Back before the world went crazy with Covid-19, I joined up with members of Hutt Camera Club for a Saturday field trip to Fort Balance on the Miramar Peninsula.
Fort Balance is one of a number of gun emplacements scattered around the entrance to the harbour, and unlike Palmer Head still has a lot of graffiti. I had seem in used in lots of shoots but never got there myself. It was built in 1886 as a result of fears that the Russians would invade.
Figuring that there would be areas inside the complex I packed my Godox speed light and strobe. This meant that I could shoot by myself rather than having others shooting over my shoulder.
The trip organiser also brought along Che who is one of her regular models along with quite a collection of dresses.
When we arrived at the location I dropped the gear and spent a good ten minutes looking around before even picking up the camera. This time let me sort out the types of shots I was looking for. I also spotted two areas that I thought had good possibilities.
One was a stair case that had walls on both sides covered with graffiti. I had my wide angle lens with me and I used the distortion it created to use the walls as wings.
The second was a brightly painted wall that matched the colour of the second dress Che was wearing.
Che is only 14 and therefore does occasional slip into goofy behaviour. I thought that we could capture that with the help of one of the largest pieces of art on the walls. The result is the image below
Overall it was a pleasant outing with good company. I plan on going back to Fort Balance at some stage in the future.
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.
A couple of weeks ago we had a speaker at the Hutt Camera Club, who blew eveyne away with his portraits that were taken with the bare minimum amount of gear. He had a series of low key images that were actually taken using only natural light.
Now generally you associate low light low key images with those shot in studio, where you can control the light, but these were all shot using natural light. He mentioned that they had been shot at one of my favourite locations Palmer Head.
I thought this was a great opportunity to try something new and decided to turn it intp a workshop inviting other members of Hutt Camera club to tag along.
Kat agreed to be one model and my daughter Samantha as the other. I had been approached by a new makeup artist Wendy who wanted to add to her portfolio, so we went with a glamour look on Kat and a simple look on Samantha.
As it typical at this time of year the sky was grey and the wind quite strong, but that did not affect us much as we were shooting inside. We based ourselves in the most sheltered location so that Wendy could work her magic.
The trick to achieving the look is to place the model by a window, then doing a meter reading of the brightest element of the highlight and then dialling in 2 stops of exposure compensation.
Once people has mastered that technique we then moved to another part of the structure that had larger openings and therefore more light. Here the group practises more high key images.
Despite the conditions everyone seemed to have fun.
Last Sunday I had a studio booked for an art project I am working on so as I was going to have all my lighting gear set up decided that I would run a lighting workshop as well.
Over the course of 4 hours I took the photographers through seven different lighting arrangements using the lights and then finished utilising natural light. I had booked an experienced model for the event but she contacted me the night before to say that she was ill and not able to make it. So my daughter ended up stepping in to help and she did quite a good job.
I wanted to emphasise that lighting is an art and not a science and that the process of working with lights was to add them one at a time. I was mindful that not everyone can afford expensive studio lights so we started with arrangements that could be replicated with off camera flash using speed lights.
As I was instructing the others what to do I did not have time to shoot example images with each arrangement.
These are the seven arrangements that I demonstrated:
Using one light
One light with reflector (45degrees)
This is one of the simplest and most common lighting arrangement. A single light is set at a 45 degree angle to the subject and then a reflector is introduced on the other side at a similar angle to bounce some light into the shadows. In this and the next arrangement the main light was in a 1 meter softbox.
One light with reflector (rim)
This lighting arrangement is similar to the first however the main light is brought alongside the subject. This produces a must stronger ratio of the light between the two sides of the face.
This lighting involves a single light mounted above the camera aiming down at the subject and a reflector positioned below to fill in the shadows. The arrangement produces butterfly lighting with a shadow below the nose. For the clamshell the main light used a beauty dish.
Single Light Highkey
Normally when you think of highkey lighting you would think that it involves multiple lights. It can be produced with a single light and a couple of reflectors. In this case the single light is placed behind the subject and essentially becomes both the light and the backdrop.
In front of the subject two large white reflectors are placed and you shoot between them. The light is metered for the front of the subject resulting in a background blowing out.
For the shot ideally I would have liked to use my 1.5 meter October but I forgot to pack the adapter ring that allowed the Bowen mount to fit my Elinchrom lights so instead had to use a 1m softbox.
Two Light arrangements
Two light axis lighting
An axis lighting arrangement has the subject standing in the middle of two lights aimed on the same axis. I demonstrated two arrangements. In the first both lights have the same modifiers. In the second arrangement the rear modifier was fitted with a small honeycomb grid. In this case its was much more of a hair light.
The final arrangement show was what a referred to as “production lighting”. This is used when you wish to shoot a large number of subjects quickly and the aim is to have well lit rather than dramatic lighting on the subjects.
In this arrangement both lights are set to the same power.
As the studio we were using had large north facing windows at the end of session we simply used the window and reflector to produce images like this one, proving that you don’t need to spend much money at all.
On the Saturday afternoon of the Central Region PSNZ Conference there were three field trips scheduled. I decided to go on the one over to the Silver Stream Railway museum. Not necessarily because I wanted to shoot trains but rather because I knew that models had been arranged for this location, and that sounded a much better option than other two trips.
We had arranged for one of the old engines and carriages to be available. Unfortunately we were not able to arrange for it to be steamed up.
