Inspiration – Patrick Ecclesine

It was a few years ago that I stumbled upon the works of Patrick Ecclesine, and quite frankly, I don’t know how I possibly missed his art for such a long time prior.

Ecclesine is a thoroughbred talent, shooting ad campaigns for the likes of Vanity Fair and major Hollywood studios. But it was his voyeuristic debut book, “Faces of Sunset Boulevard: A Portrait of Los Angeles”, that jumped out and made me such a fan of his. Published in 2008, he captured a whole array of personalities living and working within Los Angeles. The photographs covered a huge scope of almost every age, ethnicity, social class, work force and culture, of everyday people living and breathing in LA.

Faces of Sunset Boulevard

In the book, Ecclesine powerfully combines the feeling of street photography, but juxtaposed with the production value of a high-end fashion shoot. He delivers portraits that are real and gritty, yet beautifully stylized.

Faces of Sunset Boulevard

This style of photography that I’m doing is cinematic. It tells a story. It’s a moment heightened by creative use of lighting. I’m emphasizing my subjects with light; I’m bringing them out of the background, dropping the background down and making my subject first and foremost. Interview for Digital Photo Pro

He captures a spectrum of human emotions – vulnerability, strength, hope, desperation, determination, ambition – the heart and soul of his subjects. Photographs include those of the homeless, cleaners, police force, beauty queens, skateboarders, writers, lawyers, single parent families and many more.

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If you’ve not already seen this piece of work, I’d definitely recommend you taking a peek through the book. No matter what type of portraits you shoot yourself or admire, there’s something every photographer can take away…

All photographs, copyright of Patrick Ecclesine.

Flocking Together

It’s gradually getting colder for us Northern Hemisphere dwellers, and the summer wardrobe is well and truly at the back of the wardrobe now.

But with the onset of autumn and winter comes all sorts of wonderful changes in nature. It’s a time for long walks, crunching through crispy leaves underfoot, with all manner of lovely golden browns, ambers and rust reds.

And it’s of course a time for birds to up-nest and head for warmer climes.

I’ve been heading to the park a lot more recently to capture all the colours and textures (more in a later post 🙂 ) but I’ve noticed so many more flocks of birds bursting out of sparse trees as the days go by. Migration season is upon us already, and as I’m constantly wrapped in jumpers and scarves, I can’t really blame them!

So, here’s a little flock of images from a handful of photographers, who’ve captured birds in all sorts of weather and motion…

Jai Maisel flock of birds

Photo copyright, Jay Maisel

 

Kim Steel - flock of birds

Photo copyright, Kim Steel

 

Arthur Morris - flock of birds

Photo copyright, Arthur Morris

 

Fabrice Geslin - flock of birds

Photo copyright, Fabrice Geslin

 

Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) flock taking off at sunset

Photo copyright, via Warren Photographic

 

David_Lilly - flock of birds

Photo copyright, David Lilly

 

All beautiful shots, and all so different in the tone & feeling they convey – lovely to behold in person, but just as lovely to appreciate in a photograph …

4pm Sugar Hit

It’s that time in the afternoon again, when I’m staring vacantly at my laptop. I’ve definitely hit the wall.

It’s coming up to 4pm, the wind is lashing against the window panes, and my body is craving a sugary comforting treat.

You know the feeling.  Anything will do. A cookie, a piece of chocolate or a little scoop of frozen yoghurt.

Guess I shouldn’t be looking at these tasty photographic treats then, eh?

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Photo copyright, Edward Shaw

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Photo copyright, Jason Kindig

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Photo copyright, Michael Ray

Pretty Lights

We’re fast-approaching Christmas, and the next 6 weeks or so will fly by, as they always do.

If you’re like me, you’ll be manoeuvring through chaotic shopping sprees, crumpled gift lists, rummaging in the attic for decorations long lost,  and preparing sleeping arrangements for last minute visitors we may never even get!

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So, whilst I think on and have a spare 5 minutes, I’ve grabbed a set of twinkling fairy lights and started to make some bokeh-inspired backdrops – perfect for framing on the walls, using as backgrounds for websites, adding text for glittery memes, and anything else you can make use of them for!

Any kind of twinkly lights will do for this project. I had a set of warm white LEDs to hand, but once the decorations are down from the attic I’ll be shooting colourful lights too.

