Studio Werkz: Melded Light

Beauty Dishes are all the rage at the portrait studios.  Not a fav light of mine as I’ve never been a photographer of young 20-30yr hopefuls who want to not only look like Kim Kardashian, but BE her. The tight parabolic driven light helps put some enriching shadows for depth and yet keeps the boldness of the well-lit facial planes.  And although I don’t use one, it’s a simple light to set up as the light doesn’t ‘go everywhere’. Sort of like a little theatre in an ‘itty-bitty space’—(Genie- Aladdin).

Yet it has to be said, my favourite beauty light is a soft-melding light that pours itself over the subjects features and just stops short of creating deep dark shadows.  Depending on the size of the light source, (think great big grey sky, or perhaps early sunrise/late sunset reflecting from clouds), a melded light will also provide sufficient modelling to keep the 3D feel for a subject. Smaller light sources, full window light, or light coming in under tree-tops also will help with the modelling of the features.

Gone are the day of bulky tungsten lighting stands and burnt fingers changing bulbs, and gone are the those impossible ‘umbrella’ stands with their coloured foil linings. Yeshh!

The very early studio portraitists worked with an amazing medium. Available light.  The studio was always on the top floor of a building and was glass-roofed, and glass-sided. With wonderful arrangements of light and dark curtaining to control and direct light.

Here tis.

 

Now it is true to say, that I don’t wear such a suit to photograph birds, and I’ve significantly less hair than our studio operator, but look at the way the shadows go on for ever.
Even in this simple take.

EE and I feel to a bit of luck, good luck, instead of that other unmentionable kind. We located at Woodlands, on a bright sunny day, a feeding flock of Flame Robins. Accompanying them, at least in the areas I suspect was her ‘territory’ was a single, lone, female Red-capped Robin.
We were in no hurry, and she had her whole territory to work through.  A bit like going to a relative’s house and sitting in the kitchen talking while food preparation was going on.

At one point she flew behind a nearby tree, and then pounced on a snack, and popped back onto a close branch, and at the same time the sun came out and soft melded light cascaded under the trees and neatly framed her.

Enough of the sunshine hit the grasses behind to give her a pleasing backdrop and all I had to do was press the shutter.

Photography, that it could always be that simple.

Enjoy

 

 

Studio Werkz: A Step back in Time

For those new readers, Studio Werkz, was the proposed name of a ‘Studio Alliance”, by a group of photographers ever-so-long ago. I’ve blogged here about the formation and dissolution, (all in 24hours), so won’t belabour here.

However everytime I get the chance to make a portrait of a bird, I find myself pondering why studio offers so many opportunities to bring out the character of the subject.

It is about lighting, it is about backdrop and it is about the magic moment when the subject no longer is “having a portrait taken”, but allows an insight into their life. A sparkle in the eye, a wry grin, leaning forward, turning the body everso slightly, and there is the magic moment.

It’s like as one of my early mentors would say, “Like eavesdropping on a special moment. Developing a real sensitivity for a feeling that says so much. The lens, the camera, the lighting all are forgotten, it is the reaction that speaks visually.”

On my very first ever trip to the Western Treatment Plant many years back, I’d been travelling about the Plant with a very experienced birdo who graciously gave me a wonderful introduction to the area—so much so that I registered for access the following morning.

However, I hadn’t managed to achieve any significant pictures during our day, as we had little time to work with the birds.

After I picked up my car and was driving along 29 Mile Road on the way home, I spied this Brown Falcon sitting on the post in the late evening sunshine. Hesitantly I parked, and eased out of the vehicle, 500mm lens and beanbag.
Would Brown stay?

Now the falcons in the area are pretty used to vehicles speeding past, or even stopping, and have at least a passing tolerance for the human condition. Although what they really think of us is debatable.  Three things they they do give credit for, are lovely well spaced perching spaces, mice and rabbits.

Brown held.

And so I began to move about to get the best light, angle, and backdrop.  And for a brief moment it took me all in.
That was the going home shot.

Not more than a minute later, a vehicle approached and Brown felt the pressure and sniffing a light breeze turned and was gone.

Enjoy

Remain

Davyyd.

One of my most published bird photos

Saturday Evening Post #67 : From Studio Werkz

Studio Werkz was a proposed name for a photo studio/business in another universe. Mooted by an eclectic group of photographers, we had the idea of being able to offer a wide range of photo services, but in the morning, after the coffee kicked in, we managed to drift in our own directions.

Still I’ve often retained it for some bird portraits that have a ‘studio quality’ about them.

This is usually a clever mix of bird character, the right location and an interesting lighting set.

As my earliest mentor was oft to say when assembling a lighting order for a product or portrait, “We don’t keep adding light, we work to remove the shadows until the subject expresses itself.” Which means in commercial product photography that no two lighting problems are alike, and the difference of a few millimetres up or down, left or right of lights, reflectors, camera angle, lens choice could result in an entirely different rendition.

