Smash!

The brief for exercise 1.12 was to freeze frame a fast-moving object in a still location. The object needed to be something that could break.

For the exercise I found a piece of white paper and 16 eggs. My camera was positioned just under two feet from the impact area and about two feet up in the air. I was using my 40mm macros lens on its infinity setting. Although the exercise instructions asked for the camera to be set up a few metres from the impact area I’m assuming that this was to avoid damage to the camera itself. Positioning my camera closer allowed me to get a few more details than I think I would have if I’d been positioned further away from the impact zone. It certainly wouldn’t have given the same detail that I got in a number of cases as the yolk and egg white splattered.

Prior to starting the exercise I focussed the camera on the potential drop point and did a couple of test shots using both the lens cap and a small ball, the latter dropped a number of times by one of my young assistants. I switched to shutter speed mode so that I could set the speed I wanted and let the camera calculate the actual aperture for me. The important thing for me with these shots was freezing the action at the right time.

With everything prepared I briefed my 9 year old nieces on what they had to do. Hold out an egg and on a count of 1, 2, 3, drop release it so that it hits a particular spot, or as close to it as possible.

Not every egg hit that spot, some landed out of shot.

Not every egg broke on the first drop, although all of them did on a second drop.

The camera didn’t fire every time, the remote failed to trigger the camera a number of times.

When the camera did fire, there were times where the egg had already broken, was still in the air or hadn’t come into shot. Getting the timing right was a matter of guess work. I decided to avoid using the viewfinder or live view to take the shots as there was the risk that by the time I saw the egg in shot and reacted I’d miss the shot completely. Better to make a judgement call as the egg dropped and I thought it was about to hit the ground.

Of the 28 shots that I took, only 12 were of the eggs being dropped. On four occasions the camera failed to trigger. The other 16 shots were preparation using the lens cap and ball.

I found the activity challenging, but certainly a fun thing to do with two 9 year olds, I just have to hope that they don’t go home and start dropping eggs on the floor in my sister’s kitchen.

Reviewing the photos at the time I was happy with the exposures I was getting. ISO, shutter speed and aperture were fine for the images, it was just a matter of time.

Reviewing the photos afterwards I wasn’t happy with the colour on the egg yolk and so I processed each of the images in Photoshop and applied the Yellow Boost Hue and Brightness setting as well as adding a Contrast Layer which I allowed the Auto setting to adjust things. The white background needed the contrast increasing so that it brought out the creases in the paper.

Running through the example set of questions for evaluating photos:

• What is the subject?
The subject is broken eggs

• Is the subject clearly visible or is it obscured?
The eggs are clearly visible, there is nothing to obscure them.

• What’s behind the subject? Is it distracting?
There is nothing behind the subject to distract the viewer. The plain white background also provides very little by way of distraction, other than creases in the paper.

• Does the composition have any other major distractions?
There are no major distractions in the composition. The increasing number of broken eggs could be a distraction and each broken shell could have been removed before dropping the next but without constantly cleaning up the egg’s contents in between shots, the growing amount of egg white and yolk would have left the viewer just how much was coming out of one egg or what had happened to the other eggs. The broken eggs I feel add to the images and also provide things that enable the way each egg breaks to be unpredictable.

• Is the subject in or out of focus?
The subject is in focus because all the focusing was performed prior to dropping the eggs and the camera was then left on a manual setting so that the camera would not try and automatically focus on an object each time a shot was taken.

• Is the image well exposed?
The camera was set to use shutter priority with the ISO setting fixed for each shot. The camera was left to adjust the aperture which ensure correctly exposed photographs. Post processing did not require any change in exposure.

• What is the contrast like?
Contrast was not what I would have liked and so I needed to adjust it during editing.

• Is the colour balance the way you remember it?
The egg yolk was quite pale in colour and the original, in-edited photos showed this. Strengthening the colour of the egg yolks gave a more satisfying look to the images.

The images below are the ones I like the most of the edited photos.

 

Ecercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3482 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
1

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3480 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
2

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3481 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
3

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3483 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
4

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3487 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
5

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash - MDG_3489 - Hue, Saturation and Brightness,Contrast adjusted
6

 

The reason I chose the images above is because the timing of the shots was such that you can see the egg yolk splattering.

