Dream the crow black dream…

The title of this blog is a line from Burn by The Cure, that features on the sound track for The Crow. Which incidentally, is what sprang to mind for one image from this shoot.

Another image made “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores” pop into my head and that too could of easily been the title. Obviously I was thinking of the Bauhaus version and not the original John Cale one – the model Iona is a goth after all!

But I went with “dream the crow black dream, also because I’ve been listening to it over and over…

With a bit of “photoshopery” I managed to make the two images in question fit the title. And this came as a bit of a surprise to me as my photoshop skills are pretty non-existent, at least when compared to some of the amazing retouchers and digital image manipulators out there.

Goth model wearing top hat surrounded by bats.
Dream The Crow Black Dream…
Goth model in rose garden
Rose Garden Funeral of Sores

With a great model in a top hat, bat shaped sunglasses and a flourishing a skull topped cane, I couldn’t really fail to get some cool shots!

Here’s some more favourites, which you will have seen if you’ve got to the blog via my website (If not here’s a link to the full shoot on there: https://www.timwilcoxphotography.co.uk/f1049617796)

Until next time…

Looking back, what have we learnt…?

A rather ominous and prophetic sounding title perhaps? – but actually it’s not. This is not a doom laden blog commenting on the current state of the world etc. It’s actually more to do with the fact that I revisited some old work; nearly 5 years old to be a bit more specific.

Now this is not something I normally do and I believe I’m not alone in this. Once a project is done, it’s done. Very rarely does reworking photos yield a better result than it did at the time. Perhaps because I don’t leave it long enough; who knows…

But today, faced with no new work to produce, I revisited a project from August 2015. Basically, a photo essay of some friends (and a couple of random strangers, who were cool about being photographed) climbing at Burbage North and I made some slightly surprising discoveries. – not least of which, I’m still friends with these guys! 🤣🤣🤣

The first was the selection. In the original project there were 195 finished shots with ratings of 1 or 2 stars. Back then, I processed anything with 2 stars (I’d already binned the 0 star and reject images). I decided I wanted to pick the best 20.

In doing so, I found that what I considered to be the best shots in 2015 where not the same as those that I liked now. So clearly the way I view and determine the aesthetics of an image has changed. I looked the composition; particularly the crop, what were the important elements, what were the distracting elements, how could I focus attention on the subject to tell the story etc. 5 years ago it was all about processing as many images as possible. I also remembered how I actually shot the images. That too would be different today. – more time spent thinking about what’s in front of me than machine gunning, taking the shot with a mind on how the end result might be etc.

Secondly, in considering these elements partly dictated how I processed the image, Again, 5 years ago it was simply a case of processing the RAW files through what was then DXO Optics Pro and pushing & pulling every slider this way and that until the image looked good (or at least my interpretation of “good” at the time), taking it into Photoshop and messing with it even more. Today I’d consider that as “how to ruin a good image”, and I’ve got hard drives full of such images to prove it.

This time around, I stopped, studied the image and decided what I wanted to affect, what I wanted to correct, emphasise and enhance etc. Another big consideration was colour or black & white. Sometimes black & white is simply more powerful to tell the story. And the big lesson of the 5 years when it comes to post processing: less is more…

Today, the only processing software I tend to use is Capture One Pro, and Photoshop when I need to; which is becoming increasingly rare. And maybe DXO FilmPack for a bit of fun! The look of film is sometimes hard to beat.

So what follows are the 20 images, good or bad? – Don’t know, but a lesson learnt all the same…

Click on an image to view etc.

Until next time…

How many Z’s?… There’s 7!

So with a bit of time on my hands, I’ve finally got around to writing a blog post. Ironically, there are several things that have happened photographically over the last few months that I could have written about but didn’t. But now, I have the time and will make amends over the coming days…

Close up view of Nikon Z7 camera body indicating Z7 logo

In no particular order, we’ll start with my purchase of a new camera. Whilst I still own and use my D700 & D800, I’ve taken a step into the world of mirrorless and acquired a Z7; along with the 24-70 f/2.8 S lens and an FTZ adaptor for my existing F mount lenses.

