Sunday, 18 April 2010

Zoo trip

Saturday was quiet - nobody was really in the mood to do much. I went through a few old photography magazines to split the articles I wanted to keep into four groups - inspirational photos, criticisms of reader's photographs, photography tips and techniques (including use of the camera and other elements around the actual creation of a photo such as lighting) and post-processing tips and techniques.

Today we went to the zoo - partly because our annual ticket expires at the end of the month and we haven't used it anything like enough. However, I (obviously) took my camera and was looking for photos to take, in particular thinking around some of the elements of the first assignment on contrasts. In reality, if I could put in multiple options around many / few I think I could probably have completed the assignment in one day - flowers, balloons, flamingoes, people. Lots of options. Ultimately I think I'm going with the flamingoes. I've used a tight crop on top of the foreshortening already included in the longer lens (300mm) to try to maximise the impression of closeness between the birds on the 'many' option, whilst concentrating on a couple of outliers for the 'few'.

I also got an idea for still / moving from the Oulton Park trip a couple of weeks ago. There was one car that I got a decent panning shot of as well as a photo of just before it was pushed into the pit lane at the end. After getting home I've dug them out and put them into my Assignment 1 portfolio on the OCA website.

I've also got a reasonable idea for high / low. I've got a photo of my daughter on a trampoline / bungee thing which is one of my favourite photos of her, which will certainly do for high. I now need one where she is lying on the ground for 'low'. Surprisingly, I don't seem to have many of those. Whilst searching for one, however, the large / small one jumped out at me as a nice double contrast. I went to an old steam (amongst other things) rally last year, and have two photos in particular which work well as contrasts - one a photo of a large man leaning down to look after a small steam engine, and one of a small girl standing by a very large wheel on a steam engine.

I'm aware that the contrasts do not need to be linked together and are intended to be used as concepts. However, I think that it makes most sense to have contrasts within a theme. It's certainly easier for me to think of it in that way. Whether all of the photo pairings will end up being linked is still to be determined - after all I only have three sets so far.

I've looked at some of the entries of other people who are on the course. It's quite scary to see that there are a fair number of entries that are already creating what looks to me like really good photos, whilst I feel that mine, so far at least, are little better than snaps in many cases. That, of course, is one of the reasons why I'm doing this - to improve the quality of the photos I take - but it is sometimes daunting to see students at the same level as me producing work that appears to be notably better.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Summary of the Week

A week with a fair amount of photography-related stuff, although not necessarily course-related.

Saturday saw me wandering around Chester, but no photos. I was looking around for possible shots, and have seen a couple that might be suitable at some point. I may, however, wait until a Sunday morning when there are fewer people / cars around. I did, however, end up with a new (to me) lens - 100mm Macro F2.8. I bought it because I know that 100mm is meant to be a good lens for portraits, while I don't otherwise have a macro lens.

On Sunday we decided to go round Ness Gardens, a local garden run by the University of Liverpool. This was primarily to give the lens an outing, and I've got a few decent shots. Some of them might be usable within the assignment - leaves on a monkey puzzle tree for sharp, perhaps, with a magnolia plant for soft. Also, I've got a fern circle that may do for rounded although there's nothing there that really stands out for straight. There's also a tree with a very smooth bark, but the shots I took of rough bark didn't really have a sufficient depth of field and haven't come out right as a result. Overall, though, I'm pretty happy, especially as I was focussing manually rather than using AF for pretty much all of it.

Monday night was camera club night, with a competition result night. Not one of my most successful nights, to be certain, with the judge only really liking one of my photos - a hot air balloon that I was considering for rounded in the assignment but which might be better for diagonal. However, most of the comments about the others were reasonable - it is always interesting to get external views on your photos, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

One of my favourite photos was in the competition - one of Coniston Water. In my original version the horizon was halfway up the picture.

For the competition I re-edited it so that the horizon was on the lower third. I liked it, but the judge took the view that the sky wasn't strong enough for it. One of the reasons that I liked the original picture was because of the sky, and the reflection in the lake. However, putting the lake on the bottom third does lose much of the reflection and emphasises the sky, possibly beyond what it deserves.

As a third attempt I've now come up with a third crop, with the horizon on the top third. Wish I'd tried that earlier - this time it emphasises the reflection and the lake, and I think it's a better result.

In both of the edits I have also cropped out some on the sides, particularly on the right hand side, because I don't think the trees on that side particularly add anything to the picture. That said, of the three I think I still prefer the original halfway split. That may be because I'm more familar with it in that guise, but I rather like the symmetry in that version (perhaps that's the mathematician in me).

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Had a chance to speak to my tutor on the phone this evening. I've got a proposed deadline of 16th June to get the first assignment in. That is around getting together photos to show contrasts. Temptation to go back to existing photos to find examples is strong, but I may well look to take specific photos in most cases.

One photo is intended to show contrast in one picture. Given that one of the list of contrasts is continuous / intermittent the thought that has occurred is of a road, with continuous yellow lines down the sides and intermittent white lines down the middle. Shouldn't be too hard to find an example, I hope.

I have some ideas around some of the other contrasts too. Large / small is something where I would be tempted to take two photos of the same object, one close up with a wide angle lens to make it appear big, and one at a distance with a standard focal length (or longer) to make it appear small.

Still / moving is one where I may well make use of existing photographs. One of my favourite photographs of (my wife) Deborah is of her relaxing on a bridge in Amsterdam, while I also have some photos of (daughter) Kathryn at her school sports day.

Pointed / blunt seems to be too obvious - photos of different ends of a group of pencils. However, that may well be something of a cliche so I will need to give it some thought.

Other ideas are far more sketchy:

Transparent / opaque - white and red wine bottles?
Many / few - use Kathryn's cuddly toys or dolls?
Liquid / solid - might be an opportunity to take droplet photos
Sweet / sour - I know I've got photos of Kathryn with expressions that cover both, but that might be deliberately misunderstanding the remit?
Smooth / rough - polished wood and a tree close up?
Light / heavy - I've got a decent photo of a hot air balloon for light; I'm sure that one for heavy can be found somewhere (something sinking in mud, perhaps).

Monday, 5 April 2010

Trip to Oulton Park

Was planning on getting on with the projects and assignments today, but instead we went to Oulton Park to watch Formula 3 and GT races. I'm not particularly interested in the cars themselves, but do like to take opportunities to take photos of new things when I can. Spent much of the day very cold but practising my panning techniques. We also took the opportunity to take the trip up the pit lane at lunchtime, which meant I got photos of several details.

Afterwards came home and started the winnowing process (which I had done a fair amount of trackside as well). Uploaded 705 photos and reviewed them initially for some level of sharpness. That cut the number down quite significantly (to 383). A second pass then cut that down further to 185 which I'm pretty pleased with. They should be able to be the basis of an AV at some stage.

Next steps will be to do some more reviewing to cut the numbers down further. I'm going to start with cropping (so not entirely irrelevant to the projects in the course), and I've already seen a number of photos where there are better pictures hidden inside the ones I've taken. Sometimes this is forced upon me by technology (a 300mm lens is good but not ideal for motorsport), sometimes by focussing (the car I was aiming at was not always the one that the AF decided I was looking at) and sometimes just because a review of the photo allows other pictures to be spotted.

I've certainly got a number of photos to go with a 'fast' picture for the contrasts part of the assignment.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Joining OCA

Received package from OCA for the first course - Art of Photography on Wednesday. Just starting up with the learning blog.