Tag Archive | Analysis

How to turn a mediocre scene into a great shot.

Photography always comes down to; did you capture it right?

Blogs, websites, and Twitter are full of helpful hints and guidance on proper use of a DLSR. ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Histogram, Program Controls, Manual Controls are all significant aspects of making an image.

But a good photograph still depends on the underlying foundation of Composition and Perspective.

Last weekend I was walking the dog down by the tracks in town and came upon this scene.

tracks, panorama, abandoned, winter

Panorama of Tracks next to Selinsgrove Inn. Shot on an iPod.

The rail line is a spur connecting the regional line to a few businesses and the local university (Susquehanna University). Trains are uncommon, at perhaps few times a week, and the rail bed is in rough shape. One line is out of commission. The panorama above captures pretty well the location and environment. It is not particularly photogenic as a landscape or an architectural shot. Other than the dog, the only good aspect is the sky.

grass, railroad, rail bed, abandoned

Wide Angle shot of Abandoned track.

But the tuft of grass growing in the rail bed was interesting. However the background, at best, detracts from the shot and had to be removed. The angle from the shot above plows the grass into the tracks and bed. This necessitates it being tighter and lower to the ground.

Cropped and worked up image of abandoned track. f2.0, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor f1.8 35mm DX

Cropped and worked up image of abandoned track. f2.0, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor f1.8 35mm DX

I used a f1.8 35mm DX lens. That’s the rough equivalent of a 50mm lens on a full frame sensor. Fortunately these inexpensive primes are clear from side to side. Additionally, it let me open way up to render a nice soft bokah. Note that the for ground  and background are blurred. At f2, only the grass is really in focus, which adds emphasis. My other walk about lens is a 18-105 mm 3.5-5.6. With that lens, I’d be able to shoot at maybe f4.8, which would have brought the ugly houses in the background into significantly sharper focus.

What did I do in Post? Not a whole lot. I’m a journeyman at best in LR and PS. At 35mm, I had to crop out the telephone pole and building on the left. I did have to warm the white balance, which was much to cool for the actual image and brought out the yellows/oranges a bit to make it pop. Finally, because it was a cloudy day, I shot at a half stop over and used the gradient tool to mute the clouds which were too bright. A higher resolution version is found here.

Hope you liked my process on this shot. I’ll be posting as regularly as life and employment allow.

I’ll be happy to field questions if you have any.

Cheers,

CameraChemist

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The Mystery of Shooting in Fog

Fog has always provided a sense of mystery and unknown. In photography, it can be used to enhance or hide details. I love shooting in fog just for this reason. In central Pennsylvania there are plenty of vistas and sites that would make a high quality composition. But I rarely have the time to plan out capture that requires me to sit for hours in preperation. Between a job and family, I’m lucky to make it three blocks from the house without my dog on leash. So foggy mornings are highly valued as a way to convert a boring scene into something interesting.

Below are three shots taken on my iPod. All three shots are of a local high school soccer field framed by tree branches and another row of maple trees in the distance. And all  were taken from roughly the same perspective, at least viewing through the same trees.

The top photo was shot in a frozen fog. The world is black, white and a color drained green. The foreground tree branches provide a nice contrast to the white fog. In the distance a row of maples line a road that is currently obscured. A couple of cars are visible as is the infield of the baseball diamond. Without knowing the landscape, this is a romantic field lined with trees that fades into the distance. A little more post work could remove the cars and even up the imperfections. But in general, I really like this shot. An instagram version is found here.

Mysteries of Shooting in Fog

Mysteries of Shooting in Fog

The next day was a typical December morning. All of the components from the fog shot are there, the framing branches, the trees and field. Even the sky is similar, a dull white cloud cover but dominates the image. But without the fog, the field looks  worn, the baseball field is a smear, the roads slicing through the right side, and the school is injected on the left. Its a dreary, somewhat depressing, and eminently forgettable image.

A lack of fog reveals too much reality. Clouds add to the gloom

A lack of fog reveals too much reality. Clouds add to the gloom

So what about a bright sunny day and blue sky? Sure, its better than the gloomy day above, but its still rather stark. The blue sky is a great improvement over the clouds. While there are virtues of shooting on cloudy day, those images tend not to capture the clouds as a prominent component, but use the soft diffuse light to evenly light an object or face. This bright blue sky puts the field, road, trees, and school in a more positive winter mood.

While a lack of fog reveals details, its softened by a clear blue sky

While a lack of fog reveals details, its softened by a clear blue sky

In short, fog adds mystery and romance to an image. Its ability to mask details as a gradient means that by moving to compose the shot, undesirable components can be hidden.