Byfleet Parish Day

1/800sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 33mm (middle exposure)

Back in July – hey, my backlog remains quite backlogged, but I’m working on it – back in late July me, my wife, her sister, and her husband were called upon to babysit the kids of my wife and her sister’s other sister. Got that? Sometimes I think it would be very beneficial to have a copy of my family tree accessible for you to be able to see what on Earth I’m going on about. Especially when I start going on about my twin cousins, my cousins-in-law and my brother-in-law’s sister who might or might not technically be my sister-in-law but I call her that because it makes things easier to write.

Most of this, however, is largely irrelevant. It only serves to set the scene; although I took a few photos of my nieces, nephew and various relations whose connection ends in ‘in-law’, I have once again put them aside for a more fitting post. I’m just trying to explain how it was that I found myself at a local parish fair photographing cars.

Byfleet is not a million miles away from Woking where a lot of my wife’s family live. The do a parish day (probably) every year replete with stalls, bouncy castles, sheep racing, and the sort of games where you hook a duck and everybody wins whether you hook a duck or not. In order to keep the grownups interested, there was a beer tent and – and this is the bit we’re interested in – a selection of classic cars and bikes.

Before we get to that, though, I played about shooting a few more general images of the parish days itself.

Soon after we arrived we encountered a bird of prey display. Before we knew it, my wife was invited into the display area to don bunny ears and be chased by an eagle. Because why not? Sadly, it caught her very quickly.

1/320sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 105mm

The eagle was a mighty fine specimen. Birds of prey are just so gorgeous, I think I could photograph them all day.

1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 300mm

This being in the middle of London’s 2012 ‘summer’, there was plenty of cloud about. I am still very much having fun playing about with HDR shooting, so I set my camera to auto bracketing and fired off a few sets. I may be doing more and more HDR shooting, but I still haven’t gotten around to paying for the HDR plugin I’ve been using.

1/2500sec, f/3.5, ISO 250, 18mm (middle exposure)
1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 250, 18mm (middle exposure)

With all of the HDR I’ve been doing lately, I finally discovered how to use auto bracketing on my camera. Well, I say discovered, I mean looked up; I looked it up on the internet to ensure no-one could accuse me of reading the manual (actually, I used to read manuals quite often. I would get whatever piece of technology out of the box, get it working without help as is customary, and then read the manual later to figure out all of the cool but less-obvious things said technology could do).

Where was I? Oh yes, auto bracketing. Auto bracketing is pretty nifty; basically, it allows you to set the limits of your bracket, and then after taking your first shot at the normal exposure, the next two are automatically under- and over-exposed by the amount you’ve set. For me, it makes it much easier to shoot HDR handheld as I can fire off three exposures quickly without much movement of the camera – especially considering that I don’t need to manually adjust the exposure bias between frames.

Auto bracketing has also allowed me to try HDR shots containing a bit of motion. This is also helped by the power of the HDR plugin.

All that lead-in was basically to say that this next image is a true HDR of a rotating ride, and all told it seems to have gone reasonably well.

1/4000sec, f/3.5, ISO 250, 18mm (middle exposure)

Ironically, the part of the image that was in motion has turned out much better than the apparently static clouds in the sky. You can make out a bit of double vision in the clouds above the ride.

Then finally I managed to sneak away from the kids and their guardians (of which I technically was one, but never mind) to take a look at the cars.

There were cars of various ages, some very old, some relatively modern. Some had their bonnets open to let people take a look at their engines.

1/60sec, f/8, ISO 400, 135mm
1/250sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 45mm

I could possibly have done with framing that one a little better; it seems a bit left-heavy to me.

1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 120mm
1/250sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 106mm
1/250sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 135mm

After playing about with the innards of the cars, I decided to play about getting shots of the outside of the cars. With all of the reflections and the cloudy sky, I decided to shoot most of the images as HDR shots. At the time, I had no idea if it was going to be worth the effort of shooting three frames for every shot, but after processing them it seems to have worked.

1/250sec, f/8, ISO 400, 35mm (middle exposure)

I love the effect the HDR has had on the reflections in this next shot.

1/80sec, f/8, ISO 400, 41mm (middle exposure)

My inspiration for this sort of processing came, in part, from one of the many photography blogs I follow these days. John Smith has taken some great HDR images of classic cars for his blog. If you like these, check him out.

For comparison, this next image is just a single exposure.

1/80sec, f/8, ISO 400, 135mm

Looking back, I would have preferred to have focussed on the wheel rather than the racing number, but oh well.

1/200sec, f/8, ISO 400, 22mm (middle exposure)

After a while I decided to try using HDR on the more chromier of the engines.

1/125sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 135mm (middle exposure)

I also had another go at shooting something moving, this time an old-time bus that was offering rides around a field.

1/2000sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 38mm (middle exposure)

It seems to have dealt with the movement a little better this time, there’s no ghosting on the clouds and even the running kids have come out sharp.

Anyway, back to the cars.

1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 113mm (middle exposure)
1/320sec, f/5, ISO 400, 41mm (middle exposure)

It wasn’t just cars, either. There was also a couple of motorbikes too.

1/250sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 18mm (middle exposure)

I often seem to be using the same preset on the HDR processing plugin. I don’t know why, but I like the effect it has on clouds. The only downside is it doesn’t offer a particularly photorealistic end result. Still, I enjoy the stylised effect.

The same is true of many of the HDR shots I’ve done since I began experimenting with it back in May sometime; many of the shots are obviously results of HDR processing. Contrast it with an aficionado such as Dan Jurak whose work is far more subtle, and you can see how processed my images look. To each his own, however: some people enjoy the surreal images from HDR, others think it an abomination, with most everyone else on the sliding scale between the two.

I have also recently become a more frequent user of a tilted frame, something which I rarely used six months ago I’m quite comfortable with nowadays and am quite pleased with how a lot of the shots using it have some out. Combined with HDR it can make for some really stylised shots.

1/250sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 18mm (middle exposure)
1/100sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 126mm (middle exposure)

And finally, one last shot of a bike.

1/800sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 38mm (middle exposure)

I think I’ve managed to get an interesting array of shots in this set which I’ve not really done before. Sooner or later I’m going to have to invest in that plugin so I don’t have to keep posting watermarked images, but I still can’t shake the notion that as soon as I do that I’ll never shoot another HDR again, just because that’s the sort of thing that often happens to me when I buy things I think I want.

Doesn’t matter, the watermark doesn’t currently seem that intrusive, so I’m happy to keep buggering on as I am for now.

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