Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ex. 8 Camera Dynamic Range

This was interesting, many challenges and some useful learning.  The first trick was to understand exactly what the exercise wanted, took a couple of reads to understand the goal fully.  The next challenge was going to be the weather, however, for a change I had a stroke of luck.  Two days ago we had 10cm of snow and then this morning the sun came out.  Ideal conditions for this exercise, the snow is about the most reflective substance I could have used.  As suggested I took a photo of the front door of a house with an open door showing a shadowy interior.  I positioned a sheet of A3 card as suggested, although this was not the brightest thing in the frame.

For the exercise I have used a hand held spot meter to evaluate the relative brightness (one of my favorite tools), but first started by taking an incident light reading.  This gave me 1/1000s at f/4 and ISO100.  I took a photo with these settings, but got a highlight clipping warning, so captured the following at 1/1500s, slightly underexposing to avoid the snow blowing out

I then walked around the scene and using the spot meter obtained the following exposures (with a constant f/4).  In fact inside the house in the very darkest area the reading was 1.6s. So a very high contrast scene - in effect 13 stops.

In Lightroom I have zoomed in on the darkest area of the image, i.e. everything inside the door frame and then increased the fill light to check what detail has been

The darkest area that is resolvable is the picture frame in the left hand side of the image above.  This metered at 1/13.  There is some other detail in darker areas, but it is not resolvable as anything recognizable.

Doing the Maths:

2 ^ x = (the highest resolvable shutter speed) / (the lowest resolvable shutter speed)

where x is the dynamic range, solving

x = log(high/low) / log 2 = log (8000/13) / Log(2) = 9.3

So not a bad result, the 5D2 has a dynamic range of around 9 stops.  This gives me confidence that if I expose for the highlights, I will be able to pull detail from the shadows.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ex. 7 Your tolerance for noise

The title of this exercise is very appropriate, noise is very much an issue of an individuals tolerance and even aesthetic viewpoint.  The degree to which noise is accepted in an image must also be very dependent upon the type of image and the use to which it will be put. If I take a good quality ISO-100 image from my 5D2 and print it on glossy paper up to A3+ (the best I can do at home), I can detect no noise in the final output.  If I took an image at ISO-1600 and did the same the results would probably not be acceptable.  However if I made a 6x4 print from each I could probably not tell the difference.  Thus an understanding of noise must be associated with the use to which an image will be used.

First off, here's my take on the science.  Noise occurs for a variety of reasons, but the major two are statistical sampling errors and electronic interference.  All a camera sensor does is count the number of photons of a given colour that impact upon a photo-receptor during the duration of the exposure.  Electronic noise comes from adjacent receptors interfering with each other and the inherent baseline signal sampling that occurs.  I am assuming that this is pretty constant, although if the sensor gets hotter in a longer exposure it will increase with the heat.  When taking an image in low light there are two problems to contend with, both due to the fact that only a small number of photons are arriving at the sensor.  Firstly this number may generate a signal comparable with the sensor noise and so the light is essential invisible to the camera, secondly at small numbers the statistical variance in photon incidence between sites illuminated in the same way will be relatively high.  The first issue can be helped by progressive improvements in sensor design, the second is pure and simple physics and can only really be influenced by increasing the size of the sensor cell, i.e. by reducing the number of pixels for a given area.  Software can help by averaging across multiple sites at low light intensity, but loss of detail is a price that must be paid.

So much for my understanding of the physics, what about my images.  For this exercise I have chosen to use my EOS 5D Mark II, which has pretty good noise handling and a wide ISO range from 100 to 25,600.  Other cameras would exhibit very different performance and in fact my choice of camera for a specific task is partly driven by noise handling.  If I know that I will need to use an ISO greater than 400, then the only camera I use is the 5D2, my 7D works fine to ISO-400, whilst the G11 and 40D tend to be happier at ISO200 and below.

For the test I have used an indoor still life with only natural light.  The subject is a flower placed against a white card, such that there are areas of light and shade on the card.  This is the first photo

The colours are dull as the light was very flat.  I also simply used matrix metering and did not do any correction for the fact that I was shooting a predominantly white subject, were I doing this to create a lasting image, I would have over-exposed by 1-2 stops to bring the whites back from grey.  For this exercise that is not an issue.  The lens is a 135mm f/2 set at f/2.  This gives an exposure of 1/8s at ISO100.  I then progressively increased the ISO, from 100 all the way to 25,600.  I imported the images into Lightroom and imaged a portion at 100%:

 ISO 100

 ISO 200

 ISO 400

 ISO 800

 ISO 1600

 ISO 3200

ISO 6400 

ISO 12800

ISO 25600
At 100% (pixel peeping) the noise starts to become obvious at around ISO 800, but is still quite acceptable.  Looking at the images full screen on a 30" 2560x1600 monitor the noise only becomes a problem at around ISO 6400.  Even at ISO 25600 using the noise reduction in Lightroom I was able to create a tolerable image.  As mentioned earlier the missing element in this exercise is what are we going to do with the image.  At 240 DPI I can print a 2 foot wide print using the 21.1MP images from this sensor.  If the goal is such a print or larger then ISO 100 or 200 may be the maximum, however, for a 6"x4" print ISO 12800 will probably do rather well.

