At last, some weather to smile about! I guess this picture won’t have anyone reaching for their bikinis just yet, but believe me when I say that merely being slightly cloudy and a little chilly makes this the best weather conditions we’ve had in about 4 months. I never realised how much the cold conditions could get me down. It’s really been making me grumpy. Not least, of course, because it’s meant limited opportunity to shoot images for this project!
What you see here is my garden helper Natasha. She’s very capable and deceptively strong. We spent most of Saturday digging out some flower beds to make room for some raised vegetable beds. It was hard work but immensely satisfying. Not sure how interested anyone will be but here’s some pics of the work in progress …
Out in the garden this weekend for the first time this year – weather was just on the right side of bearable. At least there was a nice blue sky. Cold weather is so much easier to bear when there’s a nice crisp blue sky.
This picture is a lesson learned. With a little more patience and a little more attention to what I was seeing through the viewfinder, I would hopefully have raised the camera up about a foot so that the barriers weren’t dominating the bottom left of the frame quite so much. As it is this image is a little wonky – too much clutter and distraction taking place in the bottom third; too many lines criss-crossing over one another. I love the way the building pops off the clouds, though.
The weather has been relentless lately. Truly, the shittiest spell of prolonged bad weather in living memory. It’s really hampered my mojo for this project, which is a terrible, lame excuse for being lazy, but when it comes to a choice between getting comfy on the warm sofa at home and braving the barely above freezing, rainy, windy conditions we’ve been putting up with for the last 8 weeks, it’s the lazyboy every time I’m afraid.
Anyway, it’s started to ease in the last few days, and while on assignment in Liverpool on Thursday and Friday I made a point of heading down to the docks to shoot some images at f22.
I love it in Liverpool. My father is Liverpool born and bread, but I was raised in Essex. Whenever I go there, I just feel at home. I’m probably projecting a lot of psychological fantasy onto it, but I feel the place in my bones when I’m walking around. In my blood.
Anyway this is a little fuzzy for an image shot at f22 – I had my tripod extended out a bit too much and I didn’t use the timer to trigger the exposure, and it’s led to an ever so slight bit of camera wobble. It’s been pushed about a lot in Photoshop as well.
This picture is a big fat cheat. I took it a couple of years ago on a glorious week away in the Scottish Highlands, and it relates to this project only in the fact that it was taken at f22. But it wasn’t taken for this project. I pulled it from the archive because I failed to shoot an image this week. Too busy! Too lazy! I can’t remember which.
This week I thought I’d try a bit of timelapse, which I guess isn’t, strictly speaking, photography, but hey, I used a stills camera, I processed the images in Lightroom, and I shot (nearly) everything at f22, so it’s almost there, isn’t it? I suppose I’m stretching the remit of the project a little this week, but I’ve only got so much time on my hands, and the idea to do this came directly from the image I shot last week, so I’m not too worried.
Timelapse is fun and frustrating in equal measure. Actually, no, it’s a lot more fun than frustrating, but that’s not to say that it isn’t very annoying when 3 hours of work ends up un-usable because of some silly mistake or oversight.
The technique is deceptively simple in concept – all you need is a camera, a good sturdy tripod, an intervalometer (a programable device to trigger the exposures on a set routine – I use the Canon TC 80n3), and lots of time. You point the camera at your scene, set your intervalometer to record an image every couple of seconds, sit back for 15 minutes or so and then gather the images together in a video editor.
In practice, however, things are inevitably not so simple, and things go wrong all the time. I don’t think I had a clean run where at least something wasn’t problematic.
Here’s what I learned about timelapse this weekend …
Don’t. Touch. The Tripod. I know this is glaringly obvious but every shot that I attempted this weekend was jittery because I kept milling about near to my tripod, moving the floorboards it was sitting on, and knocking it accidentally from time to time. The smallest disturbances register on the final render as minor but jarring blips in what should be a smooth playback.
Shooting RAW rather than JPEG – gives you a lot more flexibility in post, but (especially with the 21 mega pixel 5D mkii) means you need high capacity cards (32GB), and increases the amount of time you spend in post significantly, as you need to convert all the RAW files to JPEGs, which takes a good amount of time. Converting 32GB of RAW images into JPEGs once you’ve made some adjustments in something like Adobe Lightroom is going to take a couple of hours.
