Something Different with Fireworks

David Johnson

We’re a couple of months early in the UK, but around November time here (and July in the US), photography sites tend to go mad with “how-to photograph fireworks” tutorials, following a formula of: tripod + long shutter speed = firework photo.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against fireworks, but they are one of those oft-photogrpahed subjects, that I find utterly dull in isolation. For something that conjure ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of wonder when seen with the naked eye, their photographic representation becomes characterised by a repetitiveness which seems contrary to the unique nature of each explosion.

David Johnson

However, these photographs by David Johnson, offer something unique. Coupling a long exposure with a technique of varied focus (from out-of-focus to in-focus or visa-versa), David manages to do something with fireworks that I for one have never see. The result is a series of abstract images which in many cases do not represent fireworks at all.

David Johnson

Unfortunately, innovation such as this doesn’t go unnoticed and David’s work can probably be said to have ‘gone viral’, meaning that you can be sure to expect this to become a technique which will probably become similarly over-used come November 5th! But for now you can enjoy the unique innovation of these photos and marvel in David Johnson’s ability to think outside the confines of the photographic norm.

David Johnson

You can see the full set here.

A Woodland Portrait

The Developing Photographer

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about photographer Cat Lane. I was especially taken by her outdoor portraits and love the tone and composition of her images.

Now, I know that the quality of my photography is a long way from Cat’s, but I’m never one to shy away from a challenge. On a sunny Wednesday evening I decided to go for a “photography walk” after work to see what I could snap, and settled on shooting some woodland portraits in the dappled evening sunlight.

Let me know what you think in the comments below (or ‘follow’ if you like it!).

Playing with RAW

The Developing Photographer

In August a year ago I was shooting on my film SLR in Bali whilst flicking through camera magazines trying to decide what I would buy as my first digital SLR. In the last 12 months I hope that my photos have been slowly improving, but in that time I can definitely point to a few key developments where I’ve seen leaps in the results I could achieve.

The Developing Photographer

One of these was acquiring my 50mm lens which allowed me to the control over depth of field that I’d enjoyed when shooting on film. Another was discovering GIMP which I’ve used since then to edit and hopefully enhance my images. I hope that when I get to grips with it, my new off camera flash will also allow me to further my photographic repertoire.

The Developing Photographer

However, despite reading over and over again in books, magazines and online, until recently I hadn’t started shooting in RAW. The reason for this was mainly laziness! Image management is not one of my strong points and I still think that if I only shoot in RAW that
I’ll soon run out of room on my hard-drive. But until I downloaded RAW Therapee (a free-ware equivalent to Adobe Lightroom), I didn’t quite realise what a difference it could make.

The Developing Photographer

I realised that I was predominantly using GIMP to make colour corrections or to try to stylise the lighting in the picture to give a certain feel to my final images. Yet there were certain pictures where I couldn’t achieve the style that I wanted. I realise now that this was because of the limitations of editing jpeg images.

The developing Photographer

One of the many advantages is that you can save a profile of effects and batch process all of your RAW files in one go. I won’t attempt a tutorial on here as I’m not yet qualified to write one, but I would definitely suggest downloading it for yourself and finding out the possibilities for yourself. The images in this post were taken in RE in Corbridge Northumberland, a fascinating home accessories store and batch processed in RAW Therapee which is available here.

The Developing Photographer

Citius, Altius, Fortius – 3: Stronger

The Developing Photographer – Bradley Wiggins in the cycling time trial

I was lucky enough to attend 8 events at official Olympic venues over the course of the last fortnight and at each of them we were treated to an Olympic video compilation set to the theme song by Muse. Towards the end of the montage the Olympic motto of higher, faster, stronger was referenced with each attribute accompanied by a few representative clips.

“FASTER” was of course followed by Usain Bolt, but included clips of other sports such as swimming. “HIGHER” preceded images of high-jumpers, pole-volters and divers. And then there was “STRONGER”, which unlike the other attributes could seemingly only be represented by weightlifters! The clips were punchy and short, but there was enough time to show four or five straining men and women attempting to “clean and jerk” their way to Olympic gold.

Now I wasn’t blessed with weightlifting as one of my Olympic events (due largely to the fact that I didn’t apply for tickets), though if I had been then perhaps I would have completed my Citius, Altius, Fortius mini-series with one of these strong men or women. But as I thought the absence of a weightlifter to complete my series, I began to realise that unlike being fast or high (not a doping reference), which are attributes only applicable to some sports, strength is actually probably the attribute which is required most widely in Olympic events.

Strength is something that is something that is relative to the sport you are doing. A weightlifter would probably be hopeless at rowing, just as a sailor wouldn’t be able to “snatch” 100Kg, and it is with this justification that I present these Olympic athletes.

The Developing Photographer

On our first day in London we decided to try to catch what we thought might be Team GB’s first Olympic gold of the games in the men’s Time Trial. The weather was beautiful and the atmosphere electric as one-by-one the cyclist flew by. It didn’t turn out to be our first gold medal, but Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins did come first in the leading time and seeing the exhaustion as the cyclists finish left me in no doubt of their incredible strength in spite of their relatively diminutive stature.

The Developing Photographer

So that wraps up my Olympic series. You can let me know what you think below, or follow me via the links in the right-hand sidebar. Thanks for reading.

Citius, Altius, Fortius – Higher (part 2)

The Developing Photographer

For those of you who have been following my recent posts you’ll know that I began my “faster, higher stronger” with some photos fulfilling the “higher” element. But that was before I realised that last Wednesday I would be sitting a stone’s throw away from the Olympic pole-vault heats!

The Developing Photographer

It provided a great opportunity to catch some athletes in action. A fixed point of focus, good light and manageable speeds proved a great recipe for some Olympic action shots.

The Developing Photographer

Seeing the pole-vault was fantastic as it’s one of those events where you can’t imagine how you would even begin to learn such a unique (and bizarre!) skill. As with many of the Olympic events, the crowd was caught up in the success, the drama and the heartbreak. One of the highlights being the shock of seeing the Cuban athlete’s pole snap clean in half, with the end bouncing right into our stands (UK users can see it here about 45 seconds in).

Olympic pole vault snaps breaks. Pole vaulter Lazaro Borges sees pole snap during qualification at the Olympic Stadium

The Developing Photographer – Pole vaulter Lazaro Borges sees pole snap during qualification at the Olympic Stadium

I think many people in the UK are suffering a bit from post-Olympic blues this week, without the excitement of another possible gold arriving at any second. I still haven’t recovered from the craziness of being down there, but I’m so glad that we made the most of the Olympic experience and grabbed a few snaps along the way!

Olympic pole vault

The Developing Photographer

Olympic pole vault

The Developing Photographer