Monthly Archives: November 2010

Crosby revisited

Pink sky and dock light

Forgive me for revisiting old photographs (yet again); not that this one is that old given that it was taken in January this year. Really, its just an excuse to expound at length ( a second yet again) at the value to be had in revisiting photos that maybe have been passed over in favour of others, especially as your photography processing skills improve (as mine surely have over the last year). Obviously its a photo from Crosby beach and, as someone on Twitter pointed out to me, ‘those poor iron men have been photographed to death”. But in the absence of any new photographs, due in part to the terrible weather and also to the fact that all the photographs I have taken of late have not been for myself but other people (see last blog post), I have been whiling away the evenings looking through my back catalogue and playing with my photo processing software, in this case Photoshop, in order to see what could be rescued and rehabilitated.

As I have said before, I shoot most of my images in RAW format which means that you have far more scope with regards to what you can do with them in later. Shooting in RAW, rather than jpeg, means that no photo processing is done in-camera (as would happen if your camera was set to shoot jpeg format). Shooting in RAW means that you can then post process using the raw [no pun intended] unadulterated image data which allows a greater degree of freedom with regards to what you can change.

Unfortunately, since I changed the blog layout to one better suited to highlighting the photographs it means that I no longer have the capacity to post multiple photographs on the blog. However, take it from me that the original version of this photograph was nothing to write home about (you may well feel the same about its current incarnation). The original is dark, very dark in fact and the eagle-eyed among you may recognise an earlier version of it from my Flickr stream (you can see it  here). Now the Flickr version was post processed by me earlier this year and at the time I thought I had done a pretty OK job. However, going back to it again with a greater knowledge of how Photoshop works and what it is capable of resulted in the new version above, which (I hope you’ll agree) is far better than my previous effort in terms of light and colours.

I don’t see post processing as cheating. I see it as a useful tool and most photographers, especially amateurs who are still learning, will admit to using the digital darkroom to rescue and improve their pictures. It’s still the same picture, my picture, a picture that was taken on a freezing cold empty beach in January up to my knees in sea water. The version above is far closer to how I remember the conditions compared to the RAW unprocessed image which was very dark because it was taken at dusk as night fell. The processed image is lighter, more balanced and brings out the wonderful pink of that sky.

I have revisited a few of the images from Crosby this week. Given that I took 100s many of them have not been looked at or processed before. The results can be seen here. Some are black and white, some have been cropped to panorama, but the general consensus seems to be that these are much improved on the previous set. I did this purely to keep my interest levels up given the limited time available to me in the evenings but now I want to revisit more old pictures to re-appraise, rescue or even really look at for the first time.

However, I should also say that this weekend I am going out with the camera for the whole day – whatever the weather. I am thinking of heading for the coast again – North Wales or The Wirral – and getting back to what I think I do best, that is landscapes. I have been inspired by the winning entries in the landscape photographer of the year (seek out the finalists, they are stunning) which have served to remind me how little I know yet at the same time have spurred me on. I have enjoyed my brief detours into product and fashion photography but I have yet to give the new camera a proper runout. No doubt this will result in me getting cold, wet and losing several lens caps but its where I’m happiest.

Finally, while I am banging on about past glories and since it is 11th November I feel I should link back to this previous, older blog post from earlier this year. This was one of those rare occasions where I wandered off from photography and tackled something more personal. Many of you have commented that this is my best blog post to date, probably because it was my most personal. I think one of the comments bears another read, especially today of all days. So forgive me for linking back to the story of my great grandfather and my picture of his compass.

Comments positively begged for…

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Country pursuits and bright lights, big city

Children in Need Liverpool-147

I haven’t posted to the blog of late but that is for a very good reason. I have actually had a couple of photographic assignments that have taken up a lot of time and pushed me higher up the learning curve to varying degrees.

First up was my first foray into food photography which, thanks to the good folks at Didsbury Life involved me taking photographs on a Cheshire farm for the Artisan Meat Company for their website which is currently under construction. Although unpaid I did receive some superlative sausages, bacon and pancetta with an open invitation to go back and get some more, much to my vegetarian wife’s horror. I think it went pretty well and I’ll link to the results once the website has been finished.  I’ve never real attempted any food photography before and on first attempt it may be another string to add to my meagre bow; like landscapes the subject remains static and there is plenty of time/scope to plan exactly what shots you want. On the back of this, product photography is an area that I would quite like to get into so hopefully I can get some more practice in soon.

The second assignment was a bit more daunting and certainly a more stressful experience. I was asked by an old friend if I would photograph a charity fashion event being held in Liverpool in aid of the BBC Children in Need Appeal. Being for charity it would obviously be churlish to charge a fee so I agreed to it as a favour and also as a challenging experience. And boy was I challenged. I have never attempted anything like this before and I’m not sure that I want to again. The first problem was the speed at which everything happened. As the models sashayed down the red carpet I barely had time to think about what I was doing. Camera settings went awry, the lighting fluctuated between bright light and semi darkness, I realised that I urgently need a dedicated flash gun. Basically, I was ill prepared and muddled through it. My saving grace was that as it was for charity and a favour I had a bit of leeway and a mercifully vague brief to get a couple of good PR shots and anything else was a bonus.

Thankfully, I had another good piece of fortune. As I was wandering around taking some test shots I was approached by one of the designers who asked if I was the official photographer. I explained that I wasn’t but that I was recording the event on behalf of the organisers, a firm of Liverpool solicitors. I don’t even know if there was an official photographer. There were a couple of pros there (‘paps’ as my friend called them) but they didn’t seem to stay for long and seemed to me more interested in the musical acts than the fashion. I was told ‘You’ll do’ and was asked upstairs to the backstage area to take some pictures of her creations. This meant that, during the show, a lot of the models recognised me and looked directly at my camera.

I took almost 600 pictures. These were whittled down to about 160 that I was not embarrassed by. Hopefully, they are fit for purpose and I have to admit that some of them turned out OK all things considered. I have come to realise that fashion photography is a fine art that requires skill, precision, quick thinking and better equipment. The fact that I did not disgrace myself completely is down to luck, my new camera and its ability to shoot OK in low light, encouragement from a good friend and the low-pressure brief – even if I found it a uniquely stressful experience. That said it was enjoyable and I did learn an awful lot. There is a lot to be said for being thrown in at the deep end.

I love Liverpool. I went to university there circa 1986-1989 but this was the 1980s. Thatcher’s Britain. In recent years Liverpool has got its buzz back. The waterfront is transformed and the city is now on the up. Certainly, the glamour on  display was an eye opener for this particular ex-resident. I have never inhaled so much hairspray, seen such high heels (see photo) or such long legs. And whilst I cannot profess to be an expert on women’s fashion some of the creations on show were truly stunning. There was a great atmosphere in the packed Circo bar/restaurant on Albert Dock. I have no idea how much money was raised but a great time was had by all and I was proud (if a little scared) to be involved.

The next blog post might be a little more sedate…

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