Taking time to smell (and shoot) the flowers

I love getting outside and photographing gardens, but it's easy enough to do it indoors too! I had a few days annuak leave this week, and paid a visit to the Brisbane Flower Markets.

The range of flowers - native and exotic - was awesome, and I picked out bunches of my favourite pinks and purples in varying degrees of bloom.

At the moment, I'm going through a bit of a high key phase, and love the look of virbrant flowers against a stark white background. This is easy enough to do with a light tent, and over-exposing by a couple of stops on the Canon Powershot G12. Whack it in macro mode, and off I go.

I love close up floral photography - the colours and textures all within such delicate petals....I find it really relaxing too. Flowers don't make demands. They don't talk back or blink...they always look great, even when they're wilting or have dried.

Here's a couple of my favourite images from the last couple of days!

They're coming to take me away, hee hee!

The minifigs are well and truly taking over my 365 challenge! They're getting into everything! This week saw a potential romance blossoming in Cathedral Square, a large weird duck and a hazardous substance in the kitchen...

Jump on over to my Facebook page or Flickr stream to see the rest of the nutter minifig antics ;)

A few excuses for the delay between blog posts....

It's been a while between posts, but I do have some excuses!

Firsty, I got engaged three weeks ago - my lovely boyfriend popped the question at Sake, our favourite restaurant. He almost forgot to actually ask me to marry him after he'd presented me with a beautiful sparkly ring - but we got there in the end, and we are now engaged and planning our wedding :)

Having looked at so many wedding photos since the photography passion amped up, we both have a pretty good idea of what we like and don't like about all aspects of weddings. If I had a dollar for every time we've been asked in the last three weeks, "who'll photograph YOUR wedding?", I'd be rich! Rich enough to fund this looming wedding. For now, we have a few feelers out....I pity the poor photographer whose job it will be to get me to crack a natural smile in front of the camera (without the automatic reaction of holding my hand up, in a massive gesture of NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO). I have always been a behind-the-camera kinda girl...

The other main excuse for not posting, is that my photo challenge (and in fact, daily life) has been taken over some little people....Lego Mini Figures (or minifigs). They'll all about 3cm tall and come with a varierty of interchangeable accessories. In just a few weeks, I've amassed a collection of about 15 little people, who seem to tag along in my handbag....I never quite know where or how they're going to appear in my images, but there's a growing collection of their antics on my Flickr Stream.So far, all my minigfig shots have come from the G12 - I'm still loving this little camera. The macro lens on it is great - so versatile and LIGHT! I take it everywhere...and it seems the minifigs turn everywhere into a photo opportunity.

Since starting to shoot under the influence of these whacky little dudes, I've come across a whole bunch of minifig fanatics on Flickr. It's nice to know that there are other nutters out there. Until next time....

Reunited with my Cokin filters!

The bag of vintage camera gear my parents recently dragged out of their garage contained my two old Pentax film cameras as well as a forgotten stash of Cokin filters. Whoohoo! It was like opening a little treasure chest from the past.

In the days before I'd even heard of Photoshop, I used Cokin filters to overlay all sorts of effects to my photos. The plastic plates slotted into a bracket that screwed in to the end of the lens. There were coloured filters, neutral density filters, graduated filters to make skies really blue, and my favourite - the starburst filter!

I remember taking hundreds of pictures back then, testing out the various filters in different lighting conditions, and on many unsuspecting suspects. Picture fruit bowls in sepia. And orange. And graduated blue. Noice!

The Cokin bracket is too small to fit on to any of my current Canon lenses, but the filters work fine when I hand hold them in front of the G12...

Check out the starburst below! This opens up a whole new world of opportunities for the G12. Happy days! Or shouuld that be rose coloured glasses?

15 days in and loving the 365 Challenge!

15 days in, and I'm loving getting back into the challenge of taking a photo a day. It's a great way to learn all of the (many) functions of the G12. What a snazzy little camera! Talk about the perfect present for me!

Here are some of the photos from the second week of my 365 of 40 challenge. The week started last Sunday at Byron Bay, where I got to test out the Miniature filter. It basically keeps a horizontal slit across the middle of the image sharp, and blurs the top and bottom, to give a tilt-shift effect. Apparently looking down on subjects provides the best results....

In this photo, I tried out the macro function, which I'm loving! I'm still stalking the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L macro lens for my SLR bodies, but the in-camera macro feature on the G12 is pretty damn good for a compact camera. Hand-made Italian bickies, anyone??

More macro fun, as I reminisced about Thai food and this model of a Thai food cart we bought in Bangkok over Christmas. Love the detail in the photo considering it was all about 10cm tall.

