Thursday, 30 April 2009

Telephoto For Portraits

I used my telephoto lens to go to the zoo last weekend and you have seen some of the results. It makes sense to use a telephoto lens for the wild animals that are at some distance from the public but it doesn't make much sense if you want to take pictures of fish in an aquarium or small reptiles. The subjects are too close to you and a normal lens will do. Some photographers change the lens frequently. I don't like changing lenses because it gives dirt the chance to get into the camera. I prefer to take two cameras with me and I did take two on Sunday. I may show you some photos from the other camera in the near future.

What I wanted to say today is that portraits are better with a longer lens. You have to be stood further away to get the whole subject in the frame, so a bigger studio is better than a smaller one. Why should this be the case? Well I am not adding an image this time so I am not going to insult anybody, but let's say someone has a big nose. If you take a photo close to the nose then you exagerate its size. Think of converging verticals and the nose is much closer to the lens than the rest of the face. It is only a slight change of perspective but a subtle change may improve your portrait.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

And A Butterfly

The photographers who like photos taken in the wild would not know if a butterfly were in a butterfly house or in the wild if you take the picture with a natural background. You are also required to name the type of butterfly. I am afraid that I don't know the name of this butterfly but I like to call it Fred. The only thing that I know is that it is a green and black one and it is quite big.

I grew up near the centre of Manchester and the wildlife that we came across comprised of pigeons and the occasional mouse. I have heard that nobody is more than a few feet away from a rat but I don't come across them very often. In fact I have never had my camera handy when I have seen a rat and I don't think they would make a great subject for a photo anyway. I don't think that a tee-shirt is a natural habitat but it does show the interaction that is possible with butterflies, and if you want a photo of a butterfly it does save a lot of time to go to Chester Zoo rather than waiting near a buddleia.

One final note. I am still using the telephoto, hence the tight cropping. Also notice that there is a much smaller depth of field with a telephoto lens. I have cropped it out but even the neck was well out of focus. The depth of field does concentrate attention but you have to make sure that you are focused on the subject.

Happy snapping.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

And An Elephant

There is a school of thought that says animals should be photographed in the wild because they should be in their natural habitat. I suppose that the people who wrote these photography rules would not like zoos. My opinion is that zoos serve a useful purpose. They care for animals and they protect some species that have become extinct in the wild. As far as I can see, the main difference between people visiting the animals on safari and visiting them in a zoo is the zoo can protect the animals.

There is an alternative view. The animals are confined. Some have to be or they would fly off. They look well and there would be complaints if they didn't. They are informative and entertaining, and those who visit zoos will be more aware of the care that is needed and shown for the animals.

One additional benefit is that you don't need to spend thousands of pounds and travel to Africa, then go on safari to get a photo like this. It's a lot quicker, cheaper and more exotic to drive to Chester. Well maybe not the exotic bit.

Happy snapping

Monday, 27 April 2009

A Dwarf Forest Buffalo

Yesterday I went on a family trip to Chester Zoo. At the last minute I took my camera with a telephoto lens. It is a while since I went to the zoo but I knew that I would be some distance from many animals like leopards tigers and lions and the dwarf forest buffalo (right) can also do some damage if it is in the wild.

If I had gone just to take photos then I would have taken a tripod and a standard lens as well. It takes time to change the lens and it takes time to set up the tripod, but the main need for time would be getting the animals to pose - that is really difficult, and secondly getting the lighting just right. It was supposed to be sunny but there was quite a bit of cloud. Pictures look so much better if the subject is well lit. It's just a pity I didn't have a few more hours but it was a family trip. I'd better be happy with the photos that I got.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Robert Capa

I was talking about copyright last time because it would be really nice to show you a photo when I am writing about famous photographers. However if you have found this blog then you should easily find photos of famous photographers. I have written about George Rodger, Rocco Morabito, and Henri Cartier-Bresson and I have also written about Robert Doisneau on my French blog, frenchfornovices. Today I want to mention Robert Capa.

