Tag Archives: photos

Street Photography

So to my great surprise, I seem to enjoy ‘street photography’ more than the other kinds of photography I’ve tried over the last few years.  I’ll be the first to admit however that much of my street photography is ‘photographs taken in the street’, rather than the more classic street photography.  By that I mean, the form is really about capturing ‘decisive moments’ in a candid way, usually at quite short focal lengths.

At the moment, I tend to use longer focal lengths, and often my results are more candid street portraits than actual street photography.

Despite that, and with all the respect due to the real tradition, I’m enjoy what I do none-the-less, and over time hope to improve my confidence, and my technical ability, to switch to shorter focal lengths and capture more moments rather than interesting faces.

When I bought a DSLR, I really thought I’d be spending my time shooting pictures of animals and wild life, and early on, I did that.  However, wild life photography (good wild life photography) requires a large investment of time, spent waiting, watching, and planning for the moment in which to capture the animal.  Taking a thousand pictures of swans, however beautiful they are, isn’t in the long term wild life photography.  As such, I haven’t invested the time, or found a place in which I want to invest the time, to carry out high quality wild life photography.

Landscape photography is as time intensive as wild life photography, and certainly requires just as much planning.  Taking an occasional picture of a stream, and capturing a brilliant image of a landscape are two different things, and the latter requires a lot of planning, preparation and timing to get the right light and the right shot.

Portrait and event photography both interest me, probably for the same root reason as street photography – they’re about people and I find people fascinating.  However, I don’t have the confidence yet to take portraits and I don’t have the opportunity to take shoot many events (although I take the chance whenever I can).

So I’ve found the immediacy and unpredictable nature of street photography to be the most engaging activity I’ve been involved in since getting the camera.  I love looking at the pictures and finding hidden gems of human behaviour that might not have been obvious at the moment I pressed the shutter button (see the guy on the left in this picture, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/19423003901).  I love seeing the emotions of people’s faces, and I love building a narrative that may or may not be real based on the instant the picture was taken.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that truth is based on your perception at the time, and street photography really encompasses that philosophy for me.

Hopefully my confidence will increase, and I’ll get better at shooting at short focal lengths.  I’m not going to stop trying to improve at wild life, landscape, event, sport, portrait and the other forms of photography of course, it’s just that street photography is both accessible at any time, and more thrilling so far than anything else I’ve tried.

Photography

Saxophone BuskerI think I’m improving at the whole photography lark.  I mean clearly, I still have a very long way to go before I can consider myself ‘good’, but I’m certainly better than I was a year ago.  Ironically, a lot of the photographs I’ve taken in the last year are worse, to my eye, than those I took in previous years with the bridge camera and the little point and click.  There’s a reason for that, in fact, there’s probably two reasons.

Firstly, I’m taking photographs in situations where I wouldn’t normally take them, and I need to learn how to do that successfully.  For example, walking around a city centre trying to take pictures of people.  I never really did that with any previous camera and so the first few (hundred thousand) times the pictures turn out a bit shit.  Secondly, I’m in control of much more of the picture now – and that means I fuck it up more often.

With the bridge, it was a pretty decent camera, and I shot most (all?) of the time in what was referred to as Program AE.  That mode automatically picks an aperture and shutter speed that will correctly expose the image.  I never even looked at shutter speed and aperture on the bridge, I just let the camera pick them (and ISO, I’m not even sure it ever showed me what the ISO was on any particular shot).

Windows to the SoulThe result is that I spent more time thinking about composure and making sure I was focussed in the right place, and less time wondering if I had the ‘right’ aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.  So I’m having to train myself to think of those things, and change them when necessary, and that means sometimes I don’t and the shot is crap, or I think about them too much and miss the shot I wanted.

However, when I get everything lined up, composition, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, hand-shake, focus, the shots are better than I could have ever gotten out of the bridge or the point and click – so while some of my output is worse, when it works, it’s significantly better, and I’m really proud of some shots as actual pieces of photographic art.

Young LoveI’m also getting to grips with Lightroom and RAW post-processing, something which was super daunting at the outset, and also lead to a number of ‘it’s worse than I used to do’ moments.  Image processing, even in the bridge camera, was pretty good, so the JPG output was pretty good (low sensor size and pixel count not withstanding).  Certainly, the 600D’s JPG process is pretty excellent, and for the first few weeks of shooting in RAW and JPG, it was really hard work to make myself process the RAWs because the JPGs were so good.

The best thing I ever did was give up JPG totally, because that crutch was stopping me from learning to do the processing myself.  Now that I’m confident about getting an acceptable basic image, being able to fine tune it for artistic and aesthetic purposes is a really exciting part of the process for me.

