Childhood Memory – Take 2

When I took my photograph for the Childhood Memory exercise, it was back in February. Having requested a critique I was quite rightly criticised for the fact that my boots were cut off at the bottom, and one person commented on the robin in the picture, stating that it was probably produced in Photoshop, and that it resulted in the loss of reality in the image. Consequently I decided to retake it, but I was rather beaten by the weather.

As it is now the beginning of June, I cannot exactly reproduce the image, not least because my garden now looks very different to how it looked in February. Consequently I decided to change the location and place myself in front of the flowers appearing in my cottage garden.

The day that I took the second photograph was a bright sunny day. Unfortunately that gave me a lighting problem as the sun in my garden appears over the fence behind the flower beds. In that position I was lit from behind, so I had to provide some suitable additional lighting. That took the form of a mains powered flash strobe, fired into a reflective umbrella, and set to full power.

I experimented with the exposure without myself in the image, and moved the strobe to where I thought that it would illuminate me best, whilst also illuminating the flowers behind me.

Having changed into the costume, I set up my camera on a tripod with the self timer set to 10 seconds and tried a few shots. It took me a while to position myself in the right place, and to get the shot that I wanted.

In practice I took about 20 shots once I was in the costume, although for a few I had incorrectly set the camera shutter, making the image dark. These I deleted in the camera. It was difficult in the daylight to see the camera screen, so I took the camera indoors after each five or so shots to view the results. It was probably in doing this that I accidentally altered the shutter speed.

On seeing the resulting images on the computer screen, I selected the second to last shot as I thought that it was the best pose, and the sun had by then been shaded by some light cloud.

Here are the contacts sheets followed by the selected photograph.

I could see one immediate problem with the photograph, which was that the fence behind me was a modern fence, with concrete posts. In my grandfather’s day, a fence would have been all wood, so my first task was to replace the fence posts in the image with wooden posts.

For this I used a photograph that I took a couple of weeks ago at a raptor centre, where they had placed an owl on a signpost. The upright of the signpost looked ideal, and turning it round the other way I added that to my photograph.

I wanted the picture to look like a genuine old photograph, so the next stage was to reduce it to a monochrome image coloured sepia.

It still looked rather too good, So I decided to add a vignette. In practice a white vignette looked better and more realistic than a dark one. In the days of film photography this would have been achieved under the enlarger in the darkroom. The vignette action in Photoshop was too deep, once again losing my boots out of the shot, so I created my own using a layer with a rectangular mask which I then blurred with a Gaussian blur.

The final process was to make it look genuinely like old film, for which I used one of the classic camera effects in Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2.

Here is the final result:

I have also imagined the image being put into an old-fashioned family album, as if it were a genuine photograph from the past.

The three other pictures are a genuine photograph of my great-grandfather, and the house that he and his family lived in. The picture below the self-portrait is of the road where I live now.

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