Walk around the city

Scott Kelby is a Photoshop expert from the United States who runs a very successful training operation. If you are serious about Photoshop and photography then it is likely that you will have come across one of his books or videos. A number of years ago (7 in fact) he came up with the idea of getting photographers in groups, worldwide together on one day and encourage them to walk along a pre-planned route and take images and then share the results.

This year the 7th Photowalk occurred on October 11 in 1,052 locations around the globe with some 20,164 registered to take part. In reality that number was probably a lot larger as people showed up without registering.

The Wellington walk was organised by Hutt Camera President Brian Harmer and covered some of the alleyways and lesser travelled lanes in central Wellington, and the up an over the lower slopes of Mount Victoria, around the inner harbour finishing for a drink and snack at Mac’s Brewbar.

Now there is a saying “that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day” which is quite true, however the reality is that those days can be limited. Fortunately we struck the jackpot at the day was brilliantly fine and with next to no wind.

The walk was scheduled to start at 5.00pm and run through to 7:00pm so we ended up shooting in almost perfect light. All up there were around 35 people gathered at the starting location. It had originally been just me joining the group but I managed to convince my wife to come along.

While we started off all together it did not take too long for the group to spread out and by the end the stragglers came in nearly 45 minutes after the first group. They all seemed to have really enjoyed themselves.

Below is a sample of the images that I ended up taking. It was quite amazing how much diversity there was in quite a small location within the city.

At the start of the walk the alleyway is lined with old brick building
At the start of the walk the alleyway is lined with old brick building
Modern high rise apartments
Modern high rise apartments
Old suitcase outside a junk shop in Dixon street
Old suitcase outside a junk shop in Dixon street
Retro is very much in fashion in Cuba street
Retro is very much in fashion in Cuba street
The cafe culture in Cuba street is very much alive
The cafe culture in Cuba street is very much alive
The Havana coffee shop in Wigan Street.
The Havana coffee shop in Wigan Street.
The late afternoon lights creates pattern on this apartment block
The late afternoon lights creates pattern on this apartment block
In need of some TLC is this house in Elizabeth Street
In need of some TLC is this house in Elizabeth Street
The early evening light and conditions were perfect
The early evening light and conditions were perfect

Chaotic Sunday

Generally speaking when I go to a shoot I have a pretty good idea what I am going to be dealing with. Last Sunday turned out to be the complete opposite to norm.

I have been asked by a model to help out by shooting her in some clothes that had been designed. She arranged the “studio” and I arranged to meet her there. When I arrived there was no sign of her and the studio turned out to be room in a hall. Shortly after the designated time the designers, who turned out to be four third year Massey university fashion students, showed up. As part of their degree they had to design a collection of clothes in the style of a well known designer. In this case it was Andrea Moore.

They had been told that the room we had booked had white walls and wooden floors. The room we were shown into had green walls and a maroon carpet. I had been told that we were shooting in a studio so had left my backdrops at home.

Eventually we managed to secure a better location at the same time as the model showed up.

They had sent the model some mood board images to pass onto me which she had not. Fortunately they had examples on their phones for me to see.

They had a range of outfits and wanted to have simple “look book” images, then some to use as campaign images and then to go outside and shoot more campaign images in the city.

As they wanted bright images for the look book I chose  a simple two light arrangement as shown in the diagram below.

Toi_Poneke-Lighting-Diagrams-G-1.2-final

The soft box to camera right is the main light for the subject. The second soft box is there to light up the background. Both lights were set to f7.1.

The idea in a look look is to maintain consistency in the set so that the clothes are the focus. To help with this the camera was sat on a tripod and the model did not move much relative to it.

Example of a Look Book image
Example of a Look Book image

Once we had a good series of images we then moved on the campaign images that were allowed to be a lot more lively. The girls had brought in a number of props and I say the possibility of a fun shot using them.

