Lighting for 3D effect – orange pillar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALighting for 3D effect – orange pillar

It is through directional lighting that we appreciate the three-dimensional qualities of the things around us. Very early on in primary school art classes we learn to draw a cube and shade one side black and another grey; I was amazed how it jumped off the page, and repeated the exercise over and over. Of course we understand how all this works when we have a pencil in our hands, but it is another thing to apply the same principles when out with a camera.

Depth through layers

This image has a sense of depth through the different layers created by the lighting of the scene, and these make the man stand out clearly from the foreground and the background. As a silhouette he could be a cardboard cut-out, except that the light falling on his left foot suddenly lets us know he is in fact a 3D object.

The single bulb that lights the scene creates a definite mix of 2D and the 3D objects, and the contrast between them makes one stand out from the other. The heavy side lighting on the pillar describes very clearly its cylindrical form, and because of the strength of this impression the flat cut-out top half of the man’s body stands out. That he is sharply defined, with jet-black hair, eyebrows, lips and nose, against one of the lightest areas of the scene, our attention is drawn immediately. The figure jumps off the page by being 2D against a 3D background, and then by his 3D foot against the 2D background of the pavement.

Understanding the scale

We know exactly how far into the scene the man is, as we have his shadow to mark the position for us with engineer’s precision on the pavement – the grid of which lends us the front-to-back measures of the stage he is striding across.

There is further mix of 2D and 3D elements on the rear wall, where the long straight shadow of the door catch breaks the flat plane of the image background with one small but significant area of relief.

Atmosphere of mystery

I rather like that the fact we only have an outline of the figure makes his identity something of mystery. We get some clues, but not enough to really know much about him. He evades our detection, just as he bypasses the CCTV camera mounted on the wall in the background – that focuses only on a very empty dark door where there is clearly nothing going on. The mystery is continued by the dangerous deep orange night-time glow of the ambient street lighting.

The right person in the right place

When I saw this scene I knew I would be able to get something out of it, so I lined up the shot and waited for the right person to walk in to it. What makes this chap work is that he is in full hurried stride, giving a clear sense of his outline shape. This stride coincides with the moment right before his outline breaks the brightest edge of the pillar, so his darkness is at maximum contrast and he doesn’t interfere with that powerful long straight line. That he doesn’t intersect that line is critically important – we rely on the strength of his outline to identify what he is, and if that outline is complicated by external elements the message becomes less clear. And rather nicely, his shadow leads us from the lower left corner in a powerful diagonal straight to the subject of the photograph.

Olympus PEN E-PL5 with Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH
f/2.5 and 1/150sec @ ISO 1600

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Please do leave me a comment below.

Create 3D pictures with a sense of depth. Damien Demolder

 

Photographing graphic shapes

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

Photographing graphic shapes – creating a frame

Most built-up areas are created using three basic shapes and the variations on them; rectangles, triangles and circles. Alongside those basic shapes we have the lines that define their edges and demonstrate their existence. When we recognise these shapes, and acknowledge that they are the foundations of the city structure, we can begin to make the most of them in our pictures. And when we do that, we tap into an awareness that can create really powerful images.

This picture is all about shapes and the lines that create them. The shapes of the world this man lives in are hard-edged and rigid, while his own shape is rounded, organic and soft – so he stands out against the foreground and the background. That act of standing out makes us aware that he is the subject, but only in the sense that his presence makes the hard/soft contrast possible – and it is that contrast that helps us to notice the hardness, rigidity and geometry of the world around him.

The frame

I shot this through a vast metal sculpture at Liverpool Street station’s Broadgate Circle entrance, in London. Looking between the great sheets of metal, I liked the way a giant doorway could be formed and the way the soft light of the overcast morning was bleeding into the deep dark shadow inside the structure itself.

The viewer’s first thought on seeing the image is probably that we are looking through a four sided aperture, but the four-sided idea comes only from the fact that the triangle made by the converging edges of the metal sheets meets the top of a wall that leads into another darkness in the distance. The two dark areas can play the trick of fooling us that they are one – and the overall visual effect is that they are as between them they contain our attention and hold all the action.

Composition and shooting position

I had to position myself quite carefully to ensure that I made the most of the shapes and lines on offer here. To get the full impact of a structure and its angles it’s important to have some sort of baseline that grounds us and lets us know we are standing straight and upright ourselves. In this picture that levelling anchor is the group of lines on the steps – that travel left to right parallel to the bottom edge of the frame. These, whether we recognise it immediately or not, let us know we are upright and perpendicular. When we know that, we can appreciate the relationships of all the other lines and shapes in the picture – that they really are off at an angle, and that it isn’t just us leaning over ourselves.