The other issue here is the pre-processing that all RAW converters do, in my case Lightroom 3 presents a much better image than the Canon software that came with the camera, however, all RAW photographs must be processed and as a result this exercise must be considered in the context of the image sensor and RAW workflow usually used by the photographer in question.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ex. 6 Highlight clipping

The exercise asked for a scene with strong contrast, I selected a detail from the Hypo-Haus that contained both the grey winter sky and areas of deep shade:

Although the contrast is not great the biggest issue in retrospect is the lack of colour in the image, however, I do not think this will affect my understanding of this exercise, I already have a good feeling for the issues associated with clipping.  What I have done is to take 7 images each with a 1 step difference in exposure compensation from 3 over to 3 under.  In Lightroom I have turned on the highlight and shadow clipping, red is blown highlights and blue lost shadow.  Otherwise I have not processed the images in any other way:

Clearly the sky blows out first at +1, by +3 parts of the building have been lost.  Going the other way significant loss does not happen until -3, the camera appears to handle underexposure better than over.  There is no significant banding in the images, I do not really expect there to be, given that these are 14 bit RAW images.  8 bit JPG might make this issue visible, but that is one of the primary reasons why I never use JPG for any photography.  There is also no visible colour fringing in these images, I have never seen that in any RAW image.

The final point of looking at colour saturation is not really viable with these nearly monochrome images.  With other cases of blown highlights, or very bright images this can be an issue in the sky.  With my older 20D's offering only 12 bit colour and poorer highlight handling colour banding in blue skies has been an issue.  With the newer 7D (Used here) and the 5DII I have never had that problem, at least not so far.

Going back to the RAW images, I first tried the "recover" the +3 image and was quite surprised that there was sufficient detail remaining to redefine the edge of the building and yield some contrast to the sky.

Here is the original image, 3 stops overexposed:

and the recovered version, with adjustments to Recovery, Contrast, Exposure and Blacks.  I am really quite amazed at what came back, although if there was colour in this imaging the noise would be bad by now.

Overall, one impression I take from this exercise is that in the time since the work book was produced Digital cameras have improved their ability to handle blown highlights and I suspect that another two generations will see substantial improvements, even to the point at which the performance of Digital might compare to Film.

Photo Shoot: The Hypo Haus

What a name for a bank, the Hypo Haus, pronounced "Hippo House", a gift for an English Tabloid referring the fat cats of the banking world.  In my case the vast profits of this this financial institution have resulted in the creation of some very photogenic architecture.  Recently I went out to take some images for "Exercise 6: Highlight Clipping", and used the opportunity to take some details of this strange edifice.

The dominant feature of the bank are the supporting pillars, here I have used them to frame the picture, but allowed the street lights to interfere with what would otherwise be a very clean composition:

Moving around and going in much closer (I am using a 70-200mm zoom on an APS-C sensor) I went for a far more geometrical composition.  The reflections in the glass deepen the image and add some complexity to an otherwise simple frame.  I could have gone for pure symmetry, but wanted that broken by the fold in the building.

As I walked around the bank I became very aware of  the many different planes within the banks geometry and the possibilities created by overlaps and reflections:

 In the above image I have included the sky, however, I find the images to be far more satisfying when framing to only encompass the bank:

Alternatively a simple plane presents a strong image, if a little limited

I am very much drawn to superimposition of natural objects against architecture:

Human interaction with the architecture also interests me, this is a bus and subway stop just opposite the banks main entrance:

Other than the bank, I also captured some other architectural details during my perambulation:

Finally I passed this tree on the way home.  It seems to be bent by the wind, however, that cannot be in this area.  I suspect it has had branches removed from the left side to avoid hindering the passage of vehicles down the lane.  Interesting site for future work.

