Photography – The importance of position

Thinking about position should begin when you arrive on site. Try to get the best possible viewpoint – check different places nearby, kneel, sit or lie down if necessary (did you bring a bin bag?) Compare today’s featured photograph with the one below. Both are images of the Millennium bridge in London, but the one below – apart from being a daylight shot – is a typical tourist photo looking across the bridge.

From this viewpoint, for me, the image is too cluttered, too many lines competing for attention, litter, no clear subject.

Sometimes, however, you can be spoiled for choice and you decide to photograph more than one viewpoint. This is a popular view.

This is the same jetty photographed from a different angle. Both shots are of Lake Ullswater in the English Lake District.

Have a good look around. but vary the angle that you look at your subject – look up and look down. Look at what’s behind you – it may be more interesting.

Here, I’m in London, in the Square Mile of the financial district, but I’m looking upwards.

Here, I’m in London again, inside Heals’ department store, looking down from the top of the spiral staircase.

Sometimes, if you look around you you’ll see interesting reflections or shadows. This shot is of the Gherkin Building in London

I was driving into my local town when I noticed these shadows, so I turned off the road, parked my car and walked back to take the shot.

Sometimes it’s just a question of noticing an unusual viewpoint. I was kneeling down when I took this photo in Blackpool. Everything seems to be bending away from the wind.

While you are looking, consider where the light is coming from. In landscape photography, sometimes you need to wait for the sun to come from behind a cloud, or to light some hills differently. In portrait photography, you may want the light to come from – or to appear to come from – above and to one side of the subject.

Whatever you are photographing, are there any objects in the scene that could spoil your composition – road signs, bins etc? Think especially of things that are at the side of your frame that could distract a viewer,.

Last, but not least – make sure that you are working in a safe position – for yourself and your equipment.

I took today’s featured photograph in London, at night using a Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera using a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/7.1. The ISO was 100 and the Shutter Speed 30 seconds. I used a tripod. No filters were needed.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a brief look at aspects of photographing distant objects.

Fiat Lux – Let there be light. Photography and Light

Following on from my disclaimer yesterday, nothing that I write below has anything to do with expensive equipment, or travel to exotic locations. Every photographer, whether cash-strapped or a lottery winner needs to know how to use light. The very word ‘photography’ means drawing with light: no light = no photo.

Light: directly from the Sun and sky and indirectly bounced back from the sculpture, the sea and the sand

The light we use can be direct – as from the sun or a flashlight, ambient – such as through a window, or reflected – as from the moon or bounced off something – such as a mirror.

To use light in a photograph, it has to be allowed into the camera through a shutter, focused by a lens and stored on a film or electronic sensor. For the light to be useful it has to be controlled. Once the lens has been adjusted to focus the light precisely, the shutter mechanism has to be set to limit the size of its opening (its aperture) and the amount of time that it will be held open (its shutter speed).

Different lenses for different used of light and focal length

If too much light is allowed in, the photo will be over-exposed, if there isn’t enough light, it will be under-exposed. There is one final element within the control of the photographer for a particular image and that is the sensitivity of the sensor. This is the ISO setting. In low light conditions. By increasing the ISO you can continue to take photos even when it’s quite dark, but this comes at the cost of increased graininess (or noise).

Too much light caused by solar flare

We haven’t finished with light yet.  You, as a photographer, have a role to play and this is what separates photography from snapshots. A photograph is to a snapshot as carpentry is to flat pack furniture assembly. There are exceptions. A photographer may need to take a snapshot in order to capture a fleeting opportunity. At such moments the prime objective is to get the shot. There may not be time to erect a tripod, to attach filters or even to check settings. It can be now or never, but the photographer has had to recognise the opportunity.

I arrived just at this moment, saw the light rays, dropped my bag and tripod on the beach, grabbed my camera, pointed and clicked the shutter. Two minutes later would have been too late. I hadn’t checked my settings or whether the lens was clean. Luckily they were okay. Opportunity is sometimes everything.

Normally though, with a snapshot, the camera does the photography – not the person who merely points and clicks. Photography requires judgement of the objective. More on that in another post. The photographer recognises the constraints set by light including the time of year, the time of day, the movement of the Sun, Moon and tides, the range of the tones of light given in the scene, the ‘temperature’ of the light available, and the use of shadows and reflections.

This an example of the wrong colour temperature. The previous evening I’d been taking photographs indoors under tungsten lighting.

The following morning, at Pwllheli, I forgot to check my white balance setting to change the setting from tungsten to daylight. Ooops!

