Monday, November 16, 2015

Baltimore City Shots of September

Going to try going in a little bit of a different direction with this blog to try and update it with content more often (and allow myself some time to digest the things that I'm doing at any given time).

I've been taking a different direction with my editing process as compared to the usual hard line processes I've followed for years. It may very well come down to dissatisfaction with how little I publish lately because the images I'm taking don't necessarily compel me once I get them onto a computer and up on the monitor. They're a joy in the process of the taking, but I often let that joy of the moment fade and thus never produce anything to share. This isn't to say I'm not beating on photos constantly. Quite the contrary, I spend nearly every evening massaging various photos shot within the recent months quite a bit, they simply never go anywhere. Ultimately, though, what is the point of photography if not to share?

I took the following images in Baltimore City back in September while walking the streets with my friends Kevin and Rob around the Federal Hill area. The city can be quite beautiful at night, but I blame my jaded senses for not finding them more interesting. I was trying to capture interesting starbursts in the hard points of light, hence the use of f/11 (which on the micro four-thirds format introduces a bit of softening due to diffraction, a crux in the use of such a small format).

Olympus OMD E-M1, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 at 20mm, f/11, 10".

Olympus OMD E-M1, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 at 40mm, f/11, 13".

Despite the availability of over 12 stops of latitude in dynamic range, I rarely ever took advantage of it in my processing. Maybe it was the pixel-peeping realization of added noise or the severe aversion to the look of notorious "clown vomit" HDR. As a result, my images at night rarely ever seemed to capture the breadth of a scene for insistence on heightened contrast. Lately, though, finally getting over my OCD tendencies to only adjust Lightroom sliders in factors of 5 or 10 and actually using them in the fluid manner they're designed to be used, I've more comfortably tapped into the range of tones available in an image, freely experimenting with what was otherwise hidden in nearly-clipped shadows and highlights.

Frankly, there's a lot there that I just wasn't touching before. The style may be far less "artsy" with heavily lifted blacks and crushed whites in the tone curve, but for sake of a realistic image I find them appealing in much the same way I like the OOC JPG files Olympus' engine produces for my mobile uploads (which still remain my most enjoyed post-processing method to date for the immediacy and ease). And once past the +/- 50 mark on the shadows and highlights sliders, those starbursts I was hunting for took a pretty fantastic shape compared to the gross blobs of light they'd otherwise present.

For this purpose, I've been enjoying the M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 more and more. Odd, because I once thought the lens would be relegated to a desk cabinet for its overlap with my 17mm f/1.8 and 12mm f/2.0, but with age those primes have lost some spark and re-learning the flexibility of zoom lenses in my real estate work has made me less elitist in my attitudes toward the normal zoom range in general. I may still run to my primes for people photos or candid shooting, but anything laboriously considered (such as a landscape or architectural study) enjoys the freedom to fine-tune composition and framing in a more dynamic fashion than would otherwise be limited by where my feet can take me (alas, I have not yet learned to levitate, nor added a Little Giant ladder to my backpack).

I do find myself annoyed more and more by flare/ghosting, however. It's an unavoidable facet of photography, of course, but my patience for it has dwindled. I once took it to be a facet of the M. Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, but having similar experiences with other lenses I'm learning it's a direct result of how I like to include hard sources of light in my photos. Arguably this indicates that I'm simply doing it wrong, photographing a scene that is. In real estate work I've developed methods for negating the issue, but it will always persist in the form of purple blobs in night photos, sometimes treatable with deliberate post work but other times relegating shots to un-rescue-able. First world problems, I suppose... it's likely a very common struggle I've just had the luck to not encounter until recently (or perhaps I simply never noticed it before?).

Olympus OMD E-M1, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 at 34mm, f/11, 10".

Anywho, I'm going to try and keep steadfast in posting images I've worked on in the evenings here on out and pontificate on whats going through my head at that moment. Probably a far more productive use of my time and any readers attention than superficially high-brow commentary on otherwise un-relate-able subject matter forced through my fingertips.