You can get an unpleasant flickering that can be fixed by using a plugin called Long Exposure from CHV-Plugins. It’s very good, but some experimentation is required with the settings to get the right look. The default settings tend to merge one frame into the next a little too much, so that all the detail from your rolling clouds is lost as everything is smoothed out too much. Pulling back a little on the Timespan slider, and changing the mix to about 75% seems to get rid of the flicker without losing too much detail.
Weather is really important. It’s been proper glum in London for the last few weeks, and grim overcast skies don’t make for a very interesting timelapse. I was waiting in vain all weekend for some fluffy clouds but they never really emerged.
High failure rate. I shot about 10 timelapses over the weekend, but I think there’s only 2 decent shots in the edited video above (shot 3 and the shot of the cross-roads with the cars). The other shots are just there as filler really, and everything else ended up useless because of some problem or other.
I’ve had way more failures than successes with timelapse so far, but it’s really fun, and very satisfying when it works. I’ll definitely be back for more. Perhaps when the weather’s improved a bit though!
Week 4 of a 52 weeks project I’m having a crack at where every photo has to be taken at f22, meaning the pictures will be unrelentingly sharp across the focal range.
This one was shot from the other side of the house to the first image in the project, and yes, I feel bad for being lazy and not getting out into the world and shooting properly for this project! The problem is that it’s fucking cold at the moment and I don’t feel like it. Ha!
Annoyingly though there was a great shot to be had at the train station today. They’re doing engineering works (are they ever not?) and there was an army of engineers crawling about the train tracks wearing ludicrously bright high-vis orange suits. The colours popped out from the drab grey and green background they were milling about on beautifully. Alas I didn’t have my camera with me.
We were on our way to see the Chris Ofili retrospective at Tate Britain, which I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. On the train on the way back, the high rise buildings and gas towers that litter the route out of London Bridge station mocked me for leaving my camera at work, as they strutted against a perfectly clouded, late afternoon sky. Next weekend I’ll have to go out especially to try and photo some of them. I’ve got about 4 gas towers in mind now, and I reckon the high rise flats of South London will look great at f22, so long as I can find the right vantage points.
Another disappointing week as far as this project goes but I’m not sweating it. My Gran died and it was her funeral last Friday, so I’m not going to be too hard on myself for not putting a lot of effort in!
This pic was taken after we got home from the crematorium. As you can see it was a befittingly downbeat day weather wise.
I’m enjoying doing this project, but I’m struggling a little to come up with ideas that best take advantage of using f22. The most obvious use of the aperture is to take landscape shots, so that’s what I’ve been tending towards so far. That’s fine, to an extent. I’ve not been taking as many landscape images in the last couple of years, preferring instead to focus on portraiture, and it’ll be fine if I finish the year with a more developed landscape portfolio, but I’m hoping I can come up with some more diverse ideas and uses for using f22.
Entry 2 of a ’52 weeks’ project I’m having a crack at wherein every image of the project will be taken at f22 and will therefore be unforgivingly sharp throughout the focal range.
I love these structures and think I will probably take quite a lot of photographs of them for this project, but it’s a bit of a miserable one this … it was grey, dull and rainy, and there’s so much clutter. I’m not sure I like it a great deal but I suppose it’s not feasible to expect that I’ll be happy with every image I take for this project. I guess it’s half the point that you don’t, and therefore learn something.
Here’s an image I took of some gas towers in Hackney when I lived there a few years back …
In a rush of New Year’s motivation I decided to give a ’52 weeks’ project a go this year. What this means is that you pick a certain theme and then use it to make an image every week. They’re very popular among budding photographers and the benefits they give to developing a certain skill or sensibility are obvious.
Last year I bought a wonderful lens – a Sigma f1.4 50mm. It can take pictures with extreme ‘bokeh’ – a very shallow depth of field – where only a very small part of the image is in focus, and the rest is blurred. Here’s a couple of examples:
The effect is very pretty, very impactful. It helps focus the attention of the eye, and removes distracting background clutter by blurring it out.
The problem is that it’s too easy! It’s almost like cheating; like adding free pathos to every image you take.
So, in order to try and avoid getting stuck in a rut, and to help keep my brain working, I thought I would make f22 the theme of my 52 weeks project. For the uninitiated, this means that the whole image will be in crisp focus, no shallow depth of field helping to make my pictures look better than they really are.
Above is my first effort, somewhat lazily taken out of the roof window of my study, overlooking the houses of Forest Hill.