Assignment 3 Reworked

Although I received generally favourable comments on my submission for assignment 3, there were a number of things that needed addressing. The overriding issue was that I arrived at the final result without recording what steps I took along the way, therefore it would not be repeatable. In the meantime I have also started to use Lightroom. The original images were worked up in Photoshop and to redo them would give me additional practise with the new software. Lightroom also gave me three further advantages in that it would automatically record my work steps, give me greater control over the conversion with more colour channels and enable me to save versions (or snapshots) along the way.

Another comment John made was that I did not experiment with key. In fact I did, but discarded the results as I did not like them as much as the more conventional treatment. As such I did not record what I achieved and this exercise will also address this.

John also commented that “Footpath” and “Untitled” were conveying the same message as others in the set so this rework will concentrate on the remaining four.

The Hay Wain

Original image:

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First I increased contrast by 0.24:

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In the Black and White conversion, auto settings gave this result:

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I then made coarse adjustments with each slider to get a feel for the effect each had, returning the sliders to auto after each adjustment:

Red – Slight effect on the edges of the trailer (a rusty colour in the original).

Orange – Slightly stronger effect on the bed of the trailer, the pile of sand behind it and the flowers on the right.

Yellow – Quite a strong effect on the foreground grass and leaves, the ground between the rows of vines. Less effect on background trees.

Green – Ditto for the foreground, less effect on ground between rows of vines, stronger effect on background trees.

Aqua – Effect limited to drivers window of the car.

Blue – Darkened the sky but made an odd interference effect with the leaves around the sky when used to excess.

Purple – Very slight effect on car.

Magenta – no noticeable effect.

Firstly I wanted better definition of the stuff on the trailer so I reduced red and orange to darken the trailer.

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To make the rows of vines stand out a bit, I darkened yellow, compensated for the darkening foliage by lightening green:

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Image was now slightly darker with some shadow clipping so I lightened blacks so they were not clipping and lightened whites to just short of clipping, then gave it an overall contrast boost:

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There remained a small amount of specular highlights on the car.

Finally I applied sharpening:

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I then created a snapshot of this version.

Then I tried a high key version

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and saved this as a snapshot

Bed and Breakfast

Original image:

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First I corrected the obvious wonkiness:

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The blacks were adjusted to just avoid clipping, the whites so that the walls of the building were at 95% on all three channels:

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Auto black and white conversion gave this result:

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And experimenting with the sliders had these effects:

Red – Profound effect on the framework of the right hand roller.

Orange – Ditto, plus profound effect on both rollers themselves

Yellow – Big effect on foreground grass, less so on background foliage.

Green – Similar to yellow but slightly more so.

Aqua – Noticeable on end and frame of right hand roller.

Blue – Similar to aqua but more so, darkened sky.

Purple – Slight effect on end of left hand roller and roof.

Magenta – No noticeable effect.

Firstly I wanted to create some contrast between the rollers and their frames so I darkened red, aqua and blue and lightened orange:

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Then to increase overall light level, I lightened green:

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Next came sharpening:

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Finally I tweaked contrast, lowered black point, and lightened shadows slightly:

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Checking the white walls of the building they came out at about 97%

This was saved as a snapshot

The high key one was created by increasing exposure and reducing the white point to ensure there was some exposure headroom over the white wall:

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Vines and Wire

Original image:

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First, I increased contrast:

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The auto Black and White conversion gave this:

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Checking the effect of each colour slider:

Red – Little discernable effect.

Orange – Noticeable effect on path, ground between vines, pulley bracket, frame and bed of trailer.

Yellow – Noticeable effect on path, ground between vines and area under trailer.

Green – Effect on foreground grass, distant trees and ground between vines.

Aqua – Slight effect on front panel of trailer.

Blue – Effect on sky and front panel of trailer.

Purple – No noticeable effect.

Magenta – No noticeable effect.

The auto conversion is quite good in this case but I wanted to darken the sky and increase the contrast between the vines, the ground and the trailer. First the sky with the blue slider:

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Then I lightened green, darkened aqua, yellow and orange:

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Finally, there was a small amount of black clipping so I adjusted the black point to remove it:

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This was saved as the first snapshot.

The high key version was created by increasing exposure and highlights:

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Surrey Hills

Original image:

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First I lifted the contrast

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Conversion to Black and White on auto gave this:

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The effect of each colour channel was:

Red – No noticeable effect

Orange – Path, around the vines

Yellow – Just about everything

Green – Foreground foliage and background trees

Aqua – Background trees

Blue – Sky, shadow detail of background trees

Purple – No noticeable effect

Magenta – No noticeable effect

Green and aqua between them were useful to increase contrast of background trees:

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And blue darkened the sky:

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This was saved as snapshot 1

The high key version was made simply by increasing the exposure until I just retained cloud detail in the sky:

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I struggled with sharpening in Lightroom. Having got used to the Photoshop method of applying an unsharp mask, I could not see how the settings in Lightroom made any difference. I have noticed however that you can apply sharpening at the printing stage so I will see how that goes.

