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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Getting High

In the literal sense of course. This last week I was busy shooting a large piece of machinery for the sugar industry, and had the interesting experience of trying to keep dead still at the upper end of a scissor lift while the camera remained open for some rather lengthy exposures. Hmmm, so much for using a tripod to keep the camera steady when the actual platform you are standing on sways like a mast on a ship! This was part of the fun in photographing the entanglement of pipes and rows of robust looking cylinders in a large warehouse just east of Durban.

The shoot for a hydraulic engineering firm based in Durban was setup over two days. The second day was really more of an evening shoot to try and do some interesting lighting exercises using a torch. This meant sitting at the top of the swaying scissor lift barking instructions to my assistant, Kenji, in how to direct the torches that he was using. The exposures lasted between 10 and 15 minutes for the painting portions. Of course this also brought up the dreaded hot pixels. To alleviate this I ended up shooting multiple frames, one long exposure for the torch light and a much faster exposure with the overhead lights warming up to try and punch some light into the deeper shadows. The hot pixels are only evident in the shadow portions of the image, so the idea was to use the faster exposure to clean up the shadows as well as add an interesting combination of lighting castes (here WB wasn’t an issue as I wasn’t intending for it to be accurate)

Photographing under mercury vapour lights is also an interesting exercise. Different bulbs have different colour castes. Oh, and the caste seems to change depending on how long the light has been on for. Multiple white balance readings still don’t seem to nail the actual setting, so into Photoshop we go to eyeball it down to some reasonable tones.

This was also my first opportunity to try out my replacement for my beloved 18-35mm lens.I have just taken possession of a brand spanking new 16-35mm f4 lens. compared to my old and rather petite 18-35, this thing is a monster. It's about the same size as Nikon's 24-70mm f2.8, albeit a touch lighter. I'm still getting used to the positioning of the front focus ring, so keep finding myself groping around where the actual middle of the lens is, shy of the focusing ring by about a centimeter. But the images are sharp. My word are they sharp. Even looking at the back of the LCD when zoomed in shows a crispness I'm just not used to from my lenses. 

Of course wide angle produces it's own set of complications and distortion is very definitely one of them when you are trying to photograph machinery. Sometimes it doesn't matter, but there are other times when you have to go in and correct the bulbous corners a tad. Still, the magical world of post-processing cleans up the images a treat and suddenly, voila, perfect angles once more (I'm told CS% does an even better job at it now...hmmmm, might have to talk to the bank manager soon).

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