More Post Processing reading

Via work I recently got an iPad on long term evaluation, which has been an interesting experience.  One of the things I like about it most (having figured out how to use it!) is the ease of which you can link surf.  The second thing and I like this VERY MUCH is that it is the perfect medium for viewing photography reference ebooks.

I have already posted some new books and authors found here but this is a new photographer whose work I like very much.  Found while idly google surfing for post processing training –  this book on Nik Silver Efex.  Being a huge fan of this software, have already invested some time in learning it (there are great tutorials online for free) but spending an hour to get maybe a couple of useful tips is not efficient, and not fulfilling the requirements to increase my skill level significantly.

Nik Silver Efex Pro by Robin Whalley is that book.  The price is ridiculously cheap on Amazon which is the first bonus, but I still invest time in reading the reviews and trying to get a feel for the value of the book.  Once purchased and had an inital look, I then went and bought its part Nik Colour Efex Pro – slightly more expensive but a bigger book and equally good value .

What I like about these books is they show clearly with photos what each of the sliders and effects and presets do, with useful information about when and how to use them, where to be careful with application and with Colour Efex, what combinations can work well.

This is EXACTLY what I need to know to get best use out of these two software programs.  Up til now its been choosing a preset and tweaking that a bit.  Learning how to do local adjustments helped but I quite felt I understood what the program was doing and why, and that limited my ability to get the best out of it.

Being so impressed with the quality of these books, the next step was to check out the author who can be found here on WordPress as The Lightweight Photographer – he traded in the heavy Canon gear for smaller lighter options from Olympus and Sony.

A keen nature and landscape photographer, clearly passionate about his subject matter and also willing to share his knowledge if you sign up for that on his Lenscraft website. The post on filters was worth the signup process alone!

So if you are keen on landscape photography or use the Nik range of filters and want to improve your abilities and knowledge, I suggest you check out the ebooks available on Amazon or Robin’s blog or website.

BTW This is my favourite image on his blog

Image taken and post pro in Nik Silver Efex by Robin Whalley from Lenscraft

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Extending my Photographic Education – Reading and Researching

Oh Hai Interwebs!  Its been a while, where I have completed the Group Assignment that Ate the World (and we got 95%), studied for and sat my exam, and finished up at  112% YTD in my RL job for the end of financial year.  Its been a busy 6 months!

During this time I have not completely forgotten my photography, no I haven’t used my camera in a couple of months (partly cos my tripod is having a holiday elsewhere) but I have been reading and researching and thinking a lot about composition, technique, personal style and of course, post processing.

Through work I have acquired an iPad Air for a long term trial period.  This excited me because I have several photography ebooks I have purchased but struggled to fully utilise up til now.  A tablet is an AWESOME tool for reading and viewing reference ebooks on, especially when you need to use your normal computer to work through learning exercises etc.

Living Landscapes ebook by Todd and Sarah Sisson – the iconic Moeraki Boulders on the front page

At the same time I found out about a couple of awesome ebooks on Landscape Photography by Todd Sisson, who happens to be a fellow kiwi.  I grabbed both of them on special and have been absolutely delighted by them.  Todd shares many of my personal views on photography, and similar approaches to post processing.  Looking forward to working through his techniques in the second book, which is more focussed towards post processing.

Loving Landscapes by Todd and Sarah Sisson

If you are interested in landscape photography I really recommend both of these books, however the first one from a technical point of view is an excellent investment.

David du Chemin of Craft and Vision is another photographer who I had acquired ebooks for but not properly read til this week on the iPad.  Craft and Vision sell ebooks from several photographers but I have only tried the free ones from du Chemin himself and one other guy.  I recommend the free ones as a good taste for what quality you may get out of the other works.  The whole list of available books here.

I found a lot of sensible useful information in the Craft and Vision books, and I was challenged by some of the ideas and concepts in the Ten Ways to Improve your Photography books.

Ten More Ways by Craft and Vision

Another author I have heard people speak highly of is Galen Rowell, particularly his Mountain Light book. My library does not have it, but there are affordable copies on eBay so I might invest.  Many shooters who have been featured in magazines I read have referenced this book as having had great impact on them.

Galen was a mountain climber, photographer and a prolific writer of books and articles (many of which are featured on the website)

Of course I recently purchased the Post Processing Video series by Mitchell Kanashevich from EyeVoyage (I would give you a link but their website is incredibly slow – it appears to be broken –  to load so just try EyeVoyage.com).  This video series was the BEST investment in learning to improve my post pro techniques.  He does some shorter ebooks as well, a nice one about shaping light in different ways using minimal equipment.

I am working on mastering his techniques in my own work, and have a LOT of wedding photos to finish before class starts up again end July so expect so see more of them pop up here

So there you go, a little bit of light reading, some free some not.

