June Highlights

Still here… 6 months into my Photo Challenge and I am delighted to still be taking pictures, trying new things, experimenting, repeating ideas and finding out what I like … but I also feel I am finding out where my gapping holes are … I need to

  • Think about my ISO, shutter and aperture triangle more…
  • Think about exposure and the white balance more and use my grey card properly.
  • Think about Light and Understand it more.
  • Continue learning Lightroom

Hopefully some of the ideas will be reflected in the forth coming images … and although I am going to read up more… I am going to do more practical experiments as after all….

Photography is not about having the most cameras, that only shows you’ve got plenty to spend. Photography is not about collecting photobooks, that only shows you appreciate art. Photography is about making photographs, that’s when you are a photographer.

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Day 181 – Caterpillar and Reflectors.

I took a tiny wooden caterpillar and my 100mm macro lens into the garden and experimented with my reflector.  I selected aperture priority, 100 ISO and a shallow depth of field as F2.8, I then let the camera decide on the shutter speed and I moved my reflector around and tried different ideas with it.

1/4000 sec. Direct sunlight
1/4000 sec. Direct sunlight

The sunlight causes a shadow on the underside of the caterpillar’s face.

1/800 sec - Reflector used to put the caterpillar in the shade
1/800 sec – Reflector used to put the caterpillar in the shade

The shot in the shade is evenly toned and that are no harsh shadows as the whole image is taken in shade.

1/4000 sec, silver reflector angled to bounce light on to the caterpillar
1/4000 sec, silver reflector angled to bounce light on to the caterpillar

The reflector lightens the shadow under the caterpillar’s face and there are more highlights visible.

1/1600 sec, diffusing light with the inside of the reflector
1/1600 sec, diffusing light with the inside of the reflector

The caterpillar is in shadow again, but not such a deep shadow and therefore the shutter speed is higher.

1/3200 sec, Gold reflector to the left of the caterpillar
1/3200 sec, Gold reflector to the left of the caterpillar

This reflector adds a warm glow to the caterpillar, and with it to the left it lightens up under the caterpillars face.

1/400o sec, gold reflector more to the front
1/400o sec, gold reflector more to the front

Changing the angle of the reflector and the warm glow of the gold reflection moves too.

1/4000 sec, Silver reflector to the front (oops you can see it!)
1/4000 sec, Silver reflector to the front (oops you can see it!)

The angle still means there are lots of shadows and it is not doing much in the above image…

1/4000 sec, Silver reflector
1/4000 sec, Silver reflector

In the final try with the silver reflector I have managed to change the angle so that it reduces the shadows.

So I have to be more aware of light, the impact of light, how to enhance the available light and how different reflectors have different roles in creating my images.

Day 180 – Awards Ceremony

A week or so a go I attended an award ceremony for HM Coastguard where my husband was presented with an award by the Chief Coastguard for Meritorious service. I was asked to take photos. This was a real challenge, the venue was small and crowded – outside was bright sunshine overlooking the sea, inside there was a large doom ceiling letting in sunlight, a pretty sparkly chandler and pink spot lights!! The uniform of the Coastguard is dark suits with white shirts and they obviously all wanted photos of the occasion.

I made the decision before hand to use flash on TTL, but I used a bracket to set it off camera to one side, I had hoped to use a tripod for the formal shots, and I took it with me – but there was not room in the room. I asked where the presentation was going to take place and was shown, so i set my camera up for the light level there, and was ready … the presentations began to a different spot, I had my 17-70mm lens, which meant I could shoot fairly wide and close, but there was also a table full of drinks in the way and there was no way they could be moved once they started talking. I also realised I needed to use manual mode so had to set my shutter speed to work with the flash!

Some of my favorite shots from the evening are here:

ISO800, F5, 1/250 sec - 50mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO800, F5, 1/250 sec – 50mm focal length – Manual mode

This is the Chief Coastguard reading out one of the certificates.