Like George Rodger, he took photos during World War II. He also photographed the Spanish Civil War and perhaps his most famous photograph is the photo of a loyalist at the moment of his death. If you only look at one of Robert Capa's photos then this is the one to look at. Whether this person died or not it is certainly a photo full of emotion. Try to spend more time with his photos in particular I was moved by his D-Day images.

In 1947, he founded an internation photo agency, Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and two other photographers, William Vandivert and David Seymour. Inspiration is everywhere so do spend time looking at the work of all these great photographers.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Copyright law for photos

The problem with writing about famous photographers is the copyright on their work. It is much easier to ask you to search their work than it is to check copyright. It is a complicated business and depends on the law at the time the photo was taken.

For photos prior to 1945 there is copyright for 50 years. However in German the law is that the photo is protected for 70 years after the death of the photographer. Can I be sure that a World War II photo was not protected by German law? Who was the photographer, and when did they die? Did the photographer use German law? It is much easier to avoid publishing the photographs of others.Nowadays the common rule for copyright is that it lasts 70 years plus the life of the photographer. If the photographer is unknown it is still 70 years from when it was taken.

I am all for freedom of information and freedom to publish photographs, but there is another side to the coin. We are talking about the work of photographers and why should others just take their work and do what they want e.g. publish it on a blog? For the moment I'll let you check on the photos of others by searching the internet. Do this anyway for inspiration.

Happy snapping

Friday, 24 April 2009

One More Manipulation

In the last few blogs I have been defending photo manipulation. I will defend it one more time. I am usually behind the camera taking the photographs. My assistant takes the candid photos that generally get more praise than mine, but rarely do I manage to get in his photos. It was deliberate in yesterday's blog. Today's was accidental. It is interesting to consider 'truth' again with this photo because the eye is more than likely to be focused on the bride and groom. This means that the blur manipulation is more likely to be true than a photo that is all in focus. Do you disagree? Let me know.

It is a very nice picture of the bride and groom. I ask them whether they mind having their picture on my website and invariably they say they don't mind. You can see more photos of this couple and many others on my website at

I don't tend to ask guests and so I don't put them on the website, but this photo uses a blur manipulation which means that the only people you can recognise are the bride and groom. I am afraid I am there too in the foreground but at least I have been blurred. Good old photo manipulation.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Photo Manipulation May Be A Very Good Thing

The last blog reminded me of this photo. I started this theme by looking at whether the camera lies. My view is that the truth is hard to define but at the extremes we can recognise lies. However sometimes it doesn't matter because the 'truth' may have nothing to do with the purpose of taking a photograph. When you get married you don't want to see the photographer. The purpose of photographs on these occasions is to record the bride and groom, their guests and the venues. If you get works of art at the same time then that's great.

That's me in the photo on the left. I had asked the bride and groom to smile at my assistant. I took some great photos at the same time. I could have stepped ten yards to the side but you only get so many opportunities to take photos and their facial expression may have been difficult to reproduce. I have no qualms about taking me out of the picture (and I think the bride and groom appreciated it too). I did leave my shadow, but my excuse is that I do work on all the photos immediately after the wedding.

The point of this blog is that there are times when photo manipulation is a very good thing, and I can't think of a better example than these photos.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Camera Does Lie.

Yesterday's blog looked at defining the truth in photography. Does the camera lie? Well here is an example of the computer lying. It is a picture of the Butterfly House from the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster. The picture was taken in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. It was a lovely day and there were a lot of people around. I was surprised to see so few people in the photo on the left.

I have removed those people in the photo on the right. I have made the grass a little greener near the trees in the foreground on the left. I have admitted to changing the photos but is it a lie? If I had waited long enough there would have been nobody in the photo. If I had waited much longer then the grass may have grown. It may be that you cannot accept changes like this and the photo on the right is a lie. However my defence rests on the photograph as art. Basically the picture looks nicer and my feeling is that if the grass looks better then it is a better photo.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Does The Camera Lie?

Does the camera lie? The camera takes an image which is composed by the photographer using the lens that he or she has chosen. There is some distortion going on here because a different compostition could give a different story. There is some distortion because generally a lens is chosen that mimics the way the eye sees things, but this does not have to be the case.

