After Before Friday Forum Week 17

Stacy Fischer hosts a weekly After Before Friday Forum at her blog Visual Venturing where she highlights the capabilities of post processing. My submission for this week is a picture of Nairobi city center, taken at the top of Uhuru Park. The day was a rather cloudy one and the photograph I took lacked in colour somewhat, but the appearance of many clouds meant that it was a great photograph for processing.

I initially opened the photograph in Adobe Camera Raw, below is the original.
Technical Settings: Nikon D3100 with Nikon 18-105mm lens @ 25mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 100

abfriday-before-0

The original photograph was slightly on the warm side, which doesn’t bode well for the ominious cloud effect I had wanted. Therefore, I changed the settings to reflect a coolor tone and to bring out the details in both the sky and the buildings, this meant I darkened the image a lot.

Setings Used:
Temperature: 5250
Tint: 0
Exposure: -1.00 (to bring out the detail)
Fill Light: 30
Blacks: 30
Brightness: +50
Contrast: +40
Clarity: +20
Vibrance: +30
Saturation: 0

abfriday-before-1

Next I added a graduated filter, covering the bottom part of the image where the city buildings are. This was so I could brighten up that specific area while leaving the sky unaltered.

Settings Used:
Exposure: + 1.00
Brightness: +39
Contrast: +30
Saturation: +20
Clarity: +50
Sharpness: +20

abfriday-final

The sky I felt could be a tad darker so I added another graduated filter, this time from the top down.

Settings Used:
Exposure: -0.50
Brightness: -10

abfriday-3

After the editing was complete in Adobe Camera Raw, I opened the image in Adobe Photoshop using the ‘Open Object’ button on the bottom. The final touch was sharpening the image and using a curves tool as you can see below.

abfriday-4

The final image:

uhuru park from the top

A big thanks to Stacy, who has kept this forum running for the last 17 weeks! To see everyone’s submission head over to her blog post here, which should be up shortly.

Great Rift Valley – Composition Rules

When I go abroad, I tend to look for places that aren’t as well heard of, that are underrated. So when last year, I came across this view on the way to Mara region at sunset, I was awestruck. My previous post is here. Since I am back again here in Kenya, I thought to make the same trip. It is in Mai Maihu, overlooking the Great Rift Valley at 8000ft above sea level.

 

I am surprised there aren’t as much photographs online as I would expect for such a spectacular view, nor is it well documented. However I do recommend, if you are in Nairobi, or even in Kenya to come visit here. I recently purchased a Nikon 18-105mm f 3.5 – 5.6 and this was a great opportunity to test it out. It is indeed a versatile lens, and good for travel photography where you want that large range, I do find myself continuously comparing it to my Nikon 35mm in terms of quality, and I do find it lacking.

Since I have been here before, my main aim was focusing on composition for these photographs. I have gone back to the drawing board in terms of researching the basics of composition so I shall go into more detail about framing and which particular rules I used.

Rule of Thirds
I placed the mountain along the top line where the imaginary lines would intersect. I also used the wooden barrier to frame the shot, I wanted the viewer to feel the height the photograph was taken at.

great rift valley view

Leading Lines
Here I used the wooden barrier as a leading line to lead the eye towards the winding highway in the mountainside. I decided to include a lot of the wooden floorboards to add some more dimension to the shot.

great rift valley

Foreground
While taking this photo, the main thing on my mind was perspective, to contrast these breathtaking views with the way the locals here make a living – by selling Maasai goods and trinkets. Hence the reason I made sure to put the trinkets and structure used to hand them in the foreground. The wooden pole falls of the line of thirds here too, although it is not at any intersect.

Viewpoint
Playing with height is great in photography, I continuously look up and admire clouds and this always translates into my photography. I tend to like photographs taken at a toddler’s level. Even though I was 8000ft above sea level, it doesn’t mean I cannot look up! I place the hats in the foreground to give the picture some dimension. A monochrome edit was used, mainly because I wanted the focus to be on the cloud and hats.

great rift valley

I thought to include the same shot for comparison, taken at height level. Let me know which one you prefer!

great rift valley

Experiment
Here I didn’t particularly use any rules, I was mainly trying to capture the shadows of the clouds on the terrain. It has been overused, but rules in photography are meant to be broken. Experiment with different compositions and perspectives and then later go back and see which photographs pop and why.

great rift valley view

On another note, I have changed from hosting on WordPress.com to being self hosted, but still using WordPress. All subscriptions will have been transferred to asingleshutter.com, which hopefully has been successful! I have also done a 301 redirect, so you will be automatically be redirected to the self hosted blog. You may have noticed this already if you have visited within the last two days. If you have previously subscribed through email, you will have to subscribe again as posts will only appear on your WordPress reader. If you do encounter any problems – please let me know.

