28 January 2008

In dad's tracks

On the wind came the voice of a girl singing. Bet she had a great time.

Pentax K10D, Sigma EX 70-200/2.8
1/125s, f/6.7, ISO 100

17 January 2008

No more bottle rockets.

As from now, a new national legislation seeks to put an end to private firing of skyrockets and bottle rockets for New Year fireworks. Other types of fireworks are still legal (eg. Cakes/Fountains, Roman Candles and Sparklers), but some Norwegians took the ban as a personal insult.
I don't know if indignation played a part in this years' celebration, but the show from my balcony was the best I've seen. It was literally impossible to get a clean shot of any single rocket between 9:00 PM and 1:00 AM. The shot below was captured at 13 minutes past midnight. Notice how the large block of flats towards the left is illuminated.

Pentax K10D, DA* 16-50/2.8, tripod
30s, f/11, ISO 200

16 January 2008

Landing safely

Still experimenting with matting, and trying to build an Action in Photoshop for it. This design is largely inspired by something Bruce Robbins has used on his blog.

Pentax K10D, FA 77/1.8 ltd., Tripod.
15 s exposure at f/11, ISO 100.

The shot is from Oslo Airport Gardermoen, North Runway. A security patrol passed as I set up the tripod by the fence. They called me and asked "are you a spy or just a photographer". We agreed the answer wouldn't really reveal my true intentions anyway, and had a laugh. They were used to planespotters, but usually without DLSRs. They were quite curious when I explained what I was after, so if I go back to shoot more, I guess I'll have to bring a print of the above to demonstrate. I think this attempt is so-so, but it was fun doing it.

04 January 2008

Glowing beads in gloom

The beads I refer to are stuck on poles, marking (more than illuminating) a gravel road through the local forest. With dense fog and temperatures just above freezing point, "gloom" is just the middle name of the mood.
Norwegian latitudes doesn't make things better either. In December, sundown is at four pm. here in Oslo, making an evening stroll a Deed in Darkness all together.
But as clichees go, a man's got to do what a man's got to do. In my case, there's more of me to do more after a good share of Christmas food. So gloom aside, this body needs to burn calories like hellfire.
Weather conditions didn't exactly invite to photography that night, but I brought the K10D nonetheless. But no bananas this time (grin). I was unsure whether the lamp-posts provided enough light for a hand-held exposure, but I wanted to give it a try. Hopefully the shot below convey some of the mood that night.

Gear: Pentax K10D with DA*16-50/2.8.
Exposure: 1/8s, f/2.8 at ISO 1600.

Shake reduction is a Good Thing.

This is also my first attempt at applying matting in Photoshop. I guess I'll have to experiment a little before finding something I really like.

01 January 2008

To do an Edgerton

Twelve years ago, the Norwegian Museum of Photography (now Preus' Museum) ran an exhibition entitled "Et Øyeblikk". Translated to English, it can mean both "Hang on a minute" and "in the blink of an eye". I still have the catalogue from that exhibition on my bookshelf. The front page (image here) features one of the legendary photos by Harold Eugene Edgerton, of a bullet passing through an apple.

The exhibition went through many interpretations of photographic moments. From Joseph Niépce's all-day exposures, via Cartier-Bresson's "significant moments" to Edgerton's split-second captures of fast moving objects and Capa's photos from the Spanish war where the personal consequences of bullets through flesh were all the more pertinent.

While intrigued by Cartier-Bresson and agonised by Capa's shots, it was Edgerton's photos that held the largest mystery. I remember thinking that this was:

Cartier-Bresson's "significant moment" chipped to the thinnest possible slice.

Frozen at 1/20000th of a second, the picture still conveyed a rich story of how a bullet can reap flesh apart. I recall wondering how he could determine which 1/20000th to record, and how many mishaps he had per successful shot. At that time, in the nineteen-fifties, he must have put a lot of science and calculus behind each photographic setup. And behind each exposure too.

Since then, High-speed electronic flashes have found their way to the hotshoes of many SLR cameras. Edgerton's bullet photos are a bit out of reach yet, but much of his early work on running water and splashing droplets can now be, at least in principle, repeated with a standard digital SLR camera.

Sans the science, however, pushing the camera button is still much of a random process with a few lucky hits. As I just found out over the Christmas holidays. The picture below is one out of about thirty attempts by the kitchen sink, and the only one I'm reasonably happy with. Most of the shots held only a wobbling water surface with no droplets at all. :-)

Pentax K10D, AF-540FTZ, FA-50mm f/1.4, AF-1.7TC, and tripod.
1/4000 seconds at f/8, ISO 100.
Click on image for (slightly) larger version.

Edgerton himself would probably have pointed out that his pictures were totally different from what the masses can produce today. Not because of the artistic merit (which I'd gladly praise him for), but from the way the exposure is made. Edgerton had strobe lamps providing flash blinks as short as his stated exposure times, while the shutter in his camera was slow. He had to shut out all ambient light, leave the shutter open on "B" setting and have the strobe illuminate the scene at exactly the right moment.

With today's cameras and electronic flashes, it's the other way around. The flash blink is made to last longer, while the camera shutter provides a short exposure time.

Cameras like Pentax K10D can expose as little as 1/4000 seconds, but there's still a good gap up to freezing bullet motion. Fast blinking strobes still beats mechanically moving shutters.

Nevertheless, I'll always think of images freezing fast moving objects in their trajectory as "Edgerton Images", no matter the technique. I think he deserves that for his ingenuity at pointing strobe lights towards ordinary objects in the first place.