Category Archives: Mood

Music Photography: Diving Station

Manchester based band Diving station are releasing their first EP today at Aatma, 14-16 Faraday St, M1 1BE. I was fortunate to photograph them last August when they visited Edinburgh.

Manchester based band at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh

Diving station at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh. From left to right, George Burrage, Sean Rogan, Anna McLuckie, Barny Kimberley.

I really love long exposures of seascapes, because of their effect on water and clouds. I had dreamt of combining a long seascape exposure with people in the shot, and when I proposed this idea to Anna McLuckie, the lead singer, she was very enthusiastic. The picture above consists of two photographs, one with a relatively short exposure to get the band and a second frame taken without the band but with a two minute exposure. It was a typical Scottish summer day (that was the only day where the band was available for a shoot), but I knew that if we waited until after sunset, the light would be soft and there would likely be some colours in the sky. I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at a photograph of this nature.

Manchester based band Diving Stattion at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh.

I like unusual compositions, and since the sky over Silverknowes beach looked really interesting, I decided to give it the lion’s share of the frame.

Manchester based band Diving Stattion at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh.

More conventional composition this time. I always shoot these.

The band logo has a lot of blue in it, so I wanted to give the other beach shots a blue colour cast. This is easily done by setting the white balance of the camera to tungsten and lighting the band with an off camera flash and CTO “orange” gel on it to give them proper skin tones. I worked a number of compositions with two of them shown above.

The photo shoot started earlier in the day, in a stairwell, believe it or not. These kinds of locations are a blessing and a curse at the same time. I’m sure you get the curse part, but the constraints imposed by locations like these allow one’s creativity to be pushed, and one’s frame of mind to be stretched. I’m always up for a challenge.

Manchester based band Diving Station group shot, straight on

The more people in the picture, the harder it is to get everyone looking good. Fortunately, every band member liked this photo.

I always need to warm up at the beginning of a photo shoot, and so we started by taking very straightforward band photos.

Manchester based band Diving Station group shot, from above

I always try different angles, either from above or below.

Then I started looking for different angles.

Manchester based band Diving Station, "behind bars".

I always look for elements of design such s lines. The stair railing offered an opportunity to frame each member of the band. I also liked the pipes above their heads and therefore included them in my composition.

And compositions.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

Adding smoke completely changes the atmosphere of the location. Pun intended.

I had brought with me a smoke machine, because I thought this could really add some atmosphere to the photos. One light behind to backlight the smoke and a light in front for the band.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

I love silhouettes, so I just had to try to light the band just with the backlight. I really like this moody pic.

After I get the “obvious” shot, I like to ask “what if..?”. For example “what if I switch off the main light?”

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

When I sense I’m running out of ideas, I just try something. Anything. So I put a bare speedlight on the stairs, camera right, just to see what would happen. Lucky me.

Usually, a number of mistakes occur when I start working my subject and lighting. Fortunately, some of them turn out great. At the time I didn’t think much of the shot above. I think it was because it wasn’t what I really was after, but the band immediately liked it. And I have to say it has become one of my favourite shots of the day.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell, "behind bars".

Since I liked this composition, I decided to revisit it with a different lighting set up and the smoke.

With the smoke and more moody lighting scheme, I explored some of the earlier compositions. I never thought you could have this much fun with a smoke machine in a staircase.



Light Painting Edinburgh Historical Figures

The city of Edinburgh has a long and rich history. And some of it is rather gruesome. If you are in Scotland’s capital and would like to learn about the city’s past, I would highly recommend you stop by the City of Edinburgh tours’ police box on the Royal Mile.

Their guides dress as some of Edinburgh’s infamous historical characters, and their tours are very entertaining.

I was asked to do some light paintings of their guides dressed in their costumes, as this lighting technique is particularly suited to this type of photographic subject. The light painting look would also help City of Edinburgh Tours differentiate themselves from the other tour companies in Edinburgh.

James Douglas, 3rd Marquess of Queensberry (1697 – 1715), known until 1711 as James Douglas, Earl of Drumlanrig is an infamous cannibal. According to Wikipedia, the violently insane James was kept under lock and key from childhood at Queensberry House in Edinburgh. In 1707, when his father and other members of the household were out celebrating the treaty that brought England and Scotland together, James somehow managed to escape. He then killed a young kitchen boy, roasted him on a spit and began to eat the poor creature before he was discovered.

