The Golden Ratio

What is the Golden Ratio?  Putting it as simply as we can, the Golden Ratio (also known as the Golden Section, Golden Mean, Divine Proportion or Greek letter Phi) exists when a line is divided into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.  Whew !!!

The Greeks discovered that there was a ratio of length to height that they considered to be aesthetically pleasing. This is the 1.618 : 1, and this makes a print that is roughly 13 x 8.   What’s magical about this?  Well, it has unusual mathematical properties, which the Greeks claimed were divinely inspired, and therefore the best…. and this particular rectangle is the basic shape of all Greek architecture – including the Parthenon.

If you take the Golden Rectangle, and cut off a square, the shape that is left, is also a Golden Rectangle.  Cut off another square, and you are again left with the Golden Rectangle… ad infinitum.  If you do this repeatedly, you will end up with a spiral of rectangles, and if you then draw a line through these, you will end up with a perfect logarithmic spiral.

The Golden mean was studied at length by the mathematician Fibonacci, who discovered the set of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence. The series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … The next number is found by adding up the two before it.

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As a photographer we need to understand the simplicity of this, and how it can affect our images.  What makes something look ‘good’ without you always being aware of the why…..

In my last post, I showed a portrait, and I’ll show this again with the Golden Triangle superimposed on top.

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There is some magic in the Golden Mean – it’s worthy of study, if you are so inclined, and fascinated by such things (as I am)…

You can find these crop overlays by the way, in Lightroom.  Click on the crop tool, and then repeatedly press the ‘O’ key and different crop layouts will cycle round.  From the 1/3 grid, to the Golden Spiral, and through to the Golden Rectangle…..

Enjoy…..

Positive Thinking

I joined, a little while back, a group on Facebook that talks about Fuji, their cameras, and lens.  I was hoping to find here a positivity about the work produced by the photographers.  I did find some of this, but I also found a lot of people commenting on the x-trans sensor, and how it created ‘worm’ like artifacts when you examined the pictures at around 300%.  They went on to say that you needed some extra software to sit in between Lightroom and the camera RAW files, to make this problem go away……. or at least be reduced.

I have to ask myself at this point, why would you examine your images at 300%? , or even more in some cases – so, in an attempt to make things right in my head, I too examined my Fuji images carefully at 300, and 400% to see what all the fuss was about – and yes, if you look, especially at higher ISO, you can see the artifacts which do indeed look like ‘worms’.

What does this mean for me?

Well, the answer actually is nothing… I have successfully processed all my images with Lightroom, and mostly nothing else, at every ISO from 200 – through to 12,800, and been pretty happy with the results.

I put this image up as an example – and was immediately told that ‘worms’ would not show up in this type of image – I would see it more in shots of trees…..

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So, off I went to look for images that had foliage in….

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Zooming in to 300% made the image look a tad odd, but then I looked at images taken with my Canon 1DX at 300%, and they looked a bit odd too.

What’s the answer? – well for me, the answer is to do nothing at all… We have to accept that if an image is good enough at 100%, then it’s going to be good enough.

I have printed images from the Fuji X-T3 at 30″ x 20″ with no discernable lack of quality.  I enter competitions on a fairly regular basis both nationally, and internationally with a reasonable amount of success.  The images that fail, are not failing because of ‘worms’, they fail simply because they can’t compete with the other photographs that have been entered on that day.

The positive aspects of photography have been shown on many levels – I find it not only theraputic, but companionable, and so to the nay sayers within the Fuji community, I say this – “Forget what images look like at 400%, get out and shoot – enjoy your photography, and accept the camera for what it is.  Learn your post processing, and your photographs will blossom”.

Enjoy the Spring sunshine which has hit the UK these last few days… get some good shots taken, and forget about the Lumbricus in your files…..

Quicker, Better, Faster??

In the last 8 months I finally succumbed and subscribed to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom CC – I’d resisted, and resisted till in the end I was backed into a corner.  Two things happened – one piece of software that I had as a plug-in, updated itself, and then refused to work with CS6.  It had gone beyond what CS6 could do.  Secondly, Lighroom did an automatic update, and suddenly the RAW convertor would no longer talk to CS6, and I was left making a DNG file, in addition to the RAW file, and finally then a conversion to JPEG.

