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Milk Shoot with Evie (NSFW)

Milk-dressOne of things that attracted me to the Lumix G9 was it’s very high shutter speed and high frame rate. While I was evaluating the camera I did a series of images freezing water at something like 1/2000 second.

Now that I had the camera I wanted to put it through it’s paces and see if I could create a milk dress. This is a relatively simple concept. Find a willing naked model. Thow milk on them taking lots of shots and then in photoshop merge them together to create a dress.

Traditionally the approach is to shoot inside in a studio using flash to freeze the action. The camera is set to the maximum sync speed and it is the shortness of the flash duration that achieves the result. This is effective but it means that you only get one image for each throw.

I wanted to do it completely different and shoot outside under natural light. This let me use a higher shutter speed and more importantly using the burst function meant that I could capture the entire throw.

A facebook post got me a willing model (Evie), a makeup artist (Ania) and two assistants (Peter & Nick), and the shot was set to kick up at 1:00pm.

Knowing that I would be dealing with the potential of harsh light I built a 2 metre x 2 metre scrim out of PVS piping and frost-cloth. All up it costs around $25. Then I bought a sheet of 4×5 metre black polythene that was used as the backdrop. Three pieces of timber were placed under it to create a small pond.

The setup with the overhead scrim and black plastic forming the backdrop and floor
The camera was tethered to the computer which was located in the shade of the garage.

As Evie was going to be wearing heels, I placed a small piece of rubber under her feet so that she would not go through the material.

12 litres of milk was purchased and left in a chilly bin overnight. Several clips that I had seen had recommended that you warm the milk. We did not do that as the forecast temperature for the shoot was 27 degrees so I figured that cooler milk wold be refreshing.

I moved my mac to the garage and tethered the camera to it. This meant that the camera was well away from the mess, and also I could see the images coming off in greater detail. Panasonic has a very good tethering app that lets you have full control over the camera. This was good especially when I discovered that there is no support in Lightroom for tethering from the camera.

Shooting outside is always a challenge. While the day had no wind, cloud kept coming over and that meant that we had to boost ISO to maintain the shutter speeds I wanted.

I had developed a plan of how to place the milk starting from the top down. It took a little time to work out what the appropriate quantity of milk was.

We used various amounts of milk at different stages to get different looks

We ended up shooting for around a hour getting around 500 photos. By this time the milk had got quite warm and was starting to smell. Evie was very grateful when I called the shoot to an end. We initially used the hose to wash her down before she headed to the shower.

Later that night I did a quick edit and picked the bets images and mashed them together. I will probably re-edit is later when I have more time.

Overall for a first effort I am reasonable pleased with the results.

A tale of two sets

Layout-finalThis year I submitted and was successful in achieving the licentiate level within the PSNZ Honours system. This was the combination of a number of years working towards the goal, although inconsistently. In this post I am going to give a fairly honest account of what happened along the way in the hope that it will help other people going for their honours.

I first got interested in applying for others in 2012 although I cannot remember exactly when. The convention in 2013 was going to be in Wellington and I always said that if I was going to the put the effort putting a set together that I wanted to be able to pick the certificate up in person.

By this time I had moved through the beginners and intermediate grades of the Hutt Camera Club winning at both levels. Based on the fact that a number of my images had got acceptance is in competitions outside of the club, and honours within it, I felt I met the minimum requirement set out in the guidelines. I also believed it when other photographers told me I was good enough to put forward a set.

As most photographers do when they begin this journey I downloaded the reference material from the PSNZ website. Unfortunately anyone who had read it will know that it can be extremely confusing at times.

I then went through my Lightroom catalogue and identified around 30 images that I thought were good enough for consideration. I was lucky enough to have Simon Woolf offer to assist me in the process and so one lunchtime I visited his Wellington studio with printed copies of all 30 images.

He laid them out over the floor of the studio rejecting quite a few, that I quite liked. After about 40 minutes we ended up with about four definite possibilities and a number of other images that even needed work or he recommended I re-shoot.

Even back then I had too much of confidence in my photography that I now recognize was bordering on arrogance. While I fully accepted that Simon had a lot of experience, I was not completely in agreement with some of the choices and changes that he was recommended.