Do you have any authors you particularly like, who you would recommend?

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Fancy Old Cash Register

I took the day off today to finish the major group assignment that is due in tomorrow, and it took me many many hours to get it completed, but the deed is now done.  Am very pleased (along with my team mates) as we were well sick of dealing with this for the last 6 weeks!  Guess why there haven’t been many blog posts lately :)  But I did have a break a while ago and process some more wedding shots…..

Keys on old cash register

So at the hair dressers on the morning of the wedding I shot back in May, there was the amazing old cash register. I am not sure what metal the outside was (possibly tin) and the keys were brass.  Of course there HAD to be photos taken :)

The side panel, incredibly detailed

And of course a Black and White composition – I realised later I should have taken all the stuff off before taking this shot, something to remember for next time.

It was a beautiful piece and lovely to see it still being appreciated and in use in this modern age.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist

This weeks Challenge is Twist 

I had a quick look through my archives and I am going to take it a bit literally :)

This is what happens when you tear a building down and apart, all these metal rods become bent and twisted in the remaining rubble.

I did NOT know a swan could do this with its neck, swan yoga!

Part of a light installation in Christchurch – Lux City.  This is about 20 m high and I am standing in the middle of the base ring (about 5 m diameter) with my camera pointed straight up, watch the colours change.

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How do you develop a photographic style?

Pier lit with coloured lights April 2010

I read a lot, blogs, magazines, books etc and one of the comments I see a lot is about how photographers have to be different or unique to stand out.  To look for a different viewpoint in front of a popular photographic icon, to walk around the corner, to go up or down.  This makes sense to me and something that I have incorporated into my work.

However the writers go on to say that you must develop your own unique style to truly communicate your vision through your images.  Your own specific way of seeing and capturing and processing an image that is consistent and identifiable.

Belly Dancer June 2010

Having been fairly serious about learning the craft of photography for the last 5 or so years, I am already working hard to master the capabilities of the camera.  To try and remember all the rules for composition and then try to creatively break them.  Filters!  Post-Processing!  DOF, Hypefocal distance, shutterspeeds!

So much to learn and remember, I am utterly boggled by the thought that you then have to think even further beyond that to develop your unique style or vision for an image.  Its hard enough to simply come up with a good or even great image, accounting for light and conditions and all the other things that affect what you produce.

Oamaru Breakwater June 2011

HOW DO YOU DEVELOP A STYLE?  How do you even decide what your style will be?  While the articles comment that you should do it, no one ever says “this is how”.  There is so much world out there, doing fabulous things and I want to see and capture most of it, and its all different.  So far, my style has been turning up with a camera LOL

For those who have a specific intense passion for one thing, and they are driven to capture just that, then maybe they have more opportunity to develop a specific style?  Maybe in that focus the style organically evolves?

 

Red Zone Sunset Sept 2012

We all want to be remembered for something, and I would certainly like my images to be some form of memorable, and to do that they have to stand out from the crowd.  Do I shoot with a particular style or method in mind?  Beyond trying to create the best composition to capture a specific image, no, I have no artistic aims or goals.

Should I?  Maybe but I really don’t know how to develop this concept.  Should I do a creative art course of some kind?  Do I simply lack the vision that makes a great photographer?

Herbert Cemetary Dec 2012

Right now, I am going to continue to focus on continuing to learn my craft, improving my compositions, capturing the light and the shadow. Style may or may not evolve, but if I aim for improvement, surely that is a worthy goal of its own?

If you have a style, was it a concious choice?  Was it a direction you specifically went in?  Or did it just happen over time?

Seagulls on seawall, Akaroa, 2010

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My first real go at Wedding Photography

I think she looks like a goddess in this shot – click to embiggen

A longtime and dear friend invited me to her wedding and also asked if I would be the wedding photographer.  At the time, my answer was yes, along with the caveat that “I don’t really do wedding photography like whats fashionable”.  The fact that she had seen a lot of my previous work (and had some it framed and on her wall) and was OK with that should have been reassuring :)

Quite simply, shooting a wedding is bloody hard and stressful work, and you don’t get paid nearly enough for the sheer amount of time you spend both on the day and processing the images.  In this instance I was happy to do it, as the end result would be my gift to the happy couple, a framed print of their favourite image of the day.

This was not my first wedding shoot, but was the first ‘real’ one, capturing the whole event as the primary photographer.  Was I nervous?  Hell yes!  Was I praying for good weather and no equipment failures?  You betcha!  Did I stay up late researching special techniques and reading the manuals?  Of course!

Luckily it was a small intimate wedding, very joyous and happy and everyone was in an obliging frame of mind so we managed to get the shots of all the friends and family attending that the bride wanted on the day.  Also she had planned to do all the more formal shots at the end of the day as they wanted the local scenery included as a reminder of the time and place, so there was time to have a bit of fun and experiment.

