Location Barriers

Photography is about so much, equipment, practice, post-production, did I mention practice? One thing not mentioned a lot is location.
Location is everything. For portrait outdoor sessions I have my few favourite spots around town. Depending on what the clients wish for we can meet in the park, the beach, at the lake, each place in its own right special and different. It doesn’t need a sprawling meadow or towering mountains in the back to make a family photo look great. Sometimes a small patch of grass, some wild flowers, foliage from low hanging branches, rocks or pebbles and a gentle slope into the water are all that is needed.

In the end it’s all about the light, and when the light is beautiful, the photo will be, too.

That’s it for booked sessions. If I’m going on my own, to capture sunsets and stunning landscapes or cityscapes, it’s a whole lot of a different story.

Seriously, I admire fellow photographers who are able to show off their photos of a different location on every different day of the year. No idea how they are doing it.

Many are a one-person business, too, maybe it’s me … and I always thought I’m so organized ….

Anyway, many times all plans fail because there is some extra driving to be done, a re-scheduled soccer game, a lift to a party or to work, extra homework and the printer is acting up …. and the one night of the week with a beautiful sunset goes by without me and my camera.

Some locations have been on my mind for a while, but they are in ‘iffy’ places, dark, out of the way, secluded. The older I get the less I like the idea of being alone with my gear in an area where shouting might not help.

That’s when husband comes in. Very often he’s the savior, because when I say ‘oh I always wondered how it will be like on that cliff at sunset, we might have to crawl through some shrubbery’ or ‘remember that dark alley with the awesome neon sign’, he’s the one getting me to that location. And staying with me, while I take my photos. And getting me there a second, and a third time, so that I really get the most out of the place.
That includes road trips. So when I said last year ‘I really would like to go to Vivid’, he made it happen this year.

And while not in any way ‘iffy’, I was glad he was there to shield me and my camera from the masses, because even for a Tuesday night it was ridiculously full. I have to add getting hit over the head by a tripod, carried by a very eager fellow photographer, to my danger list.

So we went to Vivid, the light festival in Sydney. I am quite happy how things went for the first time. Now for a second, and third time …

Collage


Positive Facebook

Many people lament Facebook and its quirks. Ever since the last big changes in 2014 especially small business feel the effects in a negative way, as no matter how much time and effort we put into posts and maintenance of our sites we tend to gain little reach and even less exposure.

But, as with all negative things there are always positive, and since I’m a glass half full kind of girl, I have found myself a wonderful positive outcome from good old Facebook:
Shared on the page of the very unique and special Handmade in the Hunter Markets was the post about The Little Black Cow Farm Stay.

As it should be with social media, after scrolling down their posts, I got intrigued and visited The Little Black Cow Farm Stay website and read through all their blog posts.
That lead to my knowledge about an Open Day, which my young one and I were very excited to participate in during the Easter Holidays.
What a wonderful day we had! Feeding the goat and sheep and Willow, the little black cow, and patting the one week-old guinea pigs. We checked out farm machines and olden day tools and devices. Some very clever and futuristic art was created as well.

And I took photos. I had asked permission beforehand, even though it was a private visit, I cannot help myself now can I  ;)
See for yourself what fun we had.

LittleBlackCowblog


Old Fashioned ?

During the January summer holidays I had finally tackled the long overdue clean-up of my studio. New props and backgrounds meant I was running out of space. Oh, the things I ‘found’.
If ever you see a person rummaging through the ‘sales’ box at the craft and art shop, that’ll be me. So many ideas and things to do and create! The kids and I have done lots of little and bigger projects over the years, but there was a backlog. There’s one thing I never run out, and that’s ideas.
As I had run out of space though, these ideas had to be put into action presto, to get some of the boxes empty and ready to take on new and different goodies.
Years and years ago I found this DIY Clock Set in said ‘sales’ box at the craft shop. I have a thing for clocks, and finally, I found a nice use for it.
I measured the wooden clock face and used Photoshop to create the background by incorporating the originals of some of my favourite digital restorations.
Once printed on normal A4 paper, I cut out the circle shape and glued it on the wooden clock face using ModPodge. Once it had dried, I used a paint sponge and gave it several thin layers of ModPodge, letting each dry completely before applying the next. Last was a thin layer of acrylic sealer, just to give it a bit of shine not too much, I’m not a huge fan of the big gloss.
Then the clock motor was put in (it runs on battery) and that was that. It sits on the sideboard in my office now and I like checking the time on this one much more than on my laptop or my phone. Call me old fashioned :)

RestorationClock


Environmental Portraits …. How to

As I said in my previous post, the term ‘environmental portrait’ is referring to portraits taken of a person in their environment. Most photographers call them location shoots, and the location can be anything from a client’s home, studio or business, to their boat, the local skate park or playground.
As these are the types of photos most people take themselves, whether with a point-and-shoot camera, a DSLR or their smartphone, I thought it could be a good idea to write down some tips to make the result perfect every time  :)

The Subject
Know the subject, which, obviously, if it’s your kids or Pop, you do know them quite well.
The aim is to take a photo of them in a situation that says something about them. This could be Pop at the jetty with his fishing rod, doing what he loves. Or the kids zooming along the Flying Fox in the park. Or Nan during special Tea & Cake day in the retirement village. Or the early morning birthday celebration.