The eye can focus on subjects that are near or far. It does not focus on everything, but commonly everything is in focus in photography. The photographer is in charge of this distortion. Have they used black and white or any other tinting. What is the truth? Some people do not have colour vision. Some people are colour blind. Commonly red and green are seen as the same colour.

You can look at the vast array of untruths to be found on the computer. If there is radial blur or motion blur of any kind who is to say that this is a lie? This could be exactly the way that the image was seen. Screw your eyes up and you get a lot of distortion. Is this a lie? When Monet painted in his garden at Giverny his eyesight was poor. Are those water lilies from the mind of an impressionist or is that the way things looked to him?

There are lots of question marks in this blog because I want you to come to your own conclusions. As for my opinion, I really don't mind how the the camera bends the truth as long as it is not hurting anyone and the distortion is for artistic reasons. I would even advertise Audi cars (see blog 17th March). Does the camera lie? First of all you have to define the truth.

Happy snapping

Monday, 20 April 2009

George Rodger

George Rodger is a photographer whose works I admire greatly. He died in 1995 but there is lot to learn from him about photojournalism and being at the right place at the right time. He is known for his work during World War II and especially because he was one of the first to enter Belsen in 1945. His pictures remain shocking even today. That is the power of photography.

I have often written about the photographer as an historian and if you ever come across someone who denies the Holocaust then you could do worse than to refer them to George's work. Today people are protesting and walking out of a speech to the UN by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is described as a Holocaust denier. I wonder if he has seen George's pictures. If you feel up to it then google his photos and take a look yourself.

George, like me, was from Manchester and I have something else in common with him because we went to the same school. He took pictures of the Blitz and then Belsen, but he was moved by these atrocities and began to take photographs in Africa which focused on lifestyle rather than death.

Photographs can put distance between the subject and the viewer, but they can still be horrific, and they can definitely be of historical significance.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Heysham Parish Church of St Peter

This is the Heysham Parish Church of St Peter and I am writing about it partly from a photographic perspective and partly because I want to tell you some interesting features. This photo was taken in the early morning, hence the shadows. It roughly follows the rule of thirds (see blog on 19th January) but is a little late for the 'golden hour' (see blog on 31st January).

If you google the church you will find that it has a rare Viking hog-back stone inside the building. If you look at the cross near the centre of the picture it is roughly leaning towards the stone which is near the window. There are other anglo-saxon features but they are not as rare as the stone.

I am stood on the path. If you follow the path down towards the sea just as you pass the end of the church that you can see on the right, there is a gravestone that reads 'Poet Philosopher and Failure'. I don't know how much inscriptions cost but he cannot have been too great a failure if he could afford that plot and that inscription.

If I took the path on the left and passed the church, I would climb a small hill to get to the Viking graves seen in the blog entry for 13th April. There is a lot to photograph in a small area so put Heysham on your places to go list.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Take time for a picnic

On the 'One Show' tonight (16th April) a photographer is going to great lengths to take photos of deer. He has camouflaged himself and rolled around in deer dung and urine to make himself have a similar smell. He looked cold after he had been lying still for an hour. I am not sure if this is a wise move, especially after he walked for a few minutes and found the deer. I was in Lyme Park last year and the deer were not far away.

There are many occasions when you do need patience. Landscape photographers need it because you have to wait for the weather. In the blog on the 15th April I said that if you were lucky with the weather then you had cumulonimbus cloud which will throw light on your subject and interest to the sky. With landscapes you may have to wait for some time before the light falls on your subject. You could still be lucky when you go for a walk but be prepared to wait for a better photo.

I once saw a couple of photographers who looked like they were having a picnic. It was a little chilly but they were wrapped up and they had picked their spot. They were waiting for the sunset. I thought that was a great idea.

Happy snapping

Friday, 17 April 2009

The art and the architecture of the Midland Hotel

For the last few years I have been doing some wedding photography. I do enjoy the preparation, the day itself, and the work on the photos afterwards. I have not yet photographed a wedding at the Midland in Morecambe (see last blog). I do have a couple of weddings booked for the Midland but the reason that I was there is because I was asked to take photographs at a family celebration. While I was waiting I took some pictures.

