Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Round-Up

This is the year I fell in love with photography. Last year I had the initial flutters but this year I went head over heels. It's amazing to think how much I have accumulated in terms of knowledge and equipment (and how much I have spent)! I started out the year with my compact Olympus but when it got to my birthday, with the help of some very generous family and friends I upgraded to my first SLR. Then I was lost forever to a camera geek world of lens', filters and f-stops. I now have 5 lens', and other bits and bobs, and whilst I don't think I am necessarily taking better technical photographs, I feel as though there are many more creative opportunities available to me through having more flexible technical equipment.

In terms of my photos it is really difficult to select what I think is my favorite for 2008. At the Window was probably a bit of a turning point for me as I learnt some cool photoshop techniques in creating it, but I also like When Morning Comes, The Pier and more recently my Beach Huts in B&W. My Flickr Stats tell me that you all seemed to like The Clown the best.

Last week my Flickr photostream views went over the 100,000 mark with 4 photos reaching the top ten in Explore, and my blog has hit 30,000 visits (and no that doesn't include me). But it's really hard work trying to push my work on Flickr, it is so saturated, there is so much good stuff on there, and may be it's time to try and fund some of this expensive hobby of mine. So to get better and to get out there a bit more, to make it a bit more than a hobby, I have a wish list for 2009:

1. Next year is all about light, I need to understand light and how the camera can capture it better. Money next year will be spend on light things!
2. I need some more formal hands-on training. There are a few places that run photography workshops like the Royal Photographic Society - I'd especially like to have a go at the Studio Photography and Fashion Photography workshops.
3. I would love to get in a magazine!
4. I would love to sell some prints - SmugMug and Photobox Po Galleries look to be decent options.
5. I want to work towards the Royal Photographic Society Associateship Distinction
6. I will damn well master long exposures!

So, so far that's quite a lot for 2009. I do plan on doing other stuff too! 2008 was a funny year, I worked too hard, but achieved a lot, I made some good friends, nurtured relationships, but I also lost some people I loved. I grew up a bit more. In 2009 I think I'll just stay peaceful and creative.

I'm off to sunnier climes now for most of January so I'll see you all in 2009, hopefully with lots more to share.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Firefox

I noticed that when I uploaded a recent photo to Flickr that the colours went all funny. They were not as rich or deep as they looked in Photoshop or iPhoto. Turns out that the problem was with Firefox which doesn't yet support colour profiling. I upgraded to Firefox 3, which I read did support this function only to find out that it ships without this support by default...why? Anyway there is a plugin available for Firefox 3, and on installing it all looks much better. However it is annoying that most of those people using Firefox will not be seeing my photographs how I want them to see them.

Here's a nice blog explaining it all by dria.org

The Cat Lover

"Heidi was struck by a sudden thought - what if Gordon wasn't a cat at all but a man under a spell? A man forced to don the disguise of a cat by some wicked enchantress? A man trapped in the body of a cat?

Heidi knew there was only one way to break that kind of enchantment...she lent over and warily kissed his downy cheek. Gordon's ear twitched and he stirred but instead of being transformed into a man he simply swiped her away with a sleepy paw. Heidi wasn't sure whether she was disappointed or not." (The Cat Lover by Kate Atkinson)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A woman and her cat

I have been impressed by a number of photographers on Flickr who manage to get their cats in a photograph with them. As anyone who has a cat knows, cats can not be told what to do, in fact we humour them more than the other way around. They have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind. So I love it when I find a good cat-owner photograph. Here are some of my favorites:

There's no place like home
by Elle Moss (Above)
Untitled by Lenaah
A woman and her cat by MaryElise
Words fall through me by Reflecting Truth
Hey, you and me by Oladios

I also love the photo-montages of Mattijn , whose fantasy-esque images always feature his cat Pino. It's good to see a bit of man-cat love!

The most photogenic cat award however has to go to vaneska~tHOmz's cats tabitha and
charlie. How she does it I have no idea!

My cat is not one for being handsome in front of the lens. Every time I've tried something I end up with scratches all over my arms, so usually I have resorted to photo-montages too (see my blog on The Escape). Today however I was honored with some rare camera affection from my feline friend, and he even sat on my feet and kept them warm whilst I did all my photoshopping.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Love my bones..

