Monthly Archives: December 2007

Happy Xmas, new year, new day and new second!

I never got around to posting a Merry Christmas post, so a belated Merry Xmas, hope you had a great chrissy! Here’s my Christmas postcard, click to see it:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

I don’t really believe in new years eve (or birthdays for that matter), it’s a new year every day every second and going from 2007 to 2008 is just simple arithmetic in the Gregorian calendar that a lot of us utilize.

However – I guess this day is as good a day as any to pause, reflect, get philosophical, out with the old and in with the new, – and drink and eat far too much 😀

2007 proved to be some year for me to say the least, a big old dream and plan was actually implemented: quitting my day job, going on a photo odyssey in Australia for 10 weeks, getting back and now living, eating and breathing photography – working full time on getting my photo company Flemming Bo Jensen Photography up and running! 2008 has quite a bit to try and live up to but it cannot disappoint, it’s going to be extremely exciting!

On this last day of 2007 before we add one to the year counter (year_counter++; – if I remember C correctly 😀 ) I would like to wish everyone a great and happy 2008 and thanks for everything in 2007! Have a fun and safe new years eve!

I don’t have any New Years photos to post, so I’ll end with this dusk panorama from Hawk Dreaming, Kakadu National Park, Australia. I miss it so much, would love to spend new years here (click to see large size):

Click to see large size on my gallery!

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Reality doesn’t exist – an example

As a follow up to my previous post – here is a practical example of what I mean when I say I use digital post production to make the image reflect the scene as I saw it.

Have a look at this panorama shot from Saturday, it’s Christianshavn Canal in Copenhagen and click the photo to see large size on my web:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Shot around 2.30pm it’s about an hour before sunset. The sun in Winter is extremely low here in the North and the sunlight is quite weak but also lovely warm and orange on clear Winter days like this. Oh and yes, as you can tell from my position I can walk on water!

Now this is shot straight into the sun basically, the sun is just hiding behind the left building. It’s called “contre-jour” to make it sound arty, it’s just French for “against the light”. It’s a classic situation where any camera falls short. Your eyes can see details in the shadows even when looking against the light. The camera cannot (let’s save the topic of digital HDR for another post). I exposed for the midtones to get a workable compromise and the raw file of this shot has extremely dark shadows, the entire left side is very dark and the highlights are very bright and almost blown out.

But…remember I shoot raw and raw files actually has quite a bit of data that you can’t see but can be dug out! I carefully use the “fill light” and “shadow contrast” features in Rawshooter to lighten the shadows and the left side without overdoing it. I also tone down the highlight contrast a bit. What I’m really doing is trying to compress the too large dynamic range. Not too much I still want that looking-into-the-light feeling but I want details in the shadows too. It’s classic darkroom stuff and Ansel Adams did the same 70 years ago. It’s just a lot easier these days and I think Ansel would have loved working with raw digital files.

The result as seen above is a reflection of how I remember the scene looked and felt when I shot it. I didn’t add or remove content, I simply lightened the shadows a bit and  darkened the highlights. I am satisfied with the result – I got the look I wanted and remember from the scene so mission accomplished!

Reality in a photo? Doesn’t exist!

I recently updated some things on my web profile and blog photography page about my approach to photography and post processing and I thought I would further explain my take on this in this post since I do tend to get into this discussion about digital processing from time to time. Digital post processing has become a bit of a dirty word, it is sometimes considered ‘cheating’ as if post processing was something new. Where did this obscure idea that a photo has to be ‘real’ come from anyway? Why is Picasso not held to the same standard – those Picasso paintings look unreal to me! Reality doesn’t exist. One of the worlds most famous landscape photographers, Ansel Adams, processed his shots like no other and his shots are not ‘real’ – but they are absolute masterpieces!

My point is this:

A camera or photo that reflects reality as you see it does not exist.

Explaining this is not so simple though, I’ll give it a go and also explain why the RAW format is the only way to go.

