Monthly Archives: May 2011

Subterranean Photography

Shooting with high ISO settings is generally regarded as a big no-no. Yes, yes, there are good reasons for that. While having been developed as a measurement for light-sensitivity of film, nowadays ISO can be bumped up simply adjusting to an appropriately high ISO on the digital menu. It seems like a miraculous solution to end all the problems of shooting in dark/dusky situations. But the problem with high ISO shots is that they appear grainy, noisy, unclear.
One of the features I love most about marky Mark is his ability to crank up the ISO to 25,600. Not that I’d advise using that high an ISO setting. But sometimes you find yourself shooting in a cave – yes, you seriously might – without a tripod or a flash. And boy, you might find yourself grateful for some high ISO possibilities.
I certainly felt like that when I was visiting Ailwee Caves in Co. Clare the other day. This being the scene of one of the Father Ted episodes, I could not resist taking pictures in there. Plus, I am still as fascinated by dark deep abysses and “the great unknown” as I was as a child. There is something comfortably unsettling about a cave – the lack of light, the lack of life, the sheer horror of not seeing – that I find incredibly interesting. Maybe it appeals to my otherwise underdeveloped sense of horror? In any case, we toured the cave and admired all the stalagtites, stalagmites, frozen waterfalls, straws of stone etc. In the end it was the ultimate sign of life which caught my interest – water splashing through the porous burren limestone.
Without a tripod I had to use all means to get as much light into the camera while still being able to hold it steady. I bumped up the ISO to 12,800 here, opening the aperture as far as I could to f 4. At the same time I wanted to catch the water “flowing” rather than frozen drops, so I shot at 1/30. With a trickling waterfall the effect is a bit strange – looks almost like individual icicles breaking off the rock. Nonetheless, I am quite impressed how sharp the image still appears, despite the high ISO. I would love to go back and bring a tripod, though, and try this with a really slow shutter speed. 
Right, I’ll leave you with a link to the Father Ted episode where they visit the “really dark cave”. I don’t beliiiiiiiiiiiieve it!
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On To The Next Project

I have had a bit of a lull in terms of my own photography for the last while. Or more precisely: I haven’t taken a decent shot ever since before my last college exam exactly two weeks agoAt least not with marky Mark but only with the iPhone.

Malahide

However, it is time to start on the next project. And luckily The Friends of Analog Photography are onto the next thing. After the success of our 24 themes project we are now doing another group exercise which will hopefully culminate in yet another visually striking group display. 

The subject this time is to document a whole month by taking a picture a day. We are less prescriptive with format and film, so that the participants can choose between b/w and colour, 35mm and 120mm, and landscape or portrait orientation. The only stipulation is to shoot film and to do so once a day.

Seeing that I still had a heap of b/w films sitting in my fridge, I have opted for monochrome. While remodeling my study I happened upon my cheap little Lomo camera, given to me by my photographer friend Karl Burke as a thank you for assisting him on a shoot. It’s a multilens affair like this, and I had not played with it so far, so here is my chance. However, chance it I do not want to. So I am concurrently shooting with my trusted old Canon eos 500n. That essentially means two images a day. No, I am not trying to cheat. (And if I were, I’d be clever enough not to announce it publicly!) Once the rolls are processed, I’ll see which film is usable.


Interestingly, I have found it quite hard so far to take my daily shots. I found it much easier to work through the 24 themes of our first analog project. This time it is all wide open – and I find it hard to apply myself to the hunt for an image without any chance of preparing in my head what I want to document that particular day. Cos look in the future I cannot. (What is it with me and jumbled up word order today???)

I am sure there is a lesson in that. What it is, I don’t know – but, hey, any lesson is good, I guess! Updates, soon!  
  

