Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1] 2 »   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: Portrait of a Zen Monk  (Read 2120 times)
Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« on: June 26, 2011, 12:26:38 PM »
ReplyReply

I'm working hard to improve my portraits, which often come out to harsh and contrasty.
This portrait has been taken recently with available light only and no flash, diffusors or anything outside with a semi-overcast sky. The Zen monk on this image is a good friend of mine and has over 25-30 years of Zen practise behind him. Camera was a Mamiya Press with a Sekor 100 mm f 2.8, shot at f 8 on Portra 160 NC, scanned on a Nikon LS-9000, wet-mounted, with a bunch of postprocessing (LR and PS with Topaz Denoise 5 and PKS2 for capture and output sharpening).

What do you think?

« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 12:32:53 PM by Christoph C. Feldhaim » Logged

popnfresh
Guest
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2011, 12:34:45 PM »
ReplyReply

The overhead lighting isn't flattering. It recesses the eyes in dark shadows makes the rest of the face look unappealing.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 12:37:12 PM by popnfresh » Logged
Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2011, 01:31:02 PM »
ReplyReply

Pop's right, and it isn't all about post as you already know. Or it shouldn't be, or you become doomed to second-best. I often think that today's portraitists have forgotten a lot more than they should have allowed happen to them. Jane Bown is an object lesson to all who work with people. Take a close look at someone pigeonholed into 'war': Don McCullin. His people are strikingly strong.

Maybe part of the problem (as I see it to be a problem) is that today we are driven into thinking it's all about celebrity-style plastic - not your current shot, of course - but that, somehow, reality untouched is not allowed, that it's an inferior style. How wrong can that be, I wonder; strength comes from within, even if a camera-savvy version, and how to reveal what's painted out? In the end, you achieve a mask of a mask.

Rob C
Logged

Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2011, 03:23:01 PM »
ReplyReply

Well - Rob - do you think the image is actually overprocessed?

I find it quite difficult to find the right line between manipulation and leaving the situation "as is".
Thats why I didn't use the reflector, but now I think it probably was a mistake.
I also didn't want to cause too much of an uncalm situation by building stuff like tripods, reflector foils and such.
I had two flashes and reflectors with me, but decided not to use them in the end.

To me expression was first - triggering the shutter in the right moment.
I shot 20 images at all.
Second was sharpness characteristics.
It looks a bit too sharp to me in this web version, but the original is softer.
Light is always my weak point in portraits, and reviewing the series I took, I think I should have used the reflector sheet, though it was mostly overcast.
I don't strive to achieve a sort of standard pseudo perfect style - I try to learn basic portrait techniques in the moment and besides I try to find my own style, which I still don't know.
It results from my subjective relation to the subject.
My main goal was  to capture the experience, calm concentration, mental strength and emotional warmth of him.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 03:37:58 PM by Christoph C. Feldhaim » Logged

Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2011, 03:35:33 PM »
ReplyReply

Well - Rob - do you think the image is actually overprocessed?



I was referring to your own remark about the "bunch of postprocesing" and the details therein; as written, it seems excessive for the shot, but that's not really a personal criticism I am intending in my post, but a generalization about attitudes to portraiture, and, I dare say, people photography in most instances where it gets done and presented for publication.

Your shot, specifically, I wouldn't have taken like that (being clever after the event is easy) but since I have no way of knowing whether your friend would have given you more opportunities, it may have been the best chance you were going to get. Also, in a friendly situation, one may not even be thinking of how the end product may or may not look - it's just for fun. Worse, in my case, is that I hate photographing males - of any sort. Perhaps that's part of the reason why I'm getting fairly bored with music shots: it served me well as a test ground for the high ISO capabilities of my D700, but that accomplished, there's not much place to go with it and hardly any great chicks either, worse luck. The problems of living in a small town... and, of course, the reality of a generation gap (or two) with said birds, wherever they may be hiding.

Rob C
« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 03:43:12 PM by Rob C » Logged

RSL
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6048



WWW
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2011, 04:11:21 PM »
ReplyReply

Christoph,

I don't entirely agree with Pop. Yes, I think the lighting could have been better, but I think emphasizing the deep-set eyes is the right thing to do. My main beef is the background. Those slanting clapboards don't do much for the atmosphere of the whole thing. You're right: the whole thing looks a bit too sharp. I think you needed a shallower depth of field - shallow enough that the backs of his ears are going out of focus and the background is completely out of focus. In addition, I think the whole thing's too bright. In the spirit of actual fair use, here's an alternative: (I should have cut out the frame before I did the lens blur, but you get the idea)
Logged

N Walker
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 295


WWW
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2011, 04:35:00 PM »
ReplyReply

Chris,

Why did you incorporate the distracting background? It kills the image, even before discussing the lighting. As this was a posed shot, a better choice of background would improve the image - his pale skin against a black or darker background would lift the image through contrast.

