In the rain

In the rain

Some images from a walk at Gisborne last weekend. It was raining but not hard enough to put me off.


Project update: Streams and themes

Project update: Streams and themes

So it’s one week into Summer school and at this point the key task is to keep on top of reading and start planning for the assessments.

The word ‘stream’ has come up a lot in discussions and lectures this week. This unit is an elective so the students are from a range of disciplines with very little in common, so they tend to form groups based on their core studies. In this unit there are already sub groups of teachers, communications and web specialists, information managers and the odd one or two people studying other disciplines that deviated from the set study plan.

It got me to thinking about using streams for the Diced Imagery project going forward. There could be a ‘people’ stream for portraits, ‘nature’ for macro and landscape and ‘objects’ for still life and some of the macro work I do that is not nature related. New streams could be added as needed. I still have until January to come up with something so I will give this some further thought.

Today’s image gallery was made late this afternoon, taking advantage of the overcast conditions to get some soft light for macro work. There is a trade-off in that having less light to work with means upping ISO, opening the aperture or having motion blur but I think that the quality of light you get is worth that. These are purple Agapanthus with yellow Diosma in the background. They are all pre edit, so the colour contrast you can see is actually more intense. The title image of the fence was also done today but given a small work over using Intensify.

Less is more

Less is more

I mentioned recently that I my new camera has set off a string of other changes. Since writing that I found another one. The capacity on my SD cards is effectively halved but I’m not sure if this is good or bad.

I think it’s bad because there is now a real possibility of running out of space and missing out on making something special. I don’t spray and pray but I do like to approach a subject from several different angles and explore composition and lighting combinations.

At the same time, this limitation is not a new experience for me. I used medium format cameras and you only got 12 images on a roll of film. This made you more selective. I think that’s good.

SD cards are cheap compared to film and processing so I will buy some more cards.Using a larger capacity cards introduces a risk of losing more images if the card fails, so I’m thinking about sticking to the same capacity. This way I still have to work with less but have space in reserve.

These images are from a yesterday morning on the Campaspe River trail at Kyneton. The sky was overcast and the soft lighting lent itself to macro and detailed subjects.

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The 60 minute challenge – Old boots

The 60 minute challenge – Old boots

This weekend the light is weak and dull. I’m still recovering mentally from the paper I just submitted, so there is no energy to get out of the house. To stay motivated, I set myself a 60 minute time challenge to photograph something in my study.

It is good to occasionally give yourself restrictions and deadlines. They force you to make decisions under some pressure and strip out the unnecessary. For me, that equals simple subjects, plain backgrounds and compositional elements and basic lighting.

The subject is my favourite old pair of Blundstone boots placed on a card table and lit by a large window on the right and reflector on the left. Since the day was overcast, the window light is already diffused, otherwise I would have stuck a diffuser panel on the right or just hung a white sheet over the window. A harder light source could work if you wanted deeper shadow or wanted to emphasise textures.

These images were actually 40 minutes start to finish, including post process in Lightroom. I tried to show the age and distress in the leather by altering the orange, yellow and blue levels to increase the contrast.





Rolling dice and cheating.

Rolling dice and cheating.

Oddly enough I don’t gamble very much. It has never appealed to me as a way to spend my time.

When I saw the dice in this month’s themes I initially thought of a “high roller” theme for a portrait but without the means to make that happen, I went for something that would let me play around.

The setup was very basic. A card table, small flash connected by cable with a small soft-box attached, larger white reflector a camera on a tripod and some dice. The process is equally basic.

  • Set the camera to manual exposure and focus to around your arm’s length.
  • If your camera and flash supports slow sync or rear-curtain sync flash* then set that. (If it doesn’t you may still be able to get a similar effect but it will be a harder).
  • Compose the image so the dice appear roughly at the size you want them to be.
  • Take a test shot of the dice to get the exposure roughly right.

Once that is sorted hold the dice just out of frame with one hand and then drop them into it. Timing when to press the shutter button is the tricky bit unless you have some kind of automatic trigger. Press too soon or too late and you will have nothing in the frame.

Here are some of the images I made showing a range of effects.

*If you never used rear curtain sync flash before, here is a good  explanation courtesy of the Digital Photography School . Basically you are delaying  the flash from going off until near the end of your exposure. If you have a moving subject you can get interesting effects by pairing rear shutter sync with longer exposures so the available light and flash are both recorded. The end result is a blurred and a sharp image of the subject in the same frame.   You could use this technique to record things like a nail being hammered into some wood, or a football being kicked. It can work indoors or out.

I did mention cheating in the title and what you would not immediately notice is the size of the dice I used. They are huge in comparison to normal dice and give the illusion that I was working much closer than I actually was. You could still use normal dice but I found these were easier to work with.

Don’t break the chain

Don’t break the chain

Last Sunday was not a day most photographers would have considered as good for outdoors photography but here are some images I managed to make between the showers. I will be working on some more black and white renditions for some of these to put in a future post.


I’m pleased that I haven’t broken the chain just because of bad weather or other circumstances. I’m regularly making images, perhaps not every day but at least weekly and much more than I have in the last ten years. I am getting the old skills back and trying new things.


Ever more recycling

Ever more recycling


Since unearthing my old light-meter recently. I took a look at what else was still in the old case I keep my film cameras in. I found a couple of flashes and it occurred to me I could use one to test the flash-meter capabilities. I still haven’t put those adjustable wrenches away… They were sitting on a piece of timber left over from building my standing desk and I liked the arrangement, so I decided to use it.

So I had a recycled subject and the image was being made using recycled equipment. In hindsight I should have picked something green…

The lighting setup was simple. Main light is a tiny sunpak manual flash mounted on a stand with a white shoot through umbrella and connected by a cable. I also had a white reflector to manage any contrast issues from light falling off on the right hand side. Flash and Camera were all set to manual, then I set up the composition, angled the light down at 45 degrees, then popped the flash and took a reading.


The result was not quite right as I was getting what I thought was overexposure on the left but the readings were consistent so I made a series of adjustments to the aperture and got on with it, dropping the light lower so it eventually grazed the surface. After 3 images the penny dropped…

The light direction was actually causing the overexposure problem. At 45 degrees it was reflecting off the jaws causing them to blowout. In hindsight I should have worked that out based on the wood being evenly lit in that first image.

The image below was the final with the light placed at surface level. There is still some light fall off on the top left but it is not objectionable and moving the reflector closer would have dealt with it.


So in terms of testing the flash meter, I would say this was a limited success. I found the meter was more accurate in reflected mode than incident. This surprised me and I may try some other tests to see if the incident meter has an issue. There was one last surprise in that I used my iPhone to make an image of the spanners using the umbrella to diffuse the natural light in the room. This came out quite well so I used it for the featured image for this post.