For my readers outside of New Zealand, our country response to the Covid-19 pandemic was to go into lockdown hard and early. While the economy has taken a hit, our health system didn’t, and we ended up with around 1,500 cases and 22 deaths. The vast majority of those deaths occurred in two aged demetia facilities.
The benefit of these action is that we last had a case over 20 days and last Sunday (June 7) the last active case recovered. That meant that from Tuesday we could enter our new normal.
While the borders are closed life within New Zealand could return to a sense of normal. So much so, that over the weekend 60,000 people attended two rugby games, something that other countries can only dream about.
For portrait photographers to lock down was hard as rely on interacting with our subjects. So as soon as the restrictions were fully lifted a Sunday Club for the Fashion Collective was organised. It was great to be able to meet up with people with no need for social distancing.
Adding to the afternoon was the fact that Charlotte Kelleher of CKFilmDesign had brought along some period costumes that her team had made. Combining those items with hair by Wei Jiang and makeup by Nicola Robinson and you could not help but take great images.
While the studio is full of lighting, the triggers that it used did not work on my camera so I could use them. I had taken my own lights but that was a bit of hassle with so many people present. So with the exception of the image of Jordan above, all of the others shots were taken using the ambient light in the room. Fortunately my G9 is pretty good at handling lighting conditions.
In addition to Charlotte, one of the other regular’s, Neen also brought some costumes so I shot her in one of the outfits.
It was great being able to socialise and shoot without any restrictions or fear. I have joined in with Zoom sessions with photographers in the USA and I know that they are far from being able to do that.
I have mentioned before that I am putting together 10 images to submit for the first level of the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) honours system. At the Licentitate level (LPSNZ) you are supposed to demonstrate proficiancy across a range of photographic styles. Quite often the photographers have used different genres to do this.
I have taken a slightly different approach in trying to show diversity of approach but within the same genre. This is risky but it stays true to my main area of photography.
I already have most of the images shot and are finishing it with two images that emply macro techniques. While normally used on flowers or insects I decided to employ the technique on faces.
I had seen a Lindsay Adler video where she had used coloured powder on a face and shot it up close. It was amazing so I sought to do the same. Sanna works part time at my work, and as she had very vivid eyes, I asked if she would help me.
The powder we used is the same as that used in the “Color Run” however its origins are with the Hindu Holi festival. It is a very fine cornstarch which is deadly on lens so we were taking no risks.
We shot in Sanna’s apartment with her sitting on a wooden stool. A large tarpolin was spread on the floor to ensure that none of the powder stains the carpet. I even bought a $2 t-shirt from a thrift store so that there was no risk I would ruin her clothes.
I had a single studio light with a gridded seven inch reflector to give me a very precise light. The camera was metered at f11. Given that it was a macro shot you have very little depth of field to play with so the camera was set on a try, and live view was used to focus to lens. As a final precaution the camera was set to self timer.
We started with shots without the powder to check that the exposure was right. The shadows on the original images were too dark so we positioned a large mirror to act as a reflector and fill them in a bit.
I started shooting with my original macro lens which is a Sigma 70-300mm that has a macro switch that can be set anywhere between 200-300mm. I was initially using this lens becasue it enabled me to shoot further away, and therefore avoid the risk of powder damage.
The problem is that the lens is very hard to sharply focus, and as we had placed rather than thrown the powder I decided to swap to my Nikon 105mm macro which is a much sharper lens.
I was really pleased with the results. One thing that was quite surprizing was how black the background went. This was shot in a well light kitchen with windows on two sides, so to the huma eye is was quite well lit. But the camera set at 1/200s at f11 pretty much eliminated all ambient light.
I have just spent three full on days photographing the Body Arts Rocks Conference 2014 which was organised by BodyFX .
The event was held over three days at the Dowse Museum in Lower Hutt and it consisted of a range of workshops and competitions. I met with Nicole a couple of weeks before to go over the draft agenda and to try to plan what was needed and also where I could set up studio lights. The intention was that I would cover the workshops to document to event, as well as providing professional images of the finished looks in the competitions.
Shooting in the Dowse proved to be quite a tricky exercise as each of the four rooms that were being used had completely different light levels ranging from lots of natural light to non. They also ranged in size.
I had taken my D600 and D90 cameras with me and initially had speedlights fitted to both. The D90 was originally intended to be there as backup. The initial shots with the bare lights were too harsh so I fitted the Rogue Diffusion Panel to the light mounted on the D600. After the first shots in each of the rooms it became apparent that I didn’t need the flash in Room 4 and rather than keep swapping setting I set up the D90 for that room only.
