Tag Archives: photography

Top placing in Wellington Interclub

Each year the six camera clubs in the Wellington region get together and hold a competition. The host club choses ten topics and then each club submits an image that meets the topic.

Like many other events, the 2020 Interclub was postposed due to Covid and ended up not happening until March 2021.

I had two images selected by the club to go into the event. The levitation one did not do very well, but my entry into the “An Emotion” category came first.

This image was shot a number of years ago. The little girl was the daughter of a model I had shot. I wanted to have her walking down the road, but when they arrived she had not slept well and point blank refused to co-operate.

The emotion in the image is real as she was really unhappy that he mommy had moved away from her.

Any before anyone gets too concerned about allowing a small child to wander down a road, this was shot in a new industrial area that was actually roped off to traffic.

Melissa and the chicken

With the ice skater and flower shoots done now turned her attention to some images that Melissa asked to be taken with one of her chickens. She changed into a a simple gypsy style outfit for this part of the shoot. The chicken had been caught earlier and it spent the time inside of a pet carriage case.

As I wanted a more classical look to the image I put a painted backdrop over the white that we have previously used and pulled out the background lights. I repositioned the main light into Rembrandt orientation and match this with a reflector to provide a little fill.

There is an old saying in Hollywood that you should never work with children or animals and I’m afraid it was true in this case. In hindsight we probably should have got the chicken out of the garden shortly before we were shooting with it, rather than leaving it in the cage through the other two shoots.

As a result when it came out of the parks it really it really didn’t want to sit still.

In fact it decided that it wanted to be a parrot and sit on Melissa’s shoulder.

Despite all the challenges it was a fun shoot.

Melissa and the flowers

A couple of days before I was to shoot with Melissa she asked me if it was okay if the second photographer (Clara) could join us at the shoot. Clara had an idea that they wanted to use but had no lighting gear. I had no problem in helping another photographer out so I said it was fine and I would show Clara how to use my lights.

Clara’s idea was to shoot Melissa topless with a bunch of flowers strategically hiding her breasts. However when she arrived the small bunch of fake flowers she had were not gonna be sufficient, so while I was doing the skater shoot with Melissa she went off to the supermarket bought a bigger bunch.

There was no need to alter the lighting setup with two lights on the backdrop and a main on Melissa. Although Clara was shooting with a Canon, the trigger I have worked seemlessly.

When I am shooting away from the studio I always take a back up camera which in this case was my Nikon d600. I also had my Lensbaby in the bag as well. I therefore decided to fit it and take some shots as I didn’t need to use the studio lights. The Lensbaby is quite tricky to focus it does produce an awesome result.

After Clara had finished I decided to take the trigger back and shoot some images of my own back on the Panasonic G9.

However in these I got Melissa to pose in completely different ways to what Clara had done so that she would have some alternative images. As it turned out these were the only images that Melissa got from the session.

I never actually saw the images that Clara shot so I’m not sure whether she actually got what she was wanting or not. Nor why she never gave any images to Melissa.

Melissa – the ice skater

The majority of my shoots generally involve me coming up with a concept and then recruiting a model to take part. However, I’m more than happy to work the other way round and for the model to suggest something that I then shoot.

This was the case with Melissa when I answered a message she posted on the Facebook group seeking a photographer. Melissa is a Wellington based model and actress, and she was looking for some updated photos to go into her portfolio. We had a brief discussion about what we would do and then set up a time for me to go to her place and do the shoot. We ended up doing three very different looks so I have split the shoot into three posts.

While I enjoy the challenge of working in a new environment it does mean that the car gets loaded with a lot of gear because he never actually know what he will actually use. Melissa had indicated that she wanted some photos shot against a white background. My seamless paper was actually too wide to transport so I settled on a white sheet.

The key to having a clean white background is to ensure that it is well lit and so I decided to position two lights on it. When shooting in my home studio my lights are in 1 m² soft boxes however there was not sufficient width in the space for me to position the two of them. I therefore removed the soft box from one light and shot with it in a small reflector. As this meant that the light was emitting more light, it was set at a slightly lower power than the other one so that the light was roughly even. The main light was positioned camera lift using the 65 cm soft box with double diffusion.

