Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Grey days and bright skies...


Nikon D700  F/16  1/30s  ISO-800  PrSH  EV-0.7  90mm
...and what to do about them

Here's a very simple couple of manips if anyone's interested. I collect boats, you see.

No! Not real ones, silly, picture ones, as the boat is the symbol of Paris and once you become aware of them, like when you decide to buy a certain model of car, you start to see them everywhere.

Like here. This is the first one I've seen like this, very bas-relief barely scratched into the side of a fountain in a tiny Paris square just next to the Institut de France (see dome below).

So anyway, you can see it was a grey grey day. Or was it? Because my eyes didn't see the boat at all like in the  picture above. They saw it far more like the creamy beigy second picture. What had happened and what did Nikon let me do about it?

The answer's very straightforward once you understand some basic ideas. The funny thing is, our eyes are very sensitive to light and our brains very clever. What we're practically unaware of is that the actual colour of light changes depending on whether it's sunny or cloudy, sundown or high noon and so on. Night would also be a pretty clear example of this concept!!!
Nikon D700  F/16  1/30s  ISO-800  PrSH  EV-0.7  95mm
The day I shot the above picture it was cloudy and grey. When you think about it, maybe we aren't so unaware of changing lighting conditions after all, at least subconsciously. The day is 'grey' because the colours look washed out without direct sunlight to brighten them up. Bizarrely, there are some situations where colours can actually look richer when the sun isn't actually shining on them, but that's for another time!

So the point is, the camera can't compensate for this the way our brains can. I was still seeing a fairly beige and warm looking stone, but look what the camera saw - grey in all its gory glory!

Nikon D700  F/13  1/30s  ISO-800
PrSH  EV-0.7  32mm
 
Luckily we can compensate for this by telling the camera that we are shooting under specific conditions, in this case fairly thick cloud. And lo and behold, it 'warms' up the image for us, make injecting back some colour and making it look nice and almost sunny as in the second picture above. But let's not rejoice so quickly. Just when I thought I'd resolved all my photographic problems for the afternoon, along came another one straight after, just like buses.

Not liking the straight-on angle much I decided to squat down and lift my lens up to get in the sculpted head and stone rosary thing above the boat. Guess what happened next...

I got the result you can see on the left. A dark dark picture, which is strange, because the day was grey but not that gloomy, I assure you.

We're victims of another of the camera's limitations which it's vital we're aware of if we're not to waste time and shots with this sort of problem.

The camera doesn't know what we're pointing it at - how could it - so, to simplify a little, it always tries to average out the dark bits and the light bits so there's some detail in both of them. Unfortunately, again, film or even electronic sensors are far less capable than our eyes are of perceiving all the nuances of a scene in one go. The camera therefore simply averages out all the light and dark bits it can sense and exposes for the middle of them. That normally works well in an average scene with light bits, dark bits and mid-toned bits. The problems arise when a scene is predominantly dark or predominantly light.

Nikon D700  F/16  1/30s  ISO-800  PrSH  EV+2  24mm
Very light scenes will be 'averaged down' (made darker) and even the whites will end up looking like grey. Very dark scenes, conversely, will be 'averaged up' (made lighter), and all those nice rich blacks will also turn a murky grey, which isn't what we want at all.

In the scene above can you easily see what's happened? Not only is the statue very light - much lighter than an average grey between black and white, but almost a third of the picture is almost pure white sky. The camera 'averages down' the exposure, the sky turns a light grey, and the statue moves way down the scale into mid and dark greys well on their way to black. Oops.

There are several solutions to this problem, which I won't go into here, but they involve taking readings from specific part of the scene, using spot metering and my favourite of all, using the +/- button, my favourite button on the whole camera, barring the shutter release!

This final pic shows the dome of the venerable Institut de France I mentioned below, along with the same problem of under exposure for the same reasons. I've got no idea why I was on shutter speed priority down at 1/30 of a second! I can guess though, and in retrospect this accounts for the weird settings on all these shots now I come to think of it; I'd probably been demonstrating some blurred effects using a low shutter speed priority and forgot to switch back to my usual settings - sh*tt*r happens! And even though it was exposure compensated to plus two it still underexposed, also risking camera shake at that speed - a potential disaster all round, in fact. Luckily the wide angle at 24mm helped save it to an extent.


Above is a quick attempt (five minutes of some very basic adjustments) to sort this out after the event without making it look too unnatural. Far better, though, would have been to expose it properly in the first place. Which should always be your aim. Pretend you're shooting film (if you're not) and think that  you'll be wasting the price of the film and the processing costs if you mess it up. It's a great discipline.


