Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What A Difference A Crop Makes

I feel like I've seen that title somewhere before. I'm probably plagiarising it without realising, so I apologise, it's not intended, blah blah blah.

Looking back over some of my older shots yesterday I realised I've unconsciously started getting into the habit of cropping a lot more severely than I used to. I've always been a big fan of bokeh and I guess previously took that to mean, I ought to include a lot of it in my shots.


Blammo - subject covers like 4% of the shot, and the rest is crazy blur.

In some respects a nice bit of contrasty bokeh can be kind of cool and interesting.


Here for example, I like the bokeh because it's quite contrasting to the subject and thus makes the subject stand out more while complimenting it at the same time.

I guess it's a matter of picking and choosing when a severe crop is necessary. All my recent hoverfly shots needed a close crop otherwise the flies themselves would have gotten lost:



The only problem with this, as you can see, is that on my crop sensor camera I start to lose some detail the more severely I crop. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I WILL COVET MORE MEGAPIXELS. If I ever manage to afford a macro lens I will be able to get much closer, fill the frame a lot more, and thus won't need to crop off as much, thus losing less detail.

I even went back over some older shots this morning and had a look at what a crop would do for them:

Busy Bee


What was I thinking?! I MUCH prefer the new crop. Also I think I've grown out of that phase of adding texture layers to everything in existence, too.

A crop can make a huge amount of difference to your composition as well as helping you cheat a little and get more fake focal length out of your lens. I'm going to experiment a lot more from now on and try not to include bokeh just for the sake of bokeh.

I've said "bokeh" wayyy too much in this post now. I'm just gonna go crawl back under my rock.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Aperture Masks (and an OMG moment).

I've had a really good day today; a bunch of smaller but wonderful things all happened throughout the day to make me smile. You can't argue with that sort of karma can you?

Anyway, this week a post went up on the Digital Photography School site showing a how-to video on how to create "custom bokeh" by the way of aperture masks. I won't go into details on how I did it, as the article/video does a much slicker job than I possibly could.

How To Create Custom Bokeh

This technique, I am sure, is old hat, however it was the first time I had seen anything like it, and from the video it looked so easy I had to give it a go.

My bits and bobs are crudely cut and taped together. I used a sheet of black card as my backdrop and my Christmas lights for the bokeh. I ended up having to arrange everything on my bed as it was the only place with the right light. Really I ought to try and set myself up a little mini-studio or something. I also ought to get myself an off-camera flash.


So I looked at the video, and at my teeny weeny little cut-out shapes, and thought, this can't POSSIBLY work. Surely my viewfinder would be all hazy and even my subject would suffer as a result.

Well, through the miracle of SCIENCE, it does work, although don't ask me to explain how. Something to do with light refraction and all that jazz. Anyway, these shots are very rudimentary until I have the time and inclination to set something up a little better, but nonetheless I think this is incredibly cool and I can't wait until Christmas when I can go out and buy a bunch of tacky coloured lights and try some other setups.




Yeah, those are salt and pepper shakers, you gonna make something of it?!

Anyway, it was incredibly easy to do although the star and butterfly shakes created enough weirdness at the front of the lens that a) auto-focus didn't work, and b) it distorted what I saw enough that I wasn't even sure whether I had the subject in focus on manual (turns out I did but out of sheer luck I think).

What I'd like to do is commandeer a corner of the spare room and get some really big bits of card that I could stick various swatches of coloured paper on. Ultimately I'd like to get an off-camera flash but I wonder whether a diffused desk lamp might suffice in the meantime. Anyway, with this setup I could set up my tripod and manually focus before putting the mask on, would be able to adjust the lights behind on-the-fly, and I could generally be a lot more creative.

Watch this space I guess?


I don't need to mention yet again what a big fan of Ree Drummond's I am. She runs regular photography assignments on her site wherein she sets a theme and asks her readers to submit their shots which comply with this theme. She'll pick five groups of semi-finalists, from which she'll then pick a group of finalists and eventually a winner. I always submit a couple of shots even though mine are NOTHING compared to some of the amazing work other people submit. This week#s theme was "Funny"; I dutifully submitted a couple of shots and forgot all about it.

Only to log on this morning and find that she'd selected one of them as a semi-finalist.

I had a major freakout. I don't expect even to be picked as a finalist, let alone as a winner, but to be noticed at all among the tens of thousands of submissions Ree gets each time she puts a contest on. It also is wonderfully gratifying, to know that something I shot is worth the attention of a total stranger. I literally couldn't stop smiling all afternoon.

I feel inspired today. I hope the weather is reasonable this weekend, but even if it isn't I might give the aperture masks another play. As long as I'm shooting it's all good. :)