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Recent Blogs from Better Photography

Click on the headings to read the full article.

Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

Italy, 2002. Canon EOS 1Ds, Canon 28-135mm lens @ 135mm
1/250 second @ f8, ISO 800, hand-held, no filter

When we arrived in Italy for a two-month holiday with our young family, there were two photographs that seemed to be everywhere we looked. One was a stand of trees in an undulating field near Montalcino, the other a small chapel sitting alone in a field on a hill, and they were on the covers of guidebooks and posters promoting travel within Italy.

Eventually I found them both, having asked every Italian I met if he or she could give me a clue (Google and Google Maps weren’t around to help me in 2002).

At the time, we were staying in Orvieto and it was around a 90-minute drive to Cappella di Vitaleta. I visited it three times, researching the best time of day and hoping for suitable light.

It never happened.

The weather simply wouldn’t co-operate, so I had to resort to a second-best exposure with poor illumination.

On my final trip, the wind was so strong I couldn’t set up my tripod outside the car, so I positioned the car on the road and sat in the back seat with the window down and waited. Every few minutes, the wind would drop, the car would stop shaking and I’d press the shutter button. I spent half an hour with a zoom lens exploring different compositions.

Most of the photos I had seen were of the chapel alone with the small cluster of trees around it, but in reality, just to the right was a large farm building. What I had imagined based on the photographs I had seen was a lone chapel in a vast field, but looking back on the photographs I had seen, I could understand how the framing and composition had fooled me (or perhaps, more correctly, how I had interpreted the scene).

My solution was to remove the farm building. The first time I processed the print was in 2002 using an early version of Photoshop. I used the clone tool to remove the farm building and adjusted the colours to be more inviting. The drab light had really only left me with varying tones of grey, but I could see the potential for colour in the trees below and the surrounding field.

This is one of the first images in which I explored The New Tradition. Not only could I process the file shortly after taking it (that night with a nice glass of red), I could transform my camera’s capture into something that better represented my thoughts and feelings about the location.

And some 10 years later, I reprocessed the file. This is not something I normally do because once an image is processed, I find it boring to revisit it. However, I needed a larger version of the file for a client and, looking at my original technique, felt I had to finesse it further. Yet another positive for The New Tradition.

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the www.betterphotography.com website

Different Ways

Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma
Cambo Actus DB-2, Phase One IQ4 150MP, 600mm Nikkor, f11 @ 1/4 second, ISO 50

I've just put together a little promotional video for the Narooma workshop I'm presenting (COVID hopefully) with Len Metcalf next year (3-7 May 2022) and the headings I've used are 'two teachers, two styles, one workshop'. When it comes to photography, Len and I are at polar opposites although we're both heading towards the same thing! Our backgrounds, our education, our approach are wonderfully different and as you view the photos in the video, you'll see what I mean.

Here's the link: https://youtu.be/fzF4_xf2mlk

At present, Len is into sepia tones and squares, but he strays into other areas from time to time. His first or second photo is a multiple exposure, a subtle ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) I am thinking, but it takes the photo away from 'just being a literal rendition' into something more interpretative. At least it is for me. However, Len's Narooma photos are not all monochrome...

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Revisiting Narooma Before We Go Again

Mullimburra Point, NSW
Phase One XT 150MP, 32mm Rodenstock Digaron, f11 @ 10 second, ISO 50

I've just been editing Len Metcalf's second article on Style, Voice and Look for the next issue (you can read his first article in the current issue of Better Photography), where he challenges us to take our safety shot and then go and do something different. Well, he'd be proud of me for some of the photos I took at Mystery Bay on our Narooma workshop earlier this year, but I don't think he'd give me many brownie points for this photo of a wonderful rock a little further up the coast.

It has become a favourite location of mine, introduced to me by the hard working Focus Photographers committee several years ago. Every time I visit, I can't help but place this rock prominently in the middle of the frame and try to fit the rest of the landscape around it. I've shot it with all sorts of cameras, including a drone, and in all sorts of weathers. I've shot it with hardly any sand and lots of sand (the sand around the rock changes quite dramatically), but I don't think I have yet cracked something different. 

Sorry, Len, but you will have another chance to help me on our new Narooma workshop in May next year (details will be on the website very soon if not already).

I think the trick for shooting these types of seascapes is giving your subject breathing room and ensuring your exposure is

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