Frustrated, I decided to take the plunge and go down the subscription route.  First thing that happened was I got an upgrade to CS6 to the ‘Extended’ version (which sits happily now, doing nothing on my hard drive), the next thing was that LR CC completely overwrote the version of LR6 that I had got already.

In the short term, this isn’t a problem, but if I do decide that the subscription method is not for me, then I’ve no idea if I can recover the version 6 I had before.

I suppose the other issue would be that changes I made in the ‘new’ software won’t be recognised by the old.

Adobe continually tell me that the new software is quicker, better, and faster…..  and as a retired full time photographer, I appreciate the need for speed in processing.  Nowadays though, I can relax and process my images for my use, in my own time.  Which is wonderful.

Is faster necessarily better though?  I’ve spent some time thinking about how I looked at image making in my time with film.  First of all, I was much more careful about what I shot – 36 on a roll – fewer with medium format.  Twin lens Rolliflex – 10 at a time.  Then the film itself.  Dark room, winding the unexposed film onto a reel – dropping something on the floor, and trying to find it again.  Waiting for it to develop – rinse, add fixer, rinse again – fingers crossed, and out it came – and that was just the start….. Check negatives, and look at printing – enlarger, dodge, burn, photo paper – (the sort I saw for sale on ebay a while ago out of its black plastic bag – ouch), and then, the magic of seeing a print magically appear on the paper in the developing tray – fix it, rinse it, dry it…… lets have another look under a light that’s not red………..

Don’t get me wrong, I love the digital darkroom – working in the daylight, and able to walk away for a cup of tea when I want to.  It’s cooler, and I don’t miss the chemical smells.

I love taking time with my images, but that’s not the attitude the advertising bods would have us ache for.  Rush rush rush…. and I see it all the time in on-line images.  Tilted horizons, underexposed, overexposed, burnt out, over processed…..  This is NOT art, this is careless.  More processing does not make for a better photo – whanging up the clarity will never, ever fix a badly composed photograph.

I qualify this by saying that sometimes there is art… and that is very much a personal thing – careful, artistic processing most definitely has its place – but this is by people who genuinely know what they are about.

Begone, you slide whangers – let’s try to tone it down a little – 100% clarity, combined with 100% vibrance really isn’t the way to go……..

 

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

I’ve not blogged in an age – we moved house, I started to rebuild contacts in a new area, I neglected all sorts of things in an effort to re-establish my life in a new county – and when I look back, all these things are excuses for not concentrating on blogging, or on so many other things I needed to do.

What’s prompted me back into writing again, is the constant stream of excuses that photographers are coming up with these days, to explain their below standard work, which they are sharing on Social Media on an almost daily basis.  It’s driving me nuts……

That’s not to say of course that there are many excellent photographers out there, sharing some truly inspirational work.  The trouble is, there are so many more ‘photographers’ (and I use the quote marks intentionally) who feel the need to share a lot of sub-standard images, and who feel that people should be praising them for their trouble.

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups – and I’ve actually left a good number – trusting that the few I stuck with would be more ‘constructive’.  Some of these groups encourage members to post images for constructive critique, and this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart.

“Please be gentle, I’m only just starting with photography / photoshop / Lightroom / Elements – don’t be harsh”

I’m more than happy to give constructive critique to those who really want it – Telling people their images are good, when they are good, and offering (I hope) constructive feedback  to those whose images are not so good, but have potential.

However, if you are new, and just starting out, is it not even more important that you get honest feedback about your images?   If people constantly tell you that what you are producing is good – then of course you will keep on doing it – in exactly the same way, and you will continue to make the same mistakes, and I find that the poorer the image, the less likely people are to accept any criticism of it.

I also see poor advice being given, and explanations for poor technique being blamed on equipment.  A prime example happened today.  I was reading a post where someone had put an image up for review – there was so much noise in the image that you could barely make out what it was.  The image was scaled up to 200%, the ISO had been set at 6400 and the exposure time was just 1/200 of a second.  The usual explanations were offered.  The high ISO, and the darkness of the image – the upscaling, all contributed to the rather messy image.  

Later in the discussion – someone chipped in with and offered the explanation that it wasn’t the photographer who was to blame at all.  It would be a combination of a faulty SD card, and the fact that the Battery was nearing depletion that caused the ‘grain’ on the image.  A number of people tried to explain that a low battery would not cause this effect, but the photographer was relieved that it wasn’t anything they had done.  It was a ‘gear’ problem and so they could fix this by always taking with them a spare battery……..

