Photographers to march in protest

Photographers plan to march in protest over police terror stop and search laws:

“Photographers will be exercising their common law right to take a picture in a public place – and they will be doing it collectively.”

Could this be the most well documented protest march in history?

Extreme camera shake

Earlier this week I covered a corporate party at the Barns on the Knebworth Estate. During the event I decided to use a method of photography that I’ve been playing with for a while which can really deliver a dynamic feel to a shoot, especially if the venue’s ambient lighting is particularly extravagant. By way of reference here’s a static tripod shot of the venue before the guests arrived. The pin lights in the ceiling are one of the things that give the subsequent image a neat little ‘twist’.

_JAJ8502.jpg

And here is a shot, completely in camera, of the event once it got going:

_JAJ8767.jpg

For the above image both the flash and camera were on manual. The idea is to have the shutter open, the flash fire and then a delay before the shutter closes again. During that post flash delay two things happen; firstly ambient light is allowed to hit the sensor, better exposing the background of the image and capturing more of the ambient light of the venue. Secondly it gives the photographer the opportunity to twist his camera around sharply about 90 degrees (not recommended with a flip top flash frame such as the Stroboframe).

For anyone interested in the numbers for the above image they were 1/4s at F/8 with the flash at 1/4 (-2/3ev), ISO 350. Nikon D300 with an SB800 speedlight. The timing of the human driven twisting element is not recorded in the EXIF data for some reason.

The burst of flash at the start of the shot has the effect of significantly freezing the subjects in the foreground while allowing the parts of the image registered in the ambient exposure (post flash) to blur.

_JAJ8750.jpg

_JAJ8776.jpg

_JAJ8806.jpg

This process is fraught with danger. Chimping the LCD display at 100% is recommended until you are comfortable with the shot setup.

Image spotting – a neat trick

There’s a lot to do when preparing imagery for submission to a stock photography agency. Disregarding subject matter and meta-data you have to make sure your histograms are up to scratch, your images are as sharp as can be, your filenames are acceptable, your images are within the correct saved file size range and uncompressed size range, your files are in the correct image format, you’re using the correct colour space and your images have been thoroughly spotted. This post is about the last of these; image spotting.

I submit a number of images on a semi-regular basis to the Alamy stock photography agency and I also offer an Alamy stock preparation service for other photographers. Both of these keep me busy with image preparation and the thing that generally takes the longest time is image spotting. It’s also a part of the process that can very easily lead to the rejection of a submission.

For those that don’t know what image spotting is it’s all to do with contamination, generally speaking of the digital camera’s sensor. Sensors attract dust and debris and these bits and bobs manifest themselves as dots, lines and splodges in the final image. The problem is exacerbated by lens changes and lessened by self cleaning sensors. Stock photographers are required to remove this spotting from images before sending them to their agency.

Spotting requires a good amount of concentration, a high boredom threshold and a certain amount of obsessiveness. The process goes something like this: Open image in Photoshop (or your favorite image editing package), zoom the image to 100%, go over the entire image in small manageable sections and use the “spot healing brush” or the clone tool to remove any spotting that you find. Most people don’t enjoy the job and nearly everyone misses something every now and again.

Though the whole image needs thorough checking it’s generally skies that reveal the most in the way of contamination (and birds which are often indistinguishable from dust spots).

Take this 100% crop from an image for example:

spotting1.jpg

It’s dirty. Filthy dirty. Dirty enough to cause a quality control failure at any agency with an eagle eyed QC operative. Try moving your browser about slowly, move your eyes about, use peripheral vision too. There, top left … an inch from the top and just over an inch in from the left. A spot.

But there’s another. A big one. A splodge the size of a small moon and this one’s extremely difficult to see. But wait! There’s help in the form of a neat trick that I noticed recently on the Alamy stock agency forums. Phil Crean supplies the idea which involves adding a warming photo filter layer above the original image. In Photoshop this is done by Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Photo Filter->Warming Filter. This is what you get:

spotting2.jpg

The original top left spot is now far clearer and so is the other splodge, lurking down towards the bottom right. Can you see it? In Photoshop CS57 use Select->Cleaning->Find Dirt, you should get this:

spotting3.jpg

If only Photoshop could do that last bit. Anyhow, you should be able to see both bits of stuff now. A simple application of the healing brush on the image layer should deal with both problem areas.

