Sunday, 26 April 2015

Gallipoli 100 Years - Rotunda Contemporary Dance

Rotunda features the beautiful raw power of contemporary dance, timed to honour the Gallipoli landings in 1915. This is a poignant and moving work, created by Arts Laureates Shona McCullagh (Artistic Director) and Don McGlashan (Musical Director) in collaboration with a cast of 8 dancers. Rotunda is a living memorial that celebrates the ANZAC spirit and the themes of courage, loss, kinship and ultimately, a desire for peace.
F3.5, ISO800, 1/80 40mm, No Flash

Rotunda performed an excerpt from their show to a packed audience during the ANZAC day 100 years commemorative event at the Auckland Museum.  Once again the Museum invited me along to capture the day’s events, and as this was a major event, I called upon my friend Will Mays to assist me.
For those that have visited the museum will know that certain areas are a tad tight and when I read the schedule I knew I had a challenge covering a dance held within the WW1 Sanctuary. This area is very tight and along with 150+ people around the outside, along with the routine being fluent and moving through and around the spectators, I had to take every opportunity as it came

F4.5, ISO800, 1/60 35mm, No Flash
The Lighting conditions where average and being in a sanctuary Flash photography was not permitted. Positioning was critical and had to move with the crowd, however I was lucky at one point to pick a small gap and quickly duck around a pillar to position myself inside a small alcove. This reduced the chances of me getting someone’s head in the way but did limit me to having to frame most shots in portrait rather than landscape mode.

First off ISO. I started on 400 but after a few quick shots went up to 800. Next I dropped my focus point to a 9 AF to allow for a tighter focus area .
My exposure times I was generally hitting between 1/60 to 1/80. This was perhaps a little on the slow side but the routines where slow moving initially, and then became sharp jerky as the emotional story unfolded.  If I had gone higher I would have frozen most shots and this excerpt really needed to be captured to highlight the emotion behind the piece.
F3.5, ISO800, 1/60 55mm

My F/stop stayed at 3.5 which is the lowest I could go on my 28 to 300mm. I then dropped the saturation slightly using a custom setting.
Unlike other events I cover I usually get to see a pre-rehearsal so that I get a general idea on the flow and movement. I really had to anticipate and work within the confines presented.

The images published here are just a small selection; if you wish to see more keep an eye on the events page at over the coming week.

F5.6, ISO800, 1/50 120mm, No Flash

F4.5, ISO800, 1/100 150mm, Digital Convert BW

F4.5, ISO800, 1/100 120mm, No Flash



Friday, 17 April 2015

Digital Wizardry 2

With the weather in Auckland being rather damp and cool what better time spent but to sit and play around with Adobe Photoshop. I decided to go with an Aviation theme mainly because of my recent photo excursion at Classic Fighters 2015 show at Omaka.

I decided to create something which showcased aviation across the ages. So after selecting 12 images off I went.

The most time spent was around the position and layout once I had this in place I then proceeded on the long journey of creating lots of layer masks.
Most of the layers required tweaks, including scaling, rotation and flipping.  The flipping can be a problem especially if there is readable text, however I had no issue as any readable objects would be too small to pickup.

The background I decided to go with two previous shots from my texture library The first a photo of a piece of old film which had been chemically scratched my second choice being a damaged piece of alloy showing polishing scratches.
First up I worked on getting the background right using various masks and tonal adjustments. I then added a few corner objects created in Illustrator so that I could define  a frame.

Next I started to adjust opacity and apply layer effects. Most are Soft overlay with additional opacity added. with a couple having brush effects using dodge and burn techniques.

Text title was created in Illustrator then imported in as a smart object. This allows you to further control and adjust the opacity including drop shadows.

After a few more brush tweaks here and there, I then saved the layered file, made a few more adjustments around brightness and saturation. Save, and Done. Total time 1 hour.
12 Photos Used, Digital comp in Adobe Photoshop

Objective 6 - Time Lacked

To be honest my original time Lapse Objective really did not go to plan. Not from the want of trying mind you,  but more due to so much going on I wasn't really keen leaving my camera in a spot for any reasonable length of time.

