Monday, 9 December 2013

Holiday Snaps Part IV - In The Mood

For many photographers, travel photography is not just about recording memories, it is about creating (or even inventing) a mood.

Sometimes that might mean a bit of 'all-in' editing as with the cable cars above. At others it simply means spotting an incongruous element, such as the flatness of a sports pitch amidst the mountains.

Staying in a place called Limone I felt obliged to take a picture of at least one lemon. I framed it in a shadowy patch of background to make it really stand out from the heavy texture of the wall.Keeping an eye on backgrounds helps ensure your main subject stands out.

Love locks are not unique to Venice but they do tell part of the story of the city.

The shot below shows the padlocks in more context (the above image could have been shot anywhere).Both have a shallow depth of field, so the background does not compete to much with the foreground subject matter.

Masks are another important element of the Ventian narative. Spot metering and then under exposing a little helped isolate the masks below from the rest of the shop window, making for a moodier image.

I needed a polariser and a steady hand to capture these images through shop windows in streets that allow little light. The polariser will remove reflections or glare from polarised light on surfaces such as glass and water.

The church scene below was also extremely challenging in terms of light. Lacking a tripod I rested  the camera on the back of a pew.

Colour popping can be over used, but the amusing advertising board below might have been lost without it, and the technique emphasised the mixture of old and new in Limone. If you are going to use a special retouching technique or Photoshop filter it's best to have a solid reason for doing so, rather than just because you can - creativity, like most things, sometimes requires discipline...

...and sometimes less is more.

Shooting long exposures from the hip is hit and miss, but can produce really dynamic results.

Back in the film days you needed a 'bulb' setting on your camera to capture multiple firework bursts in a single frame. These days combining multiple images in Photoshop (using the 'lighten' layer blending mode) makes the process less fiddly. However, you still need a tripod to keep the camera directed at the same spot, and you still need to get your exposure right.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Holiday Snaps Part III - Alternative Views of Venice

Venice is not just about gondoliers, and I wanted to capture other aspects of the city.
The Piazza San Marco and major bridges are usually packed with tourists and freelance handbag sales assistants, but wondering off the beaten track is rewarded by a much more quiet and tranquil experience full of photogenic potential.

Unusual camera angles or compositions can lend themselves to abstraction. Here I was attracted by the blocks of different colour (slightly emphasised in post-production). Can you tell what it is yet?

If abstraction isn't your bag, maybe surreal scenes and juxtapositions tickle your fancy. Some views can only be enjoyed from the water.

Your choice of lens can help emphasise the characteristics of a scene; perhaps counter-intuitively I used a wide angle lens to shoot this narrow alley way. Keeping the camera level helps avoid converging verticals ( you can fix them in Photoshop, but will usually have to crop the image to do so).

A long lens can help you zoom in on people without them realising - but a wide angle lens can aid discretion too; if you keep the subject offcentre they will think the lens is aimed elsewhere. Unfortunately the guy in this image clocked me way too quickly, and shifted his attention away from his girlfriend.

Another way to surreptitiously snap candids of local characters is shooting from the hip. Focussing can be a hit or miss affair of course, but this time I got it just right. Practicing around your local town helps give you a feel for such blind shooting.

The blur in this next shot was a result of camera shake, and not intended.You cannot tell how sharp an image is by looking at the preview in the back of the camera - it's too small. A monopod is a good accessory for crowded places or trips where a tripod maybe too cumbersome to lug around all day.
However I liked the blur in this shot as it complimented the generally busy-ness and dynamism of the scene - a happy accident.

Piazza San Parco is the symbolic home of the not-so-humble Italian pigeon. Lots of tourists let themselves be covered by the rapacious birds in some kind of subconscious homage to Hitchcock. I wasn't one of those them but I did try to get down to the pigeons' level.

I wanted to capture their frenzied mania so combined long exposures with a little bit of panning.

Sapping the colour from the final image lends it a degree of abstraction whilst maintaining the chaotic madness.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Holiday Snaps Part II - The Gondoliers

Cities present as many photo opportunities as dramatic mountainscapes - none less so than Venice

I managed to grab pole position in our gondola - we were sharing with another couple and it could have got nasty (and wet) very quickly. Our rather grumpy gondolier told us not to move about in the gondola - I pretended not to understand English.
On a moving (albeit slowly) boat, camera settings are critical. I set the ISO as high as I dare on my D300 and switched to shutter priority mode so I could make sure to keep shutter speeds fairly quick in the relatively poor light between the high buildings.Scenes could be fairly contrastly where direct sunlight broke in, so frequent 'chimping' was required with the camera's display in histogram mode. The histogram is a more reliable way of judging under/over exposure than looking at the image itself.

The gondolier in front of us was very obliging when it came to striking some action poses. The fast shutter speed and medium ISO helped keep the action sharp.

Our gondolier was less obliging. I got the feeling his mind was elsewhere.

The next guy's mind was definately elsewhere. Candid shots of people doing uncharacteristic things can be much more interesting than shots of them doing what they're supposed to.

But sometimes the cliches work too. I probably couldn't have made this last shot if I'd been shooting JPG rather than RAW. Either the shadow to the side of the canal would have been too dense, or the area behind the bridge would have been blown out. RAW and the histogram view helped me get detail at both extremes without annoying my wife by taking ages over the shot.