1. chris malcolm

    chris malcolm

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    Chris
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    I like doing good documentary shots of public statuary, and where possible, artistic shots. One of my early favourites when I started walking around Edinburgh with a good digital camera was the well known Ross Fountain at the west end of Princes Street Gardens, just under the Castle Rock. It features on many postcards. Here are two shots of what it looked like in 2007, when the fountain was still working.

    [​IMG]
    Ross Fountain in 2007
    by chris malcolm on Talk Photography

    The second photo gives some more relevant detail of the top figure.

    [​IMG]
    Top figure of Ross Fountain
    by chris malcolm on Talk Photography

    The fountain gave lots of problems after this, and was often switched off for considerable periods of time, being finally switched off completely around 2013 when it began to tilt, suggesting deteriorating foundations.

    In 2017 renovation and restoration work began. The cast iron fountain, consisting of nearly 200 pieces, was taken apart and shipped to a restorer. The foundations were dug out and repaired. In 2018 re-assembly of the restored fountain was begun, proudly boasting a vivid new colour scheme. I first saw it in early May through the scaffolding erected around it, and was startled by its Disneyesque vividness and glossiness.

    [​IMG]
    Ross Fountain, new colours
    by chris malcolm on Talk Photography

    Not knowing how the original was painted, but knowing that these cast iron statues had often been painted to resemble the classical bronze statuary they mimicked, they had chosen a bright light green for the structural parts and drapery, derived from the light green of bronze verdigris, a bright gold for the decorative parts, derived from the bright gold of polished bronze, and a dark brown, derived from bronze's natural dry tarnish, for the female figures.

    In processing this image I lifted the shadows to allow some of the detail and modelling in the shaded parts of the dark figures to be seen. This lightened the colour of the dark figures unrealistically to more of a milk chocolate colour than dark. However the problems of shadow detail were possibly exacerbated by the figures being under scaffolding planking. I waited for the the installation of the next layer of figures which would be above the scaffold planking platform, in direct unobstructed light.

    [​IMG]
    Incomplete 2nd level figure
    by chris malcolm on Talk Photography

    This time I took a number of shots at different exposures, plus as an experiment some in-camera HDRs to see if extending the dynamic range in that way could help. Unfortunately not. Whether I simply lifted shadows in single exposures or used the HDR the result was the same: lifting the shadows to reveal shadowed detail in the dark figure lightened the brown colour unrealistically. Notice what is either a smear of green paint or a green reflection in the gloss paint under her chin. It's possible that spending a long time processing from RAW that I could make that visible without unrealistic lightening of the brown colour. On the other hand perhaps I'm just being unrealistic -- maybe it's just impossible, given the extreme dynamic range of this paint scheme, to encompass the range between shadow and highlight detail in sunlight without unrealistic lightening of the dark brown colour.

    Another possibility was that a better lens, with better IQ, would help. So far I'd simply been shooting these images with my opportunistic walkabout general purpose lens, a Tamron 16-300mm. So I waited for the arrival of the top standing figure and turned up with my best lens for these focal ranges, a Minolta 80-200mm f2.8, equipped with a long crop-sensor-narrowed felt-lined lens hood, the best to eliminate all unwanted light from the lens.

    [​IMG]
    Top figure of Ross Fountain
    by chris malcolm on Talk Photography

    I chose the shooting angle to give the same angle of view as the earlier 2007 image of the top figure, except that because of the high barriers around the building site I wasn't able to get so close. This time I deliberately processed the image to get a good approximation to the dark chocolate of the figure. These cast iron figures are assembled from pieces with joints and screws. They apply filler to the screw holes and cracks, which they paint over with silver or grey paint before painting over the final colour. The panel above her backside is for access to the internal fountain plumbing. Note too the rectangular copper pipe above her head going into the torch-like fountain. The previous version of that figure employed a curved pipe, which fitted in better with the curved lines of the figure and drapery.

    I have two questions for the members of Talkphotography. The first is an aesthetic question. What do you think of the colour scheme? I think it too garish and glossy. I would like either a more muted and matt version of the same colour scheme, or even just a single colour scheme, like the old gold it was previously.

    The second question is a photographic question. How can I best take photographs of this fountain/statue which correctly catch the colouring, with the modelling and detail in both highlights and shadows shown as well as possible? I'll wait for the scaffolding and site walls to be removed, and try a bright overcast sky for my next experiments. I'll also set colour balance from a grey card rather than rely on the camera's usually excellent auto WB plus my visual memory.

    [As I write this I see that the scaffolding has already been removed.]
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2018
  2. sk66

    sk66

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    Steven
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    I think the paint scheme is awful... I can't imagine it was ever finished anything like that.
     
  3. droj

    droj

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    Rog
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    What a gruesome object - both before and after! Seems to me that it has neither grace nor meaning.
     
    nc_killie likes this.
  4. Norris-wf

    Norris-wf

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    Sean
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    I too was very surprised by the choice of colour and not sure it'll really fit in to the gardens like it used to. I must go up to see it when its done, but I much preferred the colour in your original pictures. I wonder if it'll still be a postcard image. Thanks for the write up though - I found it very interesting
     
  5. AgentOrange76

    AgentOrange76

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    James
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    reading around it appears that it would of been coloured originally but short lived due to the material used and they have been unable to determine what that looked like with any accuracy.

    Looks like this sort of restoration has been done in France a fair bit but the colour used is less turquoise, it may tone down a bit but id question if anyone evolved had actually seen verdigris in the flesh as that's not even close
     
  6. chris malcolm

    chris malcolm

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    It would be very remiss of them if they hadn't, since Edinburgh is full of public bronze statuary. Within ten minutes walk of the Ross Fountain are good examples of bronze verdigris (a lighter green than copper verdigris), polished bronze, and dark brown bronze tarnish.
     

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