Every two years since 1986, the city of Brussels has carpeted the Grand Place with flowers at this time in August, with each one representing a different artistic theme. Around 1,800 M2 of begonias are laid in only 4 hours by 100 volunteers and the event is rounded off by a son et lumiere themed for each event. This photograph was taken this day in 2012.
The event is immensely popular, with huge crowds milling around the narrow space left between the carpet and the ancient buildings of the square. I made my life as difficult as possible, by hurrying to take a photograph while friends waited to set off on a long journey and added to the truly uncomfortable conditions arising from the crowds by insisting on using a tripod in the best place I could find, rather than planning to come back at a propitious moment, such as sunrise. It doesn’t help that the short life of these flowers make the event last only 4 days.
Having shared my success in a competition with you last week, to be honest, I was reluctant to show you this one, but my writing principle is to include a “warts and all” explanation of how I have to continually learn from my mistakes. The aesthetic and technical errors deriving from this hurried, disorganized approach are visible in the original image at the foot of this blog. My hurried choice of position resulted in the inclusion of a building under repair and the construction crane in the distance. The overall exposure is based on a “spot” metering choice focused on the flowers, which resulted in inadequate lighting of the buildings. The wide-angle lens distorted the verticals on the sides of the image and, finally, the environmental vibration of so many people walking seems to have blurred almost the whole plane of the image. So, how did I try to recover from the train wreck?
In Praise Of Algorithms
My normal “slow and careful” methodology is to achieve the best possible combination of set up and settings, such that post-processing is a relative formality, being only a process of touching-up imperfections discovered when viewed at full screen. However in situations like this, the digital dark room is more like a hospital emergency room, with drastic methods being called for. I then have to turn to bigger guns in the suite of tools invented by optical scientists and computer geniuses and turned into functional software for the digital photog.
The first choice was to crop as much of the “ugly” scene out as possible. This necessitated a complete reversion from the landscape orientation of the original image to a portrait version. While it reduced the unwanted scaffolding, it also lost the impact of the pattern in the wide version. I am still not sure if that was the right decision.
Once the aesthetic choice was made, I proceeded to attack the technical problems. Exposure balance was rectified using what Nikon calls a D-Lighting tool. This is a zone-based tool, which operates to lighten dark spaces in the image and only those dark spaces. The slight vertical distortion was remedied by the use of a Distortion Control, which pulls the whole image in or out on a virtual ball, stretching or shrinking the image, so to speak. The overall lack of focus definition was so bad that it could not be adequately fixed, but the repaired rendition is adequate for Internet use. I would never print this image.
Now It's Your Turn
What would you have done in my place? Do you prefer the orientation of the original and the choice of flower patters that were included? Would you have processed the amended version as aggressively as I did? Would you have just thrown it away? Let me know.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 24mm f3.5D ED Perspective Control
Focal Length: 24 mm
Focus Mode: Manual
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/250s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 160
Mounted on tripod
My apologies for advertising the event only on its last day. The good news is that you now have 2 years to plan to see the next one.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015