Which, still holds true in this day an age of bulk-flat light, the environmental feel, or the harshness of poorly balanced lighting and an over abundance of post-processing.

So Studio Werkz images try to emulate those great lighting arrays, without the benefit of controlled studio.

The other morning I looked out the front door to see what all the noise in the garden was about. New Holland Honeyeaters at corroboree. Each sitting on a branch and crying out at all its relatives.

And then one landed on the agapanthus plant in the garden.
The early morning light stuck hard lines across the bird, separated it from the background, incidentally my neighbour over the road’s garage door in shade.

“Right”.

Scramble to get the camera, grabbed the one with the 500mm lens, and opened the door.

Gone.

But the noise carried on and they flicked back and forward of the agapanthus, and I waited.

The trick of course is to get the best light on the bird, and to keep shadow detail, so there were only ever going to be some angles that would work.
Until Mr Clever turned up.

“Would you like me to pose upside down?” it seemed to say.

Adjust the exposure to hold the highlights, and the job was done.  In a studio of course, it would have been easier to add a light or two to open up the shadows, or at least put up a reflector to push some light into the shadows.  These days, we just slide up the ‘fill-light’ in software and job is done.

We each have our own way of making that work, and my favourite for many years was a Nikon Software, Capture NX(2). Its major claim to fame was some clever Nik Software, (different company) “Control Points” They measured the lightness and colour values of an area (think L*A*B* Color space), and then applied it to all similar values in a given area. Making it easy to open up shadows or make subtle changes to colour and tone. Sort of like Photoshop Layer Masks and a Brush.
Nik eventually marketed its own versions, and Google bought them out, and the series languished until DxO Labs purchased the technology and have incorporated it into their very clever Optics Pro software, now called DxO PhotoLab.

Pop the Adjustment Tool into the shadow areas on the bird’s chest, slide up the ‘shadows’ controller. Simples.
Dean Collins couldn’t have done any better with “Available Light”. — For new readers, there is a photographic joke in there—you’d need to read back on my Dean Collins series.

I have to say, I really wanted to show this as a vertical, so I’ve done a header image horizontal, as that is what WordPress demands, but here is the way I saw it.

 

Studio Werkz: Creative Lighting Challenges

Warning to Birders.  This blog is mostly about photography, and lighting techniques and fanning the creative juices.  CLICK AWAY NOW!  You have been warned.

My current mentor and I have been playing with the thought, “What if you’ve taken your last “GREAT” photograph.” ;-(

Not one that is technically correct. Used the right lens, got the shutterspeed-iso-aperture worked out.  The exposure is dead on.  The subject is all as it should be.  No need for massive post-production.  Not that sort of Great.
But, y’know, Great!

And image that purely by subject/time/lighting/emotional appeal reaches out beyond the frame and the viewer “gets it”. The ones that sometimes we bleed over or travel miles for, or just happens to occur when we walk out the door.  You, subject, lighting, mood, atmosphere and feeling all make their stamp on the moment and its, “Great”. Not the one that gets more “Likes” on Facebook, or more “Favs” on Flickr.  But one that in a timeless manner somehow moves the thought you saw at the moment to the viewer’s mind and they  not only identify but also imbibe.

Y’know like McCurry’s Pic of the Green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover of Nat Geo.  Still get shivers when I recall how I first noticed that photo in the news agents rack when I’d wandered in off the street.  It was the only magazine in the entire rack that stole my heart away.

I’ve faced some big lighting challenges over the years. Buildings at first or last light. Vehicles in the moody pre-dawn. Brides and Grooms in the midday sun. Chrome laundry bowls on white gloss metal stand. And in all cases the same principles apply.

I had the good fortune to have been trained at one stage by the best.
Dean Collins. Master of Light. —A title he most justifiably deserved.
“He taught us to not only see the light, but to move it, bend it and most importantly control it, no matter where or when we were creating images” tricolorlabs.com

At one seminar Dean showed a 3 foot by 5 foot print of a portrait of Natalie Wood, taken just before her death. No matter where you stood in the room, her beauty shone from the wall. A truly stunning portrait.

So the other evening when the challenge came, I was fascinated how the various elements came together.
Gotta few minutes?
Here we go.

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Studio Werkz: The White-plumed Honeyeater Appointment

I know all the birds of the hills

Psalm 50

To say we’ve had a run of weather of late would be to guild the lily somewhat.  Lack of sunshine, and howling southerly winds have been much more the norm. Add to that the best of fast moving squalls with intense rain, and well, its enough to make you roll over and pull the donnah up even closer.

So with a touch of sunshine peeking through the breakfast room window, EE and I decided on a quick trip to The Office.  Image our surprise when we found Mr An Onymous out there as well.  Put it down to the call of the Osprey.  However she wasn’t in residence so we had to content ourselves with lesser subjects.

Continue reading “Studio Werkz: The White-plumed Honeyeater Appointment”