Some of the selected images intended for the original set

At the same time there was a group of 12 other photographers at the Hutt Camera Blub who are working towards the L level. Despite being a member of the group, for some reason that I now cannot remember, I did not take the set much further. When it became obvious that a combination of the timing of the convention and the fact that I’m was not all impressed the speakers, I put the set aside and took it no further. The group was very successful and all bar one achieved their Licentiates that year.

The 2014 Malborough convention was occurring at the exactly the same time as my daughter was representing New Zealand in Roller Skating, so in the lead up to it I did not take the set any further.

However come September 2014, when the program for the Tauranga convention was released, I made the decision that I was attending and I decided to pick the set back up. Again I started with the ones that Simon had chosen and again went through the library catalogue for images shot in the last two years.

At the time it appeared that print sets had a higher success than digitals so I had every intention to submit prints. Unfortunately a series of home appliances failing around home in the December meant that this was not feasible and I would be forced to submit a digital set instead.

The problem that I was facing was that during the time since the discussion with Simon my photography had developed further and I had established that my main focus was with people. I took the set to a fellow photographer and we initially tried to integrate the old and new images but it became obvious that the old set did not represent my photographic style now.

Anyone with that familiar with the PSNZ honours system will know that there are several levels. The Licentiate is the lowest level. It is expected that you demonstrate proficiency over a range of photographic skills. At this level a theme is not required. The Associate level is at a higher level and does operate on a theme. There is no requirement to have one level before moving onto the next, and there have been a number of photographers who have been successful got their Associate without first achieving the Licentiate.

It became obvious that with the images we were now leaning towards were following a theme and my friend was of the opinion that my photography was strong enough to submit an Associate set.

Taking their advice we ditched virtually every image from the original set and selected 12 images that I believe ran together. We structured the set so that it flowed with the use of colour.

One of the recommendations in the guidelines is to seek advice from a number of people with regard to your set. I approached Bruce Girdwood who at that stage was just a member of the judge accreditation panel, and he agreed to look at the set.

He came back with the honest advice that the set was not strong enough for the Associate but that there was a possibility to make a Licentiate set out of it. We agreed to drop two images and he also recommended tweaks to a couple of other images.

It is at this point that I know I made a fatal mistake. When submitting images for competitions you should not be so in love with them that you cannot see the flaws nor take advice about them. As far as I was concerned I had selected 10 great image, the colour provided a flow between the images and I could easily reel off the various approaches that were taken amongst the ten.

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My expectations for success were so high that I actually started mapping out the images that I was going to shoot that year to submit for an Associate. It is therefore hit me like a lead balloon when I opened the letter from the Honours Board telling me that I have been unsuccessful. The letter contained the following explanation:

The board felt that the theme dad distracted the photographer from the requirements for Licentiate as set out in the guidelines, namely those relating diversity of approach etc. to demonstrate overall competence with the camera. Your individual images are mainly of a very good standard, but each did have some small fault apart from 9 which was considered to be especially strong. The last image was considered to be out of context with the rest of the set and the weakest one was identified as Jelly Belly, where the arm and pillo beyond the torso are distracting and the composition generally is not strong. You are clearly a competent photographer of the subjects you have shown but the Board would like evidence of that competency in other disciplines.

The letter made me real angry. The only thing that you could call a theme was that all of the images were of women, but there was diversity of approach. That anger continued through to the convention when I saw the successful sets. It became obvious to me that the Honours Board viewed diversity as being someone who shot different genres. When you are in negative space you also look at other people’s images and see the flaws and wonder how they got through.

About a month later after the convention I was able to get some further feedback from a person present at the judging. This strictly breached some protocols but at least it let me see where I had gone wrong.

Pauls set

The problem started what the very first image and then went downhill with the second one. This image was titled Jelly Belly and it hangs on the wall in my bedroom. I really like this image so much that I actually ignored separate comments from both my wife and a fellow club member that there were issues with. Unfortunately by the time your first two images have been marked down the set is pretty much over.

Now some people have the ability to pick themselves back up again and try the next year. Well I would like to think that was me, but the reality was that it wasn’t, and I did not do anything else leading up to the 2016 Convention in Queenstown. However seeing the honours suits on a wall there inspired me two again try. But  time I was going to go right.