The background is as important as the subject when planning a shoot. Even professional sports events (my genre), where total control of backgrounds is often difficult (ropes, T.V crews, marshals, vehicles, advertising, etc), there will always be a clean or relevant background available with little or no distractions. Once the subject(s) move into the pre-visualised frame they become the most important image component.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 03:07:43 AM by Nick Walker » Logged

Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2011, 12:42:02 AM »
ReplyReply

... I think emphasizing the deep-set eyes is the right thing to do. My main beef is the background. Those slanting clapboards don't do much for the atmosphere of the whole thing. You're right: the whole thing looks a bit too sharp. I think you needed a shallower depth of field - shallow enough that the backs of his ears are going out of focus and the background is completely out of focus. In addition, I think the whole thing's too bright.

Actually the eyes were even darker and I was lighting them in post up to the current level. He just has these recessed, often dark eyes, so I didn't want to remove that.
The background was a problem I thought of, but I obviously didn't take it for serious enough. It was the place where he is living and as such a sort of environmental portrait. The image is a crop - probably I should have decided to either include more of that background to make the context clear, or to use a more neutral and calm background. I think I was undecided, which lead to the problem.
DOF is a problem for me, since I still am learning the camera. The Mamiya Press is a rangefinder and I left the focusing screen at home this time - I think I'll use it in future shots at least one time at working aperture to get a better feeling for the DOF behavior.
Since I tend to make images too dark, I did it lighter this time.
After all I think I'll reprocess it - there are some things which can be improved.

Why did you incorporate the distracting background? It kills the image, even before discussing the lighting. As this was a posed shot, a better choice of background would improve the image - his pale skin against a black or darker background would lift the image through contrast.

As I wrote above - seeing it now I think it was a mistake not to change the background. I was concentrated on the atmosphere of the talk we had, on giving him some directions (in this case to look directly into the camera and realize the people watching him were sitting right behind the lens - I tried to get him into relation with the viewer somehow) and on triggering the shutter at the right moment. So my focus was not enough at the problem with the background.

-------

I want to thank you all for your feedback.
IMO portrait is the toughest discipline in photography if done right, and I feel I have a steep learning curve ahead. The criticism here was clear and precise and will hopefully help me to improve.

Thank you!

Cheers
~Chris



Logged

Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2011, 02:59:13 AM »
ReplyReply


IMO portrait is the toughest discipline in photography if done right, and I feel I have a steep learning curve ahead. The criticism here was clear and precise and will hopefully help me to improve.

Thank you!

Cheers
~Chris




And that might be your greatest mistake: never allow yourself to go into any genre beset with such fears. They are groundless. Nothing that interests you is ever really difficult in the sense of its art; it's your interest that's the passport, the key to getting it right. Photography is basically so goddam easy to do that it's the mind behind the camera that makes or breaks the whole deal. And you can only, ever, be you; that faces all of us, thank goodness, or we'd all be Avedon, St Ansel or somebody else like that. On the other hand, I really wouldn't mind being prettier and having more hair, a bit like David Essex or David Bailey used to be...

Rob C
Logged

Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2011, 03:19:34 AM »
ReplyReply

And that might be your greatest mistake: never allow yourself to go into any genre beset with such fears. They are groundless. Nothing that interests you is ever really difficult in the sense of its art; it's your interest that's the passport, the key to getting it right. Photography is basically so goddam easy to do that it's the mind behind the camera that makes or breaks the whole deal. And you can only, ever, be you; that faces all of us, thank goodness, or we'd all be Avedon, St Ansel or somebody else like that. On the other hand, I really wouldn't mind being prettier and having more hair, a bit like David Essex or David Bailey used to be...

Rob C

Well - I don't believe its witchcraft. But in my work as a psychotherapist I often make the experience I have seen things wrong. To see a person right (even in subjectivism these categories of right and wrong make sense) is not an easy task and capturing this is even more difficult. I'm content with the expression I captured in the image, but I'm not content with the technical aspects of the shot. So somehow I am more afraid of what should be the easier part of the task.
Logged

N Walker
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 295


WWW
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2011, 04:50:44 AM »
ReplyReply


I learned the hard way, even though I knew what I wanted to achieve. When I first started photographing the world's top golfers' on practice days I walked the golf course armed with cameras should a picture opportunity arise - my purpose for walking the course was to check the layout, lighting angles in relation to the subject's anticipated position and available backgrounds. I often became distracted, taking 'bland' images and failed to walk every hole. This resulted in missing some of the most productive locations and best tournament images during the first day of the tournament. Day 1 might provide the only sunny day during an event for the best quality stock images of the players. The golf course is no more than a huge studio with a green conveyor belt which the players occasionally wobble off into trouble.

