Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Blizzard

Wednesday was a lovely 17 degrees C., Thursday morning I walked the dog in warm sunshine. That afternoon the wind whipped up to 30+ mph and the temperature dropped below freezing and the snow started falling horizontally.

Friday I headed to Edmonton to see my Dad and found snow drifts along the highway and in one spot, they were black, dust blowing off the newly tilled fields.

Today the snow was almost gone and the temperature back up and my friend Lawrence Chrismas and I headed for the badlands of Drumheller. Lawrence is one of the photographers in my next book and we needed a portrait of him, so we stopped off at his small miner's house property adjacent to the Red Deer River and made this portrait.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Process

I walk into the living room, and see my wife's harp sitting in a sewing basket, with the sun shining on the harp and casting interesting shadows on the end of the sofa. I am not thinking photography in the least, but this is too good to not do something.

I know that the sun will hide behind our spruce tree within a few minutes, so I grab my Canon S90 for a "
grab" shot. I try about five images but think this is worth recording with my "good" camera, so dash downstsairs, switch lenses on the 5D2 to my 24-105 IS, pop in a memory card and run up stairs.

I quickly realize that the best shots are going to be with me lying on the floor, camera looking up so the curve of the harp complements the curve of the end piece of the sofa. I zoom to fit where I flopped down and start shooting. By luck, I happen to be at roughly the right exposure, even though the camera was left on manual, but I start using my head. I convert to program mode, and up the ISO to 400 as the first exposures were 1/8 second.

I realize that I may not be at the best spot, so I move back and forth, making minor lateral adjustments so that the gap between harp and sofa end are ideal, using the zoom to fill the frame. Closer in looks nice, but I also zoom back so I can fine tune the crop after the fact - recognizing that the light is already fading from the top of the harp.

In all, I shoot about 20 images, moving back and forth, fine tuning one edge only to realize that another one needed adjusted. Eventually the light had changed enough it was time to quit.

I would have preferred to use my tripod but with its centre post it wasn't going to get low enough and I didn't think I had the time to go get it anyway. In hind sight, I should have gone back to manual control and used a wider f stop so the background sofa was more blurred. Certainly the images from the S90 had way too much depth of field - and the highlights were blown on auto exposure with it.

With the 5D2 shooting raw, I did need to recover the highlights a bit. Several of the images suffered fatally from hand shake (I was in an awkward position on the floor). The light was better in the earlier images. I did though have several exposures to choose from, showing various crops.

Above is the first shot I tried to work with - sharp, decently exposed, encompassing most of what I wanted - though it didn't include the top of the harp or the very top of the sofa. I worked with the full size image and made a print and decided that although the shape at the bottom right was nice, the seat if the sofa sticking into the image didn't help. I thought I'd concentrate on the lower part of the image and so cropped the top so that the left edge of the harp would meet the top left corner of the image.

But I wasn't entirely happy - too much space int he middle and I missed the opening up of the gap between harp and sofa at the top (here it got smaller and smaller till the top edge).

I decided to look for another image. Better.

Then I thought, what if I converted it to black and white, and what if I used the filtering capabilities in the conversion (CS4 b&W adjustment layer) to enhance the wood.

Now, this is the end of the story, so far. I might pick a diff. image which includes more to the left so that I could have the edge of the harp meet the top left corner (though so far I actually don't like it as much - I tried). The wall needs more work, a bit uneven, and the walls showing between harp and sofa end should perhaps be a bit darker too, but I find that this is a good spot to stop, put up the image where I can see it several times a day, and in a few days I can see if further work, or even a different image will be the best.