Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keeping Down the Noise

Red Wattlebird
If there's one aspect of my artistic endeavours that's frustrated me more than any other over recent years, it's the difficulty I've had acquiring acceptable photographic reference material.

Photographs usually provide the initial inspiration for my painting ideas and, although I'm too often a slave to them in the sense that I stick very closely to what it is they depict, there's no denying their importance as a creative tool.

Perhaps if I painted landscapes or my painting style was looser, the ideas my photographs spark would be reward enough for time spent with camera in hand. The fact is, however, that for better or worse I'm inclined to include a significant level of detail in my paintings, and with a focus (no pun intended!) on wildlife subjects, I'm heavily reliant on my photographs to reveal anatomical details or the lay of fur and feather.

Until now, I've often been disappointed with the quality of my photographs, particularly those taken in low light that lack necessary detail in shadow areas and are invariably afflicted with those extravagantly coloured flecks and specks referred to in the photography world as "image noise". To be fair to my camera, the lack of a really long focal length lens has contributed too; instead of providing a close-up view of the detail I'm seeking, enlarging my photographs using software on my laptop serves only to exaggerate these flaws - and heighten my frustration levels!  

I'm confident that a recent purchase in the form of a semi-pro Canon digital camera and a couple of high-end L-series Canon lenses will increase my success rate. I accept that I'll continue to take my fair share of blurred and otherwise useless shots, but it's much more likely now that they'll be attributable to "operator error" or uncooperative wildlife rather than inadequate equipment.

New Holland Honeyeater
The shots I took this evening in low light as I put this camera through its paces are incredibly clear and crisp, and the noise that plagued many of my photographs in the past is virtually absent, even with camera settings that have typically guaranteed poor clarity and the aforementioned noise. Both of the lenses I've purchased feature Canon's "Image Stabilisation" technology which further improves the chances that even shots taken in fading light without a tripod will yield useful results.

Brown Honeyeater
I plan on posting more samples from time to time as familiarity and confidence with this new camera grow. As the photos displayed here were taken in my back garden this afternoon within an hour or two of receiving the second and longest of my lenses, I'm excited by the prospect of gathering some high-quality shots; I've already short-listed some potential wildlife habitats I'd like to explore over the weeks ahead. It goes without saying that the longer term plan is to feature some new paintings based on the ideas they provoke.



john said...

Great photos Peter. I just purchased the Princeton Guide to Australian birds. That is what I have been studying in my free time.
That is why I really look forward to seeing many photos from your new and improved camera. I'm so jealous. Keep up the good work.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks for visiting John.

Honeyeaters such as the ones pictured are the most frequent vistors to our garden and are the reason we're busily planting Grevilleas to attract them. I hope to feature an expanded species list as my camera and I venture beyond the confines of my back garden!

Julia Ruffles | wildlife artist said...

These photos are lovely! I actually quite like working with poor reference material as it forces me to concentrate and really study hard my subject matter, I'm quite confident with my big cats now that I can fill in 'the gaps' that may be missing from any reference material :) it takes a lot of patience and effort but gives me a real sense of achievement :) Jules

Peter Brown said...

Julia, your big cats are a credit to your skill and dedication. I'm envious of those artists disciplined enough to fill sketch book after sketch book with rough drawings and field notes they can refer back to. I'm sure I'll always rely on photos to "fill in the gaps"!