The lines of the steps are a strong visual element as they contain so much contrast themselves. The treads are lit from above, while the risers are comparatively dark. The combination makes a series of black and white lines, running like those on a sheet of ruled writing paper. They are powerful and influence our perception of the scene. That they are straight, and that our brain knows that, allows us to see the slope of the path, the diagonal of the handrail, the man’s upward journey and the angled edges of the sculpture.

The right man

I shot quite a few images from this position, as I experimented with composition and the different types of people using the path. Once I was satisfied with the camera angle and my exposure, I just had to wait for the right person. While it is easy to project what you think the right person will look like before they arrive, we should always be ready for whatever comes along. Here I knew I wanted a ‘city person’, and a suited worker would fit the bill, but with the light-toned background I had expected to be making a silhouette of someone in black. It didn’t occur to me that Colombo would come by, with a pale raincoat and newspaper – but he did, and I’m very grateful for that.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 with Taylor, Taylor and Hobson 2in f/2 Telekinic lens via a C-Mount adapter

 

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Please do leave me a comment below.

 

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

 

 

 

Reflections in puddles – flat tyre

Low angles – using puddle reflections – keeping a clear message – dynamic composition

Pentax K10D, Sigma 10-20mm wide angle zoom lens. Volkswagon Beatle with a flat tyre, in a rundown area of Warsaw, Poland. Most photographers would agree that reflections are the number one tool for those looking to add a little something to their pictures. It seems everyone is fascinated by them, and quite rightly too, as they provide us not only with an upside down mirror-image view of the world, their lack of clear resolution can deliver a quick and easy impressionist element to our pictures.

The obvious places to find reflections are in lakes and rivers, as well as in the window-fronted skyscrapers of the city – where we like to contrast the modern with an old church spire. We sometimes use the reflections of shop windows to show what is in and out at the same time, which is all very clever.

What we don’t do so often, mostly because we are all slightly afraid of the rain, is use the reflections in puddles to enhance our street photography. Cities and towns are filled with hopeless drainage systems and dips and holes in the pavements. These are brilliant places to find the answer to catching a completely different view of a scene that has been shot a million times, or to producing a more dynamic view of a scene that might otherwise be not so remarkable.

In this shot I wanted to capture a sense of what this slightly rundown area of Warsaw was like. I had tried quite a few different angles and compositions which all showed the street and the flats in a matter of fact sort of way that, while doing the job of communicating the content of the area, looked a little bit uninteresting. Being a rather damp place in December Poland had got me hooked on puddles, and seeing this rather exciting one, positioned perfectly next to the flat tyre of a Volkswagen Beetle, I knew my prayers had been answered.

Taking a low angle automatically creates a picture that looks different, and with the angle I was able to create a really strong horizontal convergence using the lines of the building. This makings it streak through the picture from right to left, drawing the eye right into the depths of the scene, until the eye crashes into the buildings at the end of the road. You can them come back to see the flat tyre, the eastern European car, the bare trees, the knackered kerbstones, the rusting wheel arch and all the things that I wanted to show that build a picture of the atmosphere of the place. Of course, here the puddle itself adds to the sense of dereliction, as it suggests the road is poor too – which it was.

To get such a dramatic view I used a really wide angle lens – a 10-20mm zoom at the widest setting. I didn’t want the dominant effect to be that of a wide angle, and the exaggerated sense of perspective that they can introduce, so I was careful to hold the camera as straight and level as I could. There is some ‘leaning’, but not much, and certainly not enough to draw attention. In cases like this, where the subject matter is strong in its own right, it is important to avoid photographic ‘effects’ that create a talking point in themselves. I didn’t want people to see the picture and say ‘Wow, what a wide angle’; I wanted people to notice the place and the clues that help to get a feel for what that area is like. Sometimes the power of lens effects can draw attention away from what you are trying to show, and to communicate what it is you have to say you have to be aware of that. Use photography to convey your message, not to detract from it.

The picture has a black and white look to it which I have been careful not to undo by adding saturation. I have altered the mid-tone contrast a little, by creating a kink in the central section of the Levels curve, but other than that the shot is just as the scene was.

Unless you have Live View with a flip-out screen, shooting from a low angle like this is either a guessing game or one where you lay on your face in the street. I try to wedge the camera onto the toe of my boot, as I show in this other post about low angles.

Pentax K10D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens 1/30sec @ f/5 and ISO 400.