I know this is not hard core or dedication to the cause, but sometimes you just have to let go.

The closet I have is a sequence of shots during one of the ground theatres. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts the second day of re-enactments was a little subdued due to a fire risk from the surrounding area being very dry and windy.
However I knew where the action was going to take place so set the camera on tripod along with my auto timer and waited.
The results are as follows.


V1 Bomb explodes

f11, 1/320, IS400, 100mm
Race to get onto a Penny Farthing Bike
f11, 1/250, ISO200, 65mm

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Objective 7 - Motion

Perhaps the easiest of topics to cover considering I'm at the Classic Fighters show, but is it?, catching motion can be tricky because it's a fine line between a blurry image and a image informing the viewer it is actually moving.

So lets start with the planes, Jet Fighters not an issue as you set your lens to Horizontal tracking mode (setting 2 for my L Lens) then set your shutter speed to high and hope that the Jet plane fly's past something which can give you some depth of field and thus present the illusion of speed.

However my primary subjects were World War 2 fighters with nice spinning prop blades, so a little more thought was needed. The trick here is to not capture at such a high shutter speed so that your plane resembles an Airfix model hanging from a kids bedroom ceiling.

So lets take a look at  my first shot.
f29, 1/250 ISO800 190mm (CR)
I was lucky that I had the option to get to higher ground which enabled me to capture the hills in the back. Secondly I opted to open the f-stop right up so I could get a fair percentage of the background in reasonable focus and by doing so, adds depth and enough detail for the viewer to relate to foreground and background. Next ISO I cranked up to 800 so I got plenty of light so that I could use a relatively slower shutter speed.
So after watching a few plane passes, and running some manual tests to see what my camera was telling me,  it was time so with a steady hand I used single focus point and focused on the target, then panning left as the subject flew by I clicked away.
The prop motion I think is perhaps borderline in terms of rotation pattern but happy with the result and I believe I achieved my objective.

My Next subject was an old Pioneer race between a very old car and 3 guys racing Penny Farthings. I first watched these guys ride around to sort of gauge how quickly they could move. I wished I could have got myself down to a lower point for this as the angle and composition appears to have lost some of it's swagger, however capturing the car in the background, adds to the flavour and generally happy with the shot. Unfortunately  I had to crop the photo tight as I caught someones head as I panned left.
f22, 1/60 ISO200, 110mm (CR)

My next shot offered a different challenge, firstly the Glider had no visible moving parts and the cloud cover was light to average. Luckily the glider generated a slipstream as it came down from a high dive, so I just waited for it to do it's routine again and bingo, caught the stream..
f20, 1/200, +.33exp IS400, 280mm
My last few are from the WW2 ground theatre. Unfortunately I missed the big fire ball explosion on the first day, and the second day was less impressive only because a large area of the field caught fire!!!, So for this setup I positioned my tripod with my camera in portrait mode.  Then with my remote timer ready I picked the time and triggered the shots.
f11, 1/320, ISO400, 100mm
The last shot a poor German prisoner getting thrown around a bit by a British Para, Yes it's all acting!!!. I actually like this shot and the focusing was rushed which I think has added to the theme. So a quick convert to Black and White and Bobs your uncle.
f8, 1/100 ISO400, 160mm (Converted to B/W)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Objective 8 - Colours

Now you could be forgiven for assuming that a Military convention or airshow for that fact,  would be void of colour and you could be correct, isn’t it all Khaki, Browns and greens?, well yes however the Classic fighter show boast perhaps the biggest fleet of flying World War 1 planes and these are certainly not short of colours.

But I was wanting to go slightly further afield I couldn’t help noticing the dark earthy colours on show across the landscape. Blenheim or to be more specific the Marlborough Distract, is at this time of year (Easter)  very dry, and the Wither Hills provides a spectacular backdrop for a world class air show.