My use of post processing

No camera can capture an image like your eyes see it, so I use digital post production to make my photos more accurately reflect the scene as I saw it. I am not a photojournalist and I am not particularly interested in reality. I am interested in recreating how I saw and felt the scene when I shot the photo. To accomplish this I use digital post production to do what the traditional darkroom has been used for in the past hundreds of years: adjusting exposure, saturation, white balance, correct any colour cast, do dodging and burning, remove purple fringing and chromatic aberation, add contrast. I do NOT modify the visible content of the scene and I feel this is an important difference between photography and digital art (digital art is not ‘cheating’ either it’s just another art form). I do not add or remove content like clouds, cars, people, animals or people etc. I simply modify the look to make it more accurately reflect the scene as I saw it!

Have a look at my photo from the park ‘Søndermarken’ in Copenhagen, shot in October 2005 (please click to see larger on my web to truly see the photo):

Click to see large size on my gallery!

I love this shot. So does a lot of my customers, I have sold this many times. Some people who know Søndermarken love it but say “did you do stuff to this photo?” because they know nothing like this has ever been produced by their  own consumer compact digital camera. I usually reply “YES! I made it reflect the scene as I saw it and felt it when I took the photo.” But I didn’t alter the visual content (even if I was very tempted to remove the lamp in the top left corner). This is a unique shot of Søndermarken. I have been back many times and it has never looked quite like this. The sun is very low and provides lovely warm light from the right side (look at the shadows) and this lights up the brown/yellow leaves on the trees. I shot only one shot this day not discovering how fantastic it was till I looked at it back home. I have revisited this exact spot many times but it has never come close to matching this one day in October 2005. This is what great photography is about for me. Capturing the very special light in that unique moment.

Capturing real light in a box

The hard part about capturing and presenting this special light is that the human eyes and brain are a million times better at seeing things than any camera. For one thing your eyes can see at least 20 stops of dynamic range – the difference between white and black – whereas even the best cameras can only capture somewhere between 7 to 8-9 stops of dynamic range. This is why when you look against the sun (a scene with huge dynamic range) your eyes can easily see the details in both the sky and the shadows – but take a photo and it’s either one big dark shadow with no details, or detailed shadows with a totally overexposed sky. Compressing at least 20 stops of visual dynamic range into about 7 means a lot of information has to go. You have to decide where you want the details – in the shadows or in the highlights! On top of this your brain is an amazing image processor. Your brain automatically and in real time does white balance correction, colour cast correction, tilt and perspective shifting and correction so all lines look straight etc. Your brains visual centre will filter out irrelevant things like power lines and garbage bins and interpret the scene and the colours differently from person to person.

So what I have in my camera is nothing like reality as I saw it, far from it. The scene needs to be re-created to represent what I saw and felt when I was there and shot the photo. I shoot RAW exclusively so I do all my own post processing (like having your own dark room). Is this processing ‘cheating’? No. Or well if it is then everyone cheats! It doesn’t matter if you’re using film, slides or digital (in-camera jpeg or raw file) – reality does not exist and post processing happens. Ansel Adams was a master of the darkroom, do you find his landscape shots to be a ‘cheat’ knowing that they are heavily processed?

Post processing happens everywhere

If you use film or slides: the post processing happens on the film, the film has a certain built in white balance, grain level, saturation and contrast level. Fujichrome Velvia iso50 for example is a fine grain super saturated contrasty film for landscape photography – comes with built in saturation and contrast at about 5400 degree Kelvin white balance.

If you shoot digital jpeg: You let the camera convert from RAW to jpeg and add lots of processing. You probably have the camera on auto white balance meaning it tries to measure the temperature of white by itself – of course this often ‘fails’ since this is tough to do and there is no right white-balance anyway, it is an artistic decision. You have set the contrast, saturation, sharpness, brightness etc. parameters in the camera. When you shoot a photo the camera then takes the raw data from the sensor, tries to guess the white balance and adds the contrast, sharpness, saturation etc. from the camera settings, add heaps of digital noise reduction and worst of all – compresses the colours and the dynamic range into 256 levels of tonal range per channel and turns this into a compressed 8 bit colour jpeg file. Mega loss of data! This is why the jpeg is certainly not straight out of the camera, it is very heavily processed! A jpeg file straight out of any digital camera is certainly not reality and is certainly not how the scene actually looked.