I've entered an alternative version entitled 'acceptance' for this weeks Digital Photography School Competition where the theme is "Happiness is...", although I imagine that this is perhaps an interpretation too far to be in with a chance! I think really that happiness is a sense of fulfillment or wholeness, and you can't rely on the external world (people, situations, or things) to provide that, it has to come from inside, right down to the depths of your bones. So happiness is, for me, acceptance and understanding, and being able to say to the world that they should accept me for who I am too. Happiness isn't a goal to be achieved by doing stuff or having stuff, it is being a peace with who you are, it's not easy.

...also a bit of a play on people always telling me I'm too skinny, well I'm content with the way I look, so naanas to you!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pounds of Flesh

Ok, so considering the bizarre places I've found my photos on the web I'm not overly surprised to find Mirror Mirror in a Jewish article about body image, entitled 'Pounds of Flesh' - The Merchant of Venice, Jewish, get it...! In once sense I'm, as usual, chuffed, for some reason I've been told a few times that I'd make a good Jew (?), however I'm not to keen on their colouration -hmmm maybe it's time to readdress that creative commons license. Photoshop is not always a good thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

To branch away from Flickr?

It's not a topic I'm happy to raise! I love Flickr, in Flickr I have found a supportive community which supports my views on open content and has provided me with the opportunity to get feedback on my photography which over the past two years has become my art, and a huge part of my self expression, even at times my therapy. Without Flickr I doubt I would ever have returned to art, a subject I gave up long ago because 'it would never get me anywhere in life'. I used to 'do art' with a 3B pencil and a brush, and now I paint with a lens. So let me be clear, I have no intention of leaving Flickr, however the more lean towards trying to make a bit of a profession out of what was initially was a bit of a hobby, the less Flickr can cater towards my needs.

First off, I like the idea of password protected galleries. If I branch into doing some paid for photographic commissions, it is kind of a service I need. Secondly, I've had a few requests for large prints of my work. I don't offer high res photos on Flicker at present, i.e big enough to print more than 6x4. I'm happy for them to be used under the creative commons licence that I presently stick on them (no derivatives and attribution) and splattered across the interweb. But to be hung as an actual piece of 'art' on someone's wall, or printed in a publication, well for that I want some wonga!! So my thoughts lately have been that I would like to find an online service that will let me create showcase galleries and also sell my prints for me at a price I stipulate, and print them, and post them - the moon on a stick basically!

You'd think this would be out there.....think again.

I've ransacked the web and it seems that there are really no UK based websites that offer the moon on a stick. There is Photobox, where I order prints from (and I have generally been pleased with the results), who offer pro galleries that do the above. However, the site is not taking any new pro users until 'the future', and the old interface left a lot to be desired for - to showcase fine art photography the website should really mirror that. But then I came across SmugMug, a US centric photosharing site that offers everything I dream of - it looks amazing, unlimited storage, is totally customisable down to the domain name, offers a sale service and multiple privacy and viewing options, but...is in $. But really does this matter? In the virtual world where space is not an issue? It's not cheap, at $149.55 pa, BUT I think that's not too bad for a high quality virtual hard drive with e-commerce capabilities.

There are many alternatives to Flickr - deviantART, ZOOMR, Fotki, Photobucket, to name just a few, they all cater for different types of user. I'm toying with the idea of setting up accounts on a few to see what happens and having a test run of e-commerce on SmugMug until PhotoBox gets it's finger out...that's if anyone wants to buy anything that is!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can a photographer travel light?

I'm not very good at light packing - you should see the contents of my everyday shoulder bag - I could quite easily find myself marooned in the Alaskan wilderness, and use what's inside to build a shelter, protect myself from the elements, rear and slaughter reindeer, set up a chanel no.5 beauty salon for passing bored Inuit women and live quite happily for a very long time.

On Christmas day this year I wont be sitting around having the usual xmas feast and frollicks as most people will be enjoying in this country, I'll be on an aeroplane heading off on an adventure to explore Peru and Ecuador for a whole entire month! I know my mind should be on the excitement of traveling, the amazing things I'll see, the new cultures I'll experience, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the gorgeous Spanish language I hope to finally master, a holiday that has been a long time coming...relaxation...but no, I'm kind of obsessed with the photographic opportunities that it will afford me. Wide angled landscapes of the Andes, Machu Picchu, the wildlife of the Galapagos, the faces of Quito. Worried that I don't have the photography skills to capture it how I want, the right equipment to do it, and most of all on my mind is that I don't want to lug heavy camera equipment around with me.

