Experimenting with Flash

Recently I have been struggling with my food photography due to issues with light – in short, there hasn’t been enough of it as the summer we have had so far more resembles winter.

It has been dark and overcast and raining for weeks and my studio has been too dark to shoot in after work.

So when I was recommended a Food specific course on using flash photography, I was interested and took a chance.


So far this course has explained clearly how flash works and how you need to set up your camera and setup to make it work for you.

I am no longer afraid of my flash!  Have had one for years and never understood it and now it is completely understandable.  The power is mine to control (literally) and now there can be light whenever necessary!!!

Except….. for it to properly work, the right tools needed to be present, so the credit card was taken for a spin.  Then I discovered that while my Canon 7d mk ii and 580 EX ii flash do work together wirelessly without need for a trigger – it is a LINE OF SIGHT connection.

When my brand new Godox Softbox umbrella is on it blocks the view and doesnt work *sigh* so more new toys had to be purchased.

In the mean time I decided to do some test shooting to show the difference between natural light and flash.


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This was my first test – Candy Canes and fairy lights later on in the day when it was particularly dark and gloomy

Today its brighter but I wanted to experiment further

Note – most of these are out of focus as I still need to balance required light with shutter speed on my camera while handholding it but suffice for this purpose.

Hover the mouse over each image to see the caption


As you can see – quite a difference, plus I am still learning how to set it all up properly.

This was my setup as well – love a Behind The Scenes shot

My first proper experiments with using a flash!

Very excited and once I get the bits I need to use the Umbrella Softbox, hoping for even better results.

Anyone else out there using a flash?  Got some tips?

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ICM Beach Scenes

Today I went down to the local beach with my camera setup to do more ICM – Intentional Camera Movement images.  I was recommended to check out a British photographer who does a lot in this style and he had very helpful videos on his website, taking you through his shooting process, selection of images and editing.

You can find him at Andrew S Gray Photography

After watching his videos I had some new ideas and techniques I wanted to try – he does a shorter shutter speed and flicks his camera in different directions, often blending several images to get the final scene.

This time I used my variable ND filter screwed onto my 17-55mm lens which allowed me to change the darkness of the filter depending on the light conditions and how much movement I wanted in my shots.  It is a lot more adaptable than just a single filter and easier to carry around than the square Lee one in a bracket too.


Down at the beach we have lots of beach tussock grass, it was a blue sky day with some clouds and lots of waves coming in with a stiff easterly breeze. So many chances to play.

When I got home I deleted 500 images to give an an idea of how many I took!

This is the classic style of ICM beach scene, sand – sky – waves – with some rich sea tones and colours.

I found the colours were a bit intrusive so opted for a BW treatment as well to show up all the lovely soft textural detail in the waves.

The iconic cabbage tree found all over NZ but lots down by our beach so I decided to do the usual vertical movement to emphasise the tree lines.

Not sure it really works but this is about experimenting and trying new things 🙂

A different view pointing more south and getting the Peninsula in the background with very nice wave textures.

I processed this in BW so all the different textural elements could be properly appreciated – the lines in the sand in the bottom right corner, the edge of a wave coming in, wave and sea detail and some great cloud structure over the darker land.

Finally I wanted to get a bit more creative in the style that I had seen Andy demonstrate in his editing.  He uses Nik Analog FX to do the final tweaks to his image, something I haven’t tried before.

Had a play with the double exposure and a colour preset and then bought back into PS for some extra tweaks.  Its dark and moody and has a lot of movement and I like this a lot.

So a useful afternoon shooting and editing, even if I did end up with wet feet 🙂

Interested in your feedback on these shots – what does or doesn’t work for you?

Next time – take GUMBOOTS

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Intentional Camera Movement

In November I am taking part in a Camera Mode Challenge – where the idea is to challenge yourself to learn more about your camera mode settings and to try something new.

One of the things I have never done is try daylight ICM or intentional camera movement.

I am inspired by these kinds of images of abstract seascapes made with ICM

So today I decided to give it a go.

Tools used:

Canon 7d mk ii with 17 – 55 F 2.8 IS lens on
Lee 10 stop filter

First problem – all my batteries were flat *sigh* so I had to charge one first.

Next I went out and set up the camera with a fixed focus point (selected it in camera and flicked over to manual focus on the lens to lock it) and put the filter on.

Switched to Tv (shutter priority mode) and started playing with the shutter speeds.  Except everything I tried around 3-5 seconds came out black.

After lots of mucking around I solved it by cranking my camera exposure all the way to +3 and it compensated for the very dark 10 stop filter and allowed me a 3 sec shutter speed.

When taking shots of flowers more than that was too long and it just became a blurry mess.

Blurry mess!

I found with the flowers that an UP DOWN movement was nicer to me than the side to side option

And you can get subtle textural differences, the above image is more of a straight up and down, where as the below image was down at one angle and up at another and gave a nice cross hatch texture

For the Watsonia flowers I found I preferred more obvious flower shapes in the image like this one below where you can see the individual florets and an idea of the stem.