EnvironmentalPortrait1(All my example photos are from the young ones birthday a while back. As it was early morning, the light changed within minutes, and as I didn’t want to miss actually being there as a Mum, taking photos was not the first priority. Nonetheless, despite so not being a morning person myself, they do show what I mean. And they show that it doesn’t take a gazillion of photos to document one special event. It’ll be in our hearts anyway, and thanks to the few photos, it’ll be in our albums now, too. They are not overpolished, there is bed hair and sleepy eyes and the clothing didn’t matter. Feel the love?)

The Context
In any of these circumstances it will be relatively easy to identify the things and details that say something about the subject. It will also be relatively easy to identify any item or angle that adds interest to the photo. Picture Pop putting the 10th fish in the bucket. Nan folding her hands in her lap after she’s done eating cake. The kids tipping the sand out of their shoes after the Flying Fox excitement. Birthday Presents.
If you get any of these shots you will be putting your subject and their environment into context. It will work every time.

EnvironmentalPortrait2He LOVED the wrapping paper, so I decided on some selective colouring in post production.

Details
The danger will be having too much in the shot. A cluttered background or too many people in the shot can distract from the main focal point, which is your subject. Crumbs or a coffee stain on the table cloth, too many boats in the background …

EnvironmentalPortrait3There’s always the suspense …..

Knee Lock Syndrome
Zooming in on your subject and selecting an appropriate depth of field could be all it takes to make it work. Don’t be afraid to change your position. Kneel down at the jetty to get Pop from a lower angle. Stand on a chair (safety first though!) to get Nan from a higher angle. Don’t suffer from Knee Lock Syndrome: MOVE!

EnvironmentalPortrait4He is a great hugger. I made sure I was much lower than him to show he’s still our baby.

Instructions
Posing your subjects may well be hard or even impossible for you in these circumstances, and with these subjects – I know that well from my own extended family :( . It is easier for me, the photographer who was hired to take photos, to instruct people how to put their head and where to place their hands for a particular shot. Whether to look at me or not. Whether to smile or not.

Camera Settings
There is no point telling you what camera settings to choose, as the thing with environmental portraits is that they will all be completely different and unique every time. If you’re using an DSLR start with choosing the correct White Balance for the day and weather, if you’re not in Automatic. If you do the Flying Fox thing with a smartphone, you may well be out of your depth, because it is not capable of doing such quick photos well.
You will have to adapt not only according to place/time of day/inside/outside but also according to your equipment. And your capabilities.
Be brave, and relax, photography is about creating and documenting a memory.
And don’t give up if at first you don’t succeed :)


The Environmental Portrait

If you are like most people you probably were thinking this post is going to be about photography in connection with some environmental issues, sustainability, global worming or the like. Not so.

The environmental portrait is a cousin of the studio portrait. Photographers can take pictures of a person in a studio setting or in ‘their environment’. I came across this term a while ago, and I didn’t know that’s what you call them.
There you go. It’s a fancy way of saying ‘photos in your home’ I guess. When I am discussing different shoot options with a potential client, I tend to talk about a ‘photo journalistic approach’, as in taking pictures while my subject is doing what they’re doing.

A studio setting can be a bit overwhelming for many people, they feel put ‘on the spot’, and they prefer to have me come to their home and take photos while they sit in their favourite chair, have a cup of tea, cut some flowers, read a book.
While I love the ability to fully focus on people’s faces in the studio setting, I do also love the photo journalistic approach aka environmental portrait. This is what I do at home all the time, after all. My family is very used to me having the camera out and taking photos while they are busy with something – or nothing for that matter. They’ve all heard me say ‘just because the light is great right now’ too many times.

Environmental portraits work well with clients that want to be photographed in their work place, artists for example.
Environmental portraits also work really well with children, as they don’t have to sit still, don’t have to be clean and nice and on their best behaviour. It could also be environmental portrait if we were to meet in the park and I take photos of the kids at the playground. I normally call this type of shoot ‘location shoot’, but there you go, maybe I have to rephrase in the future.

Have you heard of the environmental portrait before? Let me know, I am intrigued.

Attached is a photo montage of an environmental selfie, for a bit of fun.

