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Photographing in Aquariums - some useful tips

Cairns Aquarium

#aquarium #photography

October 2017

Well the nice wet weather we are having made this a perfect time to visit Cairns' newest attraction.
How did we get away with NOT having one of these, being gateway to the reef etc etc...There used to be one years ago (I'm talking 15ish years ago) in the Pier but it was only little.

Anyway, it's here now and it is pretty awesome!

I didn't want to go and just shoot images of fish, I wanted to do something a bit different. In the end with all the challenges shooting in this environment, I did get a few images of "just fish"  and I'm OK with that, ha ha.

Here we go for some tips!
Firstly even though the tanks look nice and brightly lit, this light does not compare to sunlight. A tripod is a must for shooting the slower moving animals. If you don't have one then push the ISO up. Tripod of course eliminates the need to do this as you can shoot slower shutter speeds.
Ideal for turtles and the entrance displays of eels, mango jacks, pythons, frogs etc. As the tank water is treated with various nutrients and/or salt the water is not the clearest so pushing the ISO up will make it quite grainy. Please do not use flash - think of the animals.

Heres a few from that section:

This mob of gangsters were hardly moving so was easy to capture them.


Sunbaking Lizzy was not in the water here so he was easier to get a sharper image.
Sharp images are a challenge in here, the lens had trouble focusing through the glass, even when I could place on the glass, so manual focusing was used a fair bit.


This cute fella was about a foot long and posed for me on a log just under the surface so I could capture his reflection.
Speaking of reflections... be careful of these in the glass reflecting yourself or the lights from behind you, position yourself at a slight angle to the glass or move to a darker area where there are no reflections.

Further in most of the fish moved about fairly quickly. So teamed with manual focusing and low light I had to push up the ISO for these.
ISO 250 and 1/100 sec f2.8
Try and get some different angles and spend the time watching and waiting for the right moment.
Some of these I had to pan the camera with the fish so it took some time ( I was there most of the day).





As I moved into the barrier reef section everything seemed to be on steroids! Speedy little fish everywhere. It all takes time and patience.
The best thing is to take your iPod/phone and listen to a playlist of music, they had "Canon" playing in the main tank area, but it just makes it a much nicer atmosphere with your own earphones (and shuts out any kids yelling at each other too!)
ISO up to 640 here.






This fella was extremely had to snap, very fast moving and timid.


Now...my favourites! 
The jellyfish move fairly slowly and their tank was extremely dark and constantly changed colours.
I somehow timed it perfectly with feeding time, all those tiny white specs in the water are tiny little sea monkeys and as the jellies feed you can see them accumulating the white specs on their outer rims and their abdomens. Very cool to watch! Especially to a bit of Coldplay!




While they were feeding the lights were just on bluish white, so much lighter and easier to shoot.


One thing I couldn't get sorted was my white balance, with so many different light sources and colours the tungsten or fluoro white balance options were way out, so I shot "shady" WB and colour corrected in Lightroom.

Found Dory!



These tiny sea horses are only about 5 cm in height.
Spent ages here, love the way they move about. Two were quite interested in each other, holding tails and dancing around.


Towards the end there is a bendy tunnel you can walk through to have the sharks and rays etc glide over you. Pretty cool. One tip here, the glass is closer than it appears and it is easy to knock your lens into the glass, keep one hand out to guide you. I saw one lady knock her head on the wall, more than once.
I left this one dark and mysterious, as it suited the subject.





I think I will be going back! Well worth the visit.

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Photographing Light Orbs

August 2017

#lightpainting #cairnsfestival #nightphotography

As part of a local festival, our council set up a orb photography workshop with Peter Solness, a wonderfully natured and very patient light painting photographer http://www.illuminated-landscape.com

I attended two of these events.
This is about the first one at Lake Placid in Cairns.

Due to the high number of attendees (which did kind of spoil it a bit as I couldn't get in a central spot) we had to move our session to a bush park reserve.

