Task: Devise a themed assignment and apply the lessons learnt so far. Construct a sensible workflow, all the way to the final image/web gallery. List all of the steps in the workflow and write a short commentary.
On the River Tees, near Stockton, there can be up to 40 swans at any one time. Being able to see them on a daily basis is something I take for granted and have never thought about taking photographs of them until now. Since this assignment requires a theme and sensible workflow, I thought that using the swans as a subject would be ideal and manageable. I had read a Digital Photo magazine article on the internet about ‘Magic Light‘, that photographing just after sunrise and just before sunset offers a set of unique lighting conditions due to the low angle of the sun in the sky. These conditions can produce a warm ambient light with beautiful colours and hues. The low sun also gives opportunities to create backlit photographs, where the sun is directly behind the subject. At the end of the article it was also suggested that bracketing could be used to achieve multiple exposures at different stops. This would produce a number of slightly different versions of a scene. Below is a commentary of my workflow to the final image.
- Decide on the theme of the shoot
- Choose and clean lenses
- Charge battery
- Ensure memory cards are formatted and empty
- Ensure camera’s default settings are set, e.g. ISO 100, WB auto
- Research existing shots of the same subject
- Read up on new techniques / camera settings
- Pack camera bag, including lens cleaning cloths
- Research the most appropriate location / time for the shoot
Choosing to make the most of the magic light in the morning meant that I would have to ensure my camera settings were ready beforehand. Bracketing exposures was something I had never done before so I had to dig out my camera’s manual from the bottom of my camera bag to find out how to set it. The Canon 7D has a ‘quick menu’ which enables you to set-up auto exposure bracketing, so I set it to fire 1 stop higher and lower as well as the original exposure. I always start off with the ISO set to 100 to give my camera a chance of capturing at the highest image quality. I also made sure that my tele-photo lens was clean and attached to my camera. This would enable me to get as close to the swans as I could. I also searched for swan images on Flickr and a Google image search to see what types of photographs you could achieve of swans. The majority of shots included a close-up of the swan’s head, neck and beak (below),
close-up of feathers and using the reflection of the water. I also wanted to capture something original, keeping away from cliched images of swans together in heart shapes and reflections etc (below).
With my battery fully charged and memory card clear, all I had to do was wait for a sunny early morning!
b) During the shoot
- Assess ambient light, take test shots
- Set white balance
- Set camera mode, ISO and focus mode
- Set camera metering mode and aperture/shutter etc as required
- Take test shot(s) and confirm on camera
- Adjust exposure incl any exposure and/or flash exposure compensation
- Adjust camera positioning in relation to the subject and it’s background
- Take and evaluate shots in camera. Delete images where necessary
- Change battery / memory card if necessary
The morning sun was brilliant and the water very calm. I realised that these conditions would not last long so it was great that I had saved time by having everything ready before the day. I chose to leave my tripod behind because I didn’t want it to restrict my movement and it seemed bright enough to use a fast shutter speed. The swans seemed very curious about me and were a bit annoyed that I hadn’t brought a loaf of bread! ( note to self: I need to think about my subject more during the pre-shoot stage of my workflow!). As the swans were floating across the river there were times that they were silhouetted against the sunlight. There was also a soft gold lighting effect on the swans’ white feathers which I tried to capture close up with the zoom. Bracketing the exposures was very useful and I tried to evaluate them in camera and delete those which were poorly exposed so as not to fill up my memory card. I was also aware that this would drain the battery. For this project that didn’t matter as much due to the time constraint of the light being only available for a short time. I was also able to return for a second day with a fully charged battery and more space on my memory card. I had uploaded my photos to Aperture so as to clear the card for the second day’s shoot.