Gimping

My post number one for this week comes with a delay – because I have been very busy on my first commercial assisting job. We are half way through our three-day shoot, and it has been a most instructive job so far. 
I am assisting UK-based photographer John Wildgoose on a big corporate shoot that involves both stills photography and videoing. The client and creative director have flown in from the US for employee interviews and corporate headshots which will feature on the company website. It is my first time seeing a big professional job in action – and learning all that goes along with setting up for a rather big shoot. 
All of day one was spent setting up a rather complicated set. In order to facilitate a fast schedule, the set had to be lit both for the stills and the video interviews. This meant setting up and lighting for the tungsten-lit videoing and the flash-lit stills in front of one backdrop. Working with a new kit was quite confusing at first – so one basic requirement of being an assistant is to be flexible, to think quickly and to adapt to whatever is being thrown at you. Myself and fellow gimp assistant Tim had never worked with the particular gear but managed to set everything up as required. 
Then came the light metering for the stills. I stepped in as a meter slut model and John worked out the settings through some test shots. At the same time the tethered shooting was tested, too. The program he uses is called Capture One. It organizes and edits the shots. What is really cool, though, is an inbuilt feature that lets you feed shots wirelessly onto the client’s or creative director’s iPad or iPhone. So images get approved quickly while the CD is not sitting on top of the photographer or assistant but at a safe distance…
It’s been a great experience so far – seeing how the photographer works together with the creative director and the client, how he directs the models and communicates with the assistants and the sound guy, who records the video sound separately. This is the way to learn really. While college is providing the theoretical background, introducing us to other photographers’ work, setting us challenging assignments and pushing us to try different genres, assisting at a pro shoot teaches us the practical stuff: organising a shoot efficiently from call sheet to actual shoot, creating a logical and fast workflow, introducing us to the necessary best practices and the commercially used software and hardware. And best of all: There is no fee for learning all this but I am actually getting paid for it. Win-win!

3, 2, 1… launched!!!

If photography is about seeing, then ultimately it is also about letting see. What point is there to photography if you do not share with others what you have captured? And yet it is nerve-wrecking to put the fruits of your labours out there and open yourself up to commentary and criticism. Not to mention the stress of putting on and organising for an exhibition.

Photoworks exhibition

What you see up there is a panorama shot I took last night at the opening of the GCD 2nd year students’ end of year show. Taken very quickly on iPhone before the start of the evening’s proceeding, so you get a little idea of what was on show.


The day was busy. It started at 10 am with the hanging of the pictures – delayed by a day because of the current visit of the English Queen in Ireland (which is upsetting traffic in Dublin). With 22 contributors to this group show, there were a lot of pictures to be hung. I helped out for half the day and got about four different projects up on the wall.


The show started officially at 7 pm, but even before that there were people milling around, checking what the photographers had produced. The response to the exhibition was phenomenal – in my opinion. It got to the point where there were so many people in the room that you could hardly see the images on the wall. But hey, that is not a reason to complain but to be pleased with. And I think it is safe to say that the opening night was a great success.

An exhibition is always exciting, and this was the third show I have taken part in. But what really makes it special for me is when my friends and family follow my invites and attend a show. I was very happy to welcome several friends yesterday – so thank you for turning up and showing me your support that way! It is much appreciated – it is what I need, what I thrive on and what motivates me to go on with photography. If it wasn’t for your feedback, it wouldn’t make any sense for me!
   

So if you haven’t been there yet, hurry on down! The show displays a wide variety of photographic subject matter and techniques. So diverse that you actually need a lot of time to take it all in. Check it out! It is open all day today in La Catedral Studios, St Augustine Street, off Thomas Street, Dublin 2. Leave us a comment so we know you have been there!

Organising and Exhibiting

I said it before – as soon as the semester is over, there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. It’s hard keeping track of all the things that are going on, actually. 
A lot needs doing. There is the upcoming exhibition of the 2nd year students of GCD in La Catedral Studios Dublin. While the choice of images was not that difficult to make, the real dilemma comes when you have to decide how to exhibit your work. A large factor for up and coming photographers is always the financial outlay connected to exhibitions. There is the cost of having a show put on – renting a venue and buying the obligatory refreshments for the official opening night, printing costs for promotional material etc. Thankfully, in a group show, that is spread among all participants and is therefore a manageable expense.
But when it comes to individual outlays, there is the presentation of the photos to consider. As a starter, I am all for economizing and keeping costs on a realistic level. And yet I do want to show my images in the best possible light. While I have seen professional photo shows in which the images were simple print-outs, nailed to the wall, a custom frame obviously lends a bit more importance to the photograph. Depending on the size of the prints, the price for custom frames starts at € 30 and goes up – well, infinitely. Not exactly student-friendly, so to speak. I have therefore opted for shop-bought frames that fit my images exactly. The reasoning behind that also being that if I should be so lucky that someone wants to buy my image, my choice of framing may not suit their taste. In that case my print can be removed and sold separately.
However, I am not skimping on the prints themselves. For the first time I have gone to a fine arts printing business, inspirational arts in Dublin. I had no idea what sort of choices would be expected of me, but Jim, one of the owners, sat down with me, explained things and guided me helpfully through the various options. And as soon as I saw that gorgeous fine arts paper, I was completely sold on that. Or rather – it was sold to me. 
Paper choice is – of course – highly subjective. And fine art printing isn’t cheap – but it certainly enhances an image and it gives it its dues. I personally have never particularly liked glossy paper (mainly because it shows up fingerprints and I am too impatient to handle prints as if they were raw eggs), and so my choice here is a matt paper. Moreover, inspirational arts informed me, the matt papers are very  similar to the kind of photo papers that would have been used in the earlier days of photography. Considering that I am showing images which refer back to the 1920s, I like that subtle reference to the past, as in the choice of paper. I am dying to see my finished prints and hope they will look good in my chosen frames.
Right, the price list has been sent off, the frames are waiting to be filled. I am also waiting for my postcards from Vistaprint to leave at the show. And then all that needs doing is hanging the images on the day of the opening. Exciting times!!

