Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Interior Challenges

I've managed to get out twice in the last week with my camera, which is quite rare for me at the moment. As I wrote about on Thursday, I shot some pictures at the Bear Hotel in Hungerford last Wednesday, and yesterday I waltzed on down to Basing House in Basingstoke, to take some pictures of the Sealed Knot Civil War reenactment there. It's been a few years since the last pictures I took of a civil war battle, and this year through up some new challenges and opportunities. I'll speak more about that on Thursday though!

For today, I have another picture from the interior shoot at The Bear last week. I am far from finishing these pictures, but am pleased with the way they are starting to turn out. Doing these interior shoots is all still a learning experience for me at the moment. One of the key challenges I come across is what to do when you have a very bright scene outside coming through a window. One option of course is to frame it so you don't include the window, but this may ruin the chance of a great angle or perspective. People may think it is no problem if you use HDR and therefore bracketed shots, but I don't think it is as easy as that. For instance, if the room is bright enough that you only have to go to a  +2 exposure to cover the dark shadow areas, your finished HDR image will look odd if you have to also go to -4 or less to cover the highlight areas, which could easily be the case with a blown out window.

Long time interior design photographers could get round this problem with lighting the main area to balance it out with the window, or leaving the window area as blurry and burn out, which is actually quite common. Masking in the original RAW file is very difficult when you have a heavily framed window such as this one, and may not 'fit' with the tone of the rest of the picture. Therefore, I went for a little blown out, mixed with some detail. The important thing for me is to include into the picture, so that it doesn't take your eye away from the main focus, which is the main room area. Whether I have succeeded with that at the moment I can't tell, but it is certainly a challenge for me to ponder and work more on in future.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Bear Hotel Hungerford 2014

Whilst the sunshine in the UK was surprisingly pleasant yesterday, I was up at the historic Bear Hotel in Hungerford, capturing their recently furbished interiors. Perhaps not the best day to pick to do an interior shoot, but it was fine with me. The excellent light outside gave me excellent light to work with inside.

I have many photos to go through and process but here is an early result from my shoot yesterday. I was inspired to capture the main restaurant from this angle, as I saw a sepia photograph hanging on the wall in the restaurant, which had obviously been taken decades ago. The room looked slightly different then, there used to be a bar where the blackboard area of the photo above is, but the picture itself was all the inspiration I needed to produce a 2014 'update'.

This is an HDR image taken from 3 exposures, post-processed in Lightroom, Photomatix and Photoshop.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Where have I been?

It is not lost on me that it is 2 weeks since I last blogged. Whilst that is still perhaps not the longest period of time in your average blogger's timeline, for someone who aims to post 3 times a week, that's a fair few missed posts. The lack of content is solely down to lack of inspiration. I've pretty much run out of 'material', and the thought of rummaging through the archives to hope I found some missing gem, is not very inspiring either.

My absence from photography blogging has not extended itself to photography in general. I have been watching many video tutorials recently, and filling my notebook up with lots of notes. As I have previously mentioned, I have spent a lot of time recently watching Jimmy McIntyre's excellent post-processing tutorials, but on the practical side, I have also been studying Michael Freeman's 'The Photographer's Eye' DVD's, which I purchased at The Photography Show.

I have also been concentrating on putting more foundation work into my Interior Design venture - Halewood Photo. I am very lucky to be shooting at The Bear Hotel in Hungerford tomorrow (where I held my 1st exhibition in 2011), and will therefore take the advantage of time I have to thoroughly capture the interior and exterior aspects of this fabulous hotel. I am doing this all free of charge at the moment, as a means to further build my portfolio, but of course it is also a means to get myself known by these hotels, and give them a good understanding of what you do. There are very few dedicated interior design/architectural photographers out there, and to be known for doing this is a great advantage I believe. From what I have seen, a lot of photographers will cover interior work as an off shoot of their portfolio/wedding/commercial photography business.

So there is confidence that I will post a new blog this Thursday, and get back on track after that, though it might take a short while. Despite all my learnings recently, I have not taken any photographs since my trip to Sherborne in February, and it's more than overdue for me to get out and about in new locations with my camera.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sherborne Cottage

Every now and then I do something a little different on this blog, and I'm sure today's picture qualifies as that. It is always my objective to add a little artistic flair to my pictures, and this is normally achieved using HDR techniques, which I am very fond of. Today I have gone for a watercolour presentation of an English cottage, which I created in Topaz Simplify 4. There was also a lot of additional work done in Photoshop to 'fix' issues created in Simplify.

I have had the original photo on my hard drive for a little while now, but was inspired to create a watercolour version of this photo after seeing various paintings of summer cottage scenes. Though it was actually February when I captured this picture, it was taken on a bright sunny morning, so was able to give it that summer look (albeit the bare tree on the right).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Frequency Separation

This week I mentioned how a technique called 'Frequency Separation' helped me fix my desert picture 'Tracks of the Desert'. Now I would like to demonstrate why. If you look at the 2 photos below, you can see in the original RAW image (with slight processing before being exported to Photoshop) there is a lot of dirt/murkiness to the right of the picture. It is in other parts as well. Now I assume this was caused by the thick, sandy desert landscape, but nevertheless, I knew it would not look good in my final image.