Right now I have my kit lens (canon 18-55mm), a macro lens that is incredibly satisfying in a phallic sturdy lens kind of way (canon 300mm), and my wide angled sigma which is a dream, but obviously, I need a new lens. Nothing new there, I always need a new lens! You see what I don't have is a decent telephoto lens to take. The kit lens doesn't really reach all the right places. Was wondering if I could get a good all-in-one I could take with me to lesson the load. I don't want a mega long ultra extending lens - I'm no wildlife photographer, but just something to give a bit more reach would be good (always left feeling a bit frustrated with the 55mm). Yes, I hear you, 'it's not how big it is, it's what you do with it that matters' ....*NewsFlash*...size...does...matter.

The friendly guys at the Station Camera Shop in Reading (one of those really great camera shops that let you try and buy) have suggested a Canon 55-250mm (c. £202.00) or a 55-200mm Tamron (c. £70) - unfortunatley my budget won't stretch to go down to 18mm or up to 300mm (sniff). So I tried. The Tamron was surprisingly good for the price, light as a feather but it does feel plasticy, and it doesn't have image stabilisation which means I may need a tripod at times. The Canon on the other hand does have the IS, has that extra 50mm and also the bit that connects it to the camera is aluminum, more durable. But to be fair the difference in image quality on a rainy day was pretty non-existent - and it is an extra £130 more...dream trips to S.America don't come cheap. Both lens' though won't go down to that 18mm mark which means I should really take the sigma and kit lens too, then there are the filters, the lens hoods, the memory sticks, extra batteries and cards....

Today on the DPS Blog popped up a post on 5 Tips to Travel with One Lens. It's traumatising enough I will have to leave the laptop con photoshop behind, no post-process playing until I get back. Can I really bring myself to travel with ONE lens in addition? Surely the psychological effects will be too much to deal with creating stress and anxiety which could easily be avoided by carrying an extra kilo or two. Perhaps I can justify taking the whole shebang if I just pack a change of knickers and my Lonely Planet.

The Beach Huts

Craving to feel warm

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Head Project

Very excited! My application to participate in The Head Project has been accepted. For those of you who are not flickr addicts like me and haven't come across The Head Project, the basic jist is you get mailed a head and you take interesting photos of it and submit it to the project, then you mail the head to the next person. The Head Project Website puts it in slightly more academic terms:

The Head Project is a work of worldwide collaborative fiction. It is an ongoing experiment in social behavior, perception and creativity. It is an attempt to document the journey of seemingly inanimate objects as well as the lives of the artists and individuals involved through the use of photographs, videos, blogs or any other form of creative media. It is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the drive to connect with others on a global scale through the creative process.

So my head will arrive in the next couple of months. Some of the photos taken so far are pretty damn good, so I need the time to come up with some good ideas! If you have any, let me know!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sometimes all you want to do is hide in a big tree....

I think this tree is incredible! Serious lack of commenting on my recent photos... how can i improve if I don't know what I'm doing wrong :-(

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Escape: Part 2

Continued from Part One.

Here's How...

1. Find a maze (I found the Malborough Maze in Blenheim Palace)

2. Take photos in maze

I dressed up for the occasion in what could best be described as gypsy-meets-hippy-meets-pre raphelite-meets-lady-in-waiting from the TV series 'The Tudors'. I got some funny looks but very nice comments about "my outfit" from three old men and the lad behind the checkout in tescos on my way home :-)

3. Take photo of cat (don't take cat to maze)

4. Bung all into photoshop
I used the extract tool to extract me and Mali and place within the maze. I had to play a lot with the exposure, curves, levels, and contrast and brightness of the different layer to get the lighting similar then I used Michelle Black's 'Even out and contrast' and 'Cool down' filters as a starting point to bring all the colours together. I played with the render lighting effect for "moody darkness", and used a slight orton-method to combine all three images even more and get the dreamy effect. About 2 hours work in total.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nearly a winner

My clown shot entered for the DPO competition on costumes was first runner up! :-) See the other winning entries here

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Just clowning around

This week's competition on Digital Photography School is 'costumes'. Being one who loves to dress up I thought I'd give it a go. I have a bag full of weird and wonderful outfits but a few weeks ago someone was telling me about the Clowns International and how their annual church service in Dalston, London (in full dress) is a great photographic opportunity. Made me think doing something clown-like could be interesting.