Journey of a London Time-Lapse

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably have noticed that I love long exposure photography. I get a great satisfaction in seeing a length of time captured within a single frame. I wanted to experiment with time-lapse, as it is close to infinitesimal that I can get with long exposure.

When I first got my intervalometer, I knew that it would soon become an obsession. I came to realise the phrase ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m tired’ which I had used many times prior was just the irrationality of life’s many excuses – I may regret saying this later. You find ways to make time. I found myself charging my battery during the day and out shooting at night (and a single sunrise). I accumulated just over 54GB of photographs, final time-lapse footage included.

All footage was shot in Central London and shooting a time-lapse here is an interesting task to say the least. I did previously get a comment on this regarding what I actually did while waiting around. At times I kept myself entertained by reading a book, however the paranoia of living in a large, bustling city made me also act like a guard, pacing around my camera. You do learn to become less averse to sitting on the ground, area permitted of course. I did also have some conversations with a few Londoners about what exactly I was doing. If you are able to, a friend or better yet a fellow photographer could keep you company provided you are able to concentrate on setting up.

To keep yourself busy and to track progress of a time-lapse, I would recommend getting a notebook and writing down camera settings and some generalities about the footage. This entire experience was a learning one, so my goal was just to learn. Then as time progressed my goals became eliminating flicker in footage, capturing movement and gradual changes in lighting. While there are online resources on time-lapse, the most important part for me is understanding fully the technicalities so that you can translate an idea into footage. While I did manage to capture gradual changes in light and movement, I wasn’t able to eliminate flicker completely. From experience, having a well composed footage but it having too much flicker is ghastly.

While I did try and refrain from touching my camera and letting the intervalometer do its job, my eagerness did in fact ruin quite a few time-lapse footages – I learnt my lesson the hard way. I painstakingly tried to salvage footage by going through hundreds of photographs and deleting the ones that had camera shake. This was also the same for the ‘zoom-in zoom-out’ effect. This is usually caused from having Automatic Focus and Vibration Reduction turned on. I do believe there is another cause as I always used Manual Focus and then later VR, it perhaps may be with my camera and intervalometer interfering with each other in terms of settings when they differed as I tried to take photographs less than 1 second which cannot be set on the intervalometer.

Editing my photographs is a joy for me, but editing a time-lapse on a Macbook Pro with 4GB RAM honestly became quite a chore. Although I do have to admit, I would be lost without batch editing in Adobe Bridge. I was only able to see the final version of the time-lapse after I had rendered the video and this took a long time to complete. This meant, I was out shooting more often, avoiding editing completely. When I finally knuckled down to edit, I realised, that rendering an entire time-lapse in Photoshop was time consuming and virtually impossible on the limited RAM I had. I tried a lot of workarounds, finally settling on editing a single time-lapse footage from one scene and rendering it. The final video was edited in iMovie with all the imported footage.

The most difficult aspect of shooting was flicker for me. This meant in a lot of footages, the exposure between shots varied and was not graduated, which is apparent in the final footage. I still haven’t managed to figure out the exact reason to eliminate it. So far, I have experimented in Manual mode and it seems for capturing changes in light using Aperture Priority mode is best. If someone could point out some other ways to solve this, I would be grateful.

I dallied a while in deciding whether to upload this video, due to the flicker. However, since this entire experience has been a learning process, I thought I should upload it.

I did not aim for this post to be a lengthy one, I wanted to share insight into my experience. Suffice to say, I shall be definitely experimenting more with time-lapse. Finally, after much background, below is the final piece. Let me know your thoughts!

Planning not Spontaneity

Spontaneity is perhaps the greatest thing, the lure of the unknown reels you in, the endless possibilities that you see when your eye is pressed upon the viewfinder. While this may paint an attractive picture, a key point that I learnt while doing time-lapse photography is that planning makes your excursion much easier, especially when you are pressed for time.

What do you want?


This may seem like an odd question at first, but it is one I continuously ask myself. What do I want to translate to the viewer through my photograph? Everyday, I continuously see things that I would like to capture exactly onto a photograph and I always question my ability to be able to fulfil that idea or evoke that feeling in a viewer.  and that feeling to an audience. So I question myself – how really am I supposed to capture that view to the best of its advantage? This is where I try to rein myself in, rather than just focusing on the view, I try and think beyond that, in terms of how will I compose the shot and what technical settings I will use to achieve certain effects.

So before you pull out your camera, even before you’ve got to a location, ask yourself; what do you really want? I would recommend keeping a list of ideas for photographs that you wish to capture and then move on to translating them into photographs.