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Try and remove all other light from the room if you can, and set your aperture as wide as it will go. I like using f1.8 or f2.0, but if your lens only opens as wide as f3.5 don’t worry, as you’re still letting in as much light as possible.

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Set your camera to manual, and then simply de-focus….

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Depending on your fairy lights, you’ll get differing tones and hues coming through – with my warm leds, the result was a combination of ambers, honeys, oranges, warm chocolate browns.

However, a little tweaking in Lightroom5 converted 1 photo into 3 other variations…

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With adjustments to contrast, shadows, highlights and tone, I’ve now got sparkly pink, dreamy blue and feisty orange versions.

So simple to do, very little set-up needed, and any camera on manual (de)focus should produce some pretty lovely results 🙂

Simple Silhouettes

Silhouette photography can produce some of the most striking and dramatic results.

The tangible details, colours & textures of a photograph are essentially replaced by far more conceptual assets, like ambiance & emotion, all by the clever balance of light, tone and shadow. Silhouettes are a great way to engage the viewer, as we’re all left to individually interpret the image ourselves – warmth, love, envy, peace, calm, melancholy, all may be seen through the eye of the beholder.

So, how difficult is a silhouette shot? Well, on one end of the spectrum there are some stunning photographs from high-end fashion houses, where the art direction and lighting have taken a large production team days to precisely hone, achieving the perfect result and capturing just the right nuance & emotion for the campaign.

But there’s also the simple do-it-yourself approach for those of us without huge budgets and loads of time/equipment/space!

I wanted to set up a quick home project, something I could light and shoot within 10 minutes, and would hopefully give some decent yet effective results.

Besides my camera and a selection of random props, this set-up only required:

  • A table lamp (without its shade)
  • A translucent reflector – a piece of pale paper will also work, as long as it diffuses the harsh bulb light

I placed the bulb about 1 metre from my lens and then the translucent reflector directly in front of the lamp.

I grabbed my trusty 50mm f1.8 prime lens, set aperture to f2.0 and began to set up all sorts of items I could see around me. From chess pieces to flowers, ornaments to my specs, anything was fair game in this little project!

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Such warm colours achieved straight from the camera, with no editing required

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A keepsake – edited easily in LR5, by just adjusting the tone to add blues & greys

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Even my specs weren’t safe!

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I then pulled focus on the more ‘romantic’ items to add an ethereal quality to the silhouette. Again, just some simple playing around with the tone function and clarity slider in LR5 resulted in these lavender and rose hues.

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And by tweaking the shadows and highlights, you can determine if little hints of detail are seen, or completely removed, from your silhouette.

This is definitely a project I’d turn to again. With a little easy prep, and a few minutes of post-production, you can breathe new life into all kinds of objects, and perhaps even produce your next piece of art to hang in your home 🙂

Would love to hear from you if you’ve tried this or have any silhouette work /ideas/tips to share 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Landscape – Composition

Everyday, all around us, there are countless magical moments from nature & our surroundings, that our cameras can capture. I really believe landscape photography has the most universal appeal – whether viewed in the pages of a magazine or hanging as art on our own walls, we can all find ourselves relating to the emotional & visual beauty encapsulated in breathtaking landscapes.

There are plenty of boxes to tick in order to photograph a truly epic piece of landscape photography. The type of camera body, the selection of lenses you should have to hand, ideal focal lengths, the perfect aperture to use, filters, tripod or hand-held, and the list goes on…

However, I know from my own experience that I need to always remind myself about the real fundamentals of landscape photography. So, no matter what type of camera you’re out and about with, be it a dSLR, a bridge, a point & shoot or even simply your mobile phone camera, we can all practice landscape photography anywhere and everywhere with a couple of easy basics.

First off, let’s deal with Composition

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Photo copyright, Henrik Spranz

 

A good composition іѕ the starting point & most important aspect оf landscape pictures.

  • How will I set the view?
  • How will I place each aspect оf the scene? In а particular position оr аn angle?
  • What elements wіll bе making my picture?
  • Any adjustments that need to be made?

I’ve actually set myself a photo challenge recently, where I can only leave the house with 1 lens attached to my camera, and that lens HAS to be a prime lens. No zooming, no cheating the macro, no multiple shots at different focal lengths. And it’s been a great challenge! I’ve forced myself to have to really consider the composition of each shot. Sure, I can crop and tweak in post production later, but actually, it’s really helped me:

  1. I’m properly looking at the scene in front of me and deciding what elements to place in shot
  2. I’m shooting faaaar less photos, because I’m concentrating on each one so much more
  3. I have to walk/crouch/lay down to get the angle and framing I need (a bit of exercise for the old limbs!)
  4. And it’s helped me to be a more patient photographer, because I take my time and don’t just snap any old picture for the sake of it!

