Saturday, 27 August 2016

Harvest Time

It is that time of year when the strange shapes start to appear in fields all across the country.

I am talking of course about harvests and for some reason I ma always drawn to the fields with rolls and stacks of straw and hay.

Why this is a mystery, but I guess  it is partly that they represent the end of a season and a sign that autumn is on its way.

From a photograph point of view however they provide a very compelling image.The reason for this is because the human brain craves order and patterns. This is why people are so adept at finding images in otherwise random textures such as toast or coffee stains.

Hay bales perform the same function. It changes an essentially random field  of wheat, corn or barley into geometric shapes, so turning a bland, chaotic scene into one full of order and interest. It is therefore only natural that a the eye would is attracted by such scenes.

However there is only a small window of opportunity to capture these scenes  because they lie in the fields fore only short periods before being moved to the farm.

There has been one field  that has been catching my eye for a while in particular. I have been passing it on my way to work every day and on bright, sunny mornings I noticed that the sun would cause the hay rolls to cast long shadows down the field, therefore adding even more contrast to the scene.

In truth it became a bit of an obsession with me to get out and take some photos there However every time I tried to go something happened to stop me. Whenever I got up early enough to go, the weather failed to match the forecast. On the days the weather did play fair, I had some other appointment which meant I could not go. Every time I passed the field I hoped the rolls would still be there

Yesterday however all the cards lined up and and on a clear summer morning I managed to get up at 5:00 a.m, get out and go to the field in question and take some shots. Even that was not without its issues because it had rained the night before and I forgot to take any waterproof trousers meaning my legs were soaking by the time I got to the field.

I used a 10-24mm wide angle with the aperture made as small as possible to try and get the sun star effect. As a bonus I also managed to get some images of other fields on the way to work.

Generally I like the result. OK a few more clouds would of been nice but it was great to at least know I had taken some images.

Taken with the sun behind, creating a Stonehenge/Monolith look

The sun is just poking over the bale

Colour or....

Black and white? I probably prefer the B&W white version due to the shadow split

Also took some images in IR. These were later in the afternoon

Again a IR shot

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Me and the olympics

Every 4 years , the summer Olympic games creep up on me. I pretend indifference but eventually it draws me in, to the point I find myself watching sports previously I had no interest in such as fencing and handball.

As a photographer I also can't help noticing that as well as the worlds greatest sportsman and athletes, there is probably the greatest gathering of sports photographers under one roof at any one time (and probably the greatest number of camera and lenses in terms of net worth also). It is therefore a great time to take learn from the professionals about the art of event and sport photography.

The ABC channel of America have kindly shared some of the best photos from the games on their website everyday(See below), and it has been fascinating going through them.

What has struck me most is that the photos that most stood out are not traditional action shots, but the more quirky ones; the blurred action images, ones with bits of athlete or just shadows. Some do not show any sportsmen at all.

This reminded me of one of the highlights of this years photographic show.
Among the stands and vendors there was a talk by Bob Martin on sport photography. Mr Martin is a very self-assuming man, who has taken many pictures of many sports including the a number of Olympics. One of his iconic images was from the Paralympics of a swimmer with no legs diving into the water while his artificial limbs are awaiting collection next to the pool.

During the talk he gave great details fascinated of how he visualized the image and got himself into position.

Of course few, if any of us, will ever be fortunate enough to go to an event like the Olympics as photographers. We will never be afforded the kind of access that professionals get. Even if we did, it is unlikely we would be able to afford the level of equipment required to take high speed photos at night at a distance.

However that does not mean sport photography is out of reach. There are almost certainly local sport events, that while not the Olympics offer great opportunities to take great images.
As an example, a couple of years ago the photographic society did an event at a track meet for cyclists, where they were more than pleased to allow photographers access and we were given almost free reign of the track.  The lessons learned from such events can be applied to almost any event from sports day to weddings and graduation.

One of the important lesson for me was the importance of looking for the other angle. Its looking for that photo that tells the story without being to obvious about it. Bob Martins single image told that swimmers story far better than a ordinary action picture would.

The other lesson is that for me, a great image needs to be different and almost controversial. The images that stick in your head are not the pretty ones, but  the ones that make you stop and pause. they are the ones that tell a story, but in a way you had not previously considered.

We may never be able to compete with the kind of access professionals get at sports events or be able to afford the type of equipment they have, but that does not mean we cannot take images that tell the story of an event in some way. By studying others though , we can discover new angles and ways of looking for images

Links to ABC photo website

Opening Ceremony
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Some other Mallory images

These are some of the images I took last year at Mallory park and why, to me, they are interesting

I like the energy in this image. Would it work sharper? No ,it would be too static

Again the blur gives motion and energy to the image

More conventional, but in B&W the facila expressions work better

This is one of my favorites. The juxtaposition between the cyclist and the lad and his bike tells a story of ambition

I like the distance between the lone cyclist anfd the chasing pack. The fact you can only see the wheels of the othyer cyclist is not a problem and in fact emphasizes the lone cyclist

For this one I played around with flash to standout the cyclist

Again this was a deliberate attempt to concentrate on the bikes over the riders, which adds interest

Again used the flash to highlight the finish flag and the riders