Chaff n’ wheat n’ pearls n’ swine n’ mixed metaphors n’ whatnot. AKA Editing

This isn’t really that attractive a topic to many people, but I really enjoy the process of editing. It could be because I have a gathering methodology of just wandering about and snaffling up whatever takes my fancy – I take a lot of really shite photos, every so often I stumble over a good one. Editing is also a bit like that, it’s an exploration.


Ominous signpost with a crow – it’s a metaphor… Actually if you look carefully it’s a sign for the loo – must photoshop that some time.

So after a year or three I have some reason to go through a set of my files – So I’ll let you in on a little secret, I take a lot of different photos… No really, I shoot everything from Ultra large format through to micro formats, Digital, film, plastic cameras, infrared, scanners, I’d love to get my hands on a thermal camera. But in this case I’ll talk about mobile phone pics. I take a lot of these, it’s probably the camera type I use most often. I have a particular penchant for an app called Vignette – it’s a bit like having a holga in your pocket (I’m sure there’s a joke in that somewhere).


It’s not always the ideal tool, but I pretty much always have my phone handy – the helicopter was shaking water off the cherries so as they could be picked and to stop the skins from splitting. Serious business. Cellphone shots of things in the distance often don’t work.


Big things in the distance on the other hand. Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand – it’s acceptably pretty I guess.


Random Raptors.


And things which probably only amuse me – I love this sign Smile

Anyhow – Editing…


I’m aware that these are film…


and I was talking about cellphones…


and there’s no segue from cellphones to film, but this is where my methodology comes from. I like to see prints.


And clunk, back to cellphones – those ‘contact sheets’ on the wall go round three walls by the way & and you can see a second select on the floor where I can walk around on them and kick them about into different patterns – I need to move things and see patterns.

I also use video for the same thing – I make a video from stills and play it at five frames a second – which is just enough for me to gain an impression, but not long enough to ‘look’. It’s interesting how peoples brains work – these methods will be great for a few people, but for many more people they will not work at all, each person is different – you have to try things till something resonates.

Through these methods of selecting, and kicking things around into different patterns I make selections and suchlike – it’s a process of exploration as much as elimination – the irony is that the stand alone images which I really like seldom make it through this stage, they might be nice images, but the don’t play nice with others.

One day I’ll find a use for this image… My favorite chippie in the west end of Brisbane. (Georges).


Photographing fireworks.

Most photography books seem to have a section on how to photograph fireworks, I guess it’s up there with photographing the moon (To capture the details on the moon use 1/125 @ f11 & ISO100 w. daylight WB – it’s normal daylight on the moon) – Anyhow, Fireworks, I’ve only bothered to go out and photograph fireworks the once, I was using a canon Powershot G6 with a mini tripod, it’s pretty easy with nearly any camera if you have a manual mode. (I’d forgotten all about that camera till I looked at the Exif)

This is Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia – they have a fireworks show at least once a week, usually more. They put on a pretty decent show.


See, Easy!

Actually while it is easy, it tends to take a bunch of test shots, so arrive early.

The basic idea is to get an exposure which will pick out details in the background whilst still being acceptable for the fireworks – I settled on 5 seconds at f8 – I wouldn’t have a clue what my ISO was, but the above details would determine it (f5.6 would have been better for a digital camera).


This one was poorly framed, I had worked out how to get a five second exposure. So the background was ok, but it was dark enough that I didn’t see the outside pontoons. So I had the chance to correct.

(shutter speed is the important part of this project – you need enough time for stuff to happen).


This one was way too late, or more to the point, the next firework didn’t arrive when I expected it. Poor anticipation really.


Too Early – I was trying to get a clean black sky – so I pressed the shutter button when there was nothing there, the next pop was anemic and hardly registered –  just as the shutter closed a bright one went off.


Ah… Well, I maybe should have reduced my exposure during this section.


Basically This is what you can do with a glorified point n shoot which is more than a decade old – so any DSLR made in the last ten years should out perform it effortlessly – Basically keep the ISO low, the shutter speed out around 5 seconds, and use a tripod.

As a side note – I went well early so I had a good spot – in fact I went about two hours early, so I and about three people had basically the best spot by a rail up where nothing could get in our way, nice friendly people. The woman next to me asked my exposure details as I was already set up (in fact I’d duct taped my mini tripod to a hand rail). Predictably enough – about quarter of an hour before the fireworks started we had a series of people with massive cameras and massive lenses, vests, the whole nine yards of photographic cliché’s turn up and try to order us to move.

The first guy with a Canon 5d2 and a 70-200 L Series, battery grip, flash, a massive tripod which he had open as he walked through the crowd (don’t do that unless you want to get punched in the face by someone’s husband). In short, this guy had $6-7k worth of totally inappropriate gear for the task at hand. And then he walked up to me and told me to move because he was there to photograph the fireworks.

Short version I told him to go away and change his lens to something appropriate. He got quite huffy and mouthed off about my camera, but left when the woman next to me turned around and told him that if he didn’t fold up his tripod and f@*k off he’d need a proctologist to retrieve his camera (words to that effect, more consonants, less syllables). She and the others around me had similar suggestions for the next several people who did the same thing.

After that we kept chatting. She told me that she had a couple of Canon G series cameras she used when she was on assignment and was worried about breaking gear, and she quite liked my duct tape tripod arrangement. Turned out that the people around me who had turned up early to the best spot, wearing normal clothes, and with basic camera kits were actually pro photographers, they all knew each other, and not one of them was judging my gear. The Canon G6 is definitely good enough for online or newspaper publishing.

Moral of the story, it’s not the gear that takes the photo… Oh, and don’t be a dick.

(Oh, and if you crack a whole bunch of Aussies in the shins with your tripod they’re probably gonna tell you what you can do with yourself in fairly precise anatomical detail).