Sunday, 20 June 2021

Inbetween times

After the sheep dog trial I had started getting keen to go to some agricultural shows which I knew were planning to be held this summer. None this month, but some next. Then the government pushed back the Covid release date and everything got turned on its head with shows cancelling. Some shows are only offering pre-booked tickets so I've pre-booked for a couple. Whether the shows will go ahead remains to be seen. As they are both still over a month away there is hope.

Regardless of this there are a few sheep dog trials being held and there was one last weekend I would have gone to despite my reduced enthusiasm for these events. I had some fresh ideas. fate intervened, on the Friday when my car packed up on me. Long story short I was off the road for almost a week.To cheer myself up on the Friday evening I went for a walk round the moss which was very quiet with nothing happening or inspiring to photograph. All there was on the edge of the moss was a recently rowed hay field.

Coincidental I had a phone call that evening and in passing was told who's hay it was and who was going to be baling it the following day. It was a hot Saturday and I had things to do otherwise I'd have set out to take some baling photos. As it was I only got away after tea and by the time I'd walked out (if I'd had a car I'd have gone sooner...) the baling was over. The light was typical of a summer evening following a hot day. Unfortunately the old tractor was backlit by the low sun and my processing of the picture doesn't quite look natural to my eyes with the lifted shadows.

The rest of the week I was pretty much stuck indoors waiting for delivery drivers and hoping for a phone call about my car. What to do? Well, I thought I'd put some of my newly acquired flash gear to use and try to photograph some wildflowers against a white background. Not a new idea but an exercise which might teach me something.

 I knew the principle of how to do it - large white thing illuminated from behind to create the white background and  a front light to illuminate the subject. Then it was just a case of adjusting the two light levels to produce the desired exposure.

It turned out to be quite simple. The hardest part was devising a way to hold the flowers where I wanted them. My first attempt turned out well enough - for a first attempt.


It was then a case of fine tuning things. I've found the white balance to be a problem when using indoor flash and it was the same with these flower shots. I can't fathom how to set a custom white balance when using flash (I guess I should do a YouTube search!) and trying to adjust in Lightroom wasn't pleasing me. The obvious answer was to use a grey 'card' as I've done before. taking a reference shot with that in the frame when starting a session makes it easy to set the balance in Lightroom.

Problem solving is what I find interesting in everything I do, so this was a fun little project. My next learning point was that light placement is important. I started moving the front light around my subjects to see how it affected the picture, and also experimented a little with modifiers on teh light. I thought an umbrella might provide a pleasing soft light but actually preferred the look of the more defined shadows a smaller diffuser gave.

Occasionally I'd use a piece of white paper or the back of my grey 'card' to bounce a little light back on to the subjects. For this kind of trial and error photography the instant feedback of digital is invaluable.

One thing I did have reinforced in my mind was, yet again, that it is not 'all about the light'. Even with the lights in the same lace a slight repositioning of a subject can make all the difference to a picture. It's subject - gesture - light for me every time.
After three or four session of this I made a picture of dog roses which I thought really worked as a picture and as an example of getting the hang of the technique. At which point my interest in the method rapidly reduced!
Unless I can think of a way to use this technique or subject matter in a project I doubt I'll be doing much more flower photography. The subject in itself doesn't grab me and making pretty pictures isn't where I'm coming from.I could perhaps make a grid of flower 'portraits', but that would be a box ticking job. Not the kind of thing I like doing. Maybe if I get stuck for something to photograph again I'll revisit this. For the time being it's done with.
A behind the scenes view of my final set up for the flower portraits. I'm sure that if I was that way inclined I could move beyond a single light, but in all honesty from my experiments in self-portraiture I much prefer the look of a single light source, perhaps with some bounce fill. Keep it simple, keep it real.

By Thursday afternoon I was back on the road and celebrated with a wander round the moss. Staying away for almost a week meant that there were changes to see. That meant I got a couple of photographs that I can add to my file for the project I thought was put to bed.

I thought it was done with as I had got a set of pictures gathered and sequenced to make into a zine which I got back from Mixam last week. It's turned out just as I'd hoped and a flip video is below. If either of my blog readers would like a copy send me a fiver and one can be yours! Just click this link to purchase.

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