Edible workflow

One of the pleasurable things about picking up a new hobby is learning all the vocabulary. When I subscribed to a slew of professional photography blogs, I quickly picked up that an efficient ‘workflow’ is vital. These guys seem to mean the settings they use in Lightroom or other programmes to upload work and keep it backed up, labelled, tagged and all that good stuff. Having an habitual way of doing things makes it quick and organised and easy to find your images again. (You can see some typical posts on photography workflow here, here, here and here.)

Raspberry muffin

 

Which is very good advice. And I will take it. But, as a natural rule breaker/maker, I decided to look at this a bit differently. There is endless creative activity I want to incorporate. There is not endless time.  So establishing a workflow that allows as much overlap of one activity with another seemed a good idea. And as I love baking and buying kitchenware and photography and blogging and eating I decided a good workflow would be:

bake it

style it,

shoot it,

eat it,

post-process it,

blog it,

eat some more.

Can anyone improve on that?

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Technical bit: shot handheld with window light with an Olympus 60 mm macro lens. 

Have camera, will find time to use it!

A week in which I was required to work in three different counties and four different towns, drive hundreds of miles in crawling traffic and eat dinner out three times was never going to be the best one in which to play with my camera. But that’s the thing I like more about photography than the sketching I am also trying to learn – it takes less time.  I do like the deep immersion involved in  trying draw the lines and shapes I see. However, I can get the same ‘flow state’ but a far better result, even with the same lack of knowledge, with a camera. So, on Wednesday morning, whilst I was tutoring a rather intensive residential course on deprivation of liberty ( oh the irony!) I got up early and drove a short distance to the village of Creaton and wandered around the churchyard with my new Olympus 60mm macro lens.

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Its pretty cool even when I don’t know how to use it well! I always knew I wanted to do macro  photography so expect more with this lens. I think I should have moved whatever it was behind this leaf causing that arc. Ah well, lesson for the day!

Back in the village itself, the early morning sun was just gorgeous on the autumn leaves. It was as if it knew to fall only on the golden foliage and not the more boring bricks and tarmac.  I went back to my 14-42 mm kit lens for these shots

Lane outside Highgate House, Creaton

And here is today’s technical bit. The sun lit up this tree but the shot out of the camera left the wall and tree on the left in deep shadow and the sky and the top of the tree a bit bleached out.

Creaton Village Green, as shot

Creaton Village Green, as shot

A bit of fiddling brought just enough detail and some definition to the sky. I think it’s probably time to stop fiddling though and time to actually learn what all these sliders actually mean. Watch this space for what I find out!

Creaton Green, post processed

Creaton Green, post processed

 

Technical bit:

Exposure – 55, contrast +8, Highlights -14, Shadows- 100, Whites -12, Black = 3, Clarity +71, Saturation +5, Vibrance +18, Darks 39

 

Wounded by Bryan Adams

I learned this week that Bryan Adams is a photographer as well as rock star. He has an exhibition at Somerset House, in London at the moment called Wounded. It is a collection of portraits of injured service personnel. The accompanying book has interviews with the subjects. The money goes to five service charities including BLESMA ( British Limbless Ex Servicemen’s Association) which was the charity that helped my Granddad who lost his leg in World War Two, so I have some motivation to publicise this project.

Copyright, Bryan Adams. Promotional Image for  Wounded

Copyright, Bryan Adams. Promotional Images for Wounded

You can see more photos in this article from The Independent.  There  is an interview with Bryan Adams about the photograph on the Combat Stress Website here.

The book can be ordered from Amazon UK or Amazon.com. Or, if you are uncomfortable buying a book for charity at discount I suggest UK people consider ordering from the fabulous Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights  and Americans find a US Indie bookshop here.

Wounded by Bryan Adams

Wounded by Bryan Adams

Pyromaniac photography

Here’s the thing. I love to burn things. Fire is just so beautiful. Dangerous of course, but still, beautiful. My husband has given up taking me to romantic restaurants because it’s too embarrassing when I start to burn the foil from the chocolates in the candlelight. Don’t even think about giving me a paper napkin. So, when the builders who are doing our garden landscaping got around to burning the old shed in a brazier, I was out there, camera in hand, quicker than, well, wildfire.  The original photos are not all that inspiring with the old ugly wire fence and rusty brazier in view.  But with a little press-this, slide-that guess-work post-processing, I got these.

