Tag Archives: image

The Digital Negative


The Digital Negative by Jeff Schewe, published by Peachpit Press, ISBN: 13 978-0-321-83957-2.

I have just read this book to try to get a better understanding of digital photography.  Schewe is a photographer who has also been working with the boffins at Adobe since the early 1990’s to help develop RAW, Photoshop and more recently Lightroom for photographers from a photographer’s point-of-view.  His books are therefore as close as you can get to finding a first class knowledgable author.  He has published two books ‘The Digital Negative’ and “The Digital Print’ the later I have just began to read.

The Digital Print briefly covers the basic background of how the digital image is made in the camera but drills in to the featured and functions in both RAW and Lightroom that you will use to process your RAW file in to a presentable photo.  This includes a recommended and sensible workflow, background information from the Adobe engineers explaining why certain features work the way they do.  Chapters 4 and 5 a dedicated to Photoshop for advanced editing beyond the capabilities of RAW and Lightroom for those images worth the extra effort.  Chapter 6 covers the recommended workflow from importing pictures from the camera, storing, backing-up, making copies, cataloguing on to developing.  This book does not however cover printing as this is a topic for his second publication.

This is a good book to read, I learned a few new features in Lightroom that I was unaware of and also instructed me in the use of RAW that I am unfamiliar with as I have only used Lightroom so far.  Lightroom was was developed with a lot of the features from RAW and both will talk to one another but changes made in one will alter the other’s parameters and this is a useful thing to be aware of if you use both RAW and Lightroom.  If you want a better understanding of Lightroom, RAW and Photoshop this ids the book to read.  This is not however a detailed book for Photoshop it covers the topics that most photographers need but doesn’t look at all the magic tricks possible in Photoshop.  This is a book intended to help the modern photographer become confident and proficient developing digital photographs to a point that they can print or advance to higher levels of editing using Photoshop and plug-ins.  Not too technically challenging and easy to read and fairly easy to understand without an engineering degree.

A very good book that I would recommend.

Tutor’s report and my reflections for assignment five.

I have just received back my Tutor’s formative feedback for my last assignment for the Art of Photography Course, assignment V, Narrative and Illustration.

DSC_7135-Edit-It_was_with_some_considerable_curiosity_that _he_turned_it_over_by_the_light_of_his_candles-resized  Re-examining my work.

Tutor_report Shaun Mullins 512659 TAOP asst 5 V2

I enjoyed this project immensely, I found it very challenging and I learned a great deal from it.  I had read some very useful books that helped with ideas of how to plan for this project, namely: Context and Narrative, by Maria Short, Basics Creative Photography, 02, AVA.  Making Photographs, by Mike Simmons,  Basics Creative Photography, AVA.

Throughout this project I kept referring back to the brief to be sure that I understood my assignment and feel confident that I met the brief.

The brief being to imagine that I have to illustrate a story for a magazine to include the cover to illustrate and several pages inside to include captions of any length to explain and link each picture.  The cover picture will need some of the techniques of illustration that I have been experimenting with and the picture essay will be more of a narrative.

Any theme which has a narrative element could be a suitable subject for this project; so on first checking with my Tutor, I chose to use a ghost story by M.R. James as the Narrative to illustrate.

Having thus decided upon the story, I set about planning my photographs.

Reflections on my Tutors comments (see attached document).

Image 1.


My Tutor liked this image and comments that it was a good example of risk taking, although I must confess it didn’t occur to me at the time.

Image 2.


Perhaps it is a little stereotypical, I could perhaps have used a still-life image of the map and magnifying glass as an alternative.  However, the third hand was intended to complement and make sense of the caption.  Oh, Parkins,’ said his neighbour ‘If you are going to Burnstow I wish you would look at the site of the Templars…’  Perhaps the third hand wasn’t needed.

Image 3.


A simple image that worked for linking the story.

Image 4.


Although it lacks a visual link to the last image (3) it is necessary to continue the story.

Image 5.

DSC_6406-Edit-He_introduced_his hand_it_met_with_a_cylindrical_object-resized

Unfortunately, I could not find a antique whistle as a convincing prop; so I had to make do with a wooden peg that we covered in dirt to make the object as ambiguous as possible.

