Friday, May 30, 2008

The reception

After the ceremony there is the reception, with its mix of formality and informality. The traditional speeches from the bridal party, the cutting of the cake and the bridal waltz are excellent sources for photographs; as well as the relaxing and mingling of the guests.

So the photographer is still busy during this part of the wedding too. This cake cutting photo is from the wedding of Elizabeth (Sarah's sister) and Aidan about 18 months ago. There was a professional photographer employed for this wedding, so I was conscious of not getting in his way. It is important to remember that the pro is making his living, and therefore deserves to have the key positions for taking his pictures.

If I were taking this photo again, I would be more conscious of the harsh shadows behind the bride and groom. Even if I were not able to move to a different position, I should have been able to take the flash off camera to a higher position so that the shadows were hidden behind the subjects.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 17-55mm DX; ISO 200; 1/60 sec; f4.5.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The rehearsal

Yesterday we had the rehearsal for Sarah's wedding, which is happening on Saturday. That's Sarah above, with her father Michael, practicing their entrance to the wedding venue. She looks very relaxed and happy, doesn't she?

I used the rehearsal to decide on the best positions for me to be in for the ceremony, the signing of the register and the immediate aftermath. Father Peter, who is performing the ceremony, pre-empted my questions from yesterday's post by telling me that he didn't mind where I stood or whether I used flash or not. He even offered to "stage manage" the register signing for me to make sure that we had the best possible results. He was terrific actually - very down-to-earth, and fully aware that the day is all about the couple and what they want, rather than what he might want.

I was also able to have another look around the site for photo vantage points, as well as being able to check the lighting. Yesterday's lighting was quite flat, rather than the afternoon sunlight I was expecting. This was a result of overcast conditions, and it appears likely that we will have similar lighting on the day, so it was good to have a preview.

EXIF: Nikon D300; Nikkor 24-70mm; ISO 200; 1/200 sec; f4.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The ceremony

The ceremony itself is also a possible source of wedding photos, and that is particularly true if the ceremony has something unusual about it. When my friends Matt and Vicki were married in Greece, the ceremony was conducted by a Greek Orthodox priest in a 200-year old church on an island. The Greek Orthodox ceremony is full of tradition and symbolism, including fixing crowns on the heads of the newlyweds, then showering them with sugared almonds as they are led ceremonially around the church by the priest. The sense of fun and joy in this part of the wedding was a counterpoint to the quite formal parts of the ceremony.

However, the photographer has to be mindful of when it is acceptable to take pictures, particularly when using flash. It may not be appropriate in certain circumstances, and it is always advisable to find out from the priest or celebrant before the ceremony whether there are any times when photographs aren't welcome.

EXIF: Canon A620; ISO 100; 1/60 sec; f3.5.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More on weddings

Although, at a wedding, all the focus is on the bride and groom, there are also other stories to be told. The bridal party, the parents, the extended families - all of these people are connected to the event in some way. When looking back at the wedding day in years to come, the bride and groom will want to remember them too.

When my friends Sarah and Patrick were married, Patrick's nephew was one of the groomsman. He has appeared in TFF before, playing pool with the boys before the ceremony. He was a real scene stealer, dressed up in his min-tux; a smaller version of the other groomsmen. Like the others, he was a little excited and nervous, and here his grandfather has a quiet word of reassurance for the little man just before the wedding was to begin.

The wedding photographer has to have an eye out for these ancillary events while concentrating mainly on the bride and groom. Professional wedding photographers sometimes have a second shooter for just this type of picture. The solo photographer doesn't have the same luxury, so they must make sure not to forget to look for the other stories.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 70-200mm VR; ISO 200; 1/125 sec; f5.6


Monday, May 26, 2008

Wedding photography

It's wedding week here at TFF. As I mentioned last week, my niece is to be married on Saturday, and I will be taking the photos for her. I have the utmost respect for wedding photographers, who have to handle nervous bridegrooms, beautiful brides and proud mothers all the while trying to make images that the happy couple will cherish for years.