PhotoChallenge- Commendation-8965-1This is my hubby receiving his award. It was scary to think they were looking at me before they moved onto the next shot… and next to me was a journalist from the local paper with a point and shoot camera.

ISO400, F8, 1/250 sec - 38mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO400, F8, 1/250 sec – 38mm focal length – Manual mode

I like capturing candid shots … something that earlier in the year was not in my comfort zone, but here I had been asked to take photos. This photo is the chief coastguard talking to the town major with a special police constable in shot. It shows agencies working together, something the coastguard teams are keen to capture.

ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec - 17mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec – 17mm focal length – Manual mode

These are some of the most important guests there – the wives of some of the serving coastguard, they had just got into a group for a posed shot, I saw the momement and captured it.

ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec - 28mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec – 28mm focal length – Manual mode

The Coastguards talking together… you can see in this one how the pink lights are lighting up the wall beyond yet with the flash I have managed to make the team members shirts white… as you get further away from the camera my light fulls off.

ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec - 17mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec – 17mm focal length – Manual mode

Just capturing the informal atmosphere. It was a real challenge.

ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec - 17mm focal length - Manual mode
ISO400, F5, 1/250 sec – 17mm focal length – Manual mode

I like this photo are my eye is drawn to the young lady in the right looking towards the camera. Her smile lights up to picture.

A montage of the presentation
A montage of the presentation

These are the formal shots – 10 coastguard officers all awarded a terrific, I did not get to choose the backdrop… but I am pleased I got a reasonable photo of them all.  The other photos I took of the evening I put into a photo album online and I have shared them with the team… so it will be interesting to see if anyone buys one.

Day 179 – The Beach and Lightroom

I have been using Lightroom for a while, and having recently upgraded to Adobe CC – I thought I would actually sit down and watch some Lightroom tutorials and see how that impacts on my editing style. I have only watched the first two of this playlist so far by Anthony Morganti, but so far I am impressed with the knowledge I have gained and I do aim to watch some more.

Today’s photos were at the beach, I never knew I was heading that way… so had my camera only, but none the less I took images of the view with the histogram in mind making sure that I exposed for the highlights, so that I could recover the shadows based on what I had discovered in lightroom.

The first image today is straight out of camera (SOC) – this is taken as a raw file and I have applied no editing at all. I normally at least, straighten/crop, sharpen slightly and maybe boost the clarity…

Barton on Sea
SOC, ISO100, F11, 1/320 sec, 15-70mm lens, 23mm focal length

I then took this into Lightroom, followed the hints and tips I had discovered from the first two videos about Lightroom with Anthony Morganti, and this resulted in the above image edited to look like this:

Lightroom Edited,  ISO100, F11, 1/320 sec, 15-70mm lens, 23mm focal length
Lightroom Edited, ISO100, F11, 1/320 sec, 15-70mm lens, 23mm focal length

It is the same image, the editing is does not destruct the image in anyway, I can return to the original raw file whenever I want to, but I feel the image is of a much higher standard.

These are other photos I capture at the beach today that I have edited it Lightroom too.

ISO100, F11, 1/320 sec, 15-70mm lens, 23mm focal length
ISO100, F11, 1/320 sec, 15-70mm lens, 23mm focal length

This above image, I am shooting into sun – the beach appears to be more in shadow, the rocks loose details and are a silhouette on the horizon, where as turning so the sun is behind me (the first image) I would have capture more detail. The settings are the same in both!

ISO100, F5, 1/400 sec, 70mm zoom on 17-70mm lens
ISO100, F5, 1/400 sec, 70mm zoom on 17-70mm lens

I just love the beach. I brought this prop along with me, as I thought it would work in the beach environment … the smooth concrete, the texture of the sand and seaweed … another object to carry around for inspiration.

