Podcast 306 : Sept 2011 “Before/After” MBP Assignment Winners

Podcast 306 : Sept 2011 “Before/After” MBP Assignment Winners

Today we’re going to take a look at the September 2011 MBP Assignment Winners, on the theme of Before/After. There were very few entrants for this assignment, hopefully because it was so hard, but I do want to urge any of you that sit on the fence as to whether or not to get involved or maybe hesitate when it comes to posting your resulting images, that it really is important to give this a try. We all learn from trying, and from the experience of sharing our images.

So, as usual, we’ll work through the winning five images in reverse order, and to kick us off in fifth place is ogonzilla or Omar Gonzalez, with “Weathered”, and here’s Omar’s back story.

My shot, Weathered, placed 5th so thanks. Nothing special here really. I struggled with this month’s assignment (as others seemed to) so I was happy when I came upon an aqua colored wall that provided both the before and after shots at the same time. One part of the wall was weathered with peeling paint while the other side was pretty much fine. I snapped the two shots and merged them using Mac Pages to make it seem that the “after” photo was taped to the “before” wall. Again, nothing amazing here…just happy I placed…so thanks again.

"Before/After" by Omar Gonzales

“Before/After” by Omar Gonzalez

Congratulations on placing Omar! I know that you were disappointed in the participation for this assignment as well, and that comes across in your backstory. You say that there’s nothing special here, but I tend to disagree. Firstly, you had the awareness to notice the scene, and link it to a possibility for the assignment, which was great. You merged the two shots together in a way that enhances your idea, as you say, looking like you taped the photo of the after image to a freshly painted wall. In any other assignment, this would have been against the rules, but for this one, we’d asked for two shots merged together, albeit originally suggesting side by side or above and below each other. You took the initiative to take the instructions and bend them a little, to make something very special in my opinion. I love the resulting photograph, and your ability to find subjects like this, and your initiative in the post processing. Excellent work Omar!

In Fourth place is epatten, or Eli Patten with “Before and After Cooking”, and here’s Eli’s backstory.

Thanks for the votes! Not much to say with this one – I assist at a nearby cooking school and so a lot of my photography involves friends cooking and food we’ve made. I figured most people would try a seasonal theme with this assignment, so I wanted to try something different and the food idea came to me while we were preparing a meal one day. I tried a few different arrangements of the before ingredients and after meal, but in the end my favorites of each were two different orientations and I had to crop them to get them to fit next to each other nicely. I shot these with my 1.8 Canon 50mm lens wide open on my XSi, which gave me the look I was going for (on the back of the camera), but when I looked at it full size on my computer screen later, I wasn’t happy with the depth of field – it ended up being too narrow. Luckily when I made it smaller to upload them, it wasn’t as evident. That’ll teach me to not check the photos more closely on the camera’s viewfinder.

"Tomatoe Soup - Before/After" by Eli Patten

“Tomatoe Soup – Before/After” by Eli Patten

Overall though, I’m very happy with how my first MB assignment submission turned out. Thanks again for the votes, and thanks to Martin for all the work he does on the Podcast and Web site – I have just started getting serious with my photography this year, teaching myself, and your podcast has been an excellent source of information and inspiration. Keep it up!

Thanks for those kind words Eli, and thank you for getting involved in the assignment. I’ve got to tell you though, I couldn’t disagree more about the depth-of-field. Of course, the way you’ve set up these shots and the off center merge is perfect, but I think the shallow depth-of-field adds so much here. You’ve taken what could have been something ordinary, and made it very special. Now, of course, I’m biased, as I use shallow depth-of-field a lot in my work, but I really think it works very well here. I also really like the highlights on the tomatoes, and in the resulting soup. The tight crop works well, albeit after the event to a degree, and the only thing your images leaving me wanting, is a taste of that soup! Excellent work!

Moving along, in third place is cheshirecat or Elise with “The Dog Show”, and here is Elise’s backstory.

Congratulations to Leslie for her win with ‘Happy” and to all of the others who placed. Thank you to all who voted for my entry. Unlike Leslie, I did not have any specific photo shoots lined up with the ‘before and after’ theme in mind. One weekend I happened to find an all-breed indoor dog show at a sports arena in a nearby town. There were many judging areas separated by portable dividers. The other free area was taken up with dog crates and grooming tables. Much of the bathing and grooming had already been done before the owners/handlers arrived at the show so that ‘before and after’ concept was not going to materialize. I have found that the more interesting photos are taken ‘behind’ the scenes and I spend several hours wandering around taking pictures.

"The Dog Show" by Elise Ange

“The Dog Show” by Elise Ange

At one point, a couple of the people who run the show came over to me quite upset that I was taking so many photos. They had contracted two professionals and were really concerned about what I was going to do with them. I mentioned that there were a lot of other people taking photos, to which they didn’t have a good response. It sort of ruined the fun I was having and I was glad that it was almost the end of the show.