So, this week we'll be taking a glimpse at some of the weddings I've taken pictures at
over the years, starting with this one of my nephew Max and his lovely bride Lisa. The wedding was in autumn in Tasmania, where the couple live, and the ceremony was held in the grounds of a wedding reception lounge just outside Hobart. The autumn colours are very evident in this photo, taken right at the end of the ceremony, and a smiling bridesmaid looks on as they have the traditional first kiss as a married couple. Although the afternoon light is quite good, I have used fill flash for this picture to ensure that there is sufficient lighting on the faces.

The correct exposure is always a challenge at weddings, because of the range of contrast between the usual white wedding dress worn by the bride, and the equally traditional dark suit worn by the groom.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 17-55mm DX; ISO 200; 1/60 sec; f6.3.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Tulip bowl

Following on from yesterday's post about tulips, here is a picture of a tulip flower taken from vertically above, showing the stamen. You can also see how the shape of the flower is reminiscent of a wine glass. Nature certainly has provided us with the blueprints for lots of handy things. This flower didn't come from the nursery we saw yesterday (to my knowledge, anyway!) as the photos were taken some years apart.

Apart from that, the outstanding colour of the bloom and the terrific contrast with the foliage look very attractive. This bloom was part of a bunch of cut flowers, so the picture was taken indoors with a couple of flashes for lighting.

Tulips seem to bloom very quickly - they open, and then, within a couple of days, the petals are dropping off. But, they are beautiful while they last.

EXIF: Nikon D200; Micro Nikkor 105mm; ISO 200; 6/10 sec; f22.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring tulips

It's not spring here, where I live. It's the start of winter actually, the days are shorter and cooler, and the football season is well underway. Sometimes it does you good to look for images that remind you of a different season, and that's what I have done here.

Each year in Melbourne they have a Tulip Festival, and I happened to be there one year when the festival was in full swing. This photo was taken at a commercial tulip nursery that had lots of interesting Dutch food and drinks, not to mention a plethora of tulips. Tulips, of course, are very colourful and when planted in long rows in their varying hues, they are almost irresistible from a photographic standpoint.

Holland is famous for its tulips, and in fact at one time tulips were almost a form of currency in that country. I believe there was even a secondary tulip market on the stock exchange, such was their economic power at the time. Tulips are not native to the Netherlands, however - tulips originated in Asia, being found natively in Turkey and Afghanistan. In any case, they are now a very popular flower world-wide, and a delight to look at.

EXIF: Sony Cybershot; ISO 100; 1/500 sec; f4.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rainbow lorikeet

Luck's a fortune, as the old saying goes. Today I went to the venue where my niece's wedding will be held next week, just to scope out the site. I wanted to see where the light was coming from, and what strength of light there would be at the time of the ceremony. The location is a golf course, perched on a hill overlooking the city, and it is quite picturesque. Naturally, being a golf course, there are a lot of trees, and the trees around the area that will be used for the wedding ceremony were full of native birds. They were in full song this afternoon, and being such a perfect day, the ambiance was quite beautiful.

This is a rainbow lorikeet. The blogger image above is showing some artifacts as a result of the compression they use on this site, but you can view a larger image here.

So, as well as doing the forward planning that I needed to do, I had a chance to photograph some birds while I was there. The setting for the wedding is lovely, and we may be serenaded by birds as well.

EXIF: Nikon D300; Nikkor 80-400mm VR; ISO 800; 1/1250 sec; f5.6.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Wedding

My niece Sarah (that's her, above, when she was about 4) is getting married next week. The whole family is looking forward to the wedding. We all approve of her fiance, who has virtually been part of the family for a few years in any case, and Sarah is so excited about the big day. She is a master organiser, and the preparations are well in hand.

Sarah has asked me to photograph the wedding. Although I have taken photographs at many weddings, I have never been the wedding photographer before. Nervous - me? Yup.