Image 6.


I was very pleased with this image as I think that it gives an atmospheric feel to the story.

Image 7.


Probably my favourite image and was perfect for what I was looking for for the cover.

Image 8.

DSC_7135-Edit-It_was_with_some_considerable_curiosity_that _he_turned_it_over_by_the_light_of_his_candles-resized

My Tutor thinks that this image could arguably have been left out of the narrative.  My feelings is that as this project is a magazine story and the story is essentially about finding a whistle in a grave-yard and whistling up a ghost, I needed to include this image (identification) to help link image 5 (discovery) with the following image 9 (put to use).  however, no two editors may agree the same outcome, therefor as a photographer, I would have at least covered myself having produced the image if an Editor had decided that he wanted it.  In this case I was the Editor.

Image 9.


My Tutor feels that my friends pose appears to be a little over-acted, I think that this is a subjective opinion, the expression was intended to suggest someone tentively blowing through an unfamiliar object.  It looks truthful to  me; but I may be biased.  The shadow effect however, appears to have worked as I wanted.

Image 10.


A simple image; but turned out to be trickier to achieve as my friend could only spare me limited time in the evening when it was already very dark.

Image 11.


It took a lot of pictures before I got this shot!  I particularly like the wide open eye that I am always drawn to.

Image 12.


As with image 10 this photo was more of a challenge as I had already lost the light; so I had to use a speedlight in a soft-box and experiment with settings on my speedlight and camera to get the effect I was looking for,  I then had to make some final adjustments in Lightroom.

Image 13


The ghostly spirit takes form using bedsheets and rushes at the professor.  I was happy with this final image, although I had to combine two images in to one in Photoshop to produce it.

A big thank you to my Tutor for his support and constructive comments.




Assignment V – Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative

Original story (i.e. the extracted quotations used for this narrative) written By M.R. James with complementary photographic illustrations by Shaun Mullins.

Cover,  (Image 6)


Image 1 – Oh, Parkins,’ said his neighbour ‘If you are going to Burnstow I wish you would look at the site of the Templars, and let me know if you think it would be any good to have a dig there in the summer.’ ‘Certainly,’ said Parkins, the Professor: ‘if you will describe to me whereabouts the site is, I will do my best to give you an idea of the lie of the land when I get back . 


Image 2 – On the following day he surveyed his surroundings, he found himself in, he must, he quite rightly concluded, be on the site of the Preceptory he had promised to look at, It seemed not unlikely to reward the spade of the explorer. 


Image 3 –   It might, he thought, be as well to probe the soil here for evidences of masonry… And now following another discovery: A portion of soil fell inward as he scraped and disclosed a small cavity…. 


Image 4 – Of course it was empty. No! As he withdrew his knife he heard a metallic clink and when he introduced his hand it met with a cylindrical object…. 

DSC_6406-Edit-He_introduced_his hand_it_met_with_a_cylindrical_object-resized

Image 5 – By the time Parkins had made sure that there was nothing else in this odd receptacle, it was too late and too dark for him to think of undertaking any further search. What he had done had proved so unexpectedly interesting that he determined to sacrifice a little more of the daylight on the morrow to archaeology. The object which he now had safe in his pocket was bound to be of some slight value at least, he felt sure.  –  Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before starting homeward.


Image 6 – One last look behind to measure the distance he had made since leaving the ruined Templars church showed him a prospect of company on his walk, in the shape of a rather indistinct personage.  


Image 7 – When, therefore, he retired towards twelve o’clock, he felt that he had spent his evening in quite a satisfactory way.  It was with some considerable curiosity that he turned it over by the light of his candles. It was bronze, he now saw, and was shaped very much after the manner of the modern dog-whistle.  There were legends both on the front and on the back of the whistle. The one read thus:  FLA   –   FUR BIS   –   FLE   The other:   QUIS EST ISTE QUI VENIT. 

DSC_7135-Edit-It_was_with_some_considerable_curiosity_that _he_turned_it_over_by_the_light_of_his_candles-resized

Image 8 – It ought to mean: “Who is this who is coming?” Well, the best way to find out is evidently to whistle for him.’ – He blew tentatively….