In the case of number 5, you can clearly see egg yolk shooting through the air on the left hand side of the image. This is my favourite photo of the entire set.

This was a fun activity to do with my two nieces and there are so many variations of this that could be done. Throwing paint filled balloons at a wall. Changing the angle at which the shots are taken. If I revisit this particular activity with the twins in the future then I’ll be looking to use a much lower angle so that the shots are not from above but more from side on, which will include a bit more background but also a better view of the eggs shattering and their contents splattering.

The entire sequence of photos are in the contact sheets below.

 

ContactSheet-001
Contact Sheet 1 – Initial preparations and first series of shots

 

 

ContactSheet-002
Contact sheet 2 – final series of shots

 

 

 

 

 

Capturing stillness and movement

Exercise 1.11 asked to choose a subject that includes both stillness and movement and then to create a series from a variety of different instances of this subject.

At the start of the year I picked up a book full of lists of things to complete. One of the lists revolved around places that I find peaceful. At the top of the list is nature. Whenever I get the opportunity I try and spend some time on my own in the countryside, whether that is parks, mountains or woods.

With that in mind I took some time out on Sunday to catch up with some of the course exercises. Wandering around the country park on the edge of town I was able to capture some photographs of the streams and lake there.

Exercise 1.11 Ninesprings small pond stream
Ninesprings Country Park, stream leading to pond (f/20, 1/2 sec, 35mm, ISO-100)

Within the park there is a small pond as well as a larger lake. Leading from the pond is a small stream with a very tiny jetty, no chance of mooring large boats alongside this unless their model ones.
When I was examining Toshio Shibata’s work I noticed that there are a lot of geometric lines within the images. A lot of this is achieved by means of man-made structures. While choosing subjects to photograph I tried to include some form of geometric structure using man-made and natural lines.

Exercise 1.11 Ninesprings stream end
Ninesprings Country Park, stream leading to undergrowth (f/20, 1/2 sec, 35mm, ISO-100)

I chose the above image because of the very definite ending provided by the undergrowth. Unlike the previous image where the stream links into the pond with this there is no obvious link to anything beyond it.

Exercise 1.11 Ninesprings stream bend plant
Ninesprings Country Park, stream running along bottom of gardens (f/20, 1/2 sec, 35mm, ISO-100)

Initially this was just another stream. Although it isn’t clear from the photo, the stream bends in the top left corner and at this point has travelled along the bottom of a number of gardens.

What fascinated me when I was looking at this view, and considering it as a possible image, was the large plant in the garden. I don’t know what the plant actually is but the leaves on it were huge.

I also like the way the reflection of the plant in the water, especially where the leaves closest to the water are reflected a lot clearer than those further away which appear more as a shadow.

Exercise 1.11 Ninesprings overflow
Ninesprings Country Park, overflow (f/5, 1/15 sec, 135mm, ISO-100)

Walking through the park I heard the sound of rushing water. When you look at the streams, ponds and lake there is hardly any indication that the water is flowing. It must be otherwise the water would be completely stagnant. Peering over the fence alongside the stream I spotted an overflow spilling water into the stream that leads through the park and into the River Yeo.

Exercise 1.11 Ninesprings Heron
Ninesprings Country Park, lake with heron (f/9, 1/13 sec, 200mm, ISO-100)

Sunday was a lovely day and as I wondered around the park families were strolling along, looking at the ducks, coots, swans and the lone heron. Lots of families had spent time feeding the ducks, including a work colleague I bumped into who was with his grandson. Taking a picture of the heron, who must be more recent resident of the park, was a natural choice to make. The way he stood calmly amongst the scurrying of the ducks was a nice counterpoint I feel.

Exercise 1.11 Duck 2
Ninesprings Country Park, Ducks in Motion (f/9, 1/13 sec, 55mm, ISO-100)

When I initially chose the images I was going to use for this exercise I excluded the above photograph. The blurriness of two of the ducks put me off it as I didn’t think it was sharp enough.

This morning, however, I was reading an article in Black+White Photography magazine about capturing motion. The author had taken a photograph of two dogs as they were running around and made a point of mentioning how the blurriness of the animals provided a sense of energy and movement. With that in mind I included this image, in the hope that the blurring of the middle duck will give a some indication of how fast it was moving through the water.

