Moving from 35mm to 50mm!

For the past while I have mostly been taking photographs with a 35mm lens, so much so that I feel very comfortable using this focal length, it seems to suit my documentary style and provides a wide frame within which to arrange the various elements.

Recently I was reminded that Henri Cartier-Bresson invariably photographed with a 50mm lens and that he never cropped photographs.  I decided to take a walk around Belfast’s historic entries with a 50mm Summilux lens and to rely on zone focusing at f8.  “F8 and be there” is attributed to the New York photojournalist Arthur Fellig, although I see that some attribute the quotation to the famous war photojournalist Robert Capa.  This aperture is wide enough to let in sufficient light and small enough to provide adequate depth of field. All I had to worry about was composition!  

As I continue to explore street photography and the rangefinder camera I am finding photography even more enjoyable by just working with one camera body and one prime lens with all the freedom this brings.  However I did find using a 50mm lens a little bit more challenging with its narrower angle of field forcing me to frame more carefully.  On the plus side I did like how the viewfinder on the rangefinder camera allowes you to observe what was entering the leaving the frame.  This added information is really useful.  Also zone focusing does not always produce pin sharp focus at full resolution, something which digital photographers are increasing becoming obsessed with.

Looking back at the famous street photographers who used expensive Leica cameras, they did not capture pixel peeking sharpness!  They instead concentrated on capturing emotion, which is really what photography is about, photographs that tell a story.  In HCB style here are the results of my Belfast entry explorations.

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission. 

An environmental portrait telling a story

Having now used both Fujifilm X type cameras and more recently a rangefinder camera for quite a while now I had forgotten just how heavy DSLR cameras are.  I recently covered an awards ceremony when I used my old D700 with its 24 – 70mm lens and it weighed a ton. Having a slight thumb injury the camera felt quite unwieldy so much so that my heavier D3 never left the camera bag.

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The next day I was in an office with my lighter rangefinder camera when I took this photograph.  It was so much more enjoyable to use.  I was intrigued by the office, there are so many clues here which tell a story.  The photograph was unposed and I took the opportunity to photograph while a phone call was being answered.  Building layout plans were pinned on the noticeboard, which indicates the nature of the work conducted here. Post-it notices on the wall and the untidy desk indicate the level of activity and perhaps the limited view through the window provides yet another clue.

I like the image because it is unposed and entirely unplanned, it was taken on the spare of the moment using just the ambient light in the room, but it does capture a moment in time, it describes an activity and indeed it now provides a social history in what has been a hectic period for this office worker.

This photograph shows Jonathan Mattison who is the curator of the new interpretative centres promoting the Orange Institution which will be formally known as the Museums of Orange Heritage.  The museums, currently undergoing construction at Schomberg House, Belfast, and at Sloan’s House, Co Armagh, are part of the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission. 

 

Travel light photography

For quite a some time now I have been using Fujifilm X system cameras and enjoying the experience, especially the lack of neck strain.  I now seldom use the big and bulky DSLR cameras, except when the occasion demands it.  However for the past couple of weeks I have been using a full frame rangefinder camera, a complete new experience for me. Manual focus and no bells and whistles have brought me back to what photography used to be like.

My recent monochrome images have been produced with this camera.  Being forced to slow down using manual focus might help to improve my photographic eye, I have also being trying out zone focusing and being surprised when my images were sharp!  But what has been most enjoyable is the experience of going out with just one camera and one prime lens.  There is a freedom with this which just lets you concentrate on making that image.

Earlier today I visited Island Hill and the three monochrome images are the result. Yesterday I visited the same location and captured the colour photograph.

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission. 

Print it big!

This past week I have conducted a small experiment with photographs that have featured in my last couple of blogs.  The problem with digital photography is that few images taken ever get printed and Facebook is killing the photographic print.  So I decided to print some myself and to select two printing labs to print the same images for comparison, one local and the other from Stockport.

From the three options my own printer and the locally based printing lab produced similar results, so I was quite pleased that my own printer, a Canon Pro 9500 MkII, was up to the job.  However DS Colour Labs Ltd from Stockport provided an outstanding service at half the price of the locally based print lab and their print quality was simply outstanding.  I definitely recommend them.

Printing the image big is also recommended, in this case I printed 12 x 16 inch prints which rendered fine detail, the following image of the prints does not really do them justice.

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I personally use Fujifilm Satin inkjet printing paper which gives fine results.  I also noted that DS Colour Labs Ltd also used Fujifilm paper.  The prints were printed on Fujifilm Pearl Crystal Archive paper which gave my monochrome prints an almost silver metallic appearance. When selecting images to print those which show good contrast and a good dynamic range look great. I would be happy to settle on this paper but would like to see how colour prints are rendered.

Finally, rather than viewing your photographs on a PC screen try printing them!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.  

