May 2020

Keeping busy?

01/05/2020

Well it seems that keeping busy in these uncertain times isn’t too difficult a lot of the time and then sometimes it seems such a struggle to find something to do.

I started off with good intentions. Take my camera on a walk with me, edit photos, review old photos and apply some of the tricks I’ve learned recently. To be honest after I’ve fiddled with half a dozen photos I lose the plot a little and have to give it a rest. I haven’t taken my camera out with me on one single walk (Although I do have my iPhone which has a pretty good camera built into it). There’s not a lot of inspiration in my garden but I could make an effort if I tried.

One of the first things I tried in Photoshop was the advanced ‘Content Aware Move’ Tool. I didn’t know it existed until a recent workshop I went on. I must say that it works really quite well on certain subjects. Below is my first try – before and after versions – they’re a bit crude as it was an experiment, however they illustrate the point very well. Although I think it’s now impossible to tell with some images published by lots of photographers as to what is the actual real photograph.

Before alteration
Fisherman at Whitby before Photoshop
After alteration
Fisherman at Whitby after Photoshop

Spot the difference. The railing has been removed, the yellow line on the floor removed and the fisherman and his rod have been moved. I also did another version without Whitby Pier. It was good fun playing with this tool and I will continue to use it to improve my images going forward. This tool differs from the normal ‘Content Aware’ tool inasmuch as it allows selection of an area of an image which can then be placed elsewhere and resized if necessary within the image. The area where the selection was is then filled automatically, sometimes successfully sometimes not. The standard ‘Content Aware’ tool just allows removal of an area – spot on the lens, unwanted detritus in the image, or something else you don’t want etc and Photoshop just fills the area reading pixels from around it, often invisibly.

To learn more about these and other tools in Photoshop there are plenty of YouTube videos or on the Adobe Website.

Landscape Photographer of the Year

Unfortunately that’s not a reference to me yet, will it be this year? It’s one of the competitions that is very keenly contested, run annually and attracts entries from all over the world. I do find a lot of inspiration from looking at these images, but also a lot of frustration at the fact that I don’t think I could achieve such a high standard, but that’s all in my mind of course! If you’re interested in entry then it’s open until 10th May 2020 and many of the previous winners have subsequently gone onto become professional photographers or workshop leaders. Their website has all the information and images from previous competitions. I have put an entry, below, into the ‘Classic View’ section, but suspect it’ll be a waste of my £10 entry fee. (You have to be in it to win it I guess!!)

Warnscale Bothy
Warnscale Bothy and High Stile LPOY entry

Bluebells

One thing I am going to make an effort to do is photograph some bluebells this year. Now’s the time and I know of a small church yard nearby where the bluebells grow amongst the trees. It’s a short drive or slightly longer if you walk and hopefully in the next day or so they’ll be looking good.

Bluebells can be photographed in most conditions, however, some are better than others. Not only the time of day but also, the type of light will have a bearing on the techniques used. Sunny days can give lovely sun-dappled woodland floor. A bright but overcast day can be ideal and makes for much easier exposure and will also get a more natural ‘blue’ colour. Misty mornings can add mood and give a soft, muted effect which can work very well whereas shooting in the evening will provide a warmer light with long shadows but this can tend to give a more purple look to the flowers. Midday shooting provides more of a blueish light which suits the flowers well. So pretty much any time of day is good. Maximum flexibility and a chance for multiple techniques.

Rydal Woods using Intentional Camera Movement
Bluebells in Rydal Woods (ICM)

Woodland

Whilst we’re on the subject of Bluebells and Woodland, I listened to a very interesting live talk (using the latest fad of Zoom) recently. It was via the Royal Photographic Society and featured probably my favourite landscape photographer, Joe Cornish. I’m fortunate to live near Northallerton where he has his gallery, if you’re in the area it’s well worth a visit and they serve really nice refreshments in the cafe too!

The 30 minute talk explored some of his approach to taking landscape photographs. He, like the rest of us, is “working from home” which is for a landscape photographer who travels the world a bit like being a window cleaner and having to work from home – you just can’t do it properly.

He does manage to take his allowed walks in his local woods and showed some images taken in the last week or so. That just goes to prove there is an image wherever you look.

Autumn walkway
Path trough the woods

For those of us who are still able to walk in our local woods there is no greater solace than the re-connection with nature we can have every day, on our allocated exercise walk“. Joe Cornish

There’s no doubt about it, his woodland photographs are outstanding (IMHO). I think much of the skill lies in ‘having the eye’ for an image and then being able to have the patience to wait for the right light or time of day, or even waiting for it to rain. One of the images he showed was taken with light streaming through the trees and another taken in the rain. One of his other tips when preparing for a photo shoot was to ‘have the right clothes on’ and that’s an important tip too!

Justification

On Facebook I’m a member of various ‘Groups’ a number of which are dedicated to photography and these groups have plenty of active members. Some post photos regularly but feel, I suppose like me at the moment, they have to justify the image by saying ‘Taken before the lockdown’ or ‘Taken on my allowed walk today’. It’s strange really that we have to justify ourselves at this moment by qualifying when the image was taken – do we live in a police state now where if I posted a photograph taken in say Kent that someone might check up on me to make sure I hadn’t travelled there unnecessarily?

To use a phrase that is the flavour of the lockdown – ‘Stay Safe’.


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