Pan in wood

31 05 2010

The previous post was about motion blur (also called panning or pan) photography and I will continue with it in this post as well so if you are not interested in this photo technique, do not continue in reading 🙂

I always wanted to try some motion blurs (pans) in woods, inspired by excellent work of Tony Sweet, Ed Vatza and Mark Graf. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy task to find a suitable wood for this. Maybe you  ask now – what is so difficult about it? Well, if you want nice results you need some contrast and colours. Therefore it is good if you have some aspen or birch trees in a group and something darker in a background as a contrary to the bright trees. Coloured fall leaves or nice blooming flowers making a colourfull carpet are advantages.

On my first vacations this year I visited with my wife and son nice part of our country near pictoresque city Znojmo called NP Podyji where the best vineyards in our country lies and where the best wine is being grown and made. It is said that the first vineyards were established there by Romans more than 1000 years ago but this is another story. On one of our walks we were passing by a nice pine wood and I thought that this is a good place to try some pans. My 2-years old son was running around the trees so it wasn’t easy to get a photo without him but after some first tries I got this:

0.8 sec. @ 50mm, f/32, ISO 100

This is how the wood would look like filled with light. I admit that I made a bit more than casual post processing here and I like the vivid colours and how bright the wood looks.

On the other hand this is quite far from reality and I wanted to make one more version which would be as near to the reality as possible. After some tweaks I came up with this:

I really like how easily you can change the mood of the place on the photograph by couple of changes in post-processing. These 2 images, coming from single photo, reminds me the day and night, the darkness and light, yin and yang, the eternal equlibrium I believe in.

I know there is a lot of experimenting lying before me but still I hope that you like these photos.

Take care and enjoy all the beauty around you in a form of spring flowers in their full bloom!!!

Technical details: the photo in this post was taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens + circular polarizing filter under natural conditions.



21 05 2010

Taking photos is today much easier than in past. DSLRs with their dropping prices are available almost to everyone today and also quality of point and shoot cameras increased. Count in also cameras in cell phones and introduction of digital photography in last 5 years which makes whole chain “shoot-publish” photo quick and easy. Together with services such as flickr you get tons and tons of new photos posted every single minute from all over the world.

This all and mainly digitalization of photography had significant impact on professional photographers and the way they did their business. It has also significant impact on amateur photographers though and the impact is both positive and negative. The positive impact is that techniques and experience can be easily shared with others and also that photographers can be inspired by others while inspiring others at the same time. The negative impact is that it is much harder to make something unique.  I browse through hundreds of photos every week, mainly on photography blogs, forums and on flickr, and I see many great photos, even some excellent photos but only rarely a unique photo. And in my opinion a uniqueness is something that every photographer who takes photography seriously (it does not necessarily mean making it for living) should strive for. Uniqueness means that your photo will grab attention of a viewer among many other excellent photos and it does not matter if the viewer is a potential customer or just someone who likes photos.

For me, as an amateur photographer, it means that I need to find out how to make my photos unique, how to give them an additional value. It is not hard to learn new processes and techniques but if you will simply follow them it will mean that you will very probably produce an average photo which can be done by any other photographer under similar conditions and following the same steps.

In the beginning of this year I decided that I don’t want to create only nice photos but if I want to grab viewer’s interest I must create something unique. When I was thinking how to do it, finally I realized that I must give something from myself to the photo. Breathe a life into it as we used to say. I must unlock my creativity!

The first step is to see creatively. You need to recognize what could result in a unique photo. It has been some time since I wanted to try a motion blur, concretely panning, in photography but my first quick tries did not worth a word. Some 2 or 3 weeks ago, when I was outside shooting some flower, our field kept my attention. The field is not used this year and thus it was full of blooming dandelions and thyme and I really liked the look of violet field with bright yellows here and there. I set up the camera upon a tripod and did some quick tries.

For motion blur photos you need longer shutter speed so turn up the aperture to maximum (32 in my case), turn down the ISO to the lowest value (100 in my case). This got me to some 1/5 second of shutter speed which is good for this kind of photography. If you need or want to slower the shutter speed more you can try to use additional filters. Actually, I think that I used a polarizer for richer colours so this also slowed down the shutter speed a bit. The camera was ready then so I started with first tries. Soon I found out that the panning method that works best is just to make very short moves in directions in which you want to “draw with the scene”. In my case I had a camera vertically and after pressing the shutter I started to move the camera up and down quickly, making very short moves all the time until the shutter was closed again. It takes couple of tries but once you find out what works for you it’s easily repeatable.

