New Photo – Door Detail
Detail of a door from the 10th century Baba Vida castle in Vidin.
Photography is full of ‘rules’ for some people.
Some are compositional and some others are about the importance of lighting.
One that keeps coming up is that midday light with the sun high in the sky is useless for outdoor photography.
The basis of this ‘rule’ is that light in the early morning and evening is warmer and the angle provides longer shadows and greater texture.
Before I go on, I think there’s quite a lot of merit in this point of view but taking this picture gave me some thoughts.
As a Bulgarian based photographer it’s my ambition to build up a comprehensive collection of this small country with its varied landscape and traditions.
For a long time I’ve been planning to visit Vidin, a city on the Danube, and the site of the only fully preserved medieval castle in the country.
I planned my photography pretty carefully getting up at dawn to catch the sunrise on the castle walls.
For this session I took a tripod – a Benro Carbon Fibre Travel Angel – which I’ve found solid, reliable and lightweight.
But of course there were practical and technical problems.
The ‘rule’ about morning and evening light works best for horizontal surfaces.
What about vertical surfaces like doors and walls?
My photo of the castle door depends on sharpness and texture for its impact.
Texture on a vertical surface demands that the sun is at quite a steep angle.
And there was another problem:
First I had to wait until the sun reached the door which meant it had to rise over the castle walls.
And again, a common problem, I had time restraints.
I had to take this photo while the castle doors were still closed.
In fact I left it almost too late as I finished just as a large group of German tourists arrived from their boat on the Danube.
So what about the technical problems:
This photo has to be sharp:
It would have been ideal, perhaps, to use my standard 50mm lens but I went with my 28-75 Tamron standard zoom which gave me more framing possibilities.
I wanted to stick with 100 ISO – My full frame Canon 5d Mark 11 is great with higher ISOs but I was looking for the least noise.
Although it’s a vertical surface this door is three dimensional and this makes for a Depth of Field problem.
To get overall sharpness in a shot like this needs a pretty small aperture.
I used f8, 11, and 16 to give me some options.
My final choice was f16. My assessment was that anything smaller would cause diffraction problems.
This combination gave me a 1/15th second exposure – too slow for handholding.
Luckily I had my tripod with me.
It’s quite difficult to set up the Canon with mirror lock up, self timer and manual exposure but luckily the 5D Mark 11 has three memory settings and I have my C1 set to these values.
To get precise focussing I used Liveview with magnification on the screen and the lens set to manual focussing.
For this sort of work I don’t use the autofocus.
Another point is that I shot in RAW – this makes it easier to deal with the light balance late and ensures optimum quality.
It’s easy to take a snapshot of a door but for a high quality picture it takes a bit more.
Quality is important because at some stage in the near future this image will have to get through Alamy QC – the Quality Control procedure of Alamy, my main stock agency.
Perhaps for another day?