Department of the Interior

Hello my dears,

have you been missing me? There has been a bit of a delay, partly due to my last exam which I had to sit on Friday afternoon (media law – boy, am I glad that is over!), partly because Blogger decided to have some kind of unannounced outage for a few days which gave me a bit of a fright. Plus, and most majorly, thanks to my laptop packing it in for good. But since yours truly is using social networking to her advantage, it was not before long that replacements were offered and accepted. I am online again on a replacement laptop, widening my horizon by working with ubuntu and Gimp instead of my usual Windows and Photoshop. And a swish new PC is already ordered and will hopefully arrive here in the next few days.

In the meantime, I have turned all domestic. With the pressure of the exam gone I had to return some of my attention to my home. Yep, that meant cleaning, tidying and organising. And when everything was done, I pulled out a wide-angle lens to document the rather unusual state of tidyness and cleanliness for posterity. 

This is an extreme example (of tidyness as much as wide-angle *haha*) with the focal length down to 12mm and an exposure of six seconds at f11. I had no speedlite or proper lights and needed to use ambient lighting as it was. 

My oh my, my drawing room looks like a ball room, including a large dancefloor at the front. Believe me, it is not that large, but wide-angle distortion is the buzzword here, stretching the corners upwards and distorting the objects, plus creating a vignette. I love producing mistakes like this one, because they make me find out what I did wrong and how I can avoid them in the future. My hunch is, that I fell victim of optical vignetting here, i.e. I used an f-stop that is too small and therefore did not have the light reaching the corners of the sensor to register it during my 6 second exposure. That could’ve easily been avoided because one of the advantages of wide-angle lenses is that they tend to have greater dof, i.e. I could’ve shot with a smaller aperture no problem (especially as I was using a tripod, anyway).

On the other hand, the unintended vignetting creates an aesthetic effect that references the wide-angle distortion, even intensifies it. Let’s just say it was all intentional. (Yeah, right.)

In any case, I love interior photography. (It certainly is my justification for indulging in interior design magazines. Sounds a bit cooler than admitting that you are a luxury housewife who likes to look at lust over other people’s beautiful and styled homes…) I often wonder how the photographers take their images for all the relevant magazines out there – what lenses are they using, what kind of lighting set-ups, do they only use available light, how do they deal with the mixture of daylight and ambient light then. Well, there’s a summer project for me – find an Irish interior photographer and get an internship or assistance with him/her. 

Right, back to tidying up, then.

     

Dry Runs

Ireland is far from dry these days. Maybe that is why I am reminiscing about Namibia even more today than usual. No, it’s also because one of my friends has just returned from a holiday in that most beautiful country. And thus I felt inspired to play a little with my Namibian holiday pics. Plus, I am at the point again where I’d much rather like to fiddle with Photoshop than study for my law exam *doh*.
Don’t get me wrong – my Namibia pics do not need any photoshopping. (Ha! There is a confident statement, eh?) But I was looking for some images that contain lots of azure blue sky and some green and red because I wanted to check out a neat little trick I learnt. How to create an infrared image in PS. 
Well, if you have never been to Namibia you might think that that is what the landscape looks like – dried out trees, brown leaves. Yellow rocks? No, the other way round – green leaves, red rocks. Even though I was there in their winter, i.e. when it is not raining and everything is pretty much dried out, Namibia was wonderfully colourful. What you see up there is an infrared effect, in the absence of a filter recreated in PS.
It’s quite an easy exercise, actually, all you need to do is invert the original image and then play in channel mixer on the red and blue channels and with hue and saturation. I am hooked – I have converted about 10 images at this stage, and I like the effect. Especially when you have cloudy scenes you get dramatic skies. The non-blue bits will come out very white and contrasty, adding an eerie, almost alien, menacing tone to the otherwise quite idyllic images. It’s worth checking out.