Too much movement just made a big pink mess which is perfectly OK too, just not what appeals to me personally.

Different angles and speed of movement on the same subject give quite different outcomes.  You can just stand there and click and move the camera in all kinds of different ways, never quite knowing what you will end up with.

So there you go – my first learning experience with ICM – was more complicated to set up on my camera than I expected.  I need a lighter grade ND filter I think.

Does anyone else do ICM?  Got some tips to share?

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Fluffalicious Blossoms

Its bursting out Spring all over DownUnder and today was a perfect day to go out with the camera.  We have a particular weather phenomenon called the NorWester Arch – where high altitude winds stack clouds up over the city.

Some days its very windy as well, but days like today are perfect for photography as its very still and the light is very soft and diffuse.

Down the road from me is a Memorial Garden which is planted with many mature trees, and many of them are in blossom or flower. So off I went to explore further.

White blossom, pink blossom, even lime green blossom!  Some late magnolias, loads of camellia, rhododendrons, azalea and many kowhai – a bright yellow NZ native beloved by the birds.

Lots of different kinds of blossom too, fine delicate single flowers, huge puffy fluffy pink doubles, in between whites.

This one I chose to edit with a dark moody tone.  Below is a lighter brighter more natural variation.

Both edited in LR, with a colour tone and texture layer applied in PS.

Curious which one of these edits you prefer and why?

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Spring Daffodils

Its bursting out Spring all over the place DownUnder and we have had some stunningly lovely days.  Blossom trees are appearing all over the city, birds are waking up at 5am and it definately is warmer.

Some genius also planted these lovely fancy daffodils and narcissus in my garden several months ago, and they have been popping up over the past few weeks.

My new Lensbaby Velvet56 was a fun lens to play with shooting these flowers – I like it around f4 – – f2.8 to give nice softness and lovely blurred background.

This is Replete – one of my favourite Daffodils.  It has many layers of ruffled apricot petals in the middle of the flower.

Getting up really close with the Lensbaby allows us to see the intricate detail in the edges of the petals.

Shot at 2.8 on the Velvet56 which gives this very soft focus effect which shows off the edges of the petals nicely against the background.

Anyone else have a Lensbaby?  This is my first one and it is an interesting learning experience.

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Its spring downunder here in NZ, a little earlier than usual.  Bulbs are sprouting, trees are in blossom and the magnolia are making a grand display all over the city.

Today was a very calm overcast day – perfect for flower photography so I made the effort to wander into town with my camera to hunt the elusive magnolia.

They can grow to be quite big trees and often the blossoms are too high for me to get a nice side on view, but there were a few that I found well within range of the tripod.

I am trying a different editing style with these image, a slightly muted faded vintage look which I quite like with flowers.

Specifically shot with a fairly open aperture – ranging from 2.8 to 4 to soften the background and blur it nicely.  Some of these shots are taken with my new Lensbaby Velvet56 which does a great job with the soft background.

Anyone else using a Lensbaby?

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Time Experiment

I’ve finally got around to watching the Brooke Shaden Masterclass that I bought at Xmas when it was on special.  There is a LOT of information in there – much of it covered in her other classes but gone into with a different perspective and level of depth in this one.

So far I am enjoying it and it has inspired me to have a go at compositing an image.  She has one done on a clock and I have a similar clock face in my mixed media art supplies…..

Suitably decorated, the clock is shot and my hand is also shot and I try and composite.


– I thought if I shot it on a black background it would blend relatively seamlessly – NO NO NO NO it didnt.  The black was not dark enough and even with tweaking contrast etc in PS, it affected the other non black elements in the shot and didnt blend properly as a result.

Eventually after beating at PS with a stick and many layers blended and tweaked together I kinda made it work

– Used chia seeds instead of sand which was the original ide – but I still ended up having to mask around all the edges and gaps to make it look fully blended.

– I had originally gone with the idea of blood pouring from my wrist but thought that would be a little too obvious – it would have been a LOT easier to mask around tho 😦

– In blending all the layers on the hand, I blew out the highlights and lost detail

– There arent the right shadows on the hand and under the seeds so they look a bit pasted on

– The clock is slightly out of focus cos it warped while it was cooling down from being on the fire to dry the paint

-I still completely suck at adjusting colour tones on layers so that they are equally vibrant and saturated and look the same – this is the thing I struggle with the most

All that being said I still like this – I conceptualised the shoot, made the shoot happen, had a go at compositing the images, and either way learned a LOT.

Not sure how I’m going to solve many of these problems, but I know that having another go is the best way to try 🙂

Regardless of the fact that this full of issues and mistakes, does the concept work?

When you see this image what does it make you think of? Feel?

Have any tips on how to solve my problems?

EDIT – shortly afterwards I realised that some of the issues could be reduced a bit if I applied a Topaz Impression paint filter over it…

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