Looking at the imagery I am currently capturing, I think I am in a modernist phase, geometry, angles, shapes... all appeal very strongly.  As I work through this course it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Ex. 5 Sensor linear capture

Until recently this is not an aspect of digital photography that I have given much thought to, linear versus non-linear capture, although recently I am beginning to look critically at the difference between film and digital, so it is surfacing as an issue.  First of all I appreciate the essential function of a sensor and the fact that it is simply counting the number of photons that arrive at each site and using a Bayer grid to bin these into red, green and blue values to construct an RGB value for each sensor site.  The sensor is linear because it "counts" more photons equals more signal, film emulsion on the other hand "reacts" to light and that reaction occurs at different speeds for different light intensities.  As the light intensifies this chemical reaction is relatively slower in proportion to the intensity and so is less prone to blowing out, i.e. it exhibits an non-liner response curve to light intensity, however, this will vary dramatically between different emulsions.

Clearly there are advantages to the non-linearity of film in very high light intensities, although the ability of "good" digital cameras to capture images in very low light conditions is the reverse benefit.  The human eye is also a non-linear light capturing device, and in combination with the brain does a significant amount of image processing to make the world intelligible to us.  Indeed when a blind person gains sight for the first time, they cannot see, as the brain does not know how to interpret the data it is receiving, a person has to learn to see, it is not instantaneous.

The implication of this exercise is that concern must be taken to compensate for this linearity, a process made easier by first understanding how the camera captures and uses the information.

I have started by selecting an image that I used in Assignment 1

Processing the image in Photoshop to achieve the type of curve in the exercise produces a very dark  and pretty flat image - interesting though that this might be a more "real" view of the world, if we had linear eyes this is what things would look like!

Taking this image and reversing the process by applying a reverse curve, I arrived back at something similar to what I stated with.  There is very little noise in the image, the starting image was noise free and the processing at 16 bit has not added much back in.

Looking at this again from a curves point of view.  The histogram for the starting image is well distributed across the image

This is the curve I applied to return the image to a linear version

Looking at the new histogram it is pushed well to the left, i.e. most data is now in the darker tones

reversing this I applied the following curve

Which returned the histogram to pretty much where it started

An interesting exercise, I have always taken care to avoid blown highlights, but have not really understood why Digital cameras are more prone to this than Film.  However, whilst Digital does suffer, a careful photographer can avoid this by judicious use of exposure compensation and checking to make sure that a frame has not blown immediately after taking.  Bracketing can help.


Moving from the printed page to the moving image I just finished watching "The Genius of Photography", the BBC's 6 part history of photography.  Once again the historical treatment is very much one of considering photography as an art form and how the way that we think about and create art photography has evolved.  At the core is the question of what is photographic art.  It covers the usual suspects, the Parisians, the FSA, the New Topologists, and onto the Digital generation.  One aspect of the TV series versus many of the books I have read is that it gives a voice to the photographers and provides me with a chance to put a face to a name. of particular interest were the interviews with Robert Adams and Andreas Gursky.  I watched this during a couple of very dreary days when suffering from a nasty virus, in the midst of reading the accompanying book.

The Print: Watching all 6 episodes in a single day left a distinct impression of a particular aspect of photography and one that is starting to dwell in my mind.  This is the question of the uniqueness of a photographic print as an object.  Throughout the series and also in many written accounts, the detail of the final print, how it is made, with what materials, by whom is a key issue.  I have found it surprising that in history books, details are provided of the printing method and yet little of the camera used or the exposure chosen.  Currently I think about photography in terms of capture, giving very little thought to how the final object, the print, is produced and presented.

In the art market, much is made of the "Print", if it is made by the photographer, that adds value.  However, surely it is the negative that is the "Original", not the print. I can understand that different processes and decisions made during printing have a significant effect on what is the final output, however, the negative is the unique vision of the photographer as an artist.  This view is clearly a problem in my own practice of digital photography, what is a negative, where is the uniqueness of any image.  A RAW file is not even equivalent to a negative, it is more analogous to an exposed sheet of film prior to development.  Where can uniqueness enter into this environment, the RAW file can be copied, it can be "processed" in an infinite variety of ways!

Perhaps in the digital age, the print is even more significant as an expression of the art of the photographer.  Clearly it has the same uniqueness issues as an analog print, but at this point those issues coincide and apart from materials are essentially the same.  Many prints can be made, sure, however, only those that the artist makes and signs as original visions of their art can be seen as the "Object".

