In the fourth part of my Behind the Scenes series , I’ll be discussing a landscape view for a change – the shot above is a view over Nottingham City Centre as seen from the top storey of a car park , neatly highlighting Green’s Mill as well as the Cornerhouse in the immediate foreground.
Shot this in the week-long gap I had between two university exams , towards the end of May this year. It actually took two attempts for me to actually finally nail this shot down , on two seperate days – but it was certainly worth the wait I felt.
Trouble was , it was quite windy at the time I first tried to shoot this scene . This might not be much of an issue at ground level in urban surroundings with all of the tall buildings to shield you but exposed on the top of a car park it became quite a bit of a problem.When you’ve got a crosswind blowing across a heavy 80-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens which is bolted to the tripod (through the collar)with a camera body (D200) on the end of it , problems can ensue*. It ruined the first set of shots I tried to take through vibrations ( five exposures from 8-30s at f/11) - only one of them ended up being usable on the first night.
Wasn’t to be deterred – so I went back again a few days later. Alas , the wind hadn’t disappeared at all – was initially prepared to be quite patient but it never really died down at any point. I ended up having to use my body to shield the lens from the effect of the wind in the end – which would have made for a funny sight – me standing spread-eagled to one side of the camera , – if anyone was around! (mercifully they weren’t!) ;P . Did a few things slightly differently also this time around – mostly
*I will admit I do suspect something was amiss with the QR plate / tripod head I was using at the time – but despite quite a bit of tightening there was still some vibrations in the system. Hopefully these issues won’t rear their ugly head again when I use my own tripod.
Just thought I’d outline some plans I’ve got for the coming year or so now – starting with some toys I’m planning on buying at the end of September for myself
D300 + MB-D10 equivalent* : (Image courtesy of thenorthface06 – CC licensed)
As for the body I’ll be looking at picking up a used D300 from Ebay -it’s pretty much identical to the current D300s except for video capabilites and dual card slots and some new controls at the back. Not enough to merit paying an extra £400 or so for , though I have seen some D300s bodies going cheaply on Ebay around the £850. After playing around with some gripped bodies courtesy of John Rourke – I’ve figured I really need the vertical release , especially with the mass of 80-200 f/2.8 AF-D . They make such a difference to the balance of the body.Probably won’t be a official Nikon one though – they charge you £26 for some battery trays alone and the whole thing costs £200 new. 8FPS is damn useful for handheld HDR – so will be after some eneloop batteries initially to start off with.
Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod - not really looked into tripods seriously but I do certainly need one for my work. Been using our PhotoSoc’s tripod for a while . This one strikes me as looking as though it will be particularly useful and sturdy.
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G -Covers the mid range and with the large aperture allows for some fun DoF shots.In my experience (used this a few times before) this will fight you with some spherochromatism but that’s inevitable in fast and wide lenses. Got a few other shortcomings – on DX I’d rather it was f/1.4 and there’s no focusing scales – but it’s dirt cheap and a pretty good tool.
Nikon 18-70 f/3.5-4.5 AF-S ED - got a job as one of the official photographers for our University’s SU. Need a flexible zoom for shooting people candidly. The Tokina 11-16 needs working distances which make for perspectives can be quite unflattering to people. Seen a couple just over £100 on Ebay. Cheap for what it is. Not the fastest mid-range at f/3.5-4.5 but fairly tack sharp throughout it’s zoom. Not overly fussed – have little use for mid-range zooms throughout most of my work (and in those cases stopped down to f/11 or so on a tripod).
Think Tank Retrospective 30 camera bag - I already use a Lowepro Mini Trekker AW but I’m not fully convinced by it – it’s got a reasonable amount of space , but crucially I can’t shoot out of it being a backpack – really could use a shoulder bag tbh so I can equip my camera much quicker. Also , I hope to be doing some outdoors walking quite soon where I’ll need to have a backpack to hold some other stuff with me.
2 x Sandisk Extreme 8GB CF cards - when I’d shot with the D200 I had a generic 16GB card in it – too big I feel , and it wasn’t too great in terms of write speed so once the 21-shot buffer was full it would take a while to clear.
In the third installment of my Behind the Scenes series I will be discussing another candid portrait shot – albeit this time taken within the grounds of Nottingham Castle of a girl posing for her mum’s camera.
