Dark Illusions

Inspired by an image seen on Pinterest, my project for this weekend was to recreate this image.  (Click on any image to see a larger version)

Turned out to be more challenging than expected, initially planned to use my 100mm macro lens but for that to really work I needed a MUCH longer wall space, to get all the parts of the image in view.

So switched over to my trusty 17-55, carefully leaned my tripod hard up against the wall (two short legs and one long one being the prop), set the manual focus point where the hand would be and prepared the set.

A reasonable amount of editing in PS – three grunge layers added to give that really gritty feel I wanted this image to have.  My particular favourite bit is the two droplets of blood falling off my hand and I liked the pose the most in this one.

Blurred the background a lot to give that feeling of a narrower DOF as well, I liked that feel a lot better.

This is a different variation that feels….. more ominous… to me.  Whose is the hand? What have they done?  Where are they going next?

Which one of the two images speak to you more?  Why? Whats the story you see here?

All comments and feedback welcome🙂


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The White Wall Challenge

Those of you following me for a while will have heard me comment how inspired I am by Brooke Shaden, to the extent that I bought two of her training courses on Creative Live recently.

I also joined her 30 Days of Creativity Challenge in March and the FB group for that is still fairly active.  Brooke has recently started the White Wall Wednesday Challenge – where you use a white wall as your backdrop and create from there.

My spare room has a large white wall, however it is quite narrow so a full body shot is difficult.  The point of the challenge is to work with what you have and embrace the limitations.

Therefore I could do a torso image and expand the frame around to get sufficient canvas and scale.  This is one shot of the main subject and the cracks are an image shot with my cellphone yesterday of broken glass, bought in and fiddled with to get different seeming crack patterns.

Post Processing Steps:

  1.  Edited main image in LR and bought into PS, expanded canvas and painted in from background colours
  2.   Bought in crack images, layered and masked, duplicated and warped in sections to make look like different breakage patterns
  3. Change colour of fabric and hair
  4. Edit colour tonings of image (many little tweaks)
  5. Add  a couple of texture layers to finish

Here is the original base image for comparison:

angry base image-2523 cropped

Note there are about 20 layers in here – I made a few mistakes – still struggle with selecting things cleanly and did a lot of masking around edges where it was not tidy.

Stoked that I managed a much better colour change on the fabric, and toned hair to be similar.

Really struggle on the overall toning of the image, what seems like it should be the easiest bit is the hardest, and I am not sure why – any advice welcome.

Overall, much happier with this image, its not too dark.  I like the colour tones even if it isn’t quite what I envisaged for this image.   The right hand looks like its floating above the surface, and I can’t quite figure out how to fix it, got a bit lost within the layers in that section.

Pounding fists on a wall so hard it breaks – I love to hear how my images make you feel, what springs to mind when you see them?


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Why Camera Gear Doesn’t Matter

On my recent article written for DPS there was some interesting discussion in the comments, particularly about Point #5 – Gear Doesn’t Matter At All, and I would like to explore that concept a bit further here.

First let me welcome the new followers to my blog, who may have found me via the article.  Welcome!  I try and write a post at least once a week, although due to working full time, and doing photography in my spare time, sometimes there are lapses – only human!  Of course there are 7 years worth of articles already post that can be found on the navigation bar or searching through the categories.

OK so this rather contentious concept that all that lovely expensive hardware you spent all that time saving up for, all that time learning how to use it…….. they who die with the best toys doesn’t actually win?

For some people, it is ALL about the gear.  They like having the biggest, fastest, latest bits and pieces. They get excited about calculating hyperfocal distance, exposure times for long exposures with 10 stop filters.  For them the joy is in the numbers and science and technology, and having the best toys.

That’s OK, there is plenty of space in the photography world for them, and I wish them all the happiness in the world.

There are also other people who don’t care about the gear at all, other than the fact its a tool to allow them to make images – in my experience often very creative or artistic people, they might have a Lensbaby or something similar in the tool kit.

Then I suspect are the rest of us, those who have the gear they want, need or can afford, learning to use it to the best of their ability and trying to figure the whole thing out.  One of the things I personally love about photography is how its IS a blend of the technology and the creative.  For me, my camera is a tool that allows me to create images and art.

One of the comments in the DPS article said essentially in answer  “NO, gear is all that matters”.  Several other people said similar things and my response to one was this:

“the camera doesn’t choose how you frame the image, the camera doesn’t get itself out of bed and drive to a location, the camera doesn’t decide if it wants silky waterfalls, the camera doesn’t see the light and texture and shadows and see the opportunity to capture a memorable image.”