All settings are pretty much 30 seconds exposure, f8 and either 100 or 200 ISO.

Firstly we had to set the focus manually while it was still daylight.
Once it was dark enough we shot a few orbs, some shots with light painters on the rainforest background and grassy foreground.
I particularly like the orb tunnels.








Peter also had a 3m long light stick that he could set to one colour rainbow or alternating colours.

We added a few volunteers for silhouettes and to give the images some depth.
The volunteers did a great job of standing still for up to a minute each time.



Peter would rotate and move the stick through different patterns each time.


Love the effect on the foreground here.




It was a lot of fun, love long exposure photography! I will be going again next year!



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Shooting fireworks - with a twist...behind the scenes

August 2017

#fireworksphotography #focus #focuspull

Its the time of year here in far north Queensland, where there seems to be fireworks coming up every few weeks at various functions until the grand finale at NYE! which I won't be here for but will get in plenty of others before then. Photographing fireworks is always a challenge, and you don't really get to enjoy them at the time, but nice to marvel at later.

The main problem people have with photographing fireworks is overexposing. They are very bright patches of light in a very dark background. Quick shutter speeds can usually resolve this but everyone does this type of shot. Being a bit more creative with fireworks is a bit trickier.

I recently attended my kids school fete, so the fireworks didn't actually go for as long as some, but I will be better prepared for the next lot.

I was attempting, for the first time ever to shoot the fireworks differently, with the "focus pull" technique. Now this is really hard to do, especially in the dark.

To do this you need the following:

Tripod
Camera
Lens where you know where you know the "sweet" spot is of infinity focus
maybe a second person to take the shot with a remote would help too



There are two tricky bits to using this technique.   The whole idea is to shoot out of focus and before the shot is complete bring the lens into sharp focus, all before the explosion has disappeared. This means you only have 1- 2 secs to do this.
The end result being a very creative almost flower-petal  like effect. The other tricky bit is the timing. You have to hit the shutter button just as the firework explodes and sends out the bursts of colour. If you get this timing wrong it doesn't really work.

Heres a few early ones...

Good flower petal like effect but didn't get the sharp tips of the ends of the petals as didn't focus properly at the end of the shot.

Lens 24-70mm f2.8 1sec
In fact all these are 1sec exposures, might try a little longer next time.
The reality is you don't get any time to review your shots or think too much about anything, its all happening and over too quickly.




The bigger your aperture, the fatter your petals will be (more light coming in) but you have to be careful that not too much light comes in and you overexpose and lose the colour.
f7.1


f5 kind of like the bokeh effect left from a previous explosion



Started to get it here at f5


Zoomed in a bit more for this one, still not quite what I was after



Got it here, but no colour...aarrgghhhh


This one was shot a bit early, but kind of like the effect


f6.3
Nice effect but a bit messy

Bit better f6.3


Finally this is the effect I was trying for....
f6.3 zoomed in a bit

Bit late with the timing, but kind of like it, realising by now that I needed to rotate the focus a lot further back initially.

f6.3 seems to be the go... This is exactly what I was after, but missed raising my camera as the fireworks sequences started going a lot higher.

Love this one too, even though I only captured half of it...and didn't get the proper effect



So in summary, next time I will get someone to come along and watch the action so they can press the shutter at the right time via remote, and I can concentrate on the focusing action....maybe then I can get something decent, but happy with my first try.

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The addition of one colour in your images can make them pop - do you know what this one colour is???

June 2017

Well you've probably guessed it, its red!! Why does red really stand out and just give an image that extra pop. There are several reasons I can think of.
Even though red is a primary colour, its not a colour that occurs a lot in nature, especially if you exclude flora.

Red is in our lives all over the place, famous brands use it in their logos, traffic lights, stop signs etc, but why? Because red draws the eye. 