 

The black & white print!

I am still in my monochrome phase!  By selecting carefully the right composition it can often be better to render the image in monochrome.  Some people print in monochrome simply because the colour version was weak; this is a terrible reason to choose monochrome!  So what am I trying to achieve?  The following image is Kilmood Parish Church, a five minute drive from where I live:

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What I am looking for in a monochrome image is a good dynamic range from pure black to pure white.  I want lots of detail that will almost produce a 3D image, of course a photograph can only be two dimensional but you can get a 3D look!  In this image I was focusing on the headstone in the foreground, yet with a f4 aperture I was able to achieve good depth of field to the church tower in the background.  The right light does help, weak winter sunlight – a great time to take photographs!

Of course holding a 12 x 16 inch print in your hand is the real test, the computer screen does not do it justice and even less a Facebook posting ;-)

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission. 

 

Photographic lines

This blog is more about composition, something I don’t talk enough about!  But in framing a photograph the lines of direction, or to put it another way, the direction of force within the image are important, among other things.  It is the leading lines that direct how you read the image, they direct your eyes into the image.  There are of course other visual influences such as colour and lightness and darkness.

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In the above image I used the line of the roof on the left to draw your eye towards the centre of the image and in this case it works.

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The use of lines in this image is quite different, perhaps more subtle.  I have used the line of the roof of a burial vault in the foreground with that of the line of the church gable end roof to frame the shadow of a branch from trees that were behind me.  The church tower at the other end of the building provide a depth of the image, which incidentally was taken at f2.8, not an aperture associated with deep depth of field.  This is where a wide angle lens comes into its own, in this case a 35mm lens.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Getting into wedding mode!

I am not a wedding photographer but occasionally I am asked to undertake wedding shoot, which is definitely not for the faint hearted as you can’t shoot it again if you get it wrong!  As I am due to shoot a wedding in the next few days I have been looking over images of the last wedding I shot earlier in August.

Using CS6 and Lightroom I tried using black and white adjustment layers to hide and reveal colour.  Actually its a trick that I am not very keen on as it has been so over used by so many wedding photographers.  The image was taken with a Nikon D3 fitted with a 85mm f1.4 lens. 

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This image was taken with a Nikon D3 with an 85mm f1.4 lens.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

Hungering after film photography

The last time I ran a role of film through a film camera was around 2002 and in recent months I have been threatening to try film photography again.  To date I still haven’t! However I took some nighttime images at a candlelight vigil at Belfast City Hall commemorating the outbreak of The Great War when a friend of mine commenting on the image said you should try black and white.

So I have created an image using Silver Efex Pro using a Kodak Tri X Pro filter to emulate film photography.  Tri X Pro was a 400ASA black and white film which was regarded as a fast film, so I suspect this is what I would have been using for this event.

In the darkroom you would have used dodging and burning to bring up the areas of the photograph that you wanted to enhance, this is what I did using Silver Efex Pro when I lightened the face of the man in uniform.  To enable you to compare I have the original image and the monochrome copy.  I will let you decide whether or not it looks like an image produced from a negative!

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission 

Belfast’s built heritage

This is Cromwell Road in the university district of Belfast.  Now a rather run down district inhabited mainly by students and now more recently by immigrants.  The architecture and style of this particular terrace demonstrates its grand past, a reflection of more prosperous times.  When I consulted a 1901 street directory I noted that the inhabitants were recorded as accountants, engineering chemist, agents and a RIC Sub Inspector.

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Many now converted into flats the interior of the houses will have been subdivided.  I hope that our city planners will have the good sense at least to preserve the facade of the terrace!

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A casual walk around the streets of south Belfast reveal a wealth of material to photograph.  I remember visiting one of these houses over thirty years when I was a social security visitor, good to see the terrace is still standing!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission 

Lanark Way Bonfire

I have found that I am increasingly drawn to more of a documentary or a street style of photography.  Unlike landscape photography where you arrange the elements of the image in a pleasing harmony to create the perfect image, street photography is quite different.

In street photography the compositions are imperfect as people move about and the scenes change extremely quickly.  You get what you can and make the best of what you observe.  What you are really trying to do is to make images that tell a story in that fleeting fraction of a second!

Yesterday I visited Lanark Way to see the bonfire that has been built for the coming Twelfth celebrations.  In photographing this scene I adopted a specific approach.  A distant shot to provide the viewer with the general context, known as the ‘establishment shot’, a medium distance shot showing some of the people involved and finally a close up shot.  Each image has its own role to play and viewed together they should tell a story.

In preparing the images I processed them as monochrome, removing the colour simplifies the image and encourages the viewer to observe the whole image by not be drawn to particular colours.  This is the result.

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This morning a story has appeared in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper about this bonfire for all the wrong reasons!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission