Thursday, 30 December 2010

On the street - travel photography with Linden Neill

A guest blog from Linden Neill currently of no fixed address.

Bazaar Basics

As we have been travelling around, one of the areas that we try to visit in each town are the markets. Whether it is the local produce and fish markets or the speciality bazaars (in Turkey), we find that they are stimulating to the senses with the smells, sights and sounds of the local area. Being food lovers, we also get some of the local ingredients to use in our nights cooking. They are also great areas to practice photography. There are so many different styles that can be captured is such a small space - from macros to candid portraits, abstracts and street scenes.

Image by Linden Neill

Due to weight restrictions, the camera I have brought with me is a Canon G11. I have found that a camera of this size and capability really excels in a street shooting situation. Here are some tips I have learned in this situation.

Use the custom modes if you have them. I have both of the custom modes on the G11 set-up for street shooting. One of them is set-up based on aperture priority and the other on shutter priority. I use aperture priority most of the time and shutter priority if I want some movement in the image.

Image by Linden Neill

For outdoor markets I have both set-up on Auto White-balance, while indoors I set a custom white balance for the area I'm shooting in, as each stall usually has a different temperature light.

I also have it set-up on manual focus. I leave it at about 5m focus distance. Because of the small sensor in the G11, depth of field is either huge or really huge so I find that even if what I'm shooting isn't 5m away,it will be acceptably focused. The reason for using manual focus is that all compacts are plagued by shutter lag and this goes some way to reduce it.

Image by Linden Neill

Play with the inbuilt colour settings. Before this trip I shot exclusively RAW files and processed everything, however going home with thousands of files to edit didn't interest me. Using the controls over jpeg, I can produce something pretty close to processing on the computer.

Most cameras these days have alot of settings that can be changed in respect to the jpeg files. In the G11 for example I can produce black and white, sepia, different film styles, selective colouring, swap colours in the image and make contrast adjustments. Give them a go and you might be surprised with the results.

Image by Linden Neill

Most importantly make sure you take your camera. None of these tips will matter if your camera is sitting on the shelf at home. There is always something to take a cool picture of.

Image by Linden Neill

 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Happy Birthday Brisbane Powerhouse!

Brisbane Powerhouse, a producer of contemporary performing arts and a multi-arts venue where we have had the privilege of viewing some excellent photography exhibitions turned 10 in 2010!


We had a play at the Powerhouse recently and we must say it was fun. This iconic Brisbane structure has an interesting history and thankfully many parts from its varied past ‘lives’ has been kept.

Roy Rusden Ogg, a Brisbane City Council Tramway architect designed the New Farm Powerhouse and between 1928 and 1940 the structure slowly rose on the banks of a beautiful bend in the Brisbane River which also provided the water for cooling.


The Powerhouse reached its peak in post-war years supplying electricity for the largest tram network in the southern hemisphere as well as servicing many of Brisbane’s suburbs. Sadly, (in my opinion) trams were replaced by buses and the Brisbane City Council sold the building to the state. It was officially decommissioned in 1971.

It became the home for many of Brisbane’s homeless providing shelter and friendship. It was also a site for target practice for the army and a location for filmmakers and, as a precursor of its future, a canvas for graffiti artists and a stage for underground art happenings.


Somehow it survived two decades of neglect and a partially completed demolition project, and the building was reacquired by Brisbane City Council in 1989. Due to it being a fine example of industrial design of the art deco period, the power station was identified as culturally significant and the concept of a new incarnation as a centre for the arts was born.

Architect Peter Roy designed the redeveloped Brisbane Powerhouse which was opened on 10 May, 2000 by Lord Mayor Jim Soorley. Seven years later the building underwent a further stage of development and was re-opened on 6 June 2007 by Lord Mayor Campbell Newman with increased audience capacities, restaurant and bar facilities as well as functions and conference spaces. Gotta love the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s and their openings.


It’s an awesome venue, still evolving and bringing to Brisbane some wonderful events and a fabulous supporter of the art of photography.

How lucky are the people of Brisbane and those visiting to have such a venue? Thank you Brisbane City Council.


And who's that with Anita? Catriona Rowntree and the crew from Getaway joined Bluedog for a photo tour around Brisbane recently - keep an eye out for our new range of workshops commencing at inspiring and visually exciting venues in Brisbane!

 Images (c) Danielle Lancaster


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Last week in our backyard - Tips on Wildlife Photography

This baby python visited one of the tree ferns outside the Bluedog kennel office last week so Augustine and Sheryn took time out to play.


