“You must have a really good camera!”

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Every now and then, when someone has been nice about one of my pictures, they follow straight on with the phrase at the top. I don’t get too irritated by this, but I do occasionally remember the comment I saw from another photographer that this was a bit like following a really delicious meal at a dinner party by saying “You must have a really nice oven.”

For what it is worth, I decided a few years ago not to have any costly camera gear- I don’t even have an SLR at the moment. Expensive stuff tends also to be really heavy and the most important thing for me is to be able to have my camera with me wherever I go. When I do spend money on equipment, it is more likely to go on lenses or on quirky gear such as the infrared filter that allowed me to take the shots on this page:

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More important than my camera is what I do with the pictures. This is partly to do with the effort I make to get the shot right when I am taking them, which I outlined in some earlier posts starting here.

More controversially I also use Photoshop pretty extensively.

There was a time when I saw Photoshop as cheating and did everything that I could to get the picture ‘right’ in the camera. More recently I have realised that this amazing programme allows me to be even more creative in the pictures I make. This is particularly true in black and white where ‘cheating’ with pictures goes back long before the invention of the computer. Ansel Adams, for example, said that 80% of his art was in the dark room developing of his pictures and spent the last years of his life taking no new shots but instead endlessly re-developing the pictures of his youth.

In my case with today’s pictures I have little choice as the original infrared shots that come from the camera look like this:

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Once I have converted them to black and white, I do digitally exactly what Ansel Adams liked to do in his developing. What I am mainly doing in today’s shots is working on the contrast in the photo. I decide which part of the picture I want people to focus on the most and increase the contrast of this part and make it brighter. In the case of the picture of Trinity below, this was the area around the clock face:

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At the same time I try to lead the viewer’s eyes into the photo by darkening other areas particularly at the edges of the picture itself or elements within it:

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I also attempt to bring out the texture of the buildings by darkening or lightening individual parts of the brickwork- in this part I am working almost like a painter on the original image:

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I may try to darken the sky:

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I love cheating like this:

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