In more ways than one last week was a very flat week photographically speaking. After spending the previous week wandering the streets of Melbourne I returned to Wellington with a cold. The weather all week was crap and so was my main work (as we are going through a restructure). It was therefore a real struggle to find the motivation each day to ensure that I shot the image for my “photo a day” challenge. It was therefore probably not a good week to have several images up for judging in the week, and my underlying mood probably resulting in feeling particular bad when the results came out.
First up was my Audio-Visual entry in the Tauranga AV competition and the results came out on Monday. I ended up getting nowhere, which I have written about in a previous blog entry, and are still waiting on some feedback from the judges.
Then on Tuesday night I had two images being judged in the Hutt Camera Club Ladder competition. The set topic was “wear & tear. Both images got an “accepted” grade which again was disappointing as I had hoped for higher. The judge was a local professional photography who admitted that he shot weddings and therefore was not overly qualified to judge other types of work. The images and the judged comments are shown below.
Finally on Sunday I entered my “The Wolf Within” print to an image critiquing session of the Wellington branch on the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers (NZIPP) under the creative portrait category. NZIPP judge on a different way than used in camera clubs, or any competition run by the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ), so I was interested to see how the image would do there. The event was sponsored by Canon so it was a great opportunity to see what the image looked like on high quality paper. The Wellington group use the session as a lead in to the annual NZIPP Iris awards so many of the images were ones that the photographers were considering entering. The judges were aware of this therefore the amount of feedback received was actually greater than perhaps would have been if it had been an actual competition.
The image scored an average of 66 which was midway through the range considered to be of “professional standard”. I had hoped for a little more, but given that there were three very experienced judges and the comments made about the image the mark was probably accurate.
At the end of the week I felt really down about the standard of my work and I really questioned why I had bothered to subject myself to this process.
After consideration I decided that you need to invite such critique if you are to advance in photography because in it, like life in general, we learn so much more from our mistakes than our successes.
From the judging at club
I need to look at whether the photo has sufficient information in it to satisfy the viewer
If an image has strong leading lines make sure that they lead to something important
From the NZIPP judging
Make sure that your lighting will not cause confusion with the viewer
When applying textures make sure that they actually add to the image
If the rules allow for the use of photoshop then use it to remove any and all elements in the image that may distract.
When i last visited Melbourne at the start of 2013 we kept driving past a large building with a tall chimney and a lot of graffiti on it. From the look of it it was obvious that it had been abandoned. This time I ended up staying a lot closer to it and when I mentioned that I would love to take a closer look I discovered that Nathan (my daughters partner) was keen to explore as well. It was one of those locations where you never know who might be squatting so it was best to not go alone.
Now I am sure that we were trespassing on someones property but as there were no signs saying keep out and the holes in the fence were large enough to drive a car through, we felt reasonably comfortable that no one would get too upset with us looking around and taking a few photos. We first went for a look late in the afternoon but once we got inside realised that we needed more light so returned the next morning.
After venturing round the larger building we found a way into the tower block.
The ground floor was very dark and a real mess but when we made our way up a set of crumbing concrete stairs we found a marvellous area full of old machinery and graffiti. I have converted a couple of these images to black & white because I think that treatment suits them. My only regret is that I would love to use the location for a model shoot but it just too far away.
I have for some time wanted to do a a shoot that incorporated autumn colours and fallen leaves. Over Easter Saturday I managed to set up such a shoot with Kat Kellock as the model and Grace Krishnan once again providing hair and makeup.
There were several locations that I considered as I wanted somewhere that had an avenue of trees, not too much in the background and with trees that would preferably have leaves of different colours. From several possibilities I chose an area in Maidstone Park Upper Hutt which I scoped out on Friday morning, as well collecting a selection of dried leaves from which I intended to make a headdress. As i was able to find the twine I wanted I entered up platting together several lengths of rough string until I got the look that I was after.
I knew that we could be running into an issue as the weather in the week before had been dreadful and the forecast for the weekend wasn’t great either.
Fortunately the Saturday stayed dry, although the ground and the leaves were wet. This was a shoot where I had decided the whole costume and it is quite amazing what can be achieved with a couple lens of fabric. We had a few issues with makeup but eventually we got to the park. As we were outside I chose to use my 70-200mm mounted on the tripod. This meant that I was able to get images that let let Kat pop out from the background.
I had wanted to get a shot of leaves raining down which ended up being a lot harder than imagined many due to the fact that the leaves stuck together so rather than falling individually they came down in groups. Grace and my daughter helped with the process as shown in this pullback scene.
With a little manipulation in Photoshop we need up with the final image.
I then had Kat get on the ground and I shot from higher us. We actually put a tarpaulin on the ground and then covered it with leaves.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and the shots turned out great.
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.
Some years ago I found a very special little waterfall and pool beside a walk in Upper Hutt. I just knew that it would be great for a shoot. My vision was to shoot a model in flowing fabric where what she was wearing and the water would meld into a single image. Knowing that the water would be fairly cool I always reserved this shoot for Summer but had never been successful in finding someone willing to take part.
That changed this year when a Facebook group was set up specifically for models, makeup artists and photographers who wanted to collaborate on projects. I took a punt and posted the shot I had of the location and was absolutely blown away with the response. Something with the concept and location touched the right cord and within hours I had lots of models to choose from. That resulted in me developing the idea from a single shoot into two with the second using two models. As I had planned to extend Waitangi day holiday into the weekend I planned the first shoot for Friday (7th) and the second shoot for the Sunday.
One of the first models to approach me was Ashleigh-Jane who happened to live in Upper Hutt so she was offered the Friday shoot. She had recently done a shoot with another Wellington photographer that I know so I was given a good reference.
With my models I do try to meet up with them in a public place beforehand as I find that this removes a lot of nerves from the shoot itself. We did this and it was obvious that Ashleigh-Jane had thought about the shoot. After deciding that the original choice of material would not suit her complexion she left with a length on fabric that she was going to create a gown from. To ease her comfort I was happy for her to bring along a friend. You can image my surprize when the friend turned out to be Issy who was one of the finalist in the New Zealand Top Model contest. She had shot with some of the top photographers in the country, so you can imagine there was a certain nervousness on how I would measure up.
The day was perfect and the whole shoot went really well, apart from me slipping on a rock and coming away with a few grazes. We started on the rocks and then like a professional she moved into the water and then in the pool at the base of the falls. She was not concerned about the cold but was a little worried as to whether the stream had any eels in it. The location has really nice lighting at the top but was a little dark once we moved to the lower pool. This was easily remedied by getting Issy to use a reflector and shine it into the area. We used the gold side to create a very warm light.
The genesis for this workshop came out of the blue when I received an email from an American model Brynn Cook who was visiting New Zealand and basically funding part of her trip by doing shoots on the weekend. Now I do not normally pay for models, but Brynn was stunning and I thought it was a great opportunity to organise a group shoot with a number of others.
In the end 5 photographers took part. I took the role of co-ordinator/timekeeper so that everyone had a fair run at the lights.
Brynn was an absolute professional and helped put the others with suggested poses.
What was really funny was that when we started I thought I would have to cast lots to select the order as I had assumed everyone would want to go first. In fact the opposite happened and I had to choose the order.