Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photographing Fall Colors – Where is the Vividness That I Saw

Many times I've gone out to photograph the beautiful colors that blanket the trees in Fall. My mind and inner vision is completely lit up with these glowing embers that dance in the wind on the trees. At this moment and place nothing seems more wondrous and somehow these colors seems to permeate deep into my collective thoughts where vivid memories live.

You may wonder why the need for all these flowery thoughts. Its because  when I get home, what I see from the camera is nowhere near as spectacular as how I felt at the time. I do shoot in RAW format and I know that this format from the camera tends to be a little muted but even increasing the vibrancy, it still doesn’t come close to the mind's snapshot.

I think that photographing the wondrous colors of fall is actually a hard thing to accomplish if you want to achieve the vision you had at the moment the shutter clicked.

I believe there are 2 main reasons for this.
First is that the reds, oranges and yellow of the leaves are highly saturated & luminous and beyond the ability of the camera's color gamut to capture. The color space of sRGB and Adobe RGB just don’t extend far enough to record these highly saturated and bright colors.

Second the leaves normally have small moments in the wind and they appear to shimmer, thereby giving them the appearance in the mind's memory of being brighter.

When I took the above photograph the yellows on these 2 trees did appear this bright. They glowed in the afternoon sun and were even brighter, almost like a candle flame, but upon reviewing the camera's result it was duller and more greenish-yellow. The image below is from camera with white balance on birch tree set to neutral white 5300K.

You may find my modified version (1st photo) a bit gaudy but it does reflect how I felt about this scene. I darkened the sky to increase contrast between the 2 yellow tees. I also, for the greenish yellow leaves, shifted the hue to be more yellow and then increased lightness and saturation as much as I could and still retain detail. The grass was also darkened and made cooler, more blue-green, to again increase contrast with the yellow tops.

In the photograph below the sun peeked out near sunset just after the rain had gone by and lit up this singular tree. Again the camera made those leaves less bright and more orange. Once again I increased lightness and saturation towards yellow for the bright leaves. I also added a purplish tint to clouds, (complementary color of yellow) to increase color contrast. I extracted the yellow leaves and increased layer size by 10 pixels and then added a slight blur of about 2 and set this layer to overlay. A pseudo Orton effect to give a glowing effect.

In the next image below, the colors, except for a little vibrancy, remain mostly as captured. I did change the sky from a bright blue to a duller and less saturated version with clouds. The original blue negative space was too dominating and took viewers vision away from the tree colors.

Many of the good fall photographs have lots of cooler and darker tones surrounding bright trees that help make those fall colors more prominent within the scene.

If you have good photo-editing tools don't be afraid to play around and change anything to suit your needs and vision. After all, it's how you saw it at least in your mind.

Niels Henriksen

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Plate to Pixel

This time of year with Thanksgiving festivities happening on both side of the border is a good to think about photographing some of your favorite meals. This book review deals with photographing food, not so much a dinner party or at a restaurant but your own or other's creations that demonstrate the joy and beauty of a well prepared food delicacy.

Title: Plate to Pixel – Digital Food Photography and Styling
Author: Hélène Dujardin
Publisher: Wiley
ISBN: 978-0-470-93213-1

After setting up my own little food studio for raw foods for the SOFOBOMO 2010 book project I thought that this book would be an interesting adjunct with what I learned during the SOFOBOMO project.

The book is soft cover and comprises 256 pages of text and of course many food photographs.

The first 2 chapters 'Photography Basics' and 'Camera Settings and Modes' are the standard materiel that every beginner in photography needs to understand. Her photos demonstrate the effects of white balance (WB) settings, Depth of Field (DOF), ISO settings, exposure and shutter speeds (pouring liquids). Those new to photography find these concepts and terms confusing at first but here the photos show the principles involved.

The next 2 chapters (3&4) deal with Natural Light and Artificial Light. Natural lighting is easy enough to understand with time of day, harsh direct light, soft light with diffuser, using reflectors for bounced light. Under artificial light she shows how to use off-camera flash and some of the smaller lighting accessories for table top studio work. In each case supporting photos are used to show setups and the different lightening effects. Photography is about using or controlling light and how it can accent key focal points with the various moods of light.

Chapter 5 covers composition of food placement within the camera frame and covers subjects from centering to off-center, ¾ placement, DOF, viewing from overhead and at eye levels. It also covers using the rule of thirds, focal point(s) and perspective with item placement.

Chapter 6 covers setting up for capture before you press the shutter. It's about thinking about items in the recipe and how light will interact with these components. Establishing your own work environment and working with clients and their setups and art directors. How to use props to test and plan shots with foods that can fade quickly on the set. Describing a story behind the recipe. Using natural props, surfaces, linens and background to tie elements together. It also covers items using heights and color to create accents and accentuate items.

Chapter 7 is styling and this photographer tends to prefer only natural items that for the most part can be eaten afterward. It's not about using high-tech materials that can't be found in the kitchen. This section has specific sub-sections about bread, nuts, fruits, and vegetables both cooked and uncooked. It covers the main dish for fish and meats and their sauces. Stews, stir-fry, pasta, breakfast baked good and deserts are all covered. Using tools such as tweezers, cotton swaps, drip bottles etc. Many good photos help to demonstrate key points.

Chapter 8 covers the standard digital related items of file transfer, formats, storage and software editing programs. There is also a glossary and a list of the authors photographic equipment and why she uses them. There is also a list of recommended resources from books to websites and stores to buy the various odds and ends that go into foods shoots.

About the Author: 

After leaving her position as pastry chef Helen launched the award-winning blog Tartelette, where she dedicates herself to the art of food, photography and styling. Her food photography and styling work has been praised online and in prints by publications such as Elle magazine. Forbes magazine, The Times Online, Caveur magazine, CNN, Martha Steward and more

Conclusion and Recommended Audience

Food photography may not be for everyone but it is clear that the author/photographer has experience with this genre. Throughout her book she has ample photographs to demonstrate principles as well as discussing the setup and any problems that need to be addressed.

This is not a book about over-the-top food images that have food floating in the air or extreme art shots that may use all sorts of mechanical devices or materials to create the appearance of real food. This book is all about real food found on many peoples dinner tables and at the end of the shot could be eaten by anyone. In fact, one of my favorite things about this book is that it is about real food, something that we might see on our tables

This book is intended for any photographer who has a passion for food and wants produce photos that all will enjoy. It's for the inexperienced photographer with only a point and shot camera or someone who is becoming familiar with a DSLR but wants to understand composition and styling in a home or small studio setup. This is not a book about which camera or lens is better but rather how to use your camera to create interesting food photographs.

I recommend this book for those wishing to peruse food or small studio photography.

Link to Amazon store below.

Niels Henriksen

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.


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