Currently I print almost all of my work onto simple HP Advanced Photo Paper, usually using a gloss finish.  I am now rethinking this approach, for the reasons stated above.  The choice of paper, its texture, size, the processes I use during printing, all of these add some degree of uniqueness to what is the final product.  I am wary of producing "Arty" stuff, but am starting to understand that even digital art has to produce an "Object".  In the past I have experimented with printing on watercolour paper, particularly for still life images of flowers.  I did not use any special "inkjet" paper, just regular textured paper bought from an art store. It is time to start to experiment with the final output stage of photography, I need to start to think of my photographs as art not images.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Continuing a recent interest in photography history, I just finished "Photography: A Cultural History" by Mary Warner Marien, without a doubt the best general overview of photography I have yet to read.  This is a comprehensive review of the different movements in photography from invention to the 21st century.  The politics and sociology of the medium are well covered, but at no point did I feel that the author had a particular axe to grind, as I have with other similar books.  Unlike Ian Jeffreys much earlier history, this volume has the size and thus scope to consider photography movements across the globe and how they relate the predominantly Western view of photography.  As the title suggest the treatment is cultural, in the sense that it discusses how photography interacts and influences the culture of the day; art and documentary are dominant, however, consideration is also given to vernacular and even scientific photography.  One thing this book is not, is a review of technique or technology.  I read most of this sitting in an economy seat on the way back from California, the size of the volume made that quite challenging, however, this is in large part due to the inclusion of a great many photographs at a scale that they can be properly viewed and examined.

Photography: A Cultural History

I am now at a point where virtually everything that I read is related to photography, why?  When I started the course my goal was very simply to become a better photographer, this is still true, however, what kind of photographer, what subject, what specialty.  I am not naive enough to think that after a year of art education I can make judgements about where I will take my practice, however, without an understanding of what different genres exist, I cannot even begin to ask that question.  As with Science, art is a process of building upon the work that has gone before, adding your own contribution and hoping to step forward.  Truly unique breakthroughs or completely new directions are rare, in science this happens once every generation at best, in art possibly even less often.  Most good work is simply an extension of existing ideas, treated in a new and refreshing way.  Without knowing what has gone before it is not possible to know where to go next.

Equally craft comes from studying the masters and interpreting their work with your own vision, looking at and then repeating previous styles and genres helps to build the skills and vision needed before being able to make a meaningful contribution, if that is even possible.  I view myself at present as a sponge, simply wanting to soak up as much knowledge and as many different ideas as I can.  At some stage I would then like to sit back and from this sea of information synthesize my own viewpoint, however, that is likely to be some years in the future.

At this stage I have more questions than answers, these are a few solo debates I am currently engaged in:

Black and White versus Colour: Before starting the course I had an active dislike of monochrome images, I did not understand earlier art photography and simply associated B&W with historical inability to use colour meaningfully.  Having now been exposed to a very large canon of B&W photographs, I can enjoy and appreciate the rich tonality of a well crafted photograph and understand the application of B&W to specific forms.  What I cannot understand, still, is why so many people profess a love of Black and White and use it for virtually every subject.  Is it nostalgia? Or a sense that art photography should be in Black and White, something I thought was passed by in the 80's?  I look at work by Eggleston, Shore, Parr, Meyerovitz, and others, material that would be diminished by loss of colour. I soon will have to remove colour from my work, to complete Assignment 3 of the current course.  I am surprisingly looking forward to it, as I want to get to grips with this obsession and understand it from my own viewpoint.

The Other: So much social documentary is aimed at those outside normal society, the destitute or homeless, photography has turned misery into an art form.  This is a prevailing thread in photographic history, I can relate to it, but am not sure if I want to practice it

Film: I grew up with film, but really only became interested in photography with the advent of digital and the merging of photography with information technology.  The almost immediate feedback provided by downloading and studying images on a large computer screen has accelerated the development of my skills and given me a degree of control over the medium that I would not otherwise have, however, I find myself being drawn towards film.  I have a 35mm body and shot a couple of rolls of slide film, but frankly was disappointed, quality was not great and the experience did not differ greatly from my digital cameras.  I am thus thinking around larger format cameras, either 6cmx6cm medium format or even 4"x5" large format.  On ebay it is now possible to get complete MF systems for the price of a mid-range digital body, but does this make sense, will it change how I do anything, will it offer any qualitative difference.  Still thinking about this one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Assignment 1: Submission

Assignment 1: Workflow


Workflow is not a new concept to me, it is something that is a routine part of my working life, however, this is the first time that I have sat down and documented the processes I use in the creation of a photograph.  I have always been conscious of following a distinct and carefully thought out approach to my image making, particularly when dealing with the more technical aspects such as underwater or studio based macro work.  I know from experience what happens when workflow fails; I have dived to a depth of 30m or more and discovered that I have omitted to load a CF card into my camera or left the lens cap on.  In such cases I end up with a novel shaped diving weight and an hour to reflect upon my stupidity before surfacing.  This has led to a careful systematic approach to setting up my camera for such circumstances; test everything both functionally and structurally before putting it in the ocean, salt water is very unforgiving of camera equipment.