I am also experimenting with different ICC profiles when printing. Although these are Black and White images, the profile seems to make a difference as coloured inks are still being used. Amongst the profiles available to me, the most promising in terms of offered image quality were “Canon iP4600 series GL2/SG2” and “Canon iP4600 series PR1”. The former was the appropriate one for the paper I was using but printed with the green cast. I printed “Hay Wain” using both the settings and I experimented with perceptual and relative rendering intent. Examining the prints under diffuse dayight showed that “GL2” had the green cast whereas “PR1” was more neutral. There was not much difference in intent; relative gave slightly richer contrast. This determined the settings for the final prints.

Finally, I was thinking more in terms of “Monochrome” rather than “Black and White”. Monochrome means one colour. The range of tones does not have be shades of grey, what if they were shades of another colour?

I experimented with split toning in Lightroom using “Bed and Breakfast” and using yellow for the highlights and blue for the shadows, came up with this:

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Assignment Three – Tutor Feedback and Response

I have never got comments like this before, “High quality set of prints, they have a considered and precious worth to them…”, “…starting to exhibit a painterly quality…”

John’s comments to assignment 3 were very informative, instructive and encouraging. Arriving on the same day as I received a slightly disappointing mark of 54% for TAOP, it gave me a bit of a boost.

His full feedback is here:

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Once again there is a lot to digest. As well as the positive and flattering comments, he has provided an abundance of pointers to improve. Some key comments and my responses are:

You note that you arrived at the final images without fully noting down your technique and therefore they may not be repeatable, year one is very much about experimentation so this is good to experiment but it is essential that you record how you arrived at the final outcome as this is what DPP is all about, Creating usable and repeatable workflows and understanding how you achieved the result!

Good point, well made. It was a bit hit and miss, even though the result was okay, the journey was arduous. I will rework the images, this time noting the work steps I take to get there and using Lightroom with more control over the conversion. Also, I will include more detail in the exercises.

Several of the prints however change colour! Some exhibit a green cast while some are fairly neutral…

I made the first three prints and ran out of paper. When I printed the rest they came out with the colour cast. It was the same paper, Canon Pro Photo Paper II, and printed with the same inks and ICC profile so it’s a bit of a puzzle why they came out a strange colour. Ideally, I should have printed them all again and got them right but I wanted to get the assignment sent away and get the tutor’s feedback. Something to be investigated!

Most are taken from a similar height which adds to the uniformity, this dilutes the effectiveness of the assignment in terms of visual interest.

I’ve been criticised in the past for too much variety, even stylistically so I have tried to present a set with a degree of consistency. Now it’s not enough variety! There must be a balance between cohesiveness and sameness which I am missing

Michael Freeman suggests experimenting with ‘key’ these images are really all the same ‘key’ which is working and appropriate to the subject matter but again it weakens the assignment in terms of experimentation.

I did experiment with key and some of the submissions were adjusted as a result. In the end though I wanted the overall set to be of a similar feel and texture.

1 The Hay Wain I am thinking that the inclusion of the car is deliberate / juxtaposition? But as this is the only image in the submission that uses such observations it becomes somewhat weak and may start to appear as not a deliberate decision.

The car was a deliberate inclusion. It’s true that it is the only one with a car. Also, Surrey Hills is the only one with people, Bed and Breakfast is the only one with a building. Together they help to tell the story and I don’t think the car’s inclusion detracts from anything but strengthens the composition of the particular photograph.

2 The Footpath…So for me a slight missed opportunity as the path is slightly incidental running along the right hand third. It may have been more effective to shoot further to the right and allow the path to sweep invitingly into the frame.

The pictures are really about the farm equipment so I didn’t want to focus too heavily on the footpath, but I take his point about a slightly different viewpoint might have strengthened the composition.

2 The Footpath. …This print is slightly darker than image 1 and as such a little oppressive in its atmosphere, the blue sky tone is heavy and appears storm like.

I’ll take this into account when I rework the images.

3 Bed and Breakfast “…when using the ‘Info’ tool and you have 255 in all three colour channels, or single monochrome channel if Grey Scale you have achieved pure white…”

I checked and the file I printed the image from showed 255 on all three channels whereas the original jpeg had values from 242 to 247. Again, I’ll rework the image and watch out for this.

4 Vines and Wire.

Generally nice comments on this one. It was one of my favourites, particularly for the texture of the rows of vines as they recede into the distance.

5 Untitled. Not sure why ‘Untitled’? OK similar shot as (4), different take. This does not need to be in the assignment, I would suggest either (4) or (5), for me (4) is a stronger composition.

It was untitled because I could not think of a title! That probably sums it up as this is the weakest in the set.

6 Surrey Hills. …Good …texture, pattern and also rhythm occurring by the repetition of the fencing

This is my favourite of the set, for the footpath and the people on it although I admit I hadn’t noticed the pattern on the fencing.