Melissa wanted to portray her versatility as an actor and so she created a character with some of the props that she owned. She turned into a former Russian Olympic ice skater who was now slightly past the prime of her career.

I have shot with actors a couple of times and they are really great as they can bring lots of different expressions to the images. Furthermore they will actually go with a concept rather than a model that you may have to direct.

Part of Melissa’s costume was a long scarf and so I could not resist using it as a mass that lets you focus solely on the eyes. I have shot such images on a number of occasions and I really enjoy the look and power that comes with them.

While not part of the original concept with Melissa as I was processing the images I realised that as they were shot against a clean background they were perfect candidates to be used in composite.

I generally try to use my own images for composite is that an April sent to be entered into competitions in this case I did not have any images of snow ice or ice drinks. So I went onto unsplash.com to search for some images. This is a site where photographers upload images and allow them to be downloaded without charge royalty free. I found a number of images that I though might work and after clear cutting Melissa out I added as the background.

While I like the image above I found that the image worked better in an interior location such as the ice rink.

I was really pleased with the way the images came out.

Marianne’s Water Shoot

When Marianne and I started discussing options for her shot she said that she wanted to have a water look and showed me some examples that had clearly been shot in a shower. I agreed that we could do something similar and set to work figuring out how to do it.

Now the simple solution would be to shoot in an actual bathroom. Have done this is the past but one of the main issues you run into with such a shoot is having enough room to position the subject and lighting to the way that you want.

Fortunately I had an easy solution. When our main bathroom has been renovated, after a burst pipe, we had completely changed the shower. I had kept the door panel from the old shower as a possible prop for exactly this circumstances. So by using some upright supports and clamps, I was actually able to replicate a shower.

I chose an area under a large tree because this minimised the amount of natural light and let me have better control over the overall light. Generally speaking I will set the camera to remove all ambient light for only flash is used. When shooting outside this becomes more difficult and therefore any technique to limit the amount of natural light helps.

The main lighting was provided by two speed lights that were positioned on either side of Marianne and aimed so that they did not spill onto the glass. In order to avoid reflections on the front of the glass I positioned a large black backdrop behind the camera. As it turned out the light provided from the flash eliminated any reflections on the side of the glass facing the camera.

As we were not planning to shoot full body we positioned a stool and Maryann set on that. That gave the advantage that the lights and focus could be pretty much locked into place.

It was now a matter of applying the water. We used a spray bottle to apply water to both the glass and to Marianne and started shooting.

The glass worked really well and it is was a relatively simple setup so I am sure that I will use it again.

I then changed the setup to see if we could use it to replicate a model being under water. I had shot Megan a number of years before but that was in an actual bath.

I placed a tarpaulin on the ground and set the door on top of two boxes that made it high enough for Marianne to go under. I then positioned the camera on a boom and lights on either side of her. We then filled the top of the glass with about 1cm of water.

To try to mimic the water effect we placed a rolled up towel under Marianne’s neck so that her head was at the right angle. We then started to do a series of images before the local insect population decided were were on their dinner menu, and we were forced to call it quits.

While I ended up with some usable images I would have to say that work is still needed before I would be really happy with the technique. There were two main issues one of which is easier to solve than the other.

The first was that there was two much distance between the water and Marianne. By the time I had focused on her, the water essentially disappeared as it was completely out of focus. The result was an image that just looked soft. The answer would be to close the distance between the glass and subject.

The second issue in not so easy to fix. That is that the body changes shape when it is lying on the ground as opposed to being supported in water. Not sure what we do with that one.

Even though I didn’t come out with images exactly as I had hoped it was still a fun experiment to do.

Marianne in the Red Dress

When Marianne and I went to the old science labs to do the levitation shoot I decided to pack another dress so that we could make the most of the location. As I expected she looked stunning in it.

We started in the same room as the other shots but this time I was using a single light which was positioned camera right in a rough Rembrandt location. This did present one slight challenge when I was shooting into a wall of windows as you clearly see in the image below.