Because of the artificial lighting in the arena, I converted most of the better images from the day into black and white. I liked the slightly out of focus one of the handler and his Afghan Hound entry in the show ring. Fortunately I had taken a shot of the hound being groomed before the judging. It made an interesting story for the theme.

Agreed Elise, it does make for an interesting story, with a nice twist on the Before/After theme. Sorry to hear about your experience, as it’s never nice to be confronted by people like that, but I think you handled it well. If there weren’t any “No Photography” signs, and it was a public event, then they really shouldn’t be hassling you, but I know this sort of thing leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.

I think the way you were able to get a shot of the same man and dog during preparation and during the show works very well, and I do like the action and movement in the show shot, compared to the relatively static preparation shot, adding an additional element of change between the two images. Removing the color when it gets in the way is also a great use of black and white. Great work!

In second place is Damian Diccox with “Be Thaw & After”, and here’s Damian’s backstory.

Wow, I’m amazed that I managed to place in an assignment. It does feel a little bittersweet that the assignment had so few entrants this month so I’m going to tell myself that it’s because the assignment was so hard (please don’t anyone burst my bubble here). All in all I’m very happy to have gotten so many votes.

I spent some time trying to figure out what to do for this assignment and I tried a few before and after dark photos but none struck me as being very compelling. I then tried before and after birth photos, pregnant belly to child, but my kids are getting too old to make that work well.

"Be Thaw & After" by Damian Diccox

“Be Thaw & After” by Damian Diccox

Late in the month I got desperate and looked through some old photos for inspiration and when I came across the snow photo of my house from 2009 and I figured that I could recreate that in the sun. The shot itself wasn’t technically hard, just a handheld panorama of four or five shots in manual mode with the 35mm 1.8 that I’ve used for every assignment. It took me a few tries to work out where I was standing for the original picture but after seeing the visual cues from the first [shot] I think that I was pretty close, It was an interesting exercise to locate my past self. I asked my wife what she thought of my entry, she told me that I should have cut the grass and moved the trashcans, but I think that she was just trying to put me to work. 😉

It is said often by others but I’d like to state the respect and admiration that I have for Martin and the mark he is leaving on the photography world, I’m still totally enjoying the podcast after years of listening, we are all learning and growing together, what a great community.

Wow! Praise indeed there Damian, thanks very much for that, and thank you for sticking around. You’re part of what make this community great.

I love your entry by the way. I think you did an excellent job of recreating the image two years on, especially considering that it was a stitched panorama. Pretty much all of the lines are exactly the same, and with it being a panorama they both fit on the screen at once, so it’s easy to enjoy the two images. Of course the biggest thing that makes this image is the total contrast between the two images. With trees bare of leaves but heavy with snow and the full white coverage of snow that I can almost hear, or not hear for that matter, as it dampens the sounds in the neighborhood, and I can almost feel the cold. But then in the bottom picture, I can almost feel the warmth and hear the birds singing, and perhaps even the buzzing of a bee as it busily makes its way past you as the create your photographs. I love images that make me imagine what it would be like to be there, and these two shots do that so well. The only thing that bothers me about your summer time photo Damian is the trashcans and long grass… Just kidding. Great work! Well done indeed.

And in First place is Super Digital Girl otherwise known as Leslie Granda-Hill with “Happy”! And here’s Leslie’s backstory.

Congratulations to all the winners- this month really had a diverse assortment of entries! The concept for my entry “Happy” came to me as soon as I knew the assignment [theme]. I was already planning on shooting the annual clown convention that is not too far from my town. It is rare that the monthly assignments line up with an event or subject that I am already planning on shooting for the month- so I was determined to get the shots I envisioned for this month. When I got to the location I had to find a subject. I started asking some of the clowns if they would be interested in posing for the shots. It took a while to find someone that was right and would cooperate.

"Happy" by Leslie Granda-Hill

“Happy” by Leslie Granda-Hill

I was very lucky to happen upon “Happy” the clown. She was staying in the same hotel and we made the arrangements to meet the next morning. I had brought a pop-up black velour background that I used near a glass door to shoot the initial image knowing that I would need to use the same set up for the final image. “Happy” was a great subject to shoot. She let me photograph the whole process from start to finish, filling me in on all the details of face-paint and clown costumes. I love many of the shots I got between the before and after. As it turns out she was a microbiologist for 40 years and now is an ordained minister. She has entertained at 2000 birthday parties! I couldn’t have gotten luckier with finding the perfect person to photograph for this months assignment. I have often found that shooting for the assignments pushes me a little further than I might ordinarily go, knowing I have a certain deadline and am up against some photographers with terrific and original ideas. Thanks to all that voted for my entry. I am certainly very “Happy”!