The lighting was low – another overcast day in an unseasonal start to summer we are seeing here in Queensland, Australia.

To even up the lighting silver reflective cardboard was placed under the snake.




Above image taken with available light only.

Above image taken with available light only but a silver reflective piece of
cardboard was placed under the snake.

Because of the position of the snake and the tree fern fronds hand holding was the only feasible option especially once it started to move.This meant their shutter speed had to be at least at the minimum focusing distance of the lens being used (105mm macro). Snakes tongues flicker quickly and to freeze the tongue you need a fairly fast shutter speed as they won’t usually pose still for you.

The ISO was pushed up from a starting point of 400 to 1600.

At 400 ISO shutter speeds were around the 1/25th second and at 1600 ISO 1/100th was attainable with a wide aperture.


Custom white balance adjustments were made of A2 G3.
We do love the motto: ‘get it right in camera”.



All images by Augustine Mathews and Sheryn Ellis

Did you know:
The ‘backyard’ to Bluedog studio is the oldest National Park in Queensland and the third oldest in the world! To see more images or on what to do when visiting Tamborine Mountain visit: www.blue-dog.com.au/Tamborine-Mountain-information-walks-photography.htm

2011 sees Bluedog Photography launching reptile photography sessions!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Photographing a Hawaiian Monk Seal

Today I had an amazing experience. Right outside my motel on the beach was a Hawaiian monk seal!

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered animal species on Earth and this earless seal is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Less than 1000 are surviving today.

This one is K13, an 11 year old pregnant female who is having a little rest on our beach here on the island of Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. K13 is blind in one eye and has a few scars most probably from sharks or mating.

K13 rests peacefully on the beach.
Image by Danielle Lancaster
The scientific name for these beautiful marine mammals is Monachus schauinslandi. The Hawaiian name is `ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua or "dog that runs in rough water". Hawaiian monk seals are the most primitive living members of the Family Phocidae, having separated from other true seals perhaps 15 million years ago.

K13’s gestation period is 11 months and she will return to Niihau Island where she was born to give birth. She will have one pup and nurse that pup for about 6 weeks in that time she will not feed while the pup grows and grows on her nutritious milk. Pups average 14 to 18 kg at birth and 1 metre in length. They get much larger, weighing in between 68 – 91 kilos before they stop nursing. Life expectancies are 25 to 30 years.

K13 stirs for a scratch. Image by Danielle Lancaster
And of course the biggest reason they are so rare is us humans once again. If you get the chance to see one and photograph them don’t use flash. I found underexposing two thirds of a stop exposed best in camera. How privileged I am today, thank you K13 you have made my day!

By late afternoon there had been many visit K13 to photograph her.
Barriers erected by volunteers ensure K13 has a peaceful rest before she ventures back out to the sea.
Image by Danielle Lancaster



The advancing lava flows and photographing panoramas for stitching

There is something humbling about standing next to lava flowing across the land. As it crackles announcing its advancement in a victorious way, the glow beneath the black bulge hints at the devastation this molten rock can cause.

Yet watching new land being formed on the youngest of all the Hawaiian Islands is a memory I will not soon loose.

Red hot lava crackles as it flows. Image by Danielle Lancaster

One house sits spared from the flow, almost as if Pele has seen a reason to allow Peggy, the owner another day of reprieve and a house down the road with the for sale sign erected seems not to be gaining a lot of attention. Next door the twisted lava now has the land at least 8 metres higher than it was the day before.

A house for sale on the lava fields Image by Danielle Lancaster

Charred utensils covered in lava are just some of the reminders of human habitation.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Nearby, the beach township of Kalapana was once an icon of Hawaii. It’s sweeping black sand beach fringed by swaying palm trees is still seen today plastered across postcards and tourist brochures beckoning you. The reality is Kalapana Beach is now covered in deep black lava with not a grain of sand in sight.

A tip for you when visiting these fields: keep an eye on your shoes - when they start to smoke it’s time to move.

Smokin' Shoes Image by Danielle Lancaster

The coastal drive from Kalapana to Hilo is one of the most scenic I have done. To do the whole route a 4WD is required. Hilo itself I found an unimpressive town.

Our accommodation at the Hilo Hawaiian was well below standard for the price paid. My rating 3/10 and I would not bother booking here again. Polystyrene cups in my room, one serving of coffee for your stay, dirty and stained linen, a smell in the restaurant and bar that had me gagging were just a few of the points I disliked.

