Attempts at ‘Street Photography’ – 1

Frankly, ‘street photography’ terrifies me.  That’s why I haven’t posted much which could be considered of this genre.  Last night was the judging of the 4th of this seasons Camera Club competitions, and the topic for ‘prints’ was ‘street photography.  Oh happiness, or perhaps more accurately, oh hell!

I didn’t have much expectation of success, particularly because I hadn’t been able to take any street photos especially for the competition.  This had left me rummaging around in my archives for some images to use, and there wasn’t much there.  I had some, which I really classed as ‘travel’, so I dismissed them, only to find that an image which I would have put in that category earned a place in the results.  Live and learn!  It was a great image anyway.  In the end, I entered a couple of images which I had taken at the Bemondsey Street Festival, a while back, one of which has been seen on this blog.  I wasn’t hopeful.

The one which I had published in a previous post, in colour, I printed in black and white for this competition, thinking that it might give more of a ‘street’ feel.  The judge said that he wished that I had printed it in colour.  Live and learn!  To be fair, the image was a little lacking in street ambience, and I did prefer it in colour myself.

The second image that I entered, was of a girl singer, performing in the street.  I’d always liked the image, but it did have a few too many distractions in it.  I have a very limited Photoshop ability and was unable to get rid of the distractions properly in the time that I gave myself.  Always last minute when producing for a competition!  In the end, I cropped it heavily (not appropriate for ‘street photography’), and entered it anyway.  There were some particularly bright distractions in the background that I hadn’t noticed until I had printed it.  They fell just in front of the singer’s face and did spoil the picture, having similar tones to her face.  The image would never have made it in this competition because of the tight crop, and failed as I suspected that it would.

It spite of what I have just said, the judge for this competition was excellent, and made some very valid points about all of the images entered.  I certainly learned from the experience.  After all these words, here is just one image for this post.  It is a further rework of the Street Singer, and I still quite like it.  I have now managed to tone down the distractions a bit.

Girl singer at the Bermondsey Street Festival

Girl singer at the Bermondsey Street Festival

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Monochrome Moments – 3

I’ve touched on Camera Club competitions before.  Well, we had another Camera Club competition last night and the theme for this competition was ‘Monochrome’, so I thought that a post about my efforts in this competition might fit the ‘Monochrome Moments’ series quite well.  I know that some ‘online photographers’ don’t have much time for Camera Clubs and competitions, and I do understand that point of view.  The Club does, however, get me out on a Monday night and it’s good to be able to mix with like minded people.  I also have a bit of a competitive streak in me, so it seems natural to enter the competitions and give support to the Club’s efforts in running them.

The Judge for this competition was very experienced, so I don’t think that there was much dissent from the opinions that he passed on the evening’s images, certainly not from me.  I thought that I would use ‘Monochrome Moments – 3’ to describe what I may have learned from last night’s judging of one of my entries.

Although sometimes I have managed to shoot specifically for a competition, frequently I find myself trawling through recent images that I have taken, trying to decide what might make a suitable entry.  For this competition I needed four images but this post will talk about just one.

None of the observations that the judge made are new.  We are all aware of the potential pitfalls that a photographer can make.  The problem is that we can also momentarily forget some of these pitfalls when we spot an image that we think just needs to be captured.  This was what I was guilty of when pressing the shutter release on this occasion.  The next image is the one that I entered although the original vision was of a colour image.

The sun was low, the scene was peaceful and I really loved the reflections.  I wanted to capture these reflections.  I also wanted to use the path to the Mill as a ‘lead in’, and I spotted the small boat pulled up on the shore on the right hand side, thinking that this might add interest to the scene. Click!

Carew Tidal MillGo on – pull it apart.  Well, the Mill isn’t ‘on a third’, which I thought was acceptable bearing in mind I had already considered what I wanted to show.  The power lines and poles hadn’t really been considered.  I think I knew that they were there, but didn’t think them an issue at the time.  The judge last night did appreciate the reflections, but thought that the right hand end of the image was not worth keeping.  He would rather have seen the Mill depicted in a portrait configuration, which would have had the benefit of removing ‘the ugly post on the right’ (his words).  Sometimes ‘less’ is ‘more’ was a message that he passed several times during the evening.  I couldn’t get a ‘vertical’ crop without loosing the ‘lead in’ from the bottom left, so I opted to try a square crop. Carew Tidal MillSince the judge didn’t like the power lines and the post on the right, I took the opportunity to remove the rest of them.  Here is a ‘letterbox’ crop like the original effort, but with the offending electricity removed.