Well Leslie, I’m very happy too, as I’m sure everyone else was or will be when they see your winning images. The backstory is incredible too, and this is exactly the sort of thing that I meant by what I said about getting involved in these assignments during the intro, which I wrote in my manuscript before reading your backstory I should say. I’m so pleased that these assignments push you a little further, and your resulting images always show that, as do the amount of votes you get from the community.

Your planning for this shoot was incredible, right down to the pop-up velour background. Your use of the ambient side light makes for a beautiful portrait to begin with, but then you have the second image with the lady made up as the clown with exactly the same pose, right down to the expression on her face. I also find it fascinating that the lady has her mouth in almost exactly the same shape as before, yet the Happy clown make-up turns it into a smile. This is obviously what the make up is for, but it’s ironic, with the two crucifixes on her cheeks too, above what we could perceive as tears. Your subject has a sense of calmness and distinction about her that really just amplifies your excellent choice in subject. Congratulations on first place, but more so, on the realization of such a wonderful photography project. Now I just need to go off and see if I can find the rest of the photos online too. Excellent work Leslie, as usual.

So, once again, do try to get involved in these assignment folks. I know that life often catches up with us, and I myself don’t enter every month, but I’m always happy when I do, and feel as though I’ve grown a little as a photographer by trying.

Note that the October Assignment which was on the theme of “Hands” is currently open for voting, until the end of November 7th in just three days now, so do come along and vote please at http://www.mbpgalleries.com [removed link because site no longer available] and also note that the theme for November 2011, is “Machinery”. It’s open to interpretation, but this should be a relatively easy assignment to shoot for, so give it some thought to ensure that your images stands out. Do be careful shooting for this one too, if you end up near machinery that you wouldn’t normally get close to. We don’t want anyone getting hurt for the sake of a photograph.                    

Your entry has to have been shot during November 2011, so you can’t just rifle through your image archive for this, and you’ll have until the end of the last day of November to upload, no matter what time zone you live in. I look forward to seeing your entries. You can see the posting guidelines etc. in the Assignment forum at martinbaileyphotography.com/forum/ [removed link because site no longer available] if this is your first time getting involved.

End Notes:

And talking of winners, before we finish, I’d quickly like to let you know that we drew the winner the Drobo giveaway that we kicked off three weeks ago. Nat Parnell from the UK will be receiving a nice shiny 4 bay Drobo very soon. After a little communication, it seems that Nat is a very talented Web Designer. Congratulations to Nat on your new Drobo. You’re going to love it, I assure you.

Also note that I was a co-host on the This Week in Photo Podcast again this week, so do check that out as well, by searching for TWiP or This Week in Photo in iTunes or going to the www.thisweekinphoto.com Web site. Episode #226 should be in the pipe no too very long after I release this MBP Podcast episode.

Show Notes

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Podcast 240 : February and March MBP/WebSpy Assignment Winners

Podcast 240 : February and March MBP/WebSpy Assignment Winners

As I didn’t talk about the February Assignment winners last month, here goes with a two month installment, including some of the winners’ back-stories and my own brief comments about the winning images.

Crossing over the River Dee (&Copyright Mark Carline)

Crossing over the River Dee (© Mark Carline)

In third place was Mark Carline with “Crossing over the River Dee”. First let’s hear what Mark told us about the image in his back-story.

It was a freezing cold night in Chester and it also looked like it was going to be a foggy night and so I grabbed my gear and headed out towards the Groves in Chester. It’s an amazing part of Chester by the river that during summer is full of buskers, ice cream stands, people rowing on boats and generally having a good time, but this cold night it was freezing and hardly anyone about! I originally went out to take some HDR night shots around that area and then a couple walked past me, I quickly grabbed my camera, set the ISO to 1600 and aperture priority at f2.8 (the fastest my lens will go) and then (handheld) fired off a loads of shots as they walked away from me over the bridge. I was very lucky to get one decent shot at 1/6 sec exposure being handheld (good job I hadn’t had a coffee beforehand or my hands would have been shaking!). Very little was done to the image in post processing other than a slight crop.

I love this shot Mark. You really captured the mood of the moment. I can also feel the cold air, and the atmosphere. The color is great too, almost like you converted to a sepia toned monochrome image, if it wasn’t for the hint of green in the tree to the left of the bridge. At 33mm you did a good job holding this still for a sixth of a second. The only thing that I’d possible like to see done differently with this image is a slight rotation to the left, especially as there’s a slight crop been done as well. Other than that, this is perfect in my opinion.