In May 2016 I had the opportunity two take part in a photographic exhibition with my wife at the Odlin Gallery in Lower Hutt. In preparation for that I purchased 12 brand-new mattes with the intention that they would be used once for the exhibition and then again for a print set in the Honours. The majority of images within the exhibition were street scenes shot in various countries you have visited earlier in the year.

After my previous disastrous effort this time I have decided to not only take advice but to take it early enough maybe would make a difference. As Bruce Girdwood had been appointed to the Honours Board I approached another member of the Judge Accreditation Panel (Shona Jaray) to see if she would help. So on a  Saturday morning in July  I travelled to her farm in Waikanae with a set of 12 images that I hoped would be the base of a new set. Others were still encouraging to go straight for the Associate but the first meeting with Shona dispelled that notion.

My initial idea for the set was still too stick within the genre pf people but too separate the images quite clearly into separate groups such as conceptual,  straight and classic portraiture and Street Photography. This  fell apart when she assessed that none of the street images were of a high enough standard to be acceptable.  By the end of the session we had five images that could possible make the set.

Fortunately Shona has good contacts on the Honours Board and was able to confirm for me that diversity was not restricted to different genres, but if you were shooting in one then you had to show different approaches. As I spend just about a hour a week watching Youtube photographic videos, were was no shortage of ideas to try.

As it would happen on the way back from Shona’s place we stopped for lunch at a small cafe. The owner and location was so brilliant that I asked if I could photograph him and that image ended up in the final set. I knew that the images we had selected meet the standard portrait style so it was now time to look for the alternatives.

After seeing a video on using long exposure with studio flash,  I booked studio space on two occasions to try this approach with different models. (You can read about the first shoot here and the second one on this link). Then during a Lindsay Adler video she used a macro lens for portraiture I decided to see what I can could create.  The result was a striking image that you can read about here.

In September I was also fortunate to be able to attend a workshop at  the regional convention run by Esther Bunning on creative portraiture what the models present I had a play in capture camera double exposure. You can read more about this here)

All through this period I was also submitting images that I was considering into both club and local competitions to see what reactions they received. I was also taking into consideration comments that the judges made. For example on image was flipped in the final set as a judge said that it made a better composition that way.

This was the original “face in the cape” image

Come November I figured that my set was finished and I had an arrangement of 10 images sorted. Shona was unavailable at this time so I sort the advice of fellow club member William Wright. As before I took full size images around to his place.

The set that I had settled on

He was generally happy with the set however he was initially concerned how the image “Late for the Ball” (Bottom row second from left) fitted in with the others.

Late for the Ball_SmallThe image has been in the set right from the start. However as Shona had also expressed a similar comment, the image was pulled. This is despite the fact that this image had won a merit at the Central Region 2 years before.

William suggested that I should bring a black and white image into the set and I decided that a nude would be a good addition to the set. Bringing in that image into the set required a little shuffling round.


I thought that at this point we were almost there but then William pointed out that there was an issue in the last image on the top row. There was a  line running down the image, as well as a white object in the corner that was distracting. The line was actually the corner of the pillar.


I made several attempts to fix the image in photoshop but in the end decided to replace it  with a image taken of Sian at a body painting event, however that agains required some adjusting in the layout.

I initially came up with this layout, however when we looked at the colour tones decided that the black & white nude suited the bottom row than the top.


It was a long process, and along the way a lot of highly successful images were considered and rejected. In the end it worked because my set was one of 40 successful ones. Given that there were 100 sets up for consideration I was extremely happy with the result.

Now onto the next level.



Success with Reflections

Each year the six photographic clubs in the Wellington area have a print competition. The host club sets 10 topics and each club submits a single image. I have entered images for selection in most years, and have normally had at least one selected by the Hutt Camera Club. This year was no different and I submitted images in two categories.

The judging was held last night and I was thrilled when my entry in the “reflections” category won, with the judge raving about the image.Reflections

Afterwards the images attracted a lot of attention and I received a lot of questions about how it had been produced.

When I had seen the category “reflections” I knew that I wanted to create something quite different. A very similar  topic was used in 2011 and that time I used a mirror as well. (you can read about that one on this link).

