When I first started out in photography it was a real challenge to create a good photograph, after all the camera I had was a Fuji Finepix 2600Zoom, there wasn't any aperture settings or shutter speed settings, you simply pointed it at your subject and pressed the shutter release button and unleashed the whole 2 mega pixels. However, what that camera did was to help me learn what I think is the most important aspect in photography, composition. I even won a couple of in house competitions at my local camera club with that camera, which didn't go down too well with the traditionalist slr toting members...
I often get asked by clients on my Tripod & Wellies Landscape photography workshops, what makes a good landscape? Of course its very subjective, what one person likes, another may dislike, but for me it boils down to composition, of course light is vitally important but a badly composed image, no matter how great the light will not make a great photograph, but a well composed image in not so great light will still be a good photograph. Great light and a great composition will make a great photograph.
So what about aperture, shutter speed and ISO? Yes they play a crucial part. If you want good depth of field with everything in focus then an aperture setting of f16 to f22 will achieve this. if you want to show movement such as in a waterfall then you need to have your camera mounted on a tripod and use a shutter speed of around 2 seconds for example, if you want to freeze the action then use a shutter speed of around 1/125 second, this is assuming that your ISO is set to 100 (these are just starting points as it depends on the situation and the ambient light). Knowing the techniques will help you greatly in your photography, but for me the one that will help most of all is learning that art of composition.
I've often heard people say that they don't know a lot about art, but they know what they like. Its not very often that I hear anybody say they like one of my photographs because of the long shutter speed, or the use of the aperture (although it does happen now and again). Yet I have heard many people say how they love the composition, non photographers don't know a lot about photography, but they know what they like and it nearly always boils down to a well composed image. Nail that, the rest will follow.
I love having a camera in my hand and making photographs, any camera, whether it's my Dslr, a point & shoot compact or even my phone or iPad, if I'm creating something then Hanners is a happy bunny.
Considering that it was such short notice, we managed to muscle up a decent turn out, a couple of the members were wanting to shoot while a few more were happy to observe.
I set up four Yongnuo speedlites on lightstands, one bare, one with a translucent shoot through umbrella, a third one with a reflective umbrella and finally the fourth one with a softbox, I trigger these with the Yongnuo YN 622C transceivers. I have become a huge fan of Yongnuo speedlites (they do not sponsor me, I'm a genuine fan), they're so reliable and unbelievably cheap, each one makes a different sound when you turn them on, but I don't care what they sound like as long as they work and give me light, which they do, time after time.
Once we get our starting point with our settings, we start with one speedlite and build our image from there. It's amazing how you can get great images using just one light, but a bare light is a harsh light and we wanted more than this.
First we modified it with the white translucent or shoot through umbrella, this turns our harsh, hard light in to a lovely soft light, we used one silver reflector, then two to fill in the shadows. After that, we used the reflective umbrella, to compare the quality of the light to the shoot through and again added one reflector then two to fill in shadows.
As you can see, we weren't shooting tethered to a laptop and as a result there can be a lot of chimping and a fair bit of discussion going on to see how your images are coming along.
After using the umbrellas we decided to move onto the softbox, I have to admit that I have a preference for these as the light is still beautifully soft but much more controllable, but I probably use the umbrellas just as often as it depends on the situation. We had a lot of fun with the softbox, trying it out in different positions and seeing the difference it makes to the light on your subject, which of course was our extremely patient "model" Janet.
Once we are happy with our main light on our model, we start to get a little more creative. I'm sure I've mentioned somewhere before that I have a dislike for the high key white background, it does have its use and when that use is called for I've no problem using it, however not for this shoot.
Firstly I added a speedlite behind Janet with a red gel on it so that we could colour our background, although it looked good we decided to change it to a blue background, which worked much better. Then a third speedlite was added camera left with an orange gel to kick some "sunlight" on to Janet's hair. Then to add some movement to the final image, I crouched down behind our very, very, patient model with Mrs Hanners hairdryer (of which I was clearly out of practice in using as it's been some years since I needed to use one).