In second place, we have Elise, username cheshirecat, with the image “Coats of Red”. Here’s what Elise has to say about this image.

Coats of Red (© Elise)

Coats of Red (© Elise)

I became interested in action shots over the past year, particularly of horses. The Amwell Valley Hounds club meets twice a week during the hunting season when conditions permit. Although I am not a cold-weather person, I found myself traveling to their meets and braving the frigid temperatures. I was lucky to be in the right place when the huntsmen came riding across the field with the hounds all together and the other riders right behind. The contrast of the red coats makes the picture. Although I tried a sepia conversion, the color is better.

Another wonderful image here! The composition is great, and as you say Elise, the contrast of the red coats against the white snow and other brown tones really makes this a special photograph. The hounds are brilliant too. It always amazes me how they manage to avoid getting squished by the horses. Again, one possible way to improve this might have been to frame it slightly over to the right, with the front rider closer to the left hand third of the image. This might have made it a slightly stronger composition, but it’s great as it is as well. I’m pleased you braved the cold to capture this wonderful image.

And the winner of the January assignment was a very deserving Christopher White, with “A Simple Life”. Here’s what Chris has to say about the image.

Stilt Fishing in Weligama, Sri Lanka (© Christopher White)

Stilt Fishing in Weligama, Sri Lanka (© Christopher White)

This past February, my family (myself, my wife and two young daughters) traveled to Sri Lanka for a 5 day vacation. As always, I did my photography research on subjects and locations to shoot. The Sri Lankan stilt fishermen are the iconic symbol that I knew I had to find no matter what it took. The desire continued to build as I read about their traditions and methods. Apparently the practice was in declining existence prior to the Tsunami of 2004 and is in very minimal existence after that disastrous event devastated this particular coast of Sri Lanka around Galle. Sri Lanka lost over 35,000 lives in the worst known human disaster to have hit the island in its history. After a long flight and drive, we arrived at our first hotel in Galle. I had already planned for sunrise and sunset trips to the coast between Galle and Weligama where the stilt fishermen continue to practice this old tradition. Without any issue we arrived at a few different areas where men were perched, but normally only a couple of them. I had an objective of finding five or more together and luckily enough after about 30 minutes of driving, I found five men all perched in a nice row. I spent a couple of hours at sunrise and sunset shooting at different angles and exposures. I felt that the ideal shot would be one rather low to the water with the men off-set against the sky with some dramatic clouds and taken at a slow enough speed to allow the water to blur while trying to keep the men sharp. With myself and my tripod perched about 3 feet into the water, I used a circular polarizer to cut the glare off the water, add contrast to the clouds and to allow a slower shutter speed. I also bracketed most all of my exposures. Caught up in getting the photo, it took me awhile to realize that these men use no bait and were simply pulling fish from the water with a lone hook. Stilt fishing is said to be one of the most sustainable fishing methods . . . at least for the fish and environment . . . I’m not so sure for the fishermen 🙂

To my delight, this particular image jumped out at me once I sat down to start editing in Lightroom. This one was exposed to the right two full stops to attempt to provide some light on the fisherman while holding the highlights. I first cropped the frame to my favorite wide dimensions of 27×64 as this was my plan when setting up to take the image and it is perfect for a two page book layout (it fits a blurb large book 2 page spread perfectly). I then pulled the overall exposure down -15 and added two graduated filters: one for the sky pulling it down 2 stops and one for the water adding a half stop of light and reducing the clarity. My objective was to emphasize the mood with the drama in the sky and highlight the motion of the water while drawing your attention to these truly unique fishermen perched on their stilts. The other primary adjustments were bumping the vibrance +33, saturation +7 and the blue, red and orange channels by approximately +10 to +20 to get the mood as I remember it that evening during sunset. I also have some other images of these fishermen that I was quite happy with from my trip posted on my website. Unfortunately like you Martin, I am consumed by a full-time job that doesn’t allow me to shoot as much as I would like. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to visit and shoot in some wonderful locations throughout Southeast Asia.

As a little critique for myself, I wish I had paid slightly more attention to get a very tiny extra inch on the right side of this particular frame to allow the entire empty pole to be surrounded by sky. I experimented in post with cropping it out and chose not to do so as it just isn’t the same. For me, it adds a sense of the solitude by seeing the empty pole up close on the edge of the frame and helps provide further insight into what they are sitting on another 15 yards out into the ocean. Regardless, I still love the image, the experience and the memory that goes along with the photo. Shot on a 5D Mark II with a 24-105L lens at 24mm, ISO 200, 1.0 sec at f8.0

Wow! Thanks Chris for an amazing photo, and an amazing back-story to go with it! The image jumped out at me from the gallery as soon as I saw it. It really is incredible. Kudos too, for doing your homework and knowing exactly what you wanted here. It worked out perfectly. I think the post production work you did on the image has enhanced it a lot, though I haven’t of course seen the original. It just works though, so well done. I agree with your self-critique about the stilt to the right. I think also, if you hadn’t gone a little wider, you could have also gone longer, and not included the right stilt at all. You have a second, third in from the right to provide context, so I think you may be able to improve on perfection by cropping in just a little more after all.