Trying out a bit of food photography, with a *very* tasty hot chocolate from our local Italian gelato bar. Hot chocolate so thick you could stand the spoon up in it...loving the fact that the G12 is small enough to fit in my handbag, and whip out at restaurants :)

I think there's a theme starting to develop here....more macro food photography, with the hand-made gnocchi created by Michael. The only real issue with this shot was that the steam from the pasta kept fogging up the glass. Fabulous gnocci though!

Here I played around with some wilting birthday roses. The G12 has in-camera post-processing options, like overlaying colour filters. Here, I photographed the roses in colour and converted them to sepia in camera. I also used the iContrast feature to bump up the contrast. There are other filters like B/W, vivid colour, selective colour. All the more reason to keep going with this camera...I haven't yet used them all!

And finally today's shot - having a bit of fun with some film I found in the back of two of my old film cameras my parents had retrieved from their garage and decided to finally lay rest at my place. More macro photography - the camera was just a couple of centimetres away from the film.

Feel free to follow the challenge each day on my Facebook page or my Flickr stream :)

Loving the G12! Is it as good as the 7D for still life images?

It was *yet* another wet weekend in Brisbane, and I had a bit of time to photograph some of the beautiful flowers I received for my birthday last weekend.

I thought I'd experiment and shoot the same flower set up...with the G12 vs the 7D + 24-70mm L lens. We're talking about a $2,400 difference in the cost of the gear taking the photo here...

Here are the two images....obviously the composition is slightly different, but both were shot hand held in a light tent to give this high key effect....for the image shot with the 7D, I used an off-camera flash. For the image with the G12, there was no flash, I just over-exposed the image by two stops.

Can you pick which image was shot with which camera?

In case you wondering, I shot the first image with the G12 and the second inage with the 7D. For a little compact camera, the G12 and all its manual capabilities is pretty damn impressive, don't you think!

Degustation Menu at Sono - OH YES!

My birthday celebrations continued last night, with dinner at the delicious Sono, in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall.

Michael, my parents, one of my food-loving besties from Sydney and I shared the Sono degustation experience for over four hours....and every morsel of it was fabulous. I would definitely recommend the Zen option!

I loved having my new G12 on hand - far less intrusive than one of the big DSLR cameras, although we were in a private room, so it wouldn't have been a problem to pull the big guns out.

Here's what we ate, and some pictures. The photos may not do the food justice - the sake was flowing fast and furiously, but the entire evening made for a completely unforgettable Japanese meal!

* Zensai
* Assorted sashimi
* Steamed white fish with enoki mushroom and cherry leaves
* Wagyu steak grilled on magnolia leaf
* Deep-fried lobster with tea leaves and wonton skin
* Duck and prawn in yolk vinegar sauce
* Assorted sushi
* Miso soup with clams
* Dessert platter

A new decade, a new camera, a new 365 challenge!

Today is a bit of a milestone birthday for me...one of those birthdays with a whopping big 0 in it. One that throws you into another decade. One that makes you wonder where the last 40 years went...

But it's a good thing. A GREAT thing, especially when there's lots happening and lots to look forward to!

Photographically, I want to keep challenging myself, and have decided to start another 365 challenge - 365 of 40 it's going to be. A photo everyday of my big old 40th year. Or is it my 41st year?

Anyway,  I've got a new toy to do it with too....a sparkly new Canon PowerShot G12 (Thank you Michael xx). A Point & Shoot! Quelle horreur! As much as I love my 5D II and 7D cameras, I wanted a  compact camera that I could carry with me everywhere, but which still afforded full manual control. And after the fun of my first 365 Challenge I wanted to get back to taking a photo everyday.

So here is Day 1's photo (one of the first birthday cards I received this morning), and a shot of the latest Canon addition to the Surplice-Coppola household :)


Experimenting with an HDR'd panaroma

I wanted to try something I hadn't done before - a panaramo processed in HDR style. Some people hate HDR processed photos - and yep, they can be over the top, but like anything in photography, it's all subjective.

The Brisbane River, just outside my window, provided an interesting scene for a panarama - now the Rivercat stops at Teneriffe Pier, there are always boats drifting about.

I took 13 sets of bracketed shots on my 5D II, and then set about experimenting in CS5.

First, I created the three panos (the under exposed layer, the correctly exposed layer and the over exposed layer) using Photoshop's Photo Merge feature. I then tried to run those (rather enormous files) through the Merge to HDR Pro feature - it said the file sizes had to be the same....

I tried to re-size the files, but fiddling with pixels all proved a bit time consuming and ultimately didn't work. Finally, I ran the Merge to HDR Pro for each of the 13 bracketed shots, and stitched them all together in PhotoMerge to create this pano.....

