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Finding the light

Lately I have been asked where I shot this or that photo and when I reply I get a surprised look.

There is an art to finding the light as much as there is an art to framing, exposure, depth of field and all the other photographic skills. The first step to finding the light is to have no preconceptions about the space you are in, stop focusing on the obvious; in fact stop focusing on the photograph. Do not look through the lens, it will impair you ability to visualize.

When you walk around with your camera, let it dangle on your side, it’s there for the moment you want to catch.

Just feel where you are, get the vibe. Now that you can separate obvious to the trivial, turn around, look left, look right, look up, look down, go 2 steps back, forth, left, right, knell down, lay down. The idea is to get a full view of what surrounds you, often the fountain in front of you is not the best part of where you are; often it is behind you or elsewhere.

Cape Town Water Feature by Pascal Parent (PascalParent)) on 500px.com
Cape Town Water Feature
End of day discussions by Pascal Parent (PascalParent)) on 500px.com
End of day discussions

Recommended gear

A good camera strap will allow you to move comfortably and be less worried about it taking a walk without you.

There are a few around. I recommend the R-Strap by BlackRapid but the cheaper Quick Strap works as well and starts at an affordable 30USD (R300).
See Andrew Stevenson’s review on the Q-Strap

Inspiration in uninspired moments

I sometimes find it hard to photograph, I lack inspiration. But I recently found a way around this more than regular issue.

There is a secret to photography inspiration that is like magic and, at least for me, it works every time. So what is that secret, this magic?

Have you simply tried to put a lens on your camera and started to walk around with the camera in your hand? The trick, it has to be in your hand! Your brain will switch to photography mode and bang here it is, a photograph then two and magic!

Who would have thought that a barbecue fire could be an interesting subject? See for yourselves, once I started to look at it from a photographic point of view I started to see alien landscapes and loved it.

Try it, take your camera and walk around, who knows what you will find?

Oddly enough, I noticed that during my uninspired moments I often turn to the world of macro photography, I think it’s because it is always available around us and a dull subject can become alive.
The 3 photographs bellow were shot in an uninspired moment with macro lens at less than 20 cm from subject., it got to be a sizzling hot shoot with my eyebrows singed but I enjoyed myself.

The fiery pits of the barbeque.  by Pascal Parent (PascalParent) on 500px.com

The fiery pits of the barbeque. by Pascal Parent

 

Fire! by Pascal Parent (PascalParent) on 500px.com

Fire! by Pascal Parent

 

Ash wood or landscape? by Pascal Parent (PascalParent) on 500px.com

Ash wood or landscape? by Pascal Parent

Photo walking

Photo-walking is one of the ways I am forcing myself to pick up my camera and go to “make” photos as opposed to sit at my desk working.

There are pros and cons to going photo-walking. The pros outweigh the cons every time. So why do it?

Mark Straw, one of the men behind the ever-growing Joburg Photowalkers, asked this very question on Facebook the other day and the answers were varied.

In my opinion, being with other photographers and the immediate synergy is a serious attraction. But there is so much more to it, meeting interesting people and making friends. Discovering your inner photographer, discovering new interesting places in your own backyard and you get to have some exercise to boot. Photo walks are for everyone from beginners to professionals and what is more is that no one will turn you down or laugh at you if you have a problem on site. It’s all about the socializing and enjoyment of sharing one passion, photography.

One more advantage is that Photowalkers end up criticizing each other’s work and I found that the criticism is rather positive.

So how about getting involved in photo walks in your city?

In Johannesburg, follow Joburg Photowalkers and PhotoComment for the next walk.

Mini book Review: Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers

Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers

In my last post I talked about Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers book, I finished reading it last night and thought that it was a good time to share my thoughts on it.

In short, if you are thinking of going HDR this is a brilliant book to start with. It has step by step instructions on every aspect of HDR photography, coupled with amazing photography. The results are I managed to replicate what I call the Rick Sammon HDR Look without too much mental effort on my first outing with HDR in mind. I also like the fact that the book is riddled with tips not limited to HDR photography but rather tips on every aspect of photography. One can only make better photographs after reading such a book.

For more information on Rick Sammon as well as good photography tips and how-to’s head over to his site: www.ricksammon.info

One disappointment though, it tries to pitch some products a little to hard, but it’s all forgiven through the rest of the content.

On that note, and I am not trying to pitch anything, to enjoy this book you will need a DSLR, a tripod, a MAC or PC with trials of Photomatix and Topaz Adjust.

My Photography Post-Processing Workflow

I have been asked recently how I handle my photography workflows, the truth is I have more than one depending on the type of photography I do, so I decided to give the most complete and comprehensive version. I do not always go through every step as some steps may not be valid for the photography type that is to be applied.

  1. Copy the files to their final resting place, a Drobo S. I use the Canon software for this, amazingly enough. Though I am looking at alternatives, mainly because the Canon software does not handle video files well, particularly if it’s not a Canon file.
  2. Download the geo-tagging file from the GPS and save it to the photograph folder so it does not get lost.
  3. Apply the geo-tags to the raw files, this is by far the longest part of the process.
  4. Do an in-place import using Adobe Lightroom at this point apply the copyrights (depending on the job type) and keywords. Keywords are important, it allows me to find the photographs quickly. My folder structure is by date and I cannot always remember when I took a photograph.
  5. Go through the photographs and rate them as follows:
    1. Forget it, out of focus, to dark, blown out, … in short the garbage I will be deleting.
    2. Keep, maybe one day it will be useful.
    3. Good photographs that may be published.
    4. Definite publishing quality
    5. Ultimate keeper, it goes into my portfolio (Rare, very rare)
  6. Either process the HDRs in Photomatix or the Panoramas in Adobe Photoshop Elements though I am thinking of upgrading to CS 5 for the content aware fill. This does not include any editing yet.
  7. Editing
    1. A 2 minutes limit in Lightroom to enhance the photograph.
    2. If the photograph is worth it, jump into Topaz Adjust or Adobe Photoshop Elements, no time limit set here.
  8. Publish the 4 and 5 stars to DVD for clients or if it is of a personal nature Facebook, Flickr and my blog, depending on the situation.
  9. If it is a 5 star, I also often print it.

Not an overly complicated workflow, but one that works.