I’ve visited Barcelona tree times so far. This time made the biggest impression on me. The Old area of Barcelona, Barrio Gotico and El Born were great for photography. Nice small unique non-chain shops, small alleys that twist with surprises at the end of the alley, will it be a small old church, the remains of a Roman temple or a mugger who prays on adventurous tourists ?
Some time ago I came across this thread in a forum and I recognized the style of photos. I always liked them but I assumed that most of them used $300 ND filters which I didn’t have intention to buy. But seeing good results from a cheap piece of welding glass got me interested. I got a smaller piece of glass first, but it was very prone to light leaks.
I then purchased a much larger one ( able to fit over my 10-22 wide angle) for $6 at the local hardware store and use a reverse fitted lens hood to attach it to my lens with rubber bands. I still get occasional light leaks, especially shooting in bright sunlight so at one point I will buy a cheap filter and glue it to one.
When shooting I use a tripod and a remote shutter release. Two issues to look out for when shooting with a piece of welding glass attached to your lens:
1) Manual Focus. Focus before you attach the piece of glass because it is so dark that once attached you will have a hard time focusing. After focusing I set it to manual focus so it stays in position
2) Manual White Balance. I only recently figured that one out. My welding glass gives me a very greenish tint ( the reason a real ND filter costs a couple of hundred dollars more). But if I set the white balance manually it removes most of the greenish cast and then shooting RAW gives me post processing control to to really take care of the issue.
As you see though in the end my images end up as black and white images because somehow the photos work better in that way for me.
These were the first two photos I took with the welding glass. They were exposed at about 30 seconds at F11. I got up to 2 minutes with F22 but having a camera on a slippery rock with a piece of welding glass attached with rubber bands makes me want to shoot a bit faster. Most images are shot at 45 secs in RAW at f11.
This was the second time I went out with the welding glass. I hadn’t figured out the manual white balance yet so the greenish tint was removed in Photoshop. In the first image you can see the light leak that forms the big circle. I have taped up the edges of the glass but I don’t know if it has really helped. These days I put my lens cleaning cloth on top of the lens and glass when shooting hoping to minimize the light coming through.
My third time experimenting. When shooting with such a high f stop I need to remember to clean my sensor and lens as you can see some of the dirt on my lenses.
And finally my latest experiments. Stationary objects with flowing water around them really makes this technique shine.
I don’t know how many people have seen the Kurt Russel classic from the eighties but I went out to Chinatown with the sole purpose to shoot wide open. With my nifty fifty ( which I reviewed here) set at f1.8 I walked around the crowded market through people shopping in preparation for Lunar New Year. Shooting with a large aperture leads to a very shallow depth of field meaning only a small part of the image is in focus.
This musician was playing a traditional instrument and seemed quite happy doing it. I raised my camera and made eye contact asking non-verbally if it was okay to take a portrait and quickly took two shots. Because I was standing in a crowded market I shot quickly and because I was shooting wide open I missed the focus on his eyes. The number one rule I have always heard about portrait photography is to make sure the eyes are sharp.. A persons eyes are the windows to his soul, gateway to the innerbeing, the unwashed mirror gazing deep into the demons of insecurity and shame roaming inside of its human host. Wait, I think I missed the point. I agree with the rule that the eyes should be sharp, unless you want to emphasize other body parts, but then its becomes less of a portrait I would say.
To dismiss the point I just finished making: the number one rule in overall photography is the paradoxical ; there are no rules in photography. But I think I will list the rules of photography in another post.
I did a quick Google search on dried Chinese duck and came back with Wind-dried duck and pressed-salted-duck. I don’t know which one the above picture is of but if you know please leave a note in the comment section.
The atmosphere in Chinatown during the preparation of Lunar New year is pleasantly chaotic. I enjoy the sensory overload of people crowed together and stall owners presenting their wares. Most of the food items are foreign to me and for the most part I am happy to keep that relationship like that.
Shooting wide open with the nifty fifty is tricky and I lost quite some shot due to missed focus because of the very shallow depth of field. The effect is pleasant, but in such a fast paced environment it would be easier to shoot a bit more stopped down.
When I started taking pictures 15 years ago I had my Olympus mju2 and would buy some Kodak 200 and go out and shoot. And when I spent 3 months abroad in Hong Kong in 2001 and came back with 13 rolls of film, most people thought I had gone mad and photographed every moment. Later on, I jumped on the digital revolution and still I shoot film. When I have my film camera, things slow down.
I know my roll of film is limited to thirty-six exposures and I realize it will take one week at the earliest to see my photos. This allows me to slow down.
I lift up my camera and now I get into the moment and think about the best possible composition, I crouch, move around, consider the background and light coming in. I think if I want to shoot wide open or have the whole scene sharp. And if I am shooting in black and white I consider what this photo will look like and if it is truly special. And after all that then I squeeze down my index finger and hear that satisfying clank of my shutter and hear the film forwarding.
Then comes the best part of it all. I see the image I just shot in my head and it is absolutely perfect. The depth of field is magnificent, the subject has a perfect look with piercing eyes, a ray of sunlight hits her hair creating a halo around her.
Knowing I have taken a photo that any gallery and photo book would die to display and print, fills me with intense satisfaction. That is off course until one week later when I pick up my negatives and images scanned to CD and notice, I had focused on her shoulder, and I had actually underexposed by one stop and somebody stepped into the frame leading to a unattached arm swinging in my photo. “Oh boy” I think, “Didn’t get it this time, but next time I will”
Having that vision of a perfect photo thirty-six times per roll makes it so worth shooting film to me.
Tomorrow it is Lunar New Year with the Year of the Rabbit. Tonight there were the preparations for the New Year’s Eve show. I like how thoroughly Singapore prepares their event with a full run through of the show and even a partial firework show. The advantage of attending the preparations is the lack of a crowd and the earlier timing. I don’t think I will go down there tomorrow.
Fireworks with the financial district in the background. This was about a 4 second exposure. Not long enough to get smooth water, but otherwise the brightness of the fireworks would blow out all my highlights.
The panorama (please click for full size) consists of four separate images and put together in Photoshop. The floating platform on the left-hand side is the largest floating platform in the world. It is larger than a soccer field. The impressive building on the left is the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s latest acquisition to it’s skyline.
Gong Xi Fa Cai !
Laid back, with my mind on my theme and my theme on my mind
Going out to shoot with a specific theme in mind can be very productive. Its helps you visualize images you may have otherwise not seen. It doesn’t prevent you from taking shots outside this theme but it allows you to structure each angle and perspective into whatever theme you are working with. You can revisit locations you have been to many times before and create new images by working within the boundaries of the theme.
I went out last Sunday to the Central Business District of Singapore (CBD), with the theme “urban desolate” in mind. The first thing I did when I get there is to notice I had forgotten my memory cards. I then had a lunch in frustration, went home, took an angry nap and returned a few hours later. The CBD during weekdays is crowded place and walking around on Sunday is a stark contrast and I wanted my images to reflect that. I had some other themes I always enjoy as a standby, “street lines” is one of them and on my next post I will show a picture of that.
Looking up the definition of desolation on dictionary.com gives me:
1. A state of complete emptiness or destruction.
2. Anguished misery or loneliness
That sounds stronger and harsher than what I wanted to portray so maybe words like empty or lonely are more applicable.