Friday, December 4, 2009

Variations on a Cat

Last night I had a meeting of the Transit on the Move liaison committee, which is working on the streetcar system we are building in Tucson. The meeting was held downtown at 5:30 PM so, because I'm adverse to driving in Tucson traffic between 5 PM and 5:30 PM, I went down a bit early and had some time on my hands. I almost always have my camera with me these days, you never know when something interesting will pop up. Since I was in the area of the Tucson "Arts District", where I know there are a number of interesting old buildings and the time of day was near sunset, I went for a short walk around the area to see if I could see anything of which to make an image.

I photographed a couple of interesting doorways and a couple of old buildings. As I walked I saw a number of house cats walking around. When I see them I always make a little "pshh, pshhhh" sound with my mouth which makes them look at me. These were all very relaxed cats, in no particular hurry to get anywhere. Finally, I was taking a picture of a large group of starlings sitting on utility wires when I saw a large cat comfortably sitting on the corner of a 5 foot fence. This cat meowed at me and was at eye level, so I went over and scratched it behind the ears and it was purring a bit. A very content cat. I had my 5d mk II with an 85mm f/1.8 lens which is almost perfect for portraits so I made a few images of the, very cooperative, cat.

This lens' close focusing ability is somewhat limited on a full frame camera for portraits of small things. I can't fill the frame with the head of a baby or head of a cat, it just won't focus close enough. On an APS-C sensor camera it is a different story and I find it great for head shots. I have a 135mm f/2 on order! Anyway, I did my best with the cat. I was shooting wide open at f/1.8 so my depth of field at closest focus was probably about a third of an inch, I had to focus as best I could on the cat's eyes and let the rest of the image go soft (except for a few whiskers that crossed the focal plane). As ever, click on the image to see a larger version.

I was playing around with the images and, as part of my post processing, I always sharpen the image a little. When I sharpen, I put the image into "Lab" colorspace, select the "brightness" channel, sharpen that, and then return the image to "RGB" colorspace. One of the side effects of this workflow is that I get to preview the image in black and white. When I started this cat processing, I didn't think black and white would be a good treatment for the cat because I liked the yellow color of the cat's eyes and the sprinkling of reddish fur in the cat's fur coat. However, when I had one of the images in Lab colorspace for sharpening, I liked the emphasis on textures and shapes I saw in the B&W version. I picked an image that had good sharpness on the cat's eyes and whiskers, and made this black and white portrait of the kitty.

Too bad I'm slightly allergic to cats, they make good photographic subjects!

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