Richard Wood Lighting Workshop

Richard Wood is an extremely talented photographer who lives in Havelock North. I first saw his work in 2011 when he won the NZIPP Photographer of the Year, and I have followed the progress he has made since. A lot of his work involves a lot of creative photoshop work, to a point where when he won his award comments were made that his talent lay more with the computer than the camera.

Richard and Lydia (One of our three models)
Richard and Lydia (One of our three models)

The following year he answered his critics in the best way possible. In addition to winning gold in the creative categories he entered several images into the “Classic” categories and received gold for them. The Classic category only allow limited post production adjustments. The dominant element in Richard’s image is the lighting so when I saw that he was running a half day workshop on both studio and natural lighting I jumped at it. That was despite the fact that it would involve a roundtrip six hours of driving to get there.

Now I have been learning lighting for quite some time and have built up a reasonable knowledge, so there is always the risk that you will attend a workshop that will only cover what you already know. The 20 people who attended were quite a mix from experienced professional to hobbyist who had been through Richard’s night courses. I have experienced workshops in the past where such a mix has proved problematic as those with limited knowledge have slowed the session down too much.

Richard explaining new styles of photos while our model balances on top of a fencepost
Richard explaining new styles of photos while our model balances on top of a fencepost

Fortunately Richard seemed to be able to cope with such a diverse group and the day progressed at a good place.

If I am honest from a technical viewpoint I did not really pick up anything new. However from the point of how that knowledge is applied I got heaps, simply from watching the way that Richard set up a shoot and arranged to lighting to get the images that he was after.

I am not going to go into the techniques that Richard taught. When all is said and done Richard needs to make a living out of running these courses and that will not be helped if those that attend go out and spread the techniques far and wide. Richard is planning running the course in other centres and needless to say that I fully recommend people going on it. Check out his website at or his Facebook page.

A group shot of the three models. Posing & Lighting set up by Richard
A group shot of the three models. Posing & Lighting set up by Richard

1,000 Days

In December 2010 I decided that in order to improve my photography that i was going to start a “photo a day” challenge in January 2011. On September 26, 2013 I hit the milestone of the 1000th day of the challenge. The image below was my selection for day.

The 1000 day. Pauatahanui inlet at dusk
The 1000 day. Pauatahanui inlet at dusk

I have written a previous blog post on the challenge which can be found here. What I said in that posts still applies

After 1000 images there are two definite tips to pass on

Set a routine
Many photographers are intimidated by the idea of taking an image every day. It is actually not that difficult but it does require a level of discipline and that is helped if you set a routine. The shots that I have the most difficulty with tend to be those on the weekend. That is for the simple reason that Monday to Friday I take the camera out when I go for a walk at lunchtome.

Don’t stress about it
The challenge is not to produce an award winning image a day, it is to take a photo a day. This means that you can afford to experiment a little and shoot different styles. The shots may not always come off completely but as long as you learn something in the process.

I am not sure how much longer than I will carry on with the challenge. It will certainly go to the end of the year. For 2014 I have some ideas of changing it up a little so only time will tell.

The road less travelled

Over the last weekend my daughter took part in a skating squad in Palmerston North and I drew the short stray to take her up there. Now as I had no plans of spending 2 whole days watching her skate, I arranged to do a model shoot on the Saturday using the old brick kiln factory as a backdrop.

The inside of the Kiln would have been a great backdrop to what I had in mind.

That didn’t pan out when the model didn’t show up. I did, however manage to spend some time with photographer David Lupton. The shots below were taken on two drives out of the city looking for interesting locations.PNAmble-6 PNAmble-5 PNAmble-3 PNAmble-2

It is also amazing what you can find if you go into the alleyways in the city.

Found this door on Saturday but there were cars in front of it, so had to return Sunday morning for the shoot.

Blood and Water

The final shot sequence that I shot with Megan involved blood and water. It was sequence that Megan specifically wanted for her portfolio so who was I to refuse. We decided that it was to be the final set of shots after we had done the Lady of the Lake image.

Prior to the shoot I scoured the web looking for a fake blood recipe that would not stain. I needed to ensure one that worked because while my wife had agree to the use of our bathroom, she had told me that if I permanently stained the bath then I had to replace it. To make matters worse our bath was originally green but was coated white some ten years ago. In some places that coating is cracking so it would have been fairly simply for paint to get in there and not come out.

In the end I discover a non-toxic poster paint and using a range of colours from red to brown was able to get the look I was after. To prevent the issue with the cracks I used petroleum jelly and smeared the area before the bath was filled.

Lighting for the shoot was a single light in a beauty dish but pulled further back from the previous shots in the room.

Fortunately when we emptied the bath the red mark on it came off very easily and so I don’t have to buy a new bath just yet.

Blood001 Blood008 Blood009 Blood030

Lady of the Lake

Regular readers of this blog will know that through this year I have been shooting images for a competition based on recreating Fairy stories and legends. While I already had done one image from the tales of King Arthur, I still wanted to do one around the character of the lady of the lake.

Megan agreed to help out to produce the image below

While it looks a very simple image, the actual execution was somewhat difficult. As it was still winter we decided to shoot inside in my bathroom. This is not a very large room and in fact the bath itself is not full size so getting Megan under the water proved an interesting challenge (as she is quite tall).

Lighting was also a challenge. My main light was a beauty dish boomed out over the water. Despite the fact that I had a polarising filter on in the first shot this was still producing too distinct a reflection. The answer was to turn the light over and bounce it off the ceiling.

The blue in the image was achieved by lining the white bath with a blue tarpaulin.

A Doll’s Story

Earlier this year I attended the ImageNation conference and got to see the work of Alexia Sinclair, an Australian fine art photographer. What really impressed me was the level of staging that she did in her images. While she did use photoshop to finish the image, she went to great lengths to actually complete most of the shot “in camera”. I asked why she went to the effort rather than simply compositing the whole image. Her simple answer was that it looked better that way.

Now I do not consider myself a lazy photographer but I have not tended to go to into a great deals with my sets or costumes. Rather I have tried to find a location instead. So I thought that it would be fun to actually stage a themed shoot and Megan agreed to be my doll on the same day that we shot the crane image mentioned in the last series of blog posts.

I hired a costume from Anything Goes Costume Hire in Upper Hutt and spent the best part of two hours converting our garage into the set. The hardest part was actually moving the box into location as it was quite heavy. My daughter (who just turned 17) had kept most of her stuffed toys so they were brought out of storage along with bringing back a very large Teddy that we had donated to the kids room at our church. As I knew that little details would be important in the image I took several shots from the planned locations before Megan arrived and checked them for things in the background that would cause distractions. These were removed.

Lighting for the event was mainly natural as the garage faced towards the afternoon sun, but it was also supplemented with a main light with a beauty dish that was boomed down low so that it would reach into the box.Toys-2 Toys-5 Toys-6

Part way through the shoot we turned the box upwards and Megan and a large assortment of toys were stuffed in. For these shots the main light was moved to point down into the box.

Toys-4 Toys-3I was quite pleased with the results. Apart from the last image in the sequence below, most are pretty much straight out of camera and only needed minor tweaking to levels in Lightroom.