ISO100, F16, 1/100 sec, focal lenght 17mm, 17-70mm lens
ISO100, F16, 1/100 sec, focal length 17mm, 17-70mm lens

I shot this photo wide, thought about foreground interest, thought about trying to ensure as much was in focus in the scene as possible when composing the image, and placing my horizon on the thirds when I cropped it … it was not until I began editing it that I notice the appearance on one of my photobuddies! (grr!) This means that this image either has to be retaken or carefully edited… luckily I took more than one shot.

ISO100, F16, 1/100 sec, 17mm focal length on 17-70mm lens
ISO100, F16, 1/100 sec, 17mm focal length on 17-70mm lens

The second shot I edited slightly more to bring out the blues in the sky, I captured the waves at a different breaking point and it just shows how much timing influences your final image and what you have to work with.

I am really am understanding that photographers make images, they first capture the image in the camera by seeing what they want to photograph and knowing what settings to use to make it happen, then they develop the photos in an editing program to bring at the best of that image. Editing really is not a knew thing – in the days of film, the photograph developed the negative in his or her dark room to get the image they wanted … if you rely on the jpg version (or camera processed file) you are simply taking happy snaps further than “making” photos.

Day 178 – Food Photography

I have taken a few food photos in my blog so far, and today I baked cherry scones and lime and coconut cookies and thought it was a great opportunity to take some more photos. Recently I have come accorss a coupld of other posts about taking photos of food … and I have thought about what they have said when I took the images today.

Todays set up involved natural window light, a sheet of foam board to bounce the light back and my 50mm lens

Cherry Scones, ISO 100, F4.5, 1/20 sec
Cherry Scones, ISO 100, F4.5, 1/20 sec

The cherry scones I photographed on a plain white plate, on a wooden table… the table compliments the glaze of the scones, but I experimented and decided to go closer.

Cherry Scones, ISO 100, F6.3, 1/13 sec
Cherry Scones, ISO 100, F6.3, 1/13 sec

Moving in closer I increased the aperture as the depth of field would be reduced, and I changed my angle slightly, but by removing the edge of the plate you have no idea of scale. This could be tiny scones or huge ones.

Lime and coconut biscuits, ISO 100, F4.5, 1.25 sec
Lime and coconut biscuits, ISO 100, F4.5, 1.25 sec

This were placed on black marble… which was not big enough to cover the work area and the difference between that, the sugar paper and the table beyond is quite apparent. If I am going to take food photos I need the think more about the background medium and get some different surfaces, plates, tiles etc to photograph on. The black marble seems to suck the colour right out of these delicate biscuits.

Lime biscuits, ISO 100, F4.5, 1/40 sec
Lime biscuits, ISO 100, F4.5, 1/40 sec

A biscuit stack works much better … but the black marble does not meet the background… this shoot though has much better colour, you can see the texture of the biscuits, the crumbs and the reflection in the marble.

So what next:

  • Look at lighting
  • Look at making the backgrounds more interesting
  • Put the kettle on and enjoy a cherry scone and a lime biscuit … afterall someone has the try them 🙂

Day 177 – Baby Parrot studio shoot

A challenge today, Captain, Jack and Sparrow are three grey parrots that were born approximately a month ago… they are being hand reared and we are lucky enough to be babysitting them a few times over the next couple of months. Today I choose to just focus on one of them – and to see if I could capture the detail and character on a white background. At a month old, the African Grey parrots can not yet stand, but they are able to lift their heads and wobble about.

Today’s set up was

  • Off camera flash on maual
  • Camera on manual mode, shutter speed 250, ISO 100
  • 100mm canon lens
A variety of parrot images with my iphone in one of them to give a sense of scale
A variety of parrot images with my iphone in one of them to give a sense of scale

The challenge was to try and make the foam background white, to capture the detail of the baby parrot, to use the shallow depth of field to draw attention to the details of the month old bird and to deal with the relevant shadows … my flash light is very harsh – so a light box would have softened the light more or moving the light source further away could have been an option. I think I would like to try again, with a light box and maybe a second light source as well.