Congratulations though, really. It’s a masterful, incredibly well executed image. Thanks for getting involved.

Let’s take a look at the winners of the March assignment now, which was on the theme of Dutch Angle. In third place we have Dennis Brennan with “Peekaboo Poppies”, and here’s what Dennis has to say about it.

Peekaboo Poppies (© Dennis Brennan)

Peekaboo Poppies (© Dennis Brennan)

It was getting to be towards the end of the month and I hadn’t made much time to get out shooting. Even worse, I didn’t have anything compelling to submit for the Dutch Angle Assignment. I figured I would take a Sunday morning ride over to the local gardens to press the shutter a few times. Maybe I’d even find something there I could use to submit. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would see that would be suitable for the assignment, but I knew the gardens had been featuring a display of beautiful Himalayan blue poppies and I didn’t want to miss a chance to shoot them. I arrived just as they opened at 9:00 a.m., set up and started shooting. I wasn’t looking hard for a Dutch Angle, more keeping an eye out and an open mind for the possibility. I came across the three blooms you see in the image and studied them for a bit. The subtle colors and light in the distant background were creating a bokeh that looked nice through the viewfinder. I was initially a bit frustrated trying to line up a shot straight on. There were some stray leaves and stems to the left that were fairly distracting in the composition. I just couldn’t get the shot framed right and then realized that if I tilted the camera, it could work. And there they are as framed in camera – 3 little peekabo poppies. So, ashamedly, the angle was more about getting rid of distractions than creating a preconceived Dutch angle, but it seemed to work out OK I guess. There wasn’t much to do in post – just saturation, a touch of vibrance and some very mild curves in Lightroom. Thanks again to those that gave me a vote and, as always, thanks to Martin for putting it all together!

I’m pleased those distracting leaves got in the way Dennis, as I’m sure you are too. I love the angle here, albeit almost accidental, and that background light is great, as you say. This is actually something that I look for a lot with flower shots, with the flowers in the shade, but a nice bright background. You utilized it very well. The composition works great too, with the largest flower in the top of the frame, and then the middle one on bottom right, and the smallest, looking the other way, a little further down on the bottom left. Great work!

The Potter (© Super Digital Girl)

The Potter (© Super Digital Girl)

Next up in second place is Super Digital Girl with “The Potter”. Leslie didn’t give a backstory, so here’s my two yens worth. I think the Dutch angle has been employed very well here, and cropping of the spinning turntable, as well as having it titled over like this adds a lot to the image for me. The aperture was very wide, at F2.2, with a 50mm lens, and Leslie did well to get both the face of the potter and the hands, which are so important to the craft, sharp. The sepia tone is masterful too probably matching the tone of the clay. Congratulations on a great second place.

UPDATE: I actually got a back-story the day after I recorded this podcast. Here it is:

This was a difficult assignment because I never have used the Dutch Angle technique before. I tried shooting several different subjects, but they just looked crooked. I stopped at “Old Sturbridge Village” (a New England historical community) one day without any idea how I might achieve an image in this setting for this months theme. I found this cooperative gentleman at the pottery wheel nicely lit by window light and shot several images at different angles. It was a challenge at first to compose the Dutch Angle shots in camera and it wasn’t until I reviewed the images at home that I could decide which ones were successful. I hope to use this technique in the future now that I have become more familiar with it. Congratulations to all of the entrants. I enjoyed seeing how everyone interpreted the theme.

Finally, steaming towards another win in the grand prize, sponsored by our sponsors Web Spy, we have Mr. Nikon, or Dan Newcomb, with another classic, “3:27AM”. Dan starts his back-story post with “Just before the back-story, I want to thank everyone for all the votes, WebSpy for sponsoring and Martin for making it all possible”. Well Dan, you’re very welcome, and I want to thank you for getting involved each month, and for providing such detailed and interesting back-stories too. Here’s the rest of it.

When I heard the theme for last month I wasn’t sure what a Dutch Angle was. Upon looking up the definition I realized I was more familiar with the film term, Canted Angle. This technique conjured up scenes from Twilight Zone and scary movies. So right out of the gate I knew I was going to do a black and white photo and I had the basic composition worked out. I wanted to have a human silhouette in the upper right corner holding some kind of weapon with something in the lower left corner. I wanted to use a human hand possibly holding something but I couldn’t be in two places at once and I’m not allowed to do a composite. So I thought about it over the next two weeks.

