Resolutions / checklists

As the year draws to a close, allow me to post some reflections on where I’ve got to, and what I’ve yet to learn and master (a never-ending process, though, I know!).


I’ve been reading articles and watching videos over on, and have come away with lots of thoughts and ideas to factor in to what I do; I’d like to do more landscape anyway, but even for macro there’s a lot to apply. Close-up textural scenics are something I’m keen on, and looking further into David Ward’s work has only increased my feel for this style.


So: a few things to keep as notes to self for the future:


  • Technical perfection plus…

As I said a few posts back, I now feel that, with occasional nods, I can create technically very good original files. The D800E and its shutter generally mean that you have to be very careful with the way you work anyway to get sharp results. But there are still some things I have to learn or try harder at.  I want to feel that I should carry on experimenting; breaking ‘the rules’ (what rules??) with technique (cf. the ICM work I did last week) and especially composition. With the latter, have I got the best I can? Can I go closer, or try something different? How do I know when I’ve got something right? Here I think that there are two things in particular I need to pay attention to:


1) Colour (use of):

I need to work better with light, and to learn how to think more carefully about how the colour balance across an image deeply affects its feel. Here thinking with a colour wheel may help. Here once again I feel that David Ward’s work shows particular mastery with powerful use of colour. See this onlandscape video in particular:


2) Composition:

I actually think that if I stick to some specific aspect ratios with my images, I might get a better feel for composition. My D800E has an excellent 4×5 crop mode, which, while knocking down the overall Mpx to 30, provides an excellent basis for compositional work; a general D800 moan is the lack of a square crop feature, but this isn’t too difficult to factor in when processing. In particular, I should start to try to appreciate the compositional inadequacies of the traditional 2×3 aspect ratio of SLRS, which is neither 4×5 (rr 4×3) – medium/large format ratios nor panoramic (16×9). For some techniques (e.g. ICM) it seems very important to use the standard 2×3 and then crop for composition in post, but if I stick to 4×5 generally when composing shots from now on, I think this will drive me to slow down even more and get compositions right straight away more of the time. This won’t help with other technical aspects of esp. macro photography – the most obvious being working with depth of field, but it’s a start. Using LiveView for checking focus and depth of field across the frame, as well as the compostion, is also very important. There are some excellent discussions of aspect ratios on by Joe Cornish.


  • Post-processing:

A bit of a difficult one, this. In the past I’ve felt that I’d spent far too long post-processing an image to get it to look right, partly due to poor technique in the original shooting, and partly due to rather heavy-handed work in Photoshop. Photoshop is an incredible tool, but must be used relatively gently and creatively to get the best out of images. This having been said, I feel more confident now that I’ve an idea what I’m doing both while shooting and in post, and that, for instance, use of luminosity masks and local adjustments to saturation and colour balance can make a big difference. D800 RAW files can look very flat indeed, so you do need to put in some work on them. The fact that I’m trying to slow down, and not rush my work when I’m out making images also has the further bonus that I should have fewer images to work on, but images that were captured correctly and where, consequently, postprocessing is more satisfying.


Below is an example where things didn’t go quite to plan for me with composition; but the joy of photography is that you can try again!!








This was a beautiful evening on the west coast of the Isle of Bute last summer. However, the sky and seas were frustratingly flat, and so I think I got caught between two stalls here: was I actually taking a wide-angle landscape, or was I more interested in the foreground detail? Again, this is a problem with the 2×3 aspect ratio when shooting in portrait orientation: there’s too much tension between the top and the bottom of the frame (definitely a problem with the first of the three images here).


I tried a crop of the second shot to make an image out of the textures in the rocks, but the composition still isn’t perfect. All a bit frustrating, esp. since the Zeiss 21mm is amazing at resolving fine detail.  One to try again with on another visit!




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