Flowers

Flowers just ask to be photographed, I’ll bet that there is no-one who has bought a camera who has not taken a photograph of a flower at some time. Although you can take them outdoors on the plant itself I find that setting them in a studio type environment works much better, to start with there is not all that background clutter of other plants, fences etc and they are not always in the best position to be photographed or lit and of course you would need to get down on your knees in the flower bed. I did say studio environment but this doesn’t mean you need a studio.

I use sheets of black or coloured mounting card as a backdrop and natural daylight, often on the patio. With the flower in a suitable holder it can be rotated to achieve the effect, the backdrop is far enough away that the card doesn’t come in focus and the composition can be better displayed to suit.

Floral display

Floral display

Carnation

Carnation

I’ve attached examples of flowers using the black background as examples.

More flower images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shops.

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Night Shooting

Night is a fantastic time to take photographs however choosing the correct time is as important as choosing the location. My favourite is the short period of time between the sunset ending and the darkness of night being absolute when there is still some light left in the sky, sometimes the eye cannot see it but the camera will record it when taking long exposures. After this time the sky becomes a black mass and only the subject is lit.

Somewhere in the above I said long exposures, with not much light around and wanting the keep the same depth of field without increasing the ISO with its inherent noise means that you can no longer hand hold exposures, certainly not greater than 1/30 second. The obvious solution is a tripod which once set up can give exposures for as long as you need. But what if you don’t have one with you at the time, well any stable platform will do, a stone wall, a bridge parapet and I’ve even used the top of a rubbish bin (and once in a graveyard the flat stone of a tomb). In short anywhere safe where the camera cannot be moved during its exposure time.

Enjoying the Singapore night life

Enjoying the Singapore night life

I’ve attached a couple of images, the Singapore shot was taken from the bridge parapet (with my hand through the camera strap in case of an accident) and the shot in Verona of the arena was actually taken with a monopod (a single pole tripod). For the techies Singapore was ISO 100, F8 for 8 seconds and Verona ISO 100, F9 for 3.2 seconds.

Night at the Arena in Verona

Night at the Arena in Verona

Taking long exposures with a monopod can be done though it needs a little more thought. Set the camera to time delay (to give the camera time to settle once you have pressed the button) and find something to hold the monopod against ( a railing, signpost, anything). Frame and focus the image, press the button and hold the monopod in place, the countdown beeping should start, giving you time to get settled, the results can be reasonable, who said taking photographs wasn’t fun.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shops at the bottom of the page, please visit if only to view and comment.

Take the Moon

It’s a clear night and there’s a full moon just staring down at you. Ever tried to take a photo of the moon, you have a camera right so of course you have and what do you get, a white dot in a sea of black. It’s pretty tricky right, it’s very bright and the shot looked straight forward until I took it and looked at the result.

What was obvious was that for me to get a reasonable image in the frame I needed a telephoto lens and ideally a tripod. I tried a few shots with my 250mm telephoto resting on a beanbag, left the lens on AF and achieved big patches of white blur, not good. So moved to manual focus, and started bracketing shots and achieved some reasonable (though still small) images, great if I just wanted to add a moon to a landscape.

Moon example1

Moon Example

Then I managed to get hold of a small telescope (1200 mm) and with the camera attached for once managed to fill the frame and yes I had to use a tripod but the telescope spotting scope helped as the image was being viewed using the camera preview and without the spotter I would have found searching the blackness for that elusive bright patch really frustrating. Adding to this the fact that for all long lenses the slightest movement to the tripod this end caused big movement the other didn’t help.

The end result after a lot of shots was passable but it was great fun trying to work it out not forgetting of course that the moon is moving all the time so a few minutes after I put it in the frame it was out again. I’ve attached an image showing the result and an image of the cats that I thought would work using the moon as a silhouette.

Togetherness

Togetherness

I’m certain better images can be achieved so no doubt will try again soon.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shop.

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras, don’t you just love them, I was a sceptic at first where the best image was 6mp and couldn’t stand against 35mm when printed above 6 x 4 (that’s 150mm x 100 mm for the metric fraternity). I was still old school, 35mm colour and black and white negatives plus 35mm slide film, a fairly expensive hobby where you couldn’t see your results until you spent time in the darkroom. Being expensive and limited (max 36 shots to a roll) also meant that you thought a lot more about the shot before you took it, there wasn’t a wide margin for error.