PhotoChallenge-Parrots-8780-1
The African Grey parrot was always moving around, so I used Al Servo to focus.

Getting in close with my macro lens you can see he has just been fed with the remains of dinner on his beak, and wings and dried poo on his foot.  This photo above is an example where I have missed the focus point and should have gone for the eye or increased the aperture of the camera so I would have had a bigger depth of field.

Moving around
Moving around

The parrot was moving and so was I … my phone in the background is very distracting, but I just love the detail on his chest as you can see how sparse the feathers are and how full he looks. His pose looks uncomfortable but he is only a tiny baby.

Getting closer
Getting closer

Moving in closer and you can see all the food particles on the parrots cheeks, I am just annoyed that I cropped off the bottom of his beak.

Closest
Closest

Moving closer again with my fixed lens, and I think the photo draws you in more… there is more of a story to this shot, the African grey fills the frame, you can see it is just a chick and you are left to decide for yourself the rest of the story – like who fed it, where he is etc… and I am really pleased with the catch light in his eye.

 

Day 176 – Histograms

The histogram is the graph that relates to every photo that you take, which is viewable on the back of your DSLR, in Photoshop or light room and helps you understand whether you have got the right exposure. Emma, in her photos guides has recently posted all about Understanding Histograms and this is a great place to start to experiment from.

Today I popped out in the garden and took some photos of a garden flower with my nifty 50 and my tripod, I choose manual mode, kept the ISO and the aperture the same and changed the shutter speed to increase the amount of light getting into the lens. These are the results of my experiments.

When the photos are over exposed the shutter speed is longer, and the photos are much more high key – the over exposed photos are not wrong, but the less detail you are able to recover. The extreme over exposure of the first image gives an artist impression of the flower.

Exposure and Histogram experiments
Exposure and Histogram experiments

As the shutter speed decreased – the whole range of tones became visible and the histogram is more evenly distributed. in the balanced exposure shot you have a full variety of tones. Decreasing the exposure, you loose the highlights and the histogram moves to the left.

It is important to note – that it is harder to recover the highlights in post processing, so depending on the feel of the end shot that you are looking for, it is essential that the right sort of image is taken in camera. All the above images are straight out of camera … however I decided I then wanted to edit the two different extreme shots.

Lightest exposure - converted to monochrome then highlights coloured with a pink hue, and shadows purple.
Lightest exposure – converted to monochrome then highlights coloured with a pink hue, and shadows purple.

Wow … hard to think that the camera is in the same place for both images and the only thing that changed was the shutter speed. The above image I would not even have considered being a photo a year ago…

Darkest exposure edited in Light room with the shadows darkened, clarity and vibrancy boosted
Darkest exposure edited in Light room with the shadows darkened, clarity and vibrancy boosted

Day 175 – Foxgloves in the New Forest

I regularly share photos of the New forest for my day job, and recently I came across some photos of Foxgloves in the New Forest… I asked the poster where I would found them and was told about the work of the Pondhead Conservation Trust who are a small local band of enthusiasts who are volunteering in Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst.

Pondhead Inclosure is known for it’s bluebells and its butterflies … but it also has an amazing selection of foxgloves which currently be found by the charcoal kiln.

The charcoal kiln in Poundhead Inclosure
The charcoal kiln in Poundhead Inclosure

Moving around the area I was able to enjoy the amazing foxgloves… I have never seen so many growing together in the woodland.

Looking towards the kiln
Looking towards the kiln

 

Foxgloves in the woodland
Foxgloves in the woodland

I decided to change from my Sigma 18-250 lens and work with my canon 100mm lens and see how it effected what I was able to capture, and the depth of field on a shallow aperture was more distinctive.

Filling the frame with Foxgloves
Filling the frame with Foxgloves

I then looked at moving closer and seeing if I could isolate the detail of the individual foxgloves.

