Greenwich

I’ve been trying for a while to think of a way to start this post that isn’t ‘My wife and I decided to visit Greenwich last month’, since that is how I always start posts these days. I’m still not doing great at the picking of the words and the putting of the words in an appealing order, so for now I’m stuck with it, for that I apologise.

My wife and I decided to visit Greenwich last month.

Cough.

We’d not been before, and had been talking about exploring the area for ages, and we finally got round to it when we had some time off around the Jubilee weekend.

Somewhat ironically, the first thing we did when we arrived was descend into the Greenwich foot tunnel and head away from the area.

1/4sec, f/3.5, ISO 1000, exposure bias +0.33, 18mm

1/4sec, f/4, ISO 1000, exposure bias +0.33, 24mm
1/5sec, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm

I’m tempted to say that these images are better than the ones on the tunnel’s Wikipedia entry. Perhaps I should take the time to do some wiki editing?

Almost more interesting than the tunnel itself was the interior of the tunnel houses, which looked suitably aged.

1/8sec, f/3.5, ISO 160, 18mm

We found the other end of the tunnel a little lacking – save for a view of the interesting buildings in Greenwich like the Naval College, my photos of which didn’t work out – so we turned around and headed back.

As you might have seen in the Hard Rock Calling post, I’ve recently been paying about with a HDR plugin for Aperture. Normally if I do any HDR imagery I’d export the RAW masters of the source images and combine them in Photoshop. However with the Photomatix plugin I can just select the different exposures and combined them easily within Aperture. The results, too, often seem better than Photoshop’s HDR processing. However, as it’s only a trial currently, it does watermark ‘Photomatix’ over the final image.

Whilst exploring one of the buildings (I believe it was a music school of some kind), I decided to try some HDR; thanks to the awful weather we’ve had there are often some decent clouds which I wanted to capture, as well as the dark courtyard.

It’s time, once again, for a multiple choice segment, because there were two ways of processing the images which I like.

1/320sec, f/8, ISO 320, 18mm
1/320sec, f/8, ISO 320, 18mm

My wife prefers the colour version, and I do too, but I can’t ignore the monochrome version. For reasons I can’t suitably explain I tend to prefer my HDR images in black and white.

The two images above are ‘true’ High Dynamic Range images, in the sense that they are created from three (in this case) different images taken at three different exposures.

However, as the plugin allows me to select versions for HDR processing, I discovered a little trick which can pump a bit of life into single exposures. The method is this: create three duplicates of the master image (this is not too space intensive as Aperture will continue to keep one master file and just the adjustments of the additional versions). Then, adjust the exposure value for one version to -1 or -2, leave another at 0, and move the final one to +1 or +2 (depending on source material or personal preference).  Then, send these to the plugin for conversion. The technique sometimes works pretty well:

1/2500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 18mm

The image above was created from a single photograph, one of the benefits of shooting RAW. That said, I’m still not adverse to using my other ‘faux HDR’ technique of boosting the exposure in only the shadows (or conversely, lowering the exposure in the highlights). It certainly helped in this next image.

1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 320, exposure bias +0.67, 18mm

This image is bugging me, and it’s hard to state why. I get such a strong sense of it being lopsided when I look at it, although a casual measurement suggests that it is very close to being properly centred. But it is a fraction out (one of the lampposts is marginally higher than the other in the frame) and it surprises me a little that it is apparently so obvious to my subconscious. Did you notice, or is it just me?

I have no idea who this is a statue of, partly because his face is slightly melted off, and partly because I never bothered to check.

1/1250sec, f/4.5, ISO 1000, 35mm

After visiting the visitor’s centre to pick up some walking guides, we headed out along the river on what was termed the ‘architectural walk’. We soon came to this door, which wasn’t mentioned on the guide, but probably should be:

1/15sec, f/8, ISO 320, exposure bias -0.67, 18mm

Now, I admit, I may have gone a little crazy on this image. You know, a bit. After monochroming it, I cranked the ‘Definition’ all the way up to its maximum, and then broke out the Definition Brush to slather an extra level of detail in there. I also used the burn brush to darken the brick a little further. It may seem like a lot of work, but the original image looked like this and I knew there was something in it I just needed to bring out.

A little further on we came to Greenwich Power Station, which had a fantastically industrial structure jutting out into the river.

1/250sec, f/5.6, ISO 320, exposure bias -0.33, 24mm

Okay, I admit it, I cheated on this image. The sky is a forgery. You probably noticed, if I’m honest, this is by no means a perfect job. Simply put, the normally processed image was great, but the sky, which formed such a large portion of the image, was dull, grey and flat. It was completely washed out, there was nothing there to work with, so HDR wouldn’t have helped me in this case. But I really liked the industrial architecture of the jetty/pier structure thing, and didn’t want the huge white patch of space taking up a significant portion of the image.