I need to work out how to control the colour banding a bit more effectively, but it gave me a feel for the process. I'm keen to try it again - perhaps on a tripod and at night, might make an interesting alternative. In any case, it was great to be out at that time of the day with the camera. 

The large version of the image is available on my Flickr stream.

Lemon bubbles....wiling away a wet day in Brisbane

It's a wet old day here in Brisbane, so I decided to get out the macro lens and play with some liquid macro photography!

I was inspired by one of the macro tutorials in a Kelby Training online tutorial, to shoot a lemon with bubbles.

The set up was easy enough - light tent, with a black background. My 5D II + 90mm Tamron lenses was mounted on a tripod, and I placed a square vase on an upturned bowl (to raise the vase off the bottom of the light tent).

My speedlight, sitting behind the whole set up, was dialed down to 1/64 power and triggered remotely.  Then I just experimented with aperture for different effects.

I did a few test shots with the lemon clipped into place to check focus, then added a litre of soda water, which bubbled around the lemon.

Here are the final results (including the set up of the shoot) :)

ISO 800, f/4.5, 1/6 sec
ISO 800, f/8, 1/80 sec

Anzac Day 2012 - Lest We Forget

It's Anzac Day 2012, and I've just got back home after today's Dawn Service in Anzac Square. Doing the Dawn Service has become a bit of a tradition since I visited Gallipoli in May 2008.

This was a blog post I wrote after attending my first Dawn Service in Brisbane in 2009. Reading over it again, even now, I can imagine being right back there on the Gallipoli peninsula. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life - and the point at which I really understood what the Anzac spirit - and being Australian - is about.

I'm heading into the city again to see the march through Brisbane. Of course, I'll be taking my camera!

Lest we forget.

* * * * *
Last May, on a holiday to Turkey, I visited the legendary Gallipoli: a peninsula in the North West of the country.

Perfect, clear skies framed our view. The area was calm, peaceful and spectacularly picturesque - glistening blue sea out to the front of us, dramatic cliffs and bushland to the rear.

However, this idyllic setting belied the hell that it bore witness to some 94 years earlier.

Our coach pulled over to the side of the road nearest the water. There it was: one word in bold, simple letters: A N Z A C.

Profound emotion took over me - I felt overwhelming sadness and began to sob. I had lost no relatives in the battle that began there at 4.28am on April 25, 1915 - indeed my grandfathers and forebears had not even fought in Turkey nor had they died in any war.

But I cried for the ANZACS - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who landed on that small beach in the first joint military operation between the two countries. Theirs was part of a broader campaign mounted by the British and French to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul and secure a sea route to Russia.

I cried at the futility of the situation the ANZACs faced, many gunned down as they emerged from boats that had taken them to shore, thousands more killed in a bloody battle up and down those towering cliffs.

It is said that this battle forced the birth of consciousness of Australia and New Zealand. It was a place where our young men died; and a place where the ANZAC legend was born.

We departed Anzac Cove and wound our way up the hill to Lone Pine, the Australian memorial and cemetary at the top of the peninsula. The poignant melody of the Last Post started to replay itself in my mind. I tried to imagine what those young soldiers must have seen - or what some of them almost saw. The gravestone of one R.H Stevens said he was killed the very day he arrived on Turkish soil.

Chanuk Bair, New Zealand's ANZAC memorial and cemetary at Gallipoli, and the Turkish cemetary were equally moving. Those headstones represented way too many lives cut short, wherever they had come from.

Our young Turkish guide and coach driver showed so much compassion and respect for the few Australians and New Zealanders on the tour that day; indeed Ceylan and Burhan, both beautiful, warm souls, had hosted us in their beautiful country for the previous two weeks. It made me cry all the more to think that our countries had once been at war.

The battle to retain control of the Gelibolu peninsula and the Straits of the Dardanelles was also one of the defining moments in Turkish history. I believe that because Turkey, Australia and New Zealand share such a history; we also share a future in always remembering what that history means.

The bond between the ordinary soldiers and sailors who fought at Gallipoli was expressed this way by the President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934, on a large stone monument at Anzac Cove:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom, and are in peace,
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well"

My visit to Gallipoli had a profound impact on me. I had heard much about the ANZAC spirit and the legendary Gallipoli from my early childhood, but had never really personally connected with it. On that day, I felt as intensely proud to be Australian as I felt homesick, sad, humble and grateful. I longed to be back home with my family under blue skies and amongst the gum trees - but I now knew deeply why I would personally never forget those who fought for my country's freedom.

I went to my first Anzac Day Dawn Service last Saturday and was inspired by how many people of all ages packed into Brisbane's Anzac Square at such an early hour.