Carew Tidal MillHaving listened to the judge’s words, and taken another critical look at the image, I have to agree with him.  I do now think that the square crop is best, even though I do still like the original ‘letterbox’ crop.  What I have learned is that I do need to be much more critical at the stage where the image is recorded, and also that it is well worth exploring the options when preparing an image for competition, posting or printing.  Available time is of course the thing that will likely make me forget what I have learned.

That’s it for Monochrome Moments – 3.  Perhaps another of my entries for last night’s competition will make it into Monochrome Moments – 4.

Problem Uploading Images from Lightroom to WordPress Media Library.

I’m struggling at the moment.  My old brain is just not up to the job.  I have spent many hours over the last day or two, trying to understand what has gone wrong.  I’m posting here, in the hope that some clever WordPress user can help me.  Here is the background:

For many months, I have been exporting my images directly from Lightroom to my WordPress Media Library using the ‘Dossier de Presse’ plugin.  It has given me a very simple, and reliable tool.  I stopped working a couple of days ago, producing the following onscreen message:

‘An internal error has occurred: Invalid at the top level of the document.’.

I had not knowingly made any changes to the set up of this plugin because it had been working perfectly.  The only thing that I had done, was update my Lightroom installation to V 5.7 and initially, I wondered whether this could have introduced the problem.  I don’t, however believe this to be the case because I have a second WordPress blog under production, and I can still export to this using exactly the same plugin procedure.

I’ve tried as far as I am able, to look for any differences between process used on the two ‘blogs’.  I’m thinking about going back to ‘calling’ the images from Flickr, which is how I started, but don’t want to do this because I can’t set up ‘galleries’ within posts using that method.

If anyone can help, using terminology that this old man can understand, then I would be most grateful.  In the meantime, I’ll look at other alternatives to try to keep this blog rolling.

Thanks.

An Elephant photo, treated using Topaz Detail 3

Last year, I posted ‘Elephants 3 – Another White Elephant, with Zebra (Mono)‘.  That image was shot back in 2006, when I was using a Sony DSC-H1 Bridge Camera.  I really liked the image, but the small sensor in that camera made it difficult to obtain much ‘selective focus’ and the image was too sharp from front to back.

Because I liked the image, particularly when presented in B&W, I decided to use a variation of it in a recent B&W Camera Club competition.  I’ve often said that I am not much good at using Photoshop, but regardless of this limitation, I felt that I needed to try to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in this image if I was going to use it in a Club competition.  I spent ages selecting different parts of the image and using layers to apply different levels of blur.  I wish that I hadn’t bothered.  The Judge didn’t like it, easily picking out those parts of the image that I had ‘worked on’.  I just wasn’t clever enough! 😦

Last year, I purchased the Topaz Suite, but didn’t have the time of patience to learn how to use the various parts of it properly.  This week, I thought that I would have a bit of a look at Topaz Detail 3, an application intended for selective sharpening of images.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I still lack patience, but I have been very impressed at how this software can produce excellent results.

I thought that I would apply it to the original ‘jpeg’ file of that Elephant photo.

In this post, I have presented a series of efforts to improve this image.  I hope that the differences are clear enough to show just what a ‘pigs ear’ I made of it before moving on to Topaz Detail 3.  Here goes.

The first image is the jpeg straight out of my Sony DSC-H1

Original jpeg from camera.

Original jpeg from camera.

The next image was a B&W conversion using one of the Lightroom presets.  I can’t remember which, but I was going for a fairly high contrast result.

Initial B&W conversion.

Initial B&W conversion.

The next image is where things really started to go wrong.  I attempted to use my pathetic Photoshop skills to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in the image by using a number of layers with differing levels of Gaussian blur.  It took a long time to select the elephant layer and the result wasn’t great.

Attempt to simulate 'differential focus' using Photoshop layers.

Attempt to simulate ‘differential focus’ using Photoshop layers.

It must be remembered that these last two B&W images were produced because I thought that the image lent itself to use in a Club B&W competition.

Some time later, after investigating Topaz Detail a little, I thought that the selective sharpening (and softening) available in this program might be useful for simulating ‘selective focus’.  I gave it a try, and these next two images took only a few minutes to produce.  Maybe there is scope for improvement, but I quite like them as they are.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

Here they are again in a carousel so they can be displayed at a larger size where the differences are more evident.  Click on the first one to display the slide show.  Esc to end it.

I think the attempt to simulate ‘selective focus’ in the Topaz worked images is more subtle and was certainly achieved much more quickly.  Please feel free to comment as I know that I still have a very long way to go in improving my PP skills.  In particular, I always have trouble deciding just how much of an adjustment to make.

