A Lesson in Lighting!
Apologies for being absent lately, I just haven’t been doing anything particularly noteworthy over the last month. However, just recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with a Fender steel guitar and some handmade timber guitar stands which are made by a friend of mine.
These items are both works of art but photographing them was an exercise in controlling & shaping light to show them both at their best!
I had the guitar for a couple of days before the stands arrived so I had a little play with a couple of speedlites, coloured gels and a white wall to see what I could come up with.
This was one of the early images I got before I decided to get a little more adventurous with a red gelled speedlight bounced off a wall.
I quickly learnt that polished steel will show up any imperfections pretty quickly so I spent a lot of time wiping off fingerprints! The other thing I learnt was that even though you need a broad area of light (ie bounced flash) it was sometimes the smallest angle change that made all the difference to the reflection on the guitar.
When the stands arrived I had an idea that a spotlight type of lighting similar to a stage might work ok so a snooted Speedlite held above the stand gave me the light to show the stand to advantage without light going all over the place!
The guitar need another speedlite fired through a diffusion panel on the floor to camera right. Both flashes were were in manual mode & fired by wireless triggers.
Once again it was a game of small adjustments and the best way to attack this is to adjust one flash at a time and build it up from there. The end result was what I was aiming for and my friend was more than happy!
The Mantis Guitar Stands are more a piece of furniture than something you would use at a gig. Each one is hand-crafted from re-cycled boatbuilding timbers such as Huon Pine, Mackay Cedar,Teak & Beech to name a few. Steam bent and laminated with epoxy glues, each stand is an individual.
They really are a beautiful piece of work and I hope the images do them justice! If anybody would like some more info, send an email to wokkasmith @bigpond.com
I’m off to Tasmania for a couple of weeks, see you when I get back!
Some days you just have to walk out the door!
Yesterday at a secluded bay not too far from home. Just another shitty day in paradise!
Flash Car Eh!
As I mentioned recently I seem to have fallen down a hole that involves artificial lighting, more specifically, Off Camera Flash or Strobism if you like. In theory it sounds fairly easy to get your head around but in practice it is a mine field at times! You need to look at light in a whole different way than you are used to and start to see the nuances in light which most of us take for granted.
I have been studying the Masters of Light ( Joe McNally, David Hobby and a whole bunch of others) and then gone out to try and put some of that theory into practice, with some truly horrible results at times (Slow learner!) and the rare success that keeps me going on this Quixotic quest!
I recently stumbled across a Perth photographer by the name of Brodie Butler who does some outstanding work with cars and glamorous girls and shares some of that knowledge on his blog. Although most of the work he does involves Elinchrom Studio Flash, great car images can be done with Speedlights and imagination!
I had a crack at an auto shoot the other evening with my two 580 EXII Speedlights and I am pretty pleased with the result!
Ok, it’s not a Lamborghini, but this represents a significant upward tic on my learning curve!
A lot of auto images are shot at dawn or dusk using the sky as a gigantic softbox and take advantage of the sky reflecting of the polished panels and windows of the car.
Light was not quite as well balanced on this one, but I can see what needs to be done! Now all I need is a Supermodel and a Porsche!
Once again, apologies for my absence! An infection in my leg has forced me to spend a lot of time off my feet over the last couple of weeks, so photography has been on the back- burner for a while. 😦
I was sorting through some recent images shot before all this happened when I came across this one of the ‘Blood Moon’ that happened a couple of months ago. This particular blood moon happened at moonrise on the full moon, so the moon was very dark for about 20- 30 mins after sunset. By the time I could actually see it, it was nearly dark and this image had a 30s exposure time at is0800, so there was movement in the moon over that period.
In the interests of experimentation, I decided to see if I could perhaps improve the image with a stationary moon.
After cloning out the original moon I dropped in another full moon that I had on file with a red & yellow gradient over the selected moon. After a couple of false starts I finally got the moon to look as close as possible to the original and ended up with this image.
