion. Under the right weather conditions the pastel coloured huts compliment a pale blue sky. I was lucky enough to encounter the right conditions just this weekend. This is attempt one at the beach hut abstracts!

Here is my workflow for this shoot. For detailed images of some of these steps, please refer to the previous exercises.

1. Prepare equipment.
For this shoot I intended to travel light so no tripod. I cleared the memory card in the camera and charged the battery. Next I checked my camera bag. There are certain things I always take with me. They are a light meter, a lens cleaning cloth, a spare battery, some more memory cards and my pouch of Neutral Density filters and a polarising filter. I also selected which lenses to take and use. I opted to mount a 35mm F2 and took along a 50mm f1.4, just in case.

I do a camera check before I set out. This entails checking the ISO, the image format which is almost always RAW for me, the exposure metering system which I set to partial or spot - in this case partial and set the white balance to an initial setting of auto. I check the camera's exposure control is set to manual. Again I tend to use this most of the time. The only other setting I sometimes use is aperture priority if I need to work faster.

2. Shoot!
I arrived at the location and started shooting. This was a relaxing unhurried affair. The beach huts span a distance of several hundred yards. I took my time and started at one end. Slowly walking along the huts I moved between them and sought out both details on the huts themselves, and interesting shots that included surrounding interest. On this shoot I didn't delete any shots as I went along. I also stuck with the 35mm lens throughout. Whilst shooting I checked the output on the camera screen, checking both the histogram and the contrast. Some images were taken again if they looked under or over exposed but were not deleted at this stage.

3. Transfer
Once home, the first thing I did was to transfer the images to my hard drive. I do this using the Canon RAW software. This allowed me to create a folder and transfer the images from the card to that folder. I plug my memory card into a card reader rather than connect to the camera. This is to save battery power.

Once the transfer was complete I backed up my drive to my second external hard drive.

4. Technical edit
I now took a rest and didn't come back to the images until the following day. I had 120 images from this shoot with none deleted on location.

120 images as shot before any edits.
There are images here that I marked as rejected even though they were technically ok. This is because they didn't work for me on an artistic level. I could have just kept these but not allowed them to make the final selection but certain images I just know I will never do anything with. Eventually the rejects will get deleted to free up space on my hard drive.

I selected a total of six rejects, mainly on grounds of over exposure or composition.

5. The selects
Next I went through the images again to make my selects. By now I had a clear idea of which style of image was working for me and a clear view of how to wok on some of the abstracts. I have whittled the selection down to twenty-three images, some which are slight variations of the same shot.

The second selects.
With the exception of a few detail shots it is clear to me that I wish to concentrate on the colour of the sky, sea and shingles against the different coloured beach huts.

6. The first selects
The first time through the second selects I picked ten images and marked these with a star. I have noticed a bit of distortion from the 35mm lens in some of the shots which is a bit annoying!

After a break I went through the images again and deselected two more, leaving me eight. The reason for this was to keep all the images in the set in the same style. I am thinking of cropping them all down to a letterbox crop.

7. Group and review.
A quick review of all the images confirms I am happy with my selection and don't wish to add any more from the seconds. I am a little unsure about two of my selections now but will look at these when I further edit them.

8. The final choice
My final choice of images is shown below. They have been finished off by having the RAW processing done, cropped and then have been transferred to Photoshop for a very slight colour enhancement and conversion to jpeg. I also dropped two more of the selected images as I thought them too similar to the ones I already had.

Image 1.
Image 2.
Image 3.
Image 4.
Image 5.
Image 6.

Things I do differently
I don't think I work that differently to other photographers. My choice of RAW converter seems a little at odds, with most of my associates. Most of them are using Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop RAW Converter, but I am happy Canon Digital Photo Professional.

I also like to sit on my images for a bit before I even get to the technical edit. Even at this stage I think a little detachment from the shoot can be of benefit.