Take a look at this image, it takes a while to actually notice the other elements in the shot, the trees flowers get all the attention.



Take these two images: I have desaturated the red colour from this temple top, looks much better with the red.



































And here I have taken the red from the RHS window frame where the eye immediately is drawn to, now it is drawn to the red on the LHS as it is the next dominating area.




More examples of red domination





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What to wear to a family portrait session

June 2017

Well this would have to be my most frequently asked question when it comes to family portraits.

Remember back in the nineties when everyone was obsessed with the white shirt/blue jeans look? Well some still are, and I'm not a fan. WHEN do we EVER all wear the same clothes as a family? NEVER would be the answer. It is just unnatural for a family to wear the same.

Theres a few guidelines that you can choose to follow:

Studio sessions:
Colours: 
Light coloured clothes, whites, creams, pale blues, light grey, tan, think subdued colours as we are closer up in the studio and we don't want the clothes to overpower the faces.
Steer clear of stripes and busy patterns or logos, block colours are best.

Style: 
Go with a style that suits your body figure and one that will not date e.g. button through shirts over pencil skirt or jeans, plain t-shirts, wider shoulder singlets are OK to hide bra straps, generally casual but not too scruffy. You must be comfortable. 

Outdoor sessions:
Colours:
Places like beach sessions, as a family, I would suggest a range of clothes with a white/cream base teamed with 2 secondary colours that work together like blue/tan, grey/blue, olive/tan. 
Rainforest or creek settings is where warm colours look best, avoid white and green here, go for black or blue or grey base teamed with splashes or red or purples, orange, or even pink. If you do have a strong secondary colour make sure more than one person is wearing some of this colour, otherwise the one person in this colour will stand out too much. 

Style:
Definitely go a little more casual, as we don't get dressed up to go to the creek. An overdressed family portrait, posed in a creek, just looks too fake. So t-shirts, shorts or jeans. 



Family sessions should be natural looking without clothes competing for attention, the focus should be on our faces, and the family bond, rather than what we wear.



  


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Photographing Sunrises: behind the scenes and worthiness (for getting out of a warm bed)

June 2017

#sunrise #sunrisephotography #landscapephotography 

The thought of getting up super early hurts my brain! so sunrises are not something I do a lot of. If I am going to do it, it has to be on a day that I have nothing else critical on as I will need bucketloads of coffee and/or a nanna nap later! Can you get coffee in a bucket? Maybe I could be onto something here??

Predicting when there is going to be something worthwhile in the sky is tricky, you can narrow it down with weather checks and predictions but unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule in the tropics.
Even though the wet season is officially over, wet weather and clouds are a constant menace in the way of a beautiful morning sky. I actually prefer a bit of cloud, without it is boring, but the whispy disseminated high cloud is preferable to the low thick lumps that form just above the horizon - these are OK for when the sun does rise, to help hide the bright light and you can get some great light rays shining through. 

I check the weather forecast the night before for the area I want to shoot at, then recheck it as I am going to bed to see it hasn't changed, set my alarm for at least 60 mins before sunrise time plus another 20-30 mins drive time AND getting coffee into the system, an essential item.

In the case of getting silhouettes, and here in the tropics with all our great palm lined beaches, you need a still morning as well. 

This one was a 4 sec exposure as there was a little wind and I wanted the palm tree silhouette fairly sharp as well as long enough to get a smooth rolling in surfline. 
f9 ISO 200 
Taken 45 mins before sunrise 


Be careful not to bump that ISO up too much when it is so dark,  if there are no moving subject matter to worry about, do longer exposures instead. 



If you are planning a sunrise shoot somewhere you haven't been before or don't know that well, it is worthwhile "doing a reccy" prior so on the morning you can just drive straight to where you need to go and setup without wasting time trying to decide where to be... in the dark.
Another reason you need a torch once set up, is you need to put your focus on manual mode as it may be too dark for your camera to focus automatically and set your focus ring to infinity. Not all lenses have this ability.

