Friday, September 30, 2011

Photographing the Wonders of Fall Colors

In the northern hemisphere at this time of year there is a great transformation going on with our deciduous trees. Over a 2 week period beginning around the last week of September and then into the first 2 weeks of October the leaves start to loose their green photosynthesis properties and with the inherent nutrients left in the leaves, they come forward in brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red.

As the decay of the leaves continues, these brilliant colours fade to duller browns and yellows, but for a short time it is truly wondrous with the brilliant blanket that covers our landscape.

You would think its easy to go out and capture this kaleidoscope of colors. Simply point somewhere. Press the shutter button and instantly record the scene in front of you. It couldn't be easier. Yet when many people return back home and look at their images on the computer they are rare left wondering where the splendour went. This is really a trick with how the mind records the impressions we see. The mind is really like this perfect DOF instrument that seems to blur not important areas and keeps the key points strong and brilliant. The camera does not work this way.

It's best in many situations to think of the fall landscape as an abstract scene. Therefore, for larger vistas, examine the structure and flow of the patterns within this scene. It definitely is important to use compositional elements of lines and patterns formed by the color patterns to create visual interest within photograph.

With distant trees, use these colourful features to support other elements in the scene such as mountains, rivers or lakes with reflections. To give visual interest for the larger composition.
In many areas there are still lots of evergreens and the fall colors are only interspersed throughout the evergreen canopy. Therefore, you can also isolate specific patches of colour to give a more dominant interest to a patch of color.

Color can also be used to compliment other cooler colours of greens and blues.

At many times it's mainly the yellows that are dominant and any reds and oranges may be hard to find. Do focus on the yellows but provide other visual interests for viewer's attention. People many times will work.

Since the fall foliage is more like an abstract patchwork, don't forget to add in this abstraction with either camera movement or colorful reflections.

Reflections also provide a unique to isolate the complexity by providing context to a water scene.

The key is to get out and first observe and enjoy the splendour of nature. Try and understand what it is about this scene that intrigues you. Then find a solution with the camera that conveys these feelings in the final photograph.

Do forget other venues with fall and its celebratory events of food.

This image reminds me of Mother Goose and her Chicks.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Close Up Photography with Great DOF

Exploring objects closeup allows me to pursue my fondness for abstractness in trying to see the world around us in a new way. Shallow Depth of Field (DOF) is great for isolating specific parts in a scene and having the remainder fade softly into the background. But there are times, especially if the background is soft or non-existent like the photo below, where full sharpness seems to bring greater clarity (a bit of a pun) to the subject.  I have seen other photographers use the software Helicon Focus to take multiple images at different points of sharpness as you progress further back. The software determines which parts of the image is sharp and then combines your images with only those parts, like layer masks.

5 images combined with settings at f/9, 0.4 sec  @iso 200 with Tamron 90mm macro lens

On some of the images and even the version above, I found slight fringing (light lines) that followed the shape. This was really noticeable with black backgrounds as even a little colour shows up.

In the next image I used a little Photoshop processing to bring out some of the hidden colors in the black cloth as I wanted analogous color, here reddish blue, to support the magenta (blueish red) in the image.
11 images combined at f/8, 1/5 sec, iso 200 with Tamron 90mm macro lens.

In a close up below you can better see those ring lines.

The software does have 3 settings: Methods A &B; smoothing; and radius, which at this time I don't know their functions.  I think this will be a useful tool and therefore I should learn more about this program to better understand its limitations and how to use it correctly.

I believe those lines are caused when the software shrinks some of the further back images, as changing focus further back makes the images larger and software needs to align all parts so they overlap perfectly. This may leave residual edge not fully covered with its mask. Just a guess.

5 images combined at f/8, 1/5 sec @iso 200 with Tamron 90mm lens

This is one of my favourites as intense yellow and purples work well with little darkened and de-saturated green in the stems.

This was a home studio setup with window side-lighting using a tripod and set to time delay to ensure no shake. While I didn't notice any overexposed shots, the software told me the variance (sometimes 20-30%) in lightness for each run. This brightness variance was caused by slight changes, not really noticeable, as the intensity of the clouds changed.

There is a 30 day trial usage and I do suggest that you try this out.
In a future article I will perform an in depth review of this software and even try those full DOF landscape photographs.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

De-Cluttering to Make room for Creativity

Clutter, it hangs off me like Christmas tree ornaments. Each is different and pretty in their own right. Some are old and a bit tarnished like my parent's words.  Not actually their words but my attempt to follow  their advice. Some are newer and seem better built, like the advice of photographic and artistic experts, but you don't want all of it hanging around 24/7. Except for the choice moral items.

The gist of all this is that we all have a lot of people, some we know others that we never met, telling us which way is the right path to follow. It may be good advice but sometimes we do need to break free.

I don't have a perfect map for my life and there's no way I would know where you should go. I do believe though that if you do what feels right for you and let your own voice guide, you great improvements will happen.

Below are some photographs that for some reason have compelled me to look longer. They might break some composition rules but we all have our own tastes.

While you're supposed to watch out for things at the edges, for me here this adds some intrigue to a well textured wall and canal edge in Paris.

You may ask 'What is the next photo' and I don't have an answer.  It came about because I was playing around with Helicon focus and the photo with a black background didn't stand out well enough.

 11 images in stack with Tamron 90mm in macro mode at F/8 @ 1/5sec

With some judicious use of Photoshop layers, various blend modes and even a little LAB mode, I found one version that intrigued me. It's still a bit crude but I see how I could take this further.

Original version with black background below

Therefore, silence some of these voices. Use them only when needed in order to make time for things that you enjoy and this includes doing photos that only interest you.  After all it your creativity.

Niels Henriksen


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