Aspect Ratio

Lately I have become a bit more flexible with the aspect ratio. At first I couldn’t separate myself from the 3:2 ratio, and I still like that the best, but I found that for portraits it leads often to ‘empty’ space which did not contribute to the image. I do not mean functional “negative space” but just superfluous real estate.
So I am experimenting with 1:1 and 5:4. The serie i am making now of people on the square in front of the railway station is very suitable for learning the artistic impact of different aspect ratios. This photo was cropped to 1:1, the diagonal playing an important role in the composition.

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Background and foreground

One of the tell tale signs of a more experienced photographer is his choice of background. In particular with travel portraits, to get the background right greatly improves a portrait photo. I have done that wrong (trees, poles, what have you coming out of heads, etc) many times before slowly improving. The main reason is that a beginner is so caught up with the portrait itself that he or she completely forgets about the background. Yet it is crucial. Recently I made an impromptu portrait of a lady in the downtown area, where the background is always messy. I noted the dark slabs of granite used to clad the supporting columns of a skyscraper and I used that as background (see photo). The portrait now ‘pops’ .

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There are many pixel-perfect landscape photographs of amazing scenery. The right moment (light) and leading lines. However, often I feel something is missing, but I didn’t know what. The answer is simple: a foreground. Many of these photos are fantastic backgrounds without a foreground. Why? Because it is so hard to get a great landscape AND a compelling foreground. So if you see such a combination, it’s a winner.

Editing

While i was working on my photos of flowering tulip fields and other typical Dutch low lands scenery, I stumbled again about the usage of the verb edit in photography. I am not a native speaker. I have the following phases when I come home with flash card(s) with photos:
        1.        storage: images are uploaden to backup(s) and imported in photo application (e.g. Lightroom); LR DNG files and catalog are also back upped,
        2.        Raw selection: the files are put in a collection and checked for total failures. These are deleted completely, not wasting unnecessary space,
        3.        Rating: I start rating = selecting by giving 1-5 stars. Lately, I abandoned a fine-grained selection and rather give 3 stars, meaning good/maybe and 4 stars meaning very good. I find this selection process difficult, I talk about that in another post.
        4.        The four star pictures are further processed in LR and sometimes PS, during which phase more photos drop out of the race.
        5.        The final images are set in a separate collection (called ‘select’) synced to mobile and distributed or uploaded elsewhere. Typically this is a ‘long list’ of 5-10% and a short list of 1% of the original set.
        
Which of these phases can be called editing and/or post-processing I do not know exactly.
How would you describe these activities?

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Tulips

What can be more Dutch than tulip fields? I feel a pity for the tourists that dream of seeing the tulip fields in full bloom: it requires either careful logistics and timing or luck. The flowers bloom ‘somewhere’ in spring for a short period, depending on the weather.Can be easily missed. Fortunately, there are the gardens specially for tourists, but nothing beats the real thing. I was lucky. Going for low-countries landscapes i found myself amidst millions of flowering tulips. Challenge: how not to photograph cliché postcard style photographs. Not having a helicopter, i choose the wide-angle option: on my knees in between the flowers, hoping to give a sense of being surrounded by flowers. I also did the more conventional pictures, all with wide angle and fairly high f stop. I started with f/8 and ended with f/16. Light was abundant.
If you really go for it, rent or borrow a ladder. I noticed that being at 1 or 2 meters high is probably the best. Next time.

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Fuzzy water

A benefit of the Internet is the easy distribution of knowledge. This applies strongly to photography, as this is truly an international activity. This benefit has its flip side. Take the technique to make moving or falling water look smooth and soft by choosing a long shutter speed and small aperture. This ‘trick’ made it to all the “tips and tricks” lists (click bait) and now it seems that every beginning photographer thinks this is a ‘rule’. But more often than not, it ruins an otherwise fine photograph and instead of a ‘pro’ quality it gives the picture a cheap “Bob Ross” quality. In my view, the movement of waves, drops or streaming water or a waterfall gives the picture a dynamic character: nature (and physics) in action! There must be a clear vision or intent to blur this dynamism and give it a soft, painterly atmosphere. For instance, for a model shoot it may work well as it is in line with the softer, rounder shape of a model. I vote for the return of crystal clear waves, droplets, waterfalls.

