I’ve gone back into my archive for today’s Photo of the Week. I saw this monster Mk I Ford Escort at The Fast Show 2012 being wheeled out by a group of people and fired off a few shots but got nothing special. It wasn’t until the bonnet was lifted and they gathered around the engine bay, neatly spaced, all looking at the same spot that the image came together.
I shot this with my 70-200mm f2.8 at 95mm so I could stay at a distance to not influence the scene. I’m at f3.2 for a shallow depth of field and at ISO 800 to allow me to keep my shutter speed up.
I had 1 and 1/3 stops of exposure compensation dialed in as despite being a flat grey, the sky was quite bright and I wanted it to blow to white, simplifying the background and making for a more peaceful image.
I took that a little further in Lightroom by pumping up the highlights and muting the colours a little.
It’s not a huge edit (it didn’t even leave Lightroom) but I think it smoothes out the background and focuses the eye on the subject well. Here’s the before and after:
Today’s photo was taken just after dawn at the Bristol Balloon fiesta. Just before the sun rises about a hundred teams spring into action, unfurling huge balloons out on the launch field at Ashton Court.
This image intentionally looks pretty calm but just out of frame are hundreds of people dashing around. I shot this wide open at f2.8 because I wanted the trees and sun to be soft in contrast to the hard steel of the burner.
Because of the large difference in exposure between the gas burner and the sky I was working in manual mode, making sure I held as much detail as I could in the shadows without blowing out the sky.
Over in Lightroom I made a few tweaks to finish things off. Firstly, I warmed the whole scene a little and upped the Vibrance and Saturation to enhance the sunrise feel. Then I pumped up the shadows to give tad more detail in the metalwork. There’s also some Clarity in there because Clarity is magic!
As you’d expect from its name the Fire Force jet car is fast but I think the sheer amount of noise it produces is what makes it hard to shoot. Couple that with the fact it’s literally halfway down the strip at Santa Pod in the blink of an eye and you’ll understand why I still only have a few good shots of it.
On this occasion I decided not to try panning as it passed me just off the start line and instead shot a bit wider facing down the down the track, waiting for it to enter my frame. This was the original shot. Composed with the car dead centre so I had my most sensitive focus point on it, AI Focus mode and high speed drive. This was one of a batch of pretty average “raw material” shots that I hoped I might be able to get something from. What stood out on this one was how the heat haze caused as the engine kicked out 5500lbs of thrust made the crowd looks almost like an oil painting.
I saw enough in this shot to make it worth a little tweaking in Lightroom. I started with a fairly tight crop to improve the composition (this is where 20+ megapixels comes in handy) followed by a contrast boost, a little desaturation and a slight vignette. I’ve also applied one of my favourite Lightroom tweaks here and that’s the gradient filter. I use it to quickly put some interest in the sky. If there is some detail in the clouds I’ll use it to pull down the exposure and boost the contrast and clarity, but in this shot the sky was just simply flat grey. In this case I pulled the colour temperature to the cool side and increased the saturation to add a little blue to the sky.
Today’s image comes from a commercial job I did a while ago for a property developer. They wanted some bright and airy photos of one of their developments just outside London.
I turned up to the job, as I usually do, with a car full of gear. When you don’t really know what sort of situation you are going to be working in it’s better to have too much than not enough. In this case though, the rooms really were bright and airy so I worked with nothing more than tripod and a wireless shutter release.
To capture as much detail as possible I bracketed each shot, meaning that for each image I took 5 exposures. One at the “correct” exposure, 2 underexposed (-1 and -2 stops) and two more overexposed. The same technique as if I was planning to make an HDR image.
Instead of going all-out HDR I used a Lightroom plugin called Lightroom Enfuse from Timothy Armes. It does a fantastic job of subtly pulling the details from the 5 exposures without going all Trey Radcliff on it. It gave just the look the client wanted without me having to spend hours lighting each room to perfection.
Today’s Photo of the Week is dedicated to Stephen Dowset who sent me a message on Facebook asking how this image was made. In camera or in Photoshop?
The answer is: Both.
I have a more detailed write up on light painting cars and to be honest, the technique on this one is pretty much the same. The only real difference was the ambient light in the scene which dictated my shutter speed. 13 seconds at f/14 was the sweet spot and gave me time to cover about a quarter of the car per exposure. The main thing to remember is that you need to need to light the roof of the car from behind to stop it blending in with the darker background and to take more images than you think you need so you have plenty to chose from in post production. So after many clicks of the shutter and lots of running around waving a Quadra head (with modelling light on) I was left with a selection of images to sort through in Lightroom and layer up in Photoshop.
In this case I was shooting from a tripod so the images were already aligned but Photoshop is very good at auto-aligning layers if you are working freehand and have an assistant to move your lightsource.
Once in Photoshop, it was simply a case of switching all but the bottom layer to ‘Lighten’ blend mode (so only areas that are lighter than the layer below show up) and adding a few layer masks to cover up where my light, rather than it’s reflection in the car, had been captured. You’ll notice I left one of those “mistakes” in as I like how the light trail seems to come off the car and drift away.
The final contrast tweaks on the brickwork and the car were added in Lightroom.