Lest We Forget (Part 2)
Before heading to Ypres for Anzac Day, I had been doing some research to find out more about the Ypres Salient and Australia’s involvement. I discovered that about 20 km south of Ypres, amongst all the other Commonwealth War Cemeteries lay one of the only two Australian only cemeteries on the whole Western Front. Ploegsteert or ‘Plug Street’ as it was known to the Allied soldiers was the sight of some intensive combat and also one of the first places where the Germans deployed the deadly Mustard Gas.
The fact that an all Tasmanian company – with men from the same district as my family came from – had been mentioned by an official historian sealed my decision to visit the site.
Traveling through the Flemish country side, it was hard to reconcile the peaceful farm lands of today with what surely must have been the closest thing to hell on earth back then. Only the stark white headstones of the numerous Commonwealth War Cemeteries scattered over the landscape gave any indication of the bitter struggle that had happened here. it was also sobering to reflect on the fact that the remains of thousands of young men on both sides lay beneath these fields, but had disappeared, perhaps forever.
It was a suitably gloomy day as we found our way down country lanes and a final short walk through the woods to find this peaceful last resting place of some Australian Diggers, ironically in a cemetery called Toronto Avenue.
In this quiet little corner of the woods lay the immaculately kept ( as all Commonwealth War Graves are) resting places of 78 Australian soldiers (mostly from NSW). Wreaths had been laid at the central Memorial and each headstone had a small plywood cross inscribed with a message from schoolchildren back in Australia. Even in this far-flung corner of the world they were remembered by their countrymen.
At the end of one of the rows of headstones was a poignant reminder of family bonds. Private J.S Luff had left behind a young family in 1917, in 2013 his Grandchildren had paid him a visit to leave old photos of that family and to let him know that he had not been forgotten.
Lest We Forget (Part 1)
April 25th is a very special day in Australia. ANZAC Day is a day that commemorates all the Military personnel who did not make it home from the various theatres of war that Australia & New Zealand have sent troops to since the Boer War at the beginning of the 20th century.
ANZAC actually stands for the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and sent to fight in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in WW1. It was there that the ANZAC legend was born and the Australian Diggers are remembered with a traditional Dawn Service and street parades throughout Australia.
Australian troops were involved in the horrors of the Western Front in Europe, where for four long years the opposing sides waged bloody & futile trench warfare with neither side able to score a decisive victory while whole towns were sometimes wiped off the map in the heavy shelling. ANZAC Day is also commemorated in small towns in Northern France where there are many Australians buried.
This time last year, I was in Belgium and had a loose plan of being in France for Anzac Day. When I mentioned this to some Belgian friends, a town called Ypres in Flanders was mentioned as having ANZAC Day ceremonies and that the Last Post was played every evening. I vaguely remembered reading about Ypres and WW1 so I thought “Why not”?
The Ypres Salient was a part of the Western Front that is not as well known about in Australia as Gallipoli or the battlefields of Northern France, yet there are many Commonwealth War Cemetaries, large & small, scattered throughout the peaceful farming lands of Western Flanders in which Australians are buried
The Menin Gate in Ypres is a huge Memorial to the 55,000 Allied soldiers who fought & died in this part of the Western Front and have no known grave. Each of their names are inscribed on the walls of this Memorial.
Of that number, approximately 6000 are Australian, 7000 Canadian, but the majority are by far from Great Britain. It is indeed a humbling experience to walk around this Memorial and when you think about the numbers of men who lost their lives during this futile ,bloody conflict, the thought inevitably comes that those who glorify war have really missed the point & perhaps the politicians who send young people to war should be sent into the battle themselves!
Winston Churchill , when he first saw the utterly ruined town of Ypres, said that the town should be purchased and left in it’s ruined state as a reminder to future generations never to let a conflict like this happen again. The citizens of Ypres had a different view and so the Menin Gate was built to honour those who had disappeared into the Flanders mud. Sadly, the world did not learn from this madness!
After the town was rebuilt, the citizens of Ypres have honoured the Allied soldiers who were stationed in the area, every evening (apart from during WW2) by playing the Last Post. ANZAC Day draws large crowds to remember the fallen from the ‘War to end all Wars’!
