Category Archives: Concept Images

Zodiac series – Cancer

My previous post went into the setting up of the foil shoot so in this one I will only concentrate on the image itself. For the shoot I had decided that I want to incorporate an actual crab. Buying one was out of the question cost wise, however my wife mentioned that she thought her Aunt had a brass one. Turns out she was right and we picked up a very ornate brass crab that actually was a long unused ash tray.

For the set I needed to have several shot options available. While I had envisaged that it would be a landscape oriented image, I also shot several images portrait oriented with Sian both standing and kneeling. For these we didn’t need to modify the lighting in any way.

We then moved into the main shoot where I had envisaged Sian being covered by the crabs. The first step was to get her in position and then adjust the main light as she was now much lower than before. I also had to change my shooting angle to be much lower as well. As the final shot was to be composited together the camera was locked onto my tripod.

We stared with a shot with Sian with no crab on her, and then I took a number of images moving the crab around her.

Having all of the shots I now selected the ones that I wanted and loaded them as layers in Photoshop and then masked each layer so only the crab came through.

The star sign Cancer is governed by the moon so I went into the Lightroom catelogue and found some images I had taken of it. I then pulled some astro shots and put them all together. Because I had used a dark background and not lit it the masking between the foil and the stars was made somewhat easier. It was then a matter of changing the colours in the image to look like they were lit by the moon.

Overall I am really pleased with now the image came out as it was essentially how I have envisaged it. When I posted the image, I was expecting one my astro photographer friends to point out that you would not that level of stars on a moonlight night. Fortunately no one did.

Foil shoots with Sian (Setting up).

This will be a post in three parts. The first will go over the setup for the shoot ans the other two will cover the actual shoots. As such you will not see any finished images in this post. Rather the images will show the progress of the setup.

If you keep an eye out it is quite possible to acquire interesting props from the most unusual materials. What I was working for Whittaker’s Chocolate I visited Lamprint which in one of the companies that print the chocolate wrappers. 

Labels are printed on a large roll several across and then in the final part process they cut into secret rolls. At either side of the main roll there is an amount of silver left over. This was being cut off and put in a bag for dumping.

When I saw it I instantly thought it would be great to repeat my tape shoot but this time with reflective metal and coloured lights. So I asked if I could have some foil. 

The next day Shaun delivered a small bag to me. I said thanks, but told him that I was thinking of a much larger quantity. The next day he came back with the larger amount.  Now ideally I would have had a shoot sorted out straight away, but in reality the bag sat in the garage for quite a few months, until my wife got sick of it and told me I needed to use it and then get rid of it.

The full bag of foil spread across the floor.

So I when Sian came round for the Dressmaker shoot I asked if she would like to do a shoot using the foil and she agreed.  I also found out that her star sign was cancer, which is one of the water signs so I knew that I could make the foil look like water with the right lighting. 

When my daughter left home, I claimed the family room back as my studio. The great advantage of this was that I could set it up over a number of days rather than trying to do everything in one go. It also means that I can take my time setting lights and trying different combinations before the model actually comes. In this respect my dress dummy is quite useful, although I have to be careful as it is shorter than a regular person.

As I knew we were going to be shooting two different concepts in the same session, I want to minimise changeover so I hung the backdrop for the second session and then placed a blue fabric over it for the first. I needed three pieces of fabric to do this and while they did not match that didn’t matter as the background would be fairly dark anyone.

I also placed blue fabric on the floor before covering it with the foil. This is because I had planned to shoot from above at some stage and I wanted the flexibility. Having the blue meant that if it did show through it would fit with the theme rather than work against it.

It was now time to set the lighting. I had planned a three light setup and when I use such a combination I always add them one light at a time. I start with a setting and shutter speed that will eliminate all of the ambient light in the room. That ended up being 1/100 at f6.3.

The setting that removed all ambient light.

I has positioned two lights near the floor to light the foil and these were both covered with blue gels. There was no real metering to these lights. rather they were adjusted until I got a look I was going for.

Light left
Right light

The main light was my Godox AD600 in the 24″ softbox on a boom arm. During the testing it was positioned camera right. It was providing quite a nice light and was also picking up some of the background. This was not an issue as I was going to replace the background anyway.

All lights in play

The advantage of taking the time ahead of time was that when Sian arrived we were pretty much ready to shoot. In fact the only change was to reposition the main light from camera right to camera left.

In my next post I will cover the first shoot with Sian, which was for the Zodiac series.

In print again

2020 – The Dressmaker

Each year the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) produce a 160 page coffee table book that includes images submitted from their members. You are allowed to enter two images for consideration but only one can be selected.

Each year around 350 photographers submit images so I was chuffed to have my image of the Dressmaker selected for the 2020 edition. This is currently being printed in Hong Kong and will be distributed in October.

This will be the fourth year in a row that I have had an image appear in the issue, and the fifth image published overall. I consider that a good result considering how tight competition is for space in the book.

I can’t wait until October to see the image on the pages.