Skateboard Love PhotoshopOne of the most frustrating issues for me early on, was low light situations.  I don’t mean ‘night time’, I mean days without bright sunshine.  You don’t realise how much compensating bridge cameras or point and clicks are doing, and how much they’re slowing the shutter speed down in order to get enough light into those shots.  So for a long time, I was shooting in low light conditions with shutter speeds which were far too slow, and getting very blurry shots even with expensive lenses.  That was very off-putting.  In combination with that, I’d been ‘pixel peeking’ images a lot.

Pixel peeking is basically blowing an image up to a size on your monitor no one would ever actually view the image at (say, 100%), and then deciding how blurry or how much noise there was based on a really exaggerated section.  In the real world, people are likely going to be looking at JPG’s, at their monitor’s native resolution which pretty much makes lots of images look better than they do at 100%.

When I was shooting in low light and using high ISO’s, I was distressed at the amount of noise in the images when looking at them blown up to 100%.  At regular sizes, they looked fine, but I couldn’t get over the 100% view.  So I avoided shooting with high ISOs, but that meant long shutter speeds, and that meant blurry shots which also looked terrible at 100%, and not as good at regular viewing sizes.

Nice Hat!It was a throw-away line in a magazine I was reading which saved me from this.  A reader had written in to a photography advice column, and asked which setting was more important, aperture or shutter speed.  The query was aimed more at an artistic point of view I think.  Anyway, the staff writer who answered the question basically said that aperture (which affects depth of field, as well as the exposure) never ruined a photo1, but a too-slow shutter speed was a definite cause of rubbish shots.  In essence, shutter speed matters more than aperture if you want ‘acceptable’ images.  They might not have the artistic aesthetic you were aiming for, but they’ll have sharp edges.

Despite this being obvious advice, it really resonated with me, and a few days later while I was out shooting some street photography in Sheffield, I used ISO’s of up to 1600 to ensure I was getting shutter speeds faster than the rule of thumb required for the focal lengths I was using.  When I got back, I was really pleased to see that most of the shots were sharp.  Sure, blowing them up to 100% showed a lot of noise, but using noise reduction in Lightroom and viewing them at regular sizes, especially as JPGs, hid all that noise, or at least reduced it to the point where it’s a part of the image, not ruining it.

That gives me the chance to get out in a much broader range of situations and take pictures and that can only be a good thing.  Obviously, there’ll be times when even ISO 1600 or 3200 won’t be enough to cope with the light at shutter speeds I’m comfortable at, so I still need to practice holding the camera and not shaking as much, but generally, I’m feeling much more confident after the last few days.

So I’m still thinking about the shots, and I’m still getting the wrong combination of settings at times, or missing the moment, or over-reaching, but I’m enjoying it and I’m learning so much.  It’s a lot of fun!

  1. clearly you could debate this, but in general, I get what he was saying []

Through the Aperture (photo heavy)

I’ve had my Canon 600D a few weeks now and you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve been taking plenty of photographs of fowl and animals in general.

I’m trying hard to use the two lenses that came with the camera, before even dreaming about buying more.  I want to understand the limitations of the lenses, before I splash out on new ones or I won’t appreciate them.  I want to know where my skill ends and the technology starts in terms of getting a good photo.  Overall, I am pleased with the results so far, despite some of the situations feeling a bit forced.  As I previously posted, I’d gotten used to taking photo’s as memories, and only just started taking them for the sake of it, so taking a lot of them mostly for the sake of it still feels weird.

Anyhoo here’s a few of my favorite shots from the last month or so (after the cut unless you’re already viewing the post direct).

Continue reading Through the Aperture (photo heavy)

Pointing and Shooting for 32 years (warning – photo heavy)

I had a camera when I was a kid, or maybe I borrowed my mum’s or sister’s camera, I’m not sure.  I know that it used 110 film though, because that I remember very well.    At some point, we changed to a 35mm instant camera, and I remember finding the film depressingly complex compared to the 110, and blew a few trying to wind it onto the spools and failing (before any of that stuff was automated).

I enjoyed taking photographs, and remember one school trip to Warkworth Castle, or maybe it was somewhere in York, when I took lots of photographs, mainly of ducks.  One teacher had words with me, about wasting film on ducks, but I quite liked the idea of taking some wild life shots.

Continue reading Pointing and Shooting for 32 years (warning – photo heavy)

Cold you say? (Picture heavy)

Some of these are a little out of focus, sorry about that, it was cold and I was in a rush (to get the car sorted and get to work).

Our tree – looking like someone dusted it with icing sugar.

Our poor willow tree – small but feisty, looks so sad despite the natural decorations.

Couldn’t get this close-up (of one of the last remaining leaves on the willow) to work well – my hands were too shaky in the cold.

Nature’s natural Christmas decorations – frozen spider webs.