I suggest getting there in the dark as first light can be quite beautiful, sometimes up to an hour before, you can get a gorgeous red hue on the horizon, and there may still be stars out, love this time of day when night and day meet. Good time for silhouettes. May need an exposure longer than 30 seconds here. So you will need a torch, tripod, cable release or timer release mode,  and don't forget the sunnies for when the sun does appear.  I find the best time is 20-30 minutes prior to sunrise. 

This one was 55-60minutes before sunrise
10 sec exposure but you can see this was too long with the wind blowing the palms
f4 to let in as much light as possible
1000 ISO to get in some of the stars still visible.



Another thing to be mindful of is to keep your horizons straight, there is a grid function on most cameras which allows you to line up your camera with the horizon easily, saves time cropping and straightening later.

Finally, it's nice to get something in the foreground if you can, like his early morning walker, balanced with a bit of palm. It adds interest to the image but also adds depth.

Once that sun is up, you will need to change your settings dramatically. 
This shot is fairly meh compared to some of the colours we can get so I will be back chasing a better one yet. 

1/80th sec 
f11 50 ISO
Taken a few minutes after sunrise as one of my last shots for the morning.





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Skyfire 2017 - Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, ACT

March 2017

#skyfire #skyfire2017 #canberra #longexposures #fireworks #nightphotography

Well we just happened to jag this event, passing through Canberra at the right moment. This is an annual event that our taxpayers dollars are spent on, attracting around 120,000 peeps from around the area. There were fighter jets and helicopter acrobatics earlier on with the event finale the 20 minute firework display, starting at around 8.30pm due to daylight saving in ACT had to wait until it was dark enough.

Fireworks are easy to shoot if you just want the sharp explosive images after the "boom", basically a fast shutter, small f-stop and large ISO.  BUT if you are looking for something more creative, they can be tricksey little beasts to tame.

You not only have to get the settings right (and they can change the type of effects without warning every sequence which will mean quick setting changes ) but you also have to get your timing right.

Two helpful items for shooting them is 1. tripod 2. a shutter release cable (its just easier to get the timing right). Live view mode is good for this too if you have it.


All of these shots were at f4 with 11-24 ultra wide Canon lens, from the end of Anzac Parade looking towards Parliament House.

Love the colours in this one at 2 seconds exposure ISO 50





0.8 sec ISO200 to get more of the crowd


This is a look I have been trying to capture with fireworks but never usually have the time, but with 20 minutes of them I was able to pull it off... what I call the "palm tree" effect. Can only get this effect when they do a sequence of the same at timed intervals so you capture the trails as well as the stars.
1.6 sec ISO 200


A lot more colour and light in this one, I like the effect on the water.
1.6 sec ISO 200


2 sec ISO 100
Lightroom editing of these shots makes a huge difference. Slide down the highlights to bring out the colours more and play with the shadows and blacks to get the amount of background you want as well.

0.8 sec ISO 200
Love the blue sky from the previous blasts



0.8 sec ISO 200



Another type of shot I have being trying to get, 1.6 sec ISO 100, this is just simply getting the timing right and not exposing too long but long enough to get the blurred lines, hitting the shutter just after the initial explosion.


The finale where it just went off like this for a bit, 1.3 sec ISO 100





 All up loads of fun and an awesome display of fireworks, thanks Canberra!














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Behind the scenes - shooting waterfalls in the daylight

February 2017

#waterfalls #landscapephotography #filters

Usually the best time to shoot anything isn't the most preferable time in our day.
Waterfalls, if you are after the silken flowing look, are best shot later in the day, when you can easily keep the shutter open for longer, but these times are not the best for scrambling over rocks and running streams to get the shot.

We always see phone camera shots of waterfalls taken in the middle of the day with the waterfall itself super bright and overexposed.

I wondered up to this local one mid afternoon. A huge amount of rain for days prior meant it was pumping big time.