Hence, I view this as a very valuable learning exercise and one that I can immediately apply to much of what I do with a camera.  The first step in working up this assignment was to establish a suitable theme that I could design the workflow around.  Recently I have been working on assignment 3 and 4 for People and Place, striving to create interesting images of how people interact with and use buildings and space.  I have tried to drive towards an approach that verges on Social Documentary, looking always to either include people in the shots or to make a statement on the way that people influence urban landscape.  At the same time I began to develop a desire to create some photographs with a greater emphasis upon the buildings than the people occupying them, a mix of architecture and urban landscape, rather than the street style I adopted for PaP. 

Subsequently I am presenting as the subject for this assignment 8 photographs of commercial buildings in my immediate neighbourhood.  I live on the east side of the city of Munich close to Richard-Strauss-Strasse.  On the west side of this major street are residential buildings (where I live), on the east is a series of old and new office/shopping developments.  I have constrained myself by limiting my equipment to a single camera and single lens, a full frame Canon 5DII and a 24mm tilt-shift prime.  The tilt-shift lens is ideally suited for this kind of work allowing perspective correction, but the lack of autofocus, the failure of metering when the lens is shifted, and the requirement to use the lens tripod mounted, call for the application of a carefully thought out workflow.

My intent was to capture some interesting images and at the same time thoroughly test the workflow that I have devised for this assignment.  I have divided the workflow (see attached document) into 4 distinct stages: Preparation, Shooting, Processing, and Finishing.  Within each I have defined a number of steps and built a flow chart to diagram the workflow.  In total I have 19 steps in the workflow, although each contains several activities, it is at this step level that I will describe how the activity progressed.

The photographs were taken over a period of two weeks and were selected from 6 separate shoots.  I have documented each shoot on my blog.  Recently I have been looking at photographs from the Düsseldorf School and in particular Bernd and Hilla Becher, and their one time pupil Andreas Gursky.  In this work I have not tried to directly emulate their style, but find that their approach to photographing industrial and commercial landscapes has led to a desire to work in this slower way with a perspective controlling lens and to look for large imposing subjects to capture.   However, I have to say that for the time being, at least, I plan to stick with 35mm Digital, the large format film cameras used by the Bechers are a little beyond me at present.

The Workflow


1. Research: Wikipedia supplied much of the information that I have used to plan the images and learn about the subject, although a chance encounter with a very talkative resident filled in some of the missing information.  I did less prior research for this assignment than I would normally, partly because the area is one I live in and is very familiar to me.  I try to thoroughly research any prolonged shoot, it saves time and frequently the subject has been photographed before and it is possible to get guidance on how to approach in advance.
2. Select Location and Timing: Once I had decided upon the local office buildings as a subject the timing worked itself out.  The buildings largely face east and west, however, there is much more space to the west of the buildings, as I can use the street area, to the east is a heavily wooded park.  This meant that I needed to shoot from the west and with a low Sun behind me meant shooting from around 2pm-4pm for daylight, and between 5:15 and 5:45 for twilight.
3. Select Equipment: This was simplified by the limited equipment choice and the fact that much of what I was photographing was close to my home.  The less than 10 minute walk meant that I could actually mount the camera on the tripod and carry it this way, with extra batteries, cards and other items in my coat pocket.  This is not my normal approach, but in this case made sense.  Luckily the weather was good and I needed no special clothing or protection for the camera.  For the buildings a little further away I carried a rucksack in case I needed to put the camera away.
4. Prepare Equipment: As with item 3, no major issues, although once I managed my usual trick of not formatting the CF card before leaving the house.  I standardized a while ago on 8GB cards, which hold around 280 images.  With the TS lens I shoot very slowly so had room to spare.  But, NOTE TO SELF, remember to always check memory cards before going out the door.
5. Travel to Location: In this case: walk.  I include this in my workflow as it is important to plan the travel, no use heading to the tube station and finding the system is on strike again (Munich is as bad as London in this case).  I also do much of my work in the city, so public transport is the norm.  If a photograph is time critical it is key to know how long it will take to get to the location.