The last time the Hutt Camera club organised the conference the same venue was used for a field trip and that time the models had been dressed in wedding dresses as “trash the dress” had been a theme of the main speaker. This time they continued with the usual theme in that we had Kylie in full ballerina gear, Chrissy in classic 50’s outfit and a couple in steampunk outfits.
This made for very interesting shots and a fun afternoon, even if the light conditions were extremely difficult.
On the second day of the PSNZ Central Regional conference I took part is a completely different workshop that centred on Retro Pinup and was run by Ngahuia Davey at Ataahua Pinups. These are the type of pinup images that were popular in the 1940’s and 50’s that have recently come back in popularity.
The room was set up with a white seamless backdrop on one side and a red on the other. Nga has organised two models, a number of costumes and a whole lot of props. She had also provided a sheet with the most common poses used and so the groups of photographers took turns with the trigger for the lights and giving instructions to the model. As modelling lamps were turned on many of group shot without the use of the strobes.
The two models were very different is just about every aspect. Ivory was experienced in both modelling and particularly this style and so she moved effortless between the poses and even suggested her own. Sharon on the other hand was very new to modelling and was very nervous. She required quite a lot of direction and it was fairly obvious that she was not overly enjoying the experience.
It was quite a bot of fun and something that I think I would like to try further at a later stage.
Over the weekend of November 7 – 9 I was involved in organising the Regional Convention for the Central Area of Photographic Society of New Zealand. We offered a wide variety of speakers, workshops and fieldtrips that pretty much covered every aspect of photography.
On the Saturday I took part in a “Natural Light Portraiture” session run by Dave Sanderson (www.manipula.co.nz). It could have been subtitled “How to shoot at the worst time of day” as it ran right through the 11:00am to noon on a day that turned out brilliantly fine.
Now I will generally admit that I am not a natural light shooter, as I prefer the control that one can have with strobes. However if you shoot weddings then you need to be to able to shoot regardless of the conditions.
The key, as Dave explained, was to try to locate something to provide an element of shade. This could be a tree, building or even a reflector used as a diffusion panel. Alternative you shot in the open and used a reflector to reduce some of the harsh shadows that the sun would cast.
We had three models for the shoot who were all very new and the three groups took it in turn with each model. I am reasonably pleased with the shots that came out. They are nothing stella but then when you are merely practising a technique you don’t expect super results all the time.
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.
Now I do not process to be an expert but I am more than willing to offer advice so today I was able to do both, by running a workshop for members of the Hutt Camera Club and the Wellington Photographic Meeting Up Group on wedding photography. In this I was helped by Hutt Photographer Iris Kauffeld who has over 30 years of experience shooting weddings.
We started with a theory session covering all of the background that you need to contemplate before getting to the venue.
We then went inside St Johns’ Church in Upper Hutt that I has chosen for the day. The church is a very classic Anglican church which means it is incredibly difficult to shoot in. It has lead lights on all of the windows and only a single aisle so both light and movement are in limited supplies. Furthermore it is a church where flash photography is not allowed for most of the service.
We staged each major event that occurs during the church service. For parts of them I split the participants into Main and Second shooters and pointed out where each would stand. With an empty church I was able to move around quite freely.
For the first set of shots our Bride Lydia was a real trooper as I asked her walk down the aisle ten times. Groom Adrian just had to stand there for that time, but later on he got to take a full part when we came to the kiss.
The weather forecast yesterday was extremely variable but we were very lucky that we were inside when it decided to rain, and then it cleared up when we went down to the river to practise some formals which are shown in the images below.
I understand that everyone got something out of the day which is the main goal in running day.
The final tip that I told everyone was this. “Once the images have been done, the only people who must love them are the bride and groom. Do not get wrapped up with negative comments from other photographers”.
Richard Wood is an extremely talented photographer who lives in Havelock North. I first saw his work in 2011 when he won the NZIPP Photographer of the Year, and I have followed the progress he has made since. A lot of his work involves a lot of creative photoshop work, to a point where when he won his award comments were made that his talent lay more with the computer than the camera.
The following year he answered his critics in the best way possible. In addition to winning gold in the creative categories he entered several images into the “Classic” categories and received gold for them. The Classic category only allow limited post production adjustments. The dominant element in Richard’s image is the lighting so when I saw that he was running a half day workshop on both studio and natural lighting I jumped at it. That was despite the fact that it would involve a roundtrip six hours of driving to get there.
Now I have been learning lighting for quite some time and have built up a reasonable knowledge, so there is always the risk that you will attend a workshop that will only cover what you already know. The 20 people who attended were quite a mix from experienced professional to hobbyist who had been through Richard’s night courses. I have experienced workshops in the past where such a mix has proved problematic as those with limited knowledge have slowed the session down too much.
Fortunately Richard seemed to be able to cope with such a diverse group and the day progressed at a good place.
If I am honest from a technical viewpoint I did not really pick up anything new. However from the point of how that knowledge is applied I got heaps, simply from watching the way that Richard set up a shoot and arranged to lighting to get the images that he was after.
I am not going to go into the techniques that Richard taught. When all is said and done Richard needs to make a living out of running these courses and that will not be helped if those that attend go out and spread the techniques far and wide. Richard is planning running the course in other centres and needless to say that I fully recommend people going on it. Check out his website at www.richardwood.co.nz or his Facebook page.