Summer is almost over, and while a lot of people love this time of year, I’m not one of them. I like the next two seasons. So for this catching up post this week I thought it might be nice to see what I am looking forward to.
It isn’t a secret that I want to challenge myself more with my photography and I’ve been trying to think of ways to do it. I do have a lot of ideas and I know that I want to start compositing and combining images. I am still not sure how exactly, but I do want to start experimenting. I don’t want to accept the world as it is. So when I was out the other day taking photos I saw this shop front.
This is an image I took one evening in the city of Melbourne when I was using the Canon 5D Mark IV. It has been raining so it was quite wet. I took this image as I walked through this arcade near St Paul’s Cathedral.
There were a lot of things about the original image that I liked. The walkway at the top of the stairs was free of people, which was unusual as it is often a place that homeless people sleep, it can give them some protection.
Along with doing new posts here, it has been my intention to slowly move and repost many of the previous Up for Discussion posts. This is one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, the art of observation.
For this Up for Discussion post I thought I would do something that I have been thinking about for a long time. It may not seem that it is important or even relevant to photography, but I hope you will hang around long enough, and read enough to realise it does.
We often hear people talking about “faking the real in photography”, it isn’t a concept that is new and really, when you think about it artists have been doing that for centuries. Learning to observe the world around them is very important. It is something that some do well and some don’t.
I know many of you know that I can draw, well used to be able to. I’ve shown you images of my drawing before. One thing I’ve never really talked about is my Fine Art Degree, which wasn’t in photography, but rather in printmaking and drawing. It happened at a time when I was not happy with photography, or rather I was frustrated, I couldn’t get the images I wanted. I thought I would need to make them myself, so draw them.
It was an interesting process, it meant lots of observing of things as I drew them. I spent a lot of time drawing.
You can’t underestimate how important it is. Of course it isn’t important if you just want to take photos and not do anything with them, then again, if you hone those observation skills then you are likely to see more and get better photos.
If you are interested in photo editing/manipulation then it is really important.
Watching how the light falls on an object, or how it falls when it is hit by another light source. Then there are the shadows, how
do they fall, are shadows solid? I saw a guy online doing some compositing, and as I watched him move a person into a lane and then add a shadow I realised that he just added a solid colour, shadows are rarely solid colours. They often have light areas and dark areas, depending on what is around them.
The same guy also made the edge of the shadow very feathered, and soft, but then again it really depends on the light source and where that light is coming from, how direct it is. If you went and stood outside in the sun, especially in summer, you would see your shadow would have a hard edge. However, if you went into somewhere where the light wasn’t as strong you would see a softer edged shadow. It really does all depend on the light. Which is why in studios the light is often controlled with soft boxes and reflectors to make it like a secondary light source, sort of.
When you learn to draw you learn to watch and see how things are.
Another important aspect is perspective. It is something you learn in drawing and painting, probably most art forms. I didn’t do a lot of drawing where you needed to worry about perspective, but it was always something you had to consider.
I have seen the work of other photographers and one of the things you notice is how they don’t understand perspective when they are doing composites and then the work doesn’t look real.
Faking the Real
It is an important thing. You hear writers talking about how if you don’t make your characters real then people won’t believe them, so isn’t it the same with images, if they don’t look real then people can’t relate to them. You have to make sure that everything in your image makes sense and is believable. It is where learning to
look and observe the world around you really helps.
If you want to get into more photo editing or manipulation, then one of the best things you can do is learn to look at what is around you. Don’t just take photos, look at what you are taking. You don’t have to learn how to draw, but you can always learn how to look, observe. Watch how light hits objects, where the light comes from. How does the light affect the shadows, are the shadows solid, or do they have lots of different strengths.
I think it is an invaluable tool and one we don’t take enough notice of. Through drawing I really began to understand light and how important it was. I also started to understand how I could use that in my photography and become a better photographer, at least I hope it has helped.
I have been going through all my drawings, I’ve found a lot that were just exercises, where I was just trying to see how I could draw them. There are others that are more, a couple of etchings and some lithographs. I will try and label them so you can tell what each is.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited by a group to go into the city and do some night photography in the lanes. A couple of the guys brought along some steel wool to burn and then spin around. I have seen so many photos of it in the past, only tried it once, so I was quite excited to try it again. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, but lots of fun.
We went to Hosier Lane and did some with the graffiti as a backdrop. It worked out really well.
I put this image on Instagram and it did so well. Can’t believe how many likes it got, my most successful image ever really.