As I have found that TTL metering with flash is not that accurate I set the flash to full power and then altered the camera setting. On the first day I played with the ISO between the rooms with mixed results but by day two I had a solid set of combinations of aperture and ISO that I knew would work in each room and also depending upon how close the subjects were too me. My aim with the shots was to get fairly close to a correct looking exposure as I knew that I could adjust it in post. I wanted a very quick turnaround of the image though so I made sure that the adjustments would be minor.
With the documentary type shots I moved from workshop to workshop and tried to record not only what the presenter was doing but also the participants.
By the Sunday I had built up a good rapport with a number of the attendees as well as a few of the models so when the time came to record the progress of the body painting competition everyone was comfortable with me being around.
I was told that BodyFX had experienced some issues with photographers in the past supplying images in a timely manner. So I made sure that this would not happen and the images from each day were processed that night and delivered the next day.
I have received quite a lot of praise for the shots that were delivered which was very pleasing. It was an enjoyable but very tiring three days.
One of the things that I firmly believe in is if someone helps you out then you should return the favour. Tiffany Williams, who is the makeup artist who helped me out on the Book Queen series, works at Tawa Hair Salon. They wanted to do a series of shots that promoted what they could do and I was more that willing to help out. The images from the shoot were intended to be used both on Facebook and in print.
So last Sunday I ended up at their salon for the shoot which consisted of three female and two male models.
Taking photographs of hair dressing is quite tricky. While it is simplistically a portrait you are trying to bring out the details in hairstyles and this can present an issue depending upon the colour of the hair.
The original intention was to shoot each model on a number of backdrops so I set up a white, blue and multi-colour backdrops in such a way so it was a simple matter of changing them. This would enable them to use the same image in different setting. As it turned out the white background was the only one suitable for all models.
I used a simple two light setup. My main light was slightly to camera right and was in a 1×1 metre softbox. A second light was fitted with a small gridded reflector and mounted on the end of a boom arm. This was then positioned either above or on the opposite side of the model to bring out the highlights in the model.
I did experience some issues with my gear early in the shoot and there was a couple of minutes of panic as the camera refused to fire. Fortunately it resolved itself however it did reinforce the need to ensure that you have back of key gear available.
I am quite pleased with the results and I hope that the client is as well.
For some time now I have been mulling over a concept that involved a model and a lot of books. Fortunately each year Heretaunga Rotary Club hold an annual book fair and my wife and I help out. Through this process I was able to grab six boxes of books that were either too old or in too bad a condition to be sold, and therefore were destined for scrap.
The books sat in my garage for a couple of months while I tried to come up with the idea. Eventually the concept emerged of a person who was so engrossed in the books that she became part of them. I had seen an image of a girl covered in print and so I showed it to Tiffany Williams who is a very talented makeup artist. Once she agreed to come on board we set a date and I cast for a model. My call was answered immediately by Grace who I have worked with on a number of occasion as a makeup artist but this was to be the first time as a model.
I had initially envisaged that we would cover her whole body in the print but then decided that only her upper body was needed in this way and that I would make a skirt to cover the lower half. I made a simple skirt out of calico and then glued pages from an encyclopaedia to it. In order to create the look of a library I moved a bookcase into our entranceway so that it could line up with another one that we already had there.
We made up a simple paste out of flour and warm water and Tiffany spent the best part of an hour gluing strips of paper to Grace. While she was doing this I built a throne out of the books and fashioned a crown.
The images came out pretty much how I had envisaged them. In photoshop I fixed up and extended the backgrounds to come up with a selection that I really liked. A couple of them will now be entered into upcoming photographic competitions.
Some times the inspiration for a shoot seems to come from random events. A couple of months ago I saw a box of old patterns in a book sale and bought them. My wife had been talking about using them to cover other objects and I instantly thought that it would be quite cool to make a dress out of them. My daughter then dashed my plans by telling me that patterns generally only contains half of a side because you folded the fabric in half to produce the whole piece.
Knowing that it would be difficult to completely cover a model in a single pattern the concept emerged of a girl that had run so late for the ball that they were literally trying to sew the dress around her.
Rather than post a casting call I approached a model (Suzie) and makeup artist (Crystal) who had both expressed interest in working with me. I had coffee with Crystal to go over the details of the shoot because I knew that hair & makeup would be quite unusual from what she had normally done for photoshoots. I knew that I would be compositing the body but I wanted the face to be from a single image. This meant that I wanted one side to be completely made up while the other was bare.
