2014: A (Very ) Late Look Back

Introduction

Sometime around the start of every year, I like to flick back through the photos I took in the previous year. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve done well, what I need to improve on, and the amount of progress I’ve made as a photographer. To that end, I’ve made a list of my five favourite photos which I took and posted on this blog last year, and accompanied each with a brief paragraph outlining why I like it. I restricted myself to choosing from the photos I posted on this blog due to time constraints. Please note that they are not ranked: they are simply five photos which stood out to me while browsing through my blog upload folder.

The Photos

A silvereye in a crab apple tree. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II. 1/125 s, f/6.7, ISO 400.
A) A silvereye in a crab apple tree. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II. 1/125 s, f/6.7, ISO 400.

A) It’s sharp, focused on the birds eye, and unlike most of my early attempts (or current efforts) at photographing birds, the bird is facing the camera. I was drawn to this photo by the shallow depth of field and framing of the bird in the branches of the tree, along with the absence of urban clutter in the background, which makes it slightly harder to pick this as a photo taken in a backyard. The sound technical and aesthetic aspects of the photo appeal make this a personal triumph, which has never failed to catch my eye as I’ve been sifting through my photo archives.

First Church, Dunedin. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/10 s, f/1.4, ISO 400.
B) First Church, Dunedin. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/10 s, f/1.4, ISO 400.

B) I like how stark this image is; it’s a good reflection of the rainy night it was taken on. The strong, well defined geometry of the church catches my eye, and contrasts the curved edge of the grass around the driveway. However, I would like to revisit this file with Capture One Pro 8, and apply keystone correction to the vertical elements, to see if I could make it even more imposing than it already is.

A solitary snowman in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. Nikkormat FTn with NIKKOR S.C.-Auto 50 mm f/1.4 on Kodak Tri-X 400.
C) A solitary snowman in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. Nikkormat FTn with NIKKOR S.C.-Auto 50 mm f/1.4 on Kodak Tri-X 400.

C) I’ve always thought this mini-snowman that I stumbled across was quite fun. The tone and fine grain of the Tri-X add to the winter atmosphere for me, as does the good contrast between the snow and the other elements of the picture. The shallow depth of field helps draw focus to the snowman, who is placed in the lower third of the frame to emphasise his diminutive stature. I often wish that I’d made a higher resolution scan of this photo, but I also believe that there’s a limit to how much detail can be extracted from 864 mm² of film.

Lake Monowai shortly after sunrise. The fog took quite some time to lift out of the valley. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.
D) Lake Monowai shortly after sunrise. The fog took quite some time to lift out of the valley. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.

D) I’ve always liked this scene. I feel it works well having the horizon placed on the lower third of the frame, with the textured glow of the cloudy dawn sky and thick mass of fog breaking up the green of the forested hillsides. I also like the dichotomy between the use of the rule of thirds, and the perfect symmetry of the hills and their reflections in the still lake, disturbed only by the exposed area of lake bed off to the right of the frame. The exposure strikes an almost ideal balance between the trees, the water and the sky, though I feel like the highlights could be toned down a little. It would have been nice to capture it without the buoys in the water, but that’s always going to be an issue on a lake which is both full of submerged tree stumps and used for recreational boating.

A broken shell amongst the rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green Filter. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.
E) A broken shell amongst the rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green Filter. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.

E) This caught my eye predominantly because of the contrast between the white shell and dull grey rocks. The contrast, especially the loss of shadow detail between the rocks, works in concert with the framing of the rocks around the centrally placed shell to draw the eye in. The sharply defined edges of the shell also help it juxtapose the more rounded edges of the rocks, which cause the rocks to blend together a little.

Conclusion

The common thread in these five photos is contrast, composition, and how well the subject is defined in the context of its surroundings. I guess that could serve as a mission statement for this year, then.

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