This particular opportunity came about very quickly – I was shooting some of the spectacular flower displays on offer within the Castle Grounds with my 80-200 f/2.8. I was vaguely aware there was this family nearby though at first I was concentrating on shooting the flowers. Pretty quickly though I’d figured that they were photographing the girl – and I saw her head peek out from besides a bed of flowers ,looking to her mum’s camera. Had the D200 set to manual – probably would have rather had it set to aperture-priority here but I was quick enough to catch it
The main point I want to make is that , without sounding too self-aggrandizing the shot I got here is likely much more interesting than the one the girl’s mother got on her camera. Why? Debbie Davies puts it very eloquently (and comically) here :
Now its time to rant a little bit. And I know I shouldn’t keep going on about this but I was astonished by the lack of imagination of photographers. Yet again there where great hordes of photographers setting up their tripods in long lines Monty Python style all taking the same shot of the same scene. For gods bloody sake think outside of the normal will you!! Your boring (sic)
It’s that ability to think outside the box which is so damn crucial to making a good photograph – rather than simply capturing a image. Who said someone had to look straight to camera when photographed? I believe that in any situation there is always an image which can be made out of it – and the better photographers will recognize this , and will come back with much more powerful images as a result.
One final note – on aperture settings. I shot this at f/6.3 and 155mm - admittedly I was in a hurry so couldn’t go down to f/2.8 from f/14 as I’d originally intended. That would not have worked nearly as well here – there would have been too much isolation and not enough detail in the defocused areas. The detail in the defocused areas helps compositionally lead into the face of the girl quite a bit.
The second shot I’ve decided to talk about in my Behind the Scenes look is this shot back in June of two friends , Gary and Eleanor while at a house party
Was having plenty of fun here at a post-exams house party – we invited a load of our friends around from all round the country . I had the D200 to hand here – got quite a few other fun shots of people and what they’ve gotten up to . One of them was this candid portrait , Gary and Eleanor were at one end of our garden cuddling each other . Thought it was pretty sweet , quickly equipped the 80-200 f/2.8 and fired off a burst of ten shots or so.
Important thing to mention was that I was a little unsure of which of the five burst shots to go with – I’d felt I’d not quite composed well. Some of them had the AF missing . So I sent a couple of them initially to Gary and Eleanor. They asked for some more – then I dug out this particular frame – which I’d felt I’d nailed pretty well. Initially I’d completely overlooked this frame however in the rush to get some shots out. It’s always a good idea to wait a couple of days after shooting before you edit anything I find – just so you can once again “see” a scene with fresh eyes and forget about shooting decisions.
Just needed to crop it , do some careful b/w conversion . One thing to mention is that I’d gone to -100 on clarity in ACR to give a more dream-like effect by removing detail away from areas flat in tone i.e skin .
Decided to kick off what will be a new regular feature in which I’ll be talking a lot more about my photography – in particular some of the decisions I may take behind the camera , as well as behind my Samsung 24″ monitor when I come to do some post-processing.
This particular shot is one which I shot over a year ago , but until last week I’ve not been quite sure what to do with it . The scene is one of the windows of Bar Circle in Nottingham’s Market Street , near to the Old Market Square. I was immediately drawn to the way the lace net curtains seemed to trap the electric blue light shone up them. This was mainly becuase of the contrast with the masonry outside which was reflecting orange hues from sodium streetlighting – this taken about 20 mins after sunlight. Had my Tokina 11-16 for about a month – so I was shooting with it as an only lens mounted on the D200 so I could learn how to work with such a wide angle. 11mm was ideal anyway to exaggerate the converging verticals and keystoning effect – which for this shot was a good thing (though not usually when shooting buildings).
Post-processing was the problem I had with this shot . The original NEF had included the arches of the tops of the adjacent windows . For a while I knew I wanted to isolate the central window but was a little unsure of the best way – so played around with a couple of b/w layer marks to no avail initially. So I kind of ignored it at the time and played around with the other shots. But on clearing out my old NEF files I came across this shot again a week or so back – and this time it’d clicked that I needed a feathered layer mask rather than one with tight boundaries around the window’s arches .Didn’t think at the time but it worked well in hindsight
Spent the last couple of weeks giving my Smugmug site a well-needed refresh and update (and there’s still plenty more to come in terms of content) .
Most importantly though I’ve decided it would fit the bill perfectly as being a single main website for all of my photographic stuff .Been needing it for a while seeing as I’ve got stuff spread over Flickr , Facebook and more recently Redbubble but nothing really to serve as a “first point of contact” tbh.So I’ve now got the www.lamarfrancoisphoto.co.uk name registered and I’ll be looking at getting a few more domains linked to it in the future.
I’ve also added a means of contacting me directly to the site courtesy of Wufoo and a bit of nifty customization which I’m pretty pleased with
Got a few grand plans for the next year or so – which I’ll be blogging about very shortly too – I’ve not been out shooting since June seeing as our SU needed the D200 I’ve been borrowing from them back. But I’ve shot so many things when I had the camera that I’ve not ran out of photographs to share yet!
Filed under Me, Photography
Sorry for the lack of updates – not posted here for far too long . Quite a lot of things have happened in the last few months and what not: exams not as successful as I’d hoped, running around shooting all sorts including these guys at a music festival : , moving in to a new house with some very good friends, and getting my own domain name amongst a load of other things I’ve had to deal with.