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Looking Seaward_Whisky Bay_Wilsons Promontory National Park

Leica MP camera and Leica 21mm f2.8 Elmarit Aspherical lens with Fuji Velvia 100F film

Quite light at days end provided a great opportunity to explore the relationship between the various elements within this scene. There’s a lot of information within the foreground shrubs and rocks. Their inherent color, shapes and textures provided a fairly complicated foreground. I had to be careful to position myself so that I could find the best arrangement by which I could do the following:

  • Illustrate each individual foreground element
  • Contrast the softness of the scrubs against the hardness of the rocks
  • Ensure there was sufficient space by which the viewer can navigate their way, from element to element, and then pass through to the island in the background. The small patch of sand at the bottom left of the frame provided a nice pathway into the image.

I’ve employed Adobe Lightroom 3 and Adobe Photoshop CS5 for image processing. The vivid color saturation associated with Fuji Velvia 100F film helped lift the otherwise subdued color palette. I’ve increased that saturation further during image processing. If I were to make a fine print for display I’d work to reduce the degree of saturation, particularly in the aqua/blue and magenta colors. But this is a small image, viewed on the web, and I doubt the extra punchy color will upset too many people.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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Pic of the Week_Sand Dune and Cloud_Mungo National Park_NSW

The luminous quality of the light is enhanced by the blackness of the sky in this cloud and dune, sky and ground

Leica M7 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Mungo National Park, in far southwest NSW, is a harsh, arid environment. But long ago it was part of an extensive inland lake system that provided local indigenous people with a bountiful food supply and, despite common perceptions, allowed them to live in seemingly permanent settlements. This challenges common perceptions that Aborigines were nomadic people, a way of life that appeared backward to the conquering British Empire. It’s now evident that indigenous Australians adapted their lifestyle and practices to the environment in which they lived.

I rendered the original image, shot on 35mm color transparency film, into black-and-white to illustrate the inherent shapes, textural qualities and tonality within the image. The luminous nature and strong shapes present in the cloud and dune have been enhanced by the deep tonality of the sky.

The high contrast nature of this image, together with the grain inherent in the film, has produced a look somewhat similar to that normally associated with black and white Infrared film. I hope you enjoy it.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Running Color

An photo that's primary subject matter is light and color has produced an impressionistic result.

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series lens @ 93mm. Exposure Details: 1/60 second @ f 11 ISO 100

The primary subject matter of this photo is light and color.

People will determine for themselves the relevance of the running/dripping text that had been applied to the front of the window. By photographing from the other side of the glass I was able to abstract the text and further enhance the sense of mystery. Most folks, looking for understanding, will no doubt try to make sense of the text by trying to read it. Perhaps there’s some hidden message that can be found by reversing the characters? Other folks will see the text as I did when I made the image: as design elements within the frame. Either approach is fine by me. As long as you can hold the viewers attention, and prompt them to explore and think about what they’re seeing, you’re doing well.

To further enhance their importance within the frame I was careful to compose the image in such a way to frame each character between the green vertical bars.

I love the muted colors, largely due to the frosted nature of the glass, and their complimentary (warm/cool) relationships.

Next time you’re out and about photographing you might like to set yourself an assignment. Try finding interesting subject matter that you can abstract. One of the ways of doing this is to base your image on the inherent design elements within the object you’re photographing. So instead of making a photograph that becomes a relatively accurate representation of a flower, which is unlikely to be as beautiful as the flower itself, concentrate your composition on the lines, shapes, textures and color present within the flower. These elements may well have drawn your attention to the flower in the first place. So why not explore your relationship with the subject by photographing what focused your attention in the first place? A rose is a rose is a rose. But the fun is in portraying your relationship with and your response to that rose. And that’s something worth sharing with the world through your photography.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Learn Photography_Journey into Abstraction

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The above series of images was made during a photography class I ran on low light portrait photography. Towards the end of the session I decided to have a bit of fun myself and, after making a few portraits, photographed and series of statues before making some abstract images of the patterns caused by rainwater falling onto the surface of a swimming pool.

No special lenses or filters were required. It’s all about seeing the light, being drawn to the subject and anticipating the fleeting moment.

So, which photographs stay in color and which become rendered into black and white? You’ll notice that the composition of the color images is largely based upon color. I was drawn to the color and am happy for it to be the dominant element in the final picture. The black and white images tend to rely on other, often more subtle, design elements like shape, texture and light. These elements had to be carefully considered, at the time of making the original exposure, and emphasized during processing.