 

The magic of shapes & lines is a very quick trick to capture a breathtaking visual, as is using the “Rule of Thirds” (check out this explanation, if you’d like to know more). Lines, angles, shapes and curves can all give a lot of depth and scale to the image, whilst letting the audience travel into the scene. Even if the landscape ahead of you looks bland on first sight, you can refresh this look by adding any object that creates motion – for example, a flock of birds, a moving cluster of clouds or a delicate butterfly darting away. And if you’re shooting a lake or the ocean, use the power of reflections to add movement and texture to the photograph.

 

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Photo copyright, Keith Wall

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Photo copyright, Amar Ramesh

 

Do you often just head out with one prime lens, or lock your digital camera at a fixed focal length? If you don’t, certainly try it. It might seem basic, but perhaps, like me, you’ll get a much-needed brain and composition ‘reset’ and look at scenes in a fresh way again! Feel free to tell me any composition experiments you’ve tried, would love to hear 🙂

 

The Cold Snap

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Photography іn the winter саn produce dramatic аnd beautiful images оf snow-capped mountains, forests draped іn crystal sheets оf ice, оr birds huddling beneath а rooftop оut of the driving winds and sleet. But with these natural backdrops of icy beauty, come more challenges for the photographer who heads out to do do some cold weather shooting. Not least, keeping yourself from freezing over!

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Okay, so evеrуbody knows tо wear а coat оr sweater іf уоu’rе going tо bе outside fоr аnу length оf time іn cold weather. However, it’s faces аnd hands that are really going to be vulnerable and take the chill hit when we head out with our cameras. The problem is though, that you can’t completely muffle your face оr hands оr you wоn’t bе аblе tо handle your camera equipment successfully.

So what about a ski mask, for those really blustery days? It’ll reduce thе amount оf skin exposed tо the cold wind & wintry weather, and wіll nоt оnlу keep уоur face warm, but іt wіll also help reduce thе amount оf hot air уоu breathe оntо уоur camera (which can cause heavy condensation).

For your hands, if it’s not too cold outside then try fingerless gloves. I’m a big fan, and I’ve always got a pair in my coat pockets/ camera bag once it gets to Autumn. They keep the majority of your hands warm, but allow you the dexterity to fully manage the controls. (Plus, you can always pretend you’re a cheeky cockney street urchin in some Charles Dickens’ novel – “Alright, Guv’nor!”)

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If you’re out in particularly harsh winter weather though, layering gloves is a great solution. Wear silk оr fine mesh gloves first, оr uѕе glove liners. Then over these thin gloves add а pair оf fingerless gloves fоr more warmth оn уоur palms, which wіll cut down оn hand fatigue. Hunters’ gloves have а removable fingertip section, that саn add still аnоthеr layer and leaves уоur fingers free. Finally, top аll of thеse layers wіth regular cold-weather heavy gloves. You’ll no doubt have to remove these whilst shooting, so go back to basics – thread a cord through them so they can hang round your neck. Might seem old school, but it’ll save you having to carry them all the time.

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And let’s not forget the power of а heat pack, kept іn уоur coat pocket tо quickly reheat уоur hands bеtwееn sessions.

These might pretty logical and common sense, but it’s amazing how we often all forget these little things when crossing over seasons.

Make a little check list to keep in your camera bag for each season, but for now, let’s start with Autumn/Winter:

  • Silk gloves or liner gloves
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Wooly hat
  • Heavy-duty winter gloves with a grip (ie. leather or with gripping on palms)
  • A thin scarf – perfect for keeping your mouth and nose protected or as an accessory to kneel down on.
  • Ski-mask (when fighting blustery winds)

 

My one added extra would always be Vaseline. Vaseline is perfect for keeping your cheeks and lips protected from harsh winds. In addition, it can add a terrific effect when rubbed across part or all of your lens to give a really blurred artistic shot – bonus! Grab one of those little hand-sized tins, throw it in the bottom of your bag and you’ll always be good to go.

Do you have any winter warmers you can’t shoot without?

 

All images via www.cherrybam.com