And why not...
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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
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© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Wide Angle Whatnots...


D90  F/4.2  1/1250s  ISO-200  PrAp  EV+0.7  19mm
...and probably more 'What?' than not!

Some more shots from my friend's D90 which is DX don't forget, and his cool 10-24mm wide angle lens, which I really don't think I made the best use of on this particular shoot. My excuse is it was just a reconnaissance mission and anyway I don't shoot well when I'm not alone. Don't say it..!

Pic 1
The shot above was more or less straight out of the camera. All I did was reduce its size and add one blip of sharpness. That's above right. Then I played around a little with the levels and saturation. You can see the results below.

Now I have a problem: my monitors. I work on two most of the time, and they're not the same. The result is I honestly don't know what the image directly above here looks like to you.

On the monitor I played around with it on it looked the way I wanted it to look. In other words the sharpness and saturation especially pushed up just to the right side of too much for my taste. Of course my taste is mine alone, so there's no point judging that.

On the monitor I'm using to type these words now it looks like it's crossed the 'too much' line I just mentioned. But which screen should I trust? Oh dear. Well, if you think you can guess where my 'too much' line is you might be able to help me out, but I'm not very hopeful.

One thing you won't find me doing much here is saying here is that a picture is too much of this or not enough of that if a person tells me that's how they wanted it. If someone tells you that's how they wanted it then it's absolutely perfect to them, and there's no point in arguing!

The shot above was also a grabbed record shot, so there's very little point talking about the composition or anything else either. You  can clearly see the wide angle effect though, especially in those angles desperately trying to join up before they shoot out of the top of the shot!

D90  F/4.2  1/400s  ISO-200  PrAp  EV+2  19mm
Pic 2
Here are some pigeons. Yeah, original, right! Well of course there's not much point taking pigeons unless they're doing something you find interesting or funny.

So by some great stroke of luck, accompanied by a mighty 'Hah!' and an arm wave, they (almost) all decided to fly off from their foot bath at the same time. Does wonders for your camera stability this one, I can tell you.

Nothing special then, just a chance for me to share a bit of modus operandi with ya folks! And yet, could I make anything of this? In true street photography fashion, and man and woman were probably one of my last concerns as I was trying to scare the birds and keep my camera steady simultaneously, although I do faintly remember wanting them to be in the shot around about where they are.

The position of each bird was, of course, carefully planned.


At first I thought the gushing drain cover had to be in the shot, as that's why the birds were there in the first place. Then I realised the error of my ways, especially when I gazed at the vast amount of boring grey tarmac on the bottom left of the shot doing nothing at all.

So off zee bottom fell the drain and the tarmac, and I also got rid of the red sign as the only red I wanted in the shot was... well, that's fairly obvious, isn't it?

Then I went crazy on a few of the settings like contrast and saturation to get this effect which pleases me a lot. Some hate it, I know this, but that's absolutely fine, of course.

The result of all this is that I've actually ended up wangling a photo which isn't too bad out of a pretty down and dirty starting point. I'm happy.

D90  F/4  1/640s  ISO-200  PrAp  EV+2  16mm
Pic 3
Gorgeous little set of streets this, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement. We've got one of these purple plants at our place to the south of Paris but it's not as advanced as this one, i.e. not out yet, so Paris must have some sort of micro climate or something. Actually, they do say that Paris is about two degrees warmer than the surrounding areas so that must be it.

Anyway, although it's really very good, I couldn't resist playing around with it a little. I did this on my 'hotter' screen to see if you can see the difference this made to my processing.

Having said that I've been purposefully more restrained on this one two, so if you add the hotter monitor to restraint, maybe it'll end up looking flat and boring to you, who knows! I didn't bother re-cropping at all as this was just a record shot so I'm not that bothered about trying to make something of it...


That'll do for today I think. Let me know what you think of this style of article and if you'd like see some more in the same vein. If you like then great - you'll get more. If you don't... well, I'll probably do more anyway, as it's fun  ;~Sab



And why not...
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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Waiting For Nikon...


...to sponsor my street photography competition.

Or not. We'll see. As I mentioned last post, I went to a demonstration of the Nikon D800, D800E and D4 in Paris last weekend.

As I already know that I want the D800 asap I didn't bother spending much time holding and hugging the things, or borrowing any of the awesome equipment on display, including lenses that would make even the guy in the video below jealous!

Funny how this video is my fourth most popular ever, after some hardcore photography tips ones. It wouldn't possibly be because it's subtitled 'Small Penis Guy', now would it?