The series also includes a few images featuring what I refer to as spot color. They are basically black and white images where the original color has been allowed to remain in specific/local areas of the image. The effect works well with certain subjects (e.g. black and white portrait of a bride where color is retained in some or all of her flowers) or scenes. But, be careful, too frequent use of this kind of effect diminishes the overall power of the presentation. Do you want to be remembered for your images or for camera or computer-generated effects? This is particularly important as, like fashion, many effects date poorly. I’m old enough to remember album prints where the bride and groom have been superimposed into a brandy balloon glass. That particular special effect has gone the way of the dodo, the boob tube and denim jeans with cuffed flairs. And, just in case your wondering, I admit to having an association with one of these. I hope you guess correctly?

Image processing was completed in Adobe Lightroom 2.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Pic of the Week_Textures_Tidal River_Wilsons Promontory

Canon 1D Mark II camera and Canon 100mm f2.8 lens. Exposure Details: 1/125 second @ f7.1 ISO 100

The above image was made at Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory National Park on the southern tip of Victoria, Australia. It is a beautiful location that offers a range of photographic opportunities that vary with light and tide.

As you can see the colors present in this scene, really only a detail of the much larger Tidal River landscape, is full of color and texture. While wonderful to behold the challenge for the photographer is to make sense of all this information. A painter can choose to delete one or more of the elements on the canvas, while a photographer’s ability to include or exclude trees, rocks, water and grass is greatly reduced.

You can change focal lengths and, thereby, the angle of view encompassed by your composition. Moving closer or further away is another option, as is changing your shooting position (e.g. worms eye or birds eye angle of view) to alter the apparent relationship between elements in the frame and the relationship between foreground, mid ground and background.

A key problem faced by photographers is the need to deal with what is actually in front of the camera and, excluding a range of exotic desktop solutions and make overs, the best solution is often image design.

Canon 1D Mark II camera and Canon 100mm f2.8 lens. Exposure Details: 1/125 second @ f7.1 ISO 100

While color was probably the element that drew me into this scene, I find it gets in the way of what, in this case, are more important design elements. It is the tones, textures, lines and shapes within the frame that are the real subject matter of this photograph. A black-and-white, split toned rendering was required to quiet down and simplify the image and, thereby, emphasize its most important elements.

I hope you agree that, through the conversion to black-and-white the resulting photograph is a quieter, more subtle and, ultimately, more beautiful rendering of the scene. I’d be very interested in your comments.

The original color image was processed in Adobe Lightroom 2, while the black-and-white, split toned version was achieved in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

iPhone Photography_Moving into Abstraction

Apple 3Gs iPhone photograph of Stairway Detail

For my third installment of pics from the Apple 3Gs iPhone I thought I’d venture into the world of abstraction.

The way the human brain works is that it looks for the familiar in what it sees. For the sake of this discussion we can refer to the familiar as the subject. The eyes move quickly over a photograph so as to locate a familiar point of reference that enables the viewer to identify the subject of the photograph and then to understand the context into which that subject has been placed. Let’s look at how changing one element in a picture can produce a very different context.

Little Johnny is standing alone on the beach on a beautiful sunny day. This image might suggest the joy of youth and a long and positive life ahead. An alternative scenario might feature Little Johnny standing alone on the beach with dark storm clouds approaching from behind. You could easily read this image, possibly influenced by the day’s doom and gloom in the media, as a metaphor for dark days ahead. But what happens to the viewing experience when there’s no recognizable subject?

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Fence Detail Photograph

From my point of view abstraction simply means presenting elements of the world in such a way that the viewer sees the abstraction before they begin to identify what has actually been photographed. In effect the abstraction becomes the subject of the photograph. One way to move towards abstraction, and produce a more visually interesting image, is to move in closer and base your composition upon the design elements inherent to the subject. In this case the viewer will notice the design (e.g. line, shape, texture, color, balance or shadow) before they think to identify the subject (e.g. interesting pattern on a fence), thereby breaking there usual way of seeing, processing and understanding visual stimuli. As a consequence the photographer has allowed them to think less literally and provided them with a heightened visual experience.