6. Scout Location: Prior to taking any photographs I walked around the area and looked for interesting angles or where the light was best.  For the current assignment this was particularly important as visualizing the shots took some time and the light was particularly strong due to the low winter sun.  On one of the locations I had previously been challenged so I also tried to ensure that I was either on public ground or that there were no “official” looking people around.
7. Prepare the Camera for Shooting:  With the Tilt Shift this takes some thought, the camera must be in Manual exposure mode and to avoid any shake when hitting the shutter I used a 2s delay on the shutter – this proved simpler than using a cable release.  I always shoot in RAW and for this type of subject matrix metering was fine.  I would always start with ISO 100 and f/11 or f/16, but these occasionally needed adjustment.
8. Shooting:

  • During this assignment I must have gotten some strange looks as I would walk around with a camera up to my eye attached to a tripod.  I am not yet able to judge very well what a 24mm wide shot looks like so take quick peeps through the viewfinder as I look for a location to shoot from.  As I was shooting from a tripod and adjusting every shot individually this permitted and indeed forced me to think carefully about each shot and what I wanted to get from it. 
  • Getting the camera level was straightforward; I have a good ball mount tripod head and a small hot shoe spirit level that I attach to the camera.  One learning point in using the TS lens was not to get the camera always perfectly level.  The human eye expects some convergence of vertical lines and so I found that I tilted the camera just a little before imaging taller buildings.  Otherwise the shot looked unnatural.
  • Metering is tricky using such a lens as the meter must be read prior to shifting the lens, the shifted lens throws off the in camera meter by 2 or more steps depending on the degree of shift.  I could have used an external meter, but found that I was able to compensate.  I also found that the cameras metering was not too reliable for the brightly reflecting buildings against a blue sky, so I found myself carefully checking the histogram and bracketing some of the images.
  • If the shot was not possible without going to Bulb, I would increase the ISO or increase the aperture to bring the shutter speed to 30s or less.  This was only an issue for the night shots.  Also on the night shots, choosing when to shoot was important and determined to what degree I had light trails from the traffic in the shot.
  • Once exposure was set I would make final small adjustments and shift the lens for the framing I was after.  At this point I would also refine the manual focus prior to hitting the trigger.
  • A final review of the image in the LCD display and a go-no go decision.


9. Post Shooting Activities: Whenever I get home from taking pictures, I always look to my equipment first; taking care to make sure it is clean and dry before putting away in its cupboard.  All of my equipment has a predefined home and is always where I expect it to be – I would go mad otherwise.  I do this whilst uploading the images to my editing computer.
10. Preparing Images for editing: I work in the computer industry and used to have a technical job, so am very comfortable around computers.  The one thing I used to guarantee any customer is that a disk drive will fail, high quality buys more time, but the drive will eventually fail.  Subsequently I have duplicate drives for everything that I care about, my photographs live on a pair of external 1TB USB drives, each backed up to another 1TB.  When I import photographs I use the facility in Lightroom to import directly from the CF card and make a separate copy to each drive.  At the same time I label each shoot in a meaningful way combining date and subject – e.g. 101116 Bogenhausen.  I do not key word my images, I should, but have yet to work out a system I like for doing this.
11. Editing: For this assignment editing was somewhat easier than on others, primarily due to the fact that using a slower more deliberate workflow meant that I shot far fewer frames.  However, I followed my usual step wise refinement of selecting images to a Quick collection that is then stored as a permanent collection in Lightrooms catalogue.  At each step of the process I would refine down and create a new collection that contains what I consider at a given time to be my submission set.  During this process my vision of what I wanted to present changed somewhat, moving to 8 distinct images, rather than 4 groups of 3 images.
12. Processing:  Once I selected those images that I wanted to place in my blog and which might ultimately become part of the submission, the next step was processing.  Once again I do all processing in Lightroom, except for final print preparation.  The non-destructive workflow suits me very well.  For this assignment most of the adjustments were to Contrast and Colour Saturation, the camera handled the white balance very well.  The biggest problem I currently have is a dirty sensor on my 2 year 5DII (it has never been cleaned), so a small amount of work was needed with the healing brush.  I need to figure out how to clean the sensor myself or hand the camera in for cleaning.
13. Update Blog: After every shoot for an assignment I make a blog entry highlighting the images I liked and commenting on the process.  As a result my blog contains many images, for a photography course I feel that the blog should be as much a visual as a written account of what I do.  To prepare images for web I use Lightrooms export facility, choosing medium quality JPEG, 1024 pixel dimension and medium sharpening for screen.