Street Photography – What is it?

Until quite recently I had taken the odd candid photograph around and about, and when on holiday, but I hadn’t really identified these shots as being part of a particular genre of photography called ‘Street Photography’.

So, what is ‘Street Photography’?  Recently our Camera Club enjoyed a talk by Chris Pearce-Ramwell on the subject.  The format of this talk was for Chris to light heartedly appraise images provided by club members, and discuss ways in which they could be improved.  The objective of his talk was to encourage us to try this genre of photography and to point out that it was the subject, and composition that mattered most, and that the ‘technical’ aspects of the photo were of secondary importance.  I suspect that some that were present may have found it difficult to agree with this last point.

I am far from comfortable with this type of photography, however, I still found it a most enjoyable evening and I had provided a few of my own images, that I thought fitted the genre for Chris to pass comment on.  In most cases, he identified elements of interest within the shots and also suggested ways in which the images might have been improved.

After this meeting, I decided to take the subject a bit more seriously.  I’m never going to make a ‘proper’ street photographer, who is happy to walk up to anyone and point a camera at them, but maybe I can learn to make the best of opportunities that present themselves.  Happily, this weeks subscription email from ‘Light Stalking‘ contained a link to an article on eight Street Photographers whose work could be found on Flickr, and another one containing some useful tips.  I decided to have a read.

What have I learned so far?

1.  Generally, images need to contain a human element.

2.  They should also tell some sort of story.  The viewer should want to understand what is happening within the image.

3.  Timing is very important.

4.  Many of the best images, to my eye at least, are entertaining and contain a humorous element.

5.  For some photographers, the genre includes images which could also be described as ‘Street Portraits’ and ‘Environmental Portraits’.  Generally speaking, the subjects of these shots would be fully aware of the photo being taken, and have given their permission.

6.  Many photographers favour Black & White for Street Photography.

7.  Documentary photography is a specific type of street photography.  Here it is important that no image manipulation should be carried out because it is important that the ‘story’ should be unambiguous.

8.  Candid shots are the most prevalent, and also generally the most entertaining.  The subject may be completely unaware of the picture being taken, or at least will be intent on what they are doing and not ‘camera conscious’.

I may have missed some other important facts, but this is enough for me at the moment.  I am still nervous of working with this genre, but that said, I did give Chris some photos to critique so I am trying.

The following image has been seen in a previous post, nearly two years ago.  I am presenting it again because I think it falls into the category of ‘street photography’, and I thought that it might be good for me to try to analyse it.  It was taken during a Cyclo tour of the old Vietnamese city of Hanoi.  I gave a little background in the original post, where I said this :

“One thing about photographing from a Cyclo, was the nearly continuous, but erratic motion.  I thought that this might be a challenge to achieving good focus, so I took the decision to shoot everything at f9.  This meant that I had too much DOF, but at the time I really didn’t want to miss any shots, all of which can be categorised as ‘snapshots’.  I have tried a bit of not very good selective blurring on some shots to make up for this.  This next shot of the fruit seller is one such image.”

wpid-P3052472_DxO_raw_edited-2.jpg

When I took this photo it was just a holiday snapshot.  When I presented it, I decided to introduce some selective blur, to make up for the excess DOF in the original image, seen below.  This was to focus attention on the real subject of the picture.

wpid-P3052472_DxO_raw_edited-1.jpg

Does this meet with the ‘rules’ for Street Photography?  I personally think that blurring it was necessary.  I suppose that this image could also be classed as an environmental portrait, since it is obvious who is the subject.

Since Black & White is favoured by so many, I thought that I should also try this.  I don’t think that it works as well in B&W.  What do you think?  I ramped the contrast up quite a lot, but some people have suggested that even more would improve it.

wpid-P3052472_DxO_raw_edited-2-2.jpg

I think that this image fulfills the requirement of telling a story, which is about making a living from selling fruit on the streets of Old Hanoi.  The subject is photogenic.  The environment is evident, but not distracting.

I will probably revisit a some more images that I can now recognise as ‘Street’, perhaps thinking a bit more about the stories that they convey.  Please keep an eye out for them.

Doing this has reminded me that I have been posting about our Vietnam trip for a very long while, but it is going slowly.  I do still intend to finish it.

I’ve also set up another website where I can present some of my favourite images.  This will evolve steadily as I choose more images to add to it.  Many of them will not be new, but there will not be the distraction of my rambling words.  This site can be found here if you would like to take a look.