Location and Time

If you have a specific idea in mind, the location will most likely be decided. If you haven’t got an idea for a location, research and study other photographs that have achieved the effect that you’d like and see how you can gain inspiration with your location in mind.

When your location is set, decide on a specific time that will best translate your idea. Make sure you’ve exhausted every possible time, you may need to go when it is pitch black outside or at blue hour. A great tool is SunCalc where you can type in a location and see the specific times and direction of the sunrise, sunset and more.

Look Around


When you’ve gotten to your location, walk around for a bit, without any of your gear out and refresh your mind about what your aims were. What do you see with your eyes and what do you want to translate to your viewer through your photography right then? Focus on the technical settings, the composition and the movement or lack thereof that you wish to capture.

When you’ve walked around and gotten a feel for the location, it is time to try and do that view justice.

I am not saying there is no place for spontaneity in photography, far from it, but I do believe that planning your photography can help to improve it. Perhaps, I am bordering into the psyche here, asking this many questions; but there is a thought, a motivation behind every single photograph.

There are times when you can plan and plan but sometimes planning will just not work. A recent photography trip that I had planned was one to capture Tower Bridge at Blue Hour, but on my way there, it started raining heavily. Being reluctant to cancel, I instead decided to roam London and ended up with a rainbow. Not one of my best photographs, but I thought I’d include this little tidbit (and because I thought I should include at least a photograph).

rainbow rain london tree

On another note, I have just travelled to Kenya, so expect photographs from Nairobi soon! I have also finally edited my time-lapse video. I am currently tethering from my mobile phone, so when I get access to a better internet connection, I shall upload the video.

This post has been quite different from my usual posts, let me know what you think!

Grey Skies and London Rain

Whilst reading up on photography, I have realised that many guides tell you to shoot in Manual mode, and while it is a great tool for ensuring that you have ultimate control over your pictures, you can do no wrong in shooting in Aperture or Shutter Priority.

I focus a lot on long exposure and I always make sure to keep my aperture small (a large f-stop). This enables me to get better clarity as the depth of field is greater. For the majority of my photographs, I do use Manual Mode, but currently while in the midst of doing time-lapse I have started to use Aperture Priority and it has served me quite well. If you find the metering on the camera is not as you’d like on Aperture or Shutter Priority, you can switch to manual mode and change the settings to account for this. This may seem rather simple, but learning what your camera automatically chooses depending on either the aperture or shutter speed will help you understand more about quickly using manual mode.

The ever-changing London weather means that while out shooting you should probably factor in weather events, however today I did not. While shooting a time-lapse, small droplets started falling soon turning into a heavy rain that wouldn’t let up. I did try to prevail though, finding cover underneath some trees nearby. I set up my tripod a second time, hoping to capture another view, but the rain managed to find its way through the dense leaves onto my camera.

It doesn’t look rainy at all in this photograph, but I can assure you, it was. I am however thankful for the rain, it casts a grey lighting that manages to brighten up the sky slightly.

Technical Info: f/7.1, 6 second exposure, ISO 100. Taken with a Nikon D3100 and 18-55mm lens. Edited using Adobe Camera Raw but with a jpeg image.

london eye big ben boat river thames photo

The beam of light you can see in the middle of the photograph is to commemorate the centenary of Britain’s involvement in WWI. The beam of light is called ‘Spectra’ and created by a Japanese artist called Ryoji Ikeda.

Blue Hour Waterscapes

I am currently in the midst of producing a timelapse video, which has taught me not only a great deal about how to take a decent timelapse but about long exposure photography. Going back to the drawing board, reading up on photography and exploring photographers’ work is something I had neglected mostly due to lack of time, but I have gone back to it and it has definitely given me some great inspiration.

My favourite type of photography is long exposure and combining timelapses with long exposure has been absolute bliss. Once I have created the video, I shall post a tutorial about what I have learnt through my current (daily) photography excursions, in addition to a post on long exposure photography.

Usually I have quite a difficult time coming up with titles for my photographs and posts, but today ‘Waterscapes’ came to mind, inspired by long exposure city scapes and river shots. I went back again to the River Thames, there is so much potential for photographs across here.

All these photographs have been edited in Adobe Camera Raw, taken with a Nikon D3100 and a 35mm lens.

Technical Info: f/13, 20 second exposure, ISO 100

waterloo bridge long exposure

Technical Info: f/8, 20 second exposure, ISO 100

waterloo bridge london long exposure

Technical Info: f/9, 10 second exposure, ISO 100

st pauls cathedral long exposure photo

Technical Info: f/9 15 second exposure, ISO 100

waterloo bridge london long exposure photo