But I am looking forward to the challenge; and certainly, sharing the successful images that result will be wonderful. I am in preparation mode as we speak: making sure the equipment is in tip-top working condition, charging batteries, working out a plan for the shoot. I have the running sheet for the day and a map of the venue, together with some ideas from the bride-to-be on the type of shots she would like.

Tomorrow I will be going to the venue to see the layout for myself, and I'm going to be there at the same time that the events are scheduled to unfold next week. That way I can judge the lighting as well as plan some scenic spots for the photographs. There will also be a rehearsal a couple of days out from the ceremony, so that will give me more opportunity to scout the venue and prepare.


Monday, May 19, 2008

White balance

Although most cameras have an Auto White Balance function, I have always felt that better results were available with a little manual intervention. If your camera lets you select a white balance setting, then this usually provides a more successful outcome than letting your camera decide for you. If you are taking a series of shots, then Auto White Balance has the potential to give you inconsistent results; whereas, if you set your camera yourself (to say, "Outdoors", for example) then all your photos will have the same white balance.

A few years ago, I wrote a tutorial on White Balance Technique for the on-line camera group that I belong to. If you are interested in getting more out of your camera, or just interested in photography generally, why not visit the site - just click on the link to to right of this column.

A couple of points about white balance three years on from when I wrote the tutorial. Camera functions have generally improved, and I am sure that Auto White Balance has too, but I still don't use it. The instruction manual with my Nikon camera still indicates that there are colour temperatures where Auto White Balance is not effective, so I choose to set the WB myself. I shoot Raw images, and then fine tune WB in post processing.

I have a new favourite method of selecting white balance, and that is by using a WhiBal reference card to provide a WB point that I can use in post processing. I find this an easier and more consistent process than anything I have used before, and it takes virtually no time at all. You just include the WhiBal in at least one photograph taken under each relevant lighting temperature, and then use the White Balance tool in your photo editing software to adjust the all the images taken under those conditions. Simple!

In my examples at the top, the image in the left was exposed using the camera's daylight WB setting. You can see that I have included the WhiBal card in the picture, so I opened the image in Photoshop and used the white balance tool to click on the gray area of the WhiBal. The result is in the image in the right. The image is a bit cooler overall, and you'll notice that the WhiBal is showing its actual neutral gray colour instead of the brown/grey tones in the first image.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Non-rolling stones

These stones obviously haven't rolled for some time. The very bright green and very slippery moss was attached securely to the rocks along this shore-line. The water is sparkling clean, but nonetheless plenty of algae has formed, and it seems to have been there for a while. It looks like the algae only exists to the water line, as the parts of rock that are above that have no algae at all, while it is fairly abundant below. I know absolutely nothing about marine fungus, so everything that I have just written is opinion only!

I took the photo because I liked the bright colour of the algae and the contrast with the bland rocks and the blue water. In fact, the exposure was quite tricky, because the bright sun was playing havoc with the pale rocks. I have had to adjust the exposure of some of the rocks in post processing so that there were no hotspots in the final image.

EXIF: Canon A620; ISO 200; 1/500 sec; f4.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

IT 103

The one thing about reconfiguring a computer is the time factor - it just takes so much time to back up, reinstall and then reload. You can only go as fast as your computer allows, and sometimes even slower than that to make sure that the machine and software both cope with the changes. Past experience has taught me that the OS does better if you give it time to think between all that loading of programs and files.

My clean install project has gone relatively well, and now I'm reinstalling backed-up documents. Tomorrow I'll start on the programs. I have decided that I will make a snapshot image of the hard drive when all the programs and files have loaded. That way, when I next need to go through this torture, I can simply load the image onto the formatted hard drive, saving a whole bunch of time.