Light painting of the cannibal James Douglas, Earl of Drumlanrig

The cannibal James Douglas, Earl of Drumlanrig photographed in the Canongate Kirk cemetery

William Burke and William Hare may be the best known amongst all the infamous characters having lived in Edinburgh. They committed a series of murders over a period of about ten months in 1828.

Before 1832, there was a shortage of human cadavers for the study and teaching of anatomy at British medical schools. Burke and Hare saw a macabre business opportunity. When one of Burke’s tenant died of natural causes owing £4 in rent, Burke decided to recoup the money by taking the cadaver to Edinburgh University, looking for a purchaser. It didn’t stop there. Their first murder victim was a sick tenant, and when they ran out of tenants of ill health, they resorted to luring people from the street. They sold the corpses of their 16 victims to Dr Robert Knox.

Light painting of infamous Edinburgh murderers William Burke and William Hare in the vaults

William Burke and William Hare in Edinburgh’s haunted underground vaults.

Robert Knox (1791 – 1862) was a very popular lecturer on anatomy, but is now best remembered for his role in the Burke and Hare murders.

Light painting of Dr Robert Knox in Edinburgh vaults, with floating keys and ladder

Dr Robert Knox, Scottish anatomist, zoologist, ethnologist and doctor.

The fourth guide is dressed as Jessie King, the last woman executed in Edinburgh. She was hanged on March 11, 1889, after being convicted of taking money to adopt illegitimate babies, and then killing them. Many believe she was a vulnerable scapegoat, and that the mastermind of the scheme was her partner Thomas Pearson. Jessie was uneducated, penniless and heavily pregnant when she fell under the spell of Pearson, who was some thirty years older than her.

Light painting of Jessie King, the last woman hanged in Edinburgh

Jessie King, the last woman executed in Edinburgh

Light Painting The Miracle Glass Company

Light painting consists in illuminating the scene with a small LED light during a long camera exposure. Typically, I combine a number of pictures in Photoshop as it is usually not practical to light the whole scene in one go.

Because of the long camera exposures required, the subject one photographs must stand still. There lies a major challenge in light painting people. You and I can stand still, but only up to a point. We aren’t rocks or sofas. When light painting people, there is always some slight motion from shot to shot. How one lights the subject and good Photoshop skills are required to produce sharp light paintings of people.

Light painting of Miracle Glass Company in an abandoned location

I don’t really know what the used piece of equipment in the foreground is, but when I saw the location, I knew I would use its lines to direct the eye of the viewer to the band.

I started doing light paintings with inanimate objects. I then tried to photograph one person. The next step in that evolution was obviously light painting multiple people.

The atmospheric images this technique produces appeal to musicians and artists in general. So I enlisted the help of Edinburgh rock band “The Miracle Glass Company”. They describe themselves as follows:

“From supernaturally beautiful songs to seismic mind bending jams, Miracle Glass Company represent all that’s best about cosmic rock n’ roll.”

Light painting of Edinburgh rock band Miracle Glass Company in an abandoned location

We tried a number of different poses for the band, and a few different compositions.

A great benefit of working with that band is that they happen to rehearse in an abandoned church, that is apparently serving as some sort of carpentry atelier. Derelict locations full of “stuff” are absolutely wonderful for light painting.

Light painting of Edinburgh rock band Miracle Glass Company in an abandoned location.

The entrance to the location lent itself nicely to a vertical composition.

Light Painting A Sawist

If you follow this blog, you know that one of my current personal projects involves the technique of light painting.

I love the mood  one can produce using light painting, and I’ve been exploring  a number of subjects and locations. Since I usually only light a bit of the scene at once and must therefore combine a series of shots in Photoshop, I cannot really see the final result on the back of the camera. I therefore need to develop some intuition about the technique and be able to visualise the final result and how to light the scene to get what I want.

light painting of sawist in front of  Cramond Library Bistro

This building really caught my attention, and I knew it would provide an interesting background for my subject.

Louise is a professional cello player, but also likes to play the musical saw. I usually asked the people with whom I collaborate if there is a particular location where they would like to be photographed. Louise suggested an old tree in Cramond with amazing roots.  It looked great during the day, but when we got there at night, the chosen location posed too many practical problems and we had to resort to plan B.

