Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Secret Life of Trees ...continues

The Abacrombie Tree
I started this series a while ago on flickr because trees are a very overlooked aspect in many landscape photographers eyes, but never progressed far, so I thought a week of trees might help bring series back into focus.

Friday, October 24, 2014

ThePatch :: an Impression of Highkey

When I think of highkey in art I think of the impressionist, they painted light as colour, shunning the murky tonal focus of the art academies of their day. Whilst the french impressionist are well known, few know of a small group of Australian painters usually called the Heidelberg School following the same ideas at roughly the same time. I have always loved their work as a lot of it was painted in the area I grew up and I do like Charles Conder’s “A Holiday at Mentone”. The old baths are no longer there but I can remember them and the white cliffs (also no longer visiable), The strands of dried sea weed still frequently can be seen and the beach and its promenade are still a popular stop on a sunny day. I earnt my first swimming certificate here. I am also a member of the Victorian Artist Society and this painting was first exhibited in their Spring Exhibition of 1888. I have also visited this site previously to test out an upgrade to my homemade tripod watercolour easel. So there is plenty to connect me and a self portrait to this site.

mentone tonal changeI actually took this photo a few weeks ago on a beautifully sunny spring day. Forgetting somewhat that Australian light (even in early spring) is very harsh and contrasty. So I couldn’t exactly get a true high key image without totally blowing out the highlights. Fortunately I took a couple of  EV bracketed sets and  found an image without to much clipping of the shadows and without excessive blown out whites. So all I had to do was use some tonal adjustments. Classic tonal curve stuff and yet an artist would not approach the task in such a mathematical way. I have come to like the basic tonal sliders in lightroom (highlights, shadows, whites & black, these are much simpler to understand in terms of controlling tone of your image). I’ve even found that clicking on one of the tonal ranges in the histogram itself. and sliding the histogram, also moves the corrsponding sliders. So I eased the histogram over to the right (to create the high-key) and lifted clarity and vibrance to keep the colour. The background and my figure had significantly different contrast/tonal ranges so I started to use layers to separate foreground and background and soon got the idea of re-sampling the background layer in corel painter with an impressionist brush. Then using perfect layers to merge the layers back together to give me a very hybrid self portrait this week.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ThePatch :: Remembering Rembrandt

Whenever I hear of a low key portrait as a style, I think of Rembrandt Lighting, which is a very popular technique taught in studio lighting workshops involving two lights (sometimes one is a reflector). one light is a strong spot or key light and the other is diffuse just to fill in the shadow. The light arrangement is such that one half of the face is well lit and on the other side a small triangle of light illuminates the upper cheek below the eye. A purist interpretation is that the triangle be approximately the width of the eye, and length of the nose tall. It’s actually a modern invention nothing to do with Rembrandt approach, the effect just tends to look like his portraits (see the section Origin of photographic term in the wikipedia link above).

Rembrandt's studio todayI have been to Rembrandt's studio and he only has a row of windows on one-side, (there are heavy shutters to blank off the bottom windows and a bleached canvas blind hanging above an end window) So I suspect Rembrandt himself would probably fail the studio lighting work shop. What he definitely would not have failed is portraiture and particularly low key look  (ie where most of the tonal range is in the darker tonnes) Some of his deep A bit too theatricalrichness may have come with the age of his painting (most are now over 350 years old) but if you have every seen the original of his portarit paintings (such as his 1659 self-portrait) I’m sure you will recognise the fresh feel and emotional connection.

I quickly dropped the theatrics of trying to be visably arty, and just focussed on a natural lighting from a single window. I had to add a dark backdrop and use a white sheet of paper as a diffuse reflector on the righthand side.  With my camera on a tripod and set with a timer on the shutter, it was then only a matter of adjusting aperture (first) and then ISO/speed to get the right low key exposure. A little further adjustment to warm the shadows (raw umber-fy) and adjust the black clipping point in lightroom to avoid too much gloom. Unfortunately I can be seen more worried about the shutter timer working than trying to look artistic. But it is a decent selfportrait.