2019 – Gemini
2018 – “Buzz at the Hive”
2017 – Reflections
2014 The role of the model

the saucy sue

Sometimes bringing all of the elements for an image together can take some time. This was certainly the case with my image of “The Saucy Sue”.

Back in October 2018 my wife and I called into Hamilton Gardens on our way up to Auckland. The gardens are amazing with sections all done out into different themes. In one of these we found “the Saucy Sue”.

The minute I saw it I knew that I wanted to incorporate it into an image and pretty much had the concept in my at point.

So when we got home I cut the boat out of the background and I went looking for a suitable landscape to use with. I settled on an area shot just outside Hasting in April 2014.

I blended the two images together and was reasonably happy with the result. This was relatively simple as the light on the day that the boat was shot was very flat.

I know needed someone to pilot it. I had the idea that Kimberley would be perfect, however sorting out a shoot time proved difficult.It was not until earlier this year, when she was coming out for The Dressmaker shoot, I decided we could add this one as well.

Kimberley’s costume was made out of a corset, a dress hoop and some lengths of materials. We didn’t have to worry about the feet as I knew these would not be visible.

As the boat was elevated I had Kimberley stand on a small stool and I shot from a low angle. This made getting the perspective easier.

As can be seen in the photo the lighting for the image was a large softbox placed camera right and a reflector to bounce some light back. The lighting was positioned to match the direction of the light in the landscape image.

The Dressmaker

This is the full series of the dressmaker and the story. If you want to read the background to the shoot you will find it on this post.

The dressmaker lived in poverty but she was extremely talented. All she had to wear was clothes made from sacks the kind people at a nearby chocolate factory had given her.

All of the rich of the own came to here to make their gowns, but they barely paid her any attention.

The dressmaker dreamed of what it would be like if she could be like them.

As the night of the ball approached she had made quite a number of dresses, and she wondered what it would be like to wear them.

Then a client told her that she no longer wanted the dress she had made, and she was not going to pay for it. The dressmaker thought what would happen if she did put it on.

The night of masked ball came and the dressmaker decided to put on the unused dress and attend the event. In the new clothes the rich of the town did not recognise her and happily treated as one of their own.

The dressmaker was very happy for one night.

setting up “the dressmaker”

The built set.

This post will be quite different to others in that it will not contain any finished images. Rather it will go into the process that went into a set of images that tell a story. The actual images will be in the next post.

A number of years ago I saw a brilliant image of a girl using a sewing machine in a moonlit attic. It set a seed that took several years to come to fruition (over three in fact). I knew that I wanted to do an image of a girl and a sewing machine. As it developed it turned into a sort of Cinderella story and eventually became a series I have called “The Dressmaker”.

The first prop, the sewing machine was bought three years ago at the Petone Fair. A second hand shop was selling them off for $20.00. They were leftover when the tables they were originally sitting on were turned into furniture. I bought the machine and it sat in our storage for years.

The machine

Then this year a number of events came together that made me decide to do the shoot.

The first was my daughter leaving home which meant our family room could be used as a studio to shoot in, and the set could be left up. I knew that to make the image look realistic then staging was important.

The second was a chance visit to my works printers where I saw a pile of wooden crates that had packed some new machines they were installing. I thought that it would be create to use to create movable walls, (as well as providing materials to reline our garage), so I asked if I could have them. They said yes and I was shocked when I got home to find a large pile. It took four nights to denail it so that we could get the ply under cover.

What was a pleasant surprise was the state of the timber that had been used to make the frames. There were lengths that looked just like flooring.

There was other timber that I was able to use to build a table for the sewing machine on. The top proved tricky as the bottom of the sewing machine was not a consistent shape. The machine was quite heavy so the table had to be engineered to carry the weight.

The completed table

I had worked out that two ply sheets were sufficient to build a workable wall but how to safely stand them up took some thinking. Initially I was going to build a floor bracket for them to slot into. I had seen other floor standing walls work in similar form. The problem was that such brackets need to be suitable size to handle the weight.

I then realised that if I took one of the left over lengths of timber I could drill some holes through it, and mount it on top of my existing background supports. Then the ply could be safely clamped to it. This worked perfectly. Once upright I used a roll of wallpaper bought from an Op shop to cover the ply and particular the join between the two panels.

The cross support

The final piece to fall into place was when I went to the Hutt Camera Club shoot at Fort Balance. The model Che wore a red dress that had a really long train. When I saw it I knew it was perfect for my shoot, so at the end of the shoot it ended up in my car.

Che and the red dress

I had already obtained cocoa bean shacks from my work as I had intended to use them in a model shoot. I therefore felt I had all of ingredients for the shoot.

From previous work I knew that Kimberley would be perfect for my dressmaker, so I posted a casting call on Facebook and ended up selecting a model for her client.

Sian, who I have shot on a number of occasions also said she was interested. She proved to a lifesaver when the model I had cast pulled out two hours before the shoot was to happen.