Image 9 juxtaposed with image 10 (The professor’s nightmare) – Whether it was the wind or the excitement of golf, or the researches in the Perceptory that kept Parkins awake.  Parkins shut his eyes and determined to give sleep a chance.   Over-excitement asserted itself in another form – that of making pictures, Parkins experience on this occasion was a very distressing one.

DSC_7045-Edit-Parkins_shut_his_eyes_determined_to_give_sleep_chance-resized  DSC_6520-Edit-Over-ecitement_asserted_itself_in_another_form_that_of_making_pictures-resized

Image 11 – He must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clutter shook him up in a most un-welcome manner.


Image 12 – There was a rustling and shaking: surely more than any rat could cause. I can figure to myself something of the Professor’s bewilderment and horror imagine how dreadful it was to him to see a figure suddenly sit up in what he had known was an empty bed. He was out of his own bed in one bound, and made a dash towards the window.  It is a horrible, an intensely horrible face of crumples linen. He could not keep back a cry of disgust, and with a sudden smooth motion the linen face was thrust close to his own. 




Exercise – Shinny surfaces

Unsuitable (1 of 1)

In this exercise, I took on the challenge of photographing a highly polished metal surface. As you can see the subject I have chosen to use also presents an additional challenge as it is curved and rounded so as to increase the size of the reflective family of angles that the camera will see.

The problem that presents itself to photographers when taking photos of reflective objects is that by their very nature the object is likely to give unwanted reflections of perhaps the studio, camera, lights and even the photographer. If this first image was for a paying client then it would be totally unacceptable.

Needs improoving (1 of 1)
The solution is to block the reflection of the studio, etc. from the butter dish by using a lighting tent. These can be purchased or a home made light tent can be easily made using tracing paper rolled in to a cone with the narrow top end around the lens of the camera and the bottom wide end around the subject and just out of view from the cameras view. Now we have am image with fewer objectionable reflections, but we can still see the camera’s lens and there is an objectionable reflection from where the tracing paper meets together.

Almost (1 of 1)
I recomposed moving the butter dish cover and adding a spoon to block the reflection of the lens. (If this was a professional shoot a knife would have been a more appropriate prop; but I couldn’t find anything suitable; so as this is an exercise the spoon will do just as well.) I then turned the tracing paper until the shadow of the join was over the length of the spoon and thus disappeared. But there is still a reflection of a shadow created by the black tripod appearing as a faint silhouette in the reflection.

Happy (1 of 1)
By simply taping some tracing paper around the leg of the tripod that was creating the shadow I was able to solve the problem and finally I have an expectable image of my shinny butter dish. I only cropped the image in Lightroom and made no other adjustments.

For lighting I used a speedlight in a soft-box set on a light stand opposite the camera above and behind the subject. I set the speedlight to 1/1 power, TTL controlled using a TT5 Pocket Wizards on the speedlight and TT1 Pocket Wizards on my camera. I set the to ISO-400 using 105mm f2.8 macro lens. My first image was at 1/10sec f/22. All the other images made in the tent where all at 1/8sec, f/22.

Exercise – Curves

This exercise follows on from my last project for diagonals and looks at how curves can be used for composition.


In this picture, I have used curves to draw the eye to the subject point, the bell, which I have colour popped to help it stand out.


In this picture, I have used curves to draw the eye through the picture and the cars give added direction.


In this image I came across a convex mirror used for traffic safety and thought that the reflections of the cars that passed the mirror created a nice example of using curves for distorting an image creating an interesting angle of perspective and movement plus an almost 3D depth.


I wanted to find a good example of curves giving an impression of movement and I found it by chance in a lobby of a Hotel in Spain with the curves of the steel bands surrounding this steel statue of a dancer with ribbons. This photo was taken using just a small digital holiday snap-shot camera.

Exercise – Vertical and horizontal frames

In this exercise I have taken x20 photos of subjects in the vertical (portrait) orientation, then taken x20 photos of the same subjects in the horizontal (landscape) orientation to see which method works best. in some images one method is clearly better than another; but in some both work but changes “the feel” of the composition.


