So I have never really done any portrait photography, aside from a module in my A Level studies when I was in my mid-twenties, oh, and a couple of wedding shoots. I Had never really liked the idea of it before, and always focused on landscapes or inanimate objects, and occasionally animals. But it’s something I’d really like to get into a bit now, I’ve spent a lot of time looking on 500px.com at portrait images, head shots, HDR portraits, urban exploration images including people, and it’s a whole field that I feel I’m missing out on.
Over the last year or so I’ve invested in an external flashgun, and more recently a wireless remote flash trigger, which enables me to use the flash off-camera. This has already given me a lot more control over lighting an image, but I’m looking to get more equipment in the near future. I’ve discovered that a lot of this stuff is very cheap, and that I can get additional flashguns for about £40, which it turns out are actually used by quite a lot of top professionals. The only form of diffuser I currently have is a Primark laundry basket, but it seemed to do the trick for my first experimentation, and has gone to prove that it is worthwhile investing in a soft box or diffusing umbrella or the like.
So I don’t have a willing model, and I’ve always avoided having my own picture taken, and was therefore a bit stuck, but decided to experiment using a remote shutter release taking pictures of myself. I know it’s slower, but there’s no expectation then!
I know I’m not smiling; if I do have to have my picture taken, I will try to avoid a forced smile. So here is my first attempt, plenty more to come hopefully.
On the way home from town today I took a detour around a cemetery to explore possible photography locations. I didn’t have the SLR with me, so I took a few shots with my iPhone. So continuing my interest in exploration and graveyards, here are some of today’s results…
So the last time I remember doing a photoshoot of animals, it was a of a hyperactive jack russell terrier that wouldn’t sit still. This job was rather easier, a yorkshire terrier puppy that got very tired after about ten minutes of having her picture taken. Even since this little shoot last week, I’ve done a short session with one of my cats. So here are a few of my favourites, with a few recent edits.
Do you want some photos of your pets? Let me know!
So I’ve created a new category for my blog: “Try This“. Here I’m going to post occasional articles about projects for you to try, with tips and ideas. Make it a weekend project, or a day project, whatever you like. Tonight I’m going to suggest you try Light Painting. There are a number of different interpretations to this, but the easiest thing to do is essentially to get a torch, put the camera on a tripod with a long exposure, and move the torch around in front of the camera. How easy is it? If you’re comfortable with manual camera controls, then it should be easy (and why haven’t you tried it already?), if not it may take a bit of practice, so here goes with a bit of a guide…
What do you need?
You will need a camera that enables you to manually control the exposure and aperture (ideally an SLR, although many compact cameras do give you these controls), a tripod to hold the camera still, and a small torch of some sort. You will also need darkness, ideally outside because if you’re in a small room then you may get unintended results with reflected light.
What do you do?
Get started by setting yourself a scene in a dark garden or very dark room. You will need to get the camera focused which can be tricky in the dark. one way to do this is to point both the camera and the torch at an object that is the same distance away to which you are going to stand, and depressing the shutter button half way. Using the torch like this helps the camera to see what it needs to focus on. Once this is done, you can switch the lens to manual focus so that the camera does not try and refocus while it can’t see anything. From now on, ensure you don’t adjust the focus ring on the lens, and ensure that you and your torch are the same distance away from the camera as the object you previously focused on.
Next, we need to set the exposure and aperture setting. If you’re not sure about these, I won’t go into detail here; there are plenty of books and online tutorials that will be able to explain this much better than me. basically, though, the smaller the aperture, or larger the ‘ƒ stop’ number, the longer the exposure time needs to be to let the same amount of light in. If it’s too low and the exposure is too short, you won’t get time to do the painting with your torch. With my images I used a 10 second exposure, with an aperture of ƒ22. This meant that the lightbulb of the torch showed up nicely, and gave me enough time to paint. You will need to experiment, because these settings will vary depending on the lens type, zoom and all sorts of other factors (including the brightness of the torch). Make sure the camera’s flash is switched off, the shot will not work.
Now we can try taking a picture: use the camera’s self timer function to take a picture, get into position with your torch, and while the camera is taking the picture, point the torch at it and move it around.
Now, let’s look at the results. You may find it’s worked perfectly first time, but if it hasn’t, change the settings and try again. You may want a completely dark background, so if you do and some of it is still visible, try setting the ƒ-stop number to a higher number, keeping the exposure time the same. You can also reduce the ISO setting, the camera’s film speed equivalent, to the lowest you can set it to, for example ISO 100. This is essentially reducing the camera’s sensitivity to light. If your torchlight is too dull, increase the ISO or reduce the ƒ-stop number. Always experiment with single-step adjustments so you can see how it’s affecting your results. Remember also you can change the speed you move the torch.