I surfed the web for info on clowns and there are many things to be said about them, but there is one thing that must come first. The clown face is not a mask it exaggerates features rather than hides them. The other thing I found out was that the clown's job is to cheer people, no matter how they are feeling. I also found lots of discussions of broken clowns, their clown lives takes them away from their gloom. I'm not sure if this is true but I thought it would be an interesting concept to work with. The idea is that the costume is brass and bold but the person wearing the costume can in fact be quiet and vulnerable, makeup fades into nakedness. Two become one, and this is actually how many of us cope with the difficulties that life can throw our way.

This was a scary thing for me to do but I'm probably fretting about putting it up too much, afterall, people I know plaster photos of themselves on holiday in their swimsuits all over facebook and blogger, and I'm not nervous about what the people I don't know think about me. Saying that though, I grudgingly haven't put up the 'best' one as I'm a bit too nervous about it and the one I have entered for the weekly competition is on my flickr page - it has more costume! It was nearly the one below though!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Unseen Oxford

It's not all dreaming spires. Yesterday I went on a photography walk with the Oxford Photographic Society. The walk took us through Jericho, by the canal down to Botley, and then to Christ Church. Whilst the splender of the Oxford colleges is always impressive I think I've become a bit immune to their photographic opportunities and I prefer the grittiness of the bits the tourists don't always see. I've blogged about Jericho before, it's not the first time I've attempted to capture it. I think the idea of 'unseen oxford' could be a good project to keep working on, one I started a while ago but haven't really pursued. More photos from the walk can be seen on my Flickr page.

See my That Sweet City Set for more Oxford Photographs

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Composite Photography

I've really been wanting to have a go at a 'levitation' image for a while, mostly influenced by Love Loren and Chrissy White (two amazing teen flickerites), and anitmethod.

Click on image to see bigger of view an alternate Large On Black.

Even though it is so fairy tale like there is a lot of me in this image, sometimes I think it is easier to express yourself through the surreal. I've been reading a lot about arabian fables lately, one in particular, 'The Indian Bird', influenced this, it kind of stuck in my head - the way a good fable is meant to. But other things are in there, but well, take from it what you will!

How did i do that......?
I used four images in total for this - three photographs (the bird, me and the cat, and the street scene), and one texture from Nichol Van. The street scene 'Alley' was found using flickr creative commons and was taken by damien_m_in_japan. The bird is an oldie of mine and the one of me and the cat was taken this morning.

I used photoshop's extract tool to dismember me and the pigeon from the photographs, and then really it was a case of tweaking and refining. I used Michelle Black's 'Even out and contrast' and 'Honey Glaze' as a starting point to bring all the colours together and I twiddled a lot with the layers, curves, selective colour, and also burned and dodged overly contrasty areas. Finally I added the texture (a bit like grey blotting paper) on multiply and that was that. This version is very desaturated, there's a more colourful version on my flickr site with the story to go along with it.

I'm sure that I'll come under quite a bit of criticism for this...it's not 'proper' photography, but sometimes there is more there than what you see through the viewfinder.

Oh, and hope you like the new look blog!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Feeling a bit discomgoogolated?

Feeling stressed or anxious at an inability to access the Internet? You're suffering from "discomgoogolation".

A survey commissioned by information service 118118, the YouGov poll questioned 2,100 Britons. The findings - apparently 44% of Britons suffer from a condition termed 'discomgoogolation' - rising brain activity and blood pressure, i.e. higher stress levels when unable to connect to the Internet. The survey also found that 47% percent of those polled believed the Internet was more important in people's lives than religion, with one in five people paying the Internet more attention than their partner.

I can relate!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Bokeh: derived from Japanese bokeaji ボケ味, "blur" is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field. Different lens bokeh produces different aesthetic qualities in out-of-focus backgrounds, which are often used to reduce distractions and emphasize the primary subject. (wikipedia)

So a kind of pleasing out-of-focus.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Self in Portraiture

I'm trying to branch away a bit from the self portraiture. Despite comments from people like Theo Boehm and generally good feedback on what I produce, I still have to work hard to defend this theme, and it is tricky. Anything about the "self" is seen as vain and self-obsessed. And when this is developed through a visual medium such as photography it becomes even more hightened because in our socity we interpret anything visually to do with "the body" as sexual. It is presumed that you are saying "i look great and therefore you should look at me". I'm not saying that.