So anyway, I managed to eventually chat to a very nice chap from Nikon at the event about sponsoring my latest initiative: the "Paris If You Please" International Paris Street Photography Competition.

Oh yes, folks, I don't do things by half. I've already got some great Paris blogs and bloggers on board and now I'm after the big prize: a bit of friendly sponsoring from Nikon themselves in the form of a camera as a prize every month.

Big lens = Small p....???

Am I asking or hoping for too much? I don't see why. I won't go on about this too much, because the competition's only really of interest to two or three types of people: those who have taken street shots of Paris and can enter; those who want to see some cool shots of Paris; those who are interested in the feedback videos I do on the winners each month, which I'll link to in due course.

So that's the story. And the question is: can some wayward street photo dude from Paris get mega-manufacturer Nikon interested in his idea. Are they up for it. Can the feel the vibe..? I'll keep you posted! Click here to check out the competition details if you're interested.

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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
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© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Nikon Reflexes The Parts...


There are those famous five Olympic rings...
...other gears cannot reach!

And that was the polite version. Get this:

Came out of the Nikon Pro Tour at south Paris' Stade Charlety having drooled over the new D800 and got tooled up with a friend to do a 13th arrondissement reconnaissance mission ahead of a Paris photo walk with my Meet Up group, Paris If You Please.

So anyway, there we were with a D700, D90 and D7000 between the two of us.

Five more of his favourites, I presume
For a reason which now escapes me, we were both concentrating our lenses hard on the top of a metal post in the street from a distance of a few centimetres, looking, no doubt, to the outside world like a right couple of dorks, when this complete stranger comes up to us.

"What are you doing?", she bluntly demanded. In these sorts of situations my typically twisted British wit takes a while to respond as it weighs up all the killingly funny responses it could come  up with, from dryly literal to drolley satirical, against the chances of getting smacked for them.

iPhone 3GS photo
I can't even remember what I said before some sort of conversation about something, possibly concerning metal posts was underway, and my buddy and I were discretely looking at our watches.

Our luck was lazy that day though, for as soon as the lady finally shuffled off than the next person to fall under the Nikon spell sidled up.

iPhone 3GS photo
I honestly don't know how it happened, but in the space of about 30 seconds we had somehow become the personal film crew to some dude who directed us to take pictures of him standing next to and pointing at various versions of the Olympic symbols scattered around the place.

Don't get me wrong; this wasn't a negative experience. It was just mildly bizarre, and I went with it for a while, resulting in the shots here. When we were finally able to extract ourselves from his clutches I asked him if he wanted the pics, and he said yes. Unfortunately he doesn't do e-mail, so it seems I'm supposed to print them out and send them somewhere. Hmm. Are there limits to my gullibility? Watch this space (between my ears).

There's no getting away from them...
Having said all that, it was quite fortuitous, as I got to try out the D90 with a nice 10-24mm DX lens attached. I must admit that a really wide angle lens is something I regret not having, using a 24-120mm FX on my D700 for all my Paris street work for convenience.

So here's this guy directing us around whilst I'm thinking it would be quite a good opportunity to try out this lens on its shortest length. Being a DX lens, it's really around 15-36mm in full-frame FX terms, which still makes it pretty wide at the bottom end, and much wider than my usual 24mm.

They're everywhere!
Unfortunately, my photographic excitement was being a bit tempered by this guy directing us around taking snaps of these Olympic symbols so I can't claim to have anything particularly interesting here.

I'll often tell you that my articles won't be at all technical, so this definitely isn't the place to come if nitty-gritty details is what you're after.

iPhone 3GS photo
Honestly, my technical 'interference' in this domain I know very little about will probably come down to highly precise and confidence-inspiring comments such as 'Seems pretty sharp to me...', or 'Blur can be creative, can't it?'

iPhone 3GS photo
As I said at the beginning of this series and this blog, heavy serious stuff isn't what I'm about. Nikon and Me is simply me rambling on about my dealings with one particular brand of camera, and possibly others if  they creep into 'the picture', as it were. It's the same idea as my wolf dog blog. I'll talk about other dogs if he meets one and an incident occurs, but otherwise it's only my dog I'll be talking about...

I love writing and I love photography and I love Nikon, so I don't suppose I'll be running out of ramble any time soon, and time is the biggest constraining factor I have on me at the moment.

Well, I don't want these articles to become huge unreadable missives so I'll stop here, and hope a couple of lines in there were worth reading. See you next time for more adventures from Nikon and me.



And why not...
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© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.