The answer to this was to use the “double tap” technique that I have posted about in the past. Basically you take two shots in rapid fire. The flash will fire on the first but the second shot will occur before it has recharged. The second shot is then used to replace the glass in the area where the flash is visible.

We then moved to another room that had a complete wall of glass that was letting in lots of light. This meant that I could expose just for the ambient and the flash was not needed.

This had the advantage of being able to shoot multiple shots with Marianne walking. I find that option the best shots are obtained when you allow your subject to move freely rather than being posed.

In post I did have to remove some of the signs that were still on the wall as they were somewhat distracting.

I then noticed that the passageway outside of the room was rather dark so we decided to do something a little ghostly. I took the camera right up to f22 and set a 4.0s exposure. I then had Marianne stand out of the shot. When the shutter was pressed she slowly walked into the screen holding for about a second. The created a very ghostly image.

We then moved into what must have been an old freezer room which was completely dark. we used the same setting of f22 for 4s but this time I fired the flash at a very low setting twice.

This created a very unusual double exposure.

For the final series of images we moved to a passageway that ran between two of the buildings. This had glass on both sides so again we were able to shoot without the need of flash.

Overall the venue worked really well and we were able to get a good variety of shots within a small space and time.

Marianne Levitation Shoot

One of the things that I am very mindful of when working with models on my personal projects is that the images produced from them may not be what the models would necessarily put in their portfolios. For this reason I always offer them a second shoot where we will photograph their concepts. This was the case with Marianne who was my model for Pisces in the Zodiac series.

Marianne requested that we do a levitation shoot, as well as one involving a water look. Close to us is a disused scientific complex that I could get access to so I decided this would be a perfect location for the shoot.

Levitating a person is a relatively simply process and much easier than the food mentioned in my previous post. In its simplest form you take an image of the empty area and then have your model lie across a chair or stool. You them blend the two images together in Photoshop and mask out the support.

We used the dress from the Aquarius and Cancer shoot as it was quite flowy. This makes hiding the stool a lot easier and also makes the shot more believable if fabric is falling down.

The issue that we ran into was that Marianne could not balance herself far enough out. The solution was then to set the camera on a timer and I would support her. Her hair did present a problem so we ended up shooting with me in two locations and bringing those together in post.

I generally shoot my blank image at the end of the shoot so that I can be sure that the light falling on it is the same as for the other images. As can be seen in the images we were using two lights, in addition to the small amount of light coming in from the windows. The large light was in a 1.5m octabox to provide fill and the main light was a bare flash at a low power aimed at Marianne’s hair.

To make the job easier I also took a second blank with the light stands pulled back as you see they are not present in the final image.

We then turned around to produce another shot. Unlike the first this area was getting a lot of light from outside and I wanted to incorporate that in the finished result. So I set my camera at 1/100s f8 so that it would not completely overpower the light. I then positioned the Octabox camera left but had it on a very low power to only lift the shadows and not remove them completely.

The concept behind this shot was to be a lot darker and spooky so I had Marianne stand on the stool with her arms stretched out and head down.

To get her feet dangling we then moved the stool out and had her sit on the top of a ladder. While this was not in exactly the same height as the stool, it was reasonable close.

Back at the computer the three images were merged together. As she was in a long dress this make blending the feet and the rest of her much easier. I decided to exclude the lace at the back of the dress.

I used Nik Software to really darken down the image and in the process made it look like it was shot at night with the light of the moon.

Levitating Food

Each year I like to enter an image into the Wellington Interclub that has been specifically created for the event. One of the topics in 2020 was levitation. So I expected to see lots of images of models floating in the year, and decided to go with something different. That was creating an image where there was a reason for items to float, and no better reason than magic.

For the 2020 Interclub we had decided to do things a little different and some concepts were shot by a number of members working together. I had a reasonably clear idea of what I wanted and so I went online. grabbed some clip art and created a concept image. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea.

The first task was to assemble the props. The levitation of the food is done by building a frame and placing the individual levels on wire.

While not shown in the initial layout I decided that I wanted to add some floating candles to the screen. I managed to locate some cheap in the thrift shop and using nylon I tied them onto paper clips. This meant that they could be transported with tangling.

