Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Looking back - the intended post

In a way I'm glad I held back on writing this as a post by Kirk Tuck resonates with some of what I have to say. And yes, I am in the greying over fifty bracket. Although I think I still see photographs as a twenty year old!

What rang a bell with me was the assertion that for most present day purposes (viewing on a screen) most cameras are more than adequate. This was brought home to me while sorting through my photographs from the tackle shop to put them on-line to show a friend. At one point I used Lightroom to create a slideshow (as per the previous experimental post). I did one version in high quality and ran through it on my PC. Given that I had used a range of cameras, with varying size sensors and quality of lens, it was all but impossible to tell which pictures had been made with what gear. The only real tell-tale sign being depth of field - although even that wasn't a sure thing.

The only technical limitation I noticed from any of the cameras was the G2's poor handling of contrast. Highlights being prone to over exposure. I'm guessing that's a failing of the older technology. A shame because the camera itself is well suited to using unobtrusively in close. Maybe more recent m4/3 sensors are improved in this area.

I also used another feature of Lightroom to see which focal lengths I had used most frequently. It was no surprise to find that the majority of shots were taken between 24mm and 35mm (or the equivalent on non-full frame cameras). The confined space probably accounted for that as much as anything. It did suggest that the 28mm might be all that's required though!

All in all looking back through three years or so of shots, although not a huge number in total, proved an interesting and valuable exercise. Not only did I pick up on these technical aspects, I made some discoveries about the aesthetics relating to pictures like this.

First of all I realised that it isn't always essential to keep things level, or to correct a tilt after the fact. Some shots work well enough when off kilter. I doubt I'd recommend having the horizon slant in a picture of the sun setting over the sea, but for documentary style pictures it isn't always worth fretting over.

Similarly I came across some shots which were clearly out of focus. The cardinal sin amongst photo-forum critics. At small sizes this flaw is less noticeable. Sometimes the picture has enough interest, either in the formal or the story telling sense, that a bit of blur doesn't detract at larger sizes.

Both these discoveries were quite revelatory for me. However, I don't pretend for one minute that there isn't merit in perfectly level, pin sharp, pictures. For a lot of photography that is demanded. But in stuff that is as much about capturing the feel of a place, mood or whatever a few technical slips are not the end of the world. In fact, they can add a touch of life to shots.

Another message driven home, one I have been aware of but drifting away from, was to keep the aspect ratios consistent. I had a mix of 3:2 and 4:3 shots to start with. Cropping them all to 3:2 made everything mesh much better.

Digital technology makes some processing decisions really easy to carry out. I had an urge to see what the set of pictures looked like in black and white. All it took was a few clicks and the slideshow was outputted in monochrome. The reversal was equally simple. I was surprised to see that I much preferred the colour version. Some individual shots worked in black and white, but for the most part colour helped the atmosphere.

There were more good things to come out of this picture review. The slideshow I put together was very much a 'rough cut', but it taught me a bit about sequencing pictures, which in turn suggested gaps and how they might be filled. I'll try to brave the wrath of the shopkeeper some more!

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