Waddesdon Manor shoot

Another day, another stately pile. This time the shoot was with another friend at Waddesdon Manor, managed by the Rothschild Foundation on behalf of the National Trust.

The point of the shoot was to gather a variety of photos which would form the basis of time with my friend the next day demonstrating how to get the best out of them using Lightroom and Photoshop. The beauty of this location is that it does offer variety. There are extensive grounds, providing good outdoor options and it’s permissible to photograph inside provided there’s no use of flash. So, a nice mix of technical challenges.

These are some of the photos I shot along with a brief explanation. To see more of the shoot visit my portfolio site where there’s a Waddesdon Manor gallery. I shot all of these in RAW and processed using both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Photographing Waddesdon Manor

Photographer at work

While my friend got on with the business of taking some shots of the Manor, I naturally took some shots of him. The challenge here was to balance the exposure between the well lit background and the shade. To achieve the result I wanted, this needed some treatment in processing to lift the shadows. To be able to achieve this it was important on the shoot to make sure there was detail across the range, so I carefully checked the histogram on camera to make sure I had nothing blown out or totally black.

fountain statues

Supporting cast

Another exterior challenge was presented by the fountain which features a number of sculptures. I liked the shape of these two figures from this particular angle – it’s always worth checking out different shooting positions) and the vertical fountain to the side matched the lines and really called out for a portrait format. For this shot I wanted to have a slightly shallow depth of field; just enough to put the trees out of focus. I also wanted a shutter speed that wouldn’t freeze the water jet – I wanted some sense of movement in it but without being totally soft. The compromise I settled on was to shoot at 1/200sec at f7 on ISO 200. The processing I did was to give the image some punch and sharpness. If you look carefully, the female has a missing finger. I only spotted that in processing.

table set with silver pieces

Silverware table set

Moving indoors the challenges were to operate hand-held (no tripods and no flash permitted) and this included carefully managing white balance, and the holy trinity of ISO, shutter speed and aperture. While other people are wandering around quite rightfully looking at the displays it can be difficult to get wide shots. Such was the case here so I opted for detail and wanted to give an impression of the length of the table. I therefore prioritised a wide aperture to go for shallow depth of field. There was a lot of natural light coming from a window, so I opted for a daylight white balance and made a minor adjustment in post. This was shot at 1/125sec (well fast enough to eliminate camera shake with a 55mm lens) at f5.6 on an ISO of 1600. So, while I say there was a lot of natural light, it wasn’t by the bucket load and a fast ISO was necessary for the result I wanted. This resulted in processing to gain sharpness and minimise grain (I’m old school – it might be noise to you, but it’s grain to me).

highlights

Wine glasses

The shop provided other little technical challenges. Again, due to the press of people it was necessary to shoot hand-held so there was a need to go for detail and work the same compromises of exposure. My eyes was caught by these wine glasses, particularly the way the light was playing around the surfaces giving them a translucent quality which seemed to help with the sense of depth. I also liked the small hints of colour adding spots of interest. To capture this I shot at 1/60 sec at f5 using an ISO of 1000. In processing I wanted to emphasise the aspects of the image I saw and gain as much sharpness as possible while minimising grain. A close look at the glasses will reveal the engraving which carries the words “Domaines Barons De Rothschild” recognising the heritage of the Manor. The Manor was built in the 1870’s for Baron Ferdinand De Rothschild for him to display his art and other collections and to entertain guests.

If you’ve never been, it is well worth a visit.

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Café reflections

Reflections

Reflecting on a moment

I love the way the photos sometimes present themselves when you aren’t really expecting them. They always feel like a gift.

Recently my wife and I were in London for a concert and, as is my habit, I took my camera with me. The day after the concert we went for a bit of a walkabout and ended up in the café at the Tate Modern for some lunch. As we sat there chatting I noticed the reflection on the glass wall. The happy circumstance of this being a reflection is that it made the café sign read properly as it was outward-facing on tbe window opposite. I immediately thought this would make for an interesting shot, so grabbed the camera and went for it.

What I like about this is the sense of story which is created by the couple reflected in the glass. Their positioning suggests a conversation and their mood appears reflective, which is then enhanced by this being an actual reflection. I also like the way that the trees outside have come inside to create a kind of wallpaper effect and the reflections of the lights add to the sense of depth.

