Over the weekend I attended the Central Regional Conference of the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ). While there were a number of speakers on offer, the one that I most wanted to hear from was Esther Bunning, who is an extremely talented photographer based in Greytown in the Wairarapa. Esther is a portrait specialist, and Nikon Ambassador, known for her dreamy style of shooting.
In addition to speaking Esther also ran a workshop where she showed various techniques to achieve amazing looks in camera, rather than relying on photoshop. These included the use of multiple exposures, slow shutter speeds as well as placing objects between the camera and subject.
We were lucky to have four dancers from a local ballet school as our models and I got to try several of the approaches as well as having play with her Lenbaby Composer. That was quite fun although manual focus and a moving subject can be tricky. Esther stated that this sort of shooting was very free form as you really didn’t know what the end result would be like until you had the shots. I found that it was quite liberating to simply go with the flow and not have to worry what was being shot.
I have had to keep things under wraps for a couple of weeks, but my reflections image with Jason, scored Honours in the Open Category of the Central Regional Salon of PSNZ. The central region is essentially the lower half of the North Island.
I was present at the judging so it was great to see the reception the print got. It fought it out with another image to be named the overall winner of the category, but ended up coming second. This is still a very pleasing result.
I also entered a print of Wilf into the Salon which received an “accepted” which means that it will be displayed over the weekend at the conference.
When I posted the images from my previous movement session online, I got an instant response to the images, and other dancers wanting to take part. Hayley introduced herself as a Salsa dancer who had a number of flowing dresses, so we set up a time to shoot.
I used the same hall as for my earlier shoot, however having learned from the first session, and reviewing a different YouTube clip, I made a couple of changes. The most notable were to make sure I had a second light bank and a much bigger (and taller) backdrop. The new lights were two Interfit continuous lights borrowed from a fellow photographer at work. While not being particularly strong they were more than adequate for the long exposure work. I used a small light stand and boom arm to set them one on top of the other giving me an effective stripbox. I had them positioned behind a large reflector so their light was fairly concentrated. The diagram below shows the layout.
In these circumstances you have to work solely in manual and therefore the first shots are generally trial and error. Focusing is also on manual by selecting a spot roughly equivalent to where she would be when the flash fired. Given that the camera was set at f11 I knew that there was a degree of flexibility in the depth of field.
I initially had the computer tethered to a laptop as this made showing the images to Hayley a lot easier. Unfortunately it is fairly old and struggled to keep up so ended up being ditched. Tethered shooting is really good when it works but can be frustrating when it plays up.
Hayley had a number of outfits which we moved through. He initially one ended up only being used for the test shots as it was blending too much in the background. The lighter coloured dresses worked best, although the speed that Hayley was dancing did cause some issues. With long exposures if the subject is moving quickly then rather than a blur, they simply disappear. Trying to find the right balance in the speed was important.
At one point we placed a red gell over the continuous light to see what effect that would make, especially when she was wearing a white outfit. I would rate this has been only marginally successful. When Hayley was over by the gelled light the red came through strongly but it was too far away for the main light to be fully effective. When she was closer to the main light the colour was essentially bleached out by its strength.
I then moved to a series of shots using lengths of fabric and a fan to add the movement. Hayley added to these by playing with the fabric in the air and the results from these images are really good.
Towards the end of the shoot I changed tack and tried to get the images that would essentially freeze the action. Leaving the existing lights in place I introduced a third lights which I shot into a large silver umbrella. The shutter speed when then put up to maximum sync speed and I shot some images of Hayley jumping.
I am currently most of the way through my sixth year of shooting a photo a day challenge. This year I decided to concentrate on having people in all of my images as portraiture is mainly what i shoot. That does require me to seek out subjects particularly on the weekends.
So when I saw that the National Portrait Gallery were having a sitting with a model in 17th century costume I was really keen to take part. Now such sittings are mainly designed for people sketching or painting and photography therefore I was not sure how welcome I would be. Therefore in asking permission I threw in a little carrot, that I would shoot some behind the scenes images that the gallery could use.
They agreed and so I turned up towards the end of the session. As I knew that I needed to be portable I had a single speed light on a stand using a Rogue Panel to expand the light. This let me position the light away from where I was shooting.
While the BTS shots were ok I could not get into a position that really suited me so once the session was over Ruby agreed to sit back in her position and I could position the light where I wanted it.
The gallery is running these at regular occasions with each new exhibitions and I sure that I will be back there again.
My image of Jason and the mirrors continues to have success. This time I entered it into the Canon Online competition, which is a digital competition run every two months by the Photographic Society of New Zealand.
I have entered images into it previously over the last three years without any success, but this time I found out that the photo had made the top ten in the round coming 8th.
The judge made the following comments on it.
“This is a busy image but I kept coming back to it and seeing more interest in the picture. Each mirror helps create the full image of the man. The post work is very good. Having the one mirror without a face just adds a bit more interest.”
What is quite amusing is that the mirror without the reflection was actually a mistake.
The image is also entered as a print in the Central Regional Salon with the results announced in a couple of weeks time. Will keep you posted.