Something I haven't done before is reinstall Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom acts like a data base. It doesn't store photos, it captures information on all of your images, including any post processing that you have done in Lightroom. The data base is backed up, but I am nervously waiting to see whether the program is just as it was before I reformatted. I am at least expecting to find that the program has lost its link to each image, but I am also hoping that I am wrong on that count, as that outcome means a whole new bunch of required time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IT 102

My computer, being slow and downright unco-operating, needed to have a makeover. Yesterday, I started on the task of reinstalling Windows Vista. I wanted to format my hard drive and start again from a blank canvas in order to get rid of all the accumulated detritus. That's a pretty easy task with Windows XP, and one I have successfully completed a few times before. But it is much harder with Vista.

Vista is happy enough to do a repair install, but a clean install (where the hard drive is reformatted) - no way. On my computer, the OS had been upgraded from Windows XP, and then I had done a repair install over the top of that about twelve months back. You can imagine the crapola (technical computer jargon) that had piled up as a result.

I finally found an article on the web that gave me some encouragement that it could be done. Brian Livingston's method mirrored my circumstances exactly - how to do a clean install with an upgrade version of Vista. However, as usual, there was a glitch when I misunderstood one section of the piece and went down a dry gully (more jargon!) that cost me two hours. Since I recognised
the error and revisited the installation though, things have gone rather smoothly... so far.

Now I have internet access again; today I hope to restore my email settings, and with any luck, I'll have my images and music back on my hard drive pretty soon. There is no doubt that my computer is running more quickly, but I have yet to reinstall my programs, so I'll reserve judgement until then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

IT 101

Computers - don't you love 'em? For example, without today's electronic wizardry this blog would be a daydream. My photos, spanning over 40 years, are stored on my computer; so is my music. But there is an inherent danger involved in this increasing reliance on the digital tools (and toys!) we so take for granted. What if something goes wrong?

I suppose that we all have had the backup mantra stuffed down our throats until we are heartily sick of it. But when you come to the day that it is needed, and you know that you have a current, accessible backup, you can pat yourself on the back for all the hours you have spent maintaining it.

I am at that point. I haven't had a hard drive failure or a complete system meltdown (thank goodness!) but my Windows Vista OS has been slowly deteriorating in performance until my patience has been tested to its absolute limit. I could take a short holiday while my computer boots up, and waiting for Outlook to access and deliver my email is slower than the days of mail being delivered on foot by the local mail man who knew everybody's name and business.

Solution: I am going to reinstall the OS. That means a complete dump of my files, reformatting the hard drive and then a clean install of Vista including SP1. Am I nervous - absolutely petrified! I've done this before with previous versions of Windows, and it doesn't seem to matter how careful you are, there is always some hidden gotcha or "Factor X" that prevents your computer from being exactly the way it was before you started, only much, much quicker.

Anyway, I've reached the stage where the fear of losing something is less than the annoyance factor of using this clunking monstrosity, so wish me luck. I'll report back in due course.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Useful flash accessories

One of my favourite photo sites is Strobist, a collection of helpful hints, strategies and demonstrations of the imaginative use of small flash guns as opposed to large studio lighting setups. Most amateur photographers have a flash, whether it is the small internal flash that comes with the camera, or a slightly larger flash on a hot shoe. The Strobist site is well worth a visit (click on the Strobist link beside this blog) - you'll find useful tutorials that will improve your use of artificial light.

A recent article there previewed the range of flash accessories currently being marketed by Dave Honl, a professional photographer. Like many before him, Dave is supplementing his photographic gigs by selling some useful tools that have grown out of his own DIY accessories. Click here to visit his web site.

As one who has made snoots out of paper and gobos out of anything handy, like most photographers, I was impressed by this range of easily transported and relatively low-cost flash add-ons. Whilst I can see the usefulness of studio lighting, I have neither the room nor the budget to set up multiple lights, seamless backdrops and power packs. If I can modify my OEM flashes with useful accessories, then I am a happy photographer.