Toi-Poneke-10 Toi-Poneke-11

We then moved outside. My daughter was assisting me and she noticed that the pattern on the hood of one of the outfit lined up rather neatly with Emily’s face so we took the following image.

Toi-Poneke-12

Not to far away from the building was a park bench that I thought suited the theme. Toi-Poneke-13We then moved down to Caro Drive to shoot around a pedestrian crossing. I decided to use a little selective colour with this image to make it pop.

Break out of the gray
Break out of the gray

I ended up shooting 360 images in the 3 hour session. These were put up in a gallery for the girls to decide which images they wanted to edit further. They chose around 40 which were delivered to them.

A chaotic start but a good session non the less. To Jess, Amelia, Rosie and Miriam all the best.

Keeping it hidden (slightly NSFW)

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and it is true that if you can capture catchlights in the image, and the eyes are sharp then people will connect.

A number of years ago the family spent some time in Egypt and it was really the first time that I encountered women wearing the full burqha with only there eyes showing. It was amazing how good looking quite a lot of eyes appeared.

Then a couple of years later we had a secret Santa at the work Christmas party and I was given a blue plastic mask. I instantly knew what I was going to do with it, and it has been used in quite a number of shoots since.

Over the years I have collected quite a range of masks, and I really enjoy using them in shoots. In most cases the mask actually focuses attention on the eyes while at the same time adding a little element of mystery to the image.

Most masks have been very successful apart from one. It is a replica of a full faced venetian mask that I have used in two shoots. The shots are good but to me there is something that I am not quite getting. I suspect that the mask actually needs a very elaborate outfit to set it off.

This was the first shoot using a mask, and still one of my most favourite shots.
This was the first shoot using a mask, and still one of my most favourite shots.

Mask-2 Mask-7 Mask-4

Using the same model as the original blue mask, but this time with a small black one
Using the same model as the original blue mask, but this time with a small black one
 A simple mask with contrasting colours of the drape
A simple mask with contrasting colours of the drape
This full face white mask unnerves a lot of people due to its lack of features
This full face white mask unnerves a lot of people due to its lack of features
This is the first shoot using the full faced venetian mask
This is the first shoot using the full faced venetian mask
The most recent shot with the venetian mask
The most recent shot with the venetian mask

Sunday night shoot with Jaimee (NSFW)

Last year I was invited to submit images for an exhibition at the Hutt Art Society that combined paintings, drawing and photographs of the naked body. It is intended to be run every two years and so I have started making images for the next one.

I really like producing bodyscapes so I approached Jaimee via Model Mayhem to see if she was interested to assist. We met some months ago and I went through what I was looking forward. She was willing to take part but with other commitments it was not until last Sunday that we finally managed to get together to do the shoot.

Tight underwear leaves marks.
Tight underwear leaves marks.

When she arrived Jaimee admitted that she had been wearing her bra all day and that it was likely to have caused marks in her skin.

Normally I would request a model remove any tight clothing at least an hour before a shoot starts so that such marks have time to fade. I had forgotten to do this with Jaimee which was a big oversight on my part.  While you can easily remove the marks in Photoshop, it does slow down the overall processing as so I generally try to ensure to limit the effect.

While the intention was to shoot bodyscapes I also wanted to try some other images so actually started the evening with a mask and petticoat. We then moved onto using lengths of fabric.Jaimee-1

Doing the shoot in this way where we moved from essentially clothed to fully nude has the advantage that it gives time for the model to get comfortable with the session. It is very important in the bodyscape shots because quite often you are shooting close to your model. It also had the advantage in this case because it allowed  time for the marks to fade.Jaimee-2

When it came time to do the bodyscapes I was using a large stripbox as the main light positioned to the side of the model. A second light with a small honeycombed grid acted as a fill light.

Towards the end of the session I had Jaimee apply oil to her body and we then sprayed her with water. It creates a really neat effect.