After walking around for a while, we found the Cramond Gallery Bistro in the picture above. It didn’t take me long to decide this would likely be a wonderful background.

light painting of sawist on stairs in Cramond

The village of Cramond is absolutely wonderful if your looking for photo shoot locations.

We had time for another location, and I was drawn to the door and statues on the floor in the picture above. It was not easy to frame the picture in complete darkness, and I realised it would have been a good idea to take some additional lighting for this purpose. I learn something new every time….

Light Painting Comedienne Juliette Burton

Last December, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph Juliette Burton.

Juliette is an award-winning actress, writer and performer, whose last show “Look At Me” received raving reviews in the national press at the Edinburgh fringe festival 2014.

At the time Juliette was about to move to London and wanted some photographic memories of her beautiful Edinburgh flat. I was very happy to oblige because I relished the challenge of light painting a new type of environmental portrait.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton in her Edinburgh flat, sitting in a chair

Juliette wanted to be photographed in front of this wall. I really liked the two open doors and the story they tell, so the framing of the photograph pretty much worked itself out.

I really love working with artists. They are very engaged during the shoot and it makes my job as a photographer easier. In all the photographs, there are a number of items included whose true meaning only Juliette knows!

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton sitting in front of  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

Juliette particularly liked the fireplace in her flat. This is my favourite of the four set ups we tried.

But the beauty of photographs is that you can interpret them in your own way, even if that isn’t what the subject and photographer intended. And I’m sure you can create your own story with each of the photographs shown here.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton standing by  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

This is my second favourite of the fireplace setups. The wall was rather bland, and you may have notices that I overlaid a texture on top of the photographs to make the wall a bit more interesting.

Juliette was a joy to collaborate with. A subject is always vulnerable in front of the camera, and she/he must trust the photographer to do them justice. Juliette and I first met on the photo shoot and I was very grateful she trusted me from the beginning. That is why I’m really delighted she likes the results.

Impressionist Photography: Fall Forest Pans

Fall is my favourite season for taking pictures in the forest. I love the feeling you get walking around. But with the amount of detail modern cameras are able to reproduce, it is sometimes difficult to convey that feeling in pictures.

Panning picture of fall forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, early fall

It was rather early in the fall, and thus there were only hints of the autumn foliage colours. This is one of my favourite panning shots.

Panning the camera during a long exposure is a very effective way of getting rid of the fine details and leaving the viewer with just an impression of the scene the photographer is looking at.

Panning picture of fall forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, late fall

A few weeks later after the first photograph was taken, the fall colours were in full force.

And from day to day and week to week, the colours of the forest change and one gets different pictures every time one goes out, even if choosing the exact same vantage point. Especially since it is rather difficult to replicate the camera movements from one time to the next.

Panning picture of a few trees with fall colours on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is an area I had walked by and not paid attention to in the spring and summer. But the wonderful fall colours grabbed by attention and I worked this location for a while, getting a few pictures I like very much.

All of the pictures in this post were taken on Blackford Hill, in Edinburgh. I wanted to get pictures from that same location for different seasons. I think for 2015/16, I’ll be looking at other wooded areas for my personal forest impressionist photography projects.

Panning photograph of three trees with fall colours, taken on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is another photograph from the same location as above. From a different point of view. And the light did change from one shot to the next, as this picture has slightly waker tones than the previous one.


Light Painting in the Forest

In my previous blog post, I talked about trying a number of new techniques on location, in the forest of Blackford Hill.

Light painting is the last technique I tried on the shoot with actress/model Electra Gouni. We had to wait until light levels in the forest got sufficiently low because the technique involves lighting a dark scene with a light torch by hand. Since it is difficult to illuminate the whole scene during a single exposure, a number of exposures were taken and then combined later in Photoshop. This also allows greater flexibility in constructing the final image.

light painting of actress and model Electra Gouni in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I needed to set up this shot  before the forest got too dark, so I could properly compose the image. We then water until the forest got dark enough for my torch light to be brighter than the fading ambient light. The final image is a composite of may images, each one with a little bit of the scene revealed by the light torch.

I first learned of this technique from world class photographer Dave Black and I’ve been experimenting with it for a while, mostly with still subjects. So wanted to experiment a little bit more with people. This poses a challenge in that the model has to stand very still while he/she is being lit by the torch light.

