Sunday, December 23, 2007

Not Quite Steamed Christmas Pudding

First of all and most importantly, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas or whichever holiday celebration that is significant to you at this time of season and a truly great upcoming New Year. Also a thank you to the readers who drop in to read some of these articles, as this is what keeps me excited about writing more.

Not all my photographic shooting is well thought out and planned, sometimes I am just a tourist with a camera, as an example with the following image.

This image was captured outside on one of those crowded and uniquely interesting side-streets in Chinatown in Yokohama on the outskirts of Tokyo. This is such a visually rich and vibrant area with brilliant colours, great people and interesting food, which I hope you all get a chance to visit.

This photo was taken without use of flash, as I wanted the local street lighting to naturally highlight the image. I had to crank the ISO up to 800 to still be able to get a decent shutter speed of 1/30 at f4.5.

This is one of the times I am so thankful that I shoot in RAW format. The image on the left is the default RAW setting, which would be the result if I shot in jpeg mode. Terrible tungsten (red) colour cast and the red channel of the dumplings is almost completely clipped. The image on the right is corrected for White Balance but as you can see it is still a bit dark in many areas and yet the dumpling in some sections are a bit blown out.

When working on a photograph, it is easy for your own biases, from memory of when you where there, to influence how well the image appears. There are several techniques I use to examine an image for strong compositional elements to help me focus better on these areas. Below I used 2, one to apply a steep curve to drastically increase contrast and the other, ‘find edges’ on this darken version to really see what stands out.

It becomes apparent that the dominant elements are the diagonal lines created with the hand, the tilted steamer and also by the tongs. There is also the re-enforcement of circles throughout image from the steamers and dumplings.

The image below identifies the changes I decided to undertake to keep focus on those primary elements.

You can see from the image of the layers palate that there was a lot of effort that was needed to make all the changes.

This image was made a few years ago before a very useful feature, found in Photoshop CS3, was made available. This is the smart object layer. The old method was to create a separate file and reduce the exposure to get all parts of the dumplings from being blown and then copy and paste it into the working file. If there was something off with this copy, then you were required to try again. With smart layers, I just open this smart layer and then I am presented again with the camera RAW setting, which I can re-tweak over and over again, and mask out the parts I don’t want.

For some of you, this may seem like too much work however, for those images that you plan to print for yourself or plan to sell, it is important that all the details in the image are corrected.

This is an image of a great buffet where the food goes around on a 150 ft conveyor belt and you just take those items which you desire.

More food available on the street.

And now, a restful place to sit after all that eating!

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

Basically, I love photography - and travel. You could say I travel to take photographs and take photographs to travel. - Rick Sammon - Vision - Lowepro 2004/2005, page 37

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