Monday, January 31, 2011

Project Flickr : Week 5 - A Reflection Study

Reflections are cool, and happen in so many places.  There's a particular reflection shot I want to try and get, but my sense of humour got the better of me, and I posted this tongue-in-cheek entry suggesting I'd misread the assignment, and taken a picture of "A Reflection of my Study"... I'll leave it there for a couple of days just to give people a laugh (well - those that get my sense of humour anyway), then I'll put up some proper entries.  Just thought I'd catch it here for posterity ;-)


Project Flickr : Week 4 - Weather

Well, given the atrocious weather we've had in Australia during December and January, and the associated tragedy of wrecked homes, decimated livelihoods, and tragically, loss of lives too, I wanted a picture that would mean something to Australians that have lived through it.  For about a month, every day's news has been dominated by predicted flood levels, levees, sandbagging operations, evacuations, homes being swept away, and tragically, people being swept away too.

I count my blessings that I live in Sydney, for it was sandwiched by massive flooding to the north and south in both Queensland and Victoria, but Sydney escaped unscathed.  After the flooding, tropical cyclones affected the Northern Territory, and more are on the way, while a heat wave giving temperatures of more than 40C is currently affecting South Australia, and Sydney too is getting temperatures in the mid 30C area at the moment too.

Channel 7 has it's news studio right in the centre of the CBD here in Sydney, and they have a news ticker running around the building.  As I stood and watched it for a while one day, two headlines related to the weather swept past - the floods were causing more people to be evacuated from their homes in Victoria, and a tropical cyclone was the cause of a Severe Weather Warning being issued in the Northern Territory.  That was it - I had my picture - all I had to do was wait for it to come around again (obviously I missed it first time).  While I was waiting, I tried various different angles, and (because I was using my 50mm prime) checked the focus.  I wanted to get the ticker going diagonally across the image, as well as get the name of the building.  I liked this angle, and once cropped top and bottom to a flatter aspect, I think it works well.

Later in the week was Australia Day, and we (along with 50% of Sydney) went to the beach (the other 50% congregated around the harbour).  There was a bank of mist hanging around just 200m off shore where we were, and bright blue sky and sunshine over the beach (yes - I got a burned back while building a sandcastle).  As the mist moved towards the shore and back out again, it was hiding and then revealing a headland just a little way out around the bay.  I took several shots, but in most, the mist was just a layer with constant density.  But at one point, I managed to capture this shot, as the mist was moving back out to sea, and a thin veil of it was dropping down off the land between the two heads, giving an eerie effect like a ghostly trail.  Of course, I'm being poetic - it was just mist - I think...

Oh, and just for fun - here's one of my nephew and the sand castle that caused me so much pain the following day :D

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Project Flickr : Weeks 2 & 3 - My favourite gift & Food

As expected - going back to work has meant much less photography time for me.

Week 2's assignment was "My favourite gift".  Being straight after Christmas, there was a number of cameras, lenses, iPods, and such... I thought about a picture of my camera, but then started thinking back to other gifts I have received, and not just for Christmas or birthdays... suddenly, the answer was obvious - my three children.  I can't think of anything more precious.  There was no opportunity to get the three of them together for a photo before the end of the week, and so I took a photo of the photo that I carry around in my wallet.  It is fairly discoloured now, and creased, and the photo looked pretty bad, until I changed it to Black & White - then it didn't look so bad.

Week 3's assignment was "Food".  I hardly picked up the camera all week, but Tuesday was my Nephew's birthday, and today (Saturday) was my Neice's.  So I knew I had two opportunities to get some food shots this week, and today's was the winner for me.  We went to a Teppanyaki restaurant, where the food is cooked in front of you on a flat plate built into the table.  The chefs are all quite the showman, and their preparation, cooking, and serving of the food (your bowl of rice is tossed to you, and you have to catch it in another bowl) is great fun to experience (except when you end up wearing your rice).  I was taking pictures the whole time, trying to catch various aspects of the chef's skills and 'act', but in the end, it was this shot of the flaming steaks, that I went for.

Oh, and the guy on the right of the flame - he's the same guy as is on the left of the B&W picture of the children - he's grown up a bit, eh?

Wonder what next weeks challenge will be?
till next time, happy snappin,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Focus10 Studio Shoot

On Saturday, I went along to a Studio Shoot/Course run by Focus10.  The ‘course’ part of the experience was pretty informal, with the distinction between instructors, models, and students sometimes being a bit hazy – but it all added to the fun.  We had 2 what I’d call ‘real’ models, plus another model who was also a student, plus a couple of previous students who joined us for an hour or two and acted as part-instructor and part-model, plus our main instructor spent a period modelling for us too.  Even the students became models at certain times, when particular points were being discussed, or camera settings checked.  I think that Andrew (MISTER Focus10) was probably the only one that didn’t do any modelling – but then again, he was too busy keeping the rest of us occupied so we didn’t waste a moment of the 8 hour day.
I’m hopeless with names, so apologies to all concerned if I got your name wrong where mentioned below… I’ve asked Andrew for confirmation, but he’s likely busy at the moment.
We started off with some natural light situations.  The first location in the lounge was fine as far as light goes (I was using my f/1.8 50mm), but I was having trouble with the auto-focus that doesn’t auto-focus with the D3000.  I don’t think I got very many good pictures from that location at that point (but practice makes perfect, and after 8 hours of perseverance, by the end of the day, my in-focus shots were far more numerous).
The second location we tried was in a stairwell that was amply lit from above by sunlight, and painted white to ensure maximum reflection.  Joselle posed for us in a chair at the bottom (a DSC_4623_cr_1024conveniently placed mirror gave some interesting opportunities), as well as on the balcony halfway up, to be viewed from above and below.
A change of clothes, and then she posed for some shots halfway in and out of the front door, giving interesting lighting conditions with the bright sunlight outside half lighting her, while we attempted to compensate for the inside lighting with fill flash or reflectors and studio lights.  We’d played a bit with white and silver reflectors, but then had a go with a black reflector – which as you might guess, doesn’t actually reflect but rather absorbs light, and enhances shadow to give a stronger directional light effect, as seen in this shot.  The black reflector was just out of shot on the left.

Our second model, Cassie, then took over and the next session was using studio strobes and a more contrived setting.  She has blonde hair and was wearing a black outfit, sitting on a black sofa with black backdrop.  A fan, just out of shot, gave some movement to her hair (and helped keep her cool while we were all baking). 
DSC_4731_cr_1024We had a couple of 400Ws strobes in softboxes – one on each side, and another with a snoot pointing down from above.  We shared 4 or 5 radio triggers between us, and were all shooting away – this led to a few issues where some of us were trying to shoot before the strobes had recharged, and got very dark shots.  I had one happy accident where one strobe had recharged and the other hadn’t, so I got a moody shot lit from one side. 
I felt that the colouring was a little harsh using auto white-balance and tried a few other settings – the flash setting gave a much warmer image, maybe a little too warm, so I also tried the ‘cloud’ setting and that was quite nice, but would probably still benefit from some tweaking.
DSC_4752_cr_1024After a break for lunch, we created a setting outside with a white backdrop and a garden bench, and used natural light, fill-flash, and reflectors.  I didn’t cope so well with this setting, and no matter how I used my flash, I got shadows – oh well – I got on better with the reflector to enhance the lighting.  It was a very warm day, which explains why Cassie is a bit ‘shiny’ in this shot.

Carlie & Rachel

Carlie & Rachel were special guests rather than our official models, but both stood in for a short while, and gave us a few poses, filling in for Joselle and Cassie during changes of clothes and make-up fixes.  I only got three shots of Carlie, and sadly none were properly focused, but I liked this candid shot of Rachel sharing a joke with one of the other guys while she was modelling for us.


Our instructor Vivienne also brought along a few changes of clothes, and divided her time between mentoring and modelling – often doing both at the same time.
DSC_4798_cr2_1024I couldn’t make up my mind which version of this crop I prefer – the full length shot is all about her posture and the attitude that portrays, whereas the close up is about her face, and particularly (for me anyway), her eyes.  I like both crops for different reasons, and I think each one tells a different story, so decided to include them both.

My final shot of Vivienne was outside in natural light, though I suspect I may have left white balance set wrongly from a previous set of pictures – the colours look a bit flat in comparison with the indoor shots (btw – all of these are straight off the camera – apart from a bit of cropping, they have had no PP work done on them yet.  I’m sure that with the use of Photoshop, I can tweak them up a bit).  I think I also needed either fill flash, or the reflector right of picture – another alternative may have been to use a different colour profile (e.g. “Vivid” on Nikons – I don’t know what the equivalent is on Canons).

Davinka (pretty sure I've got your name wrong – so sorry)
DSC_4876_cr_1024Our final model of the day was Davinka, who posed for us in the outdoor setting.  There was a really tacky pink umbrella laying around, so we gave it to her as a prop – the colour clashed awfully, but it was a bit of fun, and it acted like a secondary reflector.  In this shot, the sun was above and to the right of the picture, so the umbrella was partially shading her face.  We had a reflector low and left to reflect light back up to her face and into the umbrella, which reflected some back down again, giving a nice overall lighting to her face. 

