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The Butcher and the Chef

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If for any strange reason I ever wrote a book called ‘The Butcher and the Chef”, this would be the cover shot!

I’ll admit that this is highly unlikely to happen, but I do like this image, mainly because I remember the circumstances that it was taken. For me it’s got an emotional attachment to it, which all good images should have.

The chef is Michelin Star culinary genius Gareth Ward of Ynyshir Hall in Wales, and the butcher is the award winning Johnny Pusztai of JT Beedham & Sons. Johnny is the ‘go to’ butcher of all the top chefs in the area. Although he’s based in Nottingham he provides products to chefs all over the country, because he’s the best around.

This shot was taken in the aftermath of a summer garden party at Ynyshir Hall back in August. Johnny had just finished preparing, cooking and serving one of his speciality hog roasts for a couple of hundred people, and Gareth and the team had been busy in the kitchens all day providing other delicacies for the event.

I remember from my days in hotels and catering how it feels when the last meal is dished up and sent out, and you’ve finally got the opportunity to take a five minute break before it all kicks off again. These moments are precious, and are often a relief and an opportunity to relax and let off a bit of steam.

Gareth and Johnny have known each other for years and years, so there’s already a relationship and friendly bond between them. The shot above was as simple as asking them both to sit down on a pile of logs, then just wait to see what they did. 30 seconds later it was in the bag. It was processed very, very simply in Lightroom with just a basic, contrasty black and white treatment.

Too little or too much? Part 2

 

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Following on from my post about depth of field in ‘Too Little or Too Much – Part 1‘ comes this post about shutter speed.

It’s very common for photographers to adjust the shutter speed of their camera to blur water and give it a sense of movement. I do this now and then, though sometimes I’ll do the opposite and use as high a shutter speed as I can to freeze the movement instead. Either way, for me it needs to be one or the other, as both of these options are more interesting than shooting with a ‘medium’ exposure.

Our natural reaction is to close the aperture right down (or use an ND filter) and select the longest shutter speed we can, then fire away, but I’m not convinced that this is the right thing to do.

For me there’s a sweet spot in between where the motion is frozen too much, or blurred beyond recognition. Allowing the water to blur too much gives a loss of definition, and can be less visually appealing. Have a look at the two examples above (click on the image for a closer look). The one on the left was shot at 1 second, and as you can see that water is well and truly blurred. The one on the right was shot at 1/4 second, but in my opinion is preferable as although the water still shows movement there’s a little extra definition in there.

Like all things in photography it’s entirely subjective, and some will prefer one over the other, so I suppose the key is to just take lots of photographs at different settings and then decide which one you like the best.

Too little or too much? Part 1

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It all comes down to personal preference I suppose, but sometimes too shallow a depth of field is as bad as too much.

It’s easy to whack a lens on your camera, open the aperture up to as wide as it will go to blur that background, focus on what you think is the most important part then take a shot, but quite often you’ll find that you really should have stopped down a little and got a touch more in focus. It’s particularly relevant if you’re quite close to your subject, perhaps photographing flowers or food.

The shot above was taken very close up using a 105mm macro lens at an aperture of f10. Usually you’ll find that for general purpose photography f10 is more than adequate to capture practically all of your scene in sharp focus, but it’s all relative. In this instance, the distance from the front of the flower to the petals at the back is important, as although it’s not physically that much (perhaps a couple of centimetres), in relation to the distance from the lens to the flower (around ten centimetres) and the magnification of the image on the camera sensor it’s considerable, and will have an impact in how much of the flower is in focus. As a result, even at f10 the petals at the back are out of focus due to the limited depth of field at that aperture and those relative focussing distances.

So the trick is to use your depth of field preview and check your shot before you take it. The usual rules don’t apply when photographing things close up, and an average aperture of f8 is never going to be enough – if you’re not careful you’ll be struggling finding a part of the image that actually looks sharp.

How much depth of field is enough though is ultimately down to the individual. In the shot above you could say that it would be improved if the whole flower was sharp, and I would accept that criticism. On the other hand I rather like the way the focus drops off and the important part of the image is the deep red centre of the flower. The best bet? Cover all bases and bracket your aperture, then pick the one you like the best.

Glass Bottles

img-5552Photographing glass bottles on a white background can be tricky, and in this shot we’ve got some polished, highly reflective metal to worry about too. Once you know what to do though, and have access to some basic kit, it’s not as hard as you might think.

The main thing to try and avoid is strong reflections in the glass, and to do this you need to make your light source as large as possible (relative to the size of the bottle).  My light source is two flashguns, one is fired into an A3 white board to the left of the bottle, and another board is positioned to the right to bounce the light back in. The flash is flagged so that no direct light hits the bottle, only reflected light.

The white base and background is taken care of by a roll of white paper, and the reflection is from a sheet of glass from an old picture frame. The second flashgun fires a burst into the white background to blow it out to white rather than grey.

You can pick up a cheap light tent off eBay that will do a similar job, but a couple of pieces of card and some paper is a good, cheap way to get the same results.

Busy Bees

beeBees are busy things. It’s quite fascinating watching them buzzing around the garden from flower to flower, but it’s this routine that makes them quite easy to photograph.

First up, you need a lens that lets you get up close. Don’t worry about them stinging you, they’re generally far too interested in pollen to be bothered about what you’re doing, so just get in there as close as you can.

Bees usually follow a pattern, and this involves visiting as many flowers in the nearby vicinity as they can. This means that usually if a bee is on a plant it will visit pretty much every flower on there before it buzzes off.

Don’t hang around though, they’ll more than likely only spend a few seconds on each flower head, so pre-focus and as soon as it arrives fire away.

Focussing this close up means your depth of field is minimal, so it’s a bit of a balance making sure that your background is blurred but the important parts of the bee are still in focus. I’ve found that no less than f5.6 generally does the job.

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