Friday, 26 January 2007

Shooting Gigs

Jarvis Cocker
Originally uploaded by DigitalHeMan.
If you look at my Flickr photostream you will see that I have shot a couple of concerts over the past couple of monthes, including the one pictured here, Jarvis Cocker, at Paradiso Amsterdam on the 22nd January 2007. Jarvis has been a favourite of mine ever since his Pulp days, and when I heard he would be playing in Amsterdam, I decided to take my camera along for a few shots. Since Paradiso in Amsterdam doesn't have such a strict door policy, it is fairly easy to get my camera gear in and out without being spotted :) Using the gear I normally take with me (typically my Nikon D200 and a fast prime, such as the 85mm f1.4 or the 50mm f1.8), I generally run into one of two 'problems' that need to be dealt with once I get back into my digital lab.

The first of those problems is noise. With the D200 there is a lot of discussion on the Internet about how good or bad the D200 is at dealing with noise, especially when it is compared with some of the higher end Canon models. I find shooting with the Nikon at high ISOs can generally deliver good results right up the ISO scale, providing the exposure is as close to spot on as you can get it when taking the image. But of course since the light at concerts is generally 'variable', I tend to try to keep the ISO set to 640 or less, with the occassional forage into ISO800 if I am feeling lucky.

I find at ISO640 I can get reasonable results, and using a combination of a noise reduction plug in such as Noise Ninja, and curves to deal with noise in the shadows, I end up with something approaching acceptable.

The second issue I am generally faced with is lighting and on stage effects, such as smoke machines. And until recently I was at a loss as to how to deal with occassions such as this rather greenish yellow image, caused by strong on stage lighting and some smoke.
Jarvis Cocker

But after reading some chapters in Lee Varis' excellent guide to post processing people shots, Skin, I realised that my solution may be also be in the use of some more complicated curves. I managed to achieve the result at the top of the article by playing around with my curves, but this time instead of adjusting the top level RGB curve, I went down to the Red, Green, and Blue channels individually, and changed them until I had got the skin tones and back lighting exactly to my liking. And I think you will agree the rework is definitely a lot better than the original.......

More shots from this concert here

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Before the Storm

Before the Storm
Originally uploaded by DigitalHeMan.
The weather last week in the Netherlands was somewhat dramatic.... a storm raged through Noord Holland, with winds of up to 130kph, causing devastation and loss of life. Obvioulsy not really a time for photographs (unless you want your camera to get *really* wet), but by the next day we had bright skies again. This shot was taken a couple of days later, before another downpour, and I was able to take advantage of the water that had fallen before to give me some nice reflections.

Although I think the silhouettes worked quite well on this shot, it reminded me I still need to get some graduated ND filters so that I can get a better exposure match when there is a vast difference in the brightness between foreground and background.....

Saturday, 20 January 2007

You're not from round here, are you?

Abandoned House
Originally uploaded by DigitalHeMan.
During a recent trip to Dallas took the opportunity to venture out for a day to Fort Worth, a couple of miles down the road. The differences between the two cities were fairly stark - Dallas on the one hand is a thriving metropole, set up by the oil business, and maintained by the computer business, placing Dallas on the edge of America's second Silicon Valley. But Fort Worth still appears a fairly run down midwest place with a small town mentality. Although the center has some evidence of modernisation, the suburbs are still well and truly placed in the early 80s. Houses look like they would quiver, shake, and fall down at the slightest sign of a hurricane, and a lack of money has left many of them in a state of disrepair. Compared to Dallas, the citizens seem to be suffering from a lack of cash, and the large American vehicles they are travelling around in are definitely not this year's model.
Still, it's an interesting place for some photography, if you can escape without upsetting too many of the locals. I was with a friend, Philip, and on a number of occassions people came out to take a look at what we were doing. And the size of the dogs some people had roaming in their porches unleashed meant we didn't stay around too long in some places.
The photo here, severely warped with the help of a fisheye, was taken under the watchful eye of one of the locals. We had discovered some old derelict buildings on the edge of Fort Worth, which invited us to walk around some and take some pictures. As we arrived at the place, which was located near a factory of some sorts, the workers seemed to be leaving, and one big Ford F150 driver took an interest in us getting out of our car, stopping his truck next to ours. As we walked off, he drove down the street very slowly, and parked up adjacent to where we were taking photos (we were off road). Then as we moved along the site, so did his truck. He didn't say a word to us, but just kept gazing blankly at us. In a state where it is perfectly legal to carry a firearm around with you, it didn't make me feel particularly easy ;)
I discussed this with a friend later in the evening, and he told me that he had been out shooting in some woods a couple of years ago, also near Fort Worth, with another friend. At a certain point a couple of trucks pulled up, and a bunch of shaven headed white guys stepped out. They asked my friend if he had seen a young black boy in a white tshirt and jeans anywhere close that afternoon, as they would 'like to have a little word with him'. When half of the guys have baseball bats, it definitely makes you think.....
The Midwest, it would seem, still has a lot of steps to take to catch up with the rest of America......

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Car park management is not liable for any loss or damage to yourvehicle......

Was recently in the US, in Dallas, Texas, where I picked up two new lenses: the Nikkor 10,5mm Fisheye, and the Nikkor 12-24mm wide angle zoom. Spent some of my spare time playing around with them and trying new things out.

For this photo I used the fisheye, which has the ability to make a very ordinary scene look special. Here's an example of just that - this was a car I found on the top layer of a multi storey car park that I had originally had entered to try and find a good vantage point to take some night shots of Dallas. It seemed the car park was also in use as a junk yard for abandoned/stolen cars, and there were a number of cars up there in various states of disrepair.

This photo was taken at around 11pm, with only a small amount of light being provided by a couple of car park lights. The actual exposure used was 30 seconds at f7.1, and I exposed for so long to enable me to get the surreal colors, as well as the movement from the trees (it was a fairly windy night).

On a side note, one thing I learnt from the trip was always to take the right accessories along.... I had a tripod together with my Markins M10 ball head, but the camera plate on my D200 had become loose.... and of course I didn't have the allen key with me. Luckily I could fix it by jamming a few business cards between the mount and the body, and it didn't cause me too many issues.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

2006 - Getting back into photography

2006 really started at the end of 2005, when I met up with fellow Nikonians at a Nikonians Christmas get together in Brussels. One of the presentations was from the 2005 trip to Helgoland, and it wasn't too long before Ferd, Patrick, and Claus had convinced me to go along on the 2006 trip to Helgoland in Germany in April.

I travelled up to Helgoland together with Ferd, and on arrival realised my rather modest photo outfit paled in significance to some of the big guns that were on display there. Luckily Claus had arranged with Nikon Professional Service in Germany to borrow some of their loaners, so there was enough big glass to get me hooked (and to provide me with a long shopping list once I returned to the Netherlands.)

Once I returned, having enjoyed 10 days of early morning to shoot the seals, and fun afternoons on bird's rock, I made a visit to my dealer, Foto Konijnenberg in Den Ham, and returned home with all the goodies I would need for future trips, including a Nikon 200-400 VR, and the 70-200 :)

Some of the photos from that that trip can be seen in my Flickr account, but here's one for starters:
Northern Gannets


Welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by. Not sure how this is going to progress, or how regularly it is going to be updated, but my intention with this blog is to share with you some of my photography, my impressions and opinions about photography, and what I am currently up to. Let me know what you think, and please feel free to leave me a comment!