Friday, January 1, 2016

Objects at an Exhibition

A friend of ours just had an exhibition of her recent artwork at the POP Gallery, Woolongabba, Brisbane, Australia; and she commissioned me to take pictures of her artwork after the close of the exhibit. You'll find some of these in the Exhibits gallery.

The job was interesting, not only from an artistic point of view—Sara does some amazing work!—but also technically. The correct rendering of the sometimes very subtle colors of the works, under a variety of difficult-to-nightmarish white-balance conditions, presented an interesting challenge.

This one was comparatively easy, and custom WB using the wall as a reference, worked well enough.

The lighting in the exhibition rooms came from halogen lights inset in the ceiling. In the back of the exhibit, which was partially shielded from the light coming in from the big window onto the road. Everywhere else, it was an eclectic mix of diverse variations on 'daylight' plus the halogen lights in the ceiling.

Across the road were other buildings, one of them an impressive white, producing changing lighting conditions during the six hours of shooting (10:00h-16:10h AEST). The Australian summer sun shone from a spottily cloudy sky. Quite a few times, just when I thought I had it right, a cloud drew over it—or away—and the shadows and light-quality switched from gentle to harsh or back again, and the color temperature went with it.

One object, a palm frond, was so long that it extended from the window right into an area where the halogen light was dominant. Capturing its subtle golden hues was quite a mission.

I also learned, again, just how color-discerning a camera sensor is. What the eye barely registers, the sensor make glaringly obvious. Ideally, the four projectors in the image below should have produced images with the same background colors. Fat chance. My guess is manufacturing tolerances and age.

This was a wide-angle shot, taken with a Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 DX mounted on a Nikon D610 (which works just fine, if one sets it to 11mm, without hardly any vignetting); but that was the only time I used it. All other 'wide-angle' shots are panoramas, with the D610 on fully manual, and set to capture the full range of light levels, to be adjusted later during RAW processing. That includes the image below, which was done with a vintage 70-210mm Nikkor set at 120mm and taken from a large-enough distance, so there's no distortion. (Four images.)

I think this one managed to capture the subtle golden hues quite nicely, even though the medium-quality JPG you're seeing here doesn't do it justice.

The 70-210 and the standard 50/1.8 Nikkor did some nice work on this shoot, during which I managed few whimsical shots of the artist as well.

Another tricky issue was artwork with shiny surfaces, especially under the halogen spot-lights, and even more so if the surface of the object is curved. In the end those objects ended up on the floor on improvised backgrounds of paper, which cast shadows, but at least we could orient the objects so that no reflections marred the images. If necessary, the backgrounds can easily be Photoshopped out.

I captured all shots directly onto my 13" Macbook Pro using Capture One 9, so that I could see the images on a screen more reliable than the LCD on the back of a camera—and properly color-calibrated with Spyder5Pro as well.

In a future blog I'll chat about my experiences with Capture One 9—which I'm still evaluating— and how it compares to Lightroom. Still trying to evaluate which workflow—Capture One 9 vs. PhotoMechanic+Lightroom— works best for me.

Watch this space.

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