I’ll try to shine more light on all of these are topics, and illustrate them by some of my own photos, in the blogs to come.

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about Time.

My featured image today is, of course, the London Eye, from the Embankment, with lots of light, colours and reflections. To take the shot I used my Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera, using a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 29 mm and f/8. The ISO was 100 and the shutter time 30 seconds. The shot was tripod mounted without filters.

All’s well that looks like ending well

I was stuck for a photo to use for today – at least one that would have anything to do with what I’ve been writing about. In desperation, I’ve resorted to a photo that would have been taken about the time of year portrayed – some bluebells in my garden.

The photograph was captured on 29th April this year using my cropped sensor, 24MP Pentax KP mounted with a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 mm macro lens at f/11. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed was 3/10 seconds. I used a tripod.

I did start out today with some idea about what to write about. Yesterday, after a lakeside walk with their children and an accidental meeting, there had been a late night discussion during which the couple had agreed that they wanted to be ‘an item’, but needed more time to learn about each other. They decided that they were prepared to go public about that limited deal.

Today, writing about events two days later, they were at the weekly dance and were prompted to say something by a sharp rebuke: they had virtually ignored everyone by remaining in their own ‘bubble’. (I didn’t use that word in my writing -it was 2005 then!). So, they took it in turns to reveal how they had come to a realisation about this step-change in their relationship – an awareness of love for each other. That this had all taken place over a mere two weeks caused a degree of shock among their listeners. There was a mixture of shock and disbelief also when they told their children – even though it had been the children who had first suspected something.

The stage is now set for two key days to come. After all, it’s one thing to decide that you need ‘more time to learn about each other’. But how long is ‘more time’? What criteria do you use to decide whether you still want to take things further? What would ‘further things’ comprise anyway – engagement? wedding bells? a civil service? simply living together? or deciding there was no reasonable probability of a long-term romantic relationship? Awkward questions indeed!. I look forward to discovering what they decide. I have no idea yet. Then, the following day will be the meeting at which Gareth apologises to his ex-wife. But how will she take the apology, when she realises that he has a new love interest? Has his ‘change of mind’ been a device to ease his guilt and shift her out of his consciousness?

Progress in words today? A further 5,000 words. Just over 29,000, but no nearer knowing how to reach a conclusion that will justify the verbiage.

Writing – Persephone and the Photographer 3

An Excerpt

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” she said. “Rewind.”

“Adam,” her voice was insistent as she faced him, “look at me,” she said firmly, “You and I need to talk – and I mean now.”

“I’m going to put on my amateur psychologist head,” she began. “Adam, you seem to me to be conflicted. From things that you’ve said and done over the past few weeks I have the distinct impression that you’d like us to be a couple.”

He nodded.

“On the other hand, you seem to have very low self-esteem: perhaps because of the way Mary dumped you. You have also picked up on something Neil seems to have said about me being too good for you,” She continued, “So, you’d like us to be a proper couple but you don’t think that it’s really on the cards. Then again you seem to want whatever kind of relationship we do have to continue – for whatever reason – but that isn’t the issue.”

“OK,” she said, “I guess you are worried that if we aren’t already a proper couple that I’m going to turn round in a few weeks and break up our less-than-coupleship .That when you’ve exhausted your list of places to take me I’ll dump you.”

“Bottom line”, she concluded, “You don’t want to be dumped – either because it would be a second time and even more hurtful than the first – or because you simply don’t want to stop seeing me. Does any of that sum up your conflict?” she asked.

“Yes,” he started, “but…”

“But nothing,” she interrupted, “I’m in the chair! Let’s get one thing clear straight away, I’m not about to dump you. I know that you have been hurt but for one thing I’m not Mary. Secondly, I can’t dump you. That isn’t even logically possible. You’re supposed to be an expert in logic, Adam. A contract can’t be broken unless there is a contract to break. Can it?” she asked. “Have you and I exchanged vows of undying love? That was intended as a rhetorical question,” she said quickly, “But if not where’s the contract? Thirdly I don’t know you well enough to dump you,” She paused, “If there had been enough evidence that you were dumpable I’d have done it already. I’d have dumped you at Starbucks.”

“Listen,” she insisted, “You’re a really nice man, a really likeable person – but you must start believing in yourself – and in me. You have to start trusting me and in my judgment. We could have a wonderful life ahead of us – or not,” she added, “but slow down. If our friendship is one that could blossom, allow it room to grow. Let some light into it. Are you OK with that?” she pleaded.