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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"The Bridge" session.

Yesterday evening I went scouting for a place where to relax a bit and take some photos. As usual I was looking for some running water hence I opened the map and headed north, towards the Sierra of Madrid. Without knowing it I arrived to a place that I have already visited with my wife and daughter and recognized a road to the Jarama river, in an area not infested with bulls and hardwired fences.

The familiar noise of the running water raised my spirits. I put my high boots, grabbed the camera and tripod and took my way down to the valley, where the Jarama River was running. The photo session was OK but nothing spectacular, many different shots in places that somehow called my attention, but I was enjoying it. Every time I go out to take a picture I try to take it as a learning experience, not thinking about coming out with a winning image. Hence, whatever it comes, if is an improvement over previous tries is a goal achieved.

Towards the end of the day I discovered this sort of a "Bridge". Maybe is just a decorative log, even though I doubt that the elves of the woods spend their time re-decorating it just to make it look nicer. Anyway, I placed the tripod and started playing with exposure, white balance and obviously the flash.

The first shot I'm showing here is very orthodox. Cloudy white balance and nothing else. I like it but is probably average, it doesn't have any special "edge".

This is a B&W conversion of the same shot, maybe is a little bit more appealing because of that Black & White feeling yet is not a gigantic improvement. For a novel photographer like me is a nice image but I understand that it cannot compete on the major league

Here below is where I started playing with the camera configuration and my always available portable speed light, in this case a Nikon SB600

Here things started to get a tad odd. I changed to WB to tungsten and played with the SB600 speed light with two full CTO gels on it. The result is a tad exaggerated, the "Bridge" is cooked, way too hot. There's a lot of flash light spills on the ground as well.

Second attempt. Mellowing down on the gels and the amount of flash bursts. Changed the white balance in RAW to something closer to Fluorescent rather than Tungsten. The result has improved a bit but at least to me it still looks a bit too hot.

Third attempt. Maybe I'm wrong but I think this is the right way. There's no signs of the flash bursts on the ground and the color given to the "bridge" is more natural, yet still creates a contrast with the background. Unfortunately I couldn't paint with the flash further that half the log. For my next attempt I will try with a torch.

Funny enough I don't seem to be able to do landscapes kind of stuff without playing around with a strobe. Maybe one day I will grow up :-)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flash among the ruins

Last week I was in Rome with the family and decided to go with the wife to Villa Adriana, a magnificent ruin near Tivoli, not far from the capital. The Villa was built as retirement place for the emperor Adriano, around II ac on an area of 300 hectares.

This is a magnificent place. Simply amazing, I'd say. I highly recommend anybody visiting Rome or Italy for that matter to spend an afternoon there.

Of course there's a lot of monuments, ruins, lakes, pools, gardens to see and photograph and during one of the least inspired days of my life I came up with some experimental shots. At least experimental for me. First I decided to use the flash as much as I could in order to handle a bit the major exposure difference I was finding from a spot to another. Then, for the same reason I placed a Graduated filter in front of the lens. Even though sometimes in a different manner. Tripod was left at home.

This first shot is an arch opening to a beautiful pool surrounded by columns. This is called the Teatro Marítimo, one of the most outstanding areas of the Villa.
As you can see from the first image I exposed for the sky with the result that the arch is dark and underexposed. Image straight from camera RAW

In this second image I took the SB600, put it off camera and fired it through the CLS. The arch is now properly exposed and the sky as well. There was people looking at me when I was taking these photos and they were pretty puzzled by the fact that I was lighting a piece of history with a small flashgun. To be honest with you I felt weird too, but driven by my experimental mood, I proceeded. The flash was handheld camera left and pointed upward with a slight angle, the maximum allowed by my arm's lenght. Image straight from camera RAW

As far as the Grad filters is concerned I used it in this other situation where the pavement was well lit and the roof too dark. In this image you can see the straight result, with no filter. Image straight from camera RAW

Then I placed the filter upside down, darkening the floor and correcting the exposure difference. Nothing to rave about, I think many photographers have been using this for ages but it was fun for me to try it and the results quite pleased me . Image straight from camera RAW.

Maybe I repeat myself but this is not the blog of a professional photographer. I know about shooting a guy with a fish but everything else is a learning curve for me and what I share with those who wants to read me, is simple day by day field work. I'm glad if I can help but is sure not my intention to "teach" anybody, in a straight manner.