Why picture of the moment and not picture of the day? week? month? Simply to not commit myself to a schedule! The moment in question is now, while I’m writing this post, and the picture is the one from my collection I have chosen to talk about. I bet you thought I was trying to be really profound didn’t you? Nope, just non-committal.
So why choose this photo? Well, it’s the one I’ve used for my blog banner so I figured it was as good a place to start as any. It was taken very recently the morning after the works’ Christmas party. We were all a bit worse for wear and waiting for the coaches to depart so I decided to take the opportunity for a photograph. There was really nice light at the time and I was determined to get a decent shot before I left. Let’s get the technical details out of the way…
The Technical Bits
Canon 500D (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6), 55mm, f/8.0, 1/400 second, ISO 400
Yes, that is indeed the cheap and cheerful kit lens – the non-IS version no less. Do Canon make a cheaper lens? I’m not sure if they even sell that version outside of a kit. Anyway, the point is even the most basic of equipment is capable of taking nice pictures in the right conditions. Let that be a lesson. I chose to take this lens with me because it is very light and, in all honesty, I didn’t really mind so much if it got broken.
55mm (88mm equivalent on the 500D) is a pretty obvious choice of focal length given the conditions and gear I had with me. The idea was to get a close enough view of the pier to be able to make out some details and hold your attention for a moment – no more, no less.
I chose an aperture setting of f/8.0 to ensure I got enough of the scene in focus. There wasn’t anything interesting in the foreground I wanted to include so I didn’t see much reason to go to f/11 or f/16.
Shutter speed 1/400 and ISO 400… now you might be thinking these are a little on the high side, particularly for a largely static landscape photograph, but bear in mind this was hand-held and I was still a bit jittery from the night before! The regular gusts of wind didn’t help either so I raised the ISO until I was happy the shutter speed was more than fast enough. ISO 400 is nothing to worry about anyway in terms of image quality – I’d take digital noise over blur every time.
I shoot RAW. That’s a discussion for another post, but worth mentioning at this point because it is crucial to the last stage in creating my photographs. I process these files in Adobe Lightroom 3 which allows me to bridge the gap between what the camera captures and the vision for the photograph I had when I raised the camera to my eye. I’ll go into more detail about this one day, but for now I’ll mention the main adjustments I made to this photo.
Having said that, I didn’t do a whole lot to this photograph in Lightroom. I raised the exposure a little and added some fill light. I nudged the colour temperature up slightly because even though this is winter time it really wasn’t that cold and I wanted to reflect this. I increased the overall vibrancy of the image a touch and also boosted the clarity. I find the clarity slider brilliant for highlighting the edge detail in the clouds, and I also pulled down a gradient filter of -0.5 exposure just to bring the sky back a little. The picture still looked a little on the cool side however, so I tinted the highlights ever so slightly with yellow just to give that hint of the golden sunlight that was breaking through. I finished the image with a slight vignette and it was done.
Sometimes I look at this picture and think it’s a little muddy. Maybe. But then, I wasn’t trying to make a postcard out of this image – I was trying to capture the mood, and we were feeling anything but bright and sharp let me tell you. It’s always worth remembering why you took the picture in the first place and who for, and if you’re shooting for fun and nobody else but yourself, you’re pretty much free to make your own definition of what is “right”.