I soon learned to leave my cameras in the press centre during practice days, from now on I walked the full length of every course prior to every tournament (early a.m. and late p.m.) with pen and a paper noting the best backgrounds and photo opportunities. Many holes were often 'out of bounds' as they contained woefully scrappy backgrounds - not even the right types of trees! After all, full sun (if it shows) sculpts the landscape and subject in a predictable fashion. I also had a contingency plan if the sun failed to show - my blue sky backdrops, plain black backgrounds and shadows were absent.

To give you an example of choosing a background when under pressure taking the all important trophy shot. Photographers' are kept in the wings until the photo opportunity is ready. Once invited in the 'snappers' often jog to get the central position - often creates chuckles from the crowd as they witness a pack of heavily laden photographers' jostling for centre position. The advantage to obtaining a central position, the player often engages for longer periods with the central lenses. The negative side - officials, dignitaries and clubhouse structures create distracting backgrounds. More often than not I would walk out to the wings as it provided the best minimalist backgrounds such as blue skies.

When you have the background under control you can relax and focus
« Last Edit: September 23, 2013, 04:41:13 AM by N Walker » Logged

Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2011, 06:12:55 AM »
ReplyReply

.... When I first started specialising in photographing the worlds top golf photographers, ....

I assume you meant golf players, not photographers, seems the reflective nature of this thread slipped through Wink .

I am at the very beginning with portraits and am really thankful for these kinds of comments, be it about lighting, backround or other circumstances and technical aspects of the matter.

I still am trying to find a really good book on portrait photography which does not only discuss things like studio lighting but also has a broader view on the matter and topics like environmental portraits and such.
Logged

N Walker
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 295


WWW
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2011, 06:15:05 AM »
ReplyReply

I assume you meant golf players, not photographers, seems the reflective nature of this thread slipped through Wink .

I am at the very beginning with portraits and am really thankful for these kinds of comments, be it about lighting, backround or other circumstances and technical aspects of the matter.

I still am trying to find a really good book on portrait photography which does not only discuss things like studio lighting but also has a broader view on the matter and topics like environmental portraits and such.


Chris,

Oops, too many hours processing images and flicking back and forth to LL.

Take a look at Robin Gillanders excellent book, The Photographic Portrait - techniques, strategies and thoughts on making portraits with meaning. It covers all facets of portrait photography, not laden with lighting techniques alone. For example sample portrait images of the same student (same clothing and lighting) on pages 38-39 provide useful pointers regarding body awareness - neutral, defensive, confrontational, disdainful, superior, unapproachable, empathetic, relaxed manner, diminished status, elevated status.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Photographic-Portrait-Techniques-Strategies-Portraits/dp/0715316516/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1309173724&sr=8-2
« Last Edit: June 28, 2011, 02:52:21 AM by Nick Walker » Logged

William Walker
Sr. Member
****
Online Online

Posts: 486



WWW
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2011, 07:46:53 AM »
ReplyReply


 On the other hand, I really wouldn't mind being prettier and having more hair, a bit like David Essex or David Bailey used to be...

Rob C

In other words, a bit like me now.... Grin
Logged

Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2011, 10:06:54 AM »
ReplyReply

In other words, a bit like me now.... Grin



I'm a trusting soul; I'll take your word for it.

Rob C
Logged

kenlip
Newbie
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 15


« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2011, 06:56:15 AM »
ReplyReply

I think a lot of the comments are spot on, especially about better lighting at the time of shooting rather than trying to correct the the lighting in post-processing.

Having said that, here is a variation that may, or may not, be to your liking.

I'm very open to CC of my tweaking.


Ken

« Last Edit: July 02, 2011, 07:33:56 PM by kenlip » Logged
k bennett
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1417


WWW
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2011, 07:37:07 AM »
ReplyReply


The background was a problem I thought of, but I obviously didn't take it for serious enough. It was the place where he is living and as such a sort of environmental portrait.

Hi, Chris,

Nice looking subject. There's a lot of potential there.

For an environmental portrait to work, the background should provide a lot more context and information than the wall in this image. This is basically a headshot, and those almost always look better with very little in the background -- either a plain backdrop, or completely out of focus, or very light or dark.

As mentioned above, I don't want to make assumptions about the situation. However, when I'm shooting something like this, I often look for a window or a door to provide the main light on the subject, and turn off the overhead lights completely. One of the most important characteristics of light is direction - and a window or doorway provides a large light source from a pleasing direction (side, rather than overhead --as long as there isn't direct sun, of course.) Not saying that would necessarily have worked in this situation, but it's something to look for in similar portrait opportunities. Large lighting from the side is fairly easy to find in any number of places -- under a tree, or an overhang, etc.