The weather was wild. There are great views of Morecambe Bay from the hotel and even when the weather is bad you get great views of wild weather. I also had chance to look at photos on the walls. I could see how other photographers had interpreted the Midland and it saved me a lot of time. I chose my favourite view, braved the weather and took that photo. I didn't ask any family members to stand outside but I superimposed each individual photo of the family members onto the background of the Midland.

I am pleased that business is going well. In today's local paper, the Visitor (15th April) I read that a hotel operator, English Lakes Hotels Ltd has taken over from Urban Splash, the developer. The art and the architecture of the building are in great condition to be photographed.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Let the camera take the strain

When I wrote the blog about night photography in Manchester I described how using the timer and putting the camera on a flat surface means that there is no camera shake. The floor is a flat surface and the camera will be safe, as long as nobody stands on it.

If there is anything of interest on the ceiling then you have your perfect way of taking the photo. Place the camera on the floor. This is what I did in the Midland Hotel in Morecambe. It is probably the finest hotel in Morecambe and an example of art deco architecture which is known nationally and internationally. As you walk through the main door you meet a wonderful spiral staircase. Look up and you will see the ceiling medallion by Eric Gill.

There are so many fascinating ceilings that we don't tend to look at because we would get neck ache. If you manage to read 'HEAR OLD TRITON BLOW HIS WREATHED HORN' then you probably have neck ache. Let the camera take the strain.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Do your homework

Here is an example of converging verticals. I am too close to the harbour towers in La Rochelle and the tops of the towers are further away from the camera than the bottoms. This means that it looks like the towers are leaning towards each other but they aren't.

If you have been to La Rochelle then you will know that if I took a step backwards I would be in the Atlantic Ocean. You will also know that I could have gone to the other side of the the harbour and I would have had a very nice view of the towers and you would have seen some water as well! My excuse is that I was only there for a couple of hours and I decided to go into the city.

Also notice the cumulonimbus cloud. If the sky had been totally blue then there would have been no interest in perhaps a third of the picture. If the sky had been totally cloudy there would have been little interest in the sky and no sunshine to light the towers. If you are going on holiday take a look at some photos of the place you are going to visit. You have to be lucky with the weather but it is worth doing your homework as you may want to walk around the harbour.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Ruskin's View

This is part of Ruskin's view. It is in Kirkby Lonsdale and in this photo you can see a farm and one of the farm buildings which is brightly painted. I remember reading in the newspaper that the farmer had not been granted planning permission for something and his protest was to spoil the view. I have not followed this piece of news but I would guess that the farm building is now back to one colour as my photo is a year old.

Ruskin was a pretty clever fellow. He was a social reformer, an artist, a philosopher and quite a few other things but if I had a view named after me I would hope it is a bit further north and west. However Turner also painted this view so he must have liked it as well. Turner travelled around the country and he painted many British landscapes including a picture of Heysham (seen in the last blog).

It is worth taking a look for yourself now that the bank holiday is over. I zoomed in to avoid the river Lune as I did not find it particularly attractive, but take a look yourself. It might be worth going after it has been raining and the water levels are a bit higher than they were for me.

Happy snapping

Monday, 13 April 2009

Things are not always set in stone

I have written a few blogs about photographers as historians. These photographs of the Viking graves in Heysham are found near the ruins of St Patrick's chapel. If you are not from the area there is still a chance that you know about them either because you are clever or because you have a record called 'The Best of Black Sabbath'. You can be clever and own this record as well!

The area behind the graves is known as 'The Barrows' which is also the word for an ancient burial ground. The point of the second photograph is that times change and it may not be long before we have no more Viking graves. Locals have told me that The Barrows is a lot smaller than it used to be. Erosion is taking place at a fairly rapid rate and by taking a photograph a few steps to the side you can see this large fissure in the rock. These graves may be set in stone but they may not be permanent. There are many reasons to take photographs. take photos because you enjoy taking them but do look for places of interest that may not be with us in the near future.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Thanks for comments

I received a second comment for my photography blog yesterday and I have also previously received a comment for my French blog. I was very pleased to receive these kind words as I am a carrot rather than a stick person.