I’m sorry, but this sort of thing is worse than useless.  Taking the easy way out, is not always an option.  Sometimes you just have to learn how to use your camera, and understand what the settings do, and how you can work with them, when the light is against you.

Understanding your camera, and it’s limitations are key to making better images.  All photographers need to know and understand the relationship between F/stop, shutter speed and ISO.  Adding in white balance, focus, composition and using a tripod where necessary.  There is a host of information on the net, and asking a question on a Facebook forum does not mean you are going to get good answers.  Check out the ones you do get – make sure the information is accurate.

You can’t work on the principle of “It was on Facebook, so it must be right”

So before you post images on the net, asking for critique ask yourselves these questions

Do I REALLY want other peoples opinion?

Do I really?…… because there are some images that we just feel are ‘right’ for us.  It won’t really matter what other people think, because they are personal to you.  It might not be a technically perfect image, but it captured that moment, which means so much to you.  But don’t forget, other people don’t know your circumstances, or your family, or your pets.  To them it’s just an underexposed image.

2. Is the opinion really about what you have posted

Opinions can be hi-jacked by other things happening in the same thread.  Some posters will ask questions that others will answer, and in the end the whole thing is not about your image any more, it’s about something different.  So be careful when you read the comments – it may not even be you they are talking about.

3. Are the comments actually helpful

Does “wow”, “amazing”, “beautiful work”, “incredible”, actually mean anything to you?  Or would you prefer comments such as “the composition works well”, “superb lead lines”, “nice and sharp”.  Even negative ones “the shadows are too dark”,  “you have some blown out highlights there”, “love the shot, but I see a couple of hot spots on the models face”.   Some of these things can be fixed in post production, and because you are so close to your images, you don’t see them sometimes.  It’s good and helpful to have them pointed out to you later on.

Hearing feedback about general things in your image can help you later on.  Ask yourself – can you take what’s being said, and apply it, to other images. If you can’t, I don’t think you should be asking for critique in the first place.   Is there a lesson to be learned in the feedback you are getting.

I encourage my students to take time looking at other people’s work.  Not just photographers, but artists and painters.  Ask yourself “why” is this person’s work so good – how does this compare to what I am producing.  Visit art galleries and photographic exhibitions and try to work out what is good about some of the images you see.

In summary then, if you are new to photography, photoshop, lightroom, whatever – then doesn’t it make more sense that people are absolutely truthful about your work?  There are ways of offering constructive critique without being rude or disrespectful.  If people ask for critique, then we should give it truthfully, and honestly, and expect it to be treated as such.  If we continually praise poor workmanship, then this will become the norm, and we will start to forget what truly great images look like.

It’s riot free here…….

It’s been a long night in Manchester – and it’s been a tragedy that after all the work done post IRA bomb, there are idiots that will just wreck it all again….. I’m too old to understand.  Hey ho !  onwards and upwards…

I’ve just been on an evening course all about time-lapse photography.  It of course ended up with me spending money, this time on an intervalometer.  I’ve uploaded my first attempt onto Flickr… which was of course my better half mowing the lawn.  It’s been suggested that I should add the ‘Benny Hill’ music.

I’ve also been working on images with ‘white’ backgrounds, with the use of a light-tent whilst the weather has been not so brilliant.

These images almost look like sketches when they are printed large.  This is Lavender taken out of the back garden and arranged in sand in a small glass vase.  The vase has been faded out into the background, and the latin text added – after looking it up on the web that is.

Add one flash either side of the tent, at low power, and over expose by at least one stop to make sure the background is fully white.

These could be great greetings cards, and so easy to do.

 

Making Your Workflow with Lightroom 3

Making your Workflow with Lightroom

The Course is now full – however, we do have a reserve list, so please contact us if you think you would like to join us on the 26th.

A one day course to be run at the Best Western Moorside Grange Hotel, in Disley – on Sunday – June 26th – Establish your workflow from shoot to print using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. With full training being given, and exercises throughout the day you will leave with an excellent working knowledge of this piece of software. Full course notes will be issued, together with a memory stick of images for your use. Registration at 9.30am, with coffee, tuition, lunch and finish around 4.00pm. Refreshments will be available all day. At only £85 per delegate can you afford to miss it? There will also be a competition during the afternoon, for which a great prize will be offered………

Click here to go to the registration page and see full details of the day.