Monday, November 19, 2007

Working The Scene

I have written in the past about the steps taken in approaching subject matter and working the scene. Given though that this probably accounts for more poor pictures and or frustration, and each scene being different, I thought I would have another go.

Saturday, after finishing at Independent Machinery, I headed home. I noticed stacks of old pipe that looked interesting and did a U turn and headed back. I'd seen the pipe from a bridge so I found a parking spot and hoofed it up the bridge till I was overlooking the pipe in the distance. With my 70-200 full out, I wasn't nearly close enough. I didn't think the 300 would help that much and decided to see if I could get inside the yard which had signs of activity.

I pulled into the yard, found the office closed and started asking who was boss for the day, eventually getting permission from someone to go ahead, but to watch out for nails and such. Actually it's a pretty good idea to consider wearing both safety shoes and hard hat in some of these locations. Sometimes I do. Pieces of steel sometimes stick out at eye level.

Anyway, I wandered round to the piles of pipe and they didn't look nearly as interesting as I'd seen from the road, and as often happens with piles of things, there was no logical borders to any image and certainly no centre of interest. None of the pipes was sufficiently exciting to "make" an image.

I started looking round. A jumbled pile of short pipe cutoffs behind me looked a lot more interesting. There were pipes within pipes within pipes, going from 6 foot diameter down to 1 foot. That seemed promising.

I spent the first half of my time trying to make something out of these pipes. Depth of field was going to be a problem, else I could just accept that only one plane was going to be sharp. I tried it both ways, stopping down for some, wider for others (nothing worse than being just a little out of focus). I mostly though, did series for blending with Helicon Focus.

Background was a problem as right behind the pipe was a chain link fence. I could either live with the fence in the background of the pictures (but those posts every 10 feet really bothered me) or I could crop off the top of the pipe which didn't please me too much either. I did what I could from ground level then decided to climb on a pile of lumber nearby for a look slightly downwards. That proved a lot better though the pile was a bit unstable, resulting in difficulty holding the camera steady on the tripod while I was on the wood, and also creating some risk the wood could fall on me - the thought of four feet high pile of 2X10's landing on my legs didn't appeal so I was especially careful and approached the pile from the better stacked other side.

In the end I was able to place the tripod legs on the boards I wasn't standing on, and by not moving, was able to get the shots. Most of the pipes were either beige or rust coloured but there was a single large pipe in light green - I had doubts that it would work in colour but of course in black and white I could filter it to just about any tone I wanted.

Even on top of the lumber, the fence was still an issue and I had to find compositions which weren't compromised by the feeling that there should have been more on top of the image - a problem that happens when you have to crop out something and risk sacrificing something else.

In the end I didn't feel that any of the pipe images was going to be a real winner so moved on. Fortunately not far away was a pile of augur bits from drilling machines (presumably meant to drill holes big enough for some of these large pipe sections. The largest was more than two feet across, the smallest about one. They had interesting carbide tips and had interesting patterns of scoring and rust and mud still attached.

My first shot was two of these large augur bits facing each other with others lined up in the background. Unfortunately there were some other shapes on the left which might be distracting in the image - they were - that idea didn't pan out. Frankkly if you think something might be a problem in the image, it almost certainly is, and unless you can crop it out, tone it down or clone it away, you may just have to walk away.

I tried various compositions with these interesting twisty shapes with teeth. In the end some were interesting but none were particularly creative or strong. The best image came from a tightly cropped image of a single augur bit, resulting in some great tones and lovely diagonal lines. I posted that one on the weekend.

In the end, the shots were ok but hardly wonderful. Fact is, most scenes are like that. Now the shoot before at Independent Machinery has been amazing. This was trip # 8 and yet again, I have been lucky. I had some decent shots of Rosco arc welding, sparks flying, subject lit by the arc light. OK, but hardly great. I felt awkward asking Rosco, who was extremely busy, to interrupt his work to head off for a shoot so I did pose him at the table at which he was welding and got an ok image, though the cluttered background is illustrative rather than artistic. Arnold Newman I'm not.

Later, he was saying goodbye to his girlfriend and was standing talking for a minute so I was able to take a few shots, gradually zooming in fairly tight on his face. I could see immediately that the lighting was perfect and the only question would be technical - I was using a low shutter speed, IS, ei 400 and my 70-200 at f4. The image which is tightest is the best and shows considerable movement in his mouth, slight movement in his eyes yet is sharp enough to make a beautiful print. The background of that portrait is quite light so I did considerable layer work to darken it. The version I posted still shows a little edge effect where I didn't blend the dodged background with the shirt perfectly but that has been subsequently fixed for my prints. The face itself required very little work, slight highight dodging on the darker part of the beard, a little extra sharpening of just the eyes themselves and I did remove a couple of dark spots on the face and tone down a few others for a more pleasing result.

And that was my day.

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