These shots were taken seconds apart, while I was waiting for a cloud to pass over.
1/5 sec f22 with a ND filter




1/8 sec f22 with ND filter
notice this shot is much better exposed as a cloud passed in front of the sun as I was shooting this one, so increased the shutter slightly but still slow enough to get blur on the water without blowing out the highlights and getting detail in the trees.

It was a day of constant changes in light with some small wispy clouds as well as some huge dark clouds rolling across the sky, so it was a matter of waiting for them to slow down shutter speeds as well as using the filter.




Same shot from further away incorporating person for scale


1/6 sec f22 ND filter


0.4 sec f22



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Capturing Silhouettes - Part 2 Urban

Silhouettes in the urban environment can be pretty cool to find and shoot.

#silhouettes # urbanphotography #streetphotography
Heres some samples from the last year or two when I was doing my 365 project.

Simple but effective way of improving sunsets and cool skies is to add a bit of an urban silhouette, here in the form of the lightest, park trees and a few cars. Using the reflection in the puddle makes the image more interesting. Just expose for the sky and the foreground will be naturally dark and silhouetted.



Using other people as subjects for the silhouettes. This was obviously late afternoon to get the longer shadows.


Just a crappy car park garden, but saw the shadows on the wall to complement the garden in the foreground.

Used a small depth of field here to make the image a bit more interesting, expose for background once again.


Classic urban silhouette of powerlines, you can find these everywhere, just wait for the right time of day and a bit of colour and or texture in the sky is always good.


Once you start looking for shadows you start to see them everywhere.  Unfortunately this time of day just doesn't last as long as I would like it to!!



I love the depth all the different lines bring this image, especially the diagonal ones on the path.


A classic North Queensland silhouette to say goodnight! 
1/800 th sec f8 ISO 100


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Beauty session - behind the scenes, processing and retouching

November 2016

A lot goes on in these sessions, the studio is a crazy mess, but it's sooo much fun, in fact my absolute favourite style of portraiture. I actually don't like to call it portraiture, as this word, to me, insinuates formality, posing and awkward photos.

Anyway...I call it beauty sessions and this one was for a bride to be.
What better way to get some great close ups and have a hair/makeup trial at the same time!
Its also a great present for that pesky hubby to be (sooo hard to buy for) and as you have much more time than the rushed 15 mins of close ups on your wedding day, you're much more relaxed and the images can be varied more.

And its fun!!

There's music happening, snacks, coffee, some even bring champas!

Props ready to use in the shoot, organised chaos!

Before the glam...already beautiful!


























Having some fun with the veil, not used a lot in weddings anymore but fun to play with in the studio. Having something to hang onto or fiddle with makes a more relaxed pic. This is my fab hair/makeup lady getting some shots on her phone.


OK now for the magic...after the session....



I chose one image that portrayed a confident look.

Lightroom steps:

I use LR on beauty sessions mainly for colour balance, cropping,  & exposure adjustments. I cropped the bottom off this a little and added some exposure on the face, decreasing it on the bodice. The veil looked little greenish so desaturated the greens a little and reduced highlights a little. 



Photoshop Steps:

On new layers, removed any flyaway hair on face and top of head.
Pimples/pores cloned to smoothen out rough skin a little with clear skin. NO skin softening filters applied. Apart from the fact that I hate these filters, they just look so fake. Skin should sill look like skin.





 Eyebrows neatened with clone tool
Eyes whitened just a smidge
Area under eyes cleaned up (any wrinkles/bags, hardly any in this case, generally more for flakes of mascara)
Brow highlights added with dodge/burn tool
Touch ups on makeup e.g. eye liner, lipstick



Smoothen crease lines on neck and armpit area
Reduce more greenish tint to veil
Lighten shadows on face a touch.
Done




#photography #beautysession #beautyphotography #glamour #bridetobe

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