Monday, 24 September 2012

Telegraph Hill Revisited

Telegraph Hill 1, 2003 © Graham Dew

Telegraph Hill 1, 2003

In the recent post about the joiner I made of Telegraph Hill  I mentioned that I often visit that location to take pictures. I guess the attraction is the uncluttered geography, the big open skies and the quality of light.

One earlier visit was in 2003 when I made the picture above. At the time I was shooting black and white film and then scanning it. By then the darkroom was long gone so I used XP2 as it was easy to get processed. It was also easier to scan using the automatic dust removal facility of my Nikon scanner. This picture started life as a conventional 28mm wideangle shot. When it came to editing in Photoshop I chose to work it up into a high contrast image as I often do when there is hard lighting. I wanted to get a greater feeling of space and give a greater emphasis to the cloud. To do this I extended the canvas of the picture, changing the aspect of the image from the standard 3:2 of the 35mm negative to 1:1. I then gave the sky & forground a ‘porc’ – the inverse of a crop – and used the transform tool to stretch the sky up into the extended image space. The trees were protected from the transformation so that they remained in scale.

Telegraph Hill 1, 2003 © Graham Dew

Telegraph Hill 2, 2003
Around this time I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with straight monochrome images. I wanted images with a greater richness and emotional content than monochrome, and its conventional toning palette could offer. So the final image was hand-coloured using the colour gradient tool for different areas in the print. Since then virtually all my images have been shot in colour, only very occasionally switching back to monochrome or hand coloured monochrome when the picture warrants it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Telegraph Hill

Telegraph Hill, September 2012 © Graham Dew

Telegraph Hill, September 2012

To the east of Winchester there is some wonderful high ground known as Cheesefoot Head. It is not grand or that high, but just has a nice feeling of space and long large views of the surrounding countryside. On the road out there your attention is caught to the north by the impressive Matterley Bowl, a huge natural amphitheatre where Eisenhower addressed the troops prior to D-Day. You would probably miss a small wood to the south. The map says that this sits on Telegraph Hill, but few people know this place by name, as the hill is not on a footpath and given over to the plough apart from the thicket of trees at the summit.

I often return here to take pictures, particularly when the light is good and the sky is ribboned with cirrus clouds. A couple of weeks ago the weather was just this, so I rushed off as soon as I had got back from work. This time the fields were striped yellow and brown from the brushing of the combine harvester that had recently taken in the wheat and I wanted to make a feature of this in my picture. There were some lovely high clouds above which I knew would work well too in a still movie type joiner. I photographed the field every time I cross the boundary of an ‘up’ and ‘down’ sweep to emphasise the lines left in the field, holing the camera higher and a at a steeper angle for the two closer foreground rows. This has the effect of creating a superwide but natural perspective for the final composition. All the cells were shot using the 45/f1.8 Olympus lens.

The original picture was imagined and shot as a 9×7 rectangle with some spares. When it came to the edit the composition worked better when reduced and reordered to a square. All the compositing and tonal adjustments were done in Lightroom, which I now use in preference to Photoshop for creating regular grid joiners.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dandelion Clock

Dandelion Clock, 2005 © Graham Dew

Dandelion Clock, 2005

I’m currently preparing a lecture for a couple of local camera clubs later in the autumn, and one thing I want to illustrate is how certain pictures are linked to other. Joined up pictures, if you will. This image of a dandelion seed head was shot back in 2005 on a compact camera that was considered to be somewhat better than the pack back then, a Fujifilm F810. This was the first camera/lens combination that gave me really close focussing capabilities, and would focus down as close as 75mm.

Many compact cameras offer very close-up focussing, which invariably comes at the wide setting of the zoom lens, rather than the more normal short telephoto length of conventional DSLR macro lenses. This can make for very compelling close-up images as it tends to make subjects look gigantic relative to their backgrounds. In skilled hands this technique can ennoble the tiniest of details, as in the brilliant miniatures by Slinkachu.

Like September Field, this image was shot when out cycling on September afternoon. This time I was with my daughter, and the weather was as warm and bright as it was last week, seven years on. As we came to this particular field we saw many dandelions backlit by the low evening sun. With the rapidly shortening evenings, it seemed appropriate to make a picture that referenced time, and the fragile dandelion clocks were suitable metaphors. A single stray seed emphasised the impermanence of the plant.

The hardest part of the picture was getting low enough to push the seed head into the sky to emphasise the geometry. This meant lying prone with my head on the ground, getting covered in grass and dust. Later I bought a small compact mirror to use for these occasions, but I find this a difficult way to compose. Much better are the articulated screens like the one on my G3, which allow for hand-held ground level shots without the mess and embarrassment of having to lie down.

This was the first time that I had made special use of the close focussing of the camera, something that I started to do much more regularly, and has become a key part of my photography over the past seven years.