I love the second shot with the black pattern on the dress really setting off her raven black hair.  I think that the combination of the black and white dress, and the white backdrop, and her black hair make this a pretty eye-catching shot of her.  Well, I really like it, anyway.

This was a full-on experience – I would never have expected taking pictures all day could be so tiring (the heat didn’t help).  If nothing else, I spent a whole day practicing with my manual focus technique, which was improving as the day went on.  I learned about how to set up and use studio lights (which I’d read about, but nothing is better than practical experience), and I got some great experience working with models that knew how to pose, which I hope will help me to get the best from other people that I photograph in the future.  I learned to look for different viewpoints, and how to balance artificial and natural light  using my camera in manual mode.  I really think I got a lot out of the day – time will tell.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Project Flickr : Week 1 - Motion/Movement

Well, being on holiday, and having all day every day to play with the camera and explore new places, was a definite advantage.  The day we arrived, there were windsurfers trolling backwards and forwards, coming in real close to the beach and then turning and heading out again.  I wanted to try and catch them at the turn, but put it off for another day - sadly, they never came back for the rest of the week - opportunity lost! :(

In my first photo, I was trying to see movement from a different perspective.  This little winkle was moving so slowly that you could hardly see it, but it left a trail in the sand that clearly showed it had moved from somewhere and was going somewhere else.

The second shot was fairly impromptu.  I was out looking at some rock formations at Kiama, and came across a couple of lads jumping off the rocks into the sea.  I took a few of them (using burst mode) to catch their antics as they splashed into the water, but it was this one of one of the lads just launching himself off the rock that captured the movement best for me.

This final shot was pretty well planned.  It was a good surfing day, and so I went along the beach in search of some action.  A lot of the good guys were too far out for me to get really good shots of, though I did get a handful as they exhausted the waves and rode them right in to the shore.  Instead, I was concentrating on the youngsters playing closer to shore with their body boards, and was lucky to find this young girl who was presumably just starting out on her surfing career, and was just riding small waves close in, and practising getting up on the board.  I loved this shot of her just getting both hands off the board and finding her balance.  She was grinning from ear to ear after this one.

Happy New Year, and what's in store for me in 2011...

First post of 2011, so Happy New Year to you.

Project Flickr
For a bit of a challenge, I have signed up for a 52 week project on flickr.  I know that some of my regular followers are already part of this project, but for the rest of you...  each week, the administrators issue a theme, and we all post up to 3 images taken during that week, that represent our own interpretation of the theme.  The first week has just finished, and I was on holiday at the time, so had ample opportunities to get some shots together.  Week 2 will see me back at work, and this is when it may start to get more difficult to keep up - we'll see.  I'm going to post my Project Flickr pictures here as well, so you'll be able follow my progress too.  The huge variety of pictures that have come out of the first week is astounding.

My new 'Nifty Fifty'
I am now the proud owner of an f/1.8 50mm lens, which I am looking forward to using for both low light and shallow focus type pictures.  You may have seen a couple of shots I posted just after Christmas, which were my first experiments with it.  I haven't had much experience with it yet, but I know I'm going to get good use from it (you'll see why in the next paragraph).  It doesn't autofocus on my camera, which is a bit of a problem for me with my eyesight, but the little focus indicator in the viewfinder does still work even when manually focusing, so as long as I'm not in bright sunshine (when I struggle to see any of the viewfinder symbols at all), I should be able to get by.

Studio Portrait Course
Yes - I am attending my first formal bit of tuition - next weekend, as it happens.  I am going to the Focus10 studio just outside Sydney, to do a one day course on studio and portrait work.  The course will cover studio setup, lighting, models, posing, and also cover lighting for 'product' photography.  I'm hoping to get some experience here that will let me start doing more serious portrait photography (and that is where I think my nifty fifty is going to get a workout).  I'll let you know how I get on at the course.

Seven Mile Beach
Well, enough about my plans, and all this boring writing - I expect you want to see a picture?  I just got back from spending the first week of the year at a place called Gerroa, a little way down the coast, on holiday with the family.  It was a beautiful sea-front location at the north end of Seven Mile Beach.  I went out with the camera most days, and was never short of things to shoot.  The sunsets were glorious, and lined up along the beach nicely (though I knew this would be - having already checked on The Photographer's Ephemeris).  Here is one of my favourite sunset shots of the week - there are a few more on my flickr site if you want to check them out.

Until next time - happy snappin'