I don't see why self portraiture is any different from writing a blog about my life, status updates on facebook, or generally just making myself visible in cyberspace. At the end of the day it's all about "Me". In fact I would argue the choice of photography is a lot less in your face, no spelling out what you mean just interpretation by others and you're not going to get any deep and meaningfuls about my life here! Self-portraiture is a means via which I can explore my new found hobby. I can use it to dabble with different styles and different topics, without feeling the pressure of producing something someone else is happy with. I don't think this type of vanity screams "look at me". In a wierd kind of schizophrenic way I take on the roles of both subject and photographer, trying to express something that is both about me and distant from me. In a way any photograph I take is about me, whether it is of me or not. It is my therapy, its what keeps me stable, it's what I do when I'm happy or when I'm sad, it's a constant when life can seem all over the place. But I never post a picture because I want you to sit up and take notice of me as a topic, or how I'm feeling, I post a picture because I believe it to be a good photograph.

But still I want to start diffusing my photography with other subjects. Why? Because I want to do it for me. It is not easy trying to direct another subject that you are photographing - friend or stranger. I always get this feeling of anxiety...are they getting annoyed with me, are they comfortable, will they like what I do, what if the photos don't come out ok? Portrait photography is a really hard skill for me that I want to develop, not so much in the technicalities (which I also have to work on) but in terms of confidence. Once I master it, you never know, may be I'll get some commissions and get that sexy telephoto lens and the flash lights I want!

So armed with camera, lenses, and a variety of vintage clothing (genuine Topshop and Primark) I embarked on the train to meet my friend at a countryside location to give it a whirl. The situation was helped by the fact that we have both been under quite a bit of stress lately and decided that we deserved a play date which also involved girl talk, DVDs and takeaway, so it wasn't all "sit like this" and "look this way", J took photos too so it was all fun and good. The theme was vintage, and this is what we came up with. Collaborative effort and a lot of fun and a lot learnt! More on our "tea party" theme to follow when I've done the post-processing. As usual the best are on my Flickr photosteam (along with a totally random spooky photo we did). These are the 'nearly' good enough ones to put up.

Photographs of me taken by Justine. All post processing done by me using Michelle Black's Vintage actions.

sighhhhh and instantly on posting to flickr she gets the "Add your photo to the HOT or NOT" pool" request. You will be blocked!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Portrait photography and using actions

I've been asked lately to do a few photoshoots for friends so I thought I should look at bit more into postprocessing portrait type photos. Mostly I've been looking at utilising pre-designed photoshop actions. Actions are simply a series of tasks that you play back on a single file or a batch of files - menu commands, palette options, tool actions, and so on. So rather than spending a age getting the perfect B&W effect you simply load your photo and 'play' an action to do the conversion for you. After the action has been done you can then tweak and adjust the individual layers that it creates to refine the effect to your own taste. The actions I have been using are Michelle Black's basic actions and they are stunning! So photoshoot 1 today with my favorite BaBa Charlotte produced the following types of results:

1. Chocolate BW Tint 2. Modern 3. Vintage Fade 4. Blue BW Tint

1. Epiphany BW 2. Dreamy BW 3. Bon Bon Glaze

1. Michelle's Classic BW 2. Antique 3. Vintage Glaze

Model with photographer (above) has been processed with Michelle's Extreme Bleach Out Glaze action. My favorite few can be seen on my Flickr Stream (thanks for letting me experiment on you Charlotte xxx).

More thoughts on baby photography....
The last few times I've photographed babies they have been very small. With an 8 month old cutie like Charlotte one needs a few more tricks up one's sleave. Peek-a-boo - very effective at getting baby to smile, but pretty difficult if it's just you, enlist the help of someone with a funny face to amuse them unless you are extra good at multitasking. Failing a person, cats are pretty good - babies like cats, just make sure its not in a biting mood. And just make sure they are comfy - I used a big double bed with pillows down the sides. They tend to topple a bit at 8 months!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Out take v.2

Not really anything new...this is just a photo that I didnt see from a trailer trash set done back in March. Failing to take anything worth posting I've been learning about action sets this week...abolutely love those produced by Michelle Black - this is her "vintage mode" ontop of my own black and white conversion. On my flicker I've posted a "High Key BW" version - again can't decide which is the best effect! Will try to post something new soon, I have lots of thoughts in my head but having difficulty executing them, mostly cant find the right locations.