I have bought Dave's snoot, pictured above, to give me a way of narrowing the light that falls on the subject, allowing for some cool effects when coupled with the ambient lighting. You can see that it can also double as a bounce card, thanks to its unique construction and velcro tabs. It arrived from the US in about a week, and I can already see that it will become a fixture in my camera bag.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Paris - Tomb of the Unknown Deportee

War memorials are terribly important, as they provide a moving testament to the human tragedy of past war, as well as a reminder that we should do all in our power to prevent war in the future. Situated Behind Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cité is a monument to the many thousands of Jews who were deported from Paris by the Nazis in World War II. It marks the area on the Seine where the deportees were loaded onto boats to be sent from Paris to the concentration camps. From the outside of the memorial (above), you descend down to the level of the river, where there are several sculptures and inscriptions as reminders of these horrible years. There is a far more eloquent description than I can muster in the Melbourne Age, one of Australia's foremost newspapers.

Finally, you peer through a dark corridor (below) that recreates the terror that enfolded these deportees as they were bundled onto the boats. The corridor is lit by thousands of tiny quartz stones that reflect light, each one representing a soul who was forced on this journey. The effect is eerie, and not a little scary, and it certainly makes you think of how absolutely terrifying it must have been for them. The Tomb of the Unknown Deportee is in the foreground.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Paris - La Conciergerie

Also on the Ile de la Cité, near La Sainte Chapelle, is this marvellous old building, La Conciergerie. It was originally part of the Palais de la Cité, then it became a prison during the late 14th century, and subsequently became the place where political prisoners were sent during the Revolution. The Tribunal for the Revolution was based here and sentenced over 2,500 prisoners to death at the guillotine.
The interior is now largely a museum and houses memorials to the famous or infamous prisoners, including the reconstituted cell of Marie Antoinette, although the Hall of Guards (pictured above) still dates from the Middle Ages. The present Palais de Justice now takes up most of the site surrounding La Conciergerie and La Sainte Chapelle.

The top image was taken from a boat on the Seine just before dark one afternoon, and it is a thoroughly recommended way to see Paris.

EXIF: (top) Sony Cybershot; ISO 100; 1/500 sec; f5.6.
(bottom) ISO 250; 1/30 sec; f2.4.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Paris - La Sainte Chapelle

This is one of the most beautiful church interiors I've ever seen (larger image here)- La Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cité, quite near Notre Dame. It was built by Louis IX in the 13th century to house some religious relics he purchased from the Middle East. Although some of these relics were destroyed during the Revolution, some did survive, and are now kept in the Louvre's reliquary.

There are two chapels here - one on the upper level for the exclusive use of the King; and another below it, on the ground floor, for other worshippers. At the time of construction, the King was able to walk directly into his chapel from the palace. The impressive stained glass windows, restored in the 19th century, tell stories from the Bible, and the walls below are painted just as they used to be in the Middle Ages.

Tourist venues in Paris, much as they are everywhere, are usually quite busy. When I visited Sainte Chapelle, I was struck by the number of people who sat in quiet solitude in the upper chapel, looking at the remarkable windows and walls, or just lost in their own contemplation.

EXIF: Sony Cybershot; ISO 200; 1/30 sec; f2.0.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More of "Paris, je taime"

In the film "Paris, je t'aime", there are many glimpses of Paris, including the beautiful Place des Vosges in the Marais district. This is the oldest square in Paris, and therefore has a long history. Many famous people have lived there - Victor Hugo was a resident for many years during the 19th century, as was Cardinal Richelieu during the 17th century.

The Place des Vosges was officially opened in 1612, and one of the most striking things about it is that all the surrounding buildings have the same design, with red brick facades and blue slate roofs. The square is surrounded by an arcade to allow pedestrians shelter from the weather as they stroll around the square. Although the buildings are mostly commercial properties, there are some private residences remaining. I'm pretty sure that they would not be cheap!

I took these photos at the beginning of spring, and Paris was starting to turn green after the winter months. Although cool (you can see most people are wearing jumpers or coats), there was lovely blue sky on this particular day. Parisians and tourists have gathered on the seats and on the grass to enjoy the sunshine and admire the statues and fountains.

