Tag Archives: mood

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.

iPhone Photography – Urban Graffiti

If you are a casual DSLR  or point and shoot photographer, you’ve probably never used Photoshop actions and presets to edit your photographs and create a particular look. And you’ve almost certainly never applied a texture to one of your images.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Edited with the DistressedFX app.

I was introduced to adding textures to images in an online fine art nature photography class. I was delighted to find out you could do this on your iPhone. Here I used one of the textures from the DistressedFX app.

One of the great things about mobile photography is that you can buy apps that can give your photographs a different look and feel with a few button presses and slider adjustments. These apps pretty much do what many Photoshop presets and actions do. At a fraction of the cost.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the Diana analog filter from Camera+

A different version of the photograph. This time I used the Diana analog filter from Camera+.

I personally use Camera+ to take my photos and do some minor edits, such as adjusting brightness and contrast. I also like some of the analog filters that app provides, such as the Diana and XPRO C-41 or their retro Ansel filter for creating contrasty back and white images. I would love to try VSCO and Snapseed, but I can’t use these apps on my good old iPhone 4.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the XPRO C-41 filter from Camera+. for a crossed processed look.

In this version, I used the XPRO C-41 filter from Camera+. I’ve always loved the cross processed film look and this is one of my favourite filters.

One app I recently fell is love with is DistressedFX. It allows you to combine your photos with a number of textures to add mood to your images. The app also gives you many options to precisely adjust the blending of the textures and photographs.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Edited with Chrome filter from Camera+.

I rarely use this filter (Chrome from Camera+), but I liked the look it gave the image.

Another app for adding textures and other effects to your images is Mextures. It allows you to layer many textures and effects in one go and gives you a lot of control. But beware, these apps can be really addictive!

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the retro Ansel filter from Camera+.

The retro Ansel filter from Camera+ was applied to the image to create this contrasty black and white version.

iPhone Photography – I’m a Hipsta now

One of the fun thing with iPhone photography (iPhoneography) is the number of apps that allow you to exercise your creativity. I understand that sometimes a photo look can just be a fad or gimmick and won’t stand the test of time. But that is a chance I’m willing to take once in a while.

Bench in Edinburgh park, iPhone and Hipstamatic

Lone bench in an Edinburgh park. I love the Hipstamatic vintage look with minimalist compositions.

One of the first iPhone photography app I was introduced to is Hipstamatic. It’s a fun app that allows you to create images with a vintage look. You get a choice of lens types and films. You must commit to a lens/film combination before you take the picture, so it takes a bit of playing around to get some intuition about what the results will be. And the photo preview is very small, which can be a problem if you are like me and don’t have great eyesight.

Edinburgh castle from Princes Street. iPhone and Hipstamatic

Edinburgh castle from Princes Street.

Another drawback of Hipstamatic is that it gives you no control over exposure or focus. That was the main reason I was turned off iPhone photography in the beginning.

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. iPhone and Oggl.

Scottish national Gallery on Princes Street, Edinburgh. I tried different versions after importing into Oggl, and this was my favourite.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all of my pet peeves about Hipstamatic. It’s called Oggl. You can import all of your Hipstamatic lenses and filters, and even get some new ones. It is also possible to import into Oggl pictures taken with another camera app, such as Camera+. This solves the problem of the small photo preview on Histaminic and the need to commit to a particular lens and film combination before taking the picture. After years of Photoshop use, I’ve become accustomed to the flexibility afforded by digital photography to make decisions about the final look of the image at the editing stage, rather than having to commit right in camera.

ice cream van on Princes Street, Edinburgh. iPhone Oggl vintage look.

When I saw this ice cream van on Princes Street, I know I wanted a photo with a vintage look. It took a few tries of lens and film combinations in Oggl before I found one that I liked.

I’ve only begun to experiment with these fun apps, and I’m looking forward to taking many more photographs to hone my iPhoneography skills.

Princes Street Mall, Edinburgh. iPhone and Oggl.