As the old diggers marched solemnly up to the Shrine of Rembrance to the drumbeat of the military band, I thought very fondly of my time in Turkey. Tears unashamedly rolled down my face as a buggler sounded the Last Post, before the two-minute silence. The mood was solemn, reflective. The silence was palpable.

I feel some regret that it took it nearly 37 years for me to really "get" Anzac Day and all that it represents; but, better late than never I suppose.

I will certainly watch future Anzac Day services with a different perspective, just as I will feel a bit more appreciation each time I walk past Anzac Square or see an Australian soldier. But I think it's the deeply ingrained Gallipoli experience - memories of my day there and of the even more extraordinary events that took place in 1915, that will remind me why we must always remember them.

My first foray into time lapse photography

There are some amazing time lapse photography sequences floating round the net, so I was inspired to attempt my own after a shoot out at Dicky Beach this weekend.

It was an amazing, dark night, with spectacular clouds and millions of stars. Ships steamed across the  horizon and aircraft cut through the sky, all the while, clouds crashed around the wreck of the S.S Dicky. It was eerie. Moody. Beautiful!

The set up was as follows:
- Canon 5D II with the 24-70mm lens mounted on a tripod and cable release
- ISO 800, f/3.2, 30 second exposures
- 125 consecutive RAW images converted to JPEG format

In post production, I reduced noise, changed the colour temperature to tungsten, and bumped up contrast slightly.

I then used Windows Live Movie Maker to "stitch" the images together, video style.

I wish I'd have taken more images as there was so much going on between ships, planes and waves! Anyway, here's the finished product! I'll definitely be trying this again :)

Click on the image below, which takes you to the 36-second video on my Flickr stream.

Dicky Beach under the stars

Somewhere over the rainbow!

Long time no blog! Life is getting in the way of a perfectly good passion, so the best I can do tonight is post some images of a double rainbow I took last Friday evening. I haven't seen a rainbow this vibrant for a long time let alone a double banger, AND right outside my window.

Rainbows...one of nature's beautiful wonders :)

Zite - one of my favourite iPad Apps for photography

I love my iPad 2. I use it far more than I ever thought I would. What I love most about it is that I can have news and blog feeds, web browser, tools and utilities altogether in one place, and it's easier to look at than my iPhone.

Zite is one of the apps I use everyday (and it's free!). It aggregates blog feeds and news posts about subjects of my choice - I have feeds set up for photography (of course), gadgets, social media, marketing and a few others.

Not only does it feed in posts from the blogs I've chosen to follow through Google Reader (it hooks in to a number of popular RSS feed readers), but it then discovers more blogs with similar or relevant content. I've come across some very helpful and interesting articles as a result of Zite's discovery tools.

I love how it lays out the articles magazine-style. It includes images and headlines, and then you can click into each article to read the full post.

Within each article you can share to a bunch of social media sites, email the link to friends, or use the Read it Later to bookmark those posts you like best, and want to be able to refer to later.

I find this "personalised magazine" style of presenting content lets me scan through large numbers of stories (as you would flick through a newspaper) and read more about the ones that most interest me! It's perfect for reading when I'm on the bus, or anywhere where I find myself with a few spare minutes.

If you have an iPad, check it out!

Back to the books again!

I'm a course junkie - always have been. I've done numerous photography workshops over the last couple of years, which have fueled my photography obsession, but in recent months, I've been left wanting more - a more structured way of learning, and stringing together all of the theory and practice I'm already doing.

I began investigating long Cert IV/Diploma courses some time ago, but the number of "part time" photography courses in Brisbane is severely limited - talk about a market opportunity! I'd always shyed away from online courses because I like the discipline and interactivity of lectures, but it seemed to be the only option available.

In doing my own research and talking to colleagues amd photography buddies, I came across The Photography Institute, which offers a 24-week, 12 module course. It looked pretty extensive, and what I liked most about it was the promise of personal feedback from tutors.

So, knowing that a couple of my mates are doing the course, Michael and I signed up last week.

The course notes are extensive, and the assignments definitely make you think. Module 1's assignment listed a series of scenarios and kit bag full of theoretical equipment, from which you had to say which gear you'd take and why. All the lenses available to choose from were prime lenses....argh! Hard going for someone who mainly uses zoom lenses....

Anyway, submitted my first assignment and got some helpful feedback from my tutor, and 9/10, so I'm on my way. Bring on Module 2! I'm really looking forward to the practical components, setting up some shoots and getting some feedback on the photos - it's the only way to improve! It's also far more interesting when you're studying a subject you love - it doesn't seem like a chore, well, yet - anyway!

In the meantime, here's a couple I took at this morning's photo walk around Roma Street Parklands.