Spider webs up-close (sorry for the terrible photography).

The Story of our Willow Tree

Myself and Grete, we both like trees.  We were sad when we had to fund cutting down a very large tree in the garden (for various reasons) and we promised we’d plant some to make up for it.  We tried a cherry tree, but got it badly wrong and the tree it was grafted onto was the only thing grown (and would have been huge, so that had to come up).  Then we saw a miniature willow tree and that sounded perfect.

So this year we got it, planted it and cared for it, within only two days it had sprouted a load of extra leaves and branches (more than the cherry tree ever did) and we thought we were onto a winner, and then it went wrong.

We’ve got several large ants nests in the garden, and either I plant the tree in one, or they moved into the soft earth shortly after.  They swarmed all over the tree, and although I couldn’t see them doing any specific damage, they weren’t helping the root ball settle in.  We also got a spot of super-hot weather (just two or three days) and the tree didn’t get enough water.  The new foliage died.  We were sad, we were killing another tree.

But I took some corrective measures, more top soil, and some solid application of the end of a lump of wood on the ground left the tree solidly bedded in.  I watered it every day.  I tried to kill the ants (but failed, as usual).  I watered it some more.  And it stuck it out, survived a few weeks of miserable weather and made it to the long strip of hot weather we’ve had.  I’ve been out every day making sure that tree has enough water (even if the rest of the garden is turning into a desert).

I think it’s paid off – it flourished, new leaves, new branches, thickening of the branches already there.  I think it might pull through.

But now we have aphids.  Not one or two, but billions.  We’ve never had aphids in the garden that I can remember seeing in any number, so it looks like we’ve brought them in with the willow and they may well be a specific willow based aphid.  I’ve just been out to squish them, again.  The ants look like they’re milking them.

I need a ladybird infestation!

Anyway, I don’t think the aphids will kill the willow, but they do generate some annoying issues (honeydew and the stuff that feeds on it, including wasps and mold).

So I’ll be out making sure they stay as dead as I can for the next few weeks, washing them off and squishing the hangers on.

I’m rootin’ for you miniature willow (pun intended), we can do this.

Willow when we got it in April:

Willow in mid-June:

Willow now:

My hands are too shaky, I don’t own a big enough tripod and the camera is really not good enough to take photo’s of  ants and aphids, but I tried anyway.

Just aphids.

Ant vs Aphid (I think it’s milking them)

And last, but not least, more aphids.

Fixed (kinda)

So it turns out it wasn’t anything I did re: the change of themes, it’s a small problem with the Mandigo theme not linking to the theme options page in WordPress v3 correctly.  I can work around it for the time being, although I am hankering for a new look for the site (but still want to keep / use some of the header images).

The new default theme is okay but it’s all so big and I much prefer small sites.  I guess I can edit the theme options and have a play.

Anyway, I finished my little plastic knight, and it’s not a half bad job considering.

Quick garden update

We’re treating / painting our fence!  Takes about an hour to do a single panel, slightly less now, and there’s 10 panels left on the side of the house with the most fence.  Some photo’s for proof!  We’re using the same stuff that our next door neighbour used first on her side of the fence, so she chose the colour which we actually quite like.

In order, the front including the half panels, the side, to show the difference between treated and untreated, and lastly, the remaining 10 panels.

front middle halfnhalf

The garden’s doing pretty well although we’re coming to the end of summer.  The grass we seeded has grown in and we’re starting to get it tidy, and the flowers are really doing well and have looked great throughout the summer.

back grass border sideflowers

This year has seen us do more for the house / garden than we’ve ever done for any property we’ve ever lived in, without a doubt.  There’s so much in the house we should still get sorted (but we’re just so bad at doing it, well, I am, Grete tries to encourage me, but I mainly just stall and fob her off) but getting the garden sorted has been such a good thing and I’m glad Grete has been able to enjoy it while the weather has been good.

Bah and buggerit

I thought I was doing the right thing taking the photo’s without the flash with as much ambient light as I could generate and then using picasa to correct the white balance etc.  However, looking at the new pictures (uploaded) they’re worse than the ones I initially took with the flash ages ago.  These are only there to get the basic images on-line so folk can see the figures, but I’m still annoyed at myself.  Internal warring between the ‘it’s done, leave it, they’re only crappy little miniatures’ and the ‘do it right, if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing it right’ factions.

I’m going to take Simes up on his offer to do some good photo’s of some of the better mini’s, this isn’t about that, it’s just about having a library of all the minis I’ve got in photo form.

Five hours.

Maybe I’ll do them again, but much later.

This is a similar issue to when I was doing the photo scans, ended up throwing a good weeks worth of work away when I changed my mind about DPI and file format.

Anyway, here’s some of the earliest miniatures, in their terrible horrific glory.