My first digital camera was a 3mp compact (a Ricoh Caplio G4 wide) and at the time considered a toy against my 35mm Olympus SLRs but the advantage it did have straight away was the ability to view the image and if necessary take it again. Image quantity was limited to the space on the SD card and given the choice then of taking hundreds of low quality images or a few high quality images the choice was clear, high quality every time, if I took a shot then I wanted the best I could get, there wouldn’t necessarily be the opportunity to take it again, after all I could always get another memory card or just dump it to a computer file. It became a great little camera to carry around in the car and given it was early days still for digitals it did produce some really nice images at 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

That digital camera was only the first of many (attached is an image taken on it in the Blue Mountains New South Wales) and I still have it to remind me. Currently I have a Canon 550D digital SLR and wouldn’t trade back to the roll film version for anything, these modern cameras are serious tools. This one is 18 mp giving 5184 x 3456 pixels and I’ll probably upgrade again one day but we all have to work within our abilities and for the moment this works really well for me.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shop.

The Right Light

There’s a lot to be said for choosing the right time of day to take your photos, your decision determines the mood of the final image. Previously I mentioned taking photographs on a bright sunny day, everyone’s favourite time, how often have you looked at your final result and thought that the images were flat, or in high contrast (very dark areas and very bright ones), how often have you looked at the result and thought that it looked ‘washed out’?  This is because what your eye sees is not what your camera sees, the eye will compensate rapidly for changes in lighting levels as you look around, the camera of course tries to record what it monitors in that fraction of a second the image is taken and is often fooled by the sky or the sun or reflective surfaces, even those with multiple sensors embedded.

Of course we don’t always have a choice when the shot can be taken, it greatly depends on where we are at the time but when you do have a choice you can of course help by choosing not to take in the middle of the day. At this time the sun is directly overhead so there are few shadows and therefore little sculpturing to give depth and shape to objects, trees or hills and images become flat as objects blend into each other and colours fade. You will have noticed how in late afternoon when the sun is across the subject that the shadows give objects that depth and shape and also observed that the colour of the light changes from being bright and harsh in the middle of the day to becoming warmer and softer as the day progresses.

Midday landscape example

Midday landscape example

Given a choice I’d choose mid to late afternoon every time for that warm effect and about an hour before sunset when I really want to add some soft enhanced colour into a landscape shot. The first image was taken at midday, the sun is high, shadows short and the scene is flat.

Late sunshine in the Barossa

Late sunshine in the Barossa

The second shows a mid afternoon image and already sculpturing is taking effect in the tree trunk.

The third image gives an idea of how the colour changes as the day progresses towards evening with the colour of the vines changing from light brown to a warm golden brown.

More Landscape images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.

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Australian Winter

Winter, even here in Australia just the thought of the word conjures up cold wet days, dull gloomy outlooks and evenings where we all prefer to rug up. There is another side of course, there are days where the air is so bright and clear that the colours jump out at you, where clouds in the sky add texture to what is normally a wide blue empty space all summer and where your mind screams at you to get out there and enjoy it.

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Recently I had the advantage of being on a mountain during the winter with days of bright sunshine, clear blue skies and deep snow, ideal conditions to get away from the crowds and take those shots that you wouldn’t normally find. Just remember when photographing on snow that the light hits the snow and is reflected back, this will fool your camera into thinking that the image is brighter than it actually is and the result will be a dull grey picture. You can compensate for this by adjusting your camera compensation by a stop or two but this will vary by the day so bracket your shots, at least with digital cameras you can see what you have achieved and adjust to suit.

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The weather closes in

The beautiful days on arrival couldn’t last of course with a snowstorm arriving a few days later but not to worry, just more opportunities right…………..

More images of the Australian Winter can be found in this sites gallery Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.

Digital Abstracts

Who doesn’t like abstracts?, I expect that there’s a few but for the rest of us those crazy patterns manipulate the eyes and the brain and yes they can make great posters. Take this abstract ‘Vortex’, well to create it I needed something that contained a lot of bright colours so I chose this shot of coloured balls as a starting point.

Vortex

Vortex

Coloured-Balls

Coloured Balls

Sunrise

Sunrise

Photo editing tools contain lots of built in filters that can be used to manipulate the image, they can twist and pull colour in all directions, slice it bend it, blur it, the list is endless. With so many variables inside each filter its virtually impossible to re-create the image again so as you play with filter after filter save a copy of what you like before you experiment further.

