Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2014 Jeff Wignall.

"Vision without execution is hallucination."


Thomas Edison

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Little Late-Night Surrealism

When Photoshop was first introduced (I started using it in the early 1990s, not sure exactly when it was first introduced) seemingly everyone became a surrealist. You could hardly open a photo magazine without encountering an elephant swimming in a wine glass or a flock of geese morphing into flying dogs. It was a lot of fun. I don't see as much of it as I used to see and I kind of miss it. Recently I've been doodling in Photoshop for fun and exploration as opposed to just enhancing my photos for publication--it's a blast. I created this image in the middle of the night and it has a kind of dreamlike quality to it (and it's actually called Stony Creek Insomnia #1). Puttering around creatively in PS is a great way to learn the program and to see how different tools work together and it's an excellent ways to learn to use layers and layer-blending modes.

The best way to start a surrealistic montage is to first open a blank document in PS and size it for whatever finished size you want. I typically size things 20 x 24-inches at 300 dpi--which will create enormous files by the time you're done (so you'll need a lot of RAM--I have 5.5 gigs). The reason I work so large is that if I create something I really like, I can have a lab make huge prints. Always work in high resolution, by the way (again, 300 dpi). It would be a shame to create an image you really want to print big only to find the file doesn't have enough resolution (been there, done that).

I typically add images simply by opening the images and then using the move tool (the top tool on the tool bar) to dray the images into the blank document (yes, you can just drag images in) and then I use the Edit>Transform options (scale, skew, rotate, etc.) to size and/or distort each element. Then, once again, use the move tool to position them. Each image is its own layer so I can turn them on and off at will, or rework them (or delete them) as necessary. Another source of cool image elements, if you have a flatbed scanner, is to scan household or natural objects and incorporate them in your collages.

One of the primary things that I like about creating collages is that you can combine different parts of your world and your experiences. This shot is made up from images taken in Connecticut and Florida (and the moon is the super perigee moon) shot years apart. I have absolutely no preconceptions about what I'm going to combine or why, I simply keep adding things that seem to create an interesting dream story.

As I said, I'm usually just doodling but it can become somewhat obsessive if you let it. I had no idea I was going to create this image. I was between couch and bed and sat down to read email for a minute and the next thing I know, two hours later, I'm lost in a PS dream. In my fantasies, I envision myself being able to afford to sit at a computer for days at a time creating just one image.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Foggy Day in Stratford Town

I grew up in the town of Stratford, Connecticut, named after the more famous Stratford, in England. Last week, however, for about two days we had a fog that would make even Britons feel right at home. I took a quick ride to the grounds of our Shakespeare Theatre (sadly, it's been dark for decades while the town seemingly does nothing to save it) and shot some quick photos of this lovely wooded grove. I love the bolder dark shape of the large tree on the left and the figure of the statue (Shakespeare, pondering) in the center (though I also shot some frames with him off-center). I'll write more about shooting in fog (use plus exposure compensation!) some other time, but for now, just wanted to post this pretty scene. The state of Connecticut (and the country, I'm sure) has been in a sort of ponderous fog since the terrible tragedy in Newtown. This photo seems to symbolize our deep thoughts and confusion. It's such a profoundly sad event it's hard to even begin to wrap your mind around it. God bless those sweet little angels--though the words just don't seem adequate this time.

My photo books: By the way, all of my photo books are up on Amazon if you're thinking of buying someone a book during the holidays. I really meant to publish a list of good photo gift books this week but never got around to it. If I have time before the weekend I'll post a few.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Sunset Mircle at the end of Every Day

Knock on wood, we've had some really beautiful days here in Connecticut lately and this past week I've been to the beach a few times to shoot the sunset. I saw this composition the day before I actually shot it. I was having a late lunch with a friend of mine in a seaside cafe and saw this scene out the window--and there was a spectacular sunset going on. It was one of those nice slow early-December sunsets that we get over Long Island Sound with a beautifully hazy and soft sun. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me (which is rare, trust me).

I was so disappointed that I was determined to return to the beach the next day, with my cameras--and I did. I went back to the exact same beach in front of the cafe (in fact, I shot this right below the window where I'd been eating the day before) with my Nikon D90 and a 70-300mm Nikkor zoom and my Manfrotto tripod and I got there just as the sun was about to set. I only had time to pop off a few frames and then the sun disappeared into the clouds. But I really like this shot a lot; I like the contrast between the dark deck (I darkened it up a bit in Photoshop) and the very pastel colors of the sunset. Simple foregrounds can do wonders to improve a sunset. And part of the reason that I was able to compose it so quickly and knew that I wanted to include that little deck as a frame, was that I had seen it the day before. I knew exactly what the composition was going to be before I even took the camera out of the case.

So if ever you are out and about and see a pretty scene at sunset but don't have your cameras, keep the composition in mind and return another day. To me sunrises and sunsets are a miracle of color and light that happen every day (weather permitting) and they're just waiting for you to go capture their beauty. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ilford Launches Two B&W Disposables in UK

In the world of strange-but-true news, Ilford has introduced a pair of black & white disposable cameras, but so far only in the UK. Here are the specs from the Ilford press release:

"The ILFORD XP2 Super Single Use Camera gives the convenience of being able to have the film processed at any High Street photo-processing centre using C41 colour negative systems, with proof prints made on colour paper. These can either be close-to-neutral black and white prints, or colour toned monochrome prints, and are ideal for deciding which negatives to print on black and white paper.

The ILFORD HP5 Plus Single Use Camera is intended for processing at locations with standard black and white film processing and printing chemistry, resulting in true, real black and white prints that have a unique look as the images are made from silver."

Both cameras are complete with built-in flash--cool! The cameras are pretty much being aimed at the wedding market (you know, leave cameras on the reception tables and guests take their own photos), but I'm guessing they are vastly underestimating the interest these cameras will generate with those of us who miss shooting black and white film. I think it would be great fun to toss a couple of these in the carry-on luggage (don't check them--the Xray machines will ruin the film) on a trip and do some b&w shooting for fun.

No word yet on when (or if) they'll be introduced to the U.S. market. I can't imagine why Ilford would skip the biggest market in the world. 

My photo books: By the way, I discovered a forgotten cache of a few of my photo books in my office, including The NEW Joy of Digital Photography and also Jeff Wignall's Digital Photography Crash Course (and perhaps a few other titles) and I'm thinking of selling them directly from this blog. Oh, I think I have some copies of the Winning Digital Photo Contests Book, too. Let me know if there's any interest. I have to charge more than Amazon, but probably not full retail. Also, I took my main site down for a month or so while I create a brand new one--should be up by the first of the year if not sooner. The old site was looking a bit dusty and it's easier just to start a new one these days.