Category Archives: Personal work

Light Painting Dancers: Emiley and Katie

I wouldn’t want to do a photography session with dancers without some light painting. Having multiple people in the image is always a challenge. Sometimes you have to light paint one subject and ask them to move out of the frame before light painting the other one. It wasn’t the case this time, as I was able to get in the best position to light paint both dancers without the other one getting in the way.

Light painting two dancers in the Edinburgh College dance studio

It is easier for my subjects to stand still while I light paint them if they have something to hold on to or an object to lean on. Hence the bar and the chair.

Light painting two dancers in the Edinburgh College dance studio

In a portrait, I usually like the subject to make eye contact with the viewer, i.e look at the camera. In this case I wanted the image to look like the dancers didn’t know the camera was there.

I like the “dancer at the bar” theme and I’m always trying different compositions. It was no different this time.

Light painting a dancer in the Edinburgh College dance studio

These kinds of poses can be tricky to frame, depending on the layout of the studio. Nearly all dance studios have mirrors, which is wonderful as I love reflections.

In the second photo, I incorporated the curtains by changing my camera angle, for a slightly different look.

Light painting a dancer in the Edinburgh College dance studio

Somehow, I like this composition better than the previous one. What do you think?

Dance Photography: Emiley and Katie

Being visual artists, dancers definitely need to showcase their abilities with professional photography and/or video. Dance photography is definitely a niche I’d like to develop.  This is why I’ve been doing quite a few personal projects with student dancers.

Emiley and Katie gave me another opportunity to practice my dance photography skills. The shoot for this personal project took place at Edinburgh College, Granton campus, in one of their dance studios.

Jumping dancer in front of black background in a dance studio

For this kind of photograph, timing is everything. Since I used speedlights and their recycle time is quite long, I couldn’t use the motor drive on the camera. I had one try at nailing the shot for every jump.

I love to light dancers with two lights. The lights are placed symmetrically on each side of the dancer, at about 3 metres from the subject and slightly behind. I really like the look of this lighting setup. In the photograph below, you can see the two sets of shadows produced by my two speedlights.

Dancer posing in front of back background in a dance studio.

I chose a low angle for this photograph for a variety of reasons. The dancer’s legs appear slightly longer and I got a nice reflection in the floor.

When I talked to Emily about the kinds of pics we could take, she mentioned that she’s able to ‘jump on the floor’. I had no idea what this meant until she showed me. As you can see from the picture below, we got quite a dynamic photograph out of it.

Dancer acrobatics in front of a black background in a dance studio

Emiley ‘jumping on the floor’. It was tricky to get the timing right for this photograph, as the best picture is obtained while the dancer is in full motion.

I like to work with two dancers, as one of them can rest while I photograph the other. Katie had quite a few moves and jumps up her sleeve too, and the pics below are my two favourites.

Dancer acrobatics in front of a black background in a dance studio

A low camera angle (I was on the floor with Katie) was definitely required for this pose. The timing was pretty much like for jumps. Click the shutter at the moment the dancer movement stops.

Dancer jumping in front of a black background in a dance studio.

I always include the floor in jump shots, as it allows one to see how high the dancer can jump.

At the end of the session, I took photographs of Emiley and Katie  together. For these I changed the lighting setup to have a main light in an umbrella and a bare speedlight as a back light.

Two dancers holding hands in front of black background in a dance studio.

I just love this shot.

Two dancers in front of black background in a dance studio

This is my other favourite picture from the two dancers set up. I really like the shapes produced by the legs and bodies of the two young ladies.

I also did some light paintings of Emiley and Katie. I will present these in the next blog post.

 

 

Dance Photography at Dance for All: Kirsty

A while back, I met with Kirsty for a dance photo shoot at Dance for All, on St Stephen Street in Edinburgh. The main studio was a little different from what I was used to as it was surrounded by mirrors and windows. Mirrors are a real challenge when lighting a subject, and also limit your shooting angles since you usually don’t want the photographer to appear in the shot.

Dancer at Dance for All, Edinburgh, lit from both sides and slightly behind

I asked Kirsty to look in the direction of one of the lights, in order to avoid nasty shadows on her face. I loved the lights in the background and I think they really add to the composition of this image.

In the photograph above, I deliberately underexposed the background to hide the clutter in the studio. I had two speed lights on the left and right of Kirsty, slightly behind. This is one of my favourite lighting set ups.