3:27AM (&copy Dan Newcomb)

3:27AM (© Dan Newcomb)

Early in March I started what I thought was a two week work trip to Northern British Columbia. This meant I could be home for the last week to complete the assignment. As usual the trip went a little longer, 6 weeks and counting. So I had to make do with what I could find in this small town of 4500 people. I decided I could use a doll for the lower left of the photo. I’ve always been a little freaked out by dolls, especially the antique ones. I couldn’t find an old doll so I ended up buying this one at the only dollar store in town. It was dressed in a bee outfit. I removed its striped coat for the photo but kept the antennas because they just looked strange. I of course told the cashier it was for my niece. I didn’t want to even try to explain the photo to the lady.

The next challenge was to find a location and work out the lighting. I didn’t bring my flash on this trip so I had to come up with something else. Luckily I noticed some lights my coworkers were using in the warehouse where we store our equipment. These are the dual flood lights on a stand that can be purchased in any big box hardware store. I needed a doorway for the figure to walk through and the warehouse door seemed to fit. I waited until everyone went home and set up the flood lights outside pointing in the door. I wanted a low camera position for the doll and used a clamp to secure the camera to a wooden shelf leg about 8 inches from the ground. I decided to use my 24mm tilt shift lens. With the camera on the Dutch Angle, I leveled the lens and shifted the lens up. This gave the effect of bringing the background closer. I decided to go with 800 ISO and f9. This did a few things; it gave me close to ½ of a second shutter speed as I thought I could move slightly to show motion. Since I was focused so close this still gave me a shallow enough depth of field so the figure in the doorway was out of focus. I placed the doll a foot or so in front of the camera and lit it with a LED headlamp that I put on the ground. I walked over to the door and triggered the camera with an infrared remote set to delay. I was holding a large knife that I borrowed from my hotel room and pulled up the hood on my coat.

I did a few test exposures and wasn’t happy that I was blending into the door frame. I decided to light a few pieces of crumpled paper on fire and blew them out. I placed them in the shadow on the left side of the picture and the smoke slowly drifted out the door. I also lit a cigarette to add more smoke. I took a number of shots and finally decided I probably had a keeper. I was relieved that none of my coworkers stopped by because I didn’t want to explain what I was doing after hours with a knife, doll, camera and smoke was coming out of the warehouse. I was also happy the smoke detectors didn’t go off.

For post processing I converted it to black & white and played a bit in Silver Efex Pro. I also did a little burning and dodging. As usual I forgot to bring my monitor calibration device on this trip so I was a little worried how the final image would show on other people’s monitors. Overall I was satisfied with the photo’s feel. It seems to have a strange mood to it. I think an old possessed looking doll may have worked a bit better. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have.

Dan, you take making do with what you have to a whole new level. Once again, you went to great lengths to come up with an awesome, amazing, totally incredible shot. The back-story really helps to understand how you initial perceive the shot, then build on it with props and the use of gear in ways that most people would simply never come up with, myself included. There’s really nothing I can add comment-wise to this, other than I really do love this image. I actually think the doll adds so much as it is, and I’m pleased you didn’t find anything else. Congratulations on yet another first place.

Thanks to everyone that participated in both of these assignments, and thanks to all of you that took the time to vote. Thanks also to WebSpy, our sponsors, for making the funds available to get some great prizes for the six monthly grand prize that we’ll be closing off with the May assignment. Note that from next month, we are going to reduce the voting time from two weeks to just one week, on request from the MBP community. This means that you’ll have until the end of the 7th of May to vote for the April assignment, so try not to miss that.

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Podcast 226 : Dec 2009 Assignment – Quiet Light – Results

Podcast 226 : Dec 2009 Assignment – Quiet Light – Results

Let’s get right into it now though, and take a look at the third place winner’s image. In third place is David Peacham, from Perth, Australia, with “Lights Out”. As I have back-stories from each artist, I’m going to read the back-story first, and then add my own thoughts on each image.

Lights Out (© Copyright David Peacham)

Lights Out (© Copyright David Peacham)

David Peacham’s Back-story:

Brainstorming a couple of ideas I was thinking of using candlelight in some way. I was thinking how I could incorporate it in a shot somehow and looking for candles around the house to use. We have a couple of large funky candlesticks given to us by friends and we haven’t lit the candles on these before so I was a little hesitant to do so right away. I had to setup in the darkest room in the house as I was shooting during the day. I used our black suitcase as a backdrop and had the blinds down blocking as much light as I could. In the first couple of shots I did away with using the burning candle as it seemed too bright for quiet light. My thoughts turned to the smoke and the glowing wick just after the candle has been blown out.

