Day 294 – Photography is about having fun

Monday night at camera club, Gavin Hoey came along and gave an inspiring talk called Snap Happiness. I have seen his talk’s before, and met him on the bluebell railway earlier this year. It was a inspiring talk and it was great how he incorporates videos of photography sessions and live edits – made to look simple.  The first time I heard hi speak I was blown away with how complicated everything was in photoshop, elements and lightroom – but this time round, it made sense, it reinforced what I knew and yet I still came away from the first half on the evening with new ideas I want to try.

In the 2nd half of the evening – Gavin set up a simple studio set up, and showed us how with one light you could set up a portrait session, and how you could then edit the image and bring out so much more to it…. he really helps inject enthusiam into photography and I came away feeling more confident about being adventurous with my own flash.

Last week I had been chatting with Freddie’s mum, and I had asked her whether she would like to do a Halloween shoot – one of my friends had sent me an image with an idea and I wanted to experiment, and I had watched one of Gavin’s videos about using smoke in the studio and I wanted to experiment.

I set up a simple studio in my dining room this time with:

  • A black backdrop and floor
  • An Olympus flash on manual with a remote trigger and an orange gel
  • An Canon flash in a soft box with remote trigger
  • A smoke machine
  • Camera with a 16-35mm lens – I wanted to get close to the baby in case he ate something he shouldn’t … I am on a crop lens so it is not really wide (multiple by 1.6)
  • Exposure meter so I can adjust each flash’s power with the trigger – something I have learned about in the studio sessions.

The results were …..  well you decide…..

Creating a scene - before Freddie arrives with lots more pumpkins. ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length
Creating a scene – before Freddie arrives with lots more pumpkins. ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length
Test Shop - pre freddie ... to see if my idea would work, using a larger pumpkin. ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length
Test Shop – pre Freddie … to see if my idea would work, using a larger pumpkin. ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length

Freddie’s mum did an amazing job of carving pumpkins. This is one of them with a flash inside – wow! I wish I had more flashes as we could have lit them like this in the photos … sadly I didn’t!

Beautiful carved pumpkin lit with a flash inside - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length
Beautiful carved pumpkin lit with a flash inside – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length

The pumpkin and the scene  … but I could not leave my flash there. I think this set up works for still life too!

The set - I wish I had more flashes ... as I could not do this and Freddie - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length
The set – I wish I had more flashes … as I could not do this and Freddie – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 21mm focal length

Introducing Freddie to the set and all hands needed – which made it tricky at times to get the shot…. all those leaves and pumpkins to smell, taste and feel… such an exciting experience – but the priority was to keep Freddie happy, safe and alive! His needs had to come before the photo and we had to stop as soon as he needed a break!

I had a helper.... timing meant sometimes she was in the shot ... ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 19mm focal length
I had a helper…. timing meant sometimes she was in the shot … ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 19mm focal length

The shot then dependent on getting Freddie to look the right way … not easy when we only mastered the skill of sitting yesterday! What a great way to celebrate!

Before the smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 19 mm focal length
Before the smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec, 19 mm focal length

Adding smoke …. would Freddie react and not be happy or would it work. We needed to make sure the area was well ventilated and take regular breaks!

Adding Smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

I just love the effect and it is different each time due to Freddie’s interest in his surroundings and the movement of the smoke, I like an element or too you have no control over… add’s to the adventure!

Adding Smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Adding Smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

All good models get to have a break and a costume change. Freddie rocked the pumpkin outfit and then he changed to a skeleton – it is lovely when mum gets on board and shops for outfits to wear!

Change of outfit - and a snack! ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Change of outfit – and a snack! ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

Have you spotted all the spiders in the photos yet – they there to aid some halloween atmosphere and it is amazing how well they balanced on the pumpkins!

A different crop -  ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
A different crop – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

Pumpkins traditionally are orange – colour popping where you separate one colour out of the image and turn the rest black and white is one way to make a photo stand out. Gavin suggested another technique on Monday – one which was about reducing all the colour except one – I kept orange, but reduced the saturation that slightly, and then he suggested altering the overall white balance of the image to tone it the colour you wanted ….  so we have a muted image … it looks timeless!

Toned in orange -  ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Toned in orange – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

As I was experimenting with the colour tones, i then took the same image and changed it to black and white, just to see the variety and the impact of the smoke on the background – it creates an interesting atmosphere!

Black and white - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Black and white – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

Back to full colour and Freddie was happy to smile and laugh amongst all the autumn temptations!

Freddie having fun - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length
Freddie having fun – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,19 mm focal length

Did I mention Freddie’s mum sourced some amazing pumpkins and carved them out and his Grandma crochet the most amazing pumpkin lid … she even took Freddie shopping to try the pumpkins out for size – and yet he fitter perfectly inside this one!! He was not that keen, so we did not get many shots but how cool is that!

We had the pumpkin resting on a stool (held firmly in place) to try and get Freddie’s legs dropping down – but it did not quite work, however a bit of photoshop magic and the background changed, a 1:1 ratio crop and some graphics added and Freddie would make a great Instagram picture or Facebook image to do the rounds on the 31st of October… and his toes are just so cute!

Did not work so well ... so I edited it a lot! Perfect facebook profile picture!
Did not work so well … so I edited it a lot! Perfect facebook profile picture!

Hanging in a pumpkin – like you do …. OK admit it – he is going to hate this when he is 18 …. would make a great poster though for a future halloween party – mum could bring it out every year …..  I went wrong here, I knocked the camera off of manual and did not notice I was in Aperture priority and did not have as much control of the light …

In a pumpkin - Adding Smoke - ISO100, F3.2, 1/40sec,16 mm focal length
In a pumpkin – Adding Smoke – ISO100, F3.2, 1/40sec,16 mm focal length

In the pumpkin, but lower down – we tried again… I got the settings right but no smoke this time and it really misses the atmosphere the smoke offered.

Amongst the pumpkins - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,16 mm focal length
Amongst the pumpkins – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,16 mm focal length

Finally we had a little bit of a roll round and practiced our new sitting talent …  I was not working off tripod as Freddie was much lower to the ground, and it was tricky to get on his eye line.  I still need more practice getting my lighting right…. but I thinking I am getting there … it is hard making sure the lights don’t tip over, are too close to be pulled over, that they can accommodate a wriggling young man and you need to spend time making mum, grandma and Freddie feel relaxed, happy and keen to participate again – I am hoping they will….  you also have to think on your feet, babies are fast, unpredictable and will do whatever they want to do…. I just have to click the shutter at the right moment, which is not always possible if the flash does not charge quick enough!

On the floor - Adding Smoke - ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,23 mm focal length
On the floor – Adding Smoke – ISO100, F8, 1/200sec,23 mm focal length
Distracted -  ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec,27 mm focal length
Distracted – ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec,27 mm focal length
Looking at mum -  ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec,23mm focal length
Looking at mum – ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec,23mm focal length
Mmm... fingers - ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec
Mmm… fingers – ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec
Lots of dribble - sitting unaided - new skill mastered on Monday! ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec
Lots of dribble – sitting unaided – new skill mastered on Monday! ISO100, F6.3, 1/200sec

Time to stop – I want to use the model again… and he was getting a little frustrated!  I need to do more themed shoots – the graphic designer in me, is now busy generating ideas – and I think Freddie’s mum might be too … although I think Dad is not so sure….

The one of the things Gavin highlighted was that photography should be fun… and I had a brilliant afternoon and it was a lot of fun.

Anyway back to the start, how did I do … love to hear your feedback.

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