Shaken Again

Almost 6 months after the last big earthquake here in Christchurch we have suffered a second. On Tuesday 21st February at 12:51pm the ground again decided to shake, this time a 6.3 magnitude quake but closer to the city and shallower. Last time the quake happened at night, no one was about but this time it was the middle of the day. People filled the streets and buildings, damaged in the first quake, fell down around their ears.

On Monday night we had some portrait tuition at our local photographic club; we had a couple of friendly, interesting and patient models. One was Mathew McEachen, Matti to his friends of whom he had many. I only met him for a couple of hours but his obvious love for art and life shone through. He worked as a tattoo artist in the city and was going to be exhibiting next month at the Design & Arts College of New Zealand of which he was an alumni.

Matti died in the quake trying to escape his collapsing tattoo parlour, he was 25. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

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Mathew McEachen, 25

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First 35mm Prints

I had some fun last night printing a few images from my developed 35mm and 120 films. All black and white but great fun watching the images appear, a little messy but a fun change from sitting in front of the computer. The irony now of course that I needed to scan the images in show them.

First a Holga image, this actually turned out a lot better than I had expected.

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And now a 35mm

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This poor waitress was dressed as a lion on the hottest day of the year in Dunedin. She was still smiling though.

Back in the Darkroom

After a few months of being far too busy I finally had another go at developing some B&W film; two rolls of 120 from my Holga and my first attempt at 35mm. The Holga developing went okay, quite a mixture of images and exposures from looking at the resulting negatives – which is pretty much as I would expect given the limited control I have over exposure with the Holga (none at all?).

The 35mm film looks to have come out much better than I had hoped, it helps that I use a good film camera with good metering (Nikon F80). It also helps that I am much more aware of exposure and correct use of aperture and shutter speed than I ever was when my film camera was my primary tool. Practise really does help although I do miss the instant feedback from digital.

Preparing to develop...

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Having developed the film I now need to scan it in or try my hand at printing, I may give that a go this weekend if I am feeling very brave (and patient). I’ll post some images if I do try my hand at printing and enlarging.

In the meantime I am continuing with my 365 Project and seriously considering a month in completely manual mode. I am now very comfortable in aperture priority mode but I am starting to look at better lighting techniques, including playing with high speed sync and I think I need to get comfortable using the camera in manual. – the next step is then using my speedlights in manual mode too. Looks like a busy month or two, so much still to learn.

This is all really part of my tip for the day – learn your camera, read the manual and know all the common controls backwards so you don’t need to think about it.

Live View and Monochrome Tip

I like to making monochrome images, if I am not using a film camera (my Holga for example) I normally take the image in RAW format and convert it to monochrome later using Nik Silver Efex Pro, the technical side is therefore quite straightforward. I love Silver Efex Pro!

The hardest part in making a monochrome image, at least for me, is visualising what the image will look like when converted to monochrome, particularly if I want to apply a coloured filter during post processing. The obvious way to help visualise the final image is to use the Picture Controls features on a Nikon camera or the Picture Styles on Canon. These controls allow you to generate a monochrome preview (or final image if you are not shooting in RAW) that can then be viewed on the camera; you can take the photograph and then see what it looks like. You can even apply coloured filters in camera.

This approach works quite well, however I recently came across another more interactive method on cameras supporting a Live View mode. The Live View mode is also processed using the Picture Control/Picture Styles settings and so, running in Live View, you can see a live monochrome image before you take the photograph. Being able to see the live image and recompose based on it can be a great help, allowing you to control the light and dark areas in the image resulting in better composition and stronger images.

Look Harder, Shoot More

I have mentioned before that I started a 365 project this year, I am happy to say that after a month I am still going strong, some days have been easier than others of course. Since starting back at work finding time to shoot has been harder and so I have had to make things up; some people take photographs of their dinner but I haven’t got there yet!

When I have been very short of time I have been looking around the house and garden to find things to photograph, whether it is a flower, an ornament or as last night my ‘cello. It would be easy to take just a single shot and put that up but fortunately once I have started taking photos I have found it hard to stop without trying various angles, different lighting and sometimes different lenses. Some of these images taken while just playing around with the subject have resulted in interesting and surprising results.

This project is teaching me very clearly something I should already have known, don’t just take one shot. Take several, try different things, some of them will be horrible but sometimes the results can be so much better than the original idea. This works with still-life, people, landscapes, anything in fact. So shoot more images and look harder (and differently) at your subject. I know I will be taking more images of my ‘cello, last night’s experiments have given me lots of ideas. Now all I need is more time!

Cello_2011-02-02_20-09-52_DSC_7437_©RichardLaing(2011)