I tried a number of exposure times to try and capture the smoke billowing away from the blown out wick, but wasn’t capturing the smoke clearly enough or with enough drama for my liking. Thinking on how I could capture this better I grabbed a torch and had a look to see how I could place light into the shot to highlight the smoke. This took a bit of contorting to get right as I had to get my placement right to enable me to hold the light, press the shutter and blow out the candle. I was using the self timer on the camera so I had 10 seconds to get in position and blow out the candle at the right moment. I took around 30 shots trying to get the right combination of light and smoke, and used most of a box of matches relighting the candle. In the end the shot with the more dramatic smoke and light combination surprisingly, to me, occurred when the light was pointed directly at the top of the candle.

Ideally I would have liked a little bit more smoke floating back up to the top right of the image and to have just the lingering glow of the burning wick, but I was pretty happy with the resulting image.

I am sure you are happy with the resulting image David this is great! For a start, you had me fooled that this light was residual light from the candle, but of course, as the candle was not lit by the time you tripped the shutter, there would have been no light without you shining the torch down onto the candle head, but it looks so natural I didn’t even question this until I read your back-story. I see that you used almost a one second exposure to help capture the smoke, and the light from the torch certainly helped to highlight this. I like the composition with the candle over to the left, with the right edge of the candle almost in the center-line of the image. This also of course gives the smoke room to flow into.

I think it’s great that you’d taken the time to visualize and set up a shot like this, and really do think the results were worth your trouble, but I thank you for going to that trouble anyway. Great photograph David, and congratulations on a well earned third place.

Next up, in second place, we have Thysje from New Zealand’s beautiful image “Lupins at sunrise”, and another great Backstory to go with it.

Lupins at Sunrise (© Copyright Thysje Arthur)

Lupins at Sunrise (© Copyright Thysje Arthur)

Thysje’s Back-story:

This shot is one of a series taken on the morning of the 6th of December, at a place I fondly call My Back Yard. My website and blog feature a lot of images taken in My Back Yard and the reason is simple – I am fortunate enough to live within walking distance of this place – a wetland reserve and tidal lagoon.

Early mornings and late evenings I love to wander in the area. So does the dog! This particular morning was very wet and dewy and extremely calm with a light patchy fog clinging to huge areas of the landscape. Nowadays I always have in the back of my mind the current assignment and so I made haste to Barker’s Brook – a drainage ditch running into the lagoon – where I knew there was a lovely patch of wild lupins, as I couldn’t help but think about the light.

In the scene, Barker’s Brook is to the left of the lupins and enters the lagoon in between the posts near the horizon. The tide was out and the lagoon, barely seen near the horizon was mostly mud. A narrow path can be discerned (just) leading from the bottom right of the image towards the horizon. It’s a path I walk often at high tide as the ‘S’ shape of the brook going into the lagoon is a key compositional element in many of my shots.

I set up the scene so it looked pleasing to my eye, the main subjects being the lupins, and the sun. I set the camera to manual mode with an f stop of 9. I’ve found f9 to be a sweet spot on my EF-S 17 – 85mm lens. Focal length was 17mm, the widest the lens would go. My camera has a crop sensor so effective focal length was 28mm (easily calculated using the little PhotoBuddy app on my iPod Touch). You can tell the image was taken using a wide angle setting as there is a curve in the horizon.

The base shot was taken in 1/13th second shutter speed, but I took shots both faster and slower (using mirror lock-up and a cable release) to get a choice of different exposures for combining in Photoshop using layers and masks. The reason was of course the very bright sky shooting into the sun. I did have a graduated neutral density filter on the camera which cut down a lot of the brightness, but even with this and mist the sun was too bright to get the exposure I wanted.

Before bringing the shots into Photoshop, I used Lightroom to correct the white balance as the camera had rendered the scene a little warmer than the actual scene. Once I was happy with the result in Photoshop, the psd file was imported back into Lightroom, where I did a very small touch up job with the brush here and there to smooth the masking, before finally exporting the image.

I thoroughly enjoy the assignments even when I don’t manage to participate. This assignment saw quite a range of interpretations and the standard is high. Thanks for your votes that placed me 2nd. Thanks most of all to Martin for making this all possible. And because I don’t Twitter, may I say here a special thanks to the sponsors Webspy.

Thanks so much for the detailed back-story Thysje! It’s great to take a morning walk with you into your Back Yard, a far cry from the balcony on my 4th floor Tokyo apartment. I totally love this image, with the fresh morning dew and congratulations on recalling that the lupins were there and linking that to the quiet light. You did a great job merging the two exposures together in Photoshop too. You really have managed to capture a feeling of quiet light here. I feel as though I can almost hear the silence, if that makes sense, and I almost feel the cool still air, and the occasional wave of warmth of the morning sun. I perhaps would have been tempted to run a gradient filter down the sky in Lightroom to darken it down just a tad more than this, but if you had, I’m sure it would have reduced the quiet mood of the shot, so I probably would have resisted the urge too.