The rest of the feedback contains some really useful advice:

• Develop more of a critique of your own work…

• …combine this with introducing examples of other practitioners work and commenting upon them, mentioning how they may have started to inform your own work.

• record more detail at how you arrive at the final outcomes,

• In your assignment annotation you say: ‘I have noticed many successful black and white pictures have punchy contrast’ Excellent point and it would be highly relevant at this stage to comment further along the lines of ‘As in the work of…’ and include some examples. This will really start to get your research and blog heading on track for the degree.

All in all, very pleasing comments and some very useful feedback.

Assignment Three: Black and White

Part three of the course taught us image processing with a large portion devoted to conversion to black and white. I haven’t used black and white since I packed away the darkroom many years ago and have never touched it since I went digital. I am an unashamed colour photographer and considered the discarding of colour information unnecessary and wasteful! This meant I was starting from scratch in learning the adjustments involved in the conversion and what made a good black and white image.

I thought a suitable subject for black and white would be something around abandonment. The thinking was that this would be a subject for which the removal of colour would add to the mood of the image. My first ideas were abandoned or empty buildings or discarded items (the kind you see by the side of the road for anyone to take when people refurbish their houses or disused pieces of equipment being thrown away).

I finally settled on this set from our local vineyard. Denbies in Surrey is the country’s largest single vineyard and one of the largest privately owned in Europe. It’s output accounts for about 10% of wine produced in the UK. There is also a small bed and breakfast cottage. It is a well managed, well kept and successful vineyard.

But they have a small collection of farm equipment lying unused by the side of the path surrounded by unmown grass! The contrast between these and the well kept vineyard with the prim bed and breakfast should make a good subject for what I wanted to show.

As suggested by my tutor, I looked at the work of Simon Roberts (see separate post) and Edward Burtynsky. I related to the former (hence he gets a post to himself) and whilst I found the ship-breaking pictures of Burtynsky useful, they did not speak to me in the same way that Roberts’ work did.

My aim when processing these images was to produce a set with a timeless feel to them. The first wine was thought to have been produced about 9000 years ago, the world’s oldest known winery was probably established about 5000 years ago and it was possibly the Romans who defined the process. I don’t imagine these pictures will conjure up images from such ancient times but I wanted to convey a sense of unchanging rural peaceful France, a country now associated with the craft.

Processing steps were firstly to process the colour files in the RAW editor to correct any exposure errors. I wasn’t concerned with white balance as any colour cast would not affect the final result. The file was then opened in Photoshop for the conversion to black and white. My version (Elements 7) only allows adjustment of the blue, red and green channels. It was a sunny day so one of the first editing decisions to make was to darken the sky where appropriate. This was achieved by darkening the blue channel, this had to be compensated for by lightening the other two. Green had a tendency to make the foliage look unnaturally light if used to excess so I was careful to watch for this.

I worked up two or three versions of each image, each time starting from scratch with RAW file and each one was slightly different, with some subtle variations of tone between the same parts of each version. I admit to resorting to some cutting and pasting from one version to the next on a few of the images.

I have noticed many successful black and white pictures have punchy contrast. One thing I wanted to avoid in the submitted images was turning in pictures which were a dull muddy grey. With this in mind, I experimented also with making them lighter using the levels control.

Here are the photos:


1 – The Hay Wain

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f19, 1/45 sec, ISO200

2 – The Footpath

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f19, 1/45 sec, ISO200

3 – Bed and Breakfast

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f19, 1/60 sec, ISO200

4 – Vines and Wire

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 28mm, f19, 1/45 sec, ISO200

5 – Untitled

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 70mm, f19, 1/60 sec, ISO200

6 – Surrey Hills

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Canon EOS 40D, 28 – 135 mm at 65mm, f19, 1/60 sec, ISO200

Reflection

The assignment brief asked us to discuss to what extent I achieved what I set out to. In one respect I think this set is successful. I find an element of timeless peace in these photos. One person I showed them to commented that they could have been taken in France (they had just returned from a trip touring the Champagne region). I put them on the OCA Flickr web site and someone commented that there was something Constable-esque about some of them. This was pleasing.

How do they measure up as a black and white set? I said at the start that I am not used to making black and white imagery, I don’t really know how to shoot and process a picture for best effect in black and white. I think this shows to certain extent here and it shows more in the way I arrived at these. Whilst this is to a certain extent successful, I arrived at it in a very haphazard and non-repeatable manner. There are no accompanying notes to the pictures explaining how I arrived at the final result; this is simply because I made multiple versions, each with multiple iterations; I cannot describe the ingredients that went into the final mix.

Time has prevented much work outside the course material. I have finished reading the anthology “Photography: A Critical Introduction” and started on Susan Sonntag’s collection of essays “On Photography”. My copy of the DAM Book by Peter Krogh has just arrived so I am dipping into that. I continue to monitor the Guardian’s online photo pages and the BJP site, I dip into dpbestflow and I have started to appreciate 1000wordsmag.com.