This was shot at 1/125 sec at f/5.6 with an ISO of 400 and focal length of 55mm. As ever I shot in RAW and made some initial adjustments in Lightroom before doing some fine tuning in Phototshop to enhance the colours and sharpness.

Dunham Massey shoot

I recently went on a photo shoot with an old friend of mine. He had the choice of location and opted for Dunham Massey, a National Trust property with a garden, ancient deer park and house. Here’s a selection of my shots with explanations of each one.

Dunham Massey-3992First up is the house itself. Pretty standard fare photographically with a full-frontal square on view of the property, but there’s nothing wrong with that and it gives a good context. Although this was out of season and I waited patiently for there to be no people walking across the shot, it proved impossible and this was the least populated shot I could get. I thought about removing the people in Photoshop but in the end felt that their inclusion added something to the image. This was shot hand held at 1/500 sec at f5 on ISO 200. As ever, I shot in RAW and did my own processing in Lightroom. In addition to the usual light touches I added a graduated filter to decrease the exposure in the sky to balance up the overall image a little more.

We spent some time in the gardens which featured children’s welly-boots in random places and uses – a dream for a photographer.

Dunham Massey-3997I was particularly taken with these RNLI branded boots hanging in a tree; that’s taking out of context to a whole new level. I decided to focus in quite tightly on the boots but leave enough space to reveal the context, though with a wide aperture to give a shallow depth of field throwing the tree out of focus and concentrating on the boots. This was shot hand held at 1/250 sec at f5.6 on ISO 200. The focal length on the shot was 55mm and this had only the usual light touch processing in Lightroom.

Dunham Massey-4010Continuing the welly-boot theme, I spotted this pair hanging from a wooden bridge. At the time of taking the shot I already knew that I wanted to render this in monochrome with the boots retaining their colour, so shot it with that in mind. As there was enough tonal range to clearly depict the bridge in it’s context, I opted for a wider shot to include the whole bridge, knowing that the colour in the boots would make them easily visible in the final image. This was shot hand held at 1/100 sec at f5.6 on ISO 200. To retain the boots in colour I opted to simply desaturate the colours individually as the boots were the only things that colour! That was a simpler approach than going into Photoshop to use layers and masks.

Dunham Massey-4005One of the things I like doing is getting in close to some detail. In the garden there was a border of bushes in bloom with small flowers and the obvious thing was to capture them in a wide shot (which I did, eventually) but first I decided to close in on some detail. In doing so I spotted a bee going about it’s business and stuck with it to get the photo above. It’s one of those things that would be so easily missed. This was also shot hand-held at 1/500 sec at f5.6 on an ISO of 200.

Dunham Massey-4044Back at the house I went in close again for this shot of the stonework by the door. I love the feeling of texture in it and opted to convert the image to mono in order to make this more apparent. Again, apart from the mono conversion, there was minimal processing within Lightroom. Although there’s not much physical depth to the subject here, I wanted to make sure everything was in focus, so opted for an aperture of f10. Keeping the ISO at 200, I was able to shoot this at 1/125 sec and given a focal length of 51mm that was easily good enough to be hand-held.

Dunham Massey-3996And finally one of my favourite things – using something as a natural frame to gain high contrast. These can be challenging as it’s good to retain some detail in the shadows which adds to the feeling of depth and avoids having a black interestingly shaped border. The challenge is to make sure that the highlights don’t blow out, so I was careful to check the on-camera histogram before deciding I probably had the shot I wanted. There was just enough light spilling into the foliage inside the gate to show up, so I metered for the outside and set my white balance for that too. This was shot at 1/200 sec at f5.6 on an ISO of 640. Within Lightroom I only had to pull back the highights a little to make sure there was detail in the bright areas.

Throughout this shoot I operated in full manual mode on the camera, taking full control of white balance, metering and exposure.

 

Kelpies – A Magritte homage

Kelpies pop art

Kelpies – Magritte style

This is rather rough and ready but an experiment in Photoshop to make an image in an homage to Rene Magritte, a surrealist artist from Belgium noted for pop and conceptual art. His paintings were often very minimalist and sometimes featured a sense of absence or unnatural juxtaposition in some form or other.