My finished image is not perfect, and hasn't completely eradicated the dirt, but the Frequency Separation technique (normally used in portraiture photography) helped me eliminate the poorer parts to a large degree. If you watch the video tutorial below by Glyn Dewis, it explains all the elements of using this technique, and it was indeed this video that helped me solve my desert problem. I hope you find some use for it in the future!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Windsor Train Station

Time is against me today, so here is a quick post of Windsor & Eton Central Station. I had not planned to post this at all (the picture is from about 2 years ago) but I was working on it to experiment with different styles of HDR processing. After a while I decided to see what it would like as a colour-tinted Monochrome, and this was the result. I created the last bit in Lightroom, but the majority of the work was done in Photoshop, using various Topaz plugins. I will blog again tomorrow to make up for my lack of a blog on Thursday. Have a great weekend all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tracks of the Desert

The Arabian desert; a place perhaps few are lucky to visit, and the mind conjuring up images of Lawrence of Arabia are plentiful. In the 21st century however, you see a lot of tracks like the ones above, courtesy of the arabian adventure cars that deflate their tyres and roar over the sand dunes. It certainly was an adventure to take a trip in one of these, but the best parts for me were the frequent stops to take in the desert landscape, and if you were lucky, see an Oryx or 2 (we did). I took so many close up and landscape pictures of the desert that day, as I could not stop my sense of awe over the patterns of the desert.

It's almost certain that the big cars help create these patterns (like to the bottom left which I really love), but it doesn't really matter. Just to capture them in the late afternoon, as the sun goes down, is enough for me not to worry about if nature or man created them. I had to put the post-processing of this picture on the shelf for a while, as the desert mist made this look very murky and dirty, and I did not know how I was going to get round this. Then at The Photography Show recently, I saw Glyn Dewis present a technique called 'Frequency Separation' that helped me alleviate the problem to a high degree. I'll explain more about this on Thursday, or at the weekend.

Presenting the image in lo-res as it is above, is not the best way to view this picture. The low resolution does not capture the desert detail very well.

Therefore, please click the link, to see it at full resolution at HalewoodPhotographic.com.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Making Progress

The continuation of learning is an essential discipline within any art form, as it ensures not only that you continue to improve, but that you can adjust and stay relevant as well. I have been focusing a lot on improving my photography this year, and that means having delved myself into a fair few books and video tutorials. The photo above is a picture I have processed today, from a shoot I did in January last year (from the Newbury Marina). The version below is one I processed and posted this time last year. Please click on either picture and use the arrows to compare between the two.

If you are like me, I think you will feel that the first version is a clearly more satisfying picture than the 2nd. Without becoming too modest, I am very happy with the result today, mainly because it shows that I am improving, nearly 4 years after I produced my first HDR image (I'm even embarrassed by some of the elements in the 2nd picture). I don't mind admitting my influences, a lot of my improvement recently has come from video tutorials purchased from Glyn Dewis and Jimmy McIntyre, who have really shown me new techniques to use in Photoshop, and helped me realise where I have been going wrong previously. In Photomatix for instance, I never really had an idea what the purpose of the sliders were, and what the objective of Photomatix should be. I just knew which sliders I liked using. Now I clearly know what I'm trying to achieve in Photomatix (a balanced look without pushing any sliders too hard), and how to get there.

As I stated on Thursday, I was looking to do a blog recently on LR/Enthuse, and how to get a good dynamic range without using HDR. However, every time I feel like I'm moving away from HDR, I am always hooked back. I think it will always be this way. I am convinced now more than ever that understanding HDR techniques can truly make the best possible picture, despite the pro's who still argue against it. Whilst I will of course continue to explore many different techniques and ways to get quality pictures, my long journey with HDR has just taken a new turn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smugglers Inn

Recently, I have been experimenting with merging different exposure brackets together, without using Photomatix or any other tone mapping software. Particularly I have been using LR/Enthuse (somehow I had not heard of this before), which blends together multiple exposures in Lightroom, without the tone mapping process, allowing for a more clean image to be merged. The resulting photo needs to be further post-processed (as normal) but you can get a very pleasing result.

Now today's picture is not a merged image of any kind, it is from a single RAW file. I was planning to post a set of photos which had been either merged in Photomatix, LR/Enthuse or not at all, but I wasn't happy with any of the results, which probably says more for the picture I was trying, than the actual techniques. So that little experiment will have to wait, but in the meantime this is an image from Osmington on the Dorset south coast. I took this while staying in Sherborne recently, though of course we took a bit of a trip for the day to visit somewhere further afield in Dorset. I didn't actually take many pictures that day, largely because we had our dog let loose running around the south coast, but it was a lovely day nonetheless. This pub is a very popular spot around Osmington, probably because 'watering holes' are few and far between along this part of the Jurassic Coast. It's a fantastic little place though, full of character and charm. I actually did most of the post-processing work on a different picture in this set of brackets, but then copied them over in Lightroom to this version, and preferred this one ever so slightly more (was a bit sharper more than anything).


I have plugged on Facebook and Twitter recently my new interior design photography website HalewoodPhoto.com. It's more the business aspect to my photography, rather than the hobby side (which is this blog and HalewoodPhotographic.com), but nevertheless I will be blogging in the near future, some of my more favourite images from my interior design exploits. I welcome everybody to have a look at my new website and tell me what you think. Until next time...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

For the Last Time...Downton Abbey

Saturday evening has been a vacant slot for me over the last few weeks, but here I am back blogging at this time. I am currently building an interior design photography website, and as part of that website, I want to show my exterior work as well. I could not think of a better example to display my exterior work than of Downton Abbey.

Please understand it pains me a little to call it Downton Abbey. This place is very local to me, as I grew up in this part of North Hampshire. It has and always will be Highclere Castle. However, for the rest of the world, this is now recognised as Downton Abbey from the hit TV series.

I say 'For the last time' because I have posted quite a few pictures of this place in the past, and until I come out with some original interior shots (I'm always trying to get permission to photograph inside...it will happen), I won't be posting further pictures from here.

This was taken during my D90 days, and is a single RAW image. I processed it in Lightroom, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex and Topaz Adjust. It feels a great time to post this as well, as it is starting to become warm(ish) and bright outside. It could be a false dawn of course, but with glass half full, here's hoping a wonderful summer is on it's way.