August 05, 2017

2017 Natal Day Fireworks

Digital original.
After the near-perfect night of the Sunday Tall Ships fireworks, the Halifax Natal Day fireworks were threatened by low-lying cloud and impending rain. Never the less, they went ahead on schedule. With a very different vantage point (from the roof of our apartment building), I photographed these with the same refocusing technique I'd use with previous firework displays.
Digital original
Overall, the low-lying cloud caused some issues with the photography - several of the large bursts were 1/2 hidden by the clouds, and with my distant vantage point, the low-bursting fireworks were partially obscured by smoke.
Digital original
In the end, I added 6 or so new firework images to my collection; an interesting realization is how different the JPEG files I am posting here look from the original in Lightroom - even after a severe lightening of the shadows, the images posted here look harsh and murky...making me thing I will have to print and exhibit these sometime, to realize the full potential of the images.

July 30, 2017

Tall Ships Fireworks

This was actually my second night trying for the tall ships fireworks; the first night was fogged out. The good thing about that was that I knew where I wanted to be on the second night, so when it ended up being a warm, clear night, I was on the pier, waiting for the show to start.
Digital original
The first image was the only one with light on the tall ship in the foreground...as soon as the fireworks began, they turned off their lights...but I was 30 second into an exposure when they began the show, so I had some ambient light on the ship to go with the first volley of fireworks.

Digital original
From there forward, it was image after image, for over 200 frames...as the show progressed the sky filled with smoke, but as it took on the colours of the show, it wasn't that bad.
Digital original
The low-resolution files here don't show the full detail of these images, especially in the shadows, but they do give a good hint to how impressive the show was o made all the stronger for the tall ship in the foreground!

July 21, 2017

A Cool Session on a Hot Day

One of the best ways to cool off on a hot summer day in Nova Scotia is to head to the coast and wade into the ocean...or if you are Ingrid, model Nude in it. In recent days, Halifax has been sunny and swelteringly hot, so when Ingrid phoned and asked if I had time to do a coastal session, so she could cool off in the ocean, I enthusiastically cleared the time in my schedule, and the next day, we arrived at the coast in the early evening, enjoying the ocean breeze, and the cooling balm of the Atlantic Ocean.
Digital original
Ingrid's love of water has always influenced the images we have made (she is in 1/3 of the images in my 2008 water-focused exhibition Memory of Water). While I started working with the Nude in water a couple of years before we began working together in 1998, there is no denying that Ingrid's love of all things aquatic (except for sharks) has helped shape an entire direction in my work. 

We began the session working at the end of narrow spine of rock the pushed out into the ocean proper; though we saw some promising water pools en-route, the shallow water at the end of the rock, surrounded by beds of sea weed, seemed to be the perfect location to start the session.

Within minutes of starting to photograph, Ingrid was fully immersed in the ocean, cooling off and having the best of time.
Digital infrared original
Most of the session was spent working under a blazing summer sun, which made working with my infrared camera extra challenging. As infrared light can't be focused on with a traditional auto-focus system, I rely upon LiveView, and manual focus when using the infrared camera..and with the sun so bright, even this tried and true method proved challenging, to say the least. Many of the images I made took full advantage of smaller apertures and wide-angle lenses to ensure sharp images.
Digital original
As the session progressed, some low clouds began to form, softening the light some, and providing some welcome relief from the heat of the direct sun. This improved the sessions significantly, as it became much easier to focus the infrared camera, and in turn, easier to compose using the LiveView screen (many tout a major advantage of the SLR camera system is the ability to view the composition directly through the lens, but personally I prefer to work with the LiveView image, evaluating the entire image on the screen).
Digital infrared original
Towards the end of the session, with the tide coming in, Ingrid and I finally shifted to working with the tidal pools we'd seen when we first arrived...although by this point, they were no longer pools, but inlets, as the ocean gently reabsorbed them. To our benefit however, this formed a wonderful space for Ingrid to work with, creating a shallow inlet dividing two lines of bedrock. We worked for perhaps fifteen minutes in this space, refining the pose and composition until the final result (above) was made, bringing the line of the sky and the rock below Ingrid into alignment with the corners of the frame.