Below is the lighting diagram for the final image (minus Hanners with the hairdryer)
As I don't shoot when I'm teaching, the final images are from Andrew Meek, thanks for letting me share them Andrew, and thanks to Tom for all the BTS images. Finally a huge thanks to Janet for putting up with us and being a fabulous and extremely patient model. I think we all learned something that afternoon and we had an absolute blast, just wish I grabbed a couple of shots for myself on this one ;)
Time after time I hear of people asking photographers to work for free, often those who are asking are business pleading that they don't have a budget for photography (if any business doesn't have a sufficient budget for promotional material, then that business probably wouldn't last very long), but they will give you photo credit for your pictures!
One of the great things about doing the personal project "Artists & Their Art" is meeting fabulous people, such as the hugely likeable Paul MacDonald, Paul really bought in to my project and within four days of meeting him for the first time we were shooting at his home.
This was a completely different shoot in both style and nature to Michelle's shoot last week where we captured her art and where her magic happens. With Paul, it was more about getting in tight and focusing on the man himself with a cheeky reference to his art. Paul was an absolute joy to photograph and I can't thank him enough, here's what we shot...
Every so often as a photographer you need to get out of the rut, try something new and get out of your comfort zone. Personal projects are ideal for this, it gives you the opportunity to learn new techniques without feeling the pressure of coming up with images that the client demands. Recently, I've become excited about light and more specifically the creation of light. I'm a huge fan of Gregory Heisler, he is a master of light, a well respected photographer and a really nice fella too as I was fortunate enough to meet him last year. So in order for me to learn more about light and to use it appropriately I decided a personal project would be ideal, but what?
I came up with the idea of photographing local artists and their art, I thought it would be a good way to highlight them and for me to get a real broad lesson in light as absolutely anything and everything comes under the umbrella of "art".
I was lucky enough to get Michelle Campbell as my first subject, Michelle is an amazing artist and you can see more of her stunning art on her Facebook page. We did the shoot in her studio in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire which also has a fabulous gift shop where she stocks not just her work but some amazing work from other local artists a great place for some last minute Christmas shopping.
To light the image I was shooting I used three speedlites, one for her artwork, one for the ambient as there was different colour temperature's of light and one for Michelle, the first image was to see how much light there would be at my desired camera settings, as you can see there's not a lot in there.
The first light I set up was to light her fabulous artwork. I wanted to just light the artwork and nothing else, so a snooted speedlite was placed camera right aimed directly at the art.
Once I was happy with this light, I then set up another speedlite to give some ambient light for the studio, I placed it by the window as that is where the natural light would come from, the speedlite head is pointing upwards to the white ceiling so that it bounces and creates a soft wash of light to fill the room.
Finally I set up the main light that would light Michelle. At first I placed a speedlite on a stand, camera right, to fire through a shoot through white umbrella as this gives a nice soft even light, however it spread too much light around so changed the umbrella for a softbox, this gives the same beautiful soft light, but it is much more controllable and keeps the light where I want it.
Once we are happy with that it's time to shoot and with that I turn on all three speedlites and start taking some great pictures of Michelle.
It's great to feel challenged on a real shoot without having the pressure to get "the shot" and would advise all photographers to set yourself little challenges and goals with personal projects. This will be an on going project with lots more artists and their art for me to shoot, who knows where it will lead to and each one will be different in it's challenges, and for sure I will make mistakes along the way, but making mistakes is a great way to learn.
Thank you to the wonderful and extremely talented Michelle Campbell for sparing a couple of hours of your time and of course for the chocolate biscuits, even though I forgot to sneak them in my bag as I packed up... already looking forward to the next Artists & Their Art shoot planned for next week and if you're an artist and want to get involved please get in touch.
Here's the final image.
