365 Challenge #254 - Light & Drops

Today's 365 is actually a series of pics. I was playing around with a CD, oil and water drops, the macro lens and my flash. As you do :). In the end, I used no flash for these pics - the flash seemed to be blowing out all the colour, despite having dialled the power right down.

I love the abstract shapes, colours and patterns that came out of this experiment - it reminds me of planets floating out there in the universe. But, I want to keep playing with this idea. Didn't quite crack the images I had in my mind, so it'll be back to the drawing board with all the gadgets another evening :)

Star Trails over the Flumes

Dan Newton's night work is fantastic! He discovered that when doing star trails (or long exposures at night), he could generate amazing images by doing a series of short exposures and stacking them in the post-processing phase.

He reckons it gets around the issues with noise, of doing what would otherwise be very long exposures (45-60 mins or longer).

I'm really keen to try this technique!

Dan also does some pretty impressive high speed work with eggs and glass. As you do! Check out his blog too - I found it inspiring.

365 Challenge #253 - Naan Bread

Sooo...some days I'm inspired my 365 Challenge, and some days I'm just hungry. Today's shot is of the very yummy naan bread I devoured for dinner. That big chunk missing from the bread is quite deliberate...

Aurora Swirl

Aurora Swirl, originally uploaded by Iceland Aurora.
Wow - some photos are just so stunning they take my breath away. I visited Iceland a couple of years ago, with the specific intention of capturing the green swirling lights of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

Alas, my Northern Lights experience was doomed because it was 1) too cold the particular night we headed out to the Icelandic wilderness to spy the lights, and 2) it was too clear. Apparently there needs to be a bit of fog, dammit!

I came across the landscape photographer, Iceland Aurora, on Flickr this evening and I just love his work. What an awesome landscape to be able to do long night exposures on!

365 Challenge #252 - a busy bee

It was a blah day here in Brisbane - cloudy and looked like it was going to rain for most of the day. But it was a great day for playing with the macro lens on a walk around Boondal Wetlands. There were bugs, flowers and all manner of minutiae to be photographed.

This bee was busy doing its thing. Am loving the combination of the tamron macro lens and the 5D - when I blew this photo up to 100%, I could actually see individual hairs on the bees head. Who'da thunk!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Sooo....despite saying I wouldn't buy anymore camera gear this year (famous last words!), I bit the bullet, and this is the lighting kit that's heading my way. I'm not sure where I'm going to install this stuff in my very small apartment, but I'm sure I'll find it a little corner and make it feel welcome.

The purchase was inspired by my recent week with Shelton and Glynn from Creative Photo Workshops. This kit will (theoretically) let me re-create some of the cool work we did in the studio lighting and advanced flash workshops.

One of the websites that Glynn referenced as a resource, was strobox.com. I've been checking it out this morning (the perfect answer to housework-related procrastination...), and it's very cool! The site describes itself as:
Strobox is a place for all types of photographers to share how they set up that amazing photo! The easiest way to learn is to look at photos and their lighting diagrams so you can see for yourself how they were created. 
If I want to create a shot, I simply go to the strobox.com home page, select the type of shot I want to create, select the equipment I have (or think I want to use), hit Search, and a bunch of images come up together with a plan of the lighting setup that was used.

This shot below, for example, came up when I looked for "Fashion" shots, using a strobe, softbox and hairlight. The page also lists the camera settings, and where the photographer is feeling particularly helpful - the light settings. How good is that??

I'm sure that after I get over the first hurdle of working out how to set up this kit, I'll be right onto strobox looking for ideas.

Kelby Online Training rocks!

Image Copyright of Kelby Training
I have been a fan of Scott Kelby since I read his first series of digital photography books. These books are never far from my reach, and are now dog-earred, much-loved references. As Scott says, reading these books is like having your own personal tutor, telling you how he shoots a multitude of scenes, and how he handles different lighting situations. They're SO full of practical advice at whatever level of photography you're at. I keep going back to these books time and time again! Perhaps it's because I'm a slow learner...

When my interest in PhotoShop CS5 started to get a bit more obsessive earlier this year, I bought Kelby's The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers. What another awesome book! I sit with it at the computer and try techniques as I read. It's taking me a while to work my way through the book, but I practice as I go. It's also very practical and uses screen shots and before/after shots to show the effects in action.

Further fuelling my Kelby obsession, is my recent subscription to Kelby Training. For a couple of hundred bucks, you can subscribe for a year with unlimited access, to this MASSIVE library of online tutorials about pretty much any aspect of photograhy which interests you.