Light painting of dancer in front of mirror at Dance for All, Edinburgh

I chose to warm the colours in the photograph to complement Kirsty’s top and shoes and provide good colour contrast with her blue shorts.

As the studio could be made dark enough, I couldn’t resist doing some light paintings as well. I first tried a variation of my ‘lone dancer and the mirror’ image, with Kristy turning her back on the mirror rather than facing it. I added a bit of ‘grit’ in Photoshop and I’m quite pleased with the final result.

Light painting a dancer on a chair, facing away from the camera. Picture taken a Dance for All, Edinburgh

I really like this pose, but next time I’ll make sure one can see the dancer’s hands

I had only done our last set-up once before, and I therefore was looking forward to getting some more practice. In hindsight, I should have asked Kirsty to wear something more colourful, as the black clothing doesn’t provide enough separation from the black background, in my opinion.

 

Light Painting Dancers Chanelle and Charmagne

I’ve been light painting dancers for some time now, and I believe I have honed my technique for a few set-ups, as in the ‘lone dancer at the bar’ one you can see below.

Light painting dancer at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

I really like this set up and most dancers like it too. The reflection in the mirror adds visual tension to the image.

Light painting dancer at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

The challenging bit of doing such a light painting is getting the back light (highlight rim on the hair) right. You’ll definitely know what I’m talking about if you try it.

The light painting technique gives my images a distinct look that helps the photographs stand out amongst the deluge of pictures we are exposed to every day. I can therefore give my clients an edge in getting noticed.

I’m always looking to expand my light painting repertoire. It is quite the obvious step to experiment with light painting two people instead of one.

Light painting two dancers at the bar in front of mirror. Dance Base, Edinburgh

Eventually, I figured that the best way to light paint this set up was to first light paint Chanelle (in front), then ask her to move away so I could light paint Charmagne (at the back)

Usually, I ask my subjects to stand against something, sit on a chair or hold on to something firm, as it helps them stand still while I light paint them. During that light painting session, we experimented with removing any of these ‘helpers’ to see what happens. The light painting session was nearing its end and I knew I already had some good shots. Under these circumstances I like to try something I’ve not done before, to see what happens. Chanelle and Charmagne held hands as they stood away from any walls or chairs.

Light painting two dancers standing  in the middle of the Dance Base studio while holding hands

I left the pose up to the dancers as it is their domain of expertise, while I concentrated on the light painting.

As could be expected, without anything to lean on, both subjects moved more during the light painting than what I’m used to. But thanks to the uniform dark background, it was relatively straightforward to fix this problem in Photoshop. The next step is for me to figure out how to do that with a more detailed backdrop. I look forward to trying this out.

 

 

More Autumn Forest Impressionism

Panning the camera is another technique I love to use in order to create an impression of the scene in front of me.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

This was quite early in the fall, and there were only hints of the autumn colours.

I miss the fall colours, but fortunately, spring is just around the corer, with its palette of fresh hues. The autumn definitely has a different mood to it, and every year I try to go out and photograph nature as much as I can.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

The autumn colours were in full bloom and the foliage was backlit, the ideal lighting situation for translucent objects

The amount of panning you need to create the kind of photographs in this post is going to depend on what kind of focal length you use. I used a 35mm lens on a cropped sensor, corresponding roughly to 50mm on a full frame camera.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

I didn’t particularly like this photo when I got home and downloaded the pictures from my camera. But it has grown on me and is now one of my favourites. This is why I always wait some time before editing my photos, so I get a more ‘objective’ opinion, if that ever is possible.

I typically choose 1/6s as my shutter speed for panning trees in the forest. Too long a shutter speed and I find it hard to keep the up and down motion straight enough. On the other hand, a fast shutter speed is not giving me enough of a motion blur.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

I wanted to get a little bit of the ground in my composition. It took a number of tries to get the result I wanted, as it is quite a bit harder to frame your shots when panning.

The best compromise that works for you may be different, and it always takes a bit of experimentation to find the settings that suit your style best.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

I took a pic from roughly the same vantage point a couple of years ago. But this time around, the photograph came out quite differently. When photographing nature, no two days are the same.

I would really encourage you to give this technique a try. You can see how it works with an autumn forest. You should experiment with different kinds of subjects. I know I will.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

when I saw this scene, I know I had a photograph or two, but it took me some time to figure out the best vantage point. Always work your subject.