The balls also formed the basis for ‘Sunrise’, a totally different style of abstract. Digitally manipulating images to abstracts does have an advantage over traditional art in that the manipulation goes down to pixel level, zoom into a high resolution image and you will see patterns inside patterns.

High-Res-ZoomTo demonstrate, on view is a zoom into the high resolution version of ‘Sunrise’ as it looks at 100%, there’s detail inside detail.

With abstracts it’s like throwing paint onto a canvas, just manipulate the outcome until you like what you see.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Ghosts

Ever seen a ghost? Me neither but I have been in a number of places spooky enough for me to believe that I may have seen anything or nothing, the mind plays funny tricks like that. Trying to catch a ghost on camera of course makes the chances even more unlikely although do a web search and there are strange looking pictures out there where someone has seen something.

For fun I decided that I would like some ghost pictures and of course thanks to photo editing tools the impossible becomes practical. The two examples attached gives an idea of what can be achieved when you play around with images.

Ghost Train

Ghost Train

In ghost Train I had an image of an abandoned section of railway track and it didn’t take much of a search to find an image of an old steam train coming head on to compliment it. Built in two layers the background is darkened and colourised blue to resemble a night scene. Cut-out the image of the train to be the foreground, scale to size, add a few extras like the lamp and smoke, add some motion blur to give it that out of focus look then adjust transparency so that the background shows through.

Blue Spectre

Blue Spectre

A similar process was used for the Blue Spectre except that I wanted this image in daylight. I’d taken this shot in the beautiful old basement of the ruined abbey at Battle England and thought it created the right mood and a great background. Previously I’d taken some shots of some dancers in medieval costume so utilising the same process I cut-out one of them, scaled, blurred and adjusted transparency to suit. The end result was I believe effective and a bit of fun though I don’t image for a second that they would fool anyone, I’m open to comment.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Sunset Opportunities

The sunset time of day can present more varied opportunities than just photographs of the sky with a few interesting clouds in them. That very low sun can set the mood for contra jour shots where as expected you take directly into the light, this would give a strong silhouette to the foreground structure which could be a tree, pier, building etc and show the brightness of the sky behind. The first of these two images demonstrates the basic silhouette effect achieved by shooting into the light and can be achieved at most times of the day.

Silhouette Marker

Silhouette Marker

Alternatively however the lighting of this time of day can be used to accentuate the foreground and produce almost no sky imagery at all, whilst still contra jour. This very different second image of the cyclists was taken utilising the warmth of the setting sun, this creates a very moody atmosphere.

The long ride home

The long ride home

This shot was taken whilst walking along the banks of the river Arno in Florence, the sun was directly in my eyes and all these cyclists were passing me heading home no doubt. The opportunity was too good to miss so with the opportunity of high shutter speeds from my trusty Canon EOS DSLR I listened for the cyclist coming up behind and shot as they went past.

High resolution versions of my photographs are available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Digital Manipulation 2

Following on from ‘Digital Manipulation 1’ which looked into a simple replace the background effect there are times when the original subject becomes the basis for a totally different image. Some time ago when I was in England I visited the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge. It’s about 5000 years old and no-one is certain about its original purpose though the site is impressive and (unfortunately for photographers) very popular which means lots of tourists, which of course means lots of people getting into the shots. A little patience (and timing) and this can be reduced to a manageable few which a photo editing tool can soon remove. A little editing work and I was left with a basic shot of a pile of stones, not the mysterious symbol of antiquity that springs to mind, fine if you want to show it in the “this is what I saw in England’ album but not for the creative file.

I do like to play around with phot editing tools though and decided to use this to create the atmosphere I wanted.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge original

Stonehenge in England

Stonehenge after processing

To start I cut out the sky and replaced it with one that was dark and broody, removed all colour and then colourised to a dark deep blue to turn it all into a night image, removed the rear stones onto a separate layer and added a burst of light into a layer in the center of the stone circle. The advantage of the separate layers enables individual adjustment without affecting the other parts of the image, added highlights to the stones catching the light and to the clouds above. A bit more adjustment in contrast here and there and I ended up with a result that is totally different to the starting point and created the mood I was after, something that could never have been achieved in a straight photo. OK I admit that this was not something that I achieved in 10 minutes and I made numerous layer versions to achieve the effect I was after but it demonstrates what can be achieved if you set your mind to it, as a bonus it was fun.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.