Paul Grayson | Frustrating Flower Carpet

Frustrating Flower Carpet

August 15, 2015  •  2 Comments

Brussels Flower CarpetBrussels Flower CarpetCopyrighted Digital Photograph

Frustrating Flowers


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.


Mea Culpa


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

Aperture: f/8

Shutter Speed: 1/250s

Aperture Priority

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority

Exposure Compensation: 0 EV

Metering: Spot

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



Brussels Flower Carpet OriginalBrussels Flower Carpet OriginalCopyrighted Digital Photograph


David Hackett(non-registered)
On the contrary, I do like a warts-and-all type picture where, in this case, the glorious beauty of the flowers is contrasted with a bit of "ugliness" (I prefer "reality"). Having said that, I uttered a "wow" when I saw the first image, read your blog, and then against my principles as it were, I was indeed a bit disappointed when the second image appeared when I finally got down to it. Analysing my thoughts a bit further, I believe my "wow" on the first image and my lack of "wow" on the second has more to do with the ratios of the areas of flower to non-flower than anything else...
Mon coeur balance entre les deux photos.Mais plusieurs choses ne vont pas à mon avis, en effet, pour ce genre de photos il faut une géométrie parfaite, des lignes parfaitement droites.
Dans les deux photos, le bâtiment n'est pas parfaitement horizontal à cause de la déformation de l'objectif je pense.
Dans la première j'aurais cadré avec un peu moins de ciel.
Dans la deuxième, le bâtiment n'a pas l'air parfaitement centré et il est trop sombre contrairement à la première.
Je pense que toi même tu n'es pas satisfait du résultat sinon tu n'aurais pas hésité entre les deux.
Amicalement. Eric
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