Exercise 1.11 Ducks
Ninesprings Country Park, Ducks in Motion (f/9, 1/13 sec, 66mm, ISO-100)

Finally, the wakes from these ducks made it an obvious choice for inclusion in a series with the theme stillness and movement.

Reviewing the series as a whole I can see that there are two halves to it and I could easily have developed either half into a full series.

The first three images of the streams are very structured with rectangular elements to them. The fourth image provides a link into the wider feel of the final set of three with the rectangular shape of the water flowing from the overflow connecting with the rounder splash point.

While I was writing up this entry I used Google Maps to look at the area around the country park and in particular the course of the streams. From the information on the map I think another series could be made by following the course of the stream as it passes through the town from its starting point in one of the housing estates, through the country park all the way to the point it joins River Yeo. I think the contrast of the stream with its environment could be interesting, particularly as for a lot of its course it runs beneath houses and roads before surfacing every so often.

 

Shutter Speed

The brief for exercise 1.10 was to make a series of experiments bracketing only the shutter speed.

Having completed the assignment the first thing I found looking at the images I’ve chosen to use is that in order to get the right exposure I’ve not only adjusted the shutter speed but altered the aperture.

The second thing is that to get the effects I’ve wanted the difference in aperture is quite different and not just a change of 1 up or down.

Exercise 1.10 Ball water feature fast shutter
Water feature at St Margaret’s Hospice (f/2.8, 1/160 sec)

In the above image the faster shutter speed has allowed for bubbles and the ripples in the water was it cascades down the metal sphere to be captured. It has given a nice texture to the surface that I think compliments the pebbles that the ball is resting on.

Exercise 1.10 Ball water feature slow shutter
Water feature at St Margaret’s Hospice (f/3.5, 1/50 sec)

The faster shutter speed has removed any sign of bubbles and smoothed out the ripples giving only a hint at the top of the sphere where the water bubbles out of the top.

If I’d increased the time for the exposure further then the water cascading down would have blended with the metal material of the globe.

Exercise 1.10 Cefn Coed cemetery river view fom bridge highlighted and black adjusted long shutter
Cefn Coed cemetery river view from bridge (f/29, 1.3 sec)

By setting a slow shutter speed the waves and ripples on the river that separates the two parts of the cemetery where my grandparents are buries, the surface looks a lot smoother than it was in reality. It could almost be frozen over.

Exercise 1.10 Cefn Coed cemetery river view fom bridge highlighted and black adjusted short shutter
Cefn Coed cemetery river view from bridge (f/8, 1/13 sec)

The faster shutter speed shows that the river is very much in motion. Flowing fast enough that you can hear it rushing through the trees as you approach.

Exercise 1.10 Cefn Coed cemetery river view fom bridge highlighted and black adjusted
Cefn Coed cemetery river view from bridge (f/29, 0.8 sec)

 

Exercise 1.10 Cefn Coed cemetery river view fom bridge
Cefn Coed cemetery river view from bridge (f/4.2, 1/15 sec)

This was shot from the other side of the bridge with a fast shutter speed so you can see the ripples on the surface. The shots I took with the slower shutter didn’t work as well on this side as they did from the other side of the bridge.

 

Exercise 1.10 Hendford Hill bridge dog
Hendford Hill bridge dog (f/10, 1/8 sec)

 

I was taking photos of the bridge for the Shadows and Light project. When I came to review them I noticed this dog that had just popped into the frame.

 

Exercise 1.10 Hendford Hill bridge runners
Hendford Hill bridge runners (f/22, 1 sec)

 

With the above photo I noticed the runners coming and as I was propped with my back against a tree decided I’d increase the shutter time and capture them as they moved through the shot. I decided against focusing on them and panning so that it wasn’t obvious I was taking a photograph of them.

I think the different amounts of blurring on the runners and the couple walking nicely highlights the different speeds they were travelling at.

During this exercise I focussed on varying the shutter speed in order to get the effect of movement. In the past I’ve used panning to achieve similar effects. I’ve found this to be a lot more challenging as you need to have the subject in focus and be panning at exactly the right speed so that when you press the shutter release your subject doesn’t end up out of shot or to one side or the other.

The following, taken during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this  year, show some of the problems that can occur when trying to capture fast moving objects including when panning in order to take the photograph. Like anything practice makes it easier.