My first image is of course a WW1 plane. The amount of detail in these replicas is outstanding and they are all air worthy as well. This photo was taken mid-afternoon on a rather cloudy overcast day.
f14, ISO400, 1/80 28mm (Custom Colour setting)
f10, ISO100, 1/160, 70mm

Using my 28 to 300mm I adjusted my exposure by ¼ and changed my white balance to Cloudy. At the same time I decided to try my custom colour settings which has the Saturation increased by two marks (approx. 75%).
The colours are perhaps a little light in some areas mainly down to over cast conditions and I’m sure with additional post processing I’m sure I can bring in more detail specifically across the top of the wings. However it’s all about the camera settings so I’m happy with the result.

My second shot was completely unplanned. As we were driving along I spotted a Hawk circling a vine yard. Only issue was the minute we stopped the hawk disappeared. We waited a short time but it never returned so I decided to take a shot of a Vine Harvester. This Photo could have been much better if I had taken my time to compose etc, but the result I think is fine as it provides a nice range of colours and contrasted nicely with the green of the vines and blue sky.
f11 ISO800, 1/160 28mm
I might consider doing some post processing later and see what I can get out of the image.

Next is a Panorama taken during our Lagoon walk out towards the shipwreck? This area also encompasses a salt marsh and was very dry despite having tidal inlets weaving in and out. I like the dryness of the landscape and the rustic colours which is evident across the various pieces of drift wood littered all around the river edges. The Wither hills in the back ground also contributes nicely. What I like about this image is the more you investigate it the more you reveal. Next time I might consider walking up the hills and shoot back across this landscape.
f11, ISO400 1/160 (4 images combined)
....and finally, this old rust heap. Found this car hiding behind one of the hangers. Generally not a big fan of HDR (Bracketing) but thought I'd have a go. You either like them or you loathe them :)
3 Shots (-1 / 0 / +1) Digitally modified

Friday, 10 April 2015

Objective 9 - Portraits

The nice thing about the bi-annual Classic Fighters show in Omaka is that it is so much more than just planes.  Scattered around the airfield you have “live-in” re-enactors who really work hard to provide you with a true authentic experience. Spanning the course for 3 days there is always something new happening.
This year there was a focus on the New Zealand Pioneers, so lots of early 19th century goods on display. And of course not to be outdone are the WW1 and WW2 participants who are always displaying some amazing pre and post war equipment.

So Portraits should not be an issue?
Well just slightly and the reason is obvious. There is so much activity around and lots of people asking actors to pose etc, you get very little time to really compose or organise your shot.

So with no fleccy, stage props or control over the lighting, it’s time to put on my paparazzi hat and go shoot some actors.
Once again I turn to my trusty 28 to 300mm L Lens, as it will give me the range I need to cover pretty much most scenarios.  So rather than spending too much time babbling, here are some of my portrait shots and as per usual I have added the appropriate camera settings to each image.

Special note: reference CR means I have cropped the image, DG means I have undertaken a small amount of post processing.

This photo is one of my favourites, mainly because the guy was very patient and I was able to get him to pose. I really wanted to catch the object in the lens which I did after getting him to adjust a few times. Can you guess what he is looking at?
f7.1, ISO100 1/60 28mm CR
 This next one was taken of the back of a press photographer so jumped in an took this shot.
f8, ISO100 1/200 40mm
f9, ISO400 1/160 60mm CR
My last shot of the German Infantry soldier standing in front of the Panzer 4 was also staged. The guy very keen to pose so lined him up and clicked away.

f18, ISO400 1/400 -1 exp  80mm (CR,DG)
 The theatre part of the show certainly provides excellent opportunities to capture great portraits. this one I did attempt to use a custom white balance. However I did have to undertake some post processing due to a slight mistake as I had left my exposure 1 step down from previously shooting planes in the sky.
f11, ISO200, 1/250 260mm

If there was ever an opportunistic shot then this is one of them, Unsure what he was doing but capturing the Spitfire landing behind him, I couldn't have timed it better. You just have to keep your eyes peeled all the time at shows there is a lot happening.

