The Kiwi Empress

I’ve said it before but food, and fruit in particular, is something I really like to take pictures of. Given the right light and setup new things can emerge from within the subject. In this picture, which I call The Kiwi Empress, the profile of a female head can be seen with an oversized brain – at least that’s what I see. I have done no particular editing except light-curves, contrast and some selective spot removals.
The slice is rather thin with lightning from the back to get the innards to stand out. The downside to this is that the outer parts of the subject gets overexposed.
The Kiwi Empress

White balance and night photography


Modern cameras are quite good at determining the white balance in normal conditions but night photography with multiple light sources like the one above makes the task quite complex. The old rule still applies; make sure you take a picture of something white/gray with the same lightning conditions – or better yet, include something white/gray in the composition. In this shot I was lucky in that I knew that the speed limit sign for boats have a white area so I could use that.
If you forgot to get a reference here are some temperature values that you can use as reference:

  • 1750 K  - Open flame (Match or candle)
  • 3000 K  - Flourecant lamps (lower for incandescent, higher for studio lights)
  • 4100 K  - Moonlight
  • 5000 K  - Horizon daylight
  • 5700 K  - Vertical daylight
  • 6500 K  - Daylight overcast
  • 15000 K- Clear night sky (could go as high as 25000 K)

Pictures of food

I love to take pictures of food – and the preparation of it. I have tons of them. Some are quite good, but the problem I had with this one was that it had to be taken during a certain time period.. It’s a competition on a photo site I like and although the rule that the picture has to be taken during the competition period is frustrating it’s also quite stimulating. Anyhow, I thought about this for quite some time and this is my picture. It’s an orange cut thinly along the side. The post process is to mirror the image, adjust exposure and contrast. I call it The Orange Queen.
The Orange Queen

Shapes you see in fire

I was zooming in and out of this fire picture I made and realized that it had so many shapes and forms hidden within that I decided to make a little movie out of it. Then, given the problems with copyrights I also wrote a small tune for it. Here it is:

Fire – is it abstract?

I’ve been intrigued by the shapes and forms smoke makes as I have written about before. This time I was inspired by Michael (DaddyO) over at dgrin to look closer at fire. It turns out to be just like smoke photography with a lot of wonderful forms and shapes hidden in the warmth.

The technique though is quite different, here exposure is quite difficult. You want the warmth and dynamic range of the fire while still keeping the sharpness and depth. So, small aperture and short exposure time…only variable left is ISO. Still, you may not have to go that high with your ISO and still get good pictures with little or no noise in them.

The editing part is fun and, at the same time, frustrating. I often tend to rotate the picture for a while to find the shapes I want. Then, quite often, mirror it to get the final shape I want. There is something disturbing with a perfectly mirrored image so in the end I usually remove, or change, something in the picture to get some asymmetry. Come to think of it, I always do that :)

Back to the topic: Is fire abstract? I think it is. Although you as the photographer may have a clear idea of what your final picture represents it is very likely that the observer may see something completely different. If anything.
Kindness within
Last thing them, how to get good, voluminous, fire to shoot? The above picture was taken of a human fire breather (before editing). I was so intrigued by the pictures I got that I read up on fire breathing thinking that I could do it myself…It turns out to be quite dangerous. There are of course other ways to get the fire shots – but I’m not giving lessons on that.

Winter and light

Winter can present some amazing light. Sometimes this light may be better captured using HDR techniques, sometimes not. Outdoor winter photography is probably the environment that most cameras Automatic program has the most problems with. The camera typically gets both the exposure and white balance wrong. All the large white areas can also create problems for the auto focus that tries to find something to focus on by looking for sharp contrasts.
On top of that we also have the problem with the cold itself. The camera gear itself can actually handle the cold quite well. The big problem is when you get back home, into to the warmth that you’ve been longing for. At the same time you get the feeling back in your fingers and toes your camera gear may have a really tough time due to condensation. The condensation can be seen on the outside, but the dangerous condensation happens inside the camera and lens.
To keep your camera healthy remember to remove the memory card (because you want to look at the pictures right away, right?) before you enter the house. Then leave your camera in your photo bag, closed. Leave the photo bag closed for several hours, preferably until next day depending on the temperature differences. This way the gear will be heated slowly so that no condensation will build up. If you really need to “defrost” your camera quicker you need to put it in a sealed plastic bag. The main thing here is that the air around the camera has to have the same humidity as it was outside. If you let in air from the house into the bag then it will condensate.
The cold temperature will also make your batteries perform worse than normal. So make sure they are fully charged, and if you have extra batteries, don’t leave them home.
If you’ve never looked at it before, then this is the time to look at the histogram. Most cameras have it, even the really simple compacts. The height of the graph shows the amount of pixels that have this intensity with black being to the far left and white to the far right. Make sure that you do not have a spike at the far right. This means that the picture is overexposed. The camera is often fooled the all the white and, in my experience, often underexpose. The easy fix here is to add, for example +1, to exposure compensation – but keep an eye on the histogram.
The white balance can be set manually on most cameras. A good start is around 5600 Kelvin. Make it a bit higher if you want more warmth, or if you are shooting ice, you may go down to 4900 for a more dominant blue tint.
And last, if you can, use RAW. It will give you that extra chance to fix exposure with at least one exposure step back home that jpeg will not.

More of my winter photography in Sweden can be found at http://reveman.smugmug.com/Nature/Sweden-Winter/

Bubbles with macro

End of November and rainstorms makes indoor projects seem like a good idea.
Spectrum scud
Using a spare CD, a glass container, a flash light, water and some olive oil it is possible to create some rather interesting pictures.
Zenith from nadir
Fill the glass container with a minimum of water, just enough to cover the bottom. Then add a single drop of olive oil. Stir forcefully, using a fork, to break the drop of olive oil into small droplets.
Place the glass container on the CD with the shiny surface pointing upward. Use a flash light from the side to generate all possible colors from the CD.Macro bubbles setupZoom in, set the focus, and shoot. Depending on the aperture used a depth can be achieved in the reflection off the CD.