Close up assignment

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    • #448854
      Gary Zerbst

      True confession !  I have always had a paradigm that photography must be done just as the scene was found.      I.E. To  move an offending blade of grass from in front of the posey would be photographic heresy.  Contrast that with the concept of fully working the scene to assure that whatever attracted you to the scene in the first place  is fully captured in the resulting photo.  Having a concept for a still life and setting up the scene and then  “working the scene”   until you have captured it’s essence has been, for me,  the antithesis  of “as found” photography.    By “working the scene”, I mean asking yourself “What if”?  What if I move the camera 1 inch to the right?,   3” lower?  What if I over or under exposed by 1.5 stops?   What if I zoomed to a longer/shorter focal length?
      What if I opened up the aperture to have a shallower Depth of Field?  Would this scene work better in B&W?   Is intentional camera movement wanted or should the camera be solidly mounted on a firm tripod.  Is the lighting’s direction(s) , intensity, softness/harshness appropriate for the  effect desired.
      What if the subject were rotated 15 deg to the left?  etc etc etc.

      That kind of what if  thinking has been an anathema to me .  Today I worked on one of the  (borrowed) concepts that I  had in mind  for the June close up photography show and tell assignment.   I set up the still  life  scene. arrayed it on an appropriate background, adjusted and readjusted the objects , set up the camera on a tripod with a 100-400 mm zoom at just a tad further  than it’s minimum focus distance, played with the zoom setting until I got the compo that I thought most effective,   moved the tripod a few inches to one  side,   overexposed by 1  2/3 stops from the meter recommended setting,  experimented with different apertures for different DOF’  etc etc etc.
      I must thave spent 45 minutes making  one photo  (many attempts but one photo).  Then on to the computer where the post processing began.  Select a few most viable candidate images and begin the iterative proc ess of making the photo match your preconception.

      The upshot is that I got an image that I quite like and the whole process from beginning to end was freeing and a little exciting.  I may be breaking out of my restrictive paradigm.  I’m a little  pumped

      Here is the resulting photograph

      Sony SLT A77 V  (1.5 crop sensor)
      Sony 100-400 f/4 – f/5.6 G zoom @ 210 mm ( 315 mm full frame equivalent angle of view  )
      F/10 @ 1/3 sec.  ISO 200
      EV + 1  2/3
      Post processing  in:   Apple’s Photos App.
      Cropped for absolute L/R  symmetry
      Converted to B&W
      Applied vivid cool filter
      Boosted contrast a bit.
      Retouch to remove sensor dust spots (Hope I got them all) 

    • #448870

      i like what you ended up with.  it’s simple, yet interesting.  and i appreciate the time it took you to get this right in camera.

      it’s clean looking and has great color (if anything there might be an ever so slight blue/cyan color cast to the image, but that’s being really picky).  the tones are great (again, being very picky maybe increase the highlights just a tad).  one of the things that stands out to me is that one of the forks has a highlight across the handle and the other is dark.  not sure if i like that or if they should be the same.  on one hand, it’s like the yin and yang, bright on one side, dark on the other, and on the other hand it messes with the carefully laid out symmetry.

      it’s great that you got this right in camera.  you can’t really fix it if the dof is wrong or the egg isn’t centered perfectly.  but photography has been manipulative since the beginning.  some of my favorite old photos (and history) are from the russians when people were magically disappeared when they fell out of favor with the regime.  or the russian photographer who took color photos before color film was around.  i think you’ve found a good balance in using photoshop to enhance an already technically sound image.  you can’t polish a turd.

      • This reply was modified 4wk ago by beth.
    • #448874

      Liked  the story and your creative result.

    • #448901

      In terms of removing a blade of grass etc: I guess one must ask yourself ‘what is fair to my main subject?’. If it spoils it, then why not remove it?

      Dust spots are the exception to that rule – it should never ever remain in an image shown to ‘the world out there’. It should be zapped without mercy.

      I love the clean look and feel of this scene Gary. Anything else in there would have spoiled it. Well done, it was worth the effort!

    • #448907
      Graham Hart

      Hi Gary, this is probably the age-old conundrum we all face at some time in our journey. Its hard to have one rule for all types of photography. I believe with the advent of digital photography, ‘Art Photography’ has blossomed bringing the editing side of things more to the fore… perhaps breaking down those paradigms you speak of?

