Back at it in London

15/09/2019


With all my attention focused elsewhere over the last few months it felt that I had neglected the single most important part of my photography - actually taking photos! So much of my time has been taken up by my preparation and management of my crowdfunding campaign (which is still funding, click here to learn more!) that I have not been able, nor motivated, to get out and do some shooting.

This mini hiatus came to a brief pause last week when my partner and I went into London for a spot of lunch. Photography was not the primary focus of the day out, but I took my camera with me just in case I was struck with inspiration along the way.

With no planning or preparation for a shoot, we headed into the affluent areas of the city so as to remain local for our lunch reservation in Knightsbridge. I have spent a fair amount of time in and out of the Mayfair area recently with my job and had seen some interesting sites that I wanted to return to and photograph, but these were mental notes which were starting to fade so I wasn't entirely sure where I wanted to be. We opted for a gentle stroll around, taking in the opulent residences with obscenely expensive cars littering the streets, but nothing really grabbed my attention.

After a Hawksmoor Sunday lunch (I highly recommend this), we returned to our wanderings when Claire suggested we nip to the Natural History Museum to see if my ants had returned. This is something I completely geek out on; I have a weird fascination with the structure and organization of these tiny creatures and can watch them for hours. Our last trip to the museum which was a couple of years ago was tainted with disappointment as the colony had died with the death of their queen, so surely by now, they had been replaced?



Well, no, they hadn't. Still, we wandered around some more and made our way to the grand hall to see the replacement for Dippy, the Diplodocus that had dominated the space since the early 1900's; it was then that inspiration struck and my focus turned back to my camera for the first time in months.

Jungle Ant's - Laos

Ants, Luang Prabang Jungle

I had recently seen a few pictures of the great hall on Instagram with the new installation of Hope, the skeleton of a blue whale, and had thought I'd like to give it a go. The images I had seen were very bright and striking HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots which did look appealing, but not very realistic. I wanted to attempt a more moody effect, playing with the natural available light, and this could not have been a better time.

With only an hour before closing, the light was streaming in through the high-level side windows and washing over, highlighting the ornate masonry on the opposite side of the hall. I was transported back to my early school trips to the museum; a little boy gazing up in awe at the magnificent sites towering around me. This time, I was able to appreciate the finer details and the way the light played upon the many surfaces, highlighting the geometry of the structure.



Using the natural light in the limited time available I cracked off a few shots to show the grand features before it was time to head out. This was a challenge as the place was teeming with visitors so timing was critical to minimize distractions in the frame. The shooting was only the beginning; the real challenge came during the editing.

Calling on my training during the completion of my online photography course earlier this year and some tips I have picked up in the last few months, I wanted to push myself on the editing and attempt a more natural finish to the final images, whilst maintaining my overall style. I also wanted to give the shots a subtle cinematic feel to add a sense of drama to the scene.

Instead of exclusively using the global editing controls in Lightroom I opted for the local brush adjustment tools to pick out the details in the scene. Using a combination of dodge and burn, highlights and shadows, and clarity I picked out the details I want to direct the viewer towards, whilst slightly controlling the general ambiance of the remainder of the scene. The cinematic colour cast was achieved by very slight adjustments to the colour curves to give a delicate greenish-blue tinge to the overall shot.

The most difficult image to both capture and edit was the wide shot of the hall. The issues in capturing the shot were entirely of my own making, as I could have switched lenses and shot slightly wider with my 14mm Samyang which would have taken in slightly more of the scene than my 16-35mm, but I didn't want to risk soft edges. More accurately, however, I couldn't be bothered to change it at the time. Instead, I opted for bursts that cover the scene and to stitch them together later. This is poor form I know, but hey, I was getting back into the swing of things and had just had a heavy lunch and best part of a bottle of wine, so cut me a little slack.

This lack of attention in the field meant I had to spend way too much time during post-processing as the image came together. The multiple shots meant that I could reduce the numbers of people in the shot, but unfortunately, due to the high volumes the simple method of stacking the images and using the inbuilt tools to eliminate the unwanted figures didn't work, and so this had to all be done manually. Even manually it was impossible to remove all of the people from the scene due to the complex lighting and static nature of many of them throughout the many exposures, but I was able to reduce the numbers too small clusters and reduce the distractions from the scene.

There were a couple of other shots I had on my SD card from a previous venture into town which equally amounted to very little, but there were a couple of images there that I could try my new editing technique on. The two shots that caught my eye were taken in silent shooting mode and from the hip so as to avoid distracting the subject.

As before I used local adjustments far more than the global sliders to edit these images, the big departure from the former set obviously being the colour profile. This style of processing is far more time consuming but does seem to lift the images to a new and higher state than I was producing before and I am happy with the final outcome. I do intend to invest in a photo editing course at some point, but this is quite the investment in both time and money so I will have to build up to this. With any luck, I'll be able to shift some prints once my crowdfunding campaign incomplete to contribute towards this.

So what do you think, is this style of processing better than before? Do you like the overall effect, or would you prefer to see something different? I very much welcome any and all feedback, so please do drop a message, even if it is just to say hello.


Until next time,

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