Ingrid and I both felt very positive about this session, and while our first session of the year provided some strong images, this session, especially towards the end, felt much more familiar - as if the one-year break between our work in Ireland and now, had only been a matter of days or weeks!

July 18, 2017

Ingrid and I mark 19 Years!

This session marked two mile-stones; it took place a little over 19 years after Ingrid and I first worked together (our first session was in 1998), and it was Ingrid's first time modeling since her cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy. Even before her surgery, we'd discussed continuing to work together after she recovered, and this session was the first chance we had to resume our collaboration

Though it was forecast to be a hot and sunny day in Halifax, Ingrid and I headed for the coast, to Prospect. Ingrid and I had only worked here once before, so there was a wealth of potential to be explored, as she encountered a landscape I knew well with fresh eyes. An added bonus was we arrived to find the coast shrouded in fog, which was far preferable to sunshine for photography.
Digital infrared original
We began the session with a set of images focused on Ingrid set against the breaking waves below her, but it was the second set, made in infrared, of Ingrid posing in a shallow crevasse on a black granite rock face that really caught my eye. The infrared made the figure practically glow, and the dark granite had just enough texture and detail to keep the image from becoming too harsh.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
Though it has been over a year since we last worked together (in Ireland), we quickly found our creative stride, and increasingly over the session, images presented themselves to us quite spontaneously. The above image, made about half-way through the session was one of these - Ingrid was shifting her pose, moving from lying on her stomach to a back-on pose, when she reached up - the the line from her hand to her shoulder, hip and into the leg revealed itself. I asked her to recreate the movement, and hold it as I made a set of images.
Digital infrared original
By far the most challenging images of the session were the last set, which were all focused on a small waterpool Ingrid came across, and asked to pose beside. Her initial idea was to set her body against the black rock on the right side of the pool...but she quickly discovered that rock was VERY slipper, so opted to pose upon the granite on the left side of the water...which left me very gently walking over the slippery, black rock to find the angle to photograph from.

The beauty of the rock pool became otherworldly when photographed in infrared - the bright green algae at the edges shifted into a ghostly white, and the black rock upon which I carefully moved dropped to a near dead black, which all contrasted perfectly with the delicate highlights of Ingrid's figure on the rock above the pool.

About the only hitch in the session was a minor technical one - I only had one tripod mount between my two cameras (one colour, and one infrared), so rather than using my usual approach of switching between the two cameras as need-be, I opted to switch between the cameras only when Ingrid and I changed our locations - essentially dedicating one camera to each pose, without real consideration of whether the colour or infrared was actually benefiting the results.

October 18, 2016

Ingrid, the Ireland Portfolio Talk and Offical Release Date


August 25, 2016

Post Production 2: Processing, Renaming & Proofing

There are multiple stages to post production, and while they are seldom carried out in isolation, I've decided to blog about each one separately, to provide some insight into my personal process, and how it's being applied to the 10,000 images created during the Ingrid portfolio project.

While culling is undeniably the primary focus of the early part of port production, inevitably, as I work through the cull, I inevitably come across images which need a quick processing fix. This is often just a white balance adjustment, or minor tone correction, and I will take a moment during culling to make the fix. In other cases however, the issue is larger, and will takes a significant amount of effort to take an image from the camera and create the image I'd seen in my mind's eye. This level of image processing takes a back seat until the bulk of the culling is complete; at that time, my focus shifts, and more and more time is spent processing images, until this become the dominant focus of the post production process. By the time the final culling decisions are made, each and every image remaining in the Work in Progress catalogue has had at least some image processing applied.

