Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sun Zoom

This update is all about returning to roots: both the roots of this blog (pictorialism), and the roots of many a tog's first experiments with creative photography - the sunset.

Few can resist the vibrant explosion of colour presented by a beautiful sunset, although there are regrettably a few cynics who look down on sunset photography due to its sheer popularity and the relative ease of capture (especially when the foreground is thrown into silhouette).
So I thought I would combine the humble sunset with another simple photographic technique: zooming.

All you need for zooming is a zoom lens that you can control manually. A telephoto or medium focal length zoom is probably best, though a wide angle zoom could also work. Most dSLR owners will have the medium zoom shipped with their camera body. 
Compact owners, if your camera allows you to operate the zoom controls whilst the shutter is released then you can try this too.

The idea is to zoom the lens in or out whilst taking the shot. To achieve this you will require a slow shutter speed - anything from about 1 second to 4 or 5 seconds. Since you are shooting a relatively bright scene, you will need to dial in the lowest ISO possible, and probably the smallest aperture possible. If that still does not give you the shutter speed required, try a neutral density filter, or even your polariser (which general swallows about 2 stops of light).
You do not need a tripod since the result image will be lovely and blurry anyway, but it does help if you stand in a stable position and perform a nice smooth zoom.

You can experiment with zooming in vs zooming out, different shutter speeds, zooming in and out, and even lateral movements while zooming.
The results are unlikely to win any Pulitzer prizes, but if you like simple pictorial art as much as I do, images created with this technique would look great as a large colourful canvas on your wall.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Bad Candy

Ok, a bit of a fun update. I bought some sweets with an eye to creating macro imagery to promote my business; the results of that can be seen on my Facebook Page. The not-so-sweeties here didn't make the final cut, but I did like the way these normally enticing confections looked quite mean and moody when strongly backlit by window light.
(Just in case the sweet manufacturer is looking in, they still tasted great!). 

Sweets are usually cute and, well, tasty looking, but these sweeties lit from behind looked anything but
I shifted the white balance, so the images rendered a cool blue, enhancing the sense of the sinister. I also used a piece of white card to bounce some light onto the front of the scene.
Next I cranked up the drama with a touch of the old ultraviolence...

The little golden 'stones' just happened to appear when I was shooting; they normally hide inside an armchair, but our kittens had trashed the underside and they flooded out onto the carpet. I decided they could add something to both set and story...

I went for a warmer look with the image above, picking up the natural colour of the sweet and stones, but returned the blue white balance treatment with this last gang of bad boys - they looked pretty frosty already.

No sweets were harmed during the making of these images - though I cannot honestly claim they survived for very long after the shoot - I have a notoriously sweet tooth.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Household Objects - Art On A Shoestring

Last time out I was looking at holiday photos, so to kick off the New Year (a time when credit cards are traditionally maxed out) I thought I'd feature some ideas that cost nothing.
Everyday household objects can be fun subjects for creativity - especially on days like today (I'm looking out of a rain-spattered window as I type this). Turning ostensibly banal objects into abstract art is a good exercise in creativity; ask yourself, "how can I present this item in a new and interesting way?"
It can also be done on a budget. For these images I put a 60mm macro lens on my tripod-mounted SLR, and used natural light. If you don't have an SLR and macro lens, a compact camera will probably let you get just as close. A couple of the images also involved a laptop screen, and some minimal Photoshop editing was done - but nothing that could not be achieved in open source / free software or even the software packaged with your camera.

In the first two images a set of drinking straws were bundled together and secured with an elastic band. Each bundle was rested on its side in front of a white background, and shot in (frontal) natural light. Photoshop editing was required to remove the surface on which the straws rested; this could be avoided by balancing your straw bundle on top of the white surface and shooting down on it (a technique employed for the final two images in this set).
I spot metered the dark surface of the straws so the white background would over-expose and the black straws would render mid to dark grey. Small changes in camera position and angle dictated which straws allowed (reflected) light through from the background.

 For the next image I simply moved the camera much closer and dialled in an 'incorrect' white balance setting on my camera. Setting the white balance to 'tungsten bulb' rendered the diffuse natural daylight blue. This shift could also be accomplished easily in Photoshop's RAW Processor if you shoot RAW.

The last two images were shot looking down over a horizontal laptop screen (be VERY careful what you put onto your screen - it can be easily damaged!)
A background image was displayed such that it covered most of the laptop screen, and the camera postioned so the image filled the frame. The straws were cut to half their original length to help them stand up and to allow more light through.

Something to look out for with macro images are stray hairs, fluff, dust and so on. What may be barely noticeable to the naked eye can be enfuriatingly apparent in a macro photograph. I left a largish hair in the image above because I decided it looked interesting, but removed it from the image below using Photoshop's clone stamp and patch tool.

Remember, you don't have to copy these ideas - what items are laying around in your kitchen, bathroom, garage etc that might form the basis for interesting abstracts?