I have been a member of a photographic society and the tendency is to talk about how photographs could be improved so sticks tend to be more prominent than carrots but you still learn a lot and you do hear a lot of praise as well. You learn from the speakers, from the photographs that you see, and the comments that you hear, and this includes comments on your own photographs.

One thing that I didn't like was the cost of printing (which isn't too bad) and the cost of mounting the photos in order to be presented to the society. When the judge discussed his decisions there were many comments about the colour of the mount and how it changed the feel of the photo. A well-mounted enlargement is a wonderful thing, but I think I will stick to DVDs or off the shelf frames and mounts.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Night Photography in Manchester

I like night photography. I have already given one example which also had a dramatic subject, a fire-breather, but the photo on the right is the type of photo that you normally associate with night photography. It was taken from Bridge Street Manchester towards the Cathedral. I didn't know at the time what I was photographing, but I have now been around the building on the Google street view and it is an apartment block.

It makes sense to take photos just after sunset so you get something in the sky but the lights are on and they dominate the picture. You will also know that if you are going to rely on ambient light then either the shutter speed will be slow, or the aperture wide, or both. If the aperture is wide then the depth of focus becomes smaller, and if you want something in focus then you have to rely on slow shutter speeds for this type of photography. Now slow shutter speeds mean camera shake so this is where your tripod comes in. I didn't have a tripod with me so I simply placed my camera on the bridge. It was quite safe. It wasn't windy and wasn't going to blow into the Irwell. There are a lot of places where you can place your camera if you look for them.

If you have the option do put the timer on. My camera has options of 2 or 10 seconds. The latter gives you chance to get in the picture. If you use the 2 second option you get no camera shake at all because you aren't holding it. You aren't even pressing the shutter release. It is a very simple technique and if your camera does not allow you to do this then it may be worth upgrading.

Happy snapping

First Dance Last Photo

I will finish my blogs on last Saturday's wedding with the last photo of the day. I do like this photo because of the simple manipulation that goes with it. If you don't use flash then you get movement and motion blur of the objects that your are photographing. If you do take flash then everything is in focus. You can easily get this effect with digital manipulation but it would be almost impossible without computers.

If you want this effedt from the camera then you have to use depth of field, but depth of field is more accurate when objects are close to the lens. Look at my blog on depth of field and you will see that I ask the groom to hold the ring near to the camera. With the first dance the bride and groom are not near the camera. This means that the depth of field increases and more of the room is in focus, but we don't want the guests in focus.

Life is so much easier with digital manipulation. I always enjoy taking the photo of the first dance. It is easy to take and always look wonderful.

Happy snapping

Friday, 10 April 2009

Copyright goes to the bride and groom

If you look at the website at you will find a gallery page and if you look at the 2009 wedding gallery you will find some pictures from the wedding which was on Saturday. These pictures are available for any of their friends and family to see whenever they wish and wherever they may be in the world. Isn't the internet wonderful!

I always ask the bride and groom if they mind having their picture on my website and they invariably say that they don't mind. They appreciate that friends and family can see the pictures. It is good for them and it is good for me as they advertise my work. I do take pictures of groups and the guests but I haven't asked them so I don't use the photos. Very occasionally I do have others in the photo, as long as I have asked the bride and groom.

If you look at this picture you will see that I have used the radial blur. I do not use this technique very often but their pose suggested that they might be spinning. They weren't but the photo was asking for this manipulation. They do also get the originals without blurring and without the sepia or vignette.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Right Place Right Time

How does a press photographer get to the right place at the right time? They can be lucky like Rocco Morabito's story in yesterday's blog. They can be patient and it may involve waiting at a venue where a famous person will arrive. It can be that you wait near Downing Street so that secret documents can be clearly visible on photos.