This image featuring The Kelpies is inspired by Magritte’s painting of a man in a hat facing away beside a transparent outline of himself in which the full figure blocks the background and the transparent one reveals it. In Magritte’s painting a curtain provides the backdrop to the cut-out figure which allows it to appear. In this Kelpies image I opted to screen the whole image apart from the figures and the see-through to the Kelpies in the background.

The final image is a composite of two photographs taken on location. My camera was tripod mounted to provide a secure and consistent framing across both images. For the shot of the figure the focus was on the figure but there was never going to be enough depth of field to keep the Kelpies in focus too. The second shot, from the same tripod set-up focused on the Kelpies.  The rest of the work was in Photoshop using layers and a mask.

With more time, I’ll work on this approach a little more and aim for a much more refined end product, but as a trial piece, I’m happy to have proved the principle.

The Kelpies

Today’s shoot was of The Kelpies, the largest equine sculptures in the world. They sit majestically at the Forth and Clyde canal in the Helix Park at Falkirk. I was last there a few years ago and took some scoping out shots on my iPhone. The intention was to return, fully kitted-out, and today was the day. It was challenging lighting to begin with under predominantly grey skies; but things improved…


Given the grey skies and flat light I decided to get up close. The sculptures were modelled on a pair of Clydesdale horses, Duke and Baron. This is Duke, with his head down. I noticed the light inside the sculpture and moved position until it was placed in the eye giving the impression of Duke looking at you and bringing a sense of life to the sculpture.

1/60sec at f14 ISO 200


Just as I was getting ready to pack up, the light changed as a weak sunlight began to break through giving more modelling to The Kelpies. The way the light fell across the curves of the sculpture creating highlights and shadows gave them rather more depth.

1/100sec at f11 ISO 200


And finally, as I was leaving the location the sun got stronger and was low to the horizon so I chanced a look back. I’m so glad I did. The sky behind had darkened creating a more dramatic backdrop to The Kelpies, which were now lit in contrast to their surroundings. So, hang around long enough and something dramatic might emerge from what was previously flat and grey. 

1/125sec at f14 ISO 200

Colour and light

Here are a couple of different shots from today’s efforts.


This avenue of trees really captured my attention in Riverside Park at Glenrothes. The carpet of fallen leaves provided a pleasing colour base for the overhanging palette of the branches. The softness is offset by the sturdy verticals of the trunks. The challenge lies with the bright area where the daylight threatened to burn out any detail. As always I shot this in raw and made a manual exposure compromise in an effort to balance the whole image. As I’m away from base with no access to Lightroom or Photoshop, I adjusted this locally to take the highlights down a little.  I’m fairly happy with the result but will look again back at base.

1/25sec at f5.6 ISO 200

This next shot, in St Andrews, got my attention for different reasons.


The mottled shadows of a tree falling on the side of this church were making a pattern that just appealed to me. Light is so important in photography and this shot illustrates one way of using light to reveal textures that are not actually there. The shadows create a softening effect on the hard wall, creating a contrast in texture. The only processing on this shot is a slight crop to improve the overall composition.

2/200sec at f5.6 ISO 200

Evening glow

Another piece of serendipity today which just goes to show the value of keeping a camera handy and being alert to the opportunities. This shot was not planned at all. I was in Lundin Links for another purpose and was ready to leave but a traffic accident meant I could not get out of the car park. So, I got my camera kit backpack out of the car and set off for a walk to pass the time. 

This view met me from behind the clubhouse at Lundin Golf Club. As the sun was setting the golden glow made for a nice warm looking sky nicely picking out the clouds. The view is across Largo Bay. The wind turbine generators sit on the site of the old coal fired Methil power station and now stand like clean energy sentinels in contrast to the chimney and generator building of old. Across to the left of the shot are the Pentland Hills just south of Edinburgh. The arrangement of water, land, sky and lighting really appealed to me and, once again, was pleased to have my camera handy.

This was shot in RAW and minimally processed for highlights and contrast – I’ll probably do some more fine tuning when I get back to base and can see this in Lightroom, but it’s likely to be with the lightest of touches.

I/800sec at f5.6 on ISO 20o