Times Four


Instagram is FUN

In December 2014, Instagram hit a major milestone, when they could boast a whopping 300 million users, and thus passed Twitter. Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing social network, and it is in essence simple to use: take a photo, add a filter, write a short text or just hashtag, and post. Too easy.

And that’s exactly what’s so appealing. Photos don’t need to be perfect, it’s about fun.

That’s what I think anyway.

One can log into Instagram on the computer and look at images, but Images cannot be shared via the computer, only via a smartphone that has the Instagram app. However, there are a lot of photos on Instagram that were taken with a proper camera, worked on in Photoshop, emailed to a phone and uploaded via their photo gallery onto Instagram. I follow the Canon page on Instagram, naturally none of the photos they feature are taken by a smartphone, which is fine. But all in all I think it’s a bit like cheating if someone is not using a mobile device for taking images, Instagram is a ‘mobile photo-sharing social network’ after all.

So, I’m using Instagram as yet another social media arm for my business, as such I have linked my Instagram page with Facebook. That is not a problem, since Facebook bought Instagram a couple of years ago, and everything can be integrated nice and easy. Everytime I publish a post on Instagram, I can chose whether that particular post goes on my Facebook page as well, or not. Same with WordPress: my Instagram feed shows up on the landing page of my WordPress page.

I quite enjoy exploring the boundaries of my smart phone camera plus the Instagram internal editing options, on their own, or combined with other photo editing apps.

I’m handling my ‘big camera’ enough so I’m very much content being much ‘lighter’ with the smartphone.

My young one asked me whether I will be an Instagram sensation (meaning will I be featured and promoted on Instagram by Instagram and ending up on the ‘Popular Page’). I found this very entertaining article on Masteringphoto.com, which has analysed this question. I don’t tick all the boxes, therefore I had to tell the young one that it’s probably a ‘no’. He was disappointed for about half a second and then delved right into lengthy explanations about the latest video of his favourite You Tuber (he clearly is a child of the 21st century). So I’m concluding he’s not somehow psychologically scarred if I’m never ending up on Instagram’s Popular Page ;)

Instagram has two great advantages over Facebook as a social media site for business: Unlike Facebook, there are no ramifications if you didn’t post several times a day, every day, all the time, and engage and like and follow meticulously all the pages that are close to you. The second advantage is that you can find a totally new and different group of followers than on Facebook, thus increasing the overall reach of your social media efforts. Statistics tell us that 46% of Instagram users are male, and 54% female, making this platform the only one that is almost equally used by both genders. I found it best following a group of photosharing enthusiasts (like #lovelysquares, #nothingisordinary, #hiyapapayaphotoaday, #yourdailysnap to name a few). It can be quite challenging at first to wrap your head around their specific ‘theme’ and incorporate that theme with your daily happenings and work.

Of course there is some etiquette one should adhere to: don’t ask people to follow you, don’t over-hashtag your posts (11 is apparently the magic number), engage with people and they will engage with you, don’t overgram (nobody likes their feed filled up by one user), keep posts clean and easy to understand. As always, don’t repost someone else’s photo without permission.

Over time you will figure out which particular hashtag will give you a surprising amount of reach. For me #inthestudio has worked amazingly good. And, like Facebook, the time of your posting could matter a great deal.

Instagram is great to use when I’m out and about, to create some behind-the-scenes glimpses in the world of az pictured. That includes the sunset, occasionally my lunch, my dog, my studio, or anything else that catches my eye during the day.

And even though I can share through Facebook, I make sure I don’t always do. Regardless of what the social media gurus tell us, I’m not a fan of showing the same thing everywhere, it’s just really boring.

I am still pretty much a newbie on Instagram, if you have any tips or tricks to share, please do.

And if you’re not there yet, I hope to find you on Instagram soon :)

Instagram


The Status Quo

A class photo. All girls around the age of 8-10 years old, dressed for their Holy Communion. Very serious faces, they probably would have gotten into trouble for smiling, let alone laughing out loud, on what would have been an important religious ceremony in their family and community. And you just didn’t smile in photos at that time altogether anyway.

ClassPhoto1

There was not a lot of damage, a few odd specks and splatters and it was hard to tell what were specks and splatters and not part of the cobblestone or the wooden gate. I guess as long as it’s only ‘the background’ it can be at the discretion of the restorator  :)

Some minor discolourations from moisture which gave a yellow and blueish tint to some areas. Only minor fine cracking which was only visible once zooming in.

ClassPhoto3

I cleaned up the odd specks and fixed the discolourations. I chose to leave some cracks in the outside white frame of the photo. The aim of digital restoration is, as always, to better the status quo of an original image and create a copy that can be handled, looked at and touched, without changing the fact that it’s original exists in time and suffered from its passing.