Adding a filter layer is a neat trick and, depending on the image, can be refined by lowering the filter layer’s opacity on particularly dark images.

I would say now go and have fun but we both know that’s not going to happen.

A day of food

On Tuesday I had the great pleasure of joining the chefs of Quantum Care for a day of nutrition training at the Fairway Tavern in Welwyn Garden City. I was impressed with the commitment and knowledge shown on the day and left feeling a little bashful about my own dietary habits. Note to self: more vegetation please.

Of course there was plenty of food on show and here is a small selection of the shots of that particular subject matter:

qcfood.jpg

Shooting the Hatfield Galleria

_DSC7060.jpg

It’s a very odd feeling, being just about the only person in the Hatfield Galleria, but that’s where I found myself on an early Monday morning. I’d recently received a phone call from the Galleria’s PR firm looking to book a photographer to shoot the complex both internally and externally and I was extremely pleased to secure the assignment. The Galleria is an excellent project and extremely interesting in interior photography terms with many features that demand attention and some quite interesting lighting conditions.

g1.jpg

The brief I was given was quite detailed and included the requirement to shoot specific store fronts both with and without shoppers present and to include a fairly comprehensive capture of the Galleria’s branding.

g2.jpg

To say I had a blast would be an understatement. I did get a number of funny looks (it’s hard to be discreet lugging around the kind of equipment I had with me) but nothing I wasn’t used to. I even got in to a quite detailed conversation about the gray card and what it was for from a puzzled member of the public.

_DSC7023.jpg

The whole assignment went swimmingly and I burnt the candle at both ends to ensure that images were processed and available for the PR firm’s close deadline.

Air Ambulance Trust

I’ve received a lovely letter from the wonderful folks at the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust. A little while back I was asked if I would be their official photographer at their tenth anniversary event which I eagerly agreed to. It was a great day and, frankly, pretty humbling when you consider that most of the people there were either crew, support staff, victims or charity givers. The whole air ambulance operation is charity funded and provides invaluable emergency cover for the local area.

DSC4514.jpg

“I have seen the photographs which have also been distributed to our Trustees and Aircrew. We will pick out certain individual shots and send them off to the groups involved. You managed to capture the day beautifully; you are a credit to your profession.”

I really am very grateful that they took time out of their very busy day to write to me.

A magnificent elderly residential home

I had the great pleasure of photographing a magnificent elderly residential facility recently. Anjulita Court, in Bedford, is a brand new cutting edge project with an interior that must surely be one of the most modern and inviting in the country. Vaulted wooden ceilings, acres of glass and gently curved corridors matched by a lovely indoor swimming pool and a cinema.

ancourt.jpg

The shoot took a day but I could have spent far longer there, trying out different compositions and lenses and just looking for different images. The staff were all lovely and extremely helpful, particularly Karen and John, not to mention the chef who graciously agreed to pose in his kitchen.

Another great project from the people at MHA.

Shooting on white

qhistrip.jpg

I’ve just completed a product photography assignment for a local Harpenden company looking to re-brand their product range. The brief was to shoot on white at the companies HQ which is where the products were stored so I took along my mobile studio and set up a white infinity curve and a couple of studio strobes.

One interesting thing about this particular shoot was the requirement to brand some of the products with new product logos after the shots were taken. That meant a bit of post production work in the digital studio with all the perspective issues that this kind of thing can raise.

Another issue was that some of the products needed powering up so that the screen displays could be depicted. This required a bit of rigging with wires poking out here and there and these needed removing digitally from the photographs with a bit of reconstruction of various product sections.

qhiwired.jpg

It was a great shoot for a great local firm with a lot of discussion and experimentation during the shoot. It’s remarkable how rigid wires develop a life of their own when all you ask them to do is sit still and keep quiet.

Harpenden Classics on the Common 2009 – images

_DSC5302.jpg

I’ve uploaded a selection of images of this year’s Harpenden Classics on the Common event to the local interest galleries. The gallery can be seen here.

Harpenden Classics on the Common 2009 – sheltering from the rain

This year’s Harpenden Classics on the Common was a little wetter than I would have liked.

_DSC5234.jpg

I’ll be processing the images over the next few days and will upload them to the local interest galleries when they’re complete.