My last couple of posts are more around capturing people doing what they do best. The first one a friend Rob, loves his wildlife photography and he is always crouching, ducking and diving into under growth.
f7, ISO400, 1/160 110mm (CR, DG)

And finally my last fittingly considering the theme of the show, a Pioneer actor standing next to one of the amazing Penny Farthing Bikes, He gazes across the field towards a WW1 Tank rolling out to battle all for his king and country. Perhaps I should convert this to a sepia tone?
f14, ISO300 1/100 28mm (CR)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Objective 10 - Landscapes

The 2015 Classic fighters show in Blenheim over Easter, didn't disappoint, with plenty of action, thrills and spills.
This year my friends and I added a few extra days on to our itinerary so we could further explore the surrounding area.

Friday is typically a practice day which gives the pilots one last run to go through and fine tune their routines, so this gives you the option to work yourself around the surrounding area to find different vantage points to view the airfield and the surrounding vineyards.
Therefore myself and two colleagues decided to walk up into the Wither Hills regional park, which gives a great overview of the surrounding area.
So an early morning start (7:00am to be exact) we packed our gear, equipped with water and snacks, and walked up into the hills.

This year I made a conscious effort to spend more time watching the air show naturally rather than through the lens of my camera, However Photography wasn't going to be completely left out and instead I decided to set my self some objectives. (see previous blog)
So here is a quick reminder of my objectives;

1) Action, 2) Emotion, 3)Weathered, 4)New, 5)Time Lapse, 6) Motion
7)Colours, 9)Portrait and lastly
10) Landscapes

 So counting down, here are my results.
10) Landscapes

My first shot is rather warm and I opted to run with my Sigma 17/50mm wide angle Lens. With the sun just popping up over the hills I decided to drop my exposure down 1/2 and increase my shutter speed so as to reduce potential blowout in my images. After a few quick test shots and checking my white balance and histogram, I clicked away. (in photo Rob Wood, Will Mays)

F8, ISO400, 1/800sec Pattern Metering 17mm (Wide)
The natural light in the South Island is very different to what we have around Auckland in the North island. So this provided me with some good challenges along the way. The surrounding area was also very dry and arid, not surprising since we were in the main Wine growing region of New Zealand, Marlborough.
F14, ISO400, 1/200sec, 24mm (wide) Digital Cropped
F6.3, ISO400, 1/800, 17mm (Wide)

With an extra day up our sleeve we then decided to walk out to the Wairau Lagoon salt marshes and visit the shipwreck SS Waverley. A 3 hour round trip through spectacular wetlands, a complete contrast from the hills as this area was flat and became rather humid as the morning evolved.

F11, ISO 400, 1/160 (Digital Pano)
Rob Wood, is an avid wildlife photographer so this area provided a wealth of challenges, kingfishers, Herons, Hawks (that's another story), seabirds...the list goes on. My challenge was to photograph the ship wreck in overcast, bright conditions and a near high tide to add to the list. Armed with my Canon 28mm to 300mm L Lens, it was off to the wreck.

F8, ISO250, 1/200 60mm Digital tweak
Shooting into an overcast sky with the sun to the left of the subject meant that the viewable side would be dark. After a few test shots I opted to increase my exposure only slightly. Most of the additional detail came through when I processed the RAW files in ACR. I like the richness of this image and on a decent display it is rather punchy.
F11, ISO 400, 1/160 +1/2 exp 28mm  Digital Tweak

My next shot required a slightly slower shutter speed, combined with a 1/2 stop up, as I was in the shadow of the wreck. Again only minor digital tweaking to bring out some extra detail which was evident in the RAW file.

So lessons learnt. Lighting the big challenge, perhaps having filters on my lens may have helped and perhaps my tripod. My flash unit would have helped to back fill some of the subject especially when I got up close. However happy with the results.

..Next on the list (9) Portraits.