Tag Archives: light

Painting the early Summer in Copenhagen

It’s been juuuuuust above 25 degrees for the past few days. In Denmark we call that “Summer days” and wear next to no clothes – In Australia we call that “bit cold today mate” and dress for Winter! Nevertheless, this past week we’ve had a “hot” spell and it’s fantastic having the internal batteries recharged by some sunshine and some heat.

As incredibly nice as the heat is it’s bleeding boring for photography. Cloudless skies and very harsh strong sunlight provides no dramatic light at all for landscape photographers and nothing happens in the sky at dusk. Well, the sun sets at around 9pm and the last hour or so before and after sunset can provide some ok light as long as the sky isn’t a big feature in the composition. I shot these two during the past week:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Tycho Brahe Planetarium Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Nyhavn Canal Spring Sunset
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The first shot is a 10 second exposure of Lake “St. Jørgen” and the Tycho Brahe Planetarium about 30 minutes after sunset. The second shot is the Nyhavn canal (I get a bit sick of shooting Nyhavn ‘cos it’s such a cliché shot but they sell well!) about 30 minutes before sunset. Both nights with very little to no wind creating some nice reflections. Both shots have ok light but look a bit flat and lifeless in the originals so I painted some drama using painting with light (I am loving my new Wacom tablet!). In the Nyhavn shot I went for the look of something between a painting and a photo.

I shoot my cityscapes just as I would landscapes. For me it’s the same. It’s landscapes that just happens to have some buildings in them (which is what I have at hand living in Copenhagen, not a lot of outback landscape here!). So like any landscape photographer, I love the warm sunny days but just want a few clouds and some dramatic light at dusk as well – not too much to ask hey 🙂 Well that’s life for landscape and cityscape photographers depending on natural light. We wait and wait for that special fleeting moment in the sky and hope to be ready, camera on lens cap off, when it happens!

Time Chaser

I always write I’m a light chaser and a weather chaser but lately I seem to be chasing time mostly. Too much to do and could not catch up with time (something about needing to get the Delorean up to 88 miles per hour!).

Been very busy with my photography business and doing some freelance IT-consulting and a tonnes of other stuff + the light has been boring for a week (weather’s been great but boring light from cloudless skies) so I haven’t shot anything new nor found the time to write. Need to catch up with time and need better light over Copenhagen (a small thing to ask!)

Going through the RAW files from last year I did find a few new keepers from Brisbane, one of my favourite cities in Australia. A cityscape at dusk and an amazing sunset panorama from Lamington National Park 2 hours south of good old Brissy:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Brisbane River & Skyline at dusk
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Lamington National Park Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cityscape from Brisbane really shows you how nice the sky lights up at dusk and how good a digital sensor is at picking up the red colours in the atmosphere. And the highrises of Brissy are impressive!

The sunset from Lamington National Park is just a sunset shot, but it was an incredible one at that with great colours and cloud definitions.  Both shots received a bit of ‘painting’ with light but later today I’m picking up my Wacom 6×8″ tablet so expect my next batch of shots to be painted with light like it was going out of fashion!

Painting with light

One of the most powerful tools of processing a photo (be it in a traditional darkroom or a digital darkroom) is dodging and burning – the process of darkening or lightening parts of the photo. By doing this you are painting with light, you are controlling shadows and highlights and you can dramatically alter and enhance the expression of your art and control where your viewers eyes go when first viewing the photo. The human eyes are always attracted at first to large areas of light or darkness.

Ansel Adams was a master of photography and the darkroom and to see a perfect example of good old darkroom painting with light, have a look at how shadows and highlights are used in this classic Tetons and the Snake River shot to enhance the drama, expression and visual tension. My favourite contemporary landscape photographer is Peter Eastway, an Australia grand master of photography, and his portfolio is a textbook example of painting with light.

As you know I am not interested in a reality that doesn’t exist anyway, and I find myself more and more wanting to manipulate the look of my images to better create the drama, the tension and the expression I’m after. Only I struggle with the techniques in Photoshop and curse myself, my computer and my mouse! I am reading Scott Kelby’s books on Photoshop and photography and practicing but I still have a lot to learn. Unlike say RAWshooter, PTgui  and Lightroom I am still far from getting the results out of ‘painting with light’ in Photoshop that I really want but at least I am improving (ever so slightly, Rome wasn’t built in a day etc!)

Here’s a few recent attempts at painting with light and digital post processing:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sortedam Dossering HDR sunset
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This sunset from Copenhagen is a heavily post processed image with a lot more going on than just painting with light and it’s closer to digital art than photography. I merged two exposures of the same shot into a high dynamic range file in the new Photomatix 3.0 software. This brought out the detail in the buildings (shadows) and the clouds. The HDR software didn’t do wonders to the look of the water though so I decided to completely alter this using motion blur tool in Photoshop. Finally I added vignetting and ‘painting with light’ to the image in Photoshop. The sunset is still real though, it really did look like this! It’s mostly an experiment but I am fairly happy with the results.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pandanus Palm at Trinity Bay
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a photo from Australia where I have only used ‘painting with light’ to darken the messy boring bits of the photo (the trees and bushes) and lighten the interesting parts – the combination of the palm tree, the water, beach and sky. I am going for the Peter Eastway effect here and I have to admit I am not totally happy with the results. It’s alright but not totally what I had in mind so I will keep practicing on this photo.

One thing that I find hard is to ‘paint with light’ using a mouse. It’s impossible to do nice curves and strokes using a mouse and I am seriously considering getting a Wacom Intuos3 tablet – anyone have good experiences with using a tablet?

I like painting with light and as I slowly get better at it I see how incredible and powerful a tool it is and it allows me to be even more creative and really work my photos into the exact expression I want. I am still a photographer full stop and not a graphic artist and shooting the photo in the field will always be the best part of the experience for me. But no camera can capture what I want to express so I need to be able to do the digital darkroom stuff to perfection to create fine art landscapes and cityscapes so I’m back to cursing myself, the computer and the mouse!