From Hilo we continued north to Honokaa, a small town based on plantations most now past, with a stop at the impressive 135 metre Akaka Falls. We stayed overnight at the Hotel Honokaa Club – budget accommodation but well worth the $40.00 US we paid for the night. Annelle our hostess had a great sense of humour. For Aussies the word Hotel does not necessary mean it serves alcohol, however the local patrons at the sports bar next door readily welcomed us Aussies and before long had us joining them swigging shots of Patrón tequila.

Thankfully our heads were fine the next morning for our adventure into the stunning Waipio Valley – Sacred Valley of the Kings and the revered home of Hawaii’s powerful rulers and once considered the centre of Hawaiian civilisation and politics.

The valley is surrounded by 610 metre high cliffs draped by waterfalls and finishes at a beautiful black sand beach. See wild horses and meet friendly locals who farm this fertile valley most continuing the ancient practice of kalo cultivation. Again hire a 4WD to do this drive – if you prefer to use you own horse power, this is a steep walk in and out (25% incline) so allow plenty of time.

Waipio Valley Image by Danielle Lancaster

The most common disappointment I heard from visitors while on the Big Island was not being able to capture the entire splendour in front of their eyes. A wide angle lens is a must here and if you don’t have one then consider shooting images for stitching later on.

A couple of tips for shooting images to stitch:

Take the images from the same point of view – a tripod is best to use. After you take each image recompose the image by moving the camera either vertically or horizontally no more than 70%. This should allow a 30% overlap. More overlap is better than less.

Don’t change the exposure between shots – this includes white balance and focus distance.

Avoid shooting images to stitch when your scene lighting is changing dramatically such as at sunset and sunrise.

Don’t include moving objects.
Most times it is best to take off your polarising filter or your image will look unnatural.

Shoot in RAW.

Landscapes in wide allow more of the scene we see with our own eyes to be captured.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is this the face of Pele?


Image by Danielle Lancaster

Kīlauea, the youngest and most south-eastern volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

Kīlauea’s magma-plumbing system extends to the surface from more than 60km deep in the earth. This week I have had the fortune to photograph this massive volcano that has been erupting constantly since 3rd January 1983 though this is not when she started her fiery fury.

In fact, yesterday while on the volcano, more than 100 earthquakes were recorded. Hawaiian chants and oral traditions tell in veiled form of many eruptions fomented by an angry Pele before the first European, the missionary Rev. William Ellis, saw the summit in 1823. The caldera was the site of nearly continuous activity during the 19th century and the early part of this century. Since 1952 there have been 34 eruptions.

Kīlauea ranks among the world's most active and accessible volcanoes with many saying she tops the list. Lives and houses have been lost and this is a site where you can truly see the landscape change before your eyes.

Fast Facts about Kīlauea
The Hawaiian name "Kīlauea" means "spewing" or "much spreading".
Type: A Shield volcano
Elevation: 1,277 m
Area: 1,430 km2 and growing.
Located around 48km southwest of Hilo in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day! That’s enough to resurface a 32km, two-lane road daily.
By January 1994, 491 acres of new land have been created on Hawaii's Big Island – much more than that now.
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Where we stayed:
Kilauea Lodge, located in the quiet village of Volcano around 2.5km from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The Lodge was originally built as a YMCA camp in 1938. Owned and operated by chef Albert and his wife Lorna Jeyte it also has a great restaurant and hot tub! Their cats, Meatloaf and Lamb Chop, patrol the grounds and during your stay you are sure to meet them.

Rooms were nice and clean. Ours had a fabulous fire place which kept us very warm as the cool night air came in. All rooms decorated with art works and feature stained glass windows. Rooms start from $170.00 US and include a full breakfast. We got our room for $120.00 through Bookit.com\

Free Wi-fi available. Common room with DVD’s, games and books. Beautiful gardens.

Our rating: 8/10 and we’d stay here again.

More: http://www.kilauealodge.com/

Image by Danielle Lancaster

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tips for photographing lava fields

Do a search on the internet for ‘why use a polariser filter’ and you’ll get great tips on this fantastic filter that should be in everyone’s camera bag. There is information on why to use it for landscapes, reflections and colour saturation. However there is one landscape that does not get any mention – lava landscapes! I found a circular polariser invaluable during my shoot this week at the most active volcano on Earth – Kilauea – and its expansive lava fields.


Lava contains high levels of silicone and silicone reflects light. So my advice: when visiting lava fields be sure to use a polariser.

The Mauna Ulu Lava Flow of 1974 from Kilauea with a polariser filter.