A few years ago Robert Kilroy-Silk had a bucket of slurry thrown over him as he was going in a hall to take part in 'Any Questions'. Well if Peter Mandelson can have a small cup of green custard thrown on him then Kilroy-Silk may also be a target. One person who was there that evening for the radio programme told me that the area was very quiet, the slurry came out and so did a national press photographer. What a coincidence! You can't buy this publicity near election times. And nobody has targeted him since then. You would think that his enemies would not want to give him such publicity.

More recently, most protestors at the G20 summit were peaceful. However one person was intent on smashing a window at the RBS and a few people were seen stealing from the building. However the vast majority of bystanders had expensive cameras in their hand. One protestor was seen urging the violent protestor to stop. The rest of the photographers were busy taking photos. I mentioned yesterday that we are people first and photographers second. In this case we are not talking about one photographer and thousands who are starving (or fighting or in danger or waiting for rescue or trying to smash a window). What message is this sending to us? Do your job and forget that you can make the world a better place. If anyone anywhere is trying to break a window let's try to stop them before we get our camera out. Despite this...

Happy snapping.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Rocco Morabito

Three days ago Rocco Morabito, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer died. His main claim to fame was a 1967 photograph of a man being given the kiss of life. He had been working on a power cable and had been left dangling from a pole. Do a search and have a look. It is a very dramatic picture but it is also important to note that Rocco phoned for help before picking up his camera. "He was a brilliant, instinctive photographer," according to one of his colleagues.

It is interesting to compare his photo with today’s news that an Italian photographer was attacked as he was working on the devastating earthquake from Monday morning. I don’t know the details of this attack, but we are people first and photographers second. Get this order right and the great photographs will come without being attacked. However it is also important to get lucky. I hope that we don’t come across life threatening situations but if we are in the right place at the right time I hope that we would call an ambulance before picking up the camera. No matter how good you are as a photographer, sometimes it helps to be lucky as well.

Happy snapping.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Turn the flash off

I wrote about favourite photos last time and in particular my favourite photo at the wedding on Saturday. I mentioned the photo of the first dance, the photo that I knew was going to be my favourite of the bride and groom (seen in the last blog), which is my favourite. There are photos taken in the evening with a dusk sky in the background. There are a lot of contenders for best photo.

At the weddings I generally have someone helping me. They take the view from the back of the church. They take the view from the side or just the candid photos when people aren't expecting them. It doesn't always work. If you say 'cheese' then you get a smile, but very often the natural smile that follows makes for a better photo. I would say that I can use about one in five of my assistant's photos, because people are not prepared, but those one in five are often better photos than mine which are posed.

I have not changed my mind about my favourite photo on Saturday. It is just that I have another photo of the signing of the register which I prefer which was by my assistant. He used natural light falling through the window when they were signing the register. Let the lesson for today be that you should occasionally turn the flash off' (or that you should always have an assistant with you).

Happy snapping

Monday, 6 April 2009

Favourite photos

I have nearly finished working on all the photos from Saturday. I find it really strange that I know my favourite photo when I take it. I looked through the lens at the bride and groom and I told them the photograph on the right was going to be my favourite, and it is. There are a lot of contenders, including the picture of the first dance. The bride and groom are easy to photograph because they are not moving quickly and they vary their poses over a few minutes.

I prefer to blur the backgrounds of the first dance photo. I don't mind about blurring the background in this case because the hills are not distracting. The focus of attention is on the bride and groom, but with blurred background you can imagine every single person is intensely interested. The first dance is a great atmospheric photo. I didn't know at the time but in one of the pictures that I took the bride and groom are standing still but they look like they could be spinning. Good old radial blur and the room did spin.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The best advertising

I have been working on the photographs from the wedding yesterday, and I crop them to 6" x 4" so that I get them cropped exactly the way I want them to be printed. Not everybody has a computer and although I think that computers are wonderful and photographs on DVD are an excellent way to store and to show photos, there is still value in getting them printed.

