Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Just a little wine...

Ok! So a little while ago I started the ‘Challenge of the Century’. The idea of this was to create a photographic challenge with a learning objective and without a strong competitive element. This seemed to meet the general feeling of the group that I have picked up over the time I have been involved with it and I hope that we can continue with this. (In fact, pretty much as I am writing this, Mal has suggested taking shots of local landmarks each month to complete 'in camera'. I love this idea but would like to alternate this with a learning challenge so that we have variation to keep it fresh – Let me know what you think.)

The inspiration for the challenge was a mixture of requests from group members for a competition, and me considering how we can cover previous topics in a fresh light for new members, and refreshing the skills of those who have covered the topic before. Around the same time, a Digital Camera World tip for achieving a ‘bokeh’ effect appeared in my news feed which ‘hit’ the mark for considering ‘depth of field’.

Link to the article here.

Definition of Bokeh:
In photography, bokeh (Originally /ˈboʊkɛ/, /ˈboʊkeɪ/ BOH-kay — also sometimes pronounced as /ˈboʊkə/ BOH-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.Bokeh has been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light".

We had a scenario set up for people to have a go at during the last meeting at Willowmere and I know that a few of you have also had a go at home. I decided that I wanted to have a go at the set up but didn’t have time on the night, so a home set up it was.

  The first thing that struck me during the whole process was how long such a simple sounding thing took! I had a bunch of grapes and always have wine around ;-) so I chose the title 'Bacchus Bokeh’ and set up a still life for the subject. I rubbed a little coconut oil on the grapes for a natural shine (I wanted to eat them later so didn’t fancy some of the alternatives) but found the length of time I took to set up the shot allowed the coconut oil to solidify by the time I got what I wanted and the shine turned dull (so don’t try that at home guys).

With a little bit of tweaking and a red light, the scene was set and I started to think about camera settings and here was the rub… this was the first time since using the DSLR that I have really needed the f2 that I used to have on my old Zenit SLR. To get the background anywhere near out of focus I had to have it on the other side of the kitchen to separate it from the subject. The best I could get is the first picture of the set (It is just cropped to tidy up the edges), where, really, the background still looks like scrunched foil. Not the effect I want, particularly as the whole idea of bokeh is to minimise the background, not create the ‘busy’ effect I achieved.

  So, based on the restrictions of my equipment I was going to have to resort to Photoshop. This then gave me more options. Before I ‘broke set’ I took an out of focus frame of the background only. The first thing I tried was selecting the subject from the original photo and placing it in in a layer above the out of focus background. This gave me the second image. Using a genuine shot as a background is useful as it avoids some of the artefacts that you can get with post processing software. It is a good idea to ensure that you match your settings as much as possible, particularly ISO so that the levels of ‘noise’ match.

  The third image has the same selection above a background which has had the PS bokeh effect applied and the fourth has the PS field blur applied.


  For my ‘two-pennith’ out of them all, I prefer the 2nd image  with the natural, out-of-focus background but although it was an interesting exercise which I recommend trying just because of

·         the way it makes you think about what you are trying to achieve

·         makes you consider what your camera is capable of

·         helps you focus (pardon the pun) on ‘depth of field’ and

·         is a great exercise for still life composition

 the image didn’t really encompass the best of bokeh. What was most fun? Trying to get the shot ‘in camera’ - a challenge which I will look for more opportunities for in the future. (Macro lens – here I come.) There’s more about bokeh in this link with some cool examples.

 And finally, here’s one of Alan’s from Alderley Edge which I particularly like and, by coincidence, there’s also another example of bokeh by a young photographer in my next blog on the award-winning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015, coming soon. Must stop now, there's not 'mush-room' for any more!

  Hope you like the idea of ‘Challenge of the Century’ and this blog. If you want to comment, please feel free. You may need to be on Google + to comment directly but if you want to pm me with a comment on fb I will post it for you. When commenting please remember this is about trying to improve the skills and experience of all of the group members, thank you. :-)

Now, where's that wine...

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