They were making use of the doorways and spinning in those. It was quite amazing. I didn’t frame mine very well for this one, but it is all a learning experience.
We went down to another lane which wasn’t so well lit up. The lights in adjacent buildings can create too much light in the lanes. This one was quite dark. They did an orb sort of thing in it. Quite weird, sparks went flying and you had to be careful. I had to walk away from my camera because I was getting sprayed.
I used my 14-24mm for these, but I think if I were doing it again I wouldn’t go so wide. I had to get so close to be able to get anything. It wasn’t always a problem, but it meant I could get in the way of others there. I think next time I would use the 24-70mm, or something similar.
It was a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I would do it again, but only for fun. I can’t see myself trying to get a body of work doing this. I know there are people out there that doing it all the time, and that’s great, but I love doing other stuff more. I do hope I will get to do it again one day, you never know.
Sometimes you really are in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t happen to me very often, but last night, well, I was so happy to see the light that was shining onto and reflecting onto Flinders Street Station. It was soft, almost diffused light.
We had been down to Docklands to take photos, but the late afternoon sun was hot and too bright. We decided after awhile that we should head down to Federation Square and maybe do some sunset and early evening shots down there.
We jumped on a tram down Flinders Street from Spencer Street. I love it that trams are now free in the CBD. Still, it was incredibly busy and not a lot of them. We were jammed on one with lots of other people.
When we got off at Flinders Street Station I could see the late afternoon sun coming from the direction we had just come from. It was shining on the side of the station, but the front, which should have been in shade, also had light on it. It was being reflected off something else and gave the front a beautiful soft diffused light. It was stunning.
There were no trams coming so I could stand on the tracks and take photos before the lights changed. I was also very happy that I had my 14-24mm lens on.
Once the image was opened in Adobe Photoshop CC I had to do a bit of work to get rid of the distortions that the lens creates, but I think this works. The front part was full of people, so I tried to darken that area, so while they are still there, they don’t stand out. I also did a little more work to make the front of the station station stand out more, but not a lot.
For me this was incredible. I had never seen the light on the station like this before. I love the effect of it.
There is no doubting that I have come to Instagram much later than many others, but I am doing my best to catch up. I decided a while ago that I would post a photo everyday and see how I went. Luckily I’ve been doing photography for years, so I have years of photos to go back to. It is nice that many photos done previously can now get another outing.
While I was looking for a photo for today I went back to some I had taken at night of the Royal Exhibition Building here in Melbourne.
I processed this one at the time when I took it. I was thinking of putting it up, but when I looked I didn’t like how blown out the dome at the top was. I went back to the original photos to see if there was another one I could use as well.
The problem I found was that the originals that had the dome in nice light meant the rest was too dark. Then I thought, what if I did a HDR image, this is the perfect example of when it is useful. Images with lots of contrast between light and dark really do benefit from being transformed into a HDR image.
This (above) was the HDR with 5 images processed in Photomatix. It give the lighting a much more balanced look. Of course, if you know me, you know I couldn’t leave it at that.
I know before I start an image like this that I want to do it in Adobe Photoshop. I will want to work in layers and I want to do things to it that aren’t possible in Lightroom. I always do my “arty” images in PS.
I did some more work on it, mainly on the lower buildings to try and draw them out a little more. While they are fairly dark in the image and the dome is the star of the image, that didn’t mean the bottom part couldn’t stand out a little more. I also cropped it a little tighter.
It is endless what you can do on these kinds of images. When you decide that you are going to make it a manipulated image then it is up to you where you stop. In the end the only person that has to like it is you. I don’t think there is anything wrong with manipulation, but be upfront about it. Don’t claim the image is natural when you know you have done heaps of work to it.
I am reasonably happy with the final result. I might look at it tomorrow and wonder what I was thinking. I know there are definitely things I enjoy doing to images and since my trip to New York it has been wonderful to rediscover them.
I am so glad I found architecture again.
The other morning I went for a walk around part of the city I haven’t really explored before. I was looking for a good empty alley in the city. I saw lots of empty lanes and alleys. I know I am going to have to go back and explore them more. It was also an interesting part too because it isn’t part of the normal part where everyone goes it means it hasn’t been tarted up, so to speak.
I saw this and almost walked past it.
I noticed the light shining on the brick wall first, then the chair. I thought how odd the chair was just dumped there. It was a relatively clean place otherwise. I wanted to know more about the chair, so I went in past a parked car to take the photo. I have processed it so that there is more emphasis on the chair and wall. The end of the line.
I will have to go back and do some more photography around this area. It would really suit some of the work that I want to do.