If you shoot in RAW format: You actually have the real “straight out of the camera” file! The raw file is just that – raw data straight from the sensor no processing. But a RAW file is certainly not reality either. If you have seen a RAW file unprocessed you will know that it is a very flat under-saturated dull and boring looking thing. This demonstrates how heavily processed jpegs from a camera are – ‘cos here you have the raw file next to it. You have to do all the work with raw files, you have to set the white balance, contrast, saturation, white and black level, sharpness etc. – and then convert it to a readable format like 16-bit tiff. But the work is worth it, with raw files you have at least two major advantages: you can change the white balance with no loss of quality and you have the full 12-bit colour range of data from your digital sensor. 12-bit vs. 8-bit is a mega difference! 12 bit has 4096 levels of colour per red, green and blue channel! 4096 levels per channel! 8-bit has a mere 256 levels. 256 vs 4096 levels – RAW files rule!

Photojournalism – and digital art

Digital art is when it stops being photography and you actually alter the visible content. You remove or add people, you change the sky and bring in clouds from another shot, you add some sunshine etc. It’s not ‘cheating’ it’s just another art form, but I do feel that you should make your viewers aware that it is digital art you’re presenting so they’re not mislead.

Photojournalism is something else entirely of course and here the authenticity of the visible content is the most important factor. You cannot alter the content at all and if you do then that is definitely ‘cheating’ and faking it. You’re showing a photo on the cover of a newspaper for example and people take this as fact and it should be – with regards to visual content anyway. Lot’s of famous fakes have been discovered and reporters fired because of it, here’s a great post from Photopreneur about the world’s most famous photo fakes.

conclusion

Reality doesn’t exist! At least not in a photo.

I am not interested in reality necessarily anyway. I am an artist, a landscape photographer and I will process the image to make it reflect how I saw it. I do not alter the visible content, but I alter the look. If you feel this is cheating so be it, you’re very welcome to your own opinion. I just wanted you to understand that the heavily processed 8-bit jpeg out of a digital camera is certainly not reality either and is just as much ‘cheating’!

I’m off to capture some more light – not reality!

The largest Australia gallery in the galaxy is online

I presently have a designer working on the whole front page and logo design etc. of my web, while I’m working on the structure, layout and styling of the gallery and image pages (I certainly got better at html and css this past month) – and I’m selling some photos at the same time, hey things are good.

This week I have been working hard on finalizing the structure, layout and design of the Australia section of my gallery, and I am now ready to present what is one of the largest – and best of course! – Australia galleries on the entire web (click the thumbnail) :  

The Australia Galleries of Flemming Bo Jensen Photography:

Australia Gallery of Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Some of the work done on my Australia gallery includes:

  • House cleaning, deleted a lot of old photos. Gone are the holiday snapshots, only the strong survive so to speak.
  • New structure based on places and themes. I have so many photos from Australia I had to invent a big structure to present the photos in smaller galleries hopefully making it easier to browse and navigate and find what you like.
  • New gallery header image, gallery description on every single gallery.
  • Best of Australia” gallery showing a small selection of the very best of my Australia photos. Still a bit work-in-progress, I almost need someone else to do this. They’re my beloved Australia photos and deeply connected to the experiences of shooting them so I have a hard time selecting “the best”. All the photos in the “Best of” are not half bad though.
  • Panoramas of Australia gallery showcasing my Australia panoramas. As some of you readers will know I love the panorama format (anything at 2:1 or wider) and this is a special gallery using large thumbnails to better present these wide shots.
  • Map of Australia gallery showing you all of the galleries placed geographically on a large clickable map of Australia. You can click the thumbnails on the map to visit the gallery.
  • Animals of Australia gallery. That is still very much work in progress though, I have so many photos that still need to be developed from RAW and added here.

There are still many photos from my recent trip to be added, you can keep up to date by checking my What’s New gallery every day.

Like the Australian Tourism ad says: Where the bloody hell are ya? Go take a tour down under in my Australia gallery!

Let me know what you think of the new Australia galleries. My Copenhagen gallery will get the same treatment soon I think.

(…oh and alright then, ok, there are possibly, just maybe, much larger Australia galleries online in the galaxy somewhere – but I needed a catchy headline!)