September 20, 2011

Jessica, a portrait in Dublin

Hovering somewhere between a snapshot and a candid portrait, I really like this photograph. We were hanging out in the Temple Bar area in Dublin, late late in the evening after the recent workshops in Dublin. When it started to rain, we took shelter under the canopy in front of one of the many pubs there. As Jessica took the first drag of the cigarette, I playfully lifted my camera as if to take a shot, and she reacted with this suitable sneer. And I like the result. I even think it is the kind of image that would’ve worked on an album cover by The Smiths or Morrissey. Just one of those timeless vignettes of life. A moment and gesture that draws you in for a second look.

I intended to photograph the reveling sports fans after the Dublin vs Kerry game, and also just take in some of the late night atmosphere in the city. I didn’t quite capture any moments that Henri Cartier Bresson would’ve been proud of. The moments never quite seemed to gel in front of my camera. (It’s not easy sneaking shots with the Nikon D3 and the Fuji X100 struggles in low light.) Here is an image that I felt nearly made it …

… there is a “gesture” to the photograph as she leaned in to kiss her boyfriend on the cheek. However the moment isn’t supported and balanced in the frame by other elements. So in the end it doesn’t really work as a stand-alone image shot on the street.

All the other photos I took while roaming the streets in Dublin, are more records for me of what the city looks like. They would look new to my tourist eye, but nothing exciting enough to show to the world. But there is this photo of Jessica at the top, which for me, encapsulates some of the memories of this short trip to Ireland – random conversations with friendly strangers in the pubs, and having fun. Definitely a Dublin moment.

camera settings and details for both images:
1/40 @ f2.8 @ 3200 ISO
Nikon D3;  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H)
The camera was hand-held with the lens zoomed to 62mm and 32mm respectively.

image processing done with the RadLab action sets

 

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sterling September 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Jessica is hard as F

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2 mshafik September 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I really like the portrait, especially the colors, would you share how you did it?
It’s not pure B&W, and I hope it can be done in LR exclusively (no photoshop).

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3 Neil vN September 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Mohammad, I used the RadLab action sets, and layered a few of them to give me a very warm B&W image, via Photoshop.

One thing though about Lightroom vs Photoshop … you can’t do skin retouching in Lightroom. For that you need the Clone tool and especially the Healing Brush.

Very few people have such perfect skin that you can’t fix a few blemishes.

Neil vN

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4 Yolofoto September 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Loving the portrait of Jessica. Nowhere near a snapshot. Very nice processing too.

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5 Jess B September 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Love it!!! Think it came out amazing :)

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6 Frank September 22, 2011 at 1:47 am

Taking candid shots with a (big) camera isn’t easy indeed. Often people start to “pose” or “smile” (or grim) as soon as you lift your camera, spoiling the spontaneity of the moment. Or they are standing with their back to the camera.

How do you deal with those kind of situations?

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7 Neil vN September 22, 2011 at 2:53 am

Frank, this is where a smaller camera, especially a point & shoot, is ideal. People do react differently to the larger pro cameras than they do to snapshot cameras. I found this true even when I second-shot the wedding with the Fuji X100.

So in terms of people responding … it’s tough. Kids especially have been programmed by their parents to stop for a camera and grimace. So I don’t think there’s a specific process around this. If you try to be sneaky with the camera, you just come across as … well, sneaky. People notice. So you just have to be aware, time your shots … and accept there are those times where the photograph just won’t happen. And then look for the million other images, waiting to be taken. :)

Oh, I should tell you this story. While in Dublin, Jessica and I saw two boys, aged around 10 or 11 yrs old, scaling a pipe up a wall next to a building, and clamber onto the roof. We took a few images, and Jessica went closer, and was immediately scolded by the one little boy, “Stop takin’ pictures, ya fookin’ pervert!” That was just hilarious.

Neil vN

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8 Kirk September 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

Love the background in the first image. I was guessing F1.4-F2 Was amazed to find F2.8.
There are so many ways to change to bw with color. You can use camera raw and adjust the colors or I go the easy way with Nik silver 2. I have also have the Kubuto actions but seldom use them for this.

Nice job as usual.

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9 Stephen September 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Neil,
There is a clone and heal tool in Lightroom. It’s been there since 2.0. I have used it to fix skin blemishes. It is in the Develop module to the right of the crop tool. However, it operates differently than Photoshop. When you activate the tool, you select clone or heal. Then, you target the area you want to fix. It creates a circle there, and then a second extends out from the first circle. This second circle is where you want the tool to sample from.

You can certainly do skin retouching in Lightroom, but certain complex skin scenarios would be better done in Photoshop.

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10 Neil vN September 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Stephen .. aaah, you’re right. It works like that in Bridge / ACR as well. But it’s so clumsy in comparison to the Healing Brush in Photoshop, that I just don’t use it and kind of forgot about it.

Neil vN

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11 Jerry September 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

This may be just my opinion, but I think “Jessica with a ‘tood” is as sexy as any woman you have shown on your blog. She “brings” more to the pics than most. Her ‘tood works! That said, amazing wall bounce with Miss ireland. I’m a black foamie convert, but I’ve never gotten that much of a soft box effect that you got on her. Of course, the rim light positioning was fantastic, too! I think that sometimes I forget to use the flash zoomed out to 105, and that makes a difference. I’l have to try RadLab, thanks.

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12 Neil vN September 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Jerry, yes, she is quite remarkable.

As an aside, I wanted to mention that she has a nose piercing, and at that angle there is a certain glint to it that is noticeable. I thought of editing it out … but then, Jessica has piercings and tattoos. It’s very much her. So in the debate with myself whether to leave it in or edit it out, I decided to leave it in.

Neil vN

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13 Dirk Uys September 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Neil, I see ISO at 3200 – how do you manage to eliminate grain at that high ISO setting?

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14 Neil vN September 27, 2011 at 5:56 am

Dirk … I didn’t. A couple of factors here:
– The Nikon D3 is very good with high-ISO noise,
– I don’t run the noise-reduction higher than the default in Bridge. (Or what used to be the default settings.) So there is some noise-reduciton happening there in the basic processing of the RAW file.
– the actions that I used to process the photo, does some smoothing of the image.
– What also helps is that I didn’t under-expose.
– you’re looking at an image which is 600 x 900px. That reduction in size will also minimize the appearance of digital noise.

Neil vN

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