Burn shed burn!

Burn shed burn!

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You have a choice now. You can either go and burn something of your own and see what you get (which frankly is what I would do)  our you can stick around for  the technical bit. I thought I’d do to show you how I used Lightroom to edit my third image and show you the transformational stages. Bear in mind there may well be a quicker more sensible way to do this. I have no idea. I was playing and having fun. Way too much fun to read a manual. I am in the Develop Module of the Light room Programme. So:

Original image. This was actually a slight crop of a larger image.

Original

Original

In the Tone Curve I increased Highlights to +100 and decreased Lights, Darks and Shadows all to -100 to get rid of the background.

 

Original, cropped and tone curve edited

Original, cropped and tone curve edited

A problem is that with this one I can still see the imprint of the fence which has become a red grid. Its feint now but I can just  see it over the upper quadrant of the photo and because I know its there, its annoying. So I messed some more, lowering the exposure to 0.8.

Origina, cropped, tone curve and exposure edited.

Original, cropped, tone curve and exposure, saturation and clarity edited.

No grid now, but my beautiful fire is dull and insipid. So I went back in and upped the saturation and clarity to 100

Original, cropped, tone curve and exposure edited and saturation and clarity increased.

Original, cropped, tone curve and exposure edited and saturation and clarity increased.

Now it’s getting there but its lost the multi-tones of the flames.

The final stage was, in the HSL section to increase the luminance of the red to +100, which was what brought back the details in the bottom right corner. I then went back to the Presence box and reduced the saturation to -100 and the contrast increased to +100.

 

Final edit

Final edit

I am very excited to think that if I can do this with zero idea about what all the terms I have just mentioned mean, what will I be able to do when I have had time to learn more?!

What about you – does seeing these examples make you want to do it yourself?

 

Wedding guests and cameras – a good or a bad thing?

I have no ambitions to be a formal wedding photographer, so at first I was not all that interested in the article 50 Brides reveal what their Wedding Photographer could have done better which has apparently gone viral. But then Scott Kelby wrote a post reacting to it in which he said:

If you had the opportunity to tell 50 potential brides what would help you, as a wedding photographer, to create the type of wedding images they’ve always dreamed of, what would it be? I  would insist if they hire me that it is an “unplugged wedding” where the Bride and Groom ask the guests in advance to leave their cameras at home and their cell phones in their pockets or purses, and just enjoy the wedding day as guests. Rather than having them experience the wedding through a glass screen, let them know that you have hired a team of photographers who will make sure everything is covered, and so they won’t have to come as journalists, they can just relax and be a part of a moment instead of trying to chronicle it. The bride and groom at the last wedding I shot agreed to do this, and it really made the day a pleasure for everyone and the guests actually got to be guests again.

Which is kind of interesting when many of the 50 brides were saying that they wanted more candid shots. more shots of details of the DIY touches, more party shots, more photos of friends and family…

 

The bridal car

The bridal car

However good a photographer is, they can only be in one place at a time. Even if the couple have the cash to hire a team, they cannot be everywhere. Which is why my habit as a wedding guest is to take many, many photographs and then make them up into a special book as a thank you for the invitation.  This used to involve, if the wedding was early enough, a late afternoon dash to Max Spielman’s and a stuffing of  hot-off-the-press photos into a boasting album for the bride to take away with her on honeymoon. More recently I opted to do a  full hardback blurb book and send it on their return.

Obviously my photos are never going to be as good as the Pro. And they certainly weren’t going to be  when I was making do with my old Bridge camera. Indeed it was knowing that my photos could have been so much better at this wedding that inspired me to upgrade my gear and my knowledge. But, in a way, that’s the point.  I want to tell a different, more informal story of the wedding to go along side the formal album. I want to show what it was like for the guests and how good a time we had.

As you know, I am no expert, but here are some of the things I have learned about doing this that work for me:

1. Stay away from the official photographer

Not only do some get tetchy when guests are in their space ( understandably if they are interfering with the lighting or distracting the posed groups) but there is no point shooting over her shoulder. You just get inferior copies of her shot. Try a different perspective. To get this I had to balance in very high heels on a slatted park bench in a most undignified way but, it’s a photo of the confetti throwing no one else got! ( Shame it wasn’t sharper. This didn’t make it into the book in the end for that reason, but the family asked for all my rejects on a SD card anyway).