I found a silver teapot that came from my mother-in-law. I was then trying to work out how we could position it to get the angles right. While l was looking in a thrift shop I found a wire stand, and realised that if it was turned upside down, it would hold the pot at exactly the right angle and height.

For the shoot we had hired the camera club clubrooms as this gave us plenty of space to work in. The negative was that it meant that all of the lighting gear had to be taken down there. As I was not certain how much we would need, plenty much all of the lights were packed.

As it turned out three lights were used in the shoot. The main light was in a octabox camera right, with a fill light behind the camera shooting into a seven foot umbrella. A third light, with a snoot attachment was positioned between the camera and the main light, however this did not really add much to the screen.

The key to a good composite is ensuring that the lighting is consistent across the whole image. To ensure that we knew what the lighting on a finished image was we placed all of the individual elements on the table and took the photo with them. A long tube was used to substitute where the food would be.

We were shooting tethered and I had brought my 27″ iMac so we had a decent size computer to work on. One of the great features of the tether software I use is that you can place a previous image as an overlay. This means you can accurate position other elements.

Therefore the image we had taken of the whole table became the overlay for the next series of shots, starting with the food. Most items stayed on the wires apart from the cheese that did droop a little.

We knew that the trickiest element of the image was going to be pouring the tea, but in the end it was not that difficult. In fact the hardest part turned out to be getting the angles right on the cup.

If you are observant you will note that in the shots above there is a goats skull and human skull. These were placed on the table as ideas, however in the end we decided that the scene was becoming too cluttered. Fortunately I had taken a completely blank image so removing them later was not that difficult. The blank was also used to remove the stand on the cup and teapot.

After getting all of the elements on the table we then moved to the candles. I mounted the food frame on its side between two stands and the candles were placed around the scene. Again we had the overlay in place so that we could get an idea of how the candles would interact with the other elements. We then took a photo of this placement, which then was used for the next series of shots.

Now it would have been possible to use a single candle and move it around, however we did not do that. I wanted it to look authentic by using individual candles. Once we had the floating shot the candles were placed on the table and lit. Then we used a set of prongs to lift each candle in position.

We now had all of the images we wanted and it was now time to go into Photoshop. This was not all that difficult and simply involving opening the layers and masking out what we didn’t want. Using the overlay in shooting made this process even easier as the make did not not have to that precise in most case.

As I mentioned above the cup did cause some problems mainly because the angle when it was shot off the stand was slightly out.

The video below takes you through all of the layers that make up the Photoshop file.

At the end it was great to produce an image that was ver close to what had been planned. I would have liked to be able to tell you how it did in the competition. Unfortunately the second COVID outbreak resulted in the event being pushed back to March this year.

Culling and editing images

My last three posts have covered the wedding of Taylor and Kristi. I had envisaged that the story what stop with the ceremony, but as I was writing it, I realised that there was a fourth part. Namely how do you select and edit the images that she will present to the couple. This post specifically about that process as I hope it will be helpful to anybody who shoots a large number of images at an event.

Please note that this is my approach to culling and that other people have different techniques. I’m not saying that my way is any better than anybody else’s; it is just something that works for me.

It also based around the arrangement that we had with the couple for the delivery of images. The wedding was to be “unplugged” meaning that we were the only people there taking photos. We were also delivering the images electronically and then the couple would chose and print their own images. This meant that the couple were not involved in the selection process. Part of being unplugged though was a guarantee that we would deliver a “sneak-peak” set of images within a day so that the couple could share on social media.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were using four cameras to cover the wedding so the first task was to download the images from each card, and then take a backup of it before the editing even started.

To download the cards I used the “get photos from camera” import option in Adobe Bridge. It was only after all cards had been transferred that I then switched to Adobe Lightroom and imported the RAW files into my wedding catalog. Doing this two step import resulted in all of the images being in the category of “Previous Import” in Lightroom. While it would have been possible to import directly from the card it would have meant that only the last card cards images fell into this category.

In total we had just under 3,000 images imported. Now to start the process of culling.

The first stage is to remove the absolute dud images that obviously have issues with them (such as way too dark, or out of focus). I do this quickly by scrolling through the images in the library and pressing the X key to indicate that the photo was rejected.

