Putting it All Together A First Attempt at a Digital Photo Essay
Early January 2009 saw some of the worst floods in recorded history across the Fijian islands with many killed, thousands of homes lost and crops destroyed.
I was there on business at the time. I arrived at the back end of it and had my first couple of days quite badly disrupted while I tried to reach the capital, Suva on the eastern side of Viti Levu. The west side of the island had been badly affected. At one point, the main resort town and tourist gateway of Nadi was under twelve feet of water.
Two weeks after the flooding, when the main road between Suva and Nadi was mostly fit to drive on, my customer out there decided to get some volunteers together and head west, and then inland to deliver aid to some of the people who’d been affected by the floods. I was invited along to help and take photos. Now, I wouldn’t want to over egg the help I gave that day as on several occasions I was too absorbed in taking photos.
Now, this blog is not the photo essay. The slide show below is pretty self explanatory and needs only this introduction. Instead, I thought I’d blog about taking the shots to the slide show. The slide show can be found here:
THE EQUIPMENT USED
I took only a small subset of the equipment I’d bought to Fiji me:
- An Olympus E-510 body
- The Zuiko ZD 9-18 F4-5.6 ultra wide angle lens
- Three four GB Extreme III CF cards
- Two spare batteries.
This was an all day trip starting from Suva at 7am and arriving back in the evening. The lighting was variable; sometimes perfect and sometimes terrible. And of course, the middle of a Fijian summer day blows highlights like they’re going out of fashion. Contrary to my usual approach to photography, which is to wait for the right light at the right time of the day, sometimes I simply had to take the shot regardless. I shot raw + SHQ though in practice I ended up using the raw files in all cases.
Since my only lens was the Olympus 9-18, all the shots were wide, with a maximum field of view of 36mm. This proved quite nice for landscape shots and surprisingly good for people shots also, where instead of separating the subject from the background using blurring, the subject instead pops out of the photo:
The drawback to just having a wide field of view turned out to be two fold, the main issue being that almost every shot had to have an element of sky, even when this was unwise. At times, I wished I’d bought my 40-150 (FoV 80-300) lens with me to deal with this as no amount of burning can really sort out a badly blown sky:
The second issue was sometimes I couldn’t get close enough in time to get the shot. Many nice human interest shots were missed! It is far quicker to zoom into something 50-100ft away than it is to to run over to it.
In terms of camera settings, all shots were taken at ISO 100 using the M mode of the camera and since they were taken with an ultra wide lens, have a wide depth of field. Apparently, the E-510 has hundreds of other settings and scene modes but these somehow managed not to get in the way of taking photos (a fashionable but, quite frankly, baseless complaint from certain sections of the photographic community).
FROM SHOT TO PUBLISHING
After shooting, the images stayed on my Lacie 1TB “Eye o’ Sauron” drive for over a year. This is a problem for me from time to time. On site, I only have my Dell so the images don’t go straight from camera to work flow and often get forgotten. At the time, I played with a few images in Photo Shop Elements and posted to Flickr but only those images that were good as JPEGs out of the camera looked any good. Adobe does no camera profiling in the Elements version of Camera RAW so getting a nice, wild Olympus look is none too easy.
In February 2010, Apple finally upgraded Aperture to version 3 and I decided to upgrade myself. My day out in Fiji proved a perfect test for the new tool. When Apple can be bothered to support Olympus’s cameras, they profile them beautifully so the default image looks like an Olympus image accept you have the extra latitude raw affords. In other words, if it’s the Olympus look you want, you get raw with zero effort. So, I decided on a simplified version of my usual work flow which consisted of:
- Selecting the raw files only.
- Selecting quickly, giving each of the 450 photos a few seconds each.
- Giving those exposures I wanted to use but which required cropping or straightening five stars.
- Giving any other photo I wanted to use four stars.
- Filtering on five stars and then doing the cropping and straightening.
- Filtering on four plus stars and doing the image adjustments.
- Upload straight from Aperture to a new gallery on Smugmug.
- Using Smugmug’s “Arrange Mode” to sort the photos into the correct order for the slide show.
- Adding a caption to each image.
That’s it; from camera to finished article in nine easy steps. The total effort was a little under three hours. Different to my normal work flow, the adjustments were the complicated part. Because the light on the day was rarely perfect, almost every shot was a compromise so each had a different set of adjustments. The good news is that Aperture’s subtle highlight and shadow functions are unchanged in version 3 with definition easily recovered from over exposed skies in many instances.
This blog has been put together using WordPress’s standard web interface as I’ve not yet found a blogging tool for the Mac that I actually like. Scribefire (Firefox extension) and Bloggo are both ok. In fact, I exclusively used Blogo before I wanted to include photos in this blog post.