Confetti throwing

Confetti throwing

2. Watch for the moments in-between

This shot was taken at forty-five degree angle to the official photographer and some way back from his position. It was while he was in-between formal shots of the family group and the parents relaxed from their poses.  You would have to know the bride’s father to know that this captures his relaxed happiness and personality perfectly, despite him being shy in front of a camera.

 

Jules wedding2736 x 3648-4

3. Scope out good positions in advance. 

I have no shame in arriving early and ‘saving’ a seat for the ceremony by putting my bag on a seat.  It is fine for an official photographer to be moving about in the ceremony. It’s not fine at all for a guests, but an aisle seat half way back allows discrete shots of the couple. I love this one of the groom as he turned towards his friends ( and away from the official photographer) moments after exchanging his vows. ( But oh how I wish I had owned the 45mm f1.8 portrait lens I now have to blur all that background foliage!). I didn’t even know about ‘bokeh’ when I took this in July!!

 

Jules wedding2736 x 3648-2

4. Make it your mission to show the couple what they missed.

At most weddings the photographer arrives just before the bride having been at her home for the set up shots. The bridal party never see all their friends arriving and the informal fun that takes place before the ceremony. Nor do they see the caterers setting up, the small child sitting under the church pew or the guests who sneaked outside for a quick smoke. I try to make it my gift to expand their experience of the day. This couple printed old photos of all their guests  to use as place settings. The groom’s mother made her own bottles of elderflower cordial as wedding favours.

 

Julie's wedding - 373

5. Use telephoto and crop, crop, crop.

Guests at weddings expect people to be taking photos so its rare people get shirty at a camera appearing. But go too close and they start to pose. Taking photos from a distance works best for me. My husband is a good decoy. I stand him to the side  and a good few feet in front of what I am really photographing and people assume it’s a portrait of him I am after. He doesn’t seem to mind that it’s not!

 

Julie's wedding - 198

6. Go for details

It’s the small and insignificant things that formal albums often miss out. The only photos I have of the back of my wedding dress ( which, in the fashion of the time, was extremely ornate) was taken by a guest. That’s what inspired me to start doing these gifts. Guests shoes, canapés, piles of gifts, close ups of the bridesmaids lace, all end up in my photos. In the book, I grouped these details together in a collection of smaller photographs by colour for better effect.

Jules wedding3648 x 2736-2

7. Keep the orders of service and record the speeches.

I added the words of the readings and a quote or two from the speeches to the book. I matched the font chosen by the couple for their stationery. My  iPhone was perfect for discrete audio recording of the speeches so I could get the wording down later.

So what do you think? If you were getting married again would you prefer guests to take photos or just have one professional album?

 

Newsham Park Hospital – telling the story

Today my Olympus had its first outing. I saw no reason to coddle it and took it to what is supposedly the most haunted building in Liverpool. Originally opened in 1874  as an orphanage for children of seamen, Newsham Park Hospital ended up as a psychiatric facility. It stopped taking patients in 1988 but then was used to house patients from the huge Rainhill Mental Hospital which closed in 1992. It has lain empty since 1997. Today it was opened for an art exhibition although I found the peeling and decaying building itself far more interesting than the art that was on display.

Art Show inside Newsham Park Hospital

Art Show inside Newsham Park Hospital

There was another photographer there with a full tripod and heavy DSLR and, whilst we never actually spoke, a series of smiles, eye signals and quick head movements was all we needed to engage in a tacit arrangement that we would take turns distracting the one security guard who seemed bothered about us taking photographs, so the other could sneak into empty rooms and up abandoned staircases. It was in the solitude of the dark corners that one could feel the bleakness and misery of the patients who had been kept there.

So, when I brought my images home the question was, what kind of post-processing would tell the story of what I felt there? I am brand new to Lightroom and I guess there is no right or wrong answer to the questions: How far shall I pull this slider? What effects should I apply? Have I gone too far?  It’s a question of making the image that tells the story you as an image maker want to tell.

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Corridor, Newsham Park Hospital

This is the original of one of my illicit first floor photos. I like the contrast of light and dark and the spare colour of the rusted metal frame. However, the exposure seemed to hide too many details, so I decided to play with it.

