top of page
  • jameskenning

Escaping the comfort zone

Much of the pleasure in photography for me is learning new ways to capture moments, manipulate light and now, with the growing ease and sophistication of editing software, tweak the pixels caught in camera to match the end vision that I had originally formed in my mind.

Sometimes though, finding the inspiration to go beyond the comfort zone of my existing knowledge and skills can be a challenge. A recent introduction to the world of Flickr and the 'Macro Monday's' community however has given me a weekly inject of inspiration for some photographic perspiration!

The MM concept is simple; each Tuesday we are given a theme and 6 days to deliver on task. The following Monday we all post our efforts to the Group and, whilst the community is in no way a competition, hope that our effort will attract the most views, comments and 'faves'. The ethos seems to be 100% toward the praise and encouragement end of the critique spectrum, so there is no need for any nervous worries as to whether ones submission meets the grade!

This week we have been set the challenge of "my favourite read" to depict a novel. In addition to the standard MM rules (all photos to be macro and taken during the theme week), an extra limitation for this week is a ban on the use of titles and text.

I'm not a big reader of novels, so had to stretch way (way) back to my school days and chose upon my English Literature O level text of George Orwell's '1984'. My self-set task then was to capture a single image to tell a story of Big Brother, surveillance and oppression. My end result is below:

I thought it may be of interest to walk through the stages I went through to reach my end point. My initial thoughts were both limited and simple; a shadowy lone figure with a lens ominously in the background. My first concept test shot was this:

I thought the general idea would work, but as it stood I certainly wasn't going to win any prizes (not that there are any prizes in MM other than a sense of personal pride). So how to take the concept further? I decided to add an extra element with the figure captured within a spotlight, and a back wall to add a sense of depth... take 2:

Things are now starting to get closer to my vision. But one big problem; MM Big Brother for this challenge had banned the use of text. Without the spoiler beneath the feet of my oppressed mini-man, the picture would lack any real context and definitive tag to the novel I had chosen to depict. Thinking head back on and step forward to take 3:

I am liking this much more; the iconic eye clearly sets the scene... my key worry though being whether the general populous will associate Big Brother to the Orwell classic rather than the Channel 5 reality show for self-obsessed mindless idiots wanting a fast-track to stardom and riches (did I just type that out loud?). Clearly though, something is still missing; the image whilst being recognisable is bland and without drama. Time to enlist the help of iMac and his 3 little helpers Luminar 18, Affinity Photo, and Topaz Studio.

After the standard tweaks in Affinity to develop the shot, I decided to add a brick texture to the back wall and a 'concrete-esque' feel to his paper floor in Topaz... my little brother is now set in an almost believable street scene (assuming you can ignore the giant cine lens behind the poor chap).

We are getting closer now, but still the image is looking flat. Next a move to Luminar 18 for a desaturation of all but my figure and an addition of some noise to give an overall more gritty and sinister feel to the capture as shown in the first image at the top of this blog.

So to head back to initial thoughts in this post; getting involved in the Flickr community has presented me an intellectual challenge to learn and refine a host of skills from in-camera HDR capture (to deal with the high contrast scene), to post-processing and text layering techniques in my trusty software suites.

Time will tell if the rest of the Flickr community will judge this a success or not. However, irrespective if I manage to match the 92K (and counting) views of last weeks 'double exposure' submission, I am happy in the knowledge that my photo skills have moved on another level this week (whether you lot think so or not!). HMM as the saying goes! (Happy Macro Monday in case you were wondering).

Do check my Flickr feed at:

and my Facebook page at:

and my website at:

#macro #flickr #GeorgeOrwell #1984 #MacroMonday #techniques #Luminar18 #AffinityPhoto #TopazStudio #macrophotography #photographychallenges

9 views0 comments
bottom of page