I sent a photo of Suzie and the dress to Crystal and left it up to her to come up with appropriate makeup. I did want to be slightly theatrical with the look in that I wanted large style rollers in the hair. Crystal informed me that such things are not really used anymore but what is used really didn’t work with the look anyway.
The studio I had booked for the day is in an old house so I knew that I wanted to use the room as is. I collected a number of props from home (some under strict instructions from my wife such as her dressmaking scissors were not to be used to cut the patterns) and staged it to look like a sewing room.
Suzie had brought a number of sets of lingerie so that we could see what they looked like under the patterns, which were attached to her with double sided tape. We selected one red and a black/white combination to try out. We started with the red set.
I had decided that the way we were going to shoot it was to do the patterns first and then the dress. I was shooting tethered into lightroom which meant that we could see a larger sized image than on the back of the camera.
Suzie took up different poses and once we had them I went through and selected which one I liked the best. Suzie then got changed into the other lingerie set and we shot a few images based around the poses we liked the best from the first series.
After looking at both sets it was apparent that the red lingerie set produced a much stronger look.
Suzie then put on the dress and we concentrated on getting as close to the chosen pose as possible. Lightroom made this a lot easier as we were able to compare the two images side by side. With the help of Crystal checking the images it did not take long before we had what I thought was a reasonably good match.
Once I had the images loaded on the home computer it was a simple matter of bringing them both into a single file and masking out. I increased the saturation in the lipstick and painted Suzie’s finger nails.
It was quite a fun shoot where pretty much everything went to plan. Thanks to Crystal and Suzie for their assistance in bringing this together.
The final shoot for the weekend was to help out Grace Krishnan who is an Upper Hutt makeup artist. She has realised that in her portfolio she did not have any wedding makeup images, and given that weddings is actually one of the few areas where makeup artists can actually earn a living they were essential.
I dropped off a wedding dress that I had purchased for a “trash the dress” shoot and Grace found a model. She arranged to meet with the model at 2.00pm and I would arrive at 4.00pm. The original plan was to shoot at Percy’s Reserve in Lower Hutt and then down at Petone beach.
Unfortunately events conspired to work against us. When they put the dress on the model (Jade) they discovered that it did not fit properly and secondly was completely out of style. So they went off to the local SaveMart store and managed to buy another one for $24.00.
That trip however put the whole shoot behind schedule, and given that the light was much better in Upper Hutt than Lower Hutt we entered up shooting down by the river. As the light was quite dull we used a mix of techniques. For some a bare off camera flash was bounced off a gold reflector to give the impression of a warm afternoon glow. For others I put the flash in a Softbox positioned on the end of monopod and held high in the general direction of where the sun should have been.
As photography is my passion and not my living the actual time that I can devote to it dictated by the working week. Occasionally that means that the weekends can get a little crowded. The one just gone is no exception with four separate photographic outings over the two days. I intend to write each one up as a separate blog post over the next week, but here is a teaser of the “sneak peaks”
The second shoot in the “Once Upon A Time” series called for a mermaid and was originally envisaged to be on the rocks on the south coast. This ended up being changed when I was approached by Peri who lived in New Plymouth who was very keen to take part in the shoot. She even offered to drag in 19her friend Ella (who is a very talented makeup artist). They were willing to drive the 4 hours down to Wellington, but when I told them that I was going to be in Wanganui on the weekend of March 2-3 they were happy not to have to travel so far and we arranged to meet and do the shoot there.
Now shooting away from home base always presents issues as you need to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. It is also complicated when you don’t know the locations that may be available. The former is sorted through careful planning while Facebook can come to your aid with the later. On a photographic Facebook group I asked for ideas and was told roughly where to look, so on the Saturday I set off to look at the suggested beaches.
The first location was not promising especially with two drunks sprawled out on the sand, but further along the road we found the exact location I was looking for. The only problem was that the gear all had to be lugged over a very large sanddune.
The next day we met up with Peri and Ella and headed for the beach. Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the “ideal” spot was being used by a couple of fishermen. Fortunately a 100m down the beach was another suitable location. So after Ella finished with the makeup we headed down there.
I had anticipated sun as an issue but what turned out to be a bigger one was wind. Although it was not that strong it threatened to turn the reflector into a kite making it very difficult to use. Still I managed to get the shots that I wanted and a few more.
A friend is a keen fishermen so getting a good image of a fish was not that difficult. Several hours of photoshop work and we have a couple of images that are not too bad.