ClassPhoto2


About Christmas

“The approach of Christmas brings harassment and dread to many excellent people,” writes Mark Twain in ‘Following the Equator’,  “They have to buy a cart-load of presents, and they never know what to buy to hit the various tastes; they put in three weeks of hard and anxious work, and when Christmas morning comes they are so dissatisfied with the result, and so disappointed that they want to sit down and cry. Then they give thanks that Christmas comes but once a year.”

Times have changed a bit since he wrote this non-fiction travelogue in 1897, but – as with a great deal of other things – his observation is largely as spot-on today as it was in his time.

Mind you, I wonder what he would say about online shopping and last-minute craze on December, 24th, about the exchange frenzy in shops straight after Christmas and the Boxing Day Sales. Very few people bother writing cards or letters at Christmas any more. Even less seem to do any baking or special cooking preparations that needs to take place weeks and days before. So I do really wonder why we seem to have less time and more chaos than ever before in the weeks leading up to this one day of the year.

Well, I am generally a organized person, and with our families and many friends largely on the other side of the world I don’t have a choice but being done with presents relatively early, so they can go on their postal trip around the globe. Our family Christmas card is usually done early in October, for the same reason. Being summer in Australia, and us only a small family, there is not much going on with endless hours in the kitchen, and large dinners and Christmas Day lunches, so I’m off the hook for that, too.

Yet, the last two weeks leading up to Christmas seem to go a bit more mad every year. I have odd relapses in my organization, I seem to forget a lot, run around a lot, am a little breathless and frantic.

Nevertheless, I didn’t sit down on Christmas morning and cry, so I suppose that’s a good thing.

And the last week was spent in calm and happiness with lots of laughter and love. I hope your Christmas was spent the same way, don’t forget to laugh a lot, especially about yourself :)

Xmas


Dog Silhouettes

Up until a few years ago I never actually owned a dog. I was a dog walker of sorts as a teenager to earn some money, and I temporarily fostered dogs of friends when they were away. Any of those dog were ill behaved, dreadfully spoiled and not trained at all.

Our boys did beg for years for us to have a dog. We do live on a fairly largish block of land, so no excuses not to have a dog, really. We didn’t have a fence for a long time, and that was our sentence: ‘We can’t get a dog until the landscaping is done and the fence is up.’ Well, one day the landscaping was done and the fence up, and we had no excuse any more.

We got a twelve week old puppy through one of the local dog rescue places. It was a bit of a journey to get used to her, and for her to get used to our weird family, but now it’s all just bliss. Naturally I wouldn’t have an ill behaved dog, so we went to puppy school and all that, and I’m still going to dog obedience once a week. It’s more like dog playgroup really, it’s lovely and social, and I feel bad when I don’t go because it rains or because I have to work and her sad, reproachful eyes follow me around all day ….

Anyway, through this dog playgroup I met a lot of dogs and as my mind just doesn’t stop seeing, eventually, the series of Dog Silhouettes was born.

This is the transformation from the original photo:

Dog1 Dog2

Dog3 Dog Silhouette on green background with inspirational text/quote

You might remember Puppy Stella, this was the original:

Dog5

It turned into this:

Dog Silhouette on yellow background with inspirational text

The first Dog Silhouettes are now available through my Made It Store:)


Size Matters

1950s? photo, tram in street setting, male figure in foreground

At first you wouldn’t know how tiny it is.

Only the comparison to my camera lens cap reveals it. Why did they make photos so small in the olden days. A logic explanation would be: small paper, less cost for paper, less cost for development, less time …. I tried to find out the facts about this, but I couldn’t get a lead. If you happen to know please fill me in :)

TramSize

These tiny photos pose various problems:

One, they are small to scan, small to work on and small to fix, plus there is a danger of loss of detail if I make them larger.

Two, apart from the obvious rips and scratches, it’s very hard to see any damage with the naked eye. The tilting-test shows fingerprints and odd marks but any other damage can only be seen once the photo is in my computer and I can zoom in on it.

Third, apart from the odd outcome when I get the restorated photo printed in the normal sizes of today, these ‘odd’ sizes don’t fit properly into any slip-in albums we can purchase today either, most slip-in pockets are 4×6″, so poor little photos like these fall about and only stay put if its diligent owner attaches it to a 4×6″ piece of scrap-booking paper.

Anyway, there was not much damage in this photo from the 1950s, at least not visible to the naked eye. I fixed some specks and scratches and the fingerprints, then I lightened the shadows just a bit, made the gentleman’s black pants, black trimmings on his jacket and his cap a bit darker, so they stand out, sharpened it all slightly and voila …. :)

Before-After Comparison of digital restoration


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