This is the first edit:

Corridor, Newsham Park Hospital, First edit

Corridor, Newsham Park Hospital, First edit

I like how this has brought out detail in the mid tones, whilst the dark, tunnel like frame remains. However, in doing it ( with no idea what I was doing!) I pulled the temperature towards the yellow end of the spectrum. This gives a warmer glow. Visually, I think it’s quite pleasant, but it is a little too cozy. This was not a warm place to be, It was stark and cold and lonely.

This second attempt takes the temperature and tint  towards the blue and green end which as you can see from the first photograph is more accurate given the NHS green paint that seems to have been everywhere. I used the contrast and clarity controls more

Corridor, Newsham Park Hospital, second edit

Corridor, Newsham Park Hospital, second edit

I know that one of the things I need to learn as a photographer is what makes the arresting images that stick in your mind. But I also think – as with my textile art – I need to be clear from the outset what the story is I wish to tell and what my overall story telling style is. I am happiest with the third version of this image but I am curious……

Which do  you think is visually most effective?

What would you alter in a third edit?

 

Technical Bit:

Settings for First edit:

Temperature +28, Exposure +0.25, Highlights -30, Shadows +13, Blacks+25, Clarity +8, Vibrance +25, Saturation +7

Settings for the second edit

Temperature – 28, Tint – 20, Exposure +1.20, Highlights -30 Shadows + 13, Blacks +25, Contrast +48, Clarity +55, Vibrance + 25, Saturation +7

Why go mirrorless?

There were three reasons I chose to go for a mirrorless or compact system camera rather than a DSLR|

1. Size

2. Size

3. I didn't at all like the pushy salesman in The Jessops shop in Manchester who was insisting that a DSLR was best and then tried to sneak £300 of insurance and a class fee I didn't want onto the quote he was giving me. Whereas the various guys I spoke to in Wilkinson cameras gave me much more balanced advice in favour of, but not pushing the mirrorless. But mostly, it was size.

As you can see my Olympus OMD-EM 10 ( pictured here with the 35mm equivalent of a 300 mm zoom lens*) is indeed compact. ( Sorry for the irony of a bad Ipad photo in a post about good cameras).

The old adage is that the best camera is the one that you take with you. On our last trip to Italy, I was already comtemplating upgrading my camera and spent a lot of time giving other photographers sideways glances trying to figure out what kit they were carrying. I would volunteer to take pictures of couples at the Colosseum or the Rialto bridge so I could get those cameras in my hands and see what they felt like.

Without exception the answers was: heavy. It felt sort of professional having heft to the camera and a huge long instrusive telephoto lens. It said, “I have gear and I know what I am doing and my photos are going to be good”. (Or Alternatively it said,”Seriously? You have all this expensive gear and you just handed it over to a stranger on the Ponte Vecchio? You'll never catch me if I run now”).

So at first the little mirrorless cameras felt like toys. Or at least intermediate cameras I should skip over to get the good stuff. Then I read reviews and realised that professionals were starting to rave over these cameras. I am trying to do more sketching when I travel and so am already carting sketchbooks and paints and pens and brushes and water and pencils and erasers and food and money and keys and kindle and sunhat and…..well, you get the idea! Small and light and high quality seemed a winner to me. And so the order button was pressed.

It has now arrived with a selection of lenses and I am extremely pleased with the portablity. Although at the moment it is not going very far out of the house until I have worked my way through the rather comprehensive instruction manual – small does not mean simple! This little baby is feature packed! And of course, small means issues arise when choosing the perfect camera/ sketchbag, which is a whole other “coming soon” post….

 

*Technical bit: The Olympus is a Micro Four Thirds Camera. The sensor is smaller than the DSLR cameras which have a sensor the size of the old films which were 35mm. This means that the lenses are smaller. Basically the sensor is rectangular and has to fit with in the circle of the lens. Smaller rectangle means smaller circle means smaller lens. However so that photographers can talk about lenses with each other, all lenses, whatever size are usually given a 35mm equaivalent focal length. Fortunately, given my mathematical capailities, with the Micro Four Thirds Camera system you simply multiply by two to get the 35mm equivalent lens length. (Other manufacturers do cropped sensors of different sizes so the multlpication is different) So, the lens above is an Olympus 40-150mm zoom. That means it is the DSLR equaivalent of a 80-300mm lens. Which means its a pretty nifty telephoto zoom.