You, the person, the walking talking driving monkey with thumbs, you are the one making the decisions where to point the camera, when to click the shutter, how to configure the settings for the desired outcome.  You are the one saving the money, booking the plane ticket, driving all the way, it is your legs hiking the trails and your will power that gets you out of bed in the morning for the sunrise.

So I want to talk about some of my experiences and the images that happened as a result of those experiences, because as a photographer you have to go out and put yourself in new places and situations to get the opportunity to capture images.

You can imagine my excitement on finding out there was going to be a Zombie Run held locally for the first time.  So I emailed the organiser and asked what needed to happen for me to be an event photographer, they told me the conditions, which were acceptable and I spent a fabulous afternoon out taking photos of the zombies and the runners.

An opportunity was seen, the people in charge were contacted and that got me on the site.

Head of Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy, taking photos of the wonderful scenery when  these two birds take off, so I waited until they were in clear sky before taking the shot.

I was lucky enough to attend a conference in the area, so organised for some leave given being the area already.  Note that this destination is 6 hours drive from where I live.

Turns out the Fly Agaric grows in pine forests.  This is Naseby Cemetary where I spent a good couple of hours crawling round on my knees and elbows in wet sheep shit (they have sheep to keep the grass down) taking these photos.

Being prepared to get down and dirty (in the rain as well) in another destination 5-6 hours drive from home.

The wonderful Purakanui Falls in The Catlins – 8 very long hours drive from home.  It hadn’t rained in a while and the water was quite low and there was a large flat rock near the middle of the river that made a lovely platform for my tripod.  It required me to take of my hiking boots and socks, roll my pants up, and very carefully make three trips to the middle of the stream with camera, tripod and bits. Plus I had to beg the indulgence of the other tourists on the viewing platform  – as my gear was now setup right in the middle of their point of view.

Seeing a better viewpoint, taking a risk, preparing to get wet meant that I got a *different* shot from everybody else.

This was taken on private farmland again in The Catlins area.  The sun was lighting up the wonderful bare white trunks.  I found the nearest farmhouse, and knocked on the door to their great confusion, and asked permission to take the shot.

Because I wasn’t trespassing, I had time to walk around and see all the possibilities and took many images that otherwise wouldn’t have been taken.

This image is one of my personal favourites.  I had stopped earlier to take an image by a farmhouse, and an elderly gentleman with a cane came up to me and told me where to find this cemetary – not far off the main road, but not visible and easily missed.

It was high up and gave a good view of the surrounding countryside, but this image I saw in my rear view mirror driving away, the sun just lit up this white limestone headstone brilliantly, so I stopped and captured it.

Stopping, listening to advice from a local and taking it, and then seeing the best shot on the way out and STILL stopping – a series of decisions that led to this image.

Here we are on Hamilton Island – a tropical getaway in the Whitsundays – up by Great Barrier Reef.  Lucky enough to go on a work conference for 4 days, I made the easy decision to pack my camera.  The island was three hours behind my usual time, so sunrise at 6am island time was quite civilised for me.

Even at 6am the sand and the water were warm and lying full length on the wet sand wasn’t cold and unpleasant at all, though I did need another shower when I got back to my room.

Despite only going for 4 days and not having much free time, the decision was made to take the heavy camera gear and forego extra sleep time to get up early and capture images.

This is one of my most prized images – this is the very rare NZ Falcon and even seeing one would have been a thrill.  But to get the opportunity to capture a reasonably good image?  My heart still beats fast at the memory.

This was taken in the Maniototo – another 6 or so hours drive from home – the weather was overcast and cold and windy and patchy rain.  So I just packed the gear into the car and drove randomly around, just exploring the area.  One road went up into the schist foothills, it wasn’t sealed but was a good quality road and I just kept driving, occasionally getting patches of sunlight and opportunities for images.

I happened to have my camera with my long lens on the front seat when I zoomed up and around a corner, and I caught this beauty with my peripheral vision – I was actually on the look out for the Harrier which is a much more common bird.  Pulling the car carefully to a stop (but forgetting to turn off the engine) and blessing my electric windows, I had about a minute or two, time to get several images and then just gaze in delight as this lovely bird took his time checking me out.

It is my hope that this exploration of some images and the stories behind them encourage you to have some adventures of your own.  Maybe now the concept that the gear you have means nothing if you are not out using it makes sense.

For the gear heads out there, yes when it comes down to the crunch for some images, like the falcon shot, the fact I did have a 70-200 lens right there made the difference, so yes the gear does matter, but it is only a part of the overall experience that goes into creating an image.

As always, love to hear your thoughts and feedback!