14. Conceptual Considerations: Whenever preparing a large number of images for any sort of use, the final selection can lead me in a slightly different direction.  Whilst the initial concept drives the taking of photographs the results can then influence the final outcome.  As mentioned before, the images I captured caused me to rethink my initial concept, moving from a series of visual studies of individual buildings to more of a documentation of the commercial urban landscape in my neighbourhood.  At this stage all the images turned out to be in landscape format, providing a common visual look, but one well suited to the 24mm focal length.
15. Final Edit: My original concept called for 12 images, 3 from each of four buildings.  At this stage I decided this was too many and so edited down to 8 photographs, removing some and introducing others that worked better with the new concept and added some visual variation.
16. Re-Shoot: In this case, I returned a couple of times to one building taking advantage of different light and in once case improving the framing of an image, getting much closer than I had before.  As all of the buildings were relatively close to one another I could take advantage of a shoot and make a short detour to refine an image.
17. Final Processing: At this stage I became very concerned about ensuring that my final output form matches my vision and what I was looking at on the primary screen of my computer.  I calibrated the main screen using a Spyder 3; this gives me good results when printing, although I have to keep in mind that prints always look darker than screens .  When the screen was where I want it to be I went through the images again, making small tweaks to the photos.  The web based images were exported once more as medium quality JPGs as are the images that will accompany this document as part of my submission.  For printing I export as 16 bit TIFFs to preserve as much image data as possible.
18. Printing: I move to using Photoshop CS4 as I much prefer the printing interface.  I crop each image and add a white border in CS4 so that I can print A4 borderless which I find creates the most predictable results.  I felt that the subject for this assignment would work well with Glossy paper and so loaded HP Advanced Glossy Photo Paper, ensuring that the print profile was correctly selected and that the printer knew that CS4 would be managing the colour. This is the step that sometimes fails when I print directly from Lightroom, somehow I often get the wrong colour profile, so use CS4 as I know that this works, plus I have more control over cropping.
19. Web: For this assignment I am simply placing the images into my online blog, my web site is currently down and needs to be completely redeveloped and a new hosting company selected.  This is a job for the long winter evenings and fits well into this course.  I will also post the images to Flickr and the OCA Student Site.

Workflow – Closing Comments

This workflow is orientated towards outdoor landscape/architectural photography and would need to be substantially modified for other projects.  The Preparation and Shooting stages should be quite specific to the subject or project, whilst processing and finishing are somewhat more generic.  In my own photographic practice there are 3 other types of photography that would substantially modify this workflow:

Wedding/Events: I have shot 3 weddings for friends and here workflow is critical.  Preparation needs to be very much more focused around the single opportunity nature of the event, all equipment needs to be checked and backups for everything prepared – myself included (my wife is pretty good with a camera and works as second shooter).  Access is a major concern, talking to the couple and the officials up front is essential, does the bride want pictures of getting ready, can I use flash, at what time does each stage happen, …  Each hour of the day needs to be planned for with a list prepared of what I will shoot and when.  I actually kept this in my pocket and ticked stuff off as I went.  Finishing depends upon what the couple want, as a minimum I provide a DVD with JPG’s and create my own wedding album photobook using Blurb as a gift.  If they want prints I then charge for the materials involved.

Diving:  The workflow for underwater photography is very similar to what I have described above, in fact this is pretty much based on my scuba workflow.  The key differences are in preparation. Deciding on the lens to use requires discussion with the dive master, the decision is basically wide angle or macro, each requires a different port on the camera housing.  Testing is also critical, I shoot a frame to check that both external flash guns are connected and working properly, check that the lens gear is coupled if using a zoom lens, and then drop in a tank of fresh water to check for leaks (a little fresh water will not generally harm a camera.  Underwater shooting is no different to above water, the same issues apply, with the added complexity of floating in 3D space and possibly contending with current.  After shooting the disassembly and cleaning stage are more rigorous and before I do anything the camera is cleaned and all batteries are on chargers.

Studio:  I enjoy macro work and recently have been doing some portraiture.  The workflow here is complicated by the addition of lights, either battery operated speedlites or small studio monoblocks. Getting the lighting right is the hard part and becomes the largest element in the workflow.  For macro work I frequently shoot with the camera tethered to my computer, meaning that I can remotely set exposure and fire the camera.  This has the great advantage of being able to preview the shot on my monitor and then capture the image directly into Lightroom without using a CF card.

I suspect my workflow is somewhat more involved than many people might use, but I am a methodical guy and enjoy the planning/preparation almost as much as the shooting.  I very rarely simply take a camera and walk out the door to see what I can find.  I generally know what I am looking for, but am also happy to be surprised.  In underwater photography I practice pre-dive visualization, before going in the water I already have in mind a number of shots I would like to create, I then look for circumstances that permit me to do that.  This greatly improved the images I was capturing.  I now apply this to all shooting.

