Karl Drage's 2010 blogGAR Entries

AUG 08 2010
Playing Around!

It's been a long time since I've been inspired to try anything different photographically, but Tomasz's series of 'Su-22 Postcards' recently did just that.

A recent internet 'fad' in the UK has been the use of HDR (High Dynamic Range) and 'tone-mapping'. It's nothing new and has been used by photographers on the continent for several years. Like the shadow/highlight tool, when used badly it creates horrible radioactive halo effects around images, but at the same time has an uncanny knack of turning a 'clean image' into a 'dirty' one, while extreme misapplications of it lead to a perfectly good image being turned into something that would look more at home in the latest Disney feature.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not crabbing the use of HDR per se, just the shocking abuses of it that seem to be proliferating the internet forums. Indeed, done well, HDR will bring out far more detail than the camera's sensor would otherwise be able to impart; I've just never felt the need to try it. It seems to me that too many people are using it as a gimmick to try to salvage an otherwise unusable image. To my mind, whatever else you do in the processing, the ultimate goal must always be to produce a final product that's of as high a quality as possible, no?

When I first clicked on Tomasz's thread I was immediately struck by his presentation. The solid black borders top and bottom combined with a 2.5:1 aspect ratio of the actual image worked supremely well, in my opinion. That the images were black and white - albeit slightly tinged - also added beautifully to the effect, but the definining feature for me was the clever use of darker areas, which ingeniously lead the eye into the intended main focus of the image.

Now I would be lying if I claimed that all of the images in his threads 'work' for me - indeed, many of the crops in his other sets just don't seem to make any sense on any level - but one thing he does which has converted me somewhat is his use of 'jaunty angles'. Maybe it's just the airliners.net mentality that's been ingrained in me - that verticals should be vertical - but there are very few occasions where I've felt that tilting the image would 'add to it' in the world of 'standard' processing. For whatever reason - and I suspect it's linked to the aspect ratio - it seems much better suited to this style.

I don't for one moment doubt that many of the images from the Fitter set would look great in colour and processed conventionally, but, for me, the overall presentation has turned a set of aviation images into the sort of aviation art that would look superb printed in a book or printed at A2 and hung on a wall. They somehow seem to have more depth to them, more feeling and real mood: This was something that I simply had to try for myself.

So try it I did! I had a pretty good idea of how I would achieve a similar look and initially chose the horribly grey, drizzly day I spent at the Dutch Airshow at Leeuwarden in 2006 as my first trial, figuring there was little to lose!

The thing that immediately struck me was just how different a 2.5:1 crop made images look! Some just didn't fit, while others - which I'd never even considered processing before - suddenly had a new found purpose!

The results were rather hit and miss, but there were enough that I did like to persuade me to play around some more, so I spent a good chunk of the next day going through a hard-drive of trips out from the early part of 2006, including a few days spent in an extremely snowy Switzerland.

Up to this point the only person I'd discussed Tomasz's threads with was Gareth and he was nowhere near as convinced as I was…. I decided it was time to see what the rest of the team thought. The general consensus was that a whole thread (let alone several threads) in that style was a bit over the top and, as I'd done, some of the crops were called into question.

Undeterred I decided to share some of my efforts regardless. Given that almost all of us come from airliners.net uploading backgrounds, I wasn't sure whether anyone would have an open enough mind to even contemplate liking such a style, but a few of them did. It is different and is pretty far removed from everything we've been conditioned to produce, so I'm not surprised that it wasn't for everyone.

For me, I actually really enjoyed doing something different. Revisiting images is always fun as your processing's constantly evolving, but this was better than that. It was almost like someone turning up and giving you a hard-drive of completely brand new content to look at - such is the perspective (literally) that the different aspect ratio provides.

I'm sure going forward you might even see the odd example appear in some of our articles, but don't ever expect to see complete sets of them - well, maybe the occasional one in a blogGAR ;-)

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2010-08-12 - Mark Shepherd
Good effort Karl, I like some of them alot. It works very well with some and not so well with others, but the Harrier in the wet, G-HVIP and a couple of F-4s ARE EXCELLENT and I may go and have a go myself now. Very brave of you to publicly air these at the first attempt,I look forward to seeing further efforts in the future!

2010-08-09 - Scott
Really like some of these Karl. The F-15 long exposure shot, Jag taxiing at CBY and Harrier in the wet stand out. I use different aspect ratios quite often in my shots, especially where there is dead areas above and below the subject. The great thing about Digital is that you can experiment with different crops with ease and without cost. We get too hung up on horizontal horizons and standard aspect ratios I think - its good to see someone trying something different.

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