Panning the camera to create an impressionist photography of an autumn forest

I learned this from Bryan F Peterson: what is the best time to take a vertical photo? Right after you take the horizontal.

 

Autumn Forest Impressionism

Impressionist photography is one of the personal projects I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. And since autumn is my favourite season, photographically speaking,  I strive to take as many impressionist pictures as I can during the fall.

Multiple in camera exposures of a tree in a fall forest

I immediately noticed this tree. I was attracted by the pastel colours.

One of the techniques for rendering impressionist pictures involves in camera multiple exposures. I learned it from one of my photographic heroes, Bryan Peterson.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

The leaves were backlit, an ideal situation. And I figured the touch of red/orange would make the picture ‘pop’.

Working in the forest, I found that moving the camera down a little bit after each frame produces the most pleasing results. How much movement is a matter of taste and also depends on the focal length of your lens. The photographs in this post were taken with a 35mm lens on a DX camera, corresponding to a 50mm lens for a full frame sensor.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

It is harder to get the overcast sky out of a vertical composition, and I believe this is the reason I have fewer of these. But I’m very pleased with this one.

A bit of experimentation is in order, and with practice, you develop the muscle memory that allows you to generate impressionist photographs of your liking without much trial and error.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

I took a picture from pretty much the same vantage point the year before, but the colours are never quite the same from year to year (or week to week for that matter)

But even with the practice I’ve got under my belt, I always take several pictures of a given composition to make sure there is at least one I really like. If your cameras allows for multiple exposures, I would encourage you to give this technique a try.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

I try to find compositions with a pleasing arrangement of trees. It’s harder than you think.

Urban Impressionism: Edinburgh Tour Buses

The use of camera movement and/or zooming during a long exposure is a technique I learned from one of my photographic heroes, Bryan Peterson. It takes experimentation to figure out which photographic subjects are likely to produce interesting images.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I really like this old style tour bus and I was delighted I could capture an impressions picture of this wonderful subject.

So a while back, I decided to try out this technique in an urban setting, namely central Edinburgh. I was quickly intrigued by the many colourful tour buses going by.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I love the colour red as it is an attention grabber in photographs.

The images in this post were taken with an exposure of 1/8s, turning the camera while holding the zoom ring. It takes quite a bit of practice, and I had to try my luck on a lot of passing cars and buses to get the three images you see here. I really look forward to trying this technique on other urban photography subjects.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

This tour bus seemed to go by at a higher frequency than the others, and I therefore had multiple attempts at a “bus impression”.

Light Painting a Dancer in Stockbridge: Juan

About a year ago, I had plans to do a light painting session in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, with singer/songwriter Anna McLuckie. Unfortunately  we had to switch to an indoor location due to very poor weather. In a way it was a blessing because the pictures turned out great (you can see them here). But it was also a shame because I really liked the location we had picked for the shoot, McKenzie bridge.

Light painting of dancer framed with one arch of McKenzie bridge, in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Framing within a frame is a favourite composition tools of mine. I couldn’t resist framing my model with one of the arches of McKenzie bridge.

Interestingly, dancer  Juan Barton had expressed interest in my personal light painting project and in Stockbridge as a potential location for the shoot. McKenzie bridge immediately came to my mind and we quickly agreed on the location.

Light painting of male dancer wearing a suit and framed with one arch of McKenzie bridge, in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I really liked the metal gate and I wanted to reveal it by putting my subject on the right side of the frame.

Because of my previous attempt at shooting there, I already had a number of ideas for photographs, so we got started right away. I really liked this arch and the metal gate, not only for the elements of design they presented but also for the light painting possibilities. We did three poses before moving on to the next set up.

Light painting of male dancer wearing a suit and framed with one arch of McKenzie bridge, in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

The first two poses above would not signal to you than Juan is actually a dancer. So for the last pose with this set up, I asked Juan to assume a more dancer-like stance.

I always ask my subjects to bring a variety of clothes, but typically leave the precise wardrobe choice up to them, although I do stress that I like colourful outfits.  When Juan mentioned he had brought a set of hot pants and a red boa, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect!

Light painting of dancer wearing jeans hot pants and a red boa at McKenzie bridge, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

It was a good thing the location was relatively secluded, as we would have likely drawn a lot of attention given Juan’s outfit and the rather chilly weather.