Thysje's Second Image (© Copyright Thysje Arthur)

Thysje’s Second Image (© Copyright Thysje Arthur)

Thysje also provided a few other images from this morning shoot, and I wanted to look at a second here as well (above). The image is more a close up of some of the seeding grasses, looking along the grasses at eye-level rather than down on to the scene. I really love this image, and have to say that I personally would have been more likely to have uploaded this one for the Quiet Light assignment than the one that Thysje chose. Whether this one would have gotten more votes will never be known, but the simplicity of this shot, and the freshness is breathtaking. The sky has more detail and the sun better defined and warmer, at least to my eye. I like how the area of ground take up the bottom third, and the sky takes up the top two thirds, but with the grasses protruding upwards into the sky area. The colour palette is pretty selective, going from the warm yellow surrounding the sun, then paler yellow to white in the sky then various shades of green in the grasses. Excellent work Thysje in both this and your winning image, so congratulations on second place, and thanks for getting involved.

So, last up, steaming into the lead from the first month of this second six month batch of assignments once again sponsored by WebSpy, we have another amazing shot from Dan Newcomb of Vancouver, Canada, called “Bridge”.

Bridge (© Copyright Dan Newcomb)

Bridge (© Copyright Dan Newcomb)

Dan’s Back-story:

I spent that day tracking down bald eagles in Squamish until it was too dark to shoot. When I returned to the city the fog was rolling in. The fog occasionally creeps in this time of year when the temperature drops and the ocean is still relatively warm. It’s a rare enough occurrence that I knew I had to take advantage of this blanket covering the city. My brother was out the night before shooting time-lapses of the fog but I wasn’t able to go. I was counting on the fog to show up so I could shoot for this assignment and if it didn’t happen I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was glad it showed up, I was lucky to be in town and I was thankful I was able to go out to shoot it.

I ended up shooting time-lapse scenes from various locations until 5am. These were the 7500 photos I referred to in the roundtable podcast. The Lions Gate bridge shot was taken from a location in West Vancouver at around 1am. It’s just one of the frames of that time-lapse sequence. Unfortunately I was shooting over a house that had a heating vent. The dark smoke/steam kept blowing into the shot so as these things turn out I think the still shot looks better than the video.

Thanks for the back-story Dan! I have to say that I totally envy you having witnessed this fog, and the way you capture it here is not only beautiful, but the epitome of the Quiet Light assignment. I see that you used a 3 second exposure for this image, which was probably perfect for getting the fog to move just enough to make it smooth, and give a dreamy look to the parts of the bridge that are surrounded by the fog, but also a fast enough exposure to not mess up those same parts of the bridge that it engulfs. This is simply beautiful light, mostly of course, being provided from the lights on bridge itself. The fact that the lights are all blue except for the single red light on the highest part of the bridge adds a lot to the image as well. In fact, the lines made by the blue light, remind me a lot of the iconic Mount Fuji here in Japan, and I can almost imagine the red light to be the tip of the sun as it rises perfectly in line with the peak of the volcano.

I think most people will agree that your dedication to shooting the images that it takes to make your time lapse videos is something that not many of us possess. Dan also provided a link to a Vancouver Fog time lapse video that he put together from the images shot at this location, which I’ll link to in the blog and show-notes, and I can tell you this place is amazing, as is Dan’s ability to capture it as he does. Please do check that out.

Self Portrait (© Copyright Dan Newcomb)

Self Portrait (© Copyright Dan Newcomb)

Dan also provided this self portrait of himself (above) shooting another sequence that is included in the video, and we can see how wrapped up Dan is to protect him from the obvious cold, and also again, we can see that wonderful quiet light in the fog against which he is almost silhouetted. This is all wonderful work Dan, as usual. Congratulations on yet another very well earned first place.

So, a quick reminder before we finish that this was the first of a six month batch of assignments from which we will accumulate all votes to find five winners that will receive prizes made available by our kind sponsors WebSpy. The first prize is an amazing HyperDrive COLORSPACE UDMA portable storage unit. I have actually just bought one of these myself, and will be bringing you a review in the coming weeks. The second prize is once again, a Lensbaby Composer, which opens all kinds of creative doors for the photographer, and then the following three winners will each receive an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, which I have also just bought recently, and I’m incredibly impressed with. I’ll also be providing a review of this product very soon, so stay tuned for that.

Podcast show-notes:

Dan Newcomb’s Vancouver Fog Time Lapse Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqWTV8rzz3s

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.