Chris Upton 'Passion for Pictures' press release

25th November 2014
Passion for Pictures

Southwell's Chris Upton returned by popular demand to share his 'Passion for Pictures' in November. A landscape turned travel photographer, Chris's presentation was full of helpful hints to help to master this wide ranging discipline. Good travel photography should capture the essence of the place, demanding skill in landscape, portraiture, architecture, sport and detail among others.

Chris began with a short audio visual compilation to give a flavour of what was to come.
A sunset captured at the Brooklyn Bridge in New York gave Chris the chance to discuss planning for a good shot. The Internet has become a useful tool in planning the best vantage points. By viewing other images from a proposed location the most promising positions can be identified in advance. 'The Photographer's Ephemera' is a publication which gives details of the time and position of sunset and sunrise at different sites, enabling the dedicated photographer to ensure he arrives at the location at the appropriate time and date for the planned shot and with a feeling of familiarity with the situation. Armed with the information, Chris advised getting there early to ensure the best position at the site as others will have had the same idea.

Throughout the evening Chris gave notes on his chosen composition. Some speakers speak about shooting from the 'tripod holes' of others, suggesting that iconic images are unoriginal. Refreshingly Chris suggested starting with these shots to set the scene of the place and then looking for original angles and interpretations. Separation of the elements in the image is key to achieving impact. Chris explained how he changes his position or the angle of the shot to ensure that he has this separation before starting to shoot.

He consider the crop for the final image as he composes, although the detail is decided on screen. He demonstrated how certain images lend themselves to square or letterbox cropping. Shooting from a considered angle can dramatically improve an image. A shot of skyscrapers had been taken to keep the eye of the viewer in the frame by almost lying down, shooting upwards and ensuring that the buildings behind came into the top of the shot. Chris demonstrated the benefits of both elevated and very low viewpoints to give images much more impact than eye level shots. He commended the benefits of a flip out screen for such shots, which can give more foreground interest.

As the sun goes below the horizon the light has a blue quality giving this short period the name 'Blue Hour'. The blueness can be enhanced by adjusting the white balance in camera, as Chris prefers, or in processing. If the photographer leaves it too late contrast between dark shadows and highlights becomes too great to capture both well in a single shot.

Images from across the globe were shown to demonstrate how the architecture of cities can be captured at dawn and dusk to great effect. The city of Arts and Sciences in Valencia contrasts strikingly with the architecture of the old town and offers wonderful modern architecture combined with striking reflections. Many of Chris’ shots used reflections to great effect and he commended looking for these to add interest and drama to otherwise potentially bland areas of an image.

Chris quoted W Eugene Smith's comment ‘What use is having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?’ His diverse range of shots demonstrated the benefits of specific camera settings to ensure appropriate depth of field for to convey the feeling while Chris discussed the settings and kit he uses. He prefers to use long exposures and work with a tripod, favouring a glassy effect for moving water and some movement in trees or birds against solid architecture. The discussion also addressed the final presentation of each image. Cropping decided, a colour image may lend itself to being turned to black and white and having a grittiness added to enhance the atmosphere. Poor weather may give an image a brooding quality which this treatment suits. Travel photographers have to deal with the conditions which present themselves and being able to see the best image in any shot is helpful in making the most of what conditions allow. Poor weather – and a friend with a brolly - is actually helpful when photographing waterfalls.

Chris devoted one section of the presentation to showing how a creative approach can convey the feeling of a scene without the fine detail. Moving the camera during the exposure or combining multiple images can create a pleasing an impressionistic effect. With digital photography there are no cost implications to taking many shots and experimenting, which Chris encouraged.

Cameras can be adapted to take infra-red images which are strikingly different. A similar effect can be obtained by computer processing. Creative results can be achieved by taking very close shots of familiar subjects such as stones, flowers, doors or water. Soft focus applied carefully can produce a pleasing effect and take the eye from distracting features. Careful treatment of the image edges to focus the eye on the main subject is another aid to creativity.

It is possible to get 'grab shots' of people going about their daily lives, but Chris prefers to engage with people and enlist their help in good shots with portraying character. He stressed that the results are work the effort and risk of rejection, commenting that 'it is less about clicking the shutter and more about clicking with the subject'. He carries small items such as pencils and soap to offer in exchange.