The top of the Flower
The top of the Flower

 

The foxgloves
The foxgloves

It was then I noticed that some of the foxgloves were being visited by bees … and if you watched and waited you could add significantly more interest into the photo.  I was really pleased with the next two shots. It is really interesting to note that the bee does not have a straight flight path!

Bee on Foxgloves
Bee on Foxgloves

 

Bee on Foxgloves
Bee on Foxgloves

Day 174 – Two Babies

I got to take baby photos again … this time the babies were slightly older and there were two of them… so it was a bit of a challenge. I was off to the home of the grandparents to see if I could capture both babies together. I took my props, my led light, my studio kit and set up an indoor studio in their kitchen as well as taking some photos outside … but the sun was really ltoo bright and the shadows too harsh.

ISO 1250, 1/320 sec, F5.6
ISO 1250, 1/320 sec, F5.6

This is both girls together … my priority was the high shutter speed to make sure they were stationary, which means the images are more grainy than I would have liked – so I need to learn more about my flashes … to that extent, I am going to get a book about  lighting.

Isla is 4 weeks younger than Evie and has not yet mastered sitting…. so we tried her in a variety of positions.

ISO800, F5.6, 1/250sec
ISO800, F5.6, 1/250sec

Isla does not sit, so she was carefully position and balanced with an arm… which I have edited out of the photo .. so it looks like she can … she is almost there!

ISO800, 1/250 sec, F5.6
ISO800, 1/250 sec, F5.6

Grandma’s laundry basket and some balloons personalise the shoots and make it look fun! Changing to monochrome I think works well here.

PhotoChallenge-Isla-8452-Edit-Edit-12

This one was inspired by Grandad’s photos and is of Isla peeping over the sofa … mum is holding her up, and I have got my daughter to hold a back drop cloth behind.

ISO1600, F5.6, 1/640 sec
ISO1600, F5.6, 1/640 sec

In the swing in the garden … tricky to get the focus right on a moving Isla … and the bright background almost over powers the shot … but it is fun!

ISO1600, F5, 1/3200 sec
ISO1600, F5, 1/3200 sec

Grandad is a Coastguard … so it is perfectly OK to sail away in basket pulled along with balloons in your imagination…. I am sure she will be on the high seas soon. The shutter speed here there was very high as the balloons were moving in the breeze.

PhotoChallenge-Isla-8636-Edit-13
ISO1600, 1/3200 sec, F3.2

Isla in the basket… coming in close …  I was really pleased to capture such a happy smile.

PhotoChallenge-untitled-8619-5
ISO1600, F4.5, 1/400 sec

Isla balanced in a wine box looking up at Grandad. With lots of helpers – Grandma, Grandad, Mum and my daughter there was so much to look at and I needed to remind them to stay behind me and to not cast shadows in my light.

PhotoChallenge-untitled-8330-1
ISO800, F4.5, 1/250sec

Evie can sit unaided, if she is balance … but today she was tired and hungry … so it was not the best day for a photo shoot, here she is below in the same wine box… and you can see she is a bit bigger!

PhotoChallenge-untitled-8357-2
ISO800, 1/250 sec, F5

A bit too grainy, but I was trying to increase the depth of field to clarify the background, and I wanted to keep the shutter speed high as Evie was not very happy.

PhotoChallenge-untitled-8470-3
ISO6400, F8, 1/500 sec

Evie’s turn to be in a basket with the balloons. She does not look too sure, but I just love how big her eyes look and how wide she has opened them… a new experience I am guessing!

PhotoChallenge-Isla-8467-Edit-Edit-11
ISO6400, F3.2, 1/640 sec

And then there are times when you want the shoot to be over and the photographer to go home.

ISO1600, F4.5, 1/500 sec
ISO1600, F4.5, 1/500 sec

Photographing two at once was fun… not all daunting but then I am a mum to twins so it was nice having all the adults to hand them back too …

Hopefully I am going to get to revisit soon and meet Evie’s brother Dexter for a toddler photo shoot … any tips?