Picture of Nikon Z7 camera with 24-70 f/2.8 lens attached

I’ve only had this kit for a few weeks and have only managed to get out and use it “in anger” once (that’ll be the subject of a later blog post), but I have to say I’m impressed thus far. Mirrorless does seem to bring some advantages, although there is still a place for DSLR’s. Neither the D700 or D800 stopped being good cameras when later models were released etc.

So whilst I might not get chance to get out and shoot during the current situation we find ourselves in, I’ll certainly be dong so when life returns to some sort of normality. So perhaps its no bad thing that I saved some things to write about as it’ll provide something to do for a while…

Until next time…

The Kelpies…(A slight return)

Actually, there’s nothing slight about it. I found myself going back in Falkirk on business, so I took my camera with me again. This time around I wanted to photograph the Kelpies at sunrise. And as luck would have it, on the morning I had planned to go over to The Helix – the skies were clear and the sun rose… eventually. But not before I’d half froze to death waiting for it! Talk about suffering for one’s art…

So, some 100 shots later, a 300 mile drive home and a week or so sorting out the “keepers”, processing, reviewing and re-processing etc. Here are the final images on my website (click the link below):

https://goo.gl/W1ruaN

Basically I’ve added 18 new images to the original gallery so you can see last year’s shots of The Kelpies too.

And don’t stop there. Have a look at the other images while your there; particularly if you haven’t visited before.

Enjoy…

Business & Pleasure

Apparently, you shouldn’t mix the two.

However, when business results in a three day, 600+ mile road trip and you discover that you’ll be within a couple of minutes of some potential photographic interest… why not?

So, the camera got packed as well as the suit.

Basically, I was staying about 2 minutes from The Helix , home to The Kelpies.

Duke & Baron… although I don’t know which one is which!

I took images over two consecutive evenings, firstly at around sunset and a bit later on the second night when they were illuminated.

All of the images that made it through my my workflow can be found on my website here.

My return trip home took me right past the Falkirk Wheel (well, ok; close enough to make a small detour etc) and seeing as it was a nice day, I went and got a few shots etc.

It’s turning…

Again, all of the images that made it through my my workflow can be found on my website here.

So, business and pleasure… seems it can be done!

 

Here we are again…

Every year I make the same old resolutions, promises , bold statements; call them what you will etc. Mostly about how I’m going to improve my photography next year and use this blog, and social media in general, more and so on and so on… And does it ever happen? Well, not exactly… I certainly have every intention, but why does it never live up to expectation? – probably because I have no real plan or idea of what I want to achieve. However, this year… I might have. I’ll start with looking forward; particularly as this is a long post and you might not read to the end!

Anyway, I want as always to shoot what I would call more people orientated things. – Something beyond standard portraiture; although I’m always happy to do that. I’d like more creative shoots etc. And so I’ve put together some ideas and hopefully someone will read this and say “hey, I can help with that…”

So, in no particular order of preference; there’s two broad areas:

Portraiture – Artistic, unusual, striking and interesting etc. I’m particularly interested in photographing people with striking looks, styles & characters such as Goths, Steampunks, Street performers & artists, dancers, actors & re-enactors etc.

I’d be really keen to work in a collaborative manner rather than just be the photographer directing the model etc. – i.e. if any such subjects have any creative ideas that they would want to bring to the shoot or would want to be photographed in a certain way, I’d be more than happy to entertain the ideas etc.

Action – Perhaps some parkour, BMX or skateboarding stuff? Of course I’ll always want to shoot rock climbing & bouldering – whether it’s “staged” or capturing the action as it happens etc.

Of course, I’ll still photograph anything & everything within reason; but it would be nice to have more control over what I shoot and how I shoot it etc.

Anyway, if you can help, or think you can help; or think you know someone who can help me achieve some of my creative ambitions then please get in touch.

Also, if you have a creative vision or again, know someone who has a creative vision, that I may be able to capture; please get in touch.

Or, if you just want the services of photographer…


Looking back at the last, which seems to be what everyone is doing in some way shape or form. So what were the “highlights” – blown out or otherwise? Sorry, photography type pun there!

