Back at it again

This is my learning log for TAOP exercise 3-1.

It’s been seven months since my last blog post. During that time I have moved house twice, but have now settled in in a small village in East Riding of Yorkshire together with my fiancee Philippa and her son Calum. Shortly after the move, Philippa’s mum died, and the entire family rallied around her dad. That was really heart warming to see.

There are still a few bits and pieces that needs doing to the house, but at least it’s tidy enough to work and live here now. I’m getting used to living in a family again, with regular meal times and people outside work depending on me to do stuff. So it was good timing when my tutor wrote to me and nudged me to get back into the TAOP study yesterday.

During my long break I went to see the Ansel Adams exhibition in the National Maritime Museum back in April. It was quite a revelation for me. I’ve seen Adams pictures in books and on the web many times and thought “that’s nice”, but to see the clarity and tonality in real life was far better. That surprised me, because as a “printed” artform, I have always assumed that a good print is as good as the errrr… original print. But clearly the books and magazines in which I have seen some of Adams’ pictures have not had printing processes capable of showing all the detail in the magnificent pictures. Wow, what an experience!

I bought the catalogue, or book, from the exhibition, “At the water’s edge” and was surprised to see that it also doesn’t have the print quality to match the actual photographs in the exhibition. So if nothing else, I definitely learnt that reading magazines or browsing the web is not a genuine alternative to going to museums.

Just before getting too busy packing my house up, I was browsing the OCA’s flickr group and came across a thread discussing books useful for part 3 of the TAOP course. Several students were recommending Robert Hirsch’s Exploring Color Photography. So I ordered it but never got further than page 3 before the removals boxes took over my life.

Over the next 6-7 weeks, I expect to read and critique the book, do the exercises in part 3 and get the 3rd assignment submitted. The deadline I have agreed with my tutor is 1st November.

Exercise 1 is about assessing the way exposure influence colour. The exercise asked me to take 5 pictures of a coloured wall (as metered, plus/minus a half stop, plus/minus a full stop) and to see what happened to the colour. It was late afternoon when I took the pictures, so the rooms were quite dark, and therefore I left the electric light on in the rooms. So each picture is lit by a mixture of ambient autumn light and various types of halogen spots – probably not the best combination for assessing colours!

To have a reasonable chance of holding the camera still, the pictures were taken at ISO 3200 in aperture priority at f/2.8. In Lightroom they were all white-balanced to Daylight and cropped to square, but apart from that no edits were made.

Room – 1.3 stop – 0.7 stop as measured + 0.7 stop + 1.3 stop
Bedroom,
teal
20130913-NIKON D700-TP4_5504 20130913-NIKON D700-TP4_5505 20130913-NIKON D700-TP4_5503 20130913-NIKON D700-TP4_5506 20130913-NIKON D700-TP4_5507
Stairs,
sand
Sand, -1.3 stops Sand, -2/3 stops Sand, as measured Sand, +2/3 stops Sand, +1.3 stops
Kitchen,
brown
Brown, minus 1.3 stop Brown, minus 0.7 stop Brown, as measured Brown, plus 0.7 stop Brown, plus 1.3 stops
Coffee table,
mailbox red
Red, minus 1.3 Red, minus 0.7 Red, as measured Red, +0.7 Red, +1.3

The first observation I should make is that the illumination isn’t very good. The bedroom and coffee table pictures are marred by a spotlight which gives a bright spot and makes it harder to compare the colours. A polarizing filter might have reduced that. So when I compared the pictures against “reality” as my eyes see it, I have used the darker parts of the pictures as a reference, and I have found that the images that look closest to what my eyes sees are the “as measured”. That’s fortunate, as it must mean that the meter in my camera is fairly correct, and that the sensor is able to capture “correct” colours.

The second observation (and the one the exercise is about) is that the underexposed pictures appear to have bolder and stronger colours. This matches my experience, particularly from taking blue hour city-scapes, where I often expose “correctly” when I’m out shooting, but then lower the exposure during post processing to get the deeper colours the genre calls for.

Thirdly, and this doesn’t have anything to do with the course, I need to find a way of speeding up my blogging. Taking the pictures took 10 minutes. Getting them into Lightroom and drawing the conclusion about the colours took another 10 minutes. Getting WordPress and the server which hosts my blog to co-operate took hours. This is frustrating, to say the least.

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