Photos

And I do not mean photographs, but Apple’s new photo management software. Since half a year I work in Lightroom + PS. I wanted to change for quite a while, since Aperture was clearly left to die. I liked Aperture and was comfortable using it, but lack of upgrades, lens correction and other functionality made me eye for LR. So when Apple announced Photos to replace Aperture last year I made the changeover to LR. I did not massively transferred all my old stuff to LR libraries or catalogs. No use in doing so. I took only the best photographs to import into LR and left 3 large Aperture libraries (700, 200 and 150 GB) and 1 iPhoto waiting for the new Photos app. Obviously the Photos app is not for professionals or prosumers, but it is fast, clean and optimized for new hardware and software. I created one small active library for casual pictures, family and friends shots and the like. I do not want that sort of pics to clutter my LR collection. As a bonus, it is directly copied to the cloud. Photos calls this the system library. The other 4 libraries I converted to Photos without a hitch. I renamed them and made a copy of each as backup, making sure that there are always two copies on two different hard drives. An improvement for the future is to have also a copy in the cloud. I removed all old Aperture and iPhoto libraries. On my laptop, where my main LR activity takes place with a few external drives, I removed also iPhoto and Aperture to free up as much space as possible on my limited SSD of 250 GB. I have still Photos of course.
That completed my transfer. I expect Photos to become better in functionality in the future, but since I work with LR now, I am not bothered. Back to photography!

The flood of photography information

The daily amount of information on photography on the Internet is astonishing. Almost 200 years of photography combined with practically the whole world population making pictures generates an enormous amount of information on gear, tips, tricks, etc. A beginning enthusiast photographer can easily drown in so much information, it can become a full time job reading online articles and you never touch a camera. Rigorous selection is required. If you just bought a nice camera there is no need to keep on reading every camera review. If you are ambitious, focus on the most difficult aspect of photography: seeing the shot, expressing your view on the world, being creative. Be aware that most, if not all, “10 tips for xxxx photos” or “how to make xxxx photos like a pro” are simply click bait. You do not really believe yourself that what a dedicated professional costs many years to accomplish you will learn by just reading tips and tricks. So, being selective and knowing what you want are important presets for successful absorption of other people’s experience. Next time more how I try to build a sustainable learning loop.

Hanging around

Hanging around is a good method for getting better pictures. In this example I went to a small park in Tianjin (China), sat on a bench and waited to see what would happen. A couple was dancing, a man standing, mothers and children, and so on. So after people got used to me (a foreigner!), I took my 70-200mm as I was seated quite far from the action for a portrait shot. After an hour I had a couple of nice shots, below a few examples. So, choose a suitable location, ‘hang around’ and wait for the right moments: patience and concentration!

see also www.arthurreijmer.com

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Rouen

A week ago on a rainy and cold day in Rouen, France. First thing you do in Rouen is visit the cathedral, which is a spectacular example of High Gothic style. Parked the car, took my photo bag (also holds umbrella, sandwiches, water!), arrived at the cathedral, opened the bag and low and behold: everything there except my D800 body! Then I remembered to have taken the body out and forgot to put it back the evening before. Took my Coolpix A back up camera, and worked with that. Inside I set ISO to 1600 and I was ready to go. I made a few nice pictures, proving that expensive gear is not a prerequisite for good photographs. I like the picture of the stairs. In post I had to remove an ugly lamp and pedestal on the right side in LR and of course converted to BW with Nik Silver Efex Pro. I like the mysterious atmosphere. In the other the extreme Gothic style is well reflected: man reaching for heaven.

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Next blog: hanging around

About this blog

The common problem with blogs is you do not continue once started, at least not on a regular basis. I think it helps to blog about something you really care about, like me about photography. I am a beginner, at least that is how I feel. My gear is fine, good enough for most situations, and the quality of my photos will not depend on my gear but on my vision and craftsmanship. This blog is about my efforts of making better photographs, images which reflect my emotions and feelings, or just my taste.
I start with the present with flashback entries filling in the recent past.

I hope this blog will be entertaining and instructive for other beginning photographers. It will detail success and failure.

Gear freaks will have to look elsewhere, but occasionally I will discuss gear related issues. I follow – not very closely- dpreview for my gear related information.

My “display window” is www.arthurreijmer.com . I regularly prune the content, especially when I am unhappy about my photography. I like the concept of Viewbook, the website behind my photos. Simple, clean, focus on content.

I also publish some photos on 500px.com. 500px started with a good concept as an alternative for Flickr. Unfortunately, 500px followed the social media hypes (and the money). The comment section, meant to make the site ‘interactive’ is a joke. However, good photographers there, plenty of material to learn from.