Once you have the main light selected, you can start to think about the background -- do you want to show context for an environmental portrait? Or just let it go dark? That's when you decide on which lens to use, and start thinking about how to light the background for an environmental. Working in b+w, you don't have to worry about the color of the lights, so you can turn on selected indoor lights to provide some detail in selected areas, or have a window in the background allow in enough light for that.

Once all of that is under control, you can start looking for the "moment" -- which is, of course, extremely important, and arguably a necessary condition for a great portrait, but it's generally not sufficient by itself.

Of course, all of this assumes this is a portrait, in which you have control over the subject and the lighting, and not a candid/photo-J situation where you can't control or change anything.
Logged

Equipment: a camera and some lenses.
Christoph C. Feldhaim
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2508


There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2011, 06:05:34 AM »
ReplyReply

Take a look at Robin Gillanders excellent book, The Photographic Portrait - techniques, strategies and thoughts on making portraits with meaning. It covers all facets of portrait photography, not laden with lighting techniques alone. For example sample portrait images of the same student (same clothing and lighting) on pages 38-39 provide useful pointers regarding body awareness - neutral, defensive, confrontational, disdainful, superior, unapproachable, empathetic, relaxed manner, diminished status, elevated status.

I just got the book today and want to say "Thanks" for the hint. Even after just a short look through it I think it is safe to say that its a great book and I expect it to help me a lot with many things - technical and artistical - I am struggleing with.


Having said that, here is a variation that may, or may not, be to your liking.
I'm very open to CC of my tweaking.
To me it appears so, that this pp attempt shows a possible direction, and I think I may incorporate some of it into my own postprocessing of the image.
First, I think that dark tone is a good idea. Good for aesthetical reasons, and to hide that unlucky background.
The skin structure I find a bit overstressed - too sharp in that version, but I think I'll play with that.
The eyes are definitely too bright. Its not anymore him. He has these recessed, often dark eyes and the contrast between the dark eyes and a lighter face is a characteristic which should stay, but theres room for variation.
Thanks working on it. No - I won't sue you for trying! Wink .


For an environmental portrait to work, the background should provide a lot more context and information than the wall in this image. This is basically a headshot, and those almost always look better with very little in the background -- either a plain backdrop, or completely out of focus, or very light or dark.

As mentioned above, I don't want to make assumptions about the situation. However, when I'm shooting something like this, I often look for a window or a door to provide the main light on the subject, and turn off the overhead lights completely. One of the most important characteristics of light is direction - and a window or doorway provides a large light source from a pleasing direction (side, rather than overhead --as long as there isn't direct sun, of course.) Not saying that would necessarily have worked in this situation, but it's something to look for in similar portrait opportunities. Large lighting from the side is fairly easy to find in any number of places -- under a tree, or an overhang, etc.

Once you have the main light selected, you can start to think about the background -- do you want to show context for an environmental portrait? Or just let it go dark? That's when you decide on which lens to use, and start thinking about how to light the background for an environmental. Working in b+w, you don't have to worry about the color of the lights, so you can turn on selected indoor lights to provide some detail in selected areas, or have a window in the background allow in enough light for that.

Once all of that is under control, you can start looking for the "moment" -- which is, of course, extremely important, and arguably a necessary condition for a great portrait, but it's generally not sufficient by itself.

Of course, all of this assumes this is a portrait, in which you have control over the subject and the lighting, and not a candid/photo-J situation where you can't control or change anything.


Thanks for these hints and tips!
This is the kind of stuff I need in the moment.



I didn't have time yet to get deeper in the re-processing of the image, but I'll work on it and will keep you updated.
Thank you very much!

Logged

popnfresh
Guest
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2011, 02:08:00 AM »
ReplyReply

I didn't have time yet to get deeper in the re-processing of the image, but I'll work on it and will keep you updated.

I'm impressed with how Ken's approach added depth and presence to your portrait (although I think it's still a tad over-sharpened). Quite frankly, I think he saved it.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2011, 02:58:53 AM by popnfresh » Logged
EduPerez
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 690


WWW
« Reply #19 on: July 06, 2011, 12:51:25 AM »
ReplyReply

I'm impressed with how Ken's approach added depth and presence to your portrait (although I think it's still a tad over-sharpened). Quite frankly, I think he saved it.

Yes, I also think that Ken's processing adds a lot of interest to the picture; I did not find it over-sharpened at all (I would even try to add more contrast to the skin), but there is still some room for improvement, in my humble opinion: the eyes are too light (the thumbnail looks weird), and the edges between the head and the background too sharp (I prefer when the subject looks like coming out of the dark).

Just my two cents.
Logged

Pages: [1] 2 »   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad