At sixes and sevens

A New Year’s Day walk with a ridiculously big film camera.

Kodak Portra 400 120 film that had been kept in the worst place possible for two and a half years… in the kitchen cupboard above the cooker. Oops. Varying temperatures ahoy! I think it survived rather marvellously.

 

 

Film developing and medium resolution scans by the fabulous Ag Photographic. Posted off on a Saturday evening and returned to me on the Wednesday.

It’s the first time in many years that I’ve ordered prints along with the developing and scans. They look gorgeous and it was such a joy to see new photos for the first time in that more tangible way again.

Through the looking glass

It’s been a while since I got my Pentax 6×7 out to play. I had completely forgotten that I had an adapter to use my massive 105mm 6×7 lens on my regular DSLR (Pentax K3).

I love the quality of this lens. Attached to my K3 it does look ridiculous and it’s heavier than the camera itself. Old film camera lenses retain a lot of their character in digital format. This one gives a fair amount of chromatic aberation, as lenses designed for film often do, but that’s easily rectifiable manually in Lightroom. It’s an exrtremely soft lens and wide open, regardless of the cropped sensor on the K3, it just has a really expansive feel to it.

I intend to drag out the 6×7 for some more film fun soon, and this has certainly whetted my appetite.

 

Take 2: Visibility: Coal Force 5

I took a two and a half hour cruise on my boat this weekend. With my engine newly serviced, and the sun shining, it was a staggeringly beautiful day out on the canals.

This time of year when the sun is so low it can be a bit blinding out there at times. Especially when heading West in the afternoon.

I like to take pictures into the sun. I love the way the light scatters and the possibilities with silhouettes, shadows, and lens flares.

With this picture I wanted to turn it isn’t something it wasn’t. I didn’t want the deep shadows. I wanted the picture to show me what I could have seen had I not been staring into the sun for hours. I wanted to try to create an image that expressed how I felt about the day. The air was still and chilly, but the warm Autumn colours were still out in force. I don’t normally apply such extreme adjustments to an image.

These are the main edits I made using Lightroom:

  • I took the contrast all the way down to flatten out the image and give it a painterly, slightly hazy quality
  • I brought the shadows all the way up to bring out as much detail in the background as possible
  • I took the highlights down to bring out a bit of detail in the sky
  • I pulled the tone curve into a gentle S shape, with the lights and shadows brought up and then highlights and darks very slightly down just to give a bit of definition
  • I very slightly warmed up the white balance

Colours:

  • I raised the orange and yellow saturation and luminance
  • I raised the red saturation slightly
  • I took the green luminance up to give a bit of life to the background
  • I raised the blue saturation slightly and also lowered the luminance to bring out more detail in the sky and balance the warmth a little

 

 

The Garden of England

Last week I took a week off work to stay with my mother who lives near Ashford in Kent. A friend recently allowed me to borrow some lenses of his to play with so I brought three of them with me – a 15mm f4, a 31mm f1.8, and a 100mm macro f2.8 – and have had a lot of fun trying them out.

I usually shoot with my favourite lenses which are 35mm, 55mm and 77mm so it was an interesting little exercise in seeing things from a slightly different perspective. I preferred the 31mm overall but firstly, it’s an incredibly good quality lens with beautiful bokeh and secondly, it’s not far away from the range of lengths I normally use…

…so I really came away from it thinking as I always have; it’s not about the equipment you have, but understanding how it works and behaves to get the most out of it. I found the 15mm lens the most challenging and fun because I have rarely used wide lenses at all and it is so very wide! I think it has the potential to create some really inventive images.

I also had no idea there were so many windmills in the near vicinity. Beautiful things.

Take 2: Tinkerbell

Whilst visiting my mother for christmas I took the opportunity to get some shots of her cats. On boxing day I found one curled up in the hallway with the sunlight filtering through the front door. I used the 55mm lens that I wrote about in my last post.

There was just enough light, with a wide aperture and a slow shutter speed, to get some fairly lowish ISO close ups. The cat didn’t mind the camera at all and kept remarkably still which was ideal. This shot was taken at 1/15 of a second which is about as slow as I’m comfortable with handheld using this lens. With this combination of elements, I could get some really smooth close ups.

Now that I have a new computer I can edit without headache again, and it’s such a relief. Adjustments are quick and easy.  Digital images straight from camera can often look a little lifeless, flat or cold. No matter how carefully I adjust my camera settings, if nothing else they nearly always benefit from at least a slight adjustment to white balance and/or exposure.

 

This picture looked pretty good to begin with. The focus in the eyes is pin sharp and the expression on the cat’s face is adorable, but the raw image was dark and murky. It was underexposed and the white balance was too cold and too pink. My camera is fairly good at getting exposure right with a manual lens, but it’s not always perfect.

What I wanted to capture was the delicate complimentary colours of the cat’s fur and eyes, so the whole key to this becoming a striking image was in simply correcting the white balance and exposure. Pretty much everything else had been handled already in camera and by the beautiful lens. The finishing touches were then just some small tweaks to give it a hint more of a glow and increase the definition without losing the natural softness of the lens.

Here are the main adjustments I made in Lightroom for the final edit:

  • Raised the exposure
  • Adjusted the white balance manually
  • Slightly deepened the blacks
  • Raised the clarity
  • Added a very slight touch of vibrance
  • Adjusted the tone curve into a gentle s shape with brighter lights and hilghlights and slightly lowered darks and shadows
  • Slightly raised the orange and yellow luminance

Click here for more cat portraits on flickr.

Old Friends

I spent the end of last week visiting a friend in Bournemouth. We were quite seasonally lazy for the most part but did manage to get ourselves off the sofa for a little trip to Poole Harbour on Friday. It was a beautiful day after a few days of bitter winds and rain (as I suppose you’d expect on the coast this time of year).

I took my very favourite 55mm f1.8 lens. The lens I’ve had the longest, and love the most. I often describe its quality as “buttery”. It’s smooth and soft and warm. It’s clean and sharp even when the aperature is wide open but backgrounds always just melt away beautifully.

It’s a fully manual lens and it’s not the most versatile workhorse I have. I have a fair few lenses to choose from so it really only usually gets brought out when I take portraits as this is when it particularly shines. It’s my favourite for portraits in particular because of its focal length, the soft quality, and the warm and gentle way it renders colours.

I have had this lens for over twenty years and for the vast majority of that time it was the only lens I had. So it’s like an old friend. Comfortable and natural. And he doesn’t mind if I don’t see him all the time. But I think I’ll keep him on the camera for a little bit longer now.

Maybe I like this lens so much because the lens itself is the tool that introduced me to photography. So when I look at the pictures it takes I feel like that’s what photos are somehow *supposed* to look like.

Here are just some of my favourites that I took on Friday. As usual there are more to see on Flickr.

p.s. If you are in the neighbourhood yourself… do go easy with the dazzling array of cider on offer at The Stable pub…!