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Fireworks Addiction

November 2017

#fireworks #longexposures #focuspull #focus #nightphotography

Well it's not as bad as my COFFEE addiction, but still....it continues. Though, must admit I am not attending EVERY SINGLE ONE in town anymore, becoming a little more choosy.

I'm talking about my fireworks long exposure shooting "addiction", the mere word "fireworks" gets plenty of eye rolling in my family.

Anyway, here are some recent ones from a small display last week.

The best ones to capture obviously are the high single boom ones, where I did manage to get an almost perfect flower effect, but also got lots of new different effects as well.

Green sky monster: All these are at 1.3 sec and vary from f4-f6.3
Generally there is not time for any changes to settings, if you do have time for anything it is tilting the lens direction and maybe an aperture change and thats it, or be prepared to miss out on a few.

 Love the colour variations in this one

Shot between two different blasts so have the after effects of one and the shooting trail of another.

I actually prefer this one inverted.

This being the almost perfect one, but not wide enough to fit the entire blast in.

Missed this one completely, but don't mind it, for something different

I call this the "rocket launch" shot. Lots going on.

The finale... whispering out


So I will miss the NYE fireworks here in cairns the year, but will be in a place where there may be some bigger ones, stay tuned.....


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.


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!


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:

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.

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

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.


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


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


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.

#photography #beautysession #beautyphotography #glamour #bridetobe


Supermoon - behind the scenes

November 2016

#supermoon #nightphotography

Just a quickie BTS of shooting the moon.
Really it doesn't look that much bigger unless you shoot it just rising and have something in the foreground to compare it to.

As the moon is quite bright you need to expose for the brightness otherwise it looks like everyones iPhone shots, bright white and glowing.

When it first rises it is not as white and its great to get the eerie orange-red glow about it, so this is 1/6th sec ISO 320 f5.6

Normally you would shoot it at about 1/200th sec to get the detail in the moon, but I've done those shots before, and yawn.... it was nice to slow it down while it was low in the sky and get the surrounding clouds for that eeriness.....

Here's with a bit of foreground to see the scale of it
1/4 sec f6.3

1/5th sec f8 320 ISO
can't really go much slower than this as it is moving quite quickly but wanted the surrounding halo.
If you bump the ISO up too much when its this dark it can get too grainy.

1/13th sec f8 ISO 160 getting brighter as it gets higher.

Add caption


Capturing Silhouettes - in nature

Silhouettes can add so much drama to a scene or be the main focus of a scene.

So to get a silhouette you need to shoot into brightness, whether it's the sun or an artificial source of light, you need to expose for the light in the background so the foreground or whatever the subject we want to make a silhouette of, is dark.

We also need to have a large depth of field, so F stops larger than 8 are ideal so the silhouettes are sharp. If the background is of no interest, as below, then smaller dof is better and puts more focus on your silhouette subject, especially if its a repetitive subject.
If shooting towards the sun, we need super fast shutters

f9 1/1000th sec

f2.2 1/800th sec

f2.8 1/1000th sec

Here's an example of making an ordinary sunset a bit more exciting using silhouettes.
These were taken on the Gold Coast a year ago, so beautiful winters days with magical sunsets. The beach itself was devoid of anything interesting, but walking back to the street opened up a whole range of different subjects to use.

This next shot is one of my favourite shots that I often throw into a background of a shot with some texture, on its own is OK but its not super sharp due to the speed of the birds and low light.

There's something about this shot that I love , not sure what it is...I think it may be the repetition of branches curving similar to the whisps of curvy clouds

Classic silhouettes, beach sunset, fisherman....
1/640th sec f5.6

The drooping branch and spider make this shot quite eerie...
1/2000th sec f7.1

#silhouettes #silhouettephotography #landscapephotography #shootingintothelight

Waiting for the Light - Requirements..patience, time, and a good mozzie spray

The thing I love about photography is how different a subject can look from waiting even just as little as 10 minutes for that "right light"

October 18th 2016

#waitingforthelight #rightlight #magichour #landscapephotography

What does the right light mean? Why are togs always raving about "magic hour"?

Unfortunately,  in my part of the world anyway, magic hour is about 15 minutes. And that's being generous. It is that exact moment where ordinary can look extraordinary, purely due to the quality and angle of the light. Sometimes it does't even matter what the subject is.

Here's a few shots I snapped off one afternoon while patiently waiting for my daughter at training. There were quite a few elements that I liked in this area, a shitload of mozzies, and for once the sun was shining and not hindered by mountains or clouds in this particular spot.

These exact shots taken in the middle of the day would be straight into the bin for me. It's the angle of the light hitting the subjects and the quality of the light that makes these shots.

So... waiting waiting, sun is setting slowly slowly.....BUT 20 minutes prior to the magic moment in time I scouted this area, looking for what was maybe? going to be a "happening place" when the right time arrived.

This was shot towards the setting sun, and even though the netting is not super sharp, I love the water spray highlighted by the light and the warmth of the image.
1/640th sec f4 ISO 100

Not a subject I would have even looked at midday, but at magic hour, the textures and lines, all leading to the warm fuzzy haze in the distance make it appealing.

Moving up the pathway a little 5 minutes later where you can see the sun is almost gone, the shadows are more pronounced and I jagged a subject walking through the image for interest. This image would have been improved immensely if I had positioned myself in a line from the sun, directly behind the dog walkers completely silhouetting them. What attracted me to take this was the golden windows on the building.

1/400th sec f5.6 ISO 250

Shooting straight into the sun you need a high shutter speed and even better if you can partly hide some of the power from that sunlight with foreground subjects like trees. This can give you that cool sun rays effect, so even though not technically correct (blown highlights) I love the warmth of this image.
1/640 th sec ISO 100

Here's a classic example of waiting that little bit extra, going for the backlit bokeh style shot.
1/200 f4has highlighted  taken at 5.44pm

Now obviously it's a different patch of weeds but taken at 6pm when the sun was just disappearing behind the mountains has beautifully highlighted this otherwise boring subject matter and makes for a much more appealing image.
1/320th sec f4

I'm off to take some shots of a sculpture garden later this week so will see how that pans out.