Tag Archives: levels

The Digital Negative

51-yYFGhLeL._SX439_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

Assignment V workbook.

DSC_6607-Text-Leaving_the_ruined_Templars_church_showed_him_a_prospect_of_company_on_his_walk-resized

For this assignment, I have decided to use an Edwardian ghost story by M.R. James as the narrative for my assignment.

The story is essentially about a college professor who is taking a short holiday on the coast and has been asked by a colleague to visit a ruined Templar’s church that is located close to where he is staying.  During the professors promised visit to the ruin he has a little dig around and finds a strange object that he later discovers is a whistle with a Latin inscription that roughly translates: “Who is this that comes?”.  He playfully blows the whistle to find out and discovers to his cost the meaning of the inscription.

For this project I enlisted the assistance of a friend who is an experienced actor and I then read through the story about five times to be thoroughly familiar with the narrative in order to be able to properly plan my images.

I then chose what I believe to be the key passages out of the text for my narrative in order to visually tell the story, I then created a word document  Story Board as copied and pasted below in order to begin visualizing the required images and sketching out the ideas.

Story Board – Oh, whistle and I’ll come to you my lad

    1. If you are going to Burnstow I wish you would look at the site of the Templars….   Prof. Parkins (Graham) sitting at table with friends, map, train time-table. Graham centre, profiles of friends flanking left and right in foreground.
    2. Location – He must, he quite rightly concluded, be on the site of the Preceptory he had promised to look at. Waverley Abbey. View of Graham seen from the ruins or Graham foreground and ruins in background. IDEA – Use a window in ruins to frame Graham. Step ladder may be needed.
    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 scrapped and disclosed a small cavity…. A hole and a pen-knife.
    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…. Close up of hand bringing whistle from hole.
    5. Location – Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before starting homeward. Waverley Abbey. Long distance landscape shot of the ruins. IDEA – Use a graduation filter for the sky.
    6. Location – 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…. Little Hampton. Graham walking towards camera glancing over his shoulder, occupying large area right of centre in background top left is smallish white (out of focus) running figure. IDEA Graham lit by large softbox using CLS for fast shutter speed to darken background, second softbox to illuminate white figure.
    7. 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…. Close up of hand and whistle lit with an amber cast candle in background.
    8. He blew tentatively…. Portrait of Graham, amber cast.
    9. 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…. Graham on pillow. Low key image, edged lighting.
    10. Location – Over-excitement asserted itself in another form – that of making pictures…. Parkins experience on this occasion was a very distressing one…. What he saw was this: A long stretch of shore – shingle edged by sand and intersected at intervals with black groynes running down to the water…. A man running, jumping, clambering over the groynes and every few seconds looking eagerly back… Far up the shore a little flicker of something light coloured moving to and fro with great swiftness and irregularity…. Declares itself as a figure in pale fluttering Draperies, ill-defined…. Little Hampton IDEA – Graham hiding with a Groyne against his back arms out face turned to one side for a profile. The white figure waving its arms top left again in the background out of focus
    11. He must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clutter shook him up in a most un-welcome manner. Graham with a startled stare, out of focus white sheeted figure in background.
    12. It is a horrible, an intensely horrible face of crumples linen…. He could not keep back a cry of disgust…. And the linen face was thrust close to his own. Face to face. Sheeted face top left, Graham’s bottom left. IDEA – Scream mask from novelty shop with a sheet then overlaid with separate image of crumpled white linen in Photoshop for texture affect.

I then sketched out the ideas for each shot, one or two of the images only needed one sketch; but others took up to three or four drawings to find the idea that I settled with.

Having selected the scenes from the story and created some visual ideas I was then able to decide what shots required locations and what did not and from that what type of locations needed.  Then it was a simple matter of finding the locations to suit.  I had discovered Waverley Abbey near Frimley, Surrey, quite recently and my friend Graham has a holiday flat in Little Hampton with perfect beech locations; so I had my locations.

I did not decide which image would be my front cover image until I had already made two-thirds of the images.  I felt that image number six was best suited for my front cover, I think that it compliments the title very well.  My reasons is that the silhouette of a figure in the distance and just the feet of someone in mid stride in the foreground suggest that either may respond to a call from the other and the title helps to link the two subjects together.  The beech had a fairly steep slope to the sea as you can see from the image however, the tide was just on the turn and the sand was too soft and wet to be able to photo any closer to the surf; so obtaining reflections and a better view of the beech proved impractical.  I was pleased however to catch a good colour in the sky just as the sun began to set, the weather was very much like the day we visited Waverley Abbey; so I was happy that the sky for this image and image V are both correct for the time line in the story.

Story boarding with sketches and final image, starting with my cover shot, image VI.

Image VI.  DSC_6607-Edit-Leaving_the_ruined_Templars_church_showed_him_a_prospect_of_company_on_his_walk-resized  LocationOne 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…. Little Hampton. Graham walking towards camera glancing over his shoulder, occupying large area right of centre in background top left is smallish white (out of focus) running figure. IDEA Graham lit by large soft-box using CLS for fast shutter speed to darken background, second soft-box to illuminate white figure.