The result after some minor processing in Lightroom 2.7 is following:

1/5 sec. @ 100mm, f/32, ISO 100

It is not bad for the first try, I really like the mix of yellow and violet but it is not something unique enough. Anyone with similar equipment,  scene and technique could easily make the same.

Now the second step comes and that is to think creatively. It means to think of an approach or processing how to get the photo to another level, to give it a unique look. In this case I thought that it might look well if I applied some processing resulting in a painting look. I took the photo to my favourite Snap Art 2 plugin for Photoshop and after several tries I was satisfied with “watercolour on canvas” settings.

The overall feel is softer and brighter and the “strokes” of colours are more blended. This is already a unique photo and a probability that some other photographer would create the same or at least similar enough photo is quite low due to a lot of variables in whole process of creation and post-processing.

I am satisfied with the photo and I could end by now BUT something told me that I could try some unusual processing. I have learnt that e.g. changing temperature (in RAW photo) to some extreme values sometimes produce really interesting results so I dragged temperature slider to the maximum value of 50000K in Lightroom and I got something that I really liked. After some additional minor touches it looks like this:

~ Golden Prairie ~

I decided to name it “Golden prairie” because it reminds me the vast fields of tall prairie grass, moving in a wind and lit by the evening sun. This is the image I am really satisfied with. It does not remind the original image but I do not care. It looks unique and it is the kind of photo where I expect the viewer to ask herself  “how did he do it?” and that’s exactly what I value the most in this kind of photos. It’s not only an appealing photo, it makes the viewer think.

So, if you are like me and you are thinking how to make your photos unique, then my advice is …


Short addendum 1: just yesterday I read an interesting article presenting results of a research on creativity. Results say that high creativity has very close to some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. You can read the article here. I should state now that I do not count myself as a person with high creativity. I know people with much higher 🙂

Short addendum 2: excellent articles about creativity with tutorials, suggestions and hints writes e.g. Ed Vatza in Making the Ordinary Extraordinary blog and well known photographer Tony Sweet in his Tony Sweet’s Flower Photography Blog.

Technical details: the photo was created with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens mounted on tripod, under natural conditions.

Evaluating photos?

10 05 2010

It has been a while since I gave a question to you. Now it is time to give you another 🙂

Few days ago, when I was browsing photos on the web (blogs, flickr, various forums), I realized that I must have some subconcious evaluation system for photos I see. When I thought a bit more about it, and discussed it with my friend and fellow photographer, I came to a result that I subconciously divide photos which I see into 4 categories.

1/4 sec. (left photo), 1/5-1/8 sec. (midde 3-stack photo), 1/6 sec. (right photo) @ 100mm, f/10, ISO 100

  1. Photos I don’t like.
    Usually photos with a bad technical quality (unintentionally blurred, skewed, with blown whites aso.) or simply those which don’t drag and keep my attention. A topic or subject doesn’t matter.
  2. Photos I like but which don’t keep my attention for longer time.
    These photos might be technically perfect but the overall feeling from them is average and such photos are simply not interesting enough to keep my attention for longer time.
  3. Photos capturing and emanating certain atmosphere and mood.
    These photos might be of any subject or topic but usually such photos evoke specific mood or feelings in me.
  4. Exceptional photos.
    Again photos of any topic or subject but these make me think about the photo. These are not simple “look and go” photos; they drag my attention and force my brain cells to think why the author took it, why in this specific way, what the author wanted to capture and say with it. These are the photos I value the most.

I always try to create a photo of a level 3 in my list, at least, but I am not always sucessful. It is very difficult to create a photo of level 4 for me and very often it is not intentional, rather coincidental. I hope that photos presented in this post fulfils preconditions for at least level 3 but I will leave the judgement to you.

1/4 sec. @ 100 mm, f/10, ISO 100

And what about you? Do you have such a personal evaluation meter? What are your levels and preconditions to them?

Let me know and until then… enjoy the blossoms everywhere!

Techncal note: all photos were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm USM macro lens upon tripod and under natural conditions. The last photo was created with an old herbarium record on my mind.