Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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I like big architecture

heathrow 3
heathrow 3 by Tim Caynes

its all very well sitting there in your office pointing your camera at yourself and then painting shadows and highlights all over your face, but sometimes you might need to get out into the real world and turn your camera around to look through it, rather than looking at it. and what better place to do that than in a place where you are surrounded by lots of shiny new architecture like the new terminal 5 building at Heathrow airport where there is the most shiniest and most enormous bits of architecture I’ve come across recently. I mean, I rather like big shiny bits of architecture with walls of glass and unfeasably large skeletons, but there are only so many times you can stand in front of the Forum in Norwich getting the reflection of St Peter Mancroft over someone from the BBC eating dough balls with a Chianti at lunchtime.

one of the reasons I like photographing big architecture, especially modern, Richard Rogers style architecture, is that it often lends itself very well to post-processing of the style you might inadvertently call post-modern-urban-apocalyptic-galvanised, or, um, shiny. and that’s the kind of post-processing I like to do, most often with my own face, which, in its own way, is a kind of post-modern apocalypse anyway and is often quite shiny, but in general, works better with loads of glass. and metal. so when I was lucky enough to be British Airways-bound for Colorado via terminal 5, for a user experience summit with a twist, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to fill up my memory card with geometric shapes and reflections the size of Norfolk. in fact, I got there over 3 hours early, which, after a 4 hours National Express coach ride on the 727 is the minimum recovery time before a 9 hour journey in economy, armed with 2 cameras, a home-made sandwich, and the sun even came out. a bit.

the nice thing about terminal 5, it seems, is that you can actually take a dslr out and point it at things without fear of incarceration. the most interesting shots were to found on the outside of the building, landside, so probably not too much to worry about, but I was also able to wander freely within the terminal after security, airside, taking really rather pointless photos of concrete and aircraft noses and the occasional departure board. the most interesting bit, however, was the largest escalator I have ever seen, which transported down to the transit to take you from terminal a to terminal b. this wasn’t just a large escalator, this was an escalator with its own vanishing point and although I was unsuccessful in getting a perspective view down from top to bottom, or from bottom to top, that was worth using, I did catch some of it in this rather nice overlap of escalators, elevators, staircases, suspended walkways and other shiny stuff, just before heading to the transit. you can just about make out the people crammed into the glass elevator, which, right after I took this photo, crashed through the roof and landed in a chocolate factory.

incidentally, although I had meant it to be the point of what I was writing but as usual lapsed into something completely different. I used a number of things to process this photo, but it was a combination of Topaz, Photomatix, Photoshop adjustment filters and a fair amount of painting things with a brush, which I really need a tablet to do properly, and not the kind of tablet that gets rid of the headache I’m giving myself.

hdr processing

elm hill 2
elm hill 2 by Tim Caynes

since Corie has started going out at night and taking lots of groovy hdr I was reminded that I kind of like doing those but can’t remember how because last time I did it it took ages even though I wrote all the steps down on a post-it note that I immediately misplaced. but I had a rummage around in my drawer that has all my photographic stuff in it – it’s a pretty small drawer – and lo, the post-it note was stuck to the underside of a digital slr photography magazine from last year sometime in which I could learn all about taking polarized macro photos of wet cdroms arranged under a snooted soft umbrella box or something.

unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was talking about. it was full of things like ‘PS HDR x3+ (d,m,l)‘ and ‘PM EB (3 PS HDR)‘ and the rather ambitious one liner ‘PS HDR 1/2/3 PM HDR PM EB 1/2 RAW‘, complete with a big bracket underneath which suggested I should put it all somewhere and then do something with a smart object, which, these days, I just get slightly queasy just thinking about on my 5-year-old computer. so I decided I’d go out and get some new bracketed exposures and just try and follow my own instructions to see how it would go. to make it even more of a nightmare to process, I figured I may as well make it a night shot. with trees in. or something. I initially headed out to the roof of Anglia Square car park, because I like car parks, but I’d miscalculated the sunset and golden hour (not the one with Simon Bates), and so I was up there far too early and the thought of spending another hour up there just waiting for the sun to set behind a knackered lift shaft and a ropey old street lamp didn’t really fill me with inspiration.

after a couple of circular arguments I had with myself about the relative merits of Tombland and the cathedral I actually ended up in the irresistable scab of Norwich photographers that is Elm Hill. I mean, you don’t want to keep ending up there, but you can’t help picking at it now and then. If you’ve not taken at least 15 shots there over the years that you hide away in a hidden folder that you think you might process one day, then you get arrested. In this case, it was just about the right time of day to get a number of exposures with various shades of dark blue in the sky, but still get some appreciative cast from the pretty low-key street lighting. or that’s what I though. but I don’t really know what I’m talking about. nonetheless, I set up my Manfrotto, waited a few minutes while people rather annoyingly thought they might go about their business, and then took my 12 manually bracketed exposures from black to white, just as the wind picked up and threw the tree around like the wispy hair of a 42-year-old amateur photographer. the last exposure was about 30 seconds, during which at least 3 people stopped in their tracks as they came around the corner and saw me standing with my wireless remote looking, plainly, a bit mad in the dark. on the way home, I took about 59 pictures of the market at night for good measure, then I went home, ate a sandwich, watched the Champion’s League, the Bourne Identity and the 50 greatest 50 greatest celebrity cheese breakdown soap advert scary war film love scenes, and that was that.

a few days later, I actually kicked the computer into action, and tried to follow the scribbled workflow process, just to see if it would make any sense at all. it slowly came back to me and I remembered some of the things that I got caught out with before (don’t overprocess the HDR conversion, don’t auto-align in photoshop, don’t auto-align in photomatix, don’t try and do it with smart objects, etc.) which took a while to rectify, but on the whole, the scribbly wibbly workflow turned out to be alright. of course, there was mucho to do with blending, masking, opacity and highlight/shadow painting, and as it was a night photo, actually undoing most of the processing was the biggest challenge, but to get to the point where all the fancy automated processes had done as much as they were going to do, the workflow worked fine. so much so that I wrote it out all over again. but with boxes and arrows and things. on a computer. I think its called a flow diagram, but I largely made it up. if you want to see how little sense it makes when you first look at it, take a look for yourself, and, if you’ve got the tools, or at least some of them, you might want to try it out. I just want somebody to go through it so I can laugh at them later.

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