Sketches for image VI for ideas and it was the final sketch that led me to my resulting picture.  The resulting image was photographed on the beech at Little Hampton, late afternoon just as the sun began to set.  The figure was my wife standing to attention and my friend posed to suggest he is in mid-stride but was in fact motionless. 24-120mm f/4 @34mm 1/125, f/5.6, ISO-100, matrix metering, WB-Auto.

ImageVIa ImageVIb

Image I.  If you are going to Burnstow I wish you would look at the site of the Templars….   Prof. Parkins (Graham) sitting at table with friends, map, train time-table. Graham centre, profiles of friends flanking left and right in foreground.  I kept this image simple and I decided just to have my friend posed studying a map with someone’s hand (mine) pointing out a place on interest on the map.  Camera was set on a tripod with timer set to trip after 15 seconds to take x 3 pictures 3 seconds apart, 85mm f/1.4, 1/125, f/1.8, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-Auto, remote speedlight in a soft-box and reflector.

ImageI  DSC_6849-Edit_If_you_are_going_to_Burnstow-resized

Image II.  Location – He must, he quite rightly concluded, be on the site of the Preceptory he had promised to look at. Waverley Abbey. View of Graham seen from the ruins or Graham foreground and ruins in background. IDEA – Use a window in ruins to frame Graham. Step ladder may be needed.  On location at Waverley Abbey, standing on a small portable step ladder, I used the stone window opening to frame my friend Graham posing as the professor as he stops to survey the ruin for the first time.  Thus creating the moment when he recognises that he has found the Preceptory including a suggestion of the ruined church in the same image without un-necessary detail.  24/120mm f4, @48mm, 1/40, f/9, ISO-400, matrix metering, WB-manual.

ImageII   DSC_6385-Edit-on_the_site_of_the_Preceptory-1-resized

Image III.  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 scrapped and disclosed a small cavity…. A hole and a pen-knife.

ImageIII  DSC_6394-Edit-It_might_he_thought_be_as_well_to_probe_here-resized  Initially the idea was to simply create a still-life; but my friend Graham brought a pen knife with him on location which he happily posed to suggest digging amongst the ruins which I feel works well.  I had originally thought to use my garden or some waste land for the shots of finding the whistle as I didn’t want to be seen digging around a historic site.  But the site had lots of broken walls with small openings in them that could be employed for the shots and simple posing the hand and penknife against the stones and by craves in a broken wall suited my requirements perfectly.  24/120mm f/4 @35mm, 1/2500, f/4, ISO-400, matrix metering, WB-manual.

Image IV.  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…. Close up of hand bringing whistle from hole.  I was unable to find a suitable whistle for my prop; so we decided to simply use a wooden peg which we made dirty to try and disguise the material that it’s made from and suggest that it has been buried in the hole that the hand appears to be removing it from.  24-120mm f/4 @35mm, 1/80, f/4, ISO-6400, matrix metering, WB-manual.

ImageIV  DSC_6406-Edit-He_introduced_his hand_it_met_with_a_cylindrical_object-resized

Image V.  Location – Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before starting homeward. Waverley Abbey. Long distance landscape shot of the ruins. IDEA – Use a graduation filter for the sky.

ImageV  DSC_6430-Last_look-1-resized I chose to photograph this image from a very low level deliberately angled to create a sense of disturbing tension.  When my friend Graham saw this image he didn’t like it and suggested that I alter it to be less angled. I have respected his opinion and reviewed the image to consider his comment; but I feel that the angle creates a sense of discomfort which was what I am looking for from this image.  This is after all a ghost story and I want to create images that help make the reader feel a little uneasy.  24/120mm f/4, @24mm, 1.5000, f/4, ISO-160, matrix metering, WB-manual.

Image VII.  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…. Close up of hand and whistle lit with an amber cast candle in background.

ImageVII  DSC_7135-Edit-It_was_with_some_considerable_curiosity_that _he_turned_it_over_by_the_light_of_his_candles-resized

I used a remote speedlight with a yellow gel set in a soft-box to create a soft candle light type of lighting to complement the text.  We used the same wooden peg that we used at Waverley Abbey and therfore I composed the picture so that the whistle is implied but not clearly seen.  85mm f1.4, 1/125, f5.6, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-manual.

Image VIII.  He blew tentatively…. Portrait of Graham, amber cast.

ImageVIII  DSC_7007-Edit-He_blew_tentively-resized

I decided that a simple image of the Professor appearing to blow on a whistle was not interesting enough; so I thought that I must have an image that implies both action and effect.  Therefor I had the idea that my friend should pose to appear to be blowing on a whistle and to create a shadow behind him to suggest that something has come to him in response.  I found this to be very tricky to light and photograph for reasonable exposure, I was also limited to time that my friend could commit.  However, I was happy with this final result.  I used a speed light with a home made silver foiled vanity dish with a honey-combed grill to help produce a beam of light to create a stretched shadow on a Chinese ornament for the sinister shadow.  I used another Chinese ornament that I put on display in the bottom left corner of this image to suggest that the shadow may be coming from it, may be not.  I used Photoshop to crop, spot heal a picture hook from the wall and adjust levels for both the shadow and the Professor separately using layers.  24-120mm f/4, @62mm, 1/125, f/4, ISO-125,  matrix metering, WB-Auto.