The shoot was scheduled and I started to build the set. I had worked out the camera angle and the lighting so as each piece was put into place I could see how it looked in the viewfinder.

To hide the walls in our family room I attached a second backdrop rail at a 90 degree to the ply and hung some old curtain material. To hide the edge of the flooring I used old suitcases and then on shoot day added some more sacks.

I had wanted to borrow a portable clothes stand for the dresses but could locate one so ended up building one from more of the left over timber.

The clothes rack support

It probably took the best part of two hours to get everything into place before I put in the lights. My fill light was my Godox AD600 in a 1.5 metre softbox positioned just to camera left. My main light was one of my Elinchrom set up high camera left and positioned above the end of the clothes rack. This light was gelled orange.

One of my recent purchases was a Godox receiver which should have worked with the transmitter on the camera. It was plugged into the back of the Elinchrom and should have triggered it at the same time as the other Godox lights. For some reason this didn’t work and the Elinchrom was firing after the main light, meaning that it was not having any impact on the shoot. Fortunately the Elinchrom has built in optical slaves which work perfectly.

For the shots of Kimberly on her own I wanted to give the impression of candlelight so I had a third light that was gelled orange, and in a gridded reflector to cast a very targeted light.

Tomorrow I will show you the finished series.

Harry potter cosplay

For the second year now I joined the Wellington Cosplay Photofest held over two days. Unlike 2019 the number of shoots was reduced to a more manageable four spread over the two days.

Shooting cosplay is very interesting and challenging at the same time. Th cosplayers are pretty good at getting into their characters, however it is important that you shoot them consistently with what the character does.

Fortunately my first shoot with “Sas it up Costuming” was in a genre that I was very familiar with. She was coming dressed as a Guiddich player from the Harry Potter movies.

We set up the shoot for Saturday morning and she asked that we try to use a park or something that could resemble Hogwarts. I suggested that we could shoot in the park by Victoria University and also around the Hunter Building as it has a gothic style.

I arrived at the park early to discover that it was being used for sports so we ended up shooting around the university. I

I wanted to produce a shot where it looked like she was flying on the broom and I found the perfect location. There was a rail wide enough for her to balance on it. I started with an empty scene then shot her on the rail.

We then shot close ups of the broom handle and end. As the broom she has brought was not a full length we created that illusion in the images.

In photoshop it was a matter of removing the rail and replacing the other images in it. It ended up being more challenging than I thought and this was mainly caused by not getting the angle consistent. Still everyone seems happy with the end result.

playing with lights with lauren

The final round of the 2019 Hutt Camera club completion asked for images that reflected movement. I wanted to do this using lights and particularly the combination of a long exposure with a pop of flash at the end so that you get both movement and frozen action in the same image.

One of the elements that I had acquired after we ran the national convention was a hula hoop with LED lights inside it. I posted for a model who could handle the hula and Lauren answered the call.

We set up a shoot in the garage which was a lot of fun because this is essentially a trial and error process with no two images being the same. Given that it would be very difficult to focus I set F8 as an aperture as this gave me a decent depth of field. Lauren was given a spot to stand on and with the lights on I focused on her in manual mode.

I started out with no light and took some tests shots of the hula spinning until I was happy with the result which was achieved with a 2 second exposure. We had to match the speed of the hula with the exposure. If the hoop was spring too fast or the exposure too long then you ended up with more of a blur (as in the image above).

For the full body shots the lighting was provided by strobes in a large softbox. These were metered to f8 so as to be balanced.

After some initial shots we then tried to mix it up and try to get the effect of a light dress. This entitled telling Lauren when to stop spinning and opening the shutter at the same time. This meant that the movement was in one direction.

At the end of the evening I tried something completely different. I put the light in a seven inch reflector with a grid and focused it at Lauren’s face. I then got her to move the hula in a pattern around her face. The image that was chosen was literally the last one taken on the night.

In the assessing it received a “commended” which gained me enough points to win the Advanced Grade Digital Photographer for the third time.

Zodiac series – taurus

My shot for Taurus was one of the first in the zodiac sequence. The model is Te Manava Syme Buchanan and was shot at the 2018 Great Trentham Collaboration. The headdress was designed by me, but the rest of the costume came from CKFilmDesign.

Te Manava is over six foot six in height so I ended up shooting from a stool the get the angle right.

Zodiac Series – Leo

Leo was the second staged shoot in my Zodiac sequence. I had a couple of concerts in mind with Luke was be my main model. In the first part of the shoot I used a mask I had bought online and with a strobe in a small reflector used it to cast a shadow on the wall. I then had Luke remove the mask and a second shot was taken. The two images were merged in Photoshop.

For the second shoot, I had also recruited two additional models Martina and David who were to play the parts of the unlucky staff being bailed out because of poor performance.

David forgot about the shoot which left me one person short. Fortunately the G9 has a phone app and so I was able to position myself in the shot and still fire the camera.

Lighting for this shot was a main fill light in a seven foot umbrella and a smaller gridded light focused on Luke.