Steve's OCA Blog

Photography Learning Log



General rough notes.

Combining Images in Lightroom

Although I’m still struggling to get to grips with Lightroom, I’ve discovered it has a feature that allows images to be combined, probably a bit like HDR, although it doesn’t seem as intense.

Following an earlier OCA course exercise that suggested using long exposures and exposure bracketing to achieve softness in the images (overexposed ones), I though I’d combine some images with different exposures, including some that I took as part of Assignment 1.

I quite liked most of the images the combination feature produces, allowing the best of all the images to be included. The image featured at the beginning of the post, for instance, has kept the colours and impact of the late evening sky. whilst exposing enough of the bridge for it be part of the subject matter of the image.

There are some drawbacks, some of the colours can appear very odd, and make some combinations unusable. However, with a little tweeking many seem to have value, especially with grey sky, something that is common where I live!

The following are some of my early results of using the combination feature:


Exercise 1.12 Smash!

Timing is everything!

This exercise is all about super fast shutter speeds and capturing freeze frame from rapid movement in order to see images in a way the naked eye can’t.

I thought I’d use the kitchen table as it is black glass and this would work with a black background and show some reflection of the subject. I setup my camera on a tripod (again! I’m almost familiar with it now) and had to do a couple of things to get enough light for the subject to be lit; increasing the ISO to 2000, and to find a studio light to put on the left hand side of the image. The studio light also gave strong sidelight which I thought would enhance the smash/splash. I then focused the 70-200mm lens using Manual focus on an area of the table and set a high image burst rate.

I grabbed the first thing that I thought would create a smash, an egg. But after a few attempts, all I got was something similar to the following:




No real splash that would show the fast shutter speed impact I was looking for. Timing was clearly really important with this subject and I became bored very quickly, especially as it was quite messy. So, I moved to dropping a strawberry into a glass. Something I’ve seen others do. Even with this subject timing was important and it took a few attempts to get close to the effect I was looking for, although along the way the shutter speed was capturing a freeze frame smash images.

It wasn’t as messy, so a quick mop up and kept going until finally, I got the timing right and had both a splash and a strawberry in the shot.


So what did I learn?

  • how to think about taking a superfast freeze frame image: background, light, use of the camera,
  • even 1/2000th of a second is slightly too slow,
  • the high ISO made very little difference to the quality of the final image,
  • expect lots of failure and that may trials are required to get the image you are looking for,
  • and finally, to be careful of reflections, as I hadn’t spotted the reflection of the room on the left of the final image. It’s a distraction from the main subject.

On reflection, as I was unsure of the ‘how to’ element of the exercise, having not undertaken this kind of image previously, I focused on the technical elements, and gave minimal thought to the artistic or narrative element of the image.


Yorkshire Dales

With no particular objective in mind, except to reinforce some of my recent OCA course learning, I set off south, undertook an errand in Kendal, and set off into Yorkshire via Sedburgh.  Soon I was on single track roads, with lots of great landscape potential. The day was very dark, grey and light very flat, so I thought I’d try some long exposure soft landscapes. I spoke to a few locals and one suggestion I thought I’d try was some of the many Viaducts on the Carlisle to Settle railway running through the area.

As with previous exercises, I took a number of different exposures at a very small aperture (f22) and was really pleased I did this. Due to the poor light I had to use much higher shutter speeds of around 2 to 5 seconds. The results were surprising, particularly the slightly overexposed versions, which gave brightness and detail that I didn’t think was possible from such a dark environment. These were very different to what was apparent to the naked eye.

Even more surprising was what happened in post processing when I combined the different exposures with the HDR function in Lightroom. The best of all the combined images came through in the result, the brightly lit Viaducts and definition in the sky. To illustrate, compare the overexposed image below:


The combined image of the same viaduct.


The difference is incredible, richer colours, lots more detail and the softness of the image from the long exposure and small aperture is retained. I have learned much more from this set of images than the previously posted images of soft landscapes. I might even keep my tripod handy for future trips.

There were many rivers running through the area, so I thought I’d also use shutter speed to capture the flow of the rivers. With the use of the tripod, I took a number of images of flowing water with 1 second plus shutter speeds. However, I hadn’t spotted that some rain on the lens spoiled many of the images, with large smudges. I had to delete these in post processing. The most challenging element was finding the right exposure to show the flow of the rivers and enhance this with lots of detail in the surroundings.


One element of images I’ve used in the past is to include foreground elements that help add depth or frame the main subject e.g. branches or bushes. These work well at higher shutter speeds, however the wind and long shutter speeds made these elements distracting, so I will now avoid these for this type of image (although the middle image above wasn’t as distracting as others).

Some of the other images from the trip are shown below:

Red Bridge – Image Analysis

Toshio Shibata, Red Bridge, Okawa, 2007

Part of the OCA course suggested an analysis of the image in this blog (P42).

Initial impressions were that the main subject is the path/road running from left to right, framed by a series of red A frames. The path being across the gorge to the vaguely lit wooded area in the background.

The high and bright sunlight really enhances the shape of the A frames and the shadows the depth of the gorge. Although the image title is entitled Red Bridge, the colour is washed out by the side lit and strong light and so, for me, isn’t the dominating feature of the bridge, which is the A frames.

The notes taken on my iPad re:composition and subject outline below.

REd bridge

Confusing Image

Dave Wyatt, Thames Town V

One of the images in the OCA text was confusing and has meant I may need to reassess my assumptions that the image alone tells the story. The image of an English looking Town scene taken in China (featured image in this post)   wasn’t very clear and a juxtaposition between form and content, and made me stop and think, what’s going on. The scene looks like a town local to me and was clearly in the UK, but it was only when I read the narrative that I discovered it is in China and the nature of the juxtaposition, but just looking at the image doesn’t give me any clues that this is the case. What’s the big deal then? My assumptions about photography is that the image needs to tell a story, but without the narrative, this was just an image of an English town. Does this mean that photography doesn’t stand alone, that narrative is needed. Looking through some photography books, this does seem to be the case. Sometimes the title is enough narrative, but when more narrative is required to explain an image, does this mean it has lost its impact and somehow is a lesser form of artistic impression. It’s probably a bit early to draw any conclusions, but something to consider during the course.

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