In these examples I believe that the first image in landscaped works better than the second, due to the length on the flower boxes leading you through the picture.


In these two example, I think that the second image works better, due to the tall spire of the church tower and the loss of “the fussy” surroundings.


The vertical image clearly works for this subject and tilted gives a sense of height and drama lacking in the landscape version.


Again the vertical image works better as it more closely crops the subject.


Again the vertical image works best.


Again the vertical image works.


This image also works best as a portrait format.


Again vertical framing works best here.


Again vertical framing.

In these two examples both methods appear to work, by making the images black and white and colour popping, I have helped improve the interest. However, the vertical frame gives more emphasise on the post box and the perspective appears to alter the character of the image.

Again both images work; but with the vertical framed image, I felt that flipping it back to front added something.

Again I think both images work well and I thing that the vertical frame alters the character.

Again both appear to work; but I prefer the landscape image as it gives a little more sense of place/location.

Again both work and it would be more of a consideration of how the picture is planed to be used, i.e. in a magazine / website or picture on a wall.

Again I think both work well, although to me, the first image suggests a more appealing leisurely day on the river.

Again both images work; but again it is down to considering how the work is to be presented. My favourite is landscape as I think it has a little more character.

Again I think that both work well however, I think that the vertical frame is more dramatic.

In this example, I prefer the vertical frame for atmosphere.

Again both work well; but I like the vertical frame concentrating on the steps.

In this finale example the first image horizontally framed is best because the gate lamp nicely frames the subject and so give more character to the image.

Exercise – Horizontal and verticle lines

In this exercise, I looked for subjects that could convey the immediate impression of either horizontal or vertical lines as the theme.

The horizontal lines in this of the pallets is obvious but made interesting by the textures, light and shade and stacking arrangement.  I used a 24mm lens. f/8, 1/125 and I Cropped the picture in tightly and added contract to the image.

This subject I came upon whilst walking my dog, someone had dumped this old timber and I took the photo in landscape using my 55-300 zoom lens at 55mm focal, f/8, 1/160, I then altered the image to portrait and turned it upside down, in Lightroom, to get the effect I wanted.

These flowers were growing in a greenhouse in a Nursery close by, laid out on the floor I could see these horizontal bands of colour which I think make a perfect impression for the theme of horizontal lines. I used my 55-300mm zoom at 220mm focal length, f/10, 1/320, I then added contrast and made some colour adjustments in Lightroom.

The individual rows of flowers in another greenhouse offered up a nice example for vertical lines. I used my 55-300mm zoom, f/4.5, 1/1000, added contrast and adjusted colour in Lightroom.

I took this photo in landscape and tightly cropped the final image and turned it for portrait to get the interesting effect. I used my 50mm lens, f/10, 1/125.

Taken through the end of the bed frame using my 50mm lens, f/5.6, 1/50.

This was an old American car sadly slowly rusting away, someone’s abandoned restoring project and I saw the idea of the lines in the car’s design.

This image is of some industrial plastic trays stacked up that I photographed and tightly cropped and turned 90 degrees in Lightroom, I used a 50mm lens, f/10, 1/160.

Exercise – Multiple points

In this exercise I have built up a small still life using stones as points of interest, starting with one stone then adding more and more stones trying to create patterns whilst trying not to look too obvious.  Patterns can easily be imagined from a small number of points; but as more and more objects are added it becomes more challenging to create a non obvious grouping.

Single stone-resizedSingle stone-resized-a
In this first arrangement I have set my first point parallel to a faint line in the stone base and to draw the eye across the image along the faint line.

Two stones-resizedTwo stones-resized-a

In my second image I have set the second stone parallel to the faint line but on the opposite side.

Three points-resizedThree points-resized-a
With three points patterns start to take shape.

Four points-resizedFour points-resized-a
Making shapes-resizedMaking shapes-resized-aFinal image-resizedFinal image-resized-a
In my final image the pattern got very complicated and open to many interpretations.  I added a piece if venetian glass to add some additional interest.