NextGen Gallery

When I began this site a few months ago to replace the old one, I began using the NextGen Gallery plug-in for WordPress. My main activity is on the home site so I did not notice the problems with NextGen. Essentially, it appears that the developer introduced a major update, which does not work on this installation. Therefore I will have to remove it.

This is going to add much more work to my task list at a time when I really do not need it, but I will address it. I am very annoyed at the developers of NextGen, and strongly advise people not to use it. Setting up photography sites is a nightmare to begin with and we do not need buggy, untested software to complicate matters. It is not acceptable for plugin developers to tell users to remove other plugins or even change their site themes– just to get their updates to work.

On the upside, WordPress’ own JetPack suite now has much of the functionality that made NextGen interesting. I will be moving to that, since at least there is some hope that it will not suddenly stop working!

Photography, Naked People and Truth

madeleine07

Picture: Rod Fleming

I’ve been taking pictures of people with no clothes on for over thirty years, since before I was even an undergraduate. Later, I discovered and was inspired by the photographs of Edward Weston, which I found in the library of the Exeter College of Art and Design, now long gone. It’s safe to say that my relationship with Weston remains close; after all, I named my lovely daughter, herself a fine young photographer now, after Weston’s wife and muse, Charis Wilson.

The other part of my life, however, is very different from the ascetic artist whose delight is in the expression of pure form or idea. As a musician, I am by definition an entertainer. And my professional photographic career has been mainly in Photojournalism. Indeed, long before I immersed myself in Weston and Brandt I was mainlining Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin.

I grew up in a world where photography, especially monochrome photography, was synonymous with ‘truth’. That was never strictly accurate, of course, and as a photographer I knew the extent to which the truth can be manipulated. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the incredible work we saw every day in the newspapers of the 60s, which I consumed with passion while still at school, a photograph was regarded as an equivalent to reality; it was not just a representation of truth, but an affirmation of it.

‘Look,’ it said, ‘This is a true thing; I stand witness to that.’ Even today, when PhotoShop has put tricks of the trade that I spent years learning at the click of an amateur’s mouse, photographs brook no argument. The leaves really were that green, the sunset that orange, the woman so perfect. Yet perfect beauty was never in the sorcery of the darkroom or the airbrush artist’s hand, nor is it in the magic of digital manipulation; real beauty is actually real. It needs no PhotoShopping or dastardly manipulation, only to be seen and known, and recorded. Continue reading

Film: To Sing in its Praise Today?

FIlm image Red Castle

FIlm image of Red Castle, Angus, Scotland

So what is there to sing in praise of film?

Surely it is a nasty, dirty, smelly procedure best consigned to the bucket of history? Surely digital is cheaper, easier, faster, more modern? And worst of all, film is analogue—well that’s just not right.

 

Is it? Continue reading

Treescapes 01

Treescape Photo

Treescape at John Muir Country Park, Dunbar, 1990

Some more examples of Treescapes.

Treescapes– pictures of woodland–have been a really big part of my landscape work for many years. I am fascinated by the effects of light on foliage, which is different every time I go out with a camera. Indeed I long ago learned that I had to have my camera with me always, because if I saw something in the woods I liked, and didn’t have one, then I would never find it exactly the same again.

Metering the light in woodland is tricky because any sky showing through the leaves will cause the meter to over-read. I use a Pentax Spotmeter (just as Ansel said I should) and use a shortened vrsion of his Zone System.

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Philippines and Thailand March 2013

Photo Crissy, Bangkok

Crissy in Bangkok–so cute it hurts

I visited the Philippines to travel and see my beautiful girlfriend Crissy José in March, and we went to Thailand for my birthday. This is a small selection of pictures from the trip. I’ll post more as time goes by and they’ll be added to the page on this site.

HERE.

Most of these pictures were taken either with a Nikon D90 or a Canon Powershot G12. I’ll be writing more about the trip on the main site at

rodfleming.com

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Low-Key Photographs: What they are and how to make them.

Low-Key photograph of Exeter Cathedral

Low-Key photograph of Exeter Cathedral, Rod Fleming 1980

Tones, Highlight and Shadows

Key is an essential consideration in all photographs. It helps to influence the mood of your picture and to define its message.

Key is just as important in colour as in monochrome work, but to simplify matters we’ll look at these separately.

  Continue reading

1987-1990

Early Summer at John Muir Park, Dunbar, 1990

Early Summer at John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Early Summer at John Muir Country Park, Scotland

I began with this picture because it representated a departure for me, and a point when I began a long journey of investigation, which is ongoing. I had become fascinated by the effects of sunlight passing through foliage, and it gave me a completely new direction in terms of landscape photography. Instead of the broad, I began to focus on the intimate, and instead of the general, the particular.

