I know we probably shouldn’t be viewing photography as a competitive sport and you know, as long as you’re shooting what you like it’s all good and so on, but, well, what can I say? I don’t mind a bit of validation now and then! So I am absolutely delighted to be able to say two of my images have made it into the 2014 book, and the free exhibition on at Waterloo Station in London from 1st December until 31st of January 2015.
The first one (left) I took in January 2012 of Llyn Idwal in North Wales. The sun is just struggling above the snow capped ridge at noon on this winter’s day, and lake was just completely still. I’ve never seen it like this, either before or since. The rocks above and below the surface provide great foreground detail, and by aiming a wide angle lens down into the water, we can see through the surface. As the angle gets shallower, as the water surface gets further away, the reflection of the mountains and sky takes over. The image on the right, was an opportunistic shot taken on a weekend
trip with friends to the Lake District. We had just driven along the road seen in the picture, and I saw this scene in the rear view mirror. I stopped around the corner at the next park and viewing point and walked back to this point and set up my tripod. The clouds were moving fast across the sky that afternoon, and so, even though this was taken in the middle of the day, the clouds provided that dynamic element to the light – both from the dramatic and moody backdrop, and the pools of light across the valley.
…and this one’s for Jeff from Minnesota Hope the rest of your trip was as fantastic as ours.
This was probably the most up market hotel we stayed in during our trip – the Fairmont “Chateau”. It looked more like Castle Colditz to me tbh, or an NCP car park with glazing – see below. Very nice inside, but I somehow doubt the designers had seen too many French Chateaux…
It also had the north-east shore of the lake inside the hotel grounds, and although I had no idea at the time, it was best opportunity I had to put some real effort into a landscape shot. I mean – if the lake is right outside your hotel, there’s no excuse really…
We only had one night at the Fairmont and arrived early in the evening having spent most of the afternoon at Moraine Lake. We dropped the bags and went down to the lake. There’s a slipway in the middle of the lake shore that faces the back of the hotel, and this pretty much aligns with the view down the entire length of the lake. I wanted some foreground though, and I didn’t want to to park myself in everyone’s way either, so I climbed out onto the large round boulders to the right of the slipway. The first task is to work out the focal length, and position of the camera. I usually start with the 28-300mm super-zoom on the camera, and look for frames in the distance at the long end and wind it back in to 28mm and look for horizontal and vertical frames with foreground. I did know pretty much what shot I was going to take of this though, having done this wide-angle-see-through-foreground-water technique a few times and I knew this was a job for the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
This was a family trip, and that’s my excuse for not getting too many “serious” landscapes however as with any location, you would need to really explore it in detail, find the shots and then visit again and again at the right times of day, and year to get the best results, so even if this was a photo trip, good landscape would be a fortunate event. This is why I take landscape workshops once in a while btw – its not that I need anyone to show me how to operate the camera, make exposure or focus – I’ve got a number of techniques down pretty well now for gathering the data. Having someone that knows the location on the trip though – now that’s worth investing in. Mind you, I did get lucky with the light on a couple of occasions and a few half decent landscapes did drop out..
So, the Griswald Lloyd family Vacation from the flatlands of Calgary through the Rocky Mountains, Scooby Doo world, some surreal Stepford-esque fake Swiss Towns to the very pleasant seaside-town-grown-big that is Vancouver. Our land-ship for this trip, due to general ineptitude at Avis was the Dodge Grand Caravan you can see on the right. Big, build quality and design from the 80’s and an engine that would struggle to pull the skin off a custard. The old style hydraulic slushbox was as ancient as the styling, and would take 3 days to sort out a change of gear. An absolute pain to drive on the open road, it would slow down on the hills until you pressed so much on the throttle pedal it eventually changed down and then gradually picked up speed. As soon as you backed off though it would change up and start slowing down again… I’m not sure the steering wheel was actually connected to anything either. It was big though, and with the 3rd row of seats folded away into the floor, our 3 large suitcases went in the back easily.
Our first stop was Banff, a small town mainly comprised of hotels and shopping malls. Banff is a good looking town – the buildings are all sympathetically designed and mostly, the hotel parking is underground. We visited Sulphur Mountain via the gondola, and the Vermillion Lakes.
After throwing the flour from stage left, we then loaded Keira up with flour – starting with the hair with Keira kneeling on the floor and swing her hair around, and then we moved onto some full length shots with some full on leaping. Here’s the second part of the video:-
This was the second of 3 shots we did with the Lencarta SuperFast lights. This sort of shot is something you only get so many goes at: you run out of flour, coloured powder, and of course, eventually, the model is so covered in flour it changes the look of the images. Shooting continuously on high speed (well as fast as my D800E will go anyway – the lights will go faster) makes it all the more likely to get a usable frame from these sets.
This was the first time I’d attempted this shot, and while we got a few reasonable images – it’s not quite achieved the drama I want. I think I know why and I’ll come back to that at the end of this blog.
As I had so much flour left over, another shoot with it was, well inevitable. However, before inevitability could strike, James Wall, marketing director of Lencarta lighting wrote to me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it again at their studio in Bradford, to promote the SuperFast lights I had been using for the last few shoots. Well – I’d be doing this sort of thing anyway, so this was not a hard decision, and wouldn’t need to sell anything – these lights are genuinely fantastic.
Ok, so if you want to freeze action outside using both sunlight and flash, you’ll need to use a high shutter speed to freeze those parts of the subject that are lit by the sun – as its a continuous source. Sure you may be able to light the subject in such a way that they are dominated by flash, and use a regular x-sync compatible shutter speed to freeze your subject with fast flash, however to get them completely frozen, you’ll need to freeze all the light with a high speed shutter – say 1/4000th of a second. We know we can use compatible Speedlights for this with High Speed Sync (HSS pulses the light to share it out over the entire shutter operation – to act like a bright continuous light) however this is only possible with certain Speedlights. If you need more power, you can always tape more Speedlights together, however sometimes its more convenient to use one big light: you can configure it quicker and use all manner of modifiers on big lights.
Now – there’s a joke in here somewhere about the model being self-raising, but to be honest, It’s too late in the day to be crafting that, so just make up your own and insert it here…
How much do you need? I had no idea. I’d seen a few flour (or “dust”) shots around on flickr, and Pinterest and this seemed like an ideal job for my new high-speed IGBT Lencarta studio lights – movement, flour backlit, hair flying etc. Well, I bought 4 bags of Sainsbury’s most basic plain flour. I now have 3 and a half bags of plain flour – which, as it turns out is not much use for baking anything…..
The venue of the flour experiment would be Millwood Photography in Stalybridge. I highly recommend Millwood studio – Paul not only agreed to let me throw flour about in his studio, helped out on the shoot. And the brave volunteer to be covered in flour? Lizzie Bayliss. I’ve shot with Lizzie before and she is one of the best models around.
Product photography can get very involved. Managing reflections, especially on shiny surfaces means you need to be very careful about that is in “sight” of the product surface. Glass is double trouble, as every piece of glass has 2 surfaces – inside and out. I’ve recently started to dabble in this and looked around for some ideas. 2 great places to go:- photigy.com and Karl Taylor Photography.