New year’s eve wander

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well happy new year to you. My new year will be largely taken up with restocking after a bumper set of Christmas markets and starting to think about moving house, which means decluttering, DIY and such like to make our current house look as desirable and saleable as possible. Hopefully I’ll still have time for some photography in between.

In the meantime here are a few shots I took on a local wander around the back lanes where I live on new year’s eve. I put my Olympus OMD-EM10 into JPEG mode and black and white, just to see what would happen. As usual when I do such things I was surprised that I got several quite nice shots.

Torver grey

Finally deciding it was time to move on from my obsession with Holme Fell I tried a new area for the first time. Driving north alongside Coniston Water in the Lake District I had several times thought it was worth a look and today was the day. Just to have a look. The weather wasn’t promising and I didn’t know the area well. Continue reading

Conistone Circular – monochrome dales

A circular high level route from Conistone in Wharfedale.

Wharfedale
Wharfedale

A did this walk to find overnight wild camping locations but it turned out to be a superb walk in it’s own right. The views up and down the valley are incredible and at this time of year the wild flowers are at their best in the limestone meadows. Unfortunately my camera decided to pack up as I got to the best of the flowers – c’est la vie.

Although I’m extolling the wild flowers I’ve decided to convert these shots into black and white. When shooting in mid-day mid-summer the light isn’t entirely flattering and the colours, although lovely in real life, don’t add to the drama. Converting to black and white lets me concentrate on the shapes and textures of the landscape.

Wharfedale
Wharfedale

This walk follows a fantastic high level balcony that is taken by the Dales Way, with limestone edges for company, with a higher return to the high moorland of Conistone Moor. As you climb the terrain changes and you move through geological layers to a gritstone layer. The gritstone bedrock also changes the vegetation. At the top you can look down over the head of Nidderdale.

The carpets of wild flowers get even better as you get closer to Grassington but this was where my camera stopped working, so no more shots.

I hope to return soon and try overnight wild camping to get sunset and sunrise colours.

Inspired by Stieglitz?

Some considerable while back I read an article about Alfred Stieglitz. The photographs that were included were quite beautiful and I was much impressed by the range and quality of the monochrome tones. So I gathered together some of my own shots and put them into a Lightroom folder which I called “Stieglitz”. The intention was to process them based on the Stieglitz look that had inspired me. The shots were chosen especially as being suitable for that treatment. I then forgot about them.

Now that I’ve found them again I can’t remember what it was about the Stieglitz photographs that so captured my attention. Googling didn’t help, I’d lost the thread. So I just processed them. Here are the first three, taken at a stately home called Riddlesden Hall, near Keighley in Yorkshire. When I’ve done some more I might create a portfolio of them all but I hope you enjoy these.

Triptych

Triptych

These three shots are not new but I’ve revisited the processing for two of them. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I found how effective it can be to stretch the whites and blacks sliders in Lightroom. Since then it’s been part of my standard workflow. This has prompted me to take a fresh look at some older pictures and that’s what I’ve tried with the two left hand shots above. I’ve shown them with the shot on the right because I think they make a great triptych.

To carry on with the theme of sharpness I’ve had for the last few posts this is another angle on that subject. An effect we want to achieve is a sense of depth and three dimensionality to our pictures. Having a wide range of tones from dark to bright is one way to help that. It’s not enough just to have the range. You’ll get that from a bright sunny day of high contrast. It’s how you position the tones to emphasise parts of the shot and downplay others. In these shots I’ve lightened the parts of the shot I want to bring to the foreground and used vignetting or radial filters to darken the surround. This makes parts of the shot advance or recede and adds to the sense of depth and this is part of the whole perception of what we simply call sharpness.

On Sharpness

I talked a few posts ago about our perceptions of image sharpness. I illustrated that post with an example of extreme sharpness – showing the amazing level of detail available even hand-held from my Olympus OMD-EM10 and its tiny and cheap kit lens.

A view of Skiddaw shot using the Olympus OMD-EM10 "high grain with pin-hole" scene mode.
A view of Skiddaw shot using the Olympus OMD-EM10 “high grain with pin-hole” scene mode.

This time I want to go to the other extreme. The shot above was a result of constraining myself to shoot JPEG only on a day of uninspiring bright sunshine. In real life this was not an attractive scene. A water pipeline is being layed and the project has created an ugly scar on the landscape. The light is flat and uninteresting. However the shapes are strong. The S-shaped curve of the pipes and track leading up to the mountain range and with the aircraft contrails fanning out at the top.

I used the Olympus’ “High Grain” scene mode, with the addition of “pin-hole effect” which has created a strong vignette. I find the results work quite well, though quite different to my normal style. Here’s another shot taken a short while later. The scene is more my usual thing but the light and haze made it a boring conventional shot.

Using Olympus High Grain scene mode
Using Olympus High Grain scene mode

The point of this post, though, is that the effects have removed much of the technical sharpness from the shot. Looking at it at 100% magnification gives the authentic impression of poor quality film shot through a poor quality lens from a hundred years ago. However this becomes irrelevant because of the strong subject and composition. If anything, sharpness and technical quality might have distracted. As it is, it becomes easier for the viewer to see the strong abstract shapes but still keeping the atmosphere of the landscape.

I was speaking about this subject to someone recently and they said that when you’re concerned about the lack of sharpness in your picture it’s because there’s nothing to hold your attention in the subject and composition. I agree. Probably all modern cameras are capable of giving good quality results. If you’re worrying whether your camera or lens are sharp enough then pay more attention to the fundamentals – subject, composition and light.

A little bit of snow

By coincidence I exchanged comments a day or so ago with a reader from Helsinki who had posted a YouTube link showing his driving in snow. I responded that with so much snow Britain would grind to a halt. Today we had about an inch of snow and there was chaos on the roads and trains cancelled. My wife’s one hour journey to work turned into three hours. Britain doesn’t understand snow. Continue reading