Anyway, that’s enough of architecture for now, here’s a flower.

1/320sec, f/5.6, ISO 320, exposure bias -0.33, 106mm

Eventually we found our way into Greenwich Park. As it had benches, I had the opportunity to recreate one of my familiar style of images.

1/25sec, f/10, ISO 640, exposure bias -0.33, 18mm

There was also plenty of one of my favourite animals to photograph.

1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, 300mm
1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, 300mm
1/125sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, 300mm
1/160sec, f/5, ISO 640, 210mm
1/200sec, f/5, ISO 640, exposure bias -0.33, 200mm

Unfortunately I appear to have once again captured a squirrel in a pooping pose. If this next guy poops, he’ll be in trouble.

1/125sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, exposure bias -0.33, 300mm

Eventually we found our way to the Observatory and Planetarium. Silly side note: due to an episode of South Park, I’m unable to pronounce the ‘t’ in ‘planetarium’.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 640, exposure bias +0.33, 18mm

This is another of the ‘duplicate, adjust, rejoin’ HDR images, a HDR taken from a single still. I quite like the bizarre, cartoony feel it creates.

From atop the hill where the Observatory was, we had a few of a fair chunk of east London.

1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, 75mm

I like the juxtaposition between old and new in this shot.

1/60sec, f/8, ISO 640, 18mm

Our route soon took us out of the Park and through some residential housing, on our way to a viewpoint overlooking the city.

1/60sec, f/7.1, ISO 640, exposure bias -1.0, 19mm
1/400sec, f/7.1, ISO 640, 67mm

(the two shots above are more split/adjust/rejoin shots)

Finally, as we headed back towards a restaurant to have dinner, we crossed a railway track.

1/100sec, f/5, ISO 640, exposure bias -0.33, 19mm

That was what I saw of Greenwich. Or at least, the bits of Greenwich I photographed successfully. I was still mired heavily in my creative fog when I was out shooting, and although I was consciously aware of it, I wasn’t able to use that information to fight it that successfully. I’m still pretty proud of some of the shots here, although most of those are the squirrel shots. Maybe I should stick to those.

There was some chatter with Simon and Catherine about going to Greenwich on one of our photo trips. Hopefully this post will give them an idea to what they might be getting in for.

5 Comments

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  1. Great shots, and a great blog! There’s nothing wrong with the opening line, haha! 🙂 Love the images – not sure about the HDR observatory shot, if I am honest, but overall they track a great day out! 🙂

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  2. Wow. There are some really fantastic shots here. And I am really up for the idea of a visit now because it looks like there’s loads of potential. I don’t really know anything much at all about Greenwich, I just thought there was the observatory to visit…

    I think some of the HDR shots are among your best work, especially the ship (Cutty Sark?). You really need to invest in that plugin. I have to say, I prefer the monochrome version rather than the colour of the buildings/music school, but I am one of those people who doesn’t like HDR when it’s very obviously HDR. If you follow. So the observatory pic is not to my particular liking but that’s a very subjective thing.

    The thing about a photo looking slightly wonky is one of my biggest problems. I get thrown very easily by lines. That said, I didn’t look at your shot and instantly think it wasn’t straight at all (are the steps throwing you off? They curl up a bit towards the left, and combined with the wide angle distortion on the lamposts it may be that which is disconcerting). Actually, and don’t kill me, I *did* notice it in your very first photo in the tunnel, which was the only thing that prevented it being my favourite of this set.

    If and when we make a trip there, I really want to try a telephoto shot of the railway tracks…

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    • I remain very tempted by the plugin, but I’m a bit loathe to spent that amount of money (it’s $79 which works out to about £50) on something that might still be a passing fad for me (and something I can technically do for free in Photoshop, albeit with enough additional effort for me to not usually bother).

      The wonkiness of the gate is caused by one of the arms of the gate seeming higher up the frame than the other. It’s almost imperceptible, I looked at it for ages going ‘this looks wrong, this looks wrong, WHY?!’ before I decided on that (although there is some curvature of the steps caused I presume by lens distortion). I can’t remember if the slight slant on the opening tunnel shot was deliberate or not, but I like to think it was – I think the marginal tilt counterbalances the lighting on the ceiling (which was off-centre) and emphasises the length of the tunnel.

      You can try a shot of the railway tracks if you like, but you may have to bring something to stand on; the wall I rested on for that final shot was almost six foot high (Holly was reading this post yesterday and said “I don’t remember seeing the tracks”; I had to point out it was because couldn’t see them over the wall.

      I look forward to our return there, but be warned – Holly and I spent the whole day wandering around!

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