I really like the surreal and moody atmospheres one can get from light painting. In this day and age where we are being inundated with imagery, it is important to be able to create photographs that stand out from the crowd, and the light painting technique offers plenty of opportunities in this regard.

Photo Shoot in the Forest

I really believe in personal projects. They give me the opportunity to hone my craft and try new ideas and techniques, so I can better serve my clients.

I recently did a photo shoot in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. My collaborators for this project were Electra Gouni (actress/model) and Miriam Wilson (makeup artist).

I wanted to try a number of techniques on location for this project. But I always make sure that I take some photographs that the model and makeup artist can use, in case the experimentations don’t work out.

Edinburgh model leaning against tee with a forest background and texture added in Photoshop

I asked the model to wear a red dress, because it provides the best colour contrast with the green forest background. I added a texture to the photograph in Photoshop

Close-up portrait of model with tree bark as background, taken in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I shot some close-up portraits for the makeup artist. I decided to pose the model against a tree because I liked the contrast between her soft skin and the rough texture of the tree bark.

In a previous blog post, “Gravity”, I described an experiment with levitation photography in my flat. I wanted to try that technique on location. I’m relatively pleased with the result, but I need to make the levitation effect more striking. This is part of the learning experience. It usually takes a few tries to get it right.

Model levitation in the forest, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

Levitation effect achieved in Photoshop. I also added a texture to the photograph in post-production.

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of multiple exposures done in camera. Thus far, I used this technique on natural subjects, like flowers and trees. I want to see what could be done with a model. By combining two exposures, one with the model and one without, one can give the person a ghostly appearance. Similarly to the ‘levitation’ experiment, I need to work on this technique a bit more before I get a photograph worthy of putting in my portfolio. Live and learn.

Model in forest, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, ghostly appearance

Ghostly effect achieved in camera with multiple exposures (two in this case)


Vision Training: Urban Abstracts

In the previous post, I described the benefits of abstract photography in refining one’s vision as a photographer.

Without a recognisable subject for our eyes to latch on to, do the lines, shapes and colours in the picture combine in some harmonious way? It’s another way to develop one’s mastery of the element of design.

Urban abstract photograph of colour obtained by multiple exposures of a coloured wall on an Edinburgh construction site

This multiple coloured panel wall was around some Edinburgh construction site. By using multiple exposures, moving and rotating the camera after each click of the shutter, I was able to create this urban abstract of colour.

Apart from close-ups, some of the techniques for producing abstract photographs include multiple exposures, moving the camera (panning) or zooming during a long exposure. These techniques not only work on nature subjects, but on urban ones too.

Zooming and rotating the camera during a long exposure, the graffiti on the wall becomes nothing more than an abstract of shapes and colours

Graffiti provides great opportunities for creating abstract photographs, and can be found in every urban area. By zooming while rotating the camera during a long exposure, I obtained the above abstract of urban colour.

Impressionist Photography: Summer Forest

Until recently, in my impressionist forest project, I had only used diffused lighting. The reason was that I believed the high contrast scene produced by sun rays into the forest wouldn’t work when panning my subjects.

A few weeks back, I was on a scouting trip with a camera. It was a beautiful sunny day that made the excursion very pleasant. The road to the location went inside a wooded area, and since I hadn’t taken pictures for a while, I really felt the urge to take some photos. In the digital age when film cost is no longer a factor, there isn’t any valid reason not to experiment. And since I hadn’t anticipated getting any decent pictures from the scouting trip, there was no pressure of any kind. Even though I was kind of convinced it wouldn’t work, I decided to experiment anyways. Who knows, may be I could add some photographs to my impressionist forest series.

Panning impressionist photograph of summer forest

The sun rays coming from the back of this forest scene add an interesting touch of warmth to this panning impress inis picture of the forest.

I was partly right in my initial judgement, in that the strong highlights in the sunny forest scene did ruin a lot of my attempts. But in some cases, as in the photo above, these highlights could be tamed in Photoshop and give me a picture like no other in my collection.

Panning impressionist photograph of  forest

The light was significantly softer from this angle, but the few patches of sunlight make for a better image.

I now have a better idea of the kind of subjects that might work for this kind of panning photography, and I look forward to going out on sunny days in the forest to see if I can further add to my collection.