A frought week

28/08/2012
One of the problems nowadays if, as I do, you take your photographs in RAW as opposed to JPEG, is that you have to spend hours upon hours in front of a computer processing the images taken.

Shooting in JPEG of course, your camera does the processing for you according to what the boffin who designed the camera’s programmes thinks you want the pictures to look like. Yes, you have some control to alter some aspects of the image in camera, but not full control – that’s what RAW is for – the RAW information for you to process.

Most of July and August saw me on the water, bouncing around on a RIB in Falmouth, The Solent and south of the Isle of Wight, taking numerous images of sailing yachts. That’s all well and good, but when shooting in RAW, that means having to process the damned things.

On a morning’s landscape shoot, I may come back with say 15 -30 images; broken down into two or three compositions, maybe taken in landscape and portrait from before dawn, sunrise and then a short time after. These may well be bracketed with exposure compensation, depth of field and focus adjustment to ensure I have the material to work with later back in the office processing.

From a day's yacht event, I will probably have around 400-500 images from the two bodies, all to be checked, edited, processed and despatched later that same day in most cases – at least the first edits and initial ‘picks’. Initial selection here is easier – delete the wonky horizons, half yachts, images with visually disturbing sea salt filters attached, AKA a water covered lens and those where, however artistically one tries to portray it, a ‘pleasing lack of definition’ simply does not cut the mustard! Then it’s down to the usual editing and processing procedure. There is more than one way to skin a cat and equally there is more than one way to process an image. One vital part of the selection is focus. I alluded to it above, if it’s not sharp where you want it to be, you can’t make it so. View it at pixel size and check. Nowadays with generally excellent auto focus, if you use that method the image will be in focus – somewhere. Most un-sharp images are caused by poor procedure, i.e. movement at the taking stage when releasing the shutter, (squeeze don’t press); inappropriate shutter speed; and wind induced shudder if on a tripod. Be ruthless. If it is not good why keep it?

Try and keep your selection tight as opposed to what Getty describe as ‘loose’ – just how many similar images do you really need. I’m as guilty as many here, but think less is more, it may help.

From the 400 or so from the day, I am down to about 80-100 images. Some of these will be for future library recall of a specific boat, record shots if you like, leaving just a small selection of images to proffer- images with impact or artistic merit IMHO. But, as ever, being an artist means I’m never truly happy with my work, there always being room for improvement, which is why I always keep practising

This after event processing means long days, but hey, I enjoy my work – most of the time.

Last week was an exception. Tidying up my Cowes Week catalogue all seemed to be going well when suddenly, (is there any other way?), my monitor turned blue with the ‘Fatal Error’ message displayed. Turn off and reboot – oh no it didn’t! I try again in a vain attempt to resurrect life before administering last rites on my main computer, with no success. A visit to my local repair shop revealed the worst – a failed motherboard. These things happen. As to the capricious timing of these events, there seems to be no effective plan for such whimsy. So a new built machine it was then.

Back in the office, a magazine with an impossible deadline, (aren’t they always?), wants a selection of images. Now comes the test. Of course I have backed up onto multiple drive; my images always being in at least two places from camera memory card right through to archive, or so I thought.

Working off my laptop, swopping external drive USB cables with the dexterity of a blindfolded three toed sloth tying a monkey’s fist, was not much fun, but the system worked. Thank you Lightroom! Well, all apart from one catalogue, which I couldn’t find. Logic said that it must be on the first and second drives in the machine being rebuilt. The repair shop was closed so a sleepless night ensued. Was a week’s work lost? The following morning I was relieved of my anguish thankfully, but it lead me to redesign my back up procedure.

If you’ve read this far, it should at least have made you revisit your backup system. I’m no techy, but my images are my goods to sell so it is important to me and my livelihood. If your images are important to you, you know what to do.

Keep practising as I say,

I am