The Mauna Ulu Lava Flow of 1974 from Kilauea without a polariser filter.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Fun in Photography with Apps

Sick of blown out skies or dark foregrounds when taking photos on your iPhone? Well they are a thing of the pasts tells gadget girl Anita, with the App Pro HDR!
With a simple tap on your screen your iPhone will take two images, one exposed for the highlights and one for the shadows and quickly merge the two images to create an evenly exposed image.

One of the great things with this is App is it allows you have the choice to let the camera decide what part of the image is the brightest and darkest or you can switch to Manual mode and select those parts of the image yourself. Once merged you have the option to move sliders and adjust Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Warmth and Tint. After you use this app for the first time you'll be hooked - even if you're not a fan of HDR images in general you'll love the effect you get, in camera from this application. A great App that is certainly well worth the $'s
(Works on iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4 & iPod Touch 4th Gen)
Pro HDR - $2.49

Guest blog by Anita Bromley
Anita Bromley is a photographer and tutor with Bluedog Photography. Her main passion is low light/night photography, however she is happy simply to have the camera in her hands and the opportunity to click away.

Images by Anita Bromley





Friday, 12 November 2010

Hasselblad and the Masters


The night before last I won a copy of the Hasselblad Masters Volume 2 Emotions. Just another photography book? Not likely.

Back in June this year I keenly clung to Hasselblad’s new H4D-60 camera, the only one bought into the country for ‘showing’, yet I would call it teasing. This week we saw the official launch here in Australia of this state of the art camera.

It bought back memories: the feel of a good quality medium format digital in your hands is something not to be taken lightly and as a fan of the medium format this little box excited me greatly.

The rep, keen I didn’t snap too many frames and wind up the shutter count, I think, breathed a sigh of relief when I finally took the camera away from my eye. This baby boasts a 60 megapixel 40 x 54mm sensor and with it sets new industry standards.

The unprecedented resolution delivers an ultimate level of image detail, making it ideal for commercial shooters who demand ultimate image resolution or for any extremely discerning photographer who demands both creative flexibility and ultimate image quality and this is where I see Hasselbald’s audience growing. 

Back to the book................

“The Hasselblad Masters represent photography at its finest; at its most inspired, most communicative, most beautiful. They are young, old, western, eastern, classical, experimental, traditional, modern, and futuristic. They have perhaps but one thing in common: they are masters at conveying an instant, an emotion, with images. Masters of the art and craft that is photography.”

In commoner terms, it’s a mighty impressive ‘read’ or should we say viewing. 

Nice work Hasselbald on both the book and the camera (the camera is on top of my Santa list), that can really deliver what we want from in-camera so perfectly. Now that has to keep loads of us happy!
My favourite quote from the book:
“Emotion is the electoral current that flows through an image”. Joao Carlos
Image by Hasselbald Master Chinese Bang Peng is the winner of this year’s Hasselblad’s Landscape and Nature award. A series of his from his western region of Sichuan Province in China captures the culture and colour of a maybe barren environment.
Image by Hasselbald Master, Mark Holthusen, USA

Sunday, 31 October 2010

They're off and racing!


Around Australia there will be a buzz tomorrow with the running of the Melbourne Cup, however in Melbourne and at the renowned Flemington Race Track that buzz will be a little louder as the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) celebrates the 150th running of the ‘race that stops a nation’.

From humble beginnings in 1861 the Melbourne Cup today draws international attention and is said to now be part of Australian culture. For those that are not making it to the main track there is plenty to keep shutter fingers happily snapping around the tracks.

Here’s a couple of horse racing photograph tips:
Positioning is important and of course you want to be as close to the action as you can. But don’t go climbing the rails or hanging over them.

Don’t forget the bookies....there can be a myriad of opportunities in the betting rings.

Never fire a flash towards the horses racing – it can spook them and Thoroughbreds are highly excitable!

Look down. It’s amazing the patterns and objects discarded on the ground that can make interesting images.
Turn your camera towards the crowd – there are some great reactions there to capture especially as the race ends.

Try keeping the sun to your back so the horses are nicely lit. Shooting into the sun is more likely to produce silhouettes.

If you can get near to the fence as the horses pass the finishing post you may capture some exciting finishes which always look better!

On the bend is another area that can provide fabulous photography opportunities. At this point the riders are spurring the horses on for the best position plus you can (depending on your position) have some tremendous lead in lines with the rails.

Starts are exciting photography opportunities – just give the horses room to move.
Let the best horse win!


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tonight in my Backyard: Ray Flash, Ringflash

Tonight in my backyard.....
The frogs are croaking loudly and what else is one to do, but have a little play.

I found this little fellow close to my back door and decided to put the Ray Flash through a few paces.

The Ray Flash ring adapter is a flash light modifier that turns your flash gun into a ring flash. Now, I have never been a fan of ring flash – yes it has its place in dental, medical and some fashion fields, however I have generally found the frontal lighting of ring flash to decrease texture of the subject.

And again I found this so tonight. The other glaring disadvantage of using ring flash is the reflection of the ring flash itself in the subject’s eye.

While the design of Ray Flash unit is quite complex, it does an impressive job of loosing just one stop of light – this can be seen either as a disadvantage or an advantage depending on the field you are working in. It acts merely as a reflector and changing the quality of light always comes at a price of light loss and reduced shooting range.

Some of the benefits of working with it included allowing me to get in close, between the fronds, so I was working the minimum focusing distance of the 105mm macro lens while no matter what, due to terrain I could not set up a flash/s to emit side lighting.

Another great benefit of being an adapter to a modern flash is to be able to work with TTL systems. As many other flash light modifiers, Ray Flash does not affect the TTL metering, so you can, if you prefer, enjoy the convenience of the modern technology of TTL. I prefer to do my flash work manually. Why in macro? For two reasons, I want my whites, white and my blacks black and by controlling my aperture I can also control how much of my subject is sharp plus the flash output.

Another advantage of the Ray Flash is it is colour neutral and does not change white balance.

The overall opinion: An exciting tool in budget. Great for creating a unique look specific to fashion photography, works great as a shadowless fill light in the same situation.

Still to be proved for macro images as the drop off for night photography is far too evident and frontal light continues to decrease texture and exaggerate highlights. If it’s not a main tool in your kit and just used to grab that moment, then maybe a worthy investment as cheap.

Did you know:
The ‘backyard’ to Bluedog studio is the oldest National Park in Queensland and the third oldest in the world! A unique environment indeed! To see more on what to do when visiting Tamborine Mountain visit: www.blue-dog.com.au/Tamborine-Mountain-information-walks-photography.htm


Image by Danielle Lancaster (c) 2010

Monday, 18 October 2010

Images that inspire.

Sometimes images keep coming back into my head.
Some of them by other photographers and some of them actually mine.
Other photographer’s images inspire me. No matter if they are professional or amateur.
My own bring back memories and challenges I set myself.
Nick Brandt’s images do inspire me greatly and a book or print of his, is on my wish list this Christmas!
http://www.nickbrandt.com/

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tamrac's new camera bag!

Over the past few weeks I have been having a go at a new camera bag on the market and it’s impressive!

The bag being put through its paces here at Bluedog Photography is the Tamrac Evolution 8, Model 5788.

What I like:
After using it exclusively on our Fraser Island Photography Tour last week I liked how I could easily convert it from a back pack to sling shot or even wear it over one shoulder effortlessly and quickly. Fraser Island is all sand and happens to be the largest sand island in the world. Sand is a killer on photography gear and this bag allowed me to access my gear without putting the bag down.

It’s large enough to hold my Nikon D3, another lens or two, flash and accessories plus carry a computer which means it should be perfect for carryon luggage on planes.

It’s light and the adjustable wide straps are comfortable!

The padded top foam compartment is great – while travelling I can have personal gear in there and while working it can store my jacket, other accessories, food etc.

The tripod attachment keeps the tripod centered and balanced – important when out and moving about.

Two side pockets create extra storage and are the correct size for iPods and phones while one houses the removable rain cover.

What I don’t like:
Not much! I wish the inside was a lighter grey and closer to 18%.

What I’m interested to test:
How it goes in a crowded street – I like a pack I can wear on the front as well as on the back for the security of my gear.

Specs:
Weight: 2165g
Internal Top: 25 x 15 x 19cm
Internal Bottom: 28 x 15 x 25cm
External Dimensions: 32 x 22 x 48cm
Colour: Black and Brown/Tan
RRP: AUS $169.00
Distributed in Australia by C. R. Kennedy & Company Pty Ltd
Phone: 61 3 9823 1555
Fax: 61 3 9827 7213
Website: http://www.crkennedy.com.au/
Email: sales@crkennedy.com.au
For more info: http://www.tamrac.com/


Image by Kim Stevens (C)
Danielle with pack in use on the Fraser Island Bluedog Photography Kingfisher Bay Resort.


Tamrac’s new Evolution 8, Model 5788