Friday, 10 July 2009

Introspective ...Walking The Dogs

Walking The Dogs
A shot taken at Felixstowe seafront of a couple walking their dogs
along the concert, with a stray child looking on. Winter 2008.

I was visiting Felixstowe on a day out while staying with friends in the last days of December, last year. I had my trusty 17-85mm zoom fitted, complete with hood because of the lighting conditions.

Because I was with two kids who were full of beans, I needed to keep my wits about me and be ready for when those few magic moments appeared. You know the sort, the ones where you think, "darn, if only I'd been ready with my camera!"

Composing and making the capture

Spotting the potential

Well the lighting was superb, picking out the eager faces of the beach huts and, with the curve of the coast leading the eye naturally to the main beach in the distance, there was plenty of potential. I just had to hope that someone would turn up to provide the subject for this wonderful backdrop.

Preparing for the shot

I noticed the steps coming down from the car park above, so positioned myself so that anyone approaching from that direction would walk into the scene from the right. I then composed so that the main beach was roughly in one of the rule-of-thirds power points.

I could see a couple coming down the steps to the front, and knew the final elements would soon be in place.

Exposure, ISO etc.

Lighting was fine, so there was no need to move from ISO 100. I always stick with aperture priority and f9 at the wide angle end of my zoom is enough to get everything in focus from my feet to infinity. Perfect for this shot. Because I was shooting into the sun (slightly out of frame to the left), the lens hood was essential to minimise lens flare.

I exposed for the sky (exposure lock — point at the sky, half press the shutter release and hold it, then recompose and finally press the release all the way). I fired off a couple of practice shots to check the histogram — I didn't want to blow those highlights.

As it turned out, on the first practice shot I did, so I re-exposed, making sure I was on the brightest part of the sky this time for the exposure lock. Yep, the histogram was showing all was well. I was ready. Shutter speed was 1/250 by the way.

Oh, and as I always shoot in RAW, I knew I'd have some leeway with the exposure, should lighting conditions change between taking the final exposure lock and waiting for the scene to be filled with a subject.

The capture

I was ready and, on cue, the couple entered the scene — with dogs, too! Got lucky with my subjects there :)

The child on the upper concert was a further bonus, adding to the story. I think he'd raced ahead of mum and dad, who were still coming down the steps.

And then I was off for the next shot (Caught By The Surf, if you were curious — and, wow, two in a row were keepers!)

Digital darkroom

Rawshooter Essentials

The first part of my workflow is done in Rawshooter. I initially sort out the keepers from the maybes and the definite binners.

For each keeper, I then make any slight exposure and any initial contrast adjustments before converting to 16bit TIFF, ready to move into PhotoShop.

For this one, the exposure was ok as taken, and needed just a tad of fill light before the TIFF conversion.


photoshop layers Again, fairly standard for my workflow, I applied a bit of
TLR capture sharpening first, converted to mono using the black and white filter and judicial use of the channel sliders.

While adjusting the sliders, I kept an eye on the interplay between sky and ground but couldn't quite achieve a conversion that convinced me. I ended up treating the sky with a gradient fill to tone it down a little.

I did a little dodging and burning to the rightmost beach hut and applied a slight double vignette to bring the eye's attention to the couple and their implied destination.

I applied my usual final tweak on the curves to increase the contrast and added a slight adjustment to the levels to deepen the shadows and lift the highlights a bit and that was it.

A final bit of sharpening and size reduction as I saved as a jpeg, and it was ready for upload.
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