EXIF: (both) Sony Cybershot; ISO 100; 1/500 sec; f5.6.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Paris, je t'aime

With some friends, I've just watched a film called "Paris, je t'aime", which is a series of vignettes of life from the various districts of Paris. An ensemble cast and 18 different stories makes it an interesting and enjoyable kaleidoscope of Paris, the city of romance. One of the more obvious pursuits is recognising places in Paris that you have actually visited.

I've been to Paris a couple of times, and we were just saying as we were watching this film that it's high time that we went again, because it is one of those places that you do not want to become unfamiliar with. This picture was taken during my first visit there many years ago. The weather was absolutely ghastly while we were there, except for this one beautiful day when we visited the Eiffel Tower. This picture shows the Pont d'Iéna (more bridges!) and the Trocadero, with the shadow of the Tower stretching across the Seine.

Unfortunately, it reminds me of the mugging that we experienced a few days later when our friends had their movie film of this day taken from them, never to be seen again. The mugging was the result of a misunderstanding, where some "ladies of the night" thought that we were filming them as they stood in doorways in Rue St Denis. We weren't actually - but we couldn't convince them of that, and sacrificing the movie film seemed worth escaping from what may have been an ugly scene. And, this occurred in broad daylight, not late at night. As novice tourists, we didn't even know that we had ventured into that sort of area until it was too late.

Still, no-one was hurt; and now it is a story that has been told many times over the years. As often happens on holidays, it is the things that go wrong that provide the longest lasting memories.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley

Recently I have enjoyed reading some historical novels - the latest being some of Philippa Gregory's series on the Tudors, including one that has recently been made into a film, "The Other Boleyn Girl". The one I have open currently is "The Virgin's Lover", which is about Henry VIII's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and her ascent to the throne of England. All of these novels have plenty of intrigue, with greedy courtiers keen to curry favour with the monarch. In this novel, it is Robert Dudley who is ingratiating himself with the soon-to-be-Queen - is it for fair means or foul?

When you get caught up in a book, the characters leap out of the pages at you. I often wish that I could draw so that I could have a visual reminder of what my mind's eye imagines. Well, I can't draw for toffee, but I can take a picture. I grabbed a couple of sculptures that I had lying around the house (as you do!) and set about my work.

I imagined a beautiful young princess unwittingly being manipulated by her handsome courtier, so I posed the statues with her facing away from camera, but in the foreground; and him looking at her from afar, an effect achieved by having him slightly out of focus. I used a diffused flash at camera right for lighting both, and a flash (with a home-made snoot)
left of camera, focused on the rear figure. Then it was a matter of dialling in the correct exposure level to achieve this dark and mysterious result. This was all being done in daylight, so I had to use low levels of flash with a high shutter speed, and yet I couldn't use a small aperture because that would give me a deeper DOF than I wanted. Fortunately, my camera allows high-speed synching (here I used 1/250 sec approx) with the flashes.

It's amazing how a little imagination and some household props can achieve a result.

EXIF: Nikon D300; Nikkor 24-70mm; ISO 400; 1/320 sec; f8.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ansel Adams

The new month brings us a break from our series on bridges, and today we are reflecting on one of the world's most recognisable photographic names, Ansel Adams.

The New York Times of 27 April has an article about Ansel Adams and his dedication to Yosemite National Park - you can see it here. There is also a link on that page which takes you to a media presentation of some of his work. One of his acknowledged masterpieces, "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941" can be seen here.

As well as being one of the world's foremost landscape photographers, Adams was also an avowed conservationist and an excellent educator. He wrote several books on the photographic process from capturing the image to printing it, and his work on the "Zone" system (a method of determining exposure values) is still quoted today. The combination of his own photographic masterpieces, his work in the education of photography and his commitment to the wilderness and conservation led to Adams being presented with the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1980.

To me, Adams is an inspiration for two reasons - the quality of his composition, and the excellence of his black and white printing. He literally made dodging and burning an art form.

EXIF: Ansel Adams, "Church, Taos Pueblo, 1942", courtesy Wikimedia, public domain.