Class Taken By: Kiko Doran
Taught By: Ben Long
This entire trio of classes has been really interesting because they are all independent of each other but they were taught by the same teacher. This definitely helped to hammer home some ideas of exposure. I had never heard of Ben Long before these videos but I’m curious to check out some of his photography after learning so much about his technique over the last few months. I don’t consider myself to be a photographer but I’ve always been interested in photography. As a web developer, I am always frustrated with the quality of photographs clients give me to use on their sites. As a developer, I can’t really do anything to fix the content so I figure I need to be good at acquiring my own content. Landscapes aren’t really something I will use in my day to day job but I find it is something I can do in a more relaxing way. I don’t have to wait on subjects to pose for pictures. I never have any issue with the fact that I’m a little slower to set my camera before capturing images. I can just relax and get to know my camera better with no stress…
So the majority of this course centered around three different styles of photography High Dynamic Range (HDR), Panoramic, and Black & White. Before getting to those topics, Ben went through the basic concepts of Camera RAW through Adobe Bridge. I have never worked with Bridge before other than just looking at thumbnails through it. To maximize the learning through the course I did all of my initial edits in Camera RAW for all three of the photography sections of my independent study. Camera RAW really proved to be very useful to me. It always seemed to me like something left for the “pros” but I found it is really as simple as you want it to be. It can also be extremely powerful but for a beginner it is really pretty simple and it lays everything out in the order you should edit your pictures… Seems like a no brainer to me now.
High Dynamic Range is the idea of taking multiple shots at different exposure settings and merging them together. Our eyes are able to see way more than any camera can see when it comes to highlight and lowlight comparison. So when you look at a potential shot that has really cool shadows and really bright highlights, there isn’t a camera in existence that can capture it all without compromise on one end or the other. This is where HDR really hits the mark for me. My camera has a feature called bracketing. The idea behind bracketing is I can set my camera for the best picture I can take in a standard mode and then it will take as many as three pictures, depending on my settings. The basic idea is I can take the baseline picture and either a lower exposure or a higher exposure shot. I can also set it to take all three shots. Then I have the ability to go as far as two full stops above or below. Once the camera is set, I generally have found the most luck with taking it at the full 2 stops up and down. I find it gives me the extreme exposure changes and then I can always dial it back in my adjustments when I bring them together.
I chose to shoot my HDR shot of the NYC skyline at night because there is so much contrast between the dark sky and the lights of Manhattan. The night I shot there was a storm which made it even eerier because there was a lot of dark cloud cover and the lights of the Empire State Building reflected off the clouds to create an interesting effect.
Panoramic shots are something I have never shot before. I used to buy the panoramic disposable cameras when I lived in Hawaii but that is hardly the same thing. The ideas behind panoramic shots are to take as many pictures as needed to acquire the subject and overlapping the shots by thirds. I tried to pick landmark spots to ensure I was getting enough overlap to pull it together. I was probably a little too conservative and ended up taking more shots than necessary but I didn’t want to find out later I had made the opposite mistake. This type of shooting is fairly simple to edit together. The biggest choice made in editing is how you want the items stitched together. To get the most of the image you have to make some decisions that can alter the image pretty dramatically. Once you bring the shots into Photoshop with Photomerge, you have to choose between the layouts of: Auto, Perspective, Cylindrical, Spherical, Collage, and Repositioning. I had the best luck with the spherical layout because it looked the most true to what I saw when I shot. I also really like the reposition layout for a very different effect. The reposition gives more of a scatter look as if pictures were just dropped on the table. I’d have to shoot a little differently to really take advantage of that layout but I can definitely see some value in playing with that more in the future.
My panoramic shot was of the old Lackawanna Train Station in Hoboken NJ. I love the way the green came out when I turned up the saturation so it really came out for me in some test shots I had done the day before. I know I can do better panoramic work but I feel like I learned a lot about the concepts and what it takes to compose a good shot. This final image is composed of 8 different pictures. Another key about panoramic photography is the composite images can be huge. I find that when doing it for use on the web, it’s best to reduce the images in Camera RAW and then export each shot with the exact same settings so they don’t show visible lines when you stitch it together. After reducing all the images then import them to photoshop and it will process much faster. It still works pretty fast when you do it with 30MB files, when you consider all it is doing, but it could be a lot faster and the web definitely doesn’t need that kind of detail. Even if you are working in most print situations you won’t need the full quality images once you put these together. All those quizzes I got in my photoshop class that helped me understand print vs screen resolution will come in handy…
Black and White
Finally the black and white isn’t something I learned about as a concept but I did learn a lot of interesting things when it came to doing those edits in Photoshop. This shot was a basement window that reminded me of an old jail cell. In color it really didn’t do anything for me but once I converted it, I loved the way the rust was captured in the black and white image.
All in all I learned a ton about my photography skills in these classes. The most important thing is I know how my camera needs to be set when I want a certain effect. I’m also better at setting my camera without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder. The camera is like an instrument in that way. You need to be able to play it without looking at or thinking about it, if you really want to be good at it. I have practiced a lot on how to get my camera setup without looking at it at all. This practice alone has made me a better photographer than I was before starting this independent study.
Here are my three shots for this class: