Wednesday, 22 December 2010

On a colour roll...

I was at Bovisand beach with a friend last weekend and have now managed to squeeze in some time to get this one out of the digital darkroom.

Bovisand Third Beach

Third Beach Rock

The shot

It was quite a chilly day but wrapped up warm and in good company, it was great to be on the beach again with my camera. In late autumn (fall, for my American readers) you get lots of opportunities at the beach; overcast skies give lots of diffuse light (light spread out in all directions) that saturates colours, and if it's a little chilly, you should get the beach pretty much to yourself!

Not entirely. Not always. Bear with me while I digress a little...

While we were there, a middle-aged lady out to take the clean, fresh air blowing off the Atlantic, approached and asked about something she'd often wondered about. She asked how come the really famous photographs can fetch thousands of pounds, when all they need to do is print off another, just like printing money.

I explained that it's not like a photocopier... the likes of Ansel Adams would return to the negative for each print, and reprocess it applying his zonal system and masking, dodging and burning to his heart's content. Each one is subtly different from the next and a work in its own right.

I've only just thought of it now, but a better analogy might be that of a sculptor sketching out what the finished statue is to look like and then using the same sketch to sculpt a few. Each one is a re-interpretation of the sketch, just like each print is a re-interpretation of the negative.

When I hand-print one of my limited edition images, I go back to the digital darkroom, to very early in the process and start from there, with each one taking three or four hours - maybe more - to go through the re-processing.

...anyway, back to the shot

The rock itself had a really interesting shape, with a "nipped-in" waist where it has succumbed to the waves. I tried making the shot from different positions, angles and heights and this was one of my favourites, largely catching the essence of its shape.

I liked the way the little flecks of darker slate on the lighter sand formed striations pointing out to the sea and also the way they lined up with the general direction of the rock, which also seemed to be pointing to the sea. In amongst all the other things to juggle in the composition, I wanted to make sure I caught that aspect.

I thought the little ripples and patterns in the slate flecks would give some balance and interest to the shot and it's turned out that way quite well, I reckon.

In the framing, I've nodded in the general direction of the rule of thirds, but not at the expense of the overall composition, I hope :)

Digital darkroom

I started off as usual from a RAW image out of my camera and, once in Photoshop, I straightened the squint horizon and removed a couple of small distracting pieces of seaweed.

I gave it the usual slight contrast adjustment and balanced out the levels before setting to with a bunch of dodging and burning on the rock. I wanted to sculpt and emphasise the depth and curve, its three-dimensionality. I also dodged the face to give some fill-in light, burning back the mid-tones a little to maintain area contrast.

Once again, I've used a soft-touch vignette to bring the viewer's eye into the centre, and to finish off I've sharpened it and given it my final contrast "pop" (by dint of a sneaky use of the unsharp mask).

Ok me luvverlies, until next time... take care and have a great Christmas :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)
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