Beelitz is a beautiful and historic town in the Potsdam-Mittlemark district in Brandenburg, Germany and well known for its white asparagus which is popular in the area. It's also home to Beelitz Heilstatten a former tuberculosis sanatorium and military hospital.
Built in the beautiful pine woods of the Nuthe-Nieplitz nature park it was first opened as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1902.
In 1914 the Red Cross took over after the outbreak of the first world war and it's been pretty much used as a military hospital ever since with Adolf Hitler being a patient during the last two months of 1916.
By the end of World War II the complex was taken over by the Russians and Beelitz Heilstatten became the largest Soviet military hospital outside of the former USSR and they didn't leave until 1994, well after the reunification of Germany.
After being forced to resign as head of the East German government, Erich Honecker was admitted here in December 1990 suffering from liver cancer.
Since the Russians left, there have been several attempts to privatise the huge complex, but without any success and it deteriated from then on Although now some of the buildings are being restored to their former beauty and you get a hint of how sensational it once must have been.
Since 2007 the abandoned hospital and the surrounding area has been left unsecured and looks very much like a ghost town. It's now often used as a film set and with its amazing natural light and the eerie atmosphere you feel as you walk along its many long corridors you can see why.
In its glory Beelitz Heilstatten must have been absolutely stunning as the beauty is still there for all to see, even in its severely derelict state. I feel so enriched that I was able to experience it's unique atmosphere and capture it's outstanding beauty.
Calder Valley Search & Rescue Team is a charity providing a life saving emergency service to the people of the Calder Valley and beyond. The team attends an average of 60 call outs each year and is entirely staffed by around 50 unpaid volunteers. It cost around £35,000 a year to keep the team operational all of which is raised through donations. They receive no direct government funding and as a photographer who is often out on the moors or the Dales, its good to know that these guys are out there doing an amazing job. I've had the pleasure of shooting their 2015 Calendar over the last few months and its been fun getting to know the guys.
Please help Calder Valley Search & Rescue Team by purchasing their 2015 Calendar at the following outlets.
Sainsbury's Wade Street Halifax
Hebden Bridge Tourist Information Centre
Stubbing Wharf, Hebden Bridge
Mountain Wild, Hebden Bridge
Springfield Camping, Luddenden Foot
The Robin Hood Inn, Cragg Vale
The Crossroads Inn, Wainstalls
VG Estates, Ripponden
Far Barsey Farm Shop, Greetland
Please remember all proceeds from the calendar go to the Calder Valley Search & Rescue Team.
I've often said how I have a dislike for the high key white background portrait, it really is just a personal thing, I find them soulless, boring and very rarely do they capture the personality of the people having their photograph taken and they can get bored very quickly which will show in their pictures.
When I shoot for clients I make a point to ask them what interests and hobbies they have and what favourite locations do they have, will then try to incorporate it into the shoot, at least then I get a sense of what makes that person tick and often shooting on location is much more fun and interesting for them and for me as it comes with added challenges so it keeps me on my toes and the images look fresh and anything but boring.
I've seen it many times and even on occasion been guilty of it myself, yep the dreaded gear envy...
You turn up on a shoot with a group of friends
and as you look around you see that almost all of them have either a better
camera than yours or that awesome lens you've always wanted. Of course
photography has never been about the camera or lens, it's always about the
photographer and how he or she utilises the equipment they have.
I have many cameras ranging from a full frame Canon Eos 1Ds Mark II to a simple point and shoot compact. Often when the mojo leaves me I will revert to using the
compact and get right back to basics, it's like going on a busman's holiday and
it really gets my creative juices going again in getting around all the problems
that using a point and shoot can create
The image below is of Gibson Mill in the heart of Hardcastle Crags
above Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and is a favourite haunt of mine, it's a
simple image that was taken using my Canon Ixus 750 point and shoot and is one
of my favourite shots of many that I have taken of the mill. So next time
you start to suffer a little gear envy, just remember, it's not the camera or
the lens it's all about the person pressing the shutter