      I must confess, since delving into the world of photography and exploring the tools available to us; Photoshop, Lightroom, Affinity, Topaz etc etc, I think it has actually enhanced my skills with the camera (could be argued perhaps). Knowing what I can do in post allows a certain level of freedom in the field. That annoying blade of grass in front of the posey is no longer an issue. If that’s the exact location I want to shoot from I can just fix it later in post…its only a blade of grass and healing it out won’t offend the universe I’m sure.

      Healing out a skyscraper or a person or whatever is a bit different but no less justified when aiming for an ‘artistic’ vision. Haven’t posted very much lately due to lack of computer access with the wife working from home (soon to end much to her chagrin and my delight) but one of my posts called ‘Three Chimneys’ skirts around this very topic. It was heavily edited to remove background distractions which IMHO would have rendered the scene quite unremarkable. The edits I did lifted the symmetry in the scene to the fore and I think confirmed my initial thought of “there’s something there, I’m just not quite sure what?” It was only after revisiting the image after watching a tutorial on the selection tool that what was once a forgotten image destined for the recycle bin became a post-worthy image which I was quite happy with. Perhaps I was the only one happy with it but art is like that sometimes.

      Technology is bringing us closer to the boundary between photographer and artist. We now paint with pixels – because we can.

      Your image BTW is brilliant. I love it. I think it is very carefully crafted using minimum elements and hits the brain’s pleasure button instantly. The centre symmetry suits this image perfectly. Technically, I can’t fault it.

      I must expose my ignorance and ask one question though. Your zoom lens is rated at f4 – f5.6 and the exif data says you chose f10. How does this work?

      • #449193

        a lot of zoom lenses have varying maximum apertures depending on what focal length you’re using.  a 100-400mm f/4-f/5.6 will have a maximum aperture of f/4 at 100mm, but as you move closer to 400mm eventually you’ll lose the ability to use f/4 and your new maximum aperture is f/5.6.  if there’s apertures in between the given range it’ll slowly hit all of the maximum apertures within the range as you increase in focal length.  you can still pick other apertures, like f/10, but you can’t choose f/4 once you pass whatever the cut off focal length is for that zoom lens.

        most cameras will automatically change your aperture, even on manual, as you zoom in.

        • #449213
          Graham Hart

          Thanks Beth. I figured that f5.6 was the max aperture at 400mm so wondered if choosing f10 still meant f5.6 was the limit for that lens regardless? In which case, why select f10?

    • #448956
      Dahlia Ambrose

      Hi Gary, I like the simple composition and the subtle colours in the photograph. Beautiful 🙂

    • #449013
      Anne Hornsby

      Great discussion, and I love this composition, Gary.  Agree with Beth re trying a tiny bit of highlight increase.  I like the assymmetry of the light/dark, reflection of tines/no reflection of tines, because that makes interesting visual contrasts with the forms of symmetry in the image.

      I just watched a documentary on a film photographer which showed him making all sorts of highlight adjustments to his print using chemicals I’m unfamiliar with.   This taught me that digital technology of Photoshop adjustments used to be done with chemical technology.

      Graham, I also think (hope) that improving my camera work & my photoshop work go hand-in -hand

    • #449083
      Federico Alegria

      Hi there Gary, despite the several agreements and disagreements you’ll find with your personal photographic paradigm, one thing is true, the better the photo gets captured in camera, the less post-production work will it require.

      Beyond that, your shot is quite an aesthetic experience, and I want to thank you for sharing it with us. Minimal and poetic, two difficult concepts to blend together, and the high key makes it even cleaner. I just love it and have nothing to add to it.

      PS: Loved reading about it too!

    • #449195

      I totally agree with Federico, this is an enjoyable minimal photo, in my opinion quite perfect when it comes to both technical and compositional aspects. I wouldn’t change anything but I’d probably play a bit with white balance to compare different options.

