Cemetery Shoot with Emilija

On my Model Mayhem profile I do state that I am open to shooting concepts that models are willing to come up and this was certainly the case with yesterdays shoot with Emilija.

She approached me with the idea of doing a shoot where she was painted up to look like a skeleton. I suggested that we shoot it in Bolton Cemetery  in Wellington which is quite old and also has the advantage that most of the headstones are not actually over the graves, as most were repositioned when the motorway went through the site in the 1970’s.

Emilija was body painted by the very talented Margo, who I plan to work with in the future on projects.

Although we took full lighting gear to the location we were able to use the natural light with the help of a reflector to provide everything we needed.

Emilija-7 Emilija-14 Emilija-19 Emilija-37 Emilija-41 Emilija-42

Honours in First Competition of the year

The results were given out tonight for the first round of the 2013 Hutt Camera Club Ladder competition and I was stoked that my print image scored “honours”. It was entered in the set category of “Nature in an Urban Environment”.


It was shot one lunchtime down Willis Street and was originally my “Photo a Day” on January 23. The eyes glued onto the side of the cabinet added a comic element to it.


Standing in that rain waiting for a train

Many people seem to think that when you are asked to photograph events that it is glamorous. Unfortunately the reality is something else.

A fellow photographer asked if I would take some photos for the local paper of a train being delivered to its new home. The train is question was an old British Electric Unit that entered service in 1954 on the Wellington commuter service and was finally retired in 2012. It was referred to as the “Cyclops” due to the fact that it has a single large headlight at the front. When it was finally retired it was sold to the Wellington Heritage Electric Multiple Union Trust for the princely sum of $1. The Trust had arranged with the Rimutaka Incline Rail Trust to store it at their yard in Mangaroa Valley just north of Upper Hutt. These yards sit alongside the Wellington – Wairarapa rail line.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council was sponsoring the cost of towing it from Wellington to Mangaroa and then KiwiRail had provided a crew that would take a section out of the Wairarapa line and then join the siding to it so that the train could be pushed into it.

As you can imagine this involved a lot of people and some key timing. The work could not begin until the scheduled Masterton unit went through not only Mangaroa but in fact was through the entire Rimutaka tunnel. Then the train with the unit would come up the line from Upper Hutt. The loco towing it would be uncoupled and drive further north. The track would be altered and finally the loco attached to the back of the unit would push the unit into the siding.

Everyone hoped for a dry day. Instead we got constant rain. Then the Wairarapa unit was running 30 minutes late which made everything late.

Fortunately I had a big golf umbrella with me and found someone else who wanted to shelter under it willing to hold it while I got the shots. The camera was in a plastic bag to keep it dry. Not very eloquent but effective.

Some of the older carriages on the site.
Some of the older carriages on the site.
The gang take the existing track apart.
The gang take the existing track apart.
New track is laid
New track is laid


Careful checking as it comes into the yard.
Careful checking as it comes into the yard.


The sign says original paint job. Not so sure about the graffiti though.
The sign says original paint job. Not so sure about the graffiti though.

Hutt Art Exhibition

For the first time ever the Portrait Group within the Hutt Art Society teamed up with several photographers to present portraits in all mediums. I had five images selected to go into the exhibition which runs until April 28 at the Odlin Gallery in Lower Hutt.

For the first image I decided to try a little bit extra processing in photoshop to create textures. To be honest I am not sure how I feel about the image. The print does look better than the digital image though.

HAS_Portrait-3 HAS_Portrait-2 HAS_Portrait-1

What’s wrong with Auto

If you have been at either camera club or around photographic circles for a while you will realise that most serious shooters tend to sneer a little at those who have their camera permanently in the Auto Mode. It becomes a huge sneer when they see a top of the line DSLR (that they can’t afford) stuck in Auto mode.

Now given that camera manufacturers have spent many years and countess millions on perfecting auto mode you may be wondering “What is wrong with Auto”.

Put simply nothing most of the time. By my very unscientific reckoning around 80% of the time it will probably generate an ok image and some of the time it will generate a stunning image. The odds are also that given pixels are free, you will shoot a lot of images and therefore the odds of getting good ones increase dramatically.

The issue is that when the camera is in auto, it is in charge and its computer is making assessment that while you will get a perfectly exposed image, that image will be useless to you. So how does this happen?

Firstly you need to understand that the camera has absolutely no ideas what you are aiming it at. Its sole purpose is to produce an image that is perfectly exposed based on a theoretical representation of how the number of shadows (blacks), highlights (whites) and mid tones are expressed in the final image. You will have

seen these if you have looked at the histogram on the back of your camera.

According to the theory a perfectly exposed image will contain some information in the shadows, some in the highlights but the majority in between. This is like the top image above. In theory the other two graphs show incorrect exposure because they contain either two much highlight or too much shadow.

Now to achieve this result the camera has three things that it can play with, namely aperture (f-stop), shutter speed and ISO. Aperture is the size of the iris opening in the lens. Shutter speed is the length of time that the shutter is open, and ISO determines the sensitivity of the sensor to light.

The major issue with letting the camera chose the shutter speed and aperture is that you have no idea what combination it is going to come up. Each full s-stop lets in either twice or half the amount of light of the ones either side of it. Shutter speeds also acts in the same way, in that each value tends to be either half or double the time of the one before or after it.

To achieve a perfect exposure the camera will let in a fixed amount of light, but this is not a single combination but rather an option of several as shown in the table below.

Assuming that a combination produces a perfect exposure then the yellow highlighted cells represent those that will expose the sensor to exactly the same amount of light. A setting of F2.8 at 1/1000s will actually give exactly the same exposure as F22 at 1/15s because as you half the light coming in via the aperture you are doubling the length of time the shutter is open.

Full F-Stops












Shutter Speed















However an image at the F2.8 1/1000s will look completely different than that shot at F22 1/15s depending upon the subject. The former setting is much more suitable to capture a bird in flight but will have too little depth of field for a landscape, whereas the F22 1/15s will provide lots of details for the landscape but is unlikely to even show the bird as anything other than a blur.

If you want to have more control over the image then it is best to shoot in either aperture priority or shutter priority mode. In these you set one value and the camera controls the others.

However if you are not comfortable with moving completely to choosing your own settings then there is an alternative. Use the scene modes that many cameras have and select the one that closely resembles what you are shooting. While this is still a full auto mode you are actually telling the camera what is likely to be more important. For example the sports mode tells it that the action is likely to be moving and therefore it should do its first set of adjustments to aperture and ISO before dropping shutter speed.

Happy shooting.