- Open Aperture and create a new project, including general tags and meta-data, such as copyright information
- Plug camera into iMac and import into the new Aperture project (library stored on external hard drive)
- Keep images on memory card until project is completed
- Make backup copies of RAW files
- Edit images and make a basic selection
- Flag technically flawed images
- Review selected images and rate them
Bracketing the exposures and working over two days meant that I ended up with 447 photos! I uploaded the second set with the previous day’s images. I had created a project in Aperture called ‘DDP: Assignment 1’, so that both days were together, and I tagged them with relevant key words. Below are some of the images I had taken.
With so many images I felt that it was best to ensure they were saved on my computer and left for me to look through later. I kept the originals on the camera’s memory card so that they were backed up.
Bracketing the exposures meant that there was a considerable amount of images to look through. I used the histogram to check which photographs were too over-exposed and those that were too under-exposed. I flagged them and also images that were blurred from the movement of the swans. I rated all of the technically correct photos with 1 star (below).
The technical check had enabled me to reduce the number of images to 281.
Aperture’s image browser enables the user to view 1 star rated images or better. This meant that I could eliminate the flagged images without deleting them completely, in-case I changed my mind. The 1 star-rated images above show that there were a number of similar scenes. I referred back to my research on Flickr of the types of photos I could create. I looked at how the scenes were composed, particularly how the swans were positioned and their relationship to each other.
I rated the images (above) as 2 star. These would be my selects. These have been determined either because the effect of the lighting or how the swan(s) are positioned. By viewing just the 2 starred photos has enabled me to narrow down the project to 45 images.
d) Processing First Selects
- Apply white balance correction
- View histogram and increase / decrease highlight / black point
- Apply vibrance and contrast (curve) adjustments.
- Crop to fit subject to improve composition
- Make any other adjustments individually as required such as removing spots and blemishes
- Adjust saturation where necessary
- Export to jpeg and save on external drive
- Upload images to Flickr and share link to other sites, including OCA learning Blog
- Back-up images to DVD
Looking through the selects (above) there are a number of similarly composed images. This was due to bracketing the exposures. Therefore in order to determine what my first selects would be I used the histogram on Aperture and it’s ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ setting to choose the best exposed images, those that had details in both the shadows and highlights. Aperture also enabled me to view multiple shots together where there was a slight difference in composition. When I had looked at other swan photos on Flickr the photos concentrated on the shape of the swan’s neck within the frame, the use of reflection, feather detail and swans together. Below are my final images which are the result of my workflow. I increased their rating to 3 stars so that they could be viewed separately from the rest of the images.
e) The final image
I chose the image below because of it’s uniqueness, with water dripping from the swan’s beak. As part of my post-shoot workflow I posted this image on Flickr and it received positive feedback.
One person liked it so much that he asked for my permission to post it on his photography website Inspiration for Photographers! Below is a screen shot of the website.
Unfortunately the website has recently closed down….I hope I didn’t jinx it!
By uploading my photos to a Flickr album I have an online archive which I am able to search by keyword and get feedback from others. I also used Posterous to share the Flickr link to my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress blog. However I am aware that just because it’s online it doesn’t mean it’s there forever, so I’ve got a copy backed-up on an external hard drive. I didn’t think that there were enough images to justify storing on a DVD just yet, as a back-up back-up. Once I have taken more then I’ll archive them on a DVD and make this part of my workflow.
It was very motivating to have one of my images recognised. I realise that this is largely due to my workflow. Before starting DPP I would have taken a lot of photos and posted them on Flickr without really taking time and care at each stage. Before going on the shoot, spending time looking at the types of shots I would need to take and setting my camera beforehand enabled me to make the most of my time when taking photos. Bracketing the exposures also meant that I took a large amount of photos, therefore my workflow had to take this into account and I had to review and delete unwanted images on site. Shooting over two days gave me the luxury of being able to take and choose from a larger number of images. This large amount of images meant that I needed to take more breaks away from selecting the photos.
The fact that someone found my image online has reminded me of the importance of tagging images correctly. This is something I used to leave until the end of my workflow, when I would be tired and wanting to finish. My new workflow included tagging my images at the beginning of the editing process.