Category Archives: Experimentation

Edinburgh International Festival: Colour Abstracts

Circus Hub is one of the most colourful attractions at the annual Edinburgh International Festival, which is why it immediately got my attention.

Colour abstract obtained with camera movement

For this photo, I stood in front of a colourful wall and moved the camera up and down during the 1/4 sec exposure

When I see a colourful subject, I like to explore abstract pictures using camera movement during a long exposure or in camera multiple exposures. It is a taste I acquired by following one of my favourite photographers, Bryan F. Peterson.

Colour abstract obtained with camera movement

As the ambient light level fell for some time, I was able to use longer shutter speeds, like 1 sec for this photograph. Along with the up and down movement, there was also a little bit of sideways motion to add to the blur.

With this particular wall, I first tried camera movement. The brightness level of the ambient light varied quite a bit while I was taking photographs, which is pretty much par for the course in Scotland. I was able to use shutter speeds between 1/4 sec and 1 sec. I had the most success moving the camera up and down or up and down and a little bit sideways.

Colour abstract obtained by rotating the camera between each of the three exposures, and combined in camera

For this picture, I rotated the camera clockwise by about thirty degrees or so after the first and second exposures.

I next moved to multiple exposures. I had the most success when I rotated the camera between each of the three exposures. It took a bit of experimentation to get something I like but it’s always fun to do.

Colour abstract obtained by rotating the camera between each of the three exposures, and combined in camera

For this photograph, I rotated the camera a bit more. I believe I took one pic horizontal, one at forty-five degrees and one vertical.

Next time you find a colourful bed of flowers or painted wall, why don’t you try some camera movement and multiple exposures. I warn you, the process can be addictive.

Colour abstract obtained by rotating the camera between each of the three exposures, and combined in camera

I moved to a different part of the coloured wall, and tried again the horizontal, forty-five degrees and vertical shots.

Urban Impressionism: Edinburgh Tour Buses

The use of camera movement and/or zooming during a long exposure is a technique I learned from one of my photographic heroes, Bryan Peterson. It takes experimentation to figure out which photographic subjects are likely to produce interesting images.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I really like this old style tour bus and I was delighted I could capture an impressions picture of this wonderful subject.

So a while back, I decided to try out this technique in an urban setting, namely central Edinburgh. I was quickly intrigued by the many colourful tour buses going by.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I love the colour red as it is an attention grabber in photographs.

The images in this post were taken with an exposure of 1/8s, turning the camera while holding the zoom ring. It takes quite a bit of practice, and I had to try my luck on a lot of passing cars and buses to get the three images you see here. I really look forward to trying this technique on other urban photography subjects.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

This tour bus seemed to go by at a higher frequency than the others, and I therefore had multiple attempts at a “bus impression”.

Vision Training: Fork Art

I greatly valued my education when I was a scientist, and always looked to learn new skills. That hasn’t changed now that I am a photographer.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

I took a picture of a fork on a black piece of plexiglass (hence the reflection) and then started playing with the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

A while back, I took an online class “Stretching your frame of mind”, taught by Joe Baraban, and this course left a lasting impression on me. The instructor, who is a top photographer with an impressive list of clients and awards,  told us about the principles of design. He also stressed the fact that he had the great advantage of having studied art instead of photography.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

Another version of the fork photo using different colours in the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

So when the opportunity to take a graphic design class on Coursera presented itself, I immediately signed up. The first week of the class was an introduction to image making, and we were asked to create at least ten images of an ordinary household object.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

In this version, I changed the colours of the Gradient Map again and also added a texture using the Photoshop filter gallery. When combining these two tools, the possibilities are nearly endless.

I chose a fork for the assignment, because I really like the lines and shapes of that object. Visually, I find forks more interesting than knives and spoons. And I didn’t want to chose too large an object, because that would have made finding a suitable background more difficult.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

Another version using the Gradient Map and the texture filter. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop!

Initially, I thought I’d need about three compositions of my fork on a background in order to generate the ten different versions required for this assignment. But when I started playing around in Photoshop, I quickly generated ten variants using only the composition above. I’m only showing you my favourites.

Black and white picture of the fork on a black pice of plexiglass

It is easy to overcomplicate things, when playing around in Photoshop, by stacking many effects. It is useful at some point to step back and try a new simple version. Like a black and white one for example.

It is also fun to play with the various Duotones, Tritones and Quadtones that come with Photoshop. There are many good tutorials on this subject online. The photograph below uses one of the default Photoshop Duotones.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone

I used a different composition to play with the various Duotones available in Photoshop. Here again, there are many, many possibilities available to you if you are willing to experiment.

To conclude, I strongly suggest you try this exercise with a household object of your choosing. It opened my eyes to many new possibilities for image making.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone and a texture filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

One can of course combine effects and add a texture filter to the Duotone photograph. Here is an example using the craquelure filter from the Photoshop filter gallery,

 

 

 

iPhone Photography – Combining Pictures

If you’ve never tried multiple exposures, I suggest you do. Although I do warn you that in the beginning it can be a little frustrating, because the results are likely to leave a bit to be desired, shall we say. Like everything else, it takes some time to get some intuition about what subject matter works and the kind of photos that produce interesting combinations. I found that even after you’ve done it for a while, this technique always has surprises in store for you.

Mannequin head and wall paper texture combined with the Diana Photo app on iPhone.

This is a combination of a mannequin head photograph and a picture of the wallpaper in my living room. Sometimes, you don’t have to go far to add interest to your photographs.

I was introduced to the Diana photo app in an iPhone photography class I took. With this app, you can combine pictures from your iPhone camera roll in a simple way and experiment with the multiple exposure technique.

Mannequin head and sofa fabric combined with the Diana Photo app on iPhone.

Another mannequin head photo combined with a texture/pattern from my living room using the Diana Photo app. This time, I used a close-up of the fabric on my sofa.

So far, I’ve had the most success combining a photo of some particular subject and another involving a pattern or a texture. I think this is because one needs to shoot pictures with superposition in mind, and I have yet to get a good grasp of how to do this. I’ll keep you posted when I figure it out.

Lutton Place, Edinburgh and a wood texture combined with the Diana Photo app on iPhone.

This picture of Lutton Place, Edinburgh, was combined with a wood texture using the Diana Photo app. The texture was again photographed in my flat. I know, I should go out more…..

iPhone Photography – I’m a Hipsta now

One of the fun thing with iPhone photography (iPhoneography) is the number of apps that allow you to exercise your creativity. I understand that sometimes a photo look can just be a fad or gimmick and won’t stand the test of time. But that is a chance I’m willing to take once in a while.

Bench in Edinburgh park, iPhone and Hipstamatic

Lone bench in an Edinburgh park. I love the Hipstamatic vintage look with minimalist compositions.

One of the first iPhone photography app I was introduced to is Hipstamatic. It’s a fun app that allows you to create images with a vintage look. You get a choice of lens types and films. You must commit to a lens/film combination before you take the picture, so it takes a bit of playing around to get some intuition about what the results will be. And the photo preview is very small, which can be a problem if you are like me and don’t have great eyesight.

Edinburgh castle from Princes Street. iPhone and Hipstamatic

Edinburgh castle from Princes Street.

Another drawback of Hipstamatic is that it gives you no control over exposure or focus. That was the main reason I was turned off iPhone photography in the beginning.

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. iPhone and Oggl.

Scottish national Gallery on Princes Street, Edinburgh. I tried different versions after importing into Oggl, and this was my favourite.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all of my pet peeves about Hipstamatic. It’s called Oggl. You can import all of your Hipstamatic lenses and filters, and even get some new ones. It is also possible to import into Oggl pictures taken with another camera app, such as Camera+. This solves the problem of the small photo preview on Histaminic and the need to commit to a particular lens and film combination before taking the picture. After years of Photoshop use, I’ve become accustomed to the flexibility afforded by digital photography to make decisions about the final look of the image at the editing stage, rather than having to commit right in camera.

ice cream van on Princes Street, Edinburgh. iPhone Oggl vintage look.

When I saw this ice cream van on Princes Street, I know I wanted a photo with a vintage look. It took a few tries of lens and film combinations in Oggl before I found one that I liked.

I’ve only begun to experiment with these fun apps, and I’m looking forward to taking many more photographs to hone my iPhoneography skills.

Princes Street Mall, Edinburgh. iPhone and Oggl.

I love shooting street photography with my iPhone. Nobody pays attention to you. This was taken at Princes Street Mall, Edinburgh

Impressionist Photography: Winter Forest Pans

This is the winter instalment of my forest impressionist photography project using the panning technique.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I discovered this location in the fall and was curious to see what it would look like during the winter.

While I’ve been using this approach for some time now, I’m still surprised by the results I get. This luckily means there must be many, many other photography subjects out there for which one can get interesting panning shots.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

It was one of the few locations deep inside the forest where I managed to get the panning technique to work.

From experience, I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to dismiss something out of hand without giving it a try, because some of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made with impressionist photography techniques were ‘happy accidents’. So experimentation is essential. On the flip side, that also means one must discard of lot of attempts, but that isn’t too much of a problem with today’s digital technology.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I found it earlier to use the panning technique in soft light, and the clear advantage of the winter season in Scotland is that there are many, many cloudy days with even soft light.

In the film days, such a project must have cost a fortune. Not only is the cost of taking a picture minimal with digital, the immediate feedback from the display at the back of the camera allows one to adjust from shot to shot, thus enhancing the chance of getting a usable photo. And in spite of this, it does take quite a few takes to get it right.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I find vertical shots more challenging when panning the camera. 

And while I’ve slowly grown to like the muted colours of the winter season, the spring colours now on display make me itch to pursue this personal photo impressionism project.

Flute Reflections and Notes Bokeh

If you follow this blog, you know I love personal projects. These allow me to experiment and hone my craft.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to try for a while is a trick with bokeh. Any out of focus source of light takes the shape of the diaphragm of the lens, which is round if shooting wide open. As a variation on this, you can put a shape cut out of black cardboard in front of your lens, such as the notes in the flute photo, and the out of focus sources of light will take that shape. In the photograph below, I used some simple Christmas lights.

Muramatsu silver flute with reflections and notes in the background

Shiny objects always represent a lighting challenge.

The above picture is a composite of two shots, one for the bokeh (shot with wide open aperture) and one for the flute (shot for maximum depth of field). My Muramatsu GX model silver flute is in need of a comprehensive service. A lot of notes have been played on it since I received it as a graduation present for my PhD.

I couldn’t resist buying a piece of black plexiglas to provide a reflection of the flute and add some interest to this product shot. I plan to further experiment with these kinds of reflections.

Impressionist Photography: Winter Forest Multiple Exposures

Last year, I did skip the winter season when it came to my personal project on photo impressionism. I didn’t think I could get any interesting images. I should have known better.

Multiple exposures of winter forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I revisited this scene, which I had discovered in the fall. The muted early tones evoke rather different feelings than the bright fall colours

It is generally a bad idea to dismiss a photographic idea without giving it a try, I have learned. Sure, sometimes my initial gut feeling that I won’t get interesting pictures is confirmed. But I found that if I really try to explore the subject, I will at worst come up with some better ideas for next time, and at best get some more photographs to add to my body of work. It’s always worth a try.

Multiple exposures of winter forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I found there was a lot of dead wood lying on the ground during this winter, and these horizontal lines interfered with the vertical tree lines when taking the multiple exposures. So I had to find a way to frame my photographs without the wood on the ground. This is one of the few pictures where I managed to do that.

So I decided this time around to go back to Blackford Hill and see if there weren’t any interesting images to capture during the winter season. I was pleasantly surprised. This post shows my favourite multiple exposure photographs of the winter forest in Blackford Hill.

Multiple exposures of winter forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is a picture I would never have taken even a year ago, and was a very pleasant surprise.

Sure, I prefer the fall (my favourite season for this kind of project) or the spring, but the muted earthly tones found during the winter season have an appeal of their own. What do you think?

Light Painting Comedienne Juliette Burton

Last December, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph Juliette Burton.

Juliette is an award-winning actress, writer and performer, whose last show “Look At Me” received raving reviews in the national press at the Edinburgh fringe festival 2014.

At the time Juliette was about to move to London and wanted some photographic memories of her beautiful Edinburgh flat. I was very happy to oblige because I relished the challenge of light painting a new type of environmental portrait.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton in her Edinburgh flat, sitting in a chair

Juliette wanted to be photographed in front of this wall. I really liked the two open doors and the story they tell, so the framing of the photograph pretty much worked itself out.

I really love working with artists. They are very engaged during the shoot and it makes my job as a photographer easier. In all the photographs, there are a number of items included whose true meaning only Juliette knows!

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton sitting in front of  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

Juliette particularly liked the fireplace in her flat. This is my favourite of the four set ups we tried.

But the beauty of photographs is that you can interpret them in your own way, even if that isn’t what the subject and photographer intended. And I’m sure you can create your own story with each of the photographs shown here.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton standing by  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

This is my second favourite of the fireplace setups. The wall was rather bland, and you may have notices that I overlaid a texture on top of the photographs to make the wall a bit more interesting.

Juliette was a joy to collaborate with. A subject is always vulnerable in front of the camera, and she/he must trust the photographer to do them justice. Juliette and I first met on the photo shoot and I was very grateful she trusted me from the beginning. That is why I’m really delighted she likes the results.

Impressionist Photography: Fall Forest Multiple Exposures

In my previous blog post, I showed some fall forest impressions obtained by panning the camera. Another impressionist technique I like is taking multiple exposures in camera. In some cases it produces images I like better than the ones I get from panning the camera, but in other instances panning is the way to go. I make every effort to take pans and multiple exposures of the same subject, and chose the ones I prefer later on. And sometimes, I can’t decide.

Multiple exposures of fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is one subject where panning didn’t really work for me. I much, much prefer this multiple exposure version. Taken in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

Finding subjects that work with multiple exposures is a matter of trial and error. I stumbled upon trees as a good subject for this technique while walking in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. I then tried the technique on multiple trees in the forest of Blackford Hill. Since I liked the results, I decided to go back to the same location to document the seasonal changes.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

This is another example of a multiple exposure version woking better than the panning shot. And I would not have been able to decide which technique worked best prior to taking the photos.

I do these kinds of personal projects because they help me refine my vision as a photographer. When starting out in photography, one is very often frustrated because the images out of the camera do not correspond to what one saw on location. This is because the digital camera doesn’t see the world the way we do.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This scene is one example where I like both versions, multiple exposures and panning (see my previous blog post for the panning shot)

It is thus important to be able to visualise in one’s mind what the photograph is going to look like given the scene in front of us.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

Here’s another case where I cannot decide if I like the multiple exposure or panning shot better.

My light painting and impressionism projects do require a great deal of pre-visualisation, and I believe they’ll make me a better photographer.

Multiple exposures photograph of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

It’s always a good idea to take both vertical and horizontal compositions. I find it harder to take multiple exposures photograph when holding the camera vertically.