Well, it pretty much started with my last blog post. That was all about the shoot that was intended to produce some images to enter into the BMC’s Guide Book competition. I never entered any images but it did at least produce some work I was happy with. So my confidence got a bit of a small boost.

Next came the Photography Show in March. Every year I go along and every year I say I’m not going again etc. But I do, and I will probably be going in 2018 too. What was good about the 2017 show? Well, my “hero” Joe McNally was there, so I had to be. We said “Hi” and I watched him do his thing on the Nikon and Manfrotto stands. And then I realised that all the technique and approach he was demonstrating was not new to me. I didn’t need to hear and see Joe do it so that I’d be better. I should be out there doing it for myself, finding my own way. Now don’t get me wrong, Joe is still one of, if not the best, photographer around and he and his work will always be someone and something I will admire and aspire to. But I no longer need to hang on his every word, try and do everything like Joe. I’ve moved on. The apprentice has not become The Master, but he has become… well, not the apprentice ok. – I’m sure you get the idea.

Then in June, I attended Frank Doorhof’s workshop at Amersham. I went last year and learnt a hell of a lot and had a lot of fun. This year I learnt a whole lot more and had even more fun. Frank is such a great teacher and all round good guy. He always has a great sense of humour and really does a lot to encourage others, which is why hanging out with him and a bunch of other photographers for a weekend is so enjoyable. The funny thing is that you don’t realise how much you’ve learnt at the time. That seems to come afterwards. Of course I couldn’t really mention that weekend without mentioning Frank’s wife Anneweik, Nadine Stephan (model & stylist) & Simon Ellingworth (studio owner & host); all of whom contributed to making a great weekend.

But what did I really learn? What has been the things that I think has improved my photography? Two things really:

First a light meter. I could write a whole post on this but basically it boils down to using one, understanding what it’s telling you and how to use that information. Without going into really detailed explanations, understanding what a light meter gives you is also useful in situations when you can’t use one! Sound bizzare, but it works – well for me at any rate. Perhaps it’ll have to be the subject of a future post…

And second, only select your absolute best images to process and publish. Immediately delete all of the files you don’t select. It cuts down on drive space for a start, but it really pushes your self criticism; in a good way though.

Later…

 

Behind The Scenes – “Suffering for your art…”

The idea behind this shoot was to get some images that I might enter in the BMC Members’ Handbook photo competition: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/bmc-members-photo-competition-2017

The theme for the competition is “Lost in Adventure”, and one of the things that we very quickly lost in this adventure was body heat! It was incredibly cold, foggy and damp and it didn’t take long for me to lose feeling in my fingers whilst setting up.

I wanted to have more control over the images so I decided this was also a good excuse to light the shots with my Elinchrom ELB 400 & Quadra HS head. So whilst I positioned the light, Mark kept Toby (his dog) entertained. Once I was ready, Mark got into position and I took a couple of test shots.

Then, he decides that the shots might look better if he climbed in his t-shirt as opposed to a couple of fleeces & gloves! Just a t-shirt!… Really?

“I’m not playing the harmonica… I’m trying to warm my fingers up!”

Yeah okay, there is some merit in his idea and this is where the saying “One should suffer for ones art” springs to mind. Or in this case, someone else should suffer for your art; which seems like a better idea to me!

We went on to shoot quite a few different angles and slightly different locations and it turned out that a better choice of lens was my Nikkor 14-24 F2.8, as opposed to my Nikkor 24-70 F2.8, as this resulted in more “keepers”. I only used one camera body throughout: my D800.

Unusually for me, I spent a lot of time on the post processing, and for once, it actually improved the images in the majority of cases. Normally all I do is make them look awful. Perhaps I’m getting better after all…

Anyway, the suffering is worth it when you get images like this; particularly when someone else is doing the suffering:

The final selection of images, including the two in this post, can be found on my website by navigating to the gallery under the “Projects” menu; or by following this link directly: http://www.timwilcoxphotography.co.uk/p380972690

Later…

A couple of close shaves in the Burbage Valley…

Burbage North early on a Winter Sunday Morning – ideal for a decent walk followed by breakfast down in Hathersage. What could possibly go wrong?