    • #449237

      Hey less is more more often………perfect example of and made I smile!! 🙂

      cus its the ST i have to find fault….there are probably imperfections that need cleansing for hitting perfect…………no such exits so 9.9 outta 10 so hang it on your wall.

      course if it where mine would of decentralised and completely ruined!! 🙂

    • #449307
      Gary Zerbst

      Graham,  There were several factors that influenced my choice of aperture:

      1.  I had the camera on a solid tripod so shutter speed became irrelevant.
      2. Even at 210 mm focal length setting on the zoom lens the depth of field was a concern.  I wanted the farthest  fork tine to be sharp as well as the shell texture on the nearest part the lens.  At 210 mm my widest aperture was F/5.6. but the DOF was questionable   I chose to go with a smaller aperture (F/10) in order to gain more confidence that the DOF would be great enough to capture the image I envisioned.  As it turned pout the egg shell’s texture was lost in the highlights   BUT  it still, IMHO ,  works as a photograph even without the eggshell ‘s texture   This  Sony G lens is  so  sharp even wide open, that stopping down to gain sharpness at  the  lens’ sweet f stops , is almost redundant.   So stopping down to f/8 to f/11 for extra lens sharpness as I would for my other lenses was deemed unnecessary  in this instance. That’s my thought process behind choosing F/10.


      RE playing with color balance, here was very little color in the scene but the color temp of the lighting was a tad warm.  Heres a color   image without post processing.    I thought  that  the  cool coloring of the filter  I found in Apples’ Photos App.  enhanced the feeling of the photo.


      Color version

    • #449312
      Graham Hart

      Thanks for the info Gary. Fascinating reading about the thought process involved in creating images like yours. I agree about the eggshell’s texture too, in fact maybe a more prominant texture would have pulled the eyes too strongly toward the egg to the detriment of the image overall? (I was actually unsure whether it was an egg or a ping pong ball).

      Also, I love seeing the before & after images – wish there was more of it. Its a great leveller knowing that not every brilliant image seen here started out that way SOOC.  I think the treatment you gave this image is fantastic. The cool colour filter changes the image into a gallery-worthy piece of art.

      Oh, I just thought of something else I wanted to ask. Again, forgive my ignorance but why a big zoom lens for such a small close-up subject? Was this a deliberate attempt to control the focal plane better?

    • #449339
      Gary Zerbst


      The choice of lens was based partly on laziness and lethargy (That lens was already on the camera that I keep on my tripod in readiness for the wild critters that share their space with us humans.  The other considerations were:

      Lens sharpness and closest focusing distance.

      Limited but controlled (F/10) Depth of field     My out of focus backdrop was two slightly overlapped sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 Inkjet printer paper about 5-6 inches behind the egg.  (At a subject distance of 3.5 to 4 ft from the lens front element, the DOF of a 210 mm lens is plenty short )  Photopillls shows DOF of of 1 inch at 5 ft from the plane of the sensor using a 210 mm lens @ f/10 on my A77 1.5 crop sensor body.  Had I checked that out before taking the photo , I might have done a few things differently  (Perhaps F/13?).     None of the  other lenses in my quiver would have allowed me the perspective  and  distance compression  of a moderate (210 mm) telephoto (My most used  lens trinity is Tokina 11-16, Sigma 17-70, Sony 70-400.)  Sorry but I earlier misidentified the lens as a Sony 100-400.  It is actually a 70-400 Sony for  “A mount” cameras.   I’ve been studying up on A Sony a7rIII  (e mount) camera body and the e-mount equivalent is the 100-400  (  so that was on my mind)   Depending on it’s zoom setting my 70-400 lens’ maximum aperture varies between F/4 and F/5.6.  It’s minimum aperture is constant at f/22 throughout it’s zoom range

      RE: using a long lens for control of DOF     That is problematic.      A close up with a WA lens that shows the subject as the identical size image projected onto the sensor as does a telephoto from farther away will have virtually the same DOF. But the perspective will be different. (Awkwardly stated – read it very carefully) (I have to support that statement because it runs counter to commonly held beliefs  — self appointed experts dispute this even though the lens designers know it’s true).  Check out the F/5.6  DOF tables for  a 20 mm at 2 ft (8 inches)and a 200 (20 x 10)  mm at 20 (2 x 10)  ft (8 inches).  Assuming equal f stops,  equal sized images projected onto the sensor produce  equal DOF regardless of  the focal length of the taking lens.  An interesting corollary is that (given equal projected image sizes onto the sensor and equal f stops )  DOF for a crop sensor and a Full frame camera are  equal.  The image on the crop sensor just occupies a greater percentage of the dimensions of a smaller sensor


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