For those of you still following this blog, many apologies for the lack of posts recently! I fell down a rabbit hole and have been absorbed in teaching myself about Off-Camera Flash which has been an interesting journey full of frustration punctuated by the occasional AH-HA moment! I will post some more about that at a later date once I have climbed back out of the hole and let it all rattle around in the vacant space between my ears for a while.
In the meantime, fellow blogger True North Mark recently posted some great images of Singapore which inspired me to dust off and post some images that I shot on my way home from Europe last year.
Singapore is an amazing place to photograph, my list of shots that I still want to capture is ever increasing. Hope you like them!
Skye Boatyard 2
It’s been a filthy couple of days outside due to a Tropical Low/cyclone which has been wandering around the Coral Sea for the last week, trying to decide whether it will cross the coast or not!
Recently I upgraded from Lightroom 3 to LR 5, so, while the weather has been wet & wild, I have been going back over some of my files to see what difference it makes. Without going into too much boring detail, the upgrade was well worth it with some new tools such as the Radial Filter and a revamp of exsisting tools such as the Spot Removal giving you more options for tweaking your images.
One tool I have been impressed with is the Highlight Slider which is brilliant for retaining detail in skies which I was always struggling with especially when conditions were light o/cast skies. It is nearly like finding an extra two stops of dynamic range in your camera!
The Clarity slider has had a makeover as well and they seem to have put it on turbo so it needs to be used carefully unless you want mid-tone contrast to make your images look like they have a sandpaper texture applied.
I have previously posted about this Skye Boatyard, while having a look at some files I played with these two different viewpoints of the same scene.
For me, they really bring back the bleak & forlorn weather & scenery of that day!
Go Fly a Kite II
A couple more images of the kiteboarders for your viewing pleasure!
Go Fly a Kite!
Sorry for the absence over the last month, I have been away from home for medical treatment. Not as bad as it sounds, treatment only took about an hour out of my day and then I had lots of time to explore!
Townsville is a large city in Far North Queensland which I had visited briefly or passed through many times over the years. This time I had lots of time to find out a bit more about the city & surrounding beaches.
Along the way I got to meet some people who make the most of the winds that most others take for granted or rarely notice at all. This mob attach themselves to rather large kites, step onto small boards, tear across the water at blistering speeds and if they are skilled enough will launch themselves into the air at regular intervals,usually turning themselves inside out in the process. Kiteboarders!
Visually, it is a spectacular sport,photographing it is a another thing entirely. In a past life, I shot a lot of surfing & sailboarding where the action & colour is contained and reasonably predictable, kiteboarding is much faster, less predictable, and the colourful bits (kite) are a long way from the action (surfer) making it difficult to get them both in the same frame!
These are a couple of shots I managed to get and maybe will give you an idea why these guys love the sport!
If someone tells you to go fly a kite, this is a pretty good option!
If you are into kiteboarding, and find yourself in Townsville, call in & see Marvin at In The Loop Kiteboarding, Gregory St, North Ward (near The Strand)
Well, it has been a long 6 weeks of rest & recuperation after surgery but I am slowly getting out & about more regularly!
This is one of the first images I have shot for ages and is one I have had in my mind for quite a while,but the moon hasn’t been in the right place until last night’s full moon when it all came together at last! There is something magical about the moon rising over the Whitsunday Islands on a balmy tropical evening, reflecting across the water, a sight I never tire of!
All the Best for Christmas & New Year to you all, make it a Happy & Safe one!
These are images of an area in NE Skye called the Quiraing which is an area of huge landslips. In fact the area pictured is still slipping to this day! It’s a surreal, almost Tolkiensque landscape that I had to myself for an hour or so and the howling gale just added to the wild, untamed feel of the place. On more friendly days it is very popular with walkers for obvious reasons.
Being careful not to get too close to cliff edges in case I got blown off, I managed to get a couple of shots that were fleetingly lit by the sun peeking through the racing clouds which was just above me. An exhilarating photo session indeed!
One thing I loved about driving around Scotland was the farmhouses, they just seem to suit the landscape perfectly no matter what the weather! White is the universal colour, chosen because it’s cheap and easy to re-apply. I would drive through a landscape devoid of trees and buildings and around the next corner there would sit a white house as a counterpoint to all the dun coloured grasses covering the slopes.