As we had promised to deliver the sneak peak on the day following the wedding, I was also on the look out for any stellar images that we could use in the sneak peaks. These were identified by giving them a rating of 2.

Once I had gone through all of the images I had about 200 rejected images that were then deleted, and around 30 images for the peak. I reduced that down to 26 which were then exported and delivered to the clients.

It was now time to cull the images and select those that would tell the story of the day. I created a set of keywords that would enable me to split the day into various activities and which would also be used in the export later on. These were then applied to all of the images.

The keywords were then used to filter all of the images, so that I was only concentrating on each section individually, rather then trying to handle the entire day in one go.

With documentary photography you are trying to tell the story of the day. I went through each of the keywords and rated them using the following scale:

3 stars – An image that was a good candidate for the final set
2 stars – A duplicate image not strong enough on its own
1 star – Not suitable for delivery

Lightroom has two shortcuts that let you quickly view multiple images. Highlighting two images in the grid and then pressing C will bring them up side by side. Highlight more images and pressing N brings them all up. You can then select each individual image and rate it by simply pressing the appropriate number on the keyboard.

In addition to the keyword filter I was also filtering on “unrated” which gave me a clear indications of the ones that I had not looked at yet.

After all of the images had been rated, I then set the filter to only show those with a 3-star rating. I would then look through how the story flowed and if I felt that an area was light I would go back to a 2-Stars and change the rating on some of them.

Equally if I felt that there were two many images telling the same part of the story then I would downgrade some of them.

This is exactly the same process that I use on any of my model shoots and it has worked well.

The Wedding of Kristi & Taylor – The Big Day

This is a somewhat longer post that usual and it covers the actual wedding day of Kristi and Taylor. Given that it covers over 12 hours of shooting I make no apology for its length. You can read about the pre-shoot and rehearsal sessions in the previous two posts.

The actual ceremony was taking part at 3:00pm but as we were providing a full documentary coverage my shooting started at 9:00am with the bridal party starting at the hair dressers. We then moved back to Kristi’s parent’s house for the rest of day.

My daughter Samantha was shooting the grooms preparation so she didn’t start shooting until around 12:30 at the couples house. We were both carrying two cameras. I had the G9 as the main camera for the ceremony and used my older Nikon D600 to shoot the earlier events. For the shots at the house I fitted a 50mm f1.4 lens as this enabled me to shoot without needing flash. This just meant that I had to zoom using my feet.

Even something as simple as the makeup being applied is worth capturing.

With documentary photography you are there to capture the day as it unfolds. I do this by basically blending into the background as much as possible but always keep an eye out for things happening. You also need to have discussions with the bride as to whether there are items that are particular meaningful to them.

Kristi was wearing a pearl neckless from her grandmother so we ensured that we got her captured in some way.

While the majority of time shooting at the houses was simply to capture what was happening, we both had a list of images that we wanted to take. While they represented things that would have happened anyway they were arranged so that we could get the best possible image.

Taylor does not wear ties so there was quite a performance getting one tied right. In the end his brother Mark stepped in to help.
Putting the buttonholes on is another classic image. They proved quite tricky to attach. In this image Taylor pins one on his mother.

It is also important to capture details of the day. This cane include personalised items such as the named clothes hangers.

Samantha was given the task of shooting the rings and so she had my macro lens with her. The shallow depth of field that the macro lens has does make these tricky shots to capture.

The whole day seem to move quite smoothly and by 2 o’clock everyone was ready and the cars had arrived. This gave me the opportunity to get some photos outside with the family and wedding party and not have to rush about it.

While the morning has been cloudy by this stage the cloud had started to break up and so I was dealing with bright sun. This presented some challenges in how to pose the group. When it was not possible, to angle them away from the sun I used the technique of getting them to close their eyes and then open them on my countdown. This meant that they weren’t squinting.

I headed off to the church just before them and positioned myself at the front as I had practised the night before. Samantha positioned herself at the rear so she could shoot as they came in and then down the aisle. She managed to capture Taylors look when she first saw Kristi.

