Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Portrait: Wishful Thinking

The first part of the session with Matilda last Saturday was centered around wishes and remoteness. The setup was a black wall background while sitting with arms resting on a table. All the best photos from this session ended up being close-ups.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Portrait: Mysterious Girl

Matilda Tehler and I decided to have a short studio session in between packing for Switzerland and a spot of bowling in Stockholm. The session had two parts, and the latter part was in stark contrast to the white-out portraits earlier this week. These were the very opposite, low-key portraits, and almost back-lit. Is it just me, or do these have a sort of 20's feel?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Landscape: Winter Trees

Yesterday's unexpectedly clear skies gave me the opportunity to work with polarizing to try to capture the very beautiful snow covered trees that dot Stockholm at the moment. These pictures were shot in Edsbergsparken in Sollentuna, just north of Stockholm.

Landscape at the shores of the frozen lake Edsviken in Sollentuna

The contrast from the blackish branches against the white snow and blue sky is something I find very entriguing.

The polarizing shift with a wide-angle lens can be seen clearly in this picture, dark sky in the middle and lighter at the edges.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Technique: Ratios between natural and artificial light

Transition periods of natural light when the light is constantly changing is probably one of the best situations when interesting outdoor photos can be created. A transition period is typically when the light is fading more and more in the case of post-sunset light or getting more and more intense as in pre-sunrise. Taking outdoor pictures in such conditions, however, presents some challenges to be overcome to get the most out of the good light. One specific such consideration is ratios between natural light and artificial light, i.e. the ratio of light intensity between e.g. a street light and the sky. This ratio is crucial to convey the message you want. A very intense natural light in relation to any artificial light sources makes the artifical light more or less disappear. An extreme example of this is photographing in mid-day, when the sky is at its brightest, when the light from a light bulb will be almost invisible (a ratio of 1:0). The other extreme is at night, when the sky will be near completely black and any artifical light will be the only light (a ratio of 0:1). Between these two we have our transition period, and the ratio will gradually change under such transition, something we need to watch when creating a photo.

The two photos below show this in action. The sunset was at 15:08 the day of the shooting. The upper photo was taken at 15:37, when the ratio was approximately 3:1 (the natural light was three times as intense as the artifical light from the streets lights and windows). Only 30 minutes later from the same location, the lower picture has quite a different ratio, closer to 1:1 (the intensity from the natural light from the sky was approximately the same as the street lights and windows). One thing is clear, the photos are quite different in both appearance and in the feelings they provoke. Which one is the better? Well, that would depend on what you want to say. Wanting to convey the message of a glitzy Grand Hotel in Stockholm I personally prefer the lower, with 1:1 ratio, for its deeper colors and fuller reflections in the water (due to the equal light ratios).

Grand Hotel in Stockholm at 15:37, about 30 minutes after sunset. Approximately 3:1 ratio.

Grand Hotel in Stockholm at 16:05, about 1 hour after sunset. Approximately 1:1 ratio.

Of course, much of the 1:1 ratio qualities can be achieved in post-processing of the upper photo, but for example the intense water reflections will be a challenge to recreate to look natural, not to mention all the time needed in front of the computer instead of being out shooting.

This short tech article only touched photographing landscapes with a combination of natural and artificial light, but the ratio thinking applies to any types of lights (even artifical vs artifical, as in the studio or flash vs natural light). So, next time you are out photographing in a transition period of natural light, with artificial lights in the scene, think about the light ratios, and I bet you will be surprised how much closer the photos are to your vision.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Portrait: White-out

With heavy overcast and skiing on my mind, the only photographically related today has been a refinement some older white-out style portraits - a style of portraits I have come to like over the last few months. Both portraits are of my beautiful sister, Annika Arnell, the first one from her previous north-facing-window-perfect-for-natural-light-portraits apartment, and the second from her new not-so-perfect-in-regards-to-light apartment on Söder, in southern Stockholm.