These are a couple of images I managed to get on a blustery morning in the north of Skye,blowing a gale and frequent showers!
It’s a pretty dramatic landscape, but the buildings help define it and give it more context, don’t you think?
I am a great one for heading down side roads just to see what’s there. In Scotland, once you are on the
road track you are commited to the end as they are so narrow!
Sometimes you find something interesting, often it’s a bust. This road ended at a rather non-descript jetty & boat ramp but as I looked around I spotted a rather different boatyard than in my last post.
Loved the Scottish colours (blue & white) as well as the rock enclosures but what really intrigued me was the stone anchors which I guess was to stop these heavy boats being blown away by the strong winds which these islands are subject to!
My first night on Skye was spent at Kyleakin which is near the end of the Skye Bridge. I decided to go for a walk out to the ruins of Castle Moil and came across this boatyard which had seen better days. The lowering leaden sky and the cries of the gulls seemed to suit the melancholy look of this place so I spent the next half hour here. Never did make it out to the ruins!
Castle Moil is in the background, legend has it that it was built in the 15th century for a Norwegian princess called ‘Saucy Mary’ who would hang a chain across the narrow strait and charge a toll on boats trying to use the strait!
Full Moon Rising
This is an image I shot at moonrise last night. I actually saw this image the night before during that brief period when the eastern sky gets a beautiful magenta glow and you can actually see the earth’s shadow.
Couldn’t do much about it at the time as I was on the road, but I returned the next night knowing I would probably need to take a range of images and blend them together to re-create what I had seen the night before.
Remember that the moon rises approx. 50 mins later each night, so I knew that the moon would be too low in the sky during the 10min of Magenta glow.
Following, are the 3 images I took to get to the final image you see above.
The first image was taken to get the best exposure for the foreground, the second image was exposed for the sky, you can see that colour happening in the sky! Notice that the moon hasn’t even appeared yet, now I just need to wait for it and shoot with a 200mm lens.
By the time it is high enough in the sky which is about 20mins later everything else is getting pretty dark but that is ok, all I need is an exposure to get detail in the moon.
After a little work in Lightroom to get each image where I want them, I import the first 2 images into Photoshop where I can exchange the sky in the first image with the darker sky in the second image using a Quick Selection and a Layer Mask
After flattening the image I apply a curves adjustment which as a side effect saturates the sky a little bit more, but I don’t mind that.
Next, I import the moon image and and reduce it’s size by 25% so it fits the image better. Select All, Copy and then Paste it on top of the blended foreground image. Using the Move tool I can then put the moon wherever I like, in this case I put it a little bit higher in the sky to better balance the image
I then change the blend mode of the Moon layer to Screen and voila, the black sky disappears leaving that moon just hanging in the sky about where it was in reality. It is a little bright so I drop the Opacity to about 70% and flatten the image.
This is what Full Moonrise actually looked like.
The drive between Fort Williams & the Isle of Skye through the Western Highlands would have to be one of the most spectacular that I have done so far! Overviews of the Nevis Range are the first that you just have to stop for before heading down to Glen Shiel.
After heading along the shores of Loch Cluanie, the Cluanie Inn is a welcome stop for a bite and coffee. Their Bar stock over 200 varieties of Malt Whiskey, which I am rather partial to but the views of the surrounding ranges was what got my attention!
I was struggling to find a decent foreground for this image and had to settle for a clump of rocks poking out of the grassland but this is typical highland country, as you can see there are not many trees.
Heading on down Glen Shiel, I spied this old bridge which is part of the old military road built around the 1750’s. Not far from here is the site of one of the last battles of the Jacobite Uprising where British forces defeated a combined force of Spaniards & Jacobites in 1719. Rob Roy Macgregor was involved in the battle and managed to evade the British.
Seriously, this whole area is a postcard around every corner!
Just having a play with a B&W version.
What do you think, does it work?
Of course,no visit to the UK or Scotland is complete without castles of which there are quite a few. One of the most famous in Scotland is Eilean Donan near the Isle of Skye but that was festooned in scaffolding.