Where a difference may exist is from at the point of RAW conversion onwards. I tend to transfer my images directly into Photoshop, where I then save a copy as a 16 bit Photoshop file. This can have layers and edits and I produce my final output version from this file. When I output it could be a small web ready version or a large tif file for printing.

The Photoshop files are also my way of organising my images. They all sit in one folder that is then further divided into folders such as Portrait, Landscape, abstract etc. These folders are further split into specific subjects or locations.

This was an interesting assignment and although, as mentioned before, I do already have this work flow pretty much in place, it was good practice to follow it to the letter. The whole chapter has forced me to think about my folder structure and I may well be making some changes to the way I structure the RAW file folders to make it easier to locate older RAW files.

As for the little abstract project I used for this assignment - I'm not convinced it worked as well as I had hoped, so I may be returning to this at a later date!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Other Artists

I have just finished reading 'the photograph as contemporary art' by Charlotte Cotton. (ISBN 978-0-500-20401-6 Thames & Hudson world of art). This is a great book and once you get into it, you'll find it hard to put down! The book mentions many artists but some I have noted down for further investigation. This may be because I really like them, don't like them or don't understand their work. I will be trying to find out more about Stephen Shore, Yang Yong, Paul Graham, Corinne Day, Larry Clark, Tracey Baran and Charlie White as I proceed through this course.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Selsey reed beds II

Selsey reed beds II by SimonLawrence
Selsey reed beds II, a photo by SimonLawrence on Flickr.
A trip to Selsey Bill resulted in a couple more intentional camera movement shots. This one of some reed beds. I shot this with my Canon 5D MKII and a Sigma F1.4 50mm lens fitted with an ND8 filter. The movement was just a very slight up and down motion.

Via Flickr:
Some intentional camera movement in Selsey Bill.

Canon EOS 5D MKII @ F16 1.3sec Sigma 50mm F1.4 with ND8

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Having shot a folder full of images during my ad-hoc shoot, I have now come to sorting the good from the bad. This is the classic definition of editing. The number of images I am looking to edit down to may vary depending on the assignment. For my ad-hoc shoot I took 160 photographs.

Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) RAW converter showing all images from the shoot.
The technical edit
The first sweep through the images is to remove any technically inferior shots. In DPP I can mark these images with a 'Reject' flag. The images can be selected by this flag to either delete them or to be moved to another folder. A quick way to do this is to use the 'quick viewer'. This allows me to step through the images quickly and mark any rejects.

The quick viewer and reject button (high-lighted).
I have stepped through my images and marked any rejects. At this stage I have not actually deleted any yet.

The selects
Having selected all my rejects I now invert the selection. From this new selection I will pick any images that appeal to me creatively. I can place these images in a 'virtual' collection' which does not actually move any files. I mark these files with a number two so that it is easy to group them.

The number 2 selects in a virtual collection.
At this point in the shoot I had already decided what kind of image I was trying to achieve. The shoot had started ad-hoc but when I got to the lake and reed bed's, I knew I wanted to get some good intentional camera movement shots.

The first selects.
Now for the tricky task of finding my first selects. I will mark these with a star so that they can still be selected alongside my seconds.

My first selects.
My first selects have narrowed the field to several versions of just two images.

Group and review
After a break I reviewed my choice by looking back over all my second selects, In this instance I am happy with the selection but I know from experience that I may have changed my mind.

Final choice
So here are my two final choices. Both are intentionally blurred to create a near abstract image., which is something I am experimenting with at the moment. To get this effect I used a neutral density filter on the camera and a slow shutter speed.

1.3 sec @ F16, ISO50, 50MM lens with ND filter.
1.3 sec @ F16, ISO50, 50MM lens with ND filter.
I must admit that the workflow used here is pretty much the way I was doing things before but it was good to go over it and actually put it down in writing. To this editing process there should really be one more step, that is to back up all the work we have just carried out.

Having this workflow in place really does help to stay on top of things. With a good sized memory card and a modern digital camera you can soon find yourself dealing with a large number of files. This can be both labour intensive at the editing stage and costly for storage, especially if the files are not ever going to be used.