Since the shoot took place in November, I had to do these last two light paintings quite fast as to not end up with a frozen dancer!

Light painting of dancer wearing jeans hot pants and a red boa at McKenzie bridge, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I prefer the first pic of this series, but Juan chose this one as his Facebook banner!

Vision Training: Fork Art

I greatly valued my education when I was a scientist, and always looked to learn new skills. That hasn’t changed now that I am a photographer.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

I took a picture of a fork on a black piece of plexiglass (hence the reflection) and then started playing with the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

A while back, I took an online class “Stretching your frame of mind”, taught by Joe Baraban, and this course left a lasting impression on me. The instructor, who is a top photographer with an impressive list of clients and awards,  told us about the principles of design. He also stressed the fact that he had the great advantage of having studied art instead of photography.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

Another version of the fork photo using different colours in the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

So when the opportunity to take a graphic design class on Coursera presented itself, I immediately signed up. The first week of the class was an introduction to image making, and we were asked to create at least ten images of an ordinary household object.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

In this version, I changed the colours of the Gradient Map again and also added a texture using the Photoshop filter gallery. When combining these two tools, the possibilities are nearly endless.

I chose a fork for the assignment, because I really like the lines and shapes of that object. Visually, I find forks more interesting than knives and spoons. And I didn’t want to chose too large an object, because that would have made finding a suitable background more difficult.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

Another version using the Gradient Map and the texture filter. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop!

Initially, I thought I’d need about three compositions of my fork on a background in order to generate the ten different versions required for this assignment. But when I started playing around in Photoshop, I quickly generated ten variants using only the composition above. I’m only showing you my favourites.

Black and white picture of the fork on a black pice of plexiglass

It is easy to overcomplicate things, when playing around in Photoshop, by stacking many effects. It is useful at some point to step back and try a new simple version. Like a black and white one for example.

It is also fun to play with the various Duotones, Tritones and Quadtones that come with Photoshop. There are many good tutorials on this subject online. The photograph below uses one of the default Photoshop Duotones.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone

I used a different composition to play with the various Duotones available in Photoshop. Here again, there are many, many possibilities available to you if you are willing to experiment.

To conclude, I strongly suggest you try this exercise with a household object of your choosing. It opened my eyes to many new possibilities for image making.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone and a texture filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

One can of course combine effects and add a texture filter to the Duotone photograph. Here is an example using the craquelure filter from the Photoshop filter gallery,

 

 

 

Light Painting a Dancer: Kenna

In Edinburgh, the Royal Mile is the street connecting Edinburgh castle to the Palace of Holyrood, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Photographically speaking, the Royal Mile and the areas surrounding it offer great opportunities.

light painting of model with brick columns, with blue background

Lines, shapes and texture. Some of the elements of design I look for. Adding colour with creative use of white balance (tungsten) to add colour contrast with Kenna’s purple top.

Kenna and I walked about quite a bit to scout the areas around the Royal Mile. Then I spotted a set of columns near St Giles Cathedral. Lines, shapes and textures aplenty, so I knew there was a photograph there. Because of Kenna’s purple top, I decided to use the tungsten white balance to give the stones a definite blue cast, to provide good colour contrast.

Light painting of model in front of St Giles cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland

The entrance of St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile is another location replete with photo opportunities.

We didn’t have to move far for the next set up. The stairs to the entrance of St Giles Cathedral is a location I spotted way back then as I was taking an online photography course.

Light painting of model in front of St Giles cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland

The vertical composition better showcases (in my opinion) the lines and shapes of the background.

As Bryan Peterson, a photographer I really admire, is fond of saying: “What is the best time to take a vertical photograph? Right after you take the horizontal”.

Light painting of model in a close by  the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland

I really like the urban feel of this building, with the pipes and textured walls.

One of the great lessons I learned from top class photographer is to “work your subject”. Usually, I have some limited time at a given location with my subject, and I therefore like to revisit locations I have used before. That give me the opportunity to work my subject some more. Since I learn new things in between visits, that gives me the opportunity to improve upon the photographs previously taken at that location.

Light painting of model in a close by  the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland

I prefer this shot over the previous because of i) the pose and ii) the sign over the door is better “light painted”

I had used the building in the above photograph in a shoot with another dancer, Jennifer. I wanted to try a different composition and new poses with Kenna. The picture above is my second favourite photo from the shoot. My favourite picture from the day is the first picture in this post.