The Photographs

24mm TS-E, f/16, 1/90s, ISO 100
For the first photograph, I wanted to provide a broad view of the area in which I would be working.  The tall building to the back is the Hypo Vereins Bank headquarters, in front of it is the Münchener Bank HQ and next to it on the right a mixed office and retail development.  The point from which I have taken the photograph used to be a major 6 lane ring road. This road has been buried and the street is being remodelled as a normal two lane road, some areas of which are still a little overgrown.  I took advantage of this to juxtapose the wild scrubby growth against the pristine steel and concrete buildings behind.  The image is a compromise, moving to the left would have produced a better framing and eliminated the uglier brown building to the right of the frame, but at the expense of losing the daisies. 

24mm TS-E, f/16, 1/90s, ISO 100
Moving closer to the office/retail area I carefully sited my camera to create a very geometrical shot.  The line of steel bollards creates a barrier to entry into the space below the arch. This image contains strong symmetries, but also elements that break them.  It is also very impersonal, there are people in the image, but they are deliberately small, I wanted to include people but for them to be diminished by this glass and steel world. Time of day was critical for this photograph; with the sun too high the shadows become very strong, although this might also be interesting.  With the sun low, buildings behind me start to cast shadows.  I am standing on the shadow line as I take this photograph.

24mm TS-E, f/16, 1/45s, ISO 100
Walking up the ramp on the side of previous photograph, a roof space is encountered within which is laid out a small garden for the office workers to enjoy when taking a break.  Within this space are a number of small buildings and openings that drop down to the shopping centre below.  I composed this photograph with very strong perspective lines to stress the modernity of the environment I was in.  This might be a little too hard, stepping back a few paces would have added more foreground and diminished the starkness of the image.  I still find it difficult to decide this type of compositional question, all I can say is that this framing interested me more.

24mm TS-E, f/16, 1/125s, ISO 100
Moving to the north I now shift my attention to the Hypo Vereins Bank building, the “Hypo-Haus”. This building features in 3 of my selected photographs, it could have been in all of them such is the strangeness of the architecture.  Completed in 1981 this 114 meter high building dominates Munich’s eastern skyline.  There are very few high buildings in Munich as it is forbidden in the city centre to disturb the historical skyline, thus tall buildings really stand out.  With this particular shot I did not want to frame solely the building, but to place it into the context of the surrounding street furniture.  The row of bicycles suggests that not all that is modern and steel dominates the life of this neighbourhood.  With this image, I think I got the shift slightly wrong and the building has a bit of diverging verticals about it.  I think this mistake has served to make the building look even more ominous than it really is, so maybe not such a bad thing.

24mm TS-E, f/16, 1/90s, ISO 100
This is a much older building, probably built in the 1960’s and housing a number of local businesses and doctors surgeries.  It is a couple of hundred meters south of the previous shots and in a very different style.  Here I have gone for a fairly straightforward perspective shot.  This photograph would have been improved by the presence of a few more people emphasizing that it is a building used by the community, not simply an office block.

24mm TS-E, f/11, 0.3, ISO 100
This photograph has a very different style and structure to the first 5.  The subject is a small shopping plaza with the Arabella High-Rise building forming the background.  It is a massive slab of concrete rising out of the Arabella Park development with a mosaic like curtain walling adding texture to any photograph.  The sky was very grey on the day I was there so I decided to omit it from this image and subsequently have created a far more intimate view of the city than the previous images.  Stylistically it does not sit as well with the other photographs, but from a documentary viewpoint illustrates a different style of building.  I have been experimenting with photographs containing limited perspective, with depth created by horizontal layers of receding content, this is a half-way house to that idea.

24mm TS-E, f/16, 10s, ISO 100
For this photograph I have returned to a similar viewpoint to the one I used for DPP1-4, however, later in the day just after sunset.  I have moved closer to the bank HQ reducing the amount of foreground which would be almost black in any case.  I have selected a time of day and exposure that tried to balance the artificial light with the reflection of the low Sun on the upper part of the building and yet retain the deep blue of the sky.  This took a few attempts and careful bracketing of exposure.  Ideally I would like to have avoided the car lights in the foreground for this particular image, but the time of day and need for a longish exposure meant that was not really possible.  Higher ISO and wider aperture might have helped, but at the cost of a drop in resolution.

24mm TS-E, f/22, 30s, ISO 200
12 minutes later I moved position and with the last of the twilight set about photographing this glass clad building.  This time I had no chance to eliminate the light trails so selected a framing and timing that emphasized them as a dynamic element of the composition.  I have tried to keep some detail in the crane above the building, my lens was not wide enough to include it completely and had I done so would have made the building too small within the frame.  I particularly like the way that the lighting inside the building has created blocks of yellow light that contrast well with the deep blue of the sky and the red/orange of the cars passing by.  I think I would have achieved a better photograph using the same light as in DPP1-7, which would have offered more detail of the crane, however, the camera is pointing West here and so I would have lost much of the colour in the sky.