I have spent the last couple of nights watching tutorials about my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It's seriously easier to follow than the instruction manual! Ok, so it might seem a bit lame to watch video tutorials about which buttons do what, but the tutorials are helping me to learn more about my camera every day. For example, I have been meaning to test out the HD video function on the 5D, and when I watched a tutorial that walked me through the (very few and simple) steps, I tried it straight away. So cool!

Through Kelby Training, you also get access to tutorials about flash by photography legend, Joe McNally and many other photography experts. Incidentally, I'm halfway through Joe's book, The Hot Shoe Diaries, which discusses his amazing work with flash photography. So far, I've watched tutorials about landscape photography, macro photgraphy, studio lighting and all manner of useful stuff. There's also tutorials on how to use photo editing software, including Photoshop and Lightroom, complete with downloadable files for you to practice on. Oh, so much to learn, so little time!

I love that I can keep going back to these tutorials (I told you I was a slow learner!), and that there are tutorials for pretty much anything I want to know about photography. I love that I can watch the tutorials in my own time, and at a time that the subject is relevant to me.

If there's a photographer in your life, buy 'em a subscription to this for Xmas. They'll love ya for it.

365 Challenge #250 - who said light doesn't bend?

I walked down my hallway earlier, to find these cool shadows. I love how it looks like the light is bending when it hits the joint between the ceiling and the wall.

There are a couple of other versions of this on my Flickr photostream.

Friday's Fantasy - Moroccan Landscape

Moroccan Landscape, originally uploaded by Melanie Surplice.
Ah, Morocco! This photo brings back memories of an amazing two weeks in Northern Africa nearly three years ago.

We traversed the country, from the chaos and colour of Marrakech, to the High Atlas mountains and Sahara Desert.

This landscape greeted us as the coach driver stopped on the side of the road so we could sample some local fruit. What an amazing place! Hope it brings back memories for Paula, Susie and Billy :)

National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010 - The Big Picture - Boston.com

National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010 - The Big Picture - Boston.com

This collection has some of the most amazing images. When I see competition entries like this, I'm inspired to push on with my photography: to keep looking, to keep learning, to keep improving.

I found it nearly impossible to choose a favourite out of this lot, but I love #33, the landscape of Ki Gompa, and Laura's story (#46) is as horrific as it is inspirational.

Which images from this year's National Geographic Photography Contest do you rate??

365 Challenge #247 - Red Leather

I had an early morning play with the Tamron 90mm macro lens on the 400D today - seeing what the combination of the cropped sensor and macro lens would produce.

This is what a red leather knot on my hand bag looks like through the equivalent of a 144mm macro lens. Go figure! :)

365 Challenge #246 - Serenity on the Brisbane River

My last 365 photo showed the busier part of the Brisbane River from the view from Kangaroo Point.

Tonight's image looks out from Teneriffe over Bulimba, under a near full moon. I set white balance to Cloud to give the redder/warmer tones. I will never tire of this view.

365 Challenge #245 - Brisbane's busy river

It was a beautiful evening to be out and about with the camera. I shot this 4-minute exposure, which allowed time for at least three ferries and rivercats to glide by. Gotta love balmy summer evenings :)

365 Challenge #244 - a whole lotta pork

Ok, so it's not the most beautiful photo in the world, but it was an awesome meal tonight at Brisbane's German Club. Mum, Dad and I felt it was time for the twice-yearly glutton-fest that is slow roasted pork knuckle, and this is one of the best places in Brisbane to indulge....

The German Club is an unassuming little building next to the Gabba stadium, but it's far from dull. Tonight's highlight was a one-man Bavarian band composed of "Andrew", who played everything from traditional Bavarian oom-pa-pa music, to belting out "Down Under" and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". Picture with me if you will, a funny little man in lederhausen and green cap, simultaneously playing the organ with either an accordian, guitar or trombone, and you'll get some idea of this evening's entertainment. It was hilarious!

Even more hilarious was when Andrew the Bavarian started banging out YMCA, and the pork-knuckle eating punters did all the actions while sitting down and mopping gravy with their sauerkraut. Good grief...where to look first?

That all got a bit too noisy for the folks and I, who were actually trying to have a chat - so we adjourned to the quieter bar area, where a contingent from a stags night were doing very strange things with a small blow up doll and drinking straws. Try explaining THAT to your mother....

Then came the drive home through The Valley, which at 9pm on a Friday night, only hints at the magnitude of carnage that lurks round the streets in the wee hours. It was a very funny night - and the pork knuckle was predictably fabulous, if not calorifically and cholesterolly challenging.