Jaimee was a real champion because  the evening was not that warm but she did not complain.
Jaimee-4 Jaimee-3

A new way of carrying

I have never been a fan of hanging a camera around my neck, and have always simply wrapped the strap around my wrist. As I moved up in gear the desire to use the neckstrap diminished further.

If you look at the following table you can see how the weight of the gear I am using has increased dramatically. The first column is the weight in grams of my original digital camera and second is my current camera.

D90 D600
Body with kit lens 520g
Replace lens with 24-70 f2.8 660g 940g
Add Battery Grip 1,020g 1,220g
Replace lens with 70-200 f2.8 1,940g 2,140g

As you will appreciate lugging a 2kg weight around your neck tends to get fairly uncomfortable.

Balck Rapid sling
Black Rapid sling

Some years ago I attended a workshop in Auckland and one of the tutors was using a Blackrapid strap. This goes over one shoulder with the camera hanging at the waist on the opposite side of the body. The camera is attached to the strap via a clip that screws into the tripod screw on the bottom of the camera.

I thought that this was a great idea, however I considered that the price of the strap in NZ was too high. After showing it to my wife she said that she could make something similar which she did. We used the quick release plate from my monopod to attach the camera to the strap.

The strap attaches via the camera's tripod screw
The strap attaches via the camera’s tripod screw

This arrangement seemed to work for a while until I noticed that the hoop that I was using was starting to bend. Fortunately this coincided with receiving birthday vouchers and so I bought the Blackrapid strap.

The strap worked very well while I was using the D90 but when I got the D600 I started to have a number of issues with it. The first was that the extra weight appeared to result in the length adjusters not working properly which was more of the an annoyance than an issue. A more serious issue was that while the camera was in a good place while you were standing upright, if you leaned over the camera swung round, and you had to have good reactions to catch it before it hit something.

The second real drawback of the design is that if you were using the camera on a tripod then you could not have the strap and a quick release attached at the same time, as the camera only has one place to attach them.

As a result of the two issues I was carrying the camera more than I wanted to.

Spider-1Then a couple of month ago I was watching a Lindsay Adler workshop on CreativeLive.com and she had her camera mounted at her hip using a device called a spider holster. I discovered that there were agents for it in New Zealand and that I could buy it from them at the same price as B&H would in New York without the additional freight charges.

So while I was in Auckland visiting family we drove over to Photogear on the North Shore and they let me try one for about 20 minutes. That was enough to convince me that it was the solution to the issues I was having so I bought one.

I got to really put it through its paces over the three days shooting the Body Arts Rocks Conference and it really worked out great. You do have to position to belt carefully with your jeans so that once you add the 2kg camera to it, you do not feel like your pants are going to fall down. My wife expressed the concern that having a 2kg weight on one side of the body would cause issues with my back, but I actually did not encounter any such issues over the 3 days.

Now I will admit that at $199 it is not a cheap items but it enabled me to feel fully in control knowing that the camera was not going to move regardless of how I altered my upper body.

Spider-3They have also fixed the tripod issue as the plate that attaches to the camera has two screw mounts in the bottom so you can attach a quick release plate and still use the holster.

If you are looking at a way to manage a camera while out on location then I would strongly recommend that your look at this option.

Mixed results in Creative Focus

The Creative Focus Competition is a nationwide competition organised by the Pukekohe Camera club that has an aim of promoting photography that pushes the boundaries of traditional images both in terms of in camera techniques as well as post processing. The competition is in its second year.

Last year I entered four images and all four received acceptances, so i had high hopes of being able to repeat that process again. I entered four image again in a category they referred to as “fusion” however the more common term that should have used was composites.

This year I was not as successful having only two images (shown below) being successful. At first I was disappointed by this but then I learned that they had received twice as many images as the previous year. This meant that their rejection rate had to considerably higher as all the successful images are printed in a book after the competition.

Autumn_FallingLeaves
Autumn Goddess

The stories behind the image can be found in Autumn Shoot and Late for the Ball articles Late for the Ball_Small