I had walked past this scene many times and was waiting for the foliage to really wake up as it does in early summer, and before it becomes tired-looking. One day I realised that the moment had come and I went back to the car to get my gear. I used an MPP MkVIII folding 5×4 technical camera, which is a very similar beast to the German Linhof Teknica, but made by a company in London. These are really nice machines, and usually pretty cheap to acquire, much less than a Tek, anyway. Continue reading

Photo Technique 5: Brightness and Exposure

zenza bronica cameraWe have looked at the ways we can regulate our cameras to get the right exposure, but until now we haven’t discussed exposure itself. Correct exposure is simply setting the camera so that the subject is rendered with an appropriate range of tones in the image.

If the camera allows too much light in, or over-exposes, then the image will be too light, appear washed out, and particularly in digital, highlights will ‘blow out’, that is, be rendered as solid, featureless white. If there is not enough light, or under-exposure, the image will be too dark and the shadows will appear jet black with no detail.

All modern digital and film SLRs have very sophisticated systems of measuring the light coming from the subject and setting the camera automatically and this is exactly what a lot of photographers do. I do it myself, if there are no lighting complications or other factors to worry about. However, as soon as you begin to play with aperture and shutter speed, it really helps to know what you are actually doing. Continue reading

Photo Technique 4: Film and Sensor Speed

zenza bronica cameraWe have already seen how four key factors in photography are linked: aperture, shutter speed, film or sensor sensitivity and subject brightness. These are linked in such a way that if any one is changed, then one or more of the others must also be changed to compensate. The first two, aperture and shutter speed, are easily controlled on camera, and no we will look at the third factor, which is also under the photographer’s control: film or sensor sensitivity.

In pre-digital days this was always referred to as ‘film speed’ and this is convenient, so we will continue to use it. A number of indices or scales were established to measure film speed, but the one that became the most widely used was the American Standards Association, or ASA, scale, which was eventually adopted by the International Standards Organisation or ISO. This is an arithmetical scale, so that a doubling of the ISO value indicates a doubling of sensitivity or speed, and a halving the opposite. (This is as opposed to the more complex DIN scale which was logarithmic.) Because the ISO values are arranged in this way, they conform exactly to the conventions we have already met for aperture and shutter speeds, where each stop or step is a doubling or halving of the one before. So it is easy to apply the same logic to film/sensor speed. Continue reading

Photo Technique 3: Shutter Speed and Movement

zenza bronica cameraWe have already discussed aperture, and seen how the f-stops marked on the aperture ring are calculated and what they are. To recap, the focal length divided by the aperture gives the f-stop, so a 50mm lens with a 25mm aperture is f2, and the they progress f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8 and so on. Each of these allows half as much light to pass as the f-stop before, counting from low to high.

Aperture is one of four interdependent parameters that are central to photography. These are : Aperture, Shutter Speed, subject brightness, and film or sensor sensitivity. IF any ONE of these is changed then AT LEAST one other must also change to maintain the same exposure. The most common example of this is that if aperture is altered, then shutter speed must also be altered, reciprocally. So if aperture admits less light, then shutter speed must admit more. Continue reading

Photo Technique 2: Stopping down, Depth of Field and Bokeh

zenza bronica cameraIn the last article we looked at the optical principles that govern focus and depth of field (DOF). Now let’s explore how these are applied practically in the camera. For the moment we will assume that we are using a single-lens-reflex (slr) or rangefinder type camera, either digital or film.

If you look at the lens barrel you will probably see a ring which controls the aperture diaphragm. This will be numbered in f-stops, which on modern cameras will run f1.4,2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, (32, 45, 64). I put the last three in brackets because you’re pretty unlikely to have them but you might see them on view cameras. Note that the numbers double on every second step—2,4,8 etc and 2.8, 5.6, 11 etc. The f-stops are determined by dividing the effective aperture into the focal length, so a 50mm lens with an aperture of 25mm is f2, and with 12.5mm is f4. Each f-stop, going from low number to high, admits half as much light as the one before, so f2.8 is half of f2 etc. It’s easy to work out why if you’re mathematically inclined, but if not, just remember it. Continue reading

Photo Technique 1: Focus and Depth of Field

zenza bronica cameraIf you are used to using a digital compact, then focus may be something you take for granted. Things just are in focus. But if you are thinking of buying a DSLR or a film camera, then focus becomes much more important. In fact it is one of the primary creative tools the photographer has.

Lenses resolve the light emitted from objects in the world into an image that we can use. Sometimes, as in a telescope, this is for direct observation, and the focus is inside the eye; in photography, resolution is always on a plane behind the lens.

Let’s begin with a point of light in front of the lens. Now strictly, a point has no diameter, so think of something like a star which appears to be a point (but isn’t really.) If we want to make a photograph of this we must create a sharp image of it, and to do this we first need a lens. The lens will take the very narrow cone of light it receives from the star and reverse this into a steeper cone behind it. The plane on which this sharp image is created is called the focal plane of the lens. The distance between this and the lens is called the focal length of the lens. Continue reading