Check out the German Club next time you're in this park of town!

Friday's Fantasy: Japan in Winter

It's been a few weeks between Friday Fantasy images, but here's a delicious one of Kyoto under snow, taken by Flickr user momoyama. Click on momoyama's link below to check out the rest of their stunning images from Japan.

Very excited that I'll be in Japan in two months :D

365 Challenge #241 - 1 of the 3 Vases

365 Challenge #241, originally uploaded by Melanie Surplice.
This one's for my fab friend, Kristy. This vase came as part of a 3-piece set she gave me a gift. I liked this one one it's own, although the other two are lovely too :) xx

365 Challenge #240 - A different perspective

It was a beautiful day to get out with the camera, and smell the proverbial roses. I've been to Brisbane's Roma Street Parklands a bwzillion times before (not that I exaggerate), but today I went out with a couple of missions:
  1. To only use one lens (in this case, the Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 lens) for the entire time, and;
  2. To shoot from a different perspective.
There were plenty of bugs, flowers and things I love to shoot, particularly now that I can get really close to my subjects. How much do I love the macro capabilities of this lens! Using just one prime lens (as opposed to the zoom lenses I'm far more used to using), forces me to use my feet and take more time to set up a shot, rather than using a zoom to hone in on the subject.

When I came across a bed of flowers, I tried the trusty old trick of placing the camera on the ground underneath it, pointing the lens skyward, using autofocus to latch onto something, and firing away. I'd seen shots from other photographers like this, so it's not by any means an original idea, but I do love the random shots that come out of it.

There's more pics from today's shoot on my Flickr page.

365 Challenge #239 - Puppy Portraits

George & Millie II, originally uploaded by Melanie Surplice.
"Find the light, and put them in it" and "pose the subjects for the light" were the mantra at least week's workshops. So I tried that this afternoon as I attempted to capture some shots of the gorgeous George and Millie.

Shooting dogs is hard work! This pair are hyperactive little bundles of joy, and the only way we could eventually coax them to look up and stay still for any length of time, was to dangle a food treat just above my head.

I love how it looks like George is smiling :D

365 Challenge #238 - a little ray of light

Who'd have thought such a little piece of equipment would be so fun! While it looks like a bunch of sawn off drinking straws in a protective case, it's actually a Honl Speed Grid. It sits over a portable flash unit (like my trusty Speedlight 580 EX II), and produces a narrow, concentrated beam of light when the flash fires.

Who gives a flying flash, you may ask? Well...we had fun at the recent Advanced Flash Workshop run by Creative Photo Workshops using it to simulate a sun beam when no such light existed.

In the shot below, Rob, our model, is posed for the light, which kinda looks like a random beam of sunlight. That beam of light didn't actually exist until we put an orange gel over the flash, and then the Honl speed grid over the gel. When the flash fired, it jammed the light down those little straw-like cylinders, into a specific and directional shape. Voila - instant sun beam! I thought it was very cool, and now have a couple of grids that I'm itching to play with.

365 Challenge #237 - Purple Rain

After practicing yesterday, I still wasn't getting the look I was aiming for with the dripping tap experiment. So I set up the shot again tonight and tried a different approach.

I shot this with my trusty Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the Tamron 90mm macro lens, on f/4.5 1/40, ISO-100, WB=flash. The speedlight flash was set to +2 exposure, and I used both a red and blue Honl gel over the flash to create the funky colours. The whole rig was on a tripod and fired with a cable release. This shot is definitely sharper with a tripod - that'll teach me to be lazy!

I used a white bread board as a backdrop, which seemed to carry the red and blue reflection.

I bumped up the clarityand contrast in Photoshop and voila. I still have a another shot in mind that I've yet to create, but I'll crack it...at some point.

365 Challenge #236 - Dripping tap

Droplet III, originally uploaded by Melanie Surplice.
Inspired by this week's focus on flash, I decided to experiment with the flash and macro lens to try to capture dripping water. I really should have used a tripod - this shot was taken handheld - but I kinda like the effect.

365 Challenge #235 - Return of the Cheese Grater

From models and glam, to the exciting world of macro photography. Am loving the new Tamron lens as much for portraits as for macro work!

365 Challenge #234 - creating light with flash

What a day! The grand finale - the Advanced Flash Workshop with Shelton Muller and Glynn Lavender, from Creative Photo Workshops.

Despite having had a l-o-n-g week of teaching, the boys greeted us with their usual energy and enthusiasm this morning. You only need to hang round them for just a few minutes to see how much they love photography. They're passionate about it, and it's infectious.