Fortunately just down the road from work is an unusual shop selling a wide of mirrors. It is set out more like an old curiosity shop, and so i knew that it would make a great location. The shop describes itself as a gentleman’s destination shop so I knew that I wanted a particular look for the person. Fortunately I knew that Wellington wedding photographer Jason Naylor fitted that bill, and he agreed to take part.

We had to wait a couple of months to get a time that was not so chaotic for him and the shop owner. We will given full run of the shop after it closed to the public. My daughter assisted with helping set up the mirrors.

The image was lit with a single strobe placed immediately in front of Jason firing into my 7 foot parabolic umbrella. A Lumecube was placed on a light stand just behind him (camera left) to add a little separation.

The shot as presented is pretty much straight out of camera. Photoshop was used to set the tone of the image along with a little dodging. The fifth mirror was a little bit of a mistake however I quite like how it adds a little bit to the image.

Getting the light right (Sort of)- NSFW

In an earlier post I wrote the failed attempt with Sian to recreate the images of Mayer George that involved shadows and light on models. By the end of the shoot we had concluded that the shapes had been projected onto the model using a data projector rather than a gobo on the studio lights.

Image by Mayer George

Sian was willing to give it a second go so I designed a series of shapes in photoshop. We had a lot of fun with the shoot along with a few challenges, with the first of them getting the images to display.

I work on a Mac but have an older laptop that I recently updated to Windows 10. That was the one to be connected to the data projector. I do not know why Microsoft insist on making things harder to do when they update their software, but that is exactly what they. Try as we may we could not get the screen to display the image full screen without toolbars. In the end I went back to the mac and using Fotomajico created a quicktime movie of the images. That at least I could display as I wanted it.

The second challenge was to get the image into a portrait orientation rather the natural landscape. The answer was to put the projector on its side but this meant holding it rather than having it on a stand. So once again I was like a one-armed paperhanger with the projector in my right arm and firing the camera with my left.

LR_SHadow-4LR_SHadow-2LR_SHadow-3The results this time were much better than the first attempt however we still had the issue that the image was spilling from the model onto the backdrop. This does not occur in the ones that I was trying to replicate.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that images were produced by having the model go into a position in front of the projector and then the shadows are drawn so that they only fall on the model.

Maybe next time I will give that a go.

Trial, Error and Failure (NSFW)

Sometimes you think you know how something is done and then discover that you are completely wrong. This was certainly the case with a photoshoot that happened a couple of weeks ago.

It started when a model posted the image below on Facebook  from Mayer George and said that she would love to do something similar.

Image by Mayer George

I looked at it and thought that it would be relatively simple to replicate as I was sure that the photographer had used Gobo’s on his lights. A Gobo is simply a mask that you put in front of the light causing it to create patterns on the subject being illuminated.

So I set about trying to replicate it with the assistance of Sian. I produced a number of modifiers with varying size cuts in them that I planned to put in front of a single strobe fitted with a seven inch reflector.

I had thought that it would be a simple task but it turned out to be anything but. I am not sure whether it was a lack of distance to the subject, or something else but no matter how hard I tried I could not get clearly defined edges. I thought that maybe the light source was too big so change the reflector to a snoot with only a small opening.

This meant that I had to hold the gobo in place rather than tape it. As there was only Sian and I in the shoot it created a comical dance where I had to press the timer on the camera (which was on a tripod) and then quickly place the gobo.

It produced some interesting looks but again nothing sharp enough.

20151019In the end we decided that maybe a different approach had been used and then I remember a shoot I had done two years before using a data projector, and how it had given me reasonable sharp lines.

The next post will cover the second attempt at the project.

Lack of Posts

I realised that I have not posted in a month, and it is not that I have not been taking images. Far from it, but rather a combination of being extremely busy at work and then illness have meant that I have not had the energy in the evenings to write up what has been going on.

I am in the process of remedying that and in the next two weeks there will be a whole series of posts to catch up the several shoots that have been done in the model series.

In the meantime here is one from last weeks shoot.


Honours for hanger image

Last night was the third round of the club competition and I entered a slightly modified image from the one taken in my previous post.

I was really pleased when the judge made very favourable comments about it and it was awarded “honours”. Makes the sole process worthwhile.

This is the final image that was submitted.0218_L3_O_HangingAround_Small