The bride and groom were delightful to deal with and the bride was AMAZING and incredibly cooperative with some of the poses I asked for, given it was the end of a long day and was pretty chilly out there in a wedding dress.  By now I was in hiking shoes and a fleece jacket and wishing I had remembered my gloves!

Did I mention the dress was gorgeous !

Right now focus is on working my way through the several hundred shots taken on the day.  Included are some of my favourite shots from our session at the end of the day – I have agonised a lot over the way I have post processed them as they are the enduring memory of the day and naturally want them to be the very best they can be.

I have also made an effort to improve my lightroom skills (as you may have seen in previous posts).  Doing a good job on processing these wedding shots was a key driver for that, but the overall benefit to my capability will carry on into my career, so I have to thank the bride for providing the impetus for me to get my act together!

Any constructive feedback and recommendations are very welcome!

 

 

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The Myth of Shooting in Manual Mode

“You are a real photographer if you shoot in manual”

Seemingly innocent words and yet…..it implies two things.

To be a real photographer you must shoot in manual mode. 

and

If you don’t shoot in manual mode you aren’t a real photographer

Yes, suddenly that sentence has all sorts of layers, and none of them pretty.  If I had $5 for every time I have been told to shoot in manual, or that shooting in manual was easy, I would probably have enough to buy my new tripod head.

Shot in Tv mode with a variable ND on a tripod

So what is it about this particular ‘myth of manual’ as I like to call it?  Why is it considered the best or the only way to be a proper photographer? On asking, the reply usually given is “oh you have more control over what the camera does and can set it up exactly as you need it to be for the shot” or something similar.

Except…..the reason I spent several thousand dollars on my camera body is because I wanted to purchase the precision Japanese technology, engineering, design and development that went into making my camera a marvel of optical functionality.  It is way smarter than I am at judging the right settings for the light levels and it tells me what settings it thinks should be used for a shot.

shot in awful light in a gym, cranked ISO up as high as I could take and then played with Tv modes to see what it got me – I love the feeling of the action in this shot

Confession time – most of the time I shoot in P mode, do most of my landscape work in Av cos I can set a fixed aperture, and occasionally dabble in Tv mode when changing the shutter speed is required.  But for the vast majority of my work, P is where it is at.

Why?  Because in P mode, the camera will pick the shutter and aperture, I set the ISO, exposure and white balance.  The thing is, in P mode I can change pretty much ALL of these settings fairly easily for each shot, and often change the aperture.  If the light is dodgy I will change the ISO as well.  But looking through the viewfinder to see the settings means I can see what the camera things and use my knowledge and experience to make changes to suit.

Why the hell would I buy an expensive camera body and NOT use all that technology?  Why would I assume that I can properly make the call on the settings required – settings that are all collectively related and impact on each other.

Why would I want to limit the way I shoot so intensely – if the light is changing quickly or the action is fast, shooting in manual means changing the settings for each image, that takes time to calculate and then program into the camera.

Mud Sweat and Tears race in pouring rain and fairly awful light, can’t even remember what mode I used, was too busy trying to keep the camera dry!  But I love this water splashing spray effect.

A few years ago I had a question about something, can’t remember the details, and asked on a forum and nearly every guy on there replied “shoot in manual”.  My response was “I don’t know how” and back then I actually didn’t.  In fact it wasn’t til I attended a workshop that had an outdoor photowalk component, and the tutor showed me how ie which knobs and dials control which function, that I actually discovered how to use my camera in manual mode.

Since then it has come in handy for dabbling in panoramas, having learned the hard way that you need to keep your exposure the same for each image, and the best way to do that is manual mode.  Except what I actually do is this:

- set the camera up as as usual
– frame up the shot
– check the settings, and make my usual changes and check the image
– switch into manual mode and dial those setting in
– take the shots

Using a DSLR is complicated, with the combination of technology with using the hardware, and art with composing and editing the images.  Is it because you have to know more about how your camera works to use it properly in manual mode that feeds the myth? Is it that the gear heads who have forced themselves to shoot in that way have to feel a sense of superiority over those of us who aren’t there yet, or choose another option?

While I am sure there are loads of photographers out there convinced that manual is the only way, I know there are just as many and probably more that manage quite well in a semi-automated mode.

So why does this myth continue to be perpetuated?

Why is it laid down as gospel to new photographers?

The reality is, what makes you a photographer is intent.  If you pick up a camera or a phone, with the intent to create a specific image, to capture a time, a place or an event in a way that makes it uniquely yours, that is what makes a photographer.  Not the gear, nor how you use it. If you choose to go out deliberately, to take photos of the world to share with people, then you are a photographer. No question.

Shot handheld in P mode

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