Image IX.  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…. Graham on pillow. Low key image, edged lighting.  To be used with image X.

ImageIXa  ImageIXb  DSC_7045-Edit-Parkins_shut_his_eyes_determined_to_give_sleep_chance-resized

This image juxtaposes with image X in order to suggest to the viewer both the reality of the Professors eyes shut as he tries to sleep and a scary moment in the vision that he sees every time he closes his eyes.  As this was part of a more dramatic image, kept it simple using a fast shutter speed a flash behind Graham’s head to create the edge lighting and I had to use a side table light to produce enough light on his face as I only had one flash with me.  Adjustments in Lightroom for temperature, levels and cropping.  24-120mm f/4 @55mm, 1/320, f/4, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-Auto.

Image X.  Location Over-excitement asserted itself in another form – that of making pictures…. Parkins experience on this occasion was a very distressing one…. What he saw was this: A long stretch of shore – shingle edged by sand and intersected at intervals with black groynes running down to the water…. A man running, jumping, clambering over the groynes and every few seconds looking eagerly back… Far up the shore a little flicker of something light coloured moving to and fro with great swiftness and irregularity…. Declares itself as a figure in pale fluttering Draperies, ill-defined…. Little Hampton IDEA – Graham hiding with a Groyne against his back arms out face turned to one side for a profile. The white figure waving its arms top left again in the background out of focus.

ImageXa  ImagaXb

DSC_6520-Edit-Over-ecitement_asserted_itself_in_another_form_that_of_making_pictures-resized  In this image I wanted to convey the feeling and impression of the professor’s nightmarish vision that he keeps seeing when he closes his eyes to sleep.  From the idea of a simple image of the Professor hiding behind a groyne from a white figure, moved on to consider a shadow or reflection of the nightmarish figure to a more simple idea of using the zoom to create a form of motion blur to imply seeing through the eyes of the nightmarish figure as it finds the hiding professor in his dream.  24-120mm f/4, 1/13, f/8, ISO-50, matrix metering, WB-Auto.

Image XI.  He must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clutter shook him up in a most un-welcome manner.  IDEA – Graham with a startled stare, out of focus white sheeted figure in background.

ImageXIa  ImageXIb       DSC_7066-Edit-A_clutter_shook_him_up_in_a_most_un-welcome_manner-resized-a

I after my initial thoughts that I put down on paper my final idea through my sketches was to produce an image implying that something had just happened, something that has just woken the Professor.  I decided to photograph my friend posed in bed looking startled, seen through a reflection of the mirror on his dressing table with a vase of flowers tipped over in the foreground to imply that it was the noise from the fallen vase has just awakened him.  I used Lightroom to crop, adjust temperature and levels.  Remote speedlight in soft-box, 24-120mm f/4, @52mm, 1/250, f/4, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-Auto.

Image XII.  It is a horrible, an intensely horrible face of crumples linen…. He could not keep back a cry of disgust…. And the linen face was thrust close to his own. Face to face. Sheeted face top left, Graham’s bottom left. IDEA – Scream mask from novelty shop with a sheet then overlaid with separate image of crumpled white linen in Photoshop for texture affect.

ImageXIIa  ImageXIIb

ImageXIIc  DSC_6804-Edit-And_the_linen_face_was_thrust_close_to_his_own-resized

To be used across two pages with text on top.   This is my punch-line to the story and for this shot I wanted something dramatic and suitable for a double page spread.  To obtain this image I used Photoshop to merge two images in to one by creating a background image (ghost) and a foreground image Professor’s hands.  I have a polystyrene skull which is a prop for Halloween parties which I covered with a pillow case then laid over a white sheet and photographed standing over it and using the zoom method employed for image X to suggest that it is rushing forward.  In Lightroom I adjusted the temperature, contrast, and levels which created a natural dark bokeh affect to the edges of the sheet which was a welcome and unexpected bonus as it saved me having to create it in Photoshop.  I then took a photo of Graham’s hands as he crouched in front of me reaching his hands up and positioning as directed with a white sheet draped over a door as a background.  After adjustments in Lightroom I exported both images to Photoshop, selected the ghost image first for background then selected the hands photo for foreground and using layers I painted out the white sheet draped over the door in the background of the top layer of the Professors hands to reveal to ghost background image below.  I feel that this final image captures the horror and drama that I was looking for in my “punch-line” image.  Two images combined in Photoshop.  Hands 24-120mm f/4 @44mm 1/125, f/4, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-Auto. Skull and bedclothes, 24-120mm f/4 1/15, f/4, ISO-125, matrix metering, WB-Auto.

Draft Word Document.  Oh Whistle and I will come to you my lad-draft