I will talk about this wedding for the next few days as it is so fresh in my mind and there is so much to talk about. For instance, I always ask the bride and groom if they would allow me to put their photos on the internet, and I will have some photos on the website in the very near future. This gives their friends and family a chance to see some wedding photos wherever they are in the world. It is also good publicity for me because their friends and family can see some of my photos.

I give copyright to the bride and groom. I don't mind because this allows them to get any prints that they want, and it allows my work to be passed around to more people. There is no better advertising.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Wedding Photography is a Privilege

I am afraid that I am keeping my blog short today as I have been taking photos at a wedding and it is a very busy couple of days for me. What I will say about wedding photography is that it is a real privilege to be there. I get the best seat in the house, I don’t have to buy a present and I get paid! As well as this I get to take a lot of photographs of people, and I find people so much more interesting than hills or buildings but all have their beauty.

Happy snapping

Friday, 3 April 2009

Is modern art for you?

Many years ago I completed an arts foundation course with the Open University. One of the tutorials was given by one of the students who happened to be an artist. He wanted us to appreciate that modern art may have a deep meaning that we don't understand and he had brought in five or six canvasses that he had painted. The subject was the Weavers' Triangle in Burnley. It is part of the Leeds Liverpool canal in the centre of the town and includes Victorian mills and chimneys. I also have a vague memory of a clock. The artist showed us a recognisable painting. it looked very nice. The next picture was distorted a little and the next was distorted to a slightly greater extent. When he got to his final canvas the picture had become so distorted that it was just rectangles and squares and straight lines. It was modern art but it was still the Weavers' Triangle.

These picture go a small way to reproducing that lesson. The photo on the left of a sunset in Morecambe Bay is nice enough. As Bill Bryson put it, it is probably the nicest view in Europe. I have missed out a few steps, and I have not arrived at squares and circles but you can get some idea of artistic changes. Like them or not, changes to hue and saturation moves a photo in the direction of modern art.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Radial or zoom blur

The photo on the left is a typical holiday photo. You can see the go-karts in detail but you can also see a lot of clutter in the background. There are some barriers which are quite colourful but you can't see much of them and they look a bit out of place. Certainly the focus of attention should be the first driver.

The other reason for blurring the background is because this is a computer effect that reproduces a motion blur effect of the camera. There are different kinds of blur. If you can imagine that a runner is passing you and you move the camera at the same speed as the runner then the background is blurred and it is called motion blur. If you use a zoom lens and zoom at the same speed as something coming towards you then you get a radial or zoom blur. This is an example of radial blur. It is the same thing as zoom blur but done on computer. I didn't touch the zoom.

The go-karts have almost stopped. There is no conventional or zoom blurring posssible but the computer can do it. You can now be tricked into thinking that they are driving at a great speed but the focus on the first go-kart is perfect, and the photo was easy to take. For good measure I put a yellow border into the picture which is exactly the same shade as the yellow around the number. You can use this effect on any vehicle. Why not try a picture of a plane and then put a blurred sky in the background?

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dodging and Burning

Last week I wrote about how I converted the bathroom into a darkroom when I was a teenager. The ability to produce photographs is now so much easier. I wrote about how you needed to work amongst other things in a dim red light, you needed plenty of running water to wash the chemicals off the prints, and before you could do anything you had to set up the room.

You started with a white piece of paper and the more light that fell on the paper the darker it went. So the dark parts of the negative in the enlarger caused the corresponding area on the paper to be lighter, hence the word negative. You could make an area of the picture a little lighter by hovering a piece of card over the paper. This technique was called dodging. The opposite technique is called burning. If it helps you remember then think of the light from the enlarger falling onto the paper and it continues fall and eventually causes a fire. Light from the enlarger causes the print to be darker. So burning is making an area of the print darker and dodging is making an area of the print lighter.

These techniques have been described to me like brass rubbing. I have never been brass rubbing but I have moved a pencil backwards and forwards on a piece of paper and there has been a coin underneath. This is what I think of when I do my dodging and burning. Both techniques are so much easier than waving cardboard around. If you wanted to change the brightness of the whole print then it wouldn't be called dodging and burning but simply changing the brightness.

Happy snapping