In many ways shooting the ceremony is to most stressful part of the day especially as it is filled with single moments that you simply can’t recreate if you miss them. The two most important are the exchange of rings and the first kiss. Fortunately I was really pleased that we managed to capture them both.

At the end of the ceremony we had allowed a 15 minute gap in our shooting to give Kristi and Taylor time to greet the guests. This also let us have time to set up for the group photos.

I had asked them to prepare a list and then to have a wrangler to get the groups together. We started with the largest first and then moved down. This meant that people did not have to hang around.

The couple wanted a photo of everyone at the ceremony so I had brought my wide angle lens and a small ladder so I could get an elevated view. We then moved through the groups. For these I shot at a lower level with the camera on a tripod. For each group I would take about a dozen photos as this gave me plenty of scope should I need to do a “head swap” later in post.

As it turned out this was only needed on one image.

With a clear list and good organisation we were able to get through all of the group photos within the 15 minutes that we had allocated for part of the shoot. That meant we were well on time. It was a real luxury that everything was running to time as I have shot weddings where the time allocated for the photos has ended up being squeezed by other events running late.

We then got into the cars and headed off to Harcourt Park to shoot the first series of the formal photos. By this time the sun had come out quite strongly and so I was dealing with dappled light on a number of occasions. This meant that I had to do a little bit fix-up’s in post on the images.

While we were now dealing with a much larger party, the time spent on the pre-shoot, enabled us to move on quickly between the locations at the park and nail all the photos exactly as we had done on the visit the week before.

We then moved up to the gardens at Ashton Norwood where the reception was being held. The staff provided a basket of food and some drinks on our arrival, and as we were running well to time, we let the party relax and eat. Personally I do not like taking photos of people eating as the facial expressions are generally not that flattering.

When we started shooting we actually did some images that we had not tried the week before. I mounted the camera on top on a light stand which Samatha held up at full height and the I controlled the camera via the app on my phone. This let us bring in the circular garden not possible at a lower angle.

As it turned out it did not get selected for the category but I have no regrets as it was a fun shoot.

We then moved around the gardens and shot at all of the locations agreed the week before. The sun was getting lower in the sky by this time so for a number of images I used it behind the party and them used my flash to provide some fill.

We were working to a timeline for the day that was very generous and amount of time allocated for the photos. We needed to get them finished by 6:20pm so the couple could have a 10 minute break before they were scheduled to make their official entrance into the reception, via a stairway, at 6:30pm.

As it turned out we were finished the photos are 5:55pm and so the order was changed around so that they would make the entrance early and then have time to mix and mingle with the guests before everyone sat down to eat.

I positioned myself at the bottom of the stairs and Samantha shot across the room from a distance. There was a point half way down where light was flooding in from a large window and Samantha managed to capture them as they came through the light. The couple absolutely loved this image.

The stairway gave us the advantage to get some higher angled shots , and I also packed my wide angle Olympus lens so that I could capture the whole reception area. Normally windows behind the bridal table are a nightmare to shoot with and I had anticipated needed to use flash to capture images of the speech. As it turned out the sun was coming in through the high windows on the opposite side of room lighting the table from the front. This gave me workable light until much later in the evening when I had to resort to flash.

Glen (Father of the Bride) speaks

We shot through the speeches and then into the first dance. For the speeches I would generally shoot the speaker, while Samantha shot the reactions of the bridal party. For the first couple of dances I continued to shoot stills while Samantha set her camera into video mode and recorded them.

Shooting video was not part of the arrangement but we like to add a little bit extra and it was well received.

The first dance

For the final shot of the evening I grabbed the couple and their unity candle and took a photo of them in the entrance way. This was only lit with the candles and a slow shutter speed. It replicated a shot that I had done at Kirsti’s sisters wedding that I knew she liked.

The last images from the evening. Lit only with the candle.

We got home around 10:30pm and my day was not over as I downloaded all of the cards into the computer and took a backup of them on a separate drive. That meant that I had three (and sometimes four) version of the same image before we started the edit.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series on the wedding. This was planned to be the final instalment in the posts. However in writing this post I realised that there will be a fourth post that quickly covers how I go out about culling and editing the images.