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 clichéd 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!