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Compositing an image is hard work

Over the past few weeks I have spent my evenings watching one of the Brooke Shaden courses I purchased from Creative Live – originally filmed over three days, there is a LOT of material resulting in pages and pages of notes.

Its taken a while to digest all that information but this past weekend was a good opportunity to get my camera out and put it into practice.  This scene had to be shot twice, as my first go was out of focus.

This image took me 5 hours to put together, 3 just on compositing all the elements together and laying the basis for the colour work.  There are so many things wrong with it but I won’t list them, instead here is a list of the successes and learnings:

  1.   Check your camera is properly in focus!
  2.   Planning, planning, planning – its all about the planning
  3.   Be prepared to change and adapt your concept when the situation demands it
  4.   My first go at changing the colour of the dress and the hair
  5.   If you are changing the colour, remember if you have more than one layer involved..
  6.   Perspective is a bitch
  7.   Using colour to shape mood is actually really difficult
  8.   Installing the navigator in your PS tool bar is SO helpful, so much easier to zoom in and out of an image with the slider

Just to give you some perspective, here is the base image I started from

Cupboard demons hands-1-2
Quite a lot of difference!

BTW click on the first image to embiggen it🙂

This image to me represents those annoying doubts and voices in your head, niggling at you, stealing your self confidence.

What does it say to you?


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My First Article at DPS

I am auditioning to write for DPS – Digital Photography School – and my first article has been published today.

Check it out here – love to hear from you!

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Fire and Bright Lights in Christchurch

Recently there have been two opportunities to get out and take advantage of the early winter night.  A local fire spinning group did a photography shoot performance at Sumner Beach which was excellent fun.

It was a cold frosty night with no wind, so perfect for the fire spinners, who had a range of interesting props to light up and twirl around.

Two guys came along with these light bars – a really cool feature was they can play different colours and patterns of light.

Shoots like this are pretty difficult to get good shots unless you understand how to shoot long exposures in the dark.  Many people were there with phones and using flash, and I imagine were quite disappointed with the images they got as a result.

These exposures varied from 2-5 seconds, ISO 100 and I shot in Manual to have full control over the settings and lock them down.  Of course, shot using a tripod as well.

The second event was the Night of D’Lights put on by the Council at the Botanic Gardens.  I went last year and really enjoyed it – this year was quite different in style, a lot longer and a more specific path to follow.

This long tunnel of arches was very popular, and difficult to get a good shot of as it seemed most of the city was attending.  This was a 25 second exposure and it did a reasonable job of removing most of the people.  There are a few ghosts which adds a little something extra to the image.  There were probably over 100 people in this image!

One really popular display was a large tree hung with long streamers of gold lights across two big branches.  A security guard had to be permanently there to chase off people who wanted to get their selfies and group shots and play with the lights.

I setup my tripod off to the side in the garden, and they left me alone, but because the tree display was so big, I was too close to get a good shot.

Instead I decided to try a technique not used before – ICM or Intentional Camera Movement.  This is where the shutter is left open for a short period and you move the camera while it is open.

Being the middle of winter, it was well below freezing, and important to dress warmly.  My UnderArmour Cold Gear top base layer has proven its worth every time it comes out in sub zero temperatures, as does my long Hunters Element jacket that covers me down to my knees and has arms long enough to not give you cold wrists.  Katmandu wind proof gloves provide thin flexible gloves to allow use of the camera easily but still keep hands warm.

It might be winter, dark and cold, but there is still fun to be had with your camera!

What other winter clothing gear do you use?

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White Wall Challenge

On Brooke Shaden’s Creativity FB group she posted the White Wall Challenge – find a white wall and use it as your backdrop.

My spare room is all white walls with a built in wardrobe at one end.  Turns out the long narrow shape is a bit TOO narrow to shoot across it and get all of me in, and shooting at an angle was just not working.

So move to the other end where the wardrobe is, benefit that the light is falling directly and evenly on that corner. Set up my camera on the tripod, turn on the wireless remote and shoot away.

Also I bought a wig, and this was my first time wearing it in a shoot!

Learned a lot from this shoot – learned how to switch from instant shot to 3 sec delay on my remote!  Learned that switching from portrait to landscape means you still have to reposition the camera especially if you are doing low down shots with lots of fabric in the foreground (I got LOTS all cut off in several image ).  Also discovered I have unelegant wrists!

Still getting to grips with editing the Shaden way, several curves layers, a colour fill layer and some textures to finish off.  Annoyed that I forgot to add a vignette but with the dark floor, not entirely sure if it needs it.

Very different style for me, do you like it?  Too arty?  Not arty enough?

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