I love shooting street photography with my iPhone. Nobody pays attention to you. This was taken at Princes Street Mall, Edinburgh

Light Painting A Dancer

One of the photographers I really look up to is Joe McNally  And some of my favourite images of Joe’s feature dancers.

So I decided to look for dancers willing to collaborate on my light-painting personal project. Having a willing subject is only half the battle. Just like in real estate, finding a great location is of the utmost importance.

Dancer in front of green building in the Meadows, Edinburgh

Dance artist Thania Acaron. The Meadows, Edinburgh

I always liked this green building located in the Meadows park, in Edinburgh. It has so many of the elements of design: colour, lines, shapes patterns and texture.

I had told Thania to bring a variety of outfits for the shoot. Initially, I had wanted her to wear something red, pink or purple to create colour contrast with the background. Like all artists, Thania is a bit of a contrarian. So she brought a green dress to the shoot. In hindsight I’m glad she did, because it worked really well with the location.

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.

Light Painting Composer and Audio Producer Frankie Lowe

This instalment of my personal light painting project had me working with composer, audio producer and musician Frankie Lowe. I was fortunate to meet Frankie through one of my previous light painting subjects, composer and cellist Atzi.

I love working with musicians and artists on these light painting projects, because they relate to the kinds of moody pictures one gets with this technique. They also like the novelty factor. After all, light painting does produce photographs one is not used to seeing, and as an artist it is always good to differentiate yourself. Another great benefit of working with artists and musicians is that they are full of ideas, and no two of them are remotely alike. This guarantees a new and interesting experience every single time.

Composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe at the piano light painting

I decided to gel my LED light torch and picked a cool blue to add colour contrast with the warm tungsten light by the piano. Since bluish people look quite unnatural, I removed the gel when light painting Frankie’s face.

The session with Frankie was no exception. I asked Frankie where he’d like to be photographed, i.e what kind of location would represent him and what he does best. I want my collaborators to like the images I produce and use them to promote themselves. It’s a win win situation. They get something out of the project so it wasn’t a waste of their time, and my pictures get exposure.

Frankie chose to be photographed in his recording studio. This posed a number of challenges, given the tight space, amount of recording equipment and number of musical instruments. While light painting a scene, I need to move around and be able to light the various parts of the scene from interesting vantage points. And the number of objects in the scene created some challenges in composing the photographs. Photography is all about problem solving.

Light painting of composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe in his recording studio

I’ve grown to like environmental portraits of this kind. There are lots of things to keep the viewer looking around the frame. And the light painting adds depth and dimension to the scene.

I’m quite pleased with the final results and especially the experience gained in carrying out this project. I was also delighted by the reactions on Facebook when Frankie updated his banner with the studio photograph above. All in all, time well spent.

Light painting of composer and audio producer Frankie Lowe  in his studio playing the guitar.

The last set up of the session. I experimented some more with colour gels.

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.

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.

Vision Training: Nature Abstracts

Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to really enjoy abstract photography, because it is a challenge in many respects.

Colour abstract of bed of flowers in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, using a long exposure and camera movement

By moving the camera over a bed of flowers in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, I was able to create this abstract picture of colour.

With a subject, you have certain rules to can grab onto. For example, place your subject according to the rule of thirds. Set the focus on your subject with a shallow depth of field to make it “pop” from the background. Or use the power of lines to guide the viewer to the subject of your photograph.

Multiple exposure of bluebell flowers in grass, taken in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

Superimposing multiple exposures in camera of a few bluebell flowers on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

Without a subject, you are forced to really think about how all of the lines, shapes and colours in your composition blend together. This becomes a real challenge when using multiple exposures or long shutter speed and camera movements to create your abstract photographs. I find this to be a wonderful vision training exercise.

Colour abstract of flowers obtained by moving the camera during a long exposure, with a texture  blended into the photograph in Photoshop

This is another colour abstract obtained by moving the camera over a bed of flowers. I wanted to get the red patch of colour to be approximately positioned according to the rule of thirds. A texture was added to the photograph in Photoshop.