They outlined the principals of flash photography and built on the material from the Creative Flash Workshop, which I'd attended earlier in the year. Then we were launched into action, observing as they set up shots using a simple formula using guide numbers, aperture and distance. Going forward, my challenge will be to get out there and create these setups myself  - but I now get what has to happen. Flash is no longer the scary beast it once was. It's powerful, and I want to nail how to use it in my photography.

We played with everything from simple one-flash setups to more complex setups with multiple flashes. I could see the photographic wish list growing by the second. What amazed me was how simple it was to create some pretty spectacular effects. Can't find light to pose people in? Then create it with a single flash, backdrop and coloured gels. Looking to separate someone from a dark background? Throw some rim light around them, and voila - they pop!

As with the natural light and wedding workshops earlier in the week, we were shown how to create awesome shots by posing people for the light. Our fabulous models patiently held their poses while Brisbane's paparazzi snapped around them. We laughed a lot too - so much so at some points in proceedings, that we couldn't hold our cameras steady.

My head is full of ideas I've gleaned from the last five days. I can't wait to start practicing and seeing where the next part of this photographic path takes me.

To Shelton and Glynn, a huge thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge in a funny, patient and inspiring way. You made this week awesome!

365 Challenge #233 - show me the light!

Sunday, the day of rest - not! It was time for the Creative Photo Workshops natural light/portrait workshop.

Assembling once again in the training room of Photo Continental, Shelton and Glynn taught us some awesome ways to make the most of natural light, both indoors and outdoor - posing our gorgeous model Nicole everywhere from in front of a window, in a door, in the car park and against the wall of the local library.

Location really has little to do with awesome portraits. That was rather a large a-ha! moment for me this week. I loved that they demonstrated how to pose a person to make the most of what can be Queensland's pretty horrifically glary light.

Here's a couple of shots of the lovely Nicole. And not a flash in site! You can see a few more on my Flickr photostream.

365 Challenge #232 - rockin' the studio!

Yesterday was another huge day in at Photo Continental - all indoors for the Creative Photo Workshops Studio Essentials workshop.

We arrived to find all manner of backdrops, reflectors, tents, soft boxes, umbrellas and grids set up for 6.5 intensive hours of LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

It was also my first real road test of the Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 lens, which became my favourite portrait lens in about the first 10 minutes of shooting. It's SO crisp. Was that an a-ha moment about the benefits of prime lenses over zooms?? Methinks yes. I deliberately shot with the Tamron lens all day to see what this little baby was capable of. I was absolutely delighted with the results. You can see more of the images from the day in my Flickr Photostream.

We kicked off with a portrait of the beautiful Eve, in a simple one-light setup against a black mottled background. A soft box provided lovely soft light around Eve and gorgeous catchlights in her eyes. The second setup evolved easily from there, where we introduced a second light to highlight Eve's hair. Seems so simple! Could I replicate this if I had the gear? I think so.

We moved through various lighting situations, with Glynn and Shelton explaining the different qualities of light that soft boxes, beauty dishes and the various other bits and pieces (this is clearly a technical term) created. All the while, my credit card was haemorraging while I pondered how to create space in my very small one bedroom apartment, for a studio.

Just as we built up light, we built up scenes, where we had one person, then introduced a second - really helpful principles for virtually any kind of shoot.

There were also seamless white backdrops and tents, which gave us the opportunity to shoot photos of products. This is yet another area of interest for me in terms of where I want to take my photography, so it was great to be able to experiment with various lighting setups.

Like any of these workshops, the day was really all about light - highlights and shadows, angles and quality of light. We learnt how to soften the light to create flattering portraits of ladies, and how to harden it to carve out the features of our male model, Gavin.

It was another inspiring day of photography. It blows me away to think how many different ways there are to light a subject - natural light, available light, on and off camera flash, studio lighting etc. It makes me realise how little I know about all this stuff, but how much I want to keep learning and practicing!

365 Challenge #231 - smelling the....lavender

I love macro photography! I love most forms of photography, but I really love close ups and the intricate detail you might otherwise miss in landscapes or even in every day shooting.

I shot this sprig of lavender this afternoon in the courtyard out the front of my place with aherm, a new lens - the Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Di lens - which doubles both as a macro and portrait lens by all accounts.

It's a light little lens (light and little in comparison to my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L and 70-200mm f/2.8 L lenses). I've seen some awesome portraits come from this lens, and will put it through its paces over the next three days of workshops, where we'll predominantly be doing portrait and studio work.