Except when noted, all my image processing is done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom; unlike the culling however, I don't do any image processing (beyond the occasional crop) from within Lightroom Mobile on the iPad Pro, as it is not colour profiled, or used in a controlled environment  (my desktop computer is both colour profiled with a Spyder, and within a well designed work space with no natural light, neutral coloured walls, and appropriate lighting.
In some cases (above), processing can be as simple as a white balance adjustment (from 5150K to 5500K, +10 M) and a minus highlight and minus blue luminosity adjustment to regain the tonality in the sky. In a further revision (not shown here) I retouched out the reinforcement bars from the windows behind Ingrid.
Besides the obvious crop, the above processed image has a much warmer white balance, and some local adjustments to the shadow tones of the rock and Ingrid's figure upon it. The crop was added to strengthen the horizontal quality of the image, and remove some of the weight from the lower foreground.
For the majority of images made in colour, I also made a virtual copy within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and converted it to monochrome. In most cases, this is simply a B&W conversion done manually in Lightroom, adjusting the sliders as needed. In some cases, however, local adjustments were needed to adjust the image tone. In the above example, both the foliage around Ingrid, and Ingrid's hair were lightened to give the result I was seeking.
The most common advanced processing technique applied to the images made in Ireland was perspective correction. While I had my 17mm tilt-shift with me, in many cases that wasn't the right focal length for a given setting, so I had to use other lenses (predominantly the Canon 16-35mm f/4) and then correct the distortion afterwards; the above image is a good example of how well the obvious distortion of an ultra-wide lens can be corrected using a program like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Another processing step that was widely applied to images was a B&W conversion applied to all the images made with my infrared converted Canon 5Ds; the above example shows a comparison between an out-of-camera image (with a daylight colour balance) and the same image with my standard infrared conversion applied. I should be noted that this processing is a Default Development Setting applied on import, but it is one of the best example of how necessary image processing can be!
An even smaller number of photos received even more intense processing - these images are made up from multiple source files. For 120 of the final images, like the above photo, multiple images with different exposures were blended together to create a final photograph with a much longer tonal range than possible with a single exposure. This is done either in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using HDR Photomerge, or in some cases, in Adobe Photoshop, using layers and masks to manually blend the images together
In another 41 images, like the above photo, the multiple images are stitched together (like puzzle pieces), to make a larger image from smaller parts. I did this in either Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using Panoramic Photomerge, or in some more challenging cases, in Adobe Photoshop, using layers and masks to manually assemble the images together.

This is a technique I have used since 2003; initially I utilized it to increase image resolution, but with 50mp images coming out of my cameras, I use it primarily when I need a wider lens angle, when I know an image will be a very narrow aspect ratio (as in the above image) and wish to avoid cropping, or, occasionally, when I think even 50mp isn't going to be enough resolution to print as large as I'd like. 
Once all the images have been processed (it is important to realize this is a quick, basic processing - fine image processing is a much more involved process that happens later in the timeline), I do a final review and cull out any additional deadwood, or any images that ended up having serious issues that couldn't be corrected in processing.

At this point, I rename all the original files, giving each a unique file name, as opposed to the generic one assigned by the camera. I use a system established in my early film days, beginning with the forma (DI for Digital Image), the year (16), and because this is a special project, an initial for the project - in this case, RI for Republic of Ireland. This sequence (DI-16-RI-) is then followed by four digits, permitting each image made during the project to be found easily, simply by knowing the file name.
With the files renamed, the next step is to create print proofs. Using the Print Module, each image is to be printed to a JPEG file, creating a document that will print to 5"x7". Using a black background, I add a small 0.1" border around the sides and top, and 0.3" border on the bottom, where I add the file name and basic photo information.

The outcome of this step was a little over 1,300 proofs prints; about 1/3 of those are black and white versions of colour images images (i.e. about 850 images have been proofed, with about 400 of those having both colour and black and white versions printed).
The primary purpose of the proofs is to permit the images from Ireland to be reviewed independent of technology. It is a real pleasure to simply leafing through prints, and while computer screens and iPads are nice, there is nothing like laying out 60 or more prints of a table, and being able to move them around with ease.
A stack of 1,300 5"x7" prints is quite impressive to see - above they are divided by location, to give some idea of the number of sessions I have to work through to narrow the selection down to the final portfolio. For the next month or more, these proofs will be the focus of much of my attention, slowly editing the 1,300 prints down to the final 12 to be included in the portfolio...for each image kept, over 100 must be set aside! 
For storage, I have kept the proofs divided by location (30 in all), separated them with a sheet of 2 ply acid free mat board and placed them in photo safe storage boxes (I chose green boxes both because they suited Ireland, and will stand out from the rest of my boxed film and prints, which are in deep maroon boxes.

August 16, 2016

Irish Radio Interview

Last week I was interviewed about the Ireland Portfolio on Today FM, a national radio station in Ireland...and today I learned that the interview is available online - if you go to Today FM and advanced the "Listen Back" to 5:54, you will hear the interview!

Sadly, no photos on the radio!