Well nothing actually went wrong as such, although one of the “close shaves” this morning could have done. I managed to trip up and my camera hit the ground before I did. Luckily I follow the sound advice of always using a lens hood. That took most of the impact and was just a little scuffed. The camera and lens (D800 & 24-70 F2-8) appeared undamaged and seem to focus ok etc.

The other “close shave” is that of Toby’s new hair cut…

Here’s a few pics for you to enjoy. Click on an image to open a larger version in a new window etc:

Looking North. Taken just after I tripped with the camera etc.

” Yes, I know… I’ve had a hair cut!!!”

“Breakfast you say! Hell yeah!”

“I’ll just sit under the table. I’m bound to get fed…” – Never seen a dog manage a conspiratorial wink before.

A couple of sausages later.

Behind the Scenes – V.A.L

So what’s a V.A.L? Well, it stands for Voice Activated Light-stand.

The particular one I used on a recent impromptu shoot was a STUBBS Mk1. It’s quite old, bit tatty around the edges and a bit limited as you can’t update the firmware. The user interface can be unreliable as you sometimes have to issue the commands more than once, and then it can still be unpredictable. But, it’s cheap and it’s the only one I had available.

You can just make it out with my SB900 speed-light and LumiQuest Softbox III on the edge of this behind the scenes shot (Click on the image for a larger version).

Subject being illuminated by off camera flash held by assistant, aka Voice Activated Lightstand.Oh, for those of you who haven’t worked it out yet… the V.A.L is actually just a person to hold your light 🙂

The images from the shoot can be seen on my website by clicking on the links below:

http://www.timwilcoxphotography.co.uk/p1001494655/h9383b76#h9383b76

http://www.timwilcoxphotography.co.uk/p1001494655/h9383b76#ha6b91d5

http://www.timwilcoxphotography.co.uk/p1001494655/h9383b76#h1e72c8af

‘Till next time…

Plug in and Play…

Well here we are again… that rare, but non the less momentous event – a blog post.

As I’ve said on numerous occasions, post processing is really not my thing, I simply haven’t got the patience. Furthermore, I’m not comfortable on relying on endless tweaks in various software to produce a decent image; if it isn’t there after some basic adjustments, then that’s it; it aint happening etc.

Up until now I’ve developed a reasonably straight forward worflow which has produced some reasonable images. One of the big leaps forward for me was using DxO software – Optics Pro for “developing” my RAW files, and FilmPack5 for adding some different “looks” etc. The use of FilmPack led me to look at other Photoshop Plug-ins: Topaz Labs (which I quite like) and since it’s been made free, Google’s Nik Collection.

One thing that I find myself drawn to is the use of local contrast adjustment in various presets; particularly as this is one thing that I found made a big difference when I started using DxO Optics Pro.

So, having played around with a few presets and developed a couple of more “manual” methods, not least of which being the Unsharp mask tool in Photoshop (using low amount and high radius), I thought I’d share my thoughts. And it was high time that I wrote another blog post!.

I revisited some images from a climbing shoot which I particularly liked and chose one that I thought was quite a good image; although it does indicate some questionable belaying technique!

As always, click on the image to see it full size (2048 x 1367 – may open a separate window or tab etc).

First of all is the original published image, very little processing and it looks okay:

Original published image.
Original published image.

Then, there’s the same image where I’ve applied the adjustments using Unsharp mask:

Local contrast adjustments using Unsharp mask (High radius, low amount) on separate layers and luminosity blend mode etc
Local contrast adjustments using Unsharp mask (High radius, low amount) on separate layers and luminosity blend mode etc

A stronger effect using Nik Collection’s “Bleach Bypass” preset as a starting point:

"Bleach Bypass"...
“Bleach Bypass”…

And finally, the image above converted to black & white:

Bleach Bypass converted to B&W
Bleach Bypass converted to B&W

So maybe I will be spending a bit more time in post processing after all…