Castle Kilchurn sits on the shores of Loch Awe, dates from around 1450 and was the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glen Orchy. Originally, it sat on a small island which is now connected to the mainland after water levels were adjusted in the Loch.
After many alterations and a sometimes turbulent history it was abandoned in1760 after being badly damaged by lightning.
Once again, weather was not my friend! it had been blowing a gale with light rain most of the day. I walked down to the Loch edge during a break in the rain and as I set up, the sun broke through. A light sun shower forced me to cover the camera so at one stage I had the castle with great light on one side, a brilliant rainbow on the other and I was getting rained on!
Of course, when the rain stopped, the great light disappeared as well! Scottish photogs must have the patience of saints!
Pushing my Luck!
“Whitsunday Magic” pictured here is a bit of a jinx ship! She was bought out from Turkey and for a few years was one of the largest vessels in the Whitsunday charter fleet, (I was briefly one of her skippers) before mysteriously sinking at the wharf. After refloating she was sold to someone who had plans to turn it into a floating restaurant down on the Sunshine Coast. After basic repairs they set off, only to have engine trouble shortly after and decided to return to Airlie Beach where the boat sat on anchor for quite a while until earlier this year when the remnants of TC Oswald created havoc along the Queensland Coast.
“Whitsunday Magic” was driven ashore along with many others and has stayed there since with the tide flowing in & out of her hull. I took advantage of the lowest tides of the year to walk out to her across the sand/mud flats & see if I could get some interesting images.
After this shot I waded out a bit for a different angle & that’s where it all went pear-shaped! While trying to extricate my sandal from the mud that I was slowly sinking into, I lost my balance, ended up on my knees and my 5D Mk II with 24mm TS-E came perilously close to going for a swim. Unfortunately they did get a bit of a light shower so the 5D is on it’s way to hospital as I type this!
I guess it would have looked pretty funny to anyone who might have been watching, but at the time………………….
A Big Week!
After much thought, I recently purchased a Canon 70-200 f2.8 L lens and it sat in my bag for about a week before I put it into action. What a great lens! Sharp as a tack,great contrast & colour and at a good price.
Since then it has been my main lens and has tackled everything from yacht racing & landscape to a bit of candid street photography.
The last week or so has been a busy period for the Whitsundays. Airlie Beach Race Week, Whitsunday Reef Festival and Hamilton Island Race Week and we have been blessed by some superb weather through it all. The yacht racing fleet has had to contend with light variable winds but when the days are this good who could complain?!
These images show some of what’s been happening.
All taken with the 70-200.
Went down to Conway Beach the other night to have a crack at some star photography, ended up doing a little bit of lightpainting and finished with an image that is my take on where the human race stands within the bigger picture!
Scotland has some dramatic scenery, especially in the Western Highlands where I spent 10 days driving around. Some of the most spectacular is in the Glen Coe region between Oban & Fort Williams.
Unfortunately i was dogged by wild weather during a large portion of this period, with strong wind and persistent light rain that made for difficult shooting much of the time. The locals were fond of telling me that I should have been there a week ago. “Aye, we’ve been suffering a drought!” was a common comment!
I returned to this spot a few times in the hope that the weather would let up just enough to make the most of this location. Cloud I could deal with, but rain was the killer!
This was a shot I was forced to make by climbing down and shooting from under a bridge to escape the light rain that was frustrating me. Not the shot I wanted,but It came out well none the less!
Just out of sight behind a small ridge is a solitary whitewashed farmhouse which really gives the towering mountain a sense of scale. That shot will just have to wait I guess!
A Late Spring
Spring was late in Europe this year, so for most of my time over there there were lots of bare trees. When you tell Europeans that our trees in Australia keep their leaves year round, they find it hard to believe! It sometimes takes a little bit of explaining to somebody who has never been downunder.
This image attracted me because of the stark shape of the oak trees against a leaden English sky leading down to the tower of St Boltoph’s church in Newbold-upon-Avon
Black and White seemed to suit this image more than dull colour and a featureless grey sky. The other cool thing to witness was how fast the leaves return when they finally started!