Each of the images that illustrate this article was made by emphasizing particular elements, within larger scenes, that attracted my attention while scouting for locations with my photographer friend, Bill Poon. The vibrant green of a stone staircase, the textured patterns of paint forming in bubbles on a metal fence and the circular anti-slip dots, laid our in a series of straight lines, on a staircase.

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Photograph of a Hardening Covering on a Stairway

Photography is a wonderful activity and there’s no reason why the production of art can’t be fun. The journey into abstraction is one way by which photography becomes art.

All images in this article have undergone fairly significant processing in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4. I don’t plan to process all my iPhone images in this way, but the nature of these images indicated to me that their journey would not be complete without a little hocus pocus. What can I tell you, it was fun.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Low Light Shooting with the iPhone

Apple 3Gs iPhone. Location: Skate ramp at sunset, Clifton Hill.

I wanted to share with you example images and my initial conclusions from my second shoot with the Apple 3Gs iPhone. I must say that I haven’t been a fan of mobile phones. I’ve never felt comfortable with the lack of privacy, particularly after hours, which has resulted from our acceptance of mobile phones. I’ve found them to be expensive and have been frustrated by poor reception. However, the fact that I was able to run my last mobile through a car kit was, when it worked, a positive and timesaving feature. And now, with my recent purchase of the new Apple 3Gs iPhone, I’ve really started to embrace the technology. Wonderful design, very good reception, a far superior contract (including $600 of free calls per month), great apps and an intuitive interface have made this a fun and valuable tool. I now rarely use my home phone line.

The above image was made at sunset, with the aid of side lighting, to emphasize some of the structures at the skate ramp. The structures dynamic lines and the warm light contrasting with the cool blue sky make for an interesting image. If I had made the image 10 minutes earlier the brighter light would have produced even darker shadows and resulted in an image with unacceptable high contrast. Timing can be critical in landscape and architectural photography.

Apple 3Gs iPhone. Detail at Sunset, Skate Ramp, Clifton Hill.

For this second image at the skate park I moved in closer and concentrated my composition around a particularly colorful and more evenly illuminated structure. The lower Scene Brightness Range (contrast) present made for an even better result.

Apple 3Gs iPhone. Textural Study to test Sharpness.

At the beginning of my walk I passed this lovely gum tree in the process of shedding its bark due to the hotter summer temperatures. The tree’s trunk and the surrounding vegetation provided a good scene by which to test sharpness. Actually the scene would have appeared sharper if lit with side light but, as I often photograph in open shade, this scene seemed appropriate for me needs.

The Apple 3Gs iPhone LCD screen is high quality: large, bright and relatively high in resolution. But when you look at an image on such a screen you are only viewing it at a low resolution and at 72 dots per inch (dpi), which is really not sufficient to determine it’s sharpness. Viewing the image of the tree trunk may even look quite sharp on your current computer, but viewed at 100% magnification it will lack critical sharpness.

But, put into context, that’s not necessarily a problem. The image was made under low light and may have been adversely affected by slight camera shake. If you’re wanting to make photographic prints from this type of file, you may be disappointed, as I was. But I’m a professional photographer who, as a teacher, prepares people for a life in photography. Most iPhone users could be described as amateur and enthusiast photographers who are probably more interested in the experience and social networking (sharing) aspects offered by the phone’s camera and associated technologies. So, as long as you’re not planning to shoot a wedding with an iPhone, or similar featured mobile phone, you’ll probably find it’s camera worthwhile and of a high enough standard for email, Face Book and the like. I’II write about the ability of the iPhone to produce actual prints, which require a much higher resolution (e.g. usually 300ppi) at a later date.

Apple 3Gs iPhone. Low Light Long Exposure Test.

The final image is somewhat disappointing. It was made on the way home, well after the sun had gone down. Actually the image looked great on the iPhone’s LCD screen, particularly as I was viewing it under near dark conditions. But, when viewed at 100% on my computer monitor, quality concerns became evident. You’ll notice fairly significant noise in the water in the middle and bottom right of the image. Noise describes seemingly random patterns of information artificially generated by the camera’s sensor. Most likely to occur during long exposures and at high ISO’s noise is particularly noticeable in shadows as well as areas of smooth tonality (e.g. relatively still water, blue sky, clear skin, certain building materials). While still present noise is less visible in highly textured areas like grass.

Look forward to more tests and comments with the iPhone over coming weeks.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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