Kungsholmen, Stockholm

Söder, Stockholm

Stockholm Landscape: Stockholm from the Air

Today we took to the skies to get another perspective of Stockholm, up the Concrete Spire of Stockholm, also known as the Kaknäs Tower on the eastern shores. The winds at 141 m above ground turned out to be the largest obstacle to overcome when photographing from the tower; at 200 mm the slightest shakes will involuntary smear the the pictures nicely Gaussian for you. The ratio of reasonably sharp pictures from this outing were thus quite low. However, I managed to get the best pictures of the Kaknäs Tower I have ever created, where it was perfectly illuminated by the setting sun, standing out all orange from the cold blue of the ground and the sky.

Kaknäs Tower, Stockholm

Kaknäs Tower Close-up, Stockholm

Westerly view of Stockholm from the tower.
In the foreground Djurgårdsbrunn Road leading into Östermalm. In the background the Old Town with the City Hall.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stockholm Landscape: Blue skies

The cold persists and after a week of very good photographic weather, Stockholm showed us clear blue skies in the winter. Yesterday's (urban) landscape session in central Stockholm gave me the opportunity to experiment with skies and optimal light. Yesterday's sunset was at 15:07, and to the east (away from the sunset) the good light (in my opinion) was only between 16:00 and 16:10, a small window of 10 minutes. The first picture below was taken in that window. To the west (setting-sun side) the good light begun at 16:15, but didn't fully mature until 16:25, from which it stayed good until about 16:50, when the west sky started to become too dark. The two lower pictures were taken with west skies as background. It's really amazing how long time the post-sunset light lingers in the sky this far north in winter.

View from the castle of Grand Hotel and The National Museum, Stockholm

Storkyrkan, Stockholm

The Royal Castle in Stockholm seen from the plateau to the west.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stockholm Landscape: Coldest day yet

Yes, it was -15°C in Stockholm today. And with cold weather comes great opportunities; add to that a clear day and I got a backdrop that I have been longing for quite some time. Matilda and I went out, dressed to the teeth wearing all the cloths we could find, totaling not less than four layers! I repeated much of the subjects from yesterday, especially the Royal Castle - and the results are quite different from the moody skies of yesterday.

The bitter cold also tested the equipment. It is evident that you get what you pay for - my $7 Ebay remote shutter didn't love the cold and gave up somewhere in the middle. The camera and tripod did hold up (apart from frozen water in the build-in compass of the tripod!). A first for me was how extremely slow the LCD displays got, I have had cameras in the extreme cold before but I have never noticed this, where it looked like the f-stops on the LCD hesitated to change. Well, the liquid crystals of the Liquid Crystal Display were not very liquid anymore I guess :)

Smoke over Södermälarstrand. How can there be factories right in the heart of the city?

Högalid Church. All the birds of Söder decided to go for a flight at the same time.

Royal Castle of Sweden

Royal Castle of Sweden.
Quite a different picture compared to the one from yesterday. Note the ducks making a racket in the foreground, which I think adds to the picture. It is also interesting to see the work of different light temperatures (and some colored lights) reflected in the water.

Burnt cars again!

It is strange - approximately one and a half years ago two fairly new cars (Mercedes and Audi) were put on fire in the parking lot close to our house. A freak accident/attack to some people's car you would presume - BUT, yesterday, the exact same thing was repeated, two cars were put on fire during the night - at the exact same spot! (same Mercedes model as well). Where are we living? Detroit? This must be the real ghetto! Luckily, our car is not a fancy Mercedes :)

I snapped a few quick photos of the unfortunate car left using natural light only. On a technical note, the different light temperatures (bluer from the late afternoon sky, I would guess 9000 K and pink from street lights, about 3200 K) made the pictures worth-while in my opinion. Light challenged as it was, they all ended up at ISO 3200 at f/1.4.

It has an eerily ressemblance of the photos a year and a half ago, of which one is actually hanging on my wall.

Stockholm Landscape: Winter in Stockholm

Matilda and I headed out to Skeppsholmen, a small island in central Stockholm for a magnificent view of the Old Town of Stockholm. The light in Stockholm today was so so, but after some post processing there were a few pictures that actually showed to have at least some potential. I ended up using one of them as new header for the blog.

Old Town of Stockholm in after sunset light.

Old Town in Stockholm were I hope to convey how cold it really was!

The Royal Castle seen from Kungsträdgården.