This is my first non-Canon lens - I've been stalking the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS macro lens for some time, but the Tamron lens is less than half the price, and gets pretty favorable reviews. Hell, I can always upgrade if I need to at some point in the future.

It's also my first prime lens - that is, fixed length lens. Good grief, I'll have to actually move into position to take shots. I've yet to pick up the smoke machine, but it's on the list. In the mean time, I'm off to find some bugs and water drops.

Gangsters at Teneriffe - Film Noir, Woolstore Style

The boyz at Creative Photo Workshops arranged a funky Film Noir shoot in Brisbane last night, which provided a dramatic contrast between the wedding workshop earlier in the day. From romantic, intimate couple shots, we moved into the dark and moody world of gangsters, guns and scorned lovers.

The historic Mactaggarts Woolstore at Teneriffe provided the perfect scene for a multitude of sins and crimes - and that was just Shelton's singing!

Even though it was a "fun shoot", there was oodles to learn. Like how to effectively use available light such as down lights and street lights. I've walked past this particular pole in the complex hundreds of times, but I'd never have envisaged sticking a guy with a trenchcoat, fedora and gun under it, and shooting in monochrome with the contrast bumped up (in camera). No flash, just an average shutter speed and a bit of attitude.

The boys bought a portable smoke machine, which is one of the most fun props on the planet. They also bought an arsenal of lights which provided extra contrast and awesome rim lighting opportunities - all techniques that I see could be used in other shooting situations. Of course, our awesome models, Rob, Emma and Felicity made the shots, by keeping in costume and character, during what must have been some long and uncomfortable poses.

As I'd learnt in the wedding workshop, you can create some pretty awesome images that do not depend on having an awesome location. The shot below was taken in a courtyard I walk past every day, but with some contrast and shadow, smoke and strong characters, you'd never know where it was being shot.

The Film Noir workshop gave me yet more things to think about in terms of photography. I loved it, because I love black and white photos, but it also provided yet another lesson about the importance of light, and posing people for the light. Ultimately, it was also a really fun night - and that's what it's all about.

My mind is on overload with the possibilities of what I'm learning at the moment. In the mean time, I'm off to buy a smoke machine.

365 Challenge #230 - the awesome wedding photography workshop

Yesterday, I attended the Creative Photo Workshops Wedding Workshop with Shelton Muller and Glynn Lavender! And what an awesome day it was.

The morning's theory session provided a great overview of the principles of wedding photography, what sort of skills were required (and it's A LOT! There are SO many roles that a photographer actually plays on the big day), how to build rapport with everyone during the day, and a useful discussion about lens choice.

We then trouped out to Brisbane's iconic Breakfast Creek Hotel for the practical part of the day. I'm sure the patrons weren't expecting to see a stunning bride and groom, and a gaggle of photographers learning how to take portraits in doorways!

What I loved about the day was how we were shown how to create pretty amazing images in a fairly ordinary setting. We posed Eve, the gorgeous bride, in a doorway while she was sitting on a grubby plastic chair - and yet from this pic you would never know. It reinforced to me that great portraits are not about location - it's about clearing the shot of all distractions and focusing on the light on the subject's face.

We were also shown how to set up poses from which you could then shoot 6-10 images - it seems obvious now, but this was certainly not something that went through my mind when I shot my first wedding a few weekends ago. I felt like I needed to re-compose and re-meter for every shot, and realistically, you don't have that sort of time a wedding. No wonder I felt flustered!

The afternoon continued on, and we were given instructions on how to pose people for the light and how to walk them into scenes once you've set them up.  In true Creative Photo Workshop form, the afternoon finished with some off camera flash work, which these guys are just passionate about. Their enthusiasm for great creative photography and the way in which they share it with aspiring photographers like moi, makes me want to get out and shootin', and practicing this stuff even more!

365 Challenge #229 - all hail the mighty flash!

This week, it's all about flash photography!

We covered flash in tonight's session of my BCPA ,and for three days out of the next five, I'm going to be immersed in the massively exciting world of off-camera flash with da boyz from Creative Photo Workshops.

I did one of their flash workshops earlier this year, and signed up for three more as soon as I read they were heading back to Brisbane.

Watch this (perfectly illuminated) space for pics from a crazy three days of learnin', laughin' and shooting' :)

365 Challenge #228 - dessert!

365 Challenge #227 - da specs

I have a bit of catching up to do on the 365 Challenge. I still need to get these %^(*& specs adjusted. They'e sitting on my bench to remind me of this...