Friday, 12 September 2014

Leeds Hyperbeastly

It's been five long months since I posted anything to this blog. Including this post here, I have posted no less than three times in 2014. As you can tell, I am nothing if not prolific.
I would not park here.
A lot has changed since the last time I posted anything. I sold all my SLR gear, for a start, and switched to micro four-thirds. I got a lovely, lovely little Olympus OM-D E-M10 and a small selection of lenses including the must-have Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake and the stunning Olympus 45mm f/1.8. Marvellous, and the camera, four lenses and spare batteries and SD cards in a bag that wouldn't fit the SLR and a single lens. Cracking stuff, because it's now small enough to carry all the time. In fact the body and pancake lens is barely bigger than my Fuji X10 compact!
Anyway, the point of this post; I've taken several walks through Leeds while I've worked there over the past few years and I've been finding it more and more difficult to find non-boring subjects. Everything is so drab and bleak and uninviting.
Still works. Seldom used.
At the same time I've come to enjoy VSCOcam on my phone. The built-in RAW processing on my camera, the built-in wifi and VSCOcam on my phone mean I can do a full photographic workflow from RAW to Flickr without involving a computer. Of course once I get home Lightroom definitely gets a look-in because it is so much more capable, but for quick edits on the go doing it on my phone is great. One of the presets in VSCOcam is called "Hyperbeast" and I quite like it. A high-key, faded look with deep blacks and flattened highlights. I decided to recreate it in Lightroom.
Eye tea?
So here we go. I took some photos on my lunchtime walk today of things that, while maybe not pretty or interesting, sum up the bit of Leeds I walk through. I processed them with my mocked-up Hyperbeast-esque preset and gave them some spit and polish, and here they are. Leeds through my eyes.
Toxic sofa.
It might not be most complimentary photo set, but I think they are quite pleasing in their own way.

Anyway, there are a handful in the post but the whole set can be seen on the photos page under the Leeds Hyperbeastly album. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Another canal walk

The sun has started being a little more present lately, so some mornings are actually quite pleasant. On one such morning I decided to have a wander up the canal.

The clouds made everything look a bit Toy Story, and the low sun gave a lovely light and contrast to everything else.

Of course, it wasn't sunny everywhere. But even in the darker places, such as right underneath Leeds railway station, the sun had a go at peeking in.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Shooting the Enterprise

I was recently asked if I could help out providing an image for a magazine article about stress management. For reasons as yet undiscovered the requested image would be of the USS Enterprise flying through a storm in space. Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time (just a couple of hours), but I did have a very nice model of the Enterprise D I could use to build the image around.

Thinking fast, I rigged up a rather slapdash rig consisting of a black reflector backdrop, an umbrella and stand from which dangled the model by a thread, and a couple of strobes. One light above, diffused, to provide the key light, and another, reflected and lower power, to fill some of the very dark shadows. It ended up all looking something like this:

Using a fast shutter, f/16 and cunning flash positioning I managed to keep the background black and give the model suitably textured lighting so it didn't have that flat, uniform, shadowless appearance of, well, a model. The narrow aperture obviously helped with the depth of field, although it was still only around 1" so I had to be careful with the focal plane. A tilt lens would be lovely in situations like this.

To get the desired effect of Star Trekky space type things, I had to do some post-processing. A starfield background from NASA first, followed by a zoom-blurred mass of swirling colour to give that classic Trek feel. They sure did love that swirly mass of colour. One or two minor lighting alterations to give a little more colour and texture to the model, as well as glowing nacelle and dish lights, completes the look except, of course, for the lightning.

The lightning is randomly generated by applying a difference filter between a gradient and random cloud-like noise, then crunching the levels so only the brightest whites are visible. It means you only have limited control over the output (direction and waviness is roughly controlled by gradient width and direction) but it's quick and easy so you can make a whole load and pick your favourites.

Layering the swirling mass of electrical charge over the ship and liberal application of masks to make it go under, over and around the hull finish it off nicely. I toyed with colouring the lightning, but decided the swirling mass of colour was enough.

So there it is. Not bad for a couple of hours frantic snapping and Gimping. Given more time I'd have liked to try some more dynamic angles, render it in higher quality, and other such enhancements. Maybe I will, later. Or maybe I'll do something completely different.