This doesn’t need any special equipment, if you have a camera, check the user manual for manual exposure and aperture settings, if you can do that, then that’s all you really need. If you haven’t got a tripod, rest the camera on a pile of books on a table so it’s at the right height (I’m not taking responsibility if it falls off!). Tripods are very cheap, and it’s worth investing in one if you haven’t got one, even if only so you can be in your own group shots.
Taking it further
Now you’ve mastered this, try a bit more experimenting. Control the light by turning the torch on and off while you’re drawing, in the same way as you’d lift a pen off the paper when writing. Get coloured sweet wrappers that let some light through to stick or hold over the torch so you can colour your lines.
In my coloured examples, I simply used a drywipe marker and coloured over the lens of the torch. Use two torches, or use even more torches with more people. Practice this now, and then use sparklers on Bonfire Night.
Why not position the camera further away, and get a several people to help. Position several people side by side, each with a torch, and get each person to draw a letter so you can make longer words. If you’re drawing letters or writing words remember to draw them backwards, or you will need to mirror the image afterwards, and if there is more than one person, make sure you’re all doing it the same way!
Have fun, I’d love to see your results; share them on the Facebook page. Need advice? Post a comment here and I’ll see how I can help.
Yesterday I took a second visit to the Second World War pillbox, just on the outside of Horsham. There are a number of pillboxes in and around Horsham itself, but they form part of a greater line of defences called the Arun-Ouse Stop Line, the first major line of defences inland from the coast, in case of a land attack from the Germans crossing from France.
I’ll spare you the history lesson, my original post is here. This time, I had a remote control unit for the flashgun so I could remotely trigger it, so here are some of my highlights from the results in a gallery, you can use left or right keyboard arrows to scroll:
So we went to Cornbury Festival, and what a weekend it was. We were absolutely spoilt with the weather, not really used to having a summer in England any more, and two weeks later we’re still bathed in a heatwave. It started with a trip to the supermarket with all five of us, to buy food for the weekend. We wandered aimlessly round a huge supermarket for an hour with an empty trolley until we got to the booze aisle, then filled it. It was a two hour drive in two cars to the Great Tew Estate, where the festival was held.
We set up camp on a dedicated ground for our staff and set to work partying. Each person working had two shifts to work, and I think we got the best ones over the whole weekend. All three from our shop were on shift together…12-6pm next to the main stage on Friday, and 9am-3pm in the VIP tent on Sunday. No work saturday. There were no late nights, no insanely early mornings, and both shifts were relatively quiet. We had plenty of time to play all day Saturday, during which I got to watch a great standup show by Alan Davies.
By the end of Saturday morning, we had drunk 2 cases of beers, finished 3 litres of vodka, and finished the Jaeger. The rest of the weekend was relatively free from alcohol…relatively.
Surprisingly, we didn’t see as many of the live performances as I thought we might, but I don’t regret that. Lucy Spraggan and James Arthur were definitely the highlights for me.
I still haven’t had proper chance to recover yet, tomorrow is my first real day off since being back on 7th July. Maybe the hangover will hit me in the morning?
The photos aren’t some of my best, I’m afraid. I was too nervous of taking my proper camera, I wished I had now, it would have been safe. The backdrop was amazing, and iPhone snaps can’t really do it justice!
I haven’t been to a music festival before apart from Glastonbury when I was way too young to remember, so I jumped at the opportunity to go to Cornbury Festival when my employer advertised for people to work two shifts there in return for two full weekend tickets including accommodation. Now the weekend is approaching, and we don’t know quite what to expect.
Primarily, we’re unsure how we’re going to run a high street coffee shop in a tent in a field, and we’re unsure just how busy it’s going to be, but I’m guessing it’s going to be pretty busy.
Our tickets and staff passes have now come through, and the Cornbury Festival website now has a map of the site, and it’s all getting pretty exciting…
Finally got what?! Well it arrived today. I find it quite exciting, but that’s probably the geeky side of me. I should probably have done it a long time ago. I got myself an external USB hard drive and configured Time Machine on my Mac. I can now sleep at night knowing that I have an automated backup system in place.
For anyone that has any kind of computer or amount of digital files, get yourself a backup. An external hard drive is under £50. You can even get several gigabytes of free online ‘cloud’ storage from sites like dropbox.com or copy.com, the latter giving you 15GB free, or 20GB if you use my referrer link, and you get an extra 5GB for each person you refer. With cloud storage, you can either configure a backup application to backup to the designated sync folder, or simply copy and paste files into the folder. Those files are accessible by your account wherever you sign in. If you haven’t got a lot to back up, then backing up doesn’t need to cost you a penny.
With cloud storage providers, the only thing to worry about is making sure your password is safe, and if the company goes down the pan, your backup can be lost, so make sure you keep an eye on what the provider is up to as well.
Welcome to the new home of Convexum, it is now on a self-hosted WordPress installation, it means I can use custom plugins and but more importantly, I can customise the theme and appearance infinitely. Be ready for the furniture to change around here!