Interesting? Rubbish? Let me know what you think, by leaving a comment

 

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

Pentax K10D, Sigma 10-20mm wide angle zoom lens. Volkswagon Beatle with a flat tyre, in a rundown area of Warsaw, Poland.

Converging Verticals – software fix

Sloping Flats with converging verticals

If you have a picture you’ve already taken that has slight converging verticals the effects can often be corrected using the features contained in a number of popular software applications. The tool you should be looking for is usually called ‘Transform’, which will probably have sub sections that will be called something like ‘Perspective’ and ‘Distort’.

The idea is that the whole image is selected and then the top is stretched horizontally to counteract the inverted V shape of the building. This is a quick and effective solution to convergence in any direction, but users need to be Altering perspectiverealistic about what can be achieved before image quality suffers to badly. Obviously pixels are being stretched and made larger in one part of the image, and although the image will remain the same size detail resolution in the stretched part of the picture will suffer. If this area is mostly sky you don’t need to worry too much, but the stretch may be quite easily seen in areas of more fine detail. distorting the image

As this is the case only minor effects should be attempted, but the advantage of the method is that you will end up with a larger image than you would using the cropping method. In this example I have used a picture that is just too distorted to be able to correct easily, so you can see just where the limits are. The perspective is not only looking up, but also twisted. The correction is almost there, but the final image has a strange look to it. sloping flats with converging verticals corrected

Of course, the method relies on you having a software application that provides a ‘Transform’ tool. If yours doesn’t there is a free download application called GIMP that does – it is also a very good general purpose imaging application that offers an enormous amount of control.

Shot with Samsung GX10, with Rikenon 28mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure 1/4sec @ f/2.8 ISO 1600

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

Sloping Flats with converging verticalsAltering perspectiveYou can find the ‘perspective’ tool in Photoshop by clicking on ‘Edit’ and then ‘Transform’. I have overlaid the image with a grid screen to help me to get things straight. This is hidden under the ‘View’ menu, after which you need to select ‘Show’ and then ‘Grid’. You can set the preferences for the grid – such as the spacing between the lines – in the main ‘Preferences’ menu. distorting the image‘Distort’ is also under the ‘Edit>Transform’ menu and can be applied without having to finish the ‘Perspective’ adjustments. I needed ‘Distort’ Here as the camera was not square-on to the subject, so we have a twist as well as converging verticals. I’ve pulled the top of the image out and pushed the bottom left in and the bottom centre to the right. It is almost a rotational movement. Obviously the adjusted image now has chunks missing from its corners – some cropping will be in order. sloping flats with converging verticals corrected

Real-life perspective – Squeeze box man

realistic perspective street portraitsThe idea of street documentary is to show the viewer what it is like to be in the place you are shooting – and to experience the things you are experiencing. To do this I try to shoot with a perspective that delivers to the viewer a feeling of being in the place rather than simply observing it from afar.

The simplest way to begin this process is to use a lens that captures an angle similar to that which the human eyes can see. Although a 50mm lens is seen as ‘standard’ for the 135 film format and full frame sensors this is still slightly long for a realistic view. On these formats I try to use a focal length of between 30-40mm, which is the same as between 20-30mm for cameras with an APS-C type sensor, and between 15-20mm for FourThirds users.

When you use a lens like this for the type of portrait shown here you have to forget your inhibitions and move in close. This chap was more than happy for me to take his picture, but I still asked by showing the camera and expressing my intentions. This is done in a split second through facial expressions, but makes the difference between guarrenteed co-operation and comfort, and not quite knowing how the subject will react once you start shooting. Having permission also improves your chance of getting good eye contact.
The accordion player was sitting down so I crouched to get on the same level as his chest, and so I could make a major feature of the instrument. It looked almost as old as him, with just as many lines, contours and interesting features.

The day was very overcast, so I didn’t have any trouble with contrasty light and shadows blocking up his eyes or shading his face beneath his hat. It also meant that exposure was easy, and I could leave the camera’s evaluative/matrix system to do the work for me.

I shot in colour as usual, but knew this one would end up in black and white. The conversion was made using the green channel – a favourite with me for getting an aged classic look.

I cropped square as well to keep the composition tight, and because the format seems to suit the shot well.

The final image has good depth and possesses a three dimensional effect that I would not have achieved had I stood back and shot with a long lens. While long lenses allow you to keep a distance, they always show that you were a long way from the subject – which makes it difficult for the viewer to connect with the subject. Actually getting close yourself makes a massive difference, and can be the difference between getting an ordinary shot and one that has some impact.

Shot with Pentax K20D, with Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6.

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

realistic perspective street portraits