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Posts tagged ‘light’

Up for Discussion: Observing the World Around You

For this Up for Discussion post I thought I would do something that I have been thinking about for a long time.  It may not seem that it is important or even relevant to photography, but I hope you will hang around long enough, and read enough to realise it does.

This is a lithography, so a drawing on a special stone that is then printed, not much room for mistakes.

This is a lithography, so a drawing on a special stone that is then printed, not much room for mistakes.

We often hear people talking about “faking the real in photography”, it isn’t a concept that is new and really, when you think about it artists have been doing that for centuries.  Learning to observe the world around them is very important.  It is something that some do well and some don’t.


I know many of you know that I can draw, well used to be able to.  I’ve shown you images of my drawing before. One thing I’ve never really talked about is my Fine Art Degree, which wasn’t in photography,  but rather in printmaking and drawing.  It happened at a time when I was not happy with photography, or rather I was frustrated, I couldn’t get the images I wanted. I thought I would need to make them myself, so draw them.

A drawing from my sketch book.

A drawing from my sketch book.

It was an interesting process, it meant lots of observing of things as I drew them. I spent a lot of time drawing.


You can’t underestimate how important it is. Of course it isn’t important if you just want to take photos and not do anything with them, then again, if you hone those observation skills then you are likely to see more and get better photos.

If you are interested in photo editing/manipulation then it is really important.

Watching how the light falls on an object, or how it falls when it is hit by another light source. Then there are the shadows, how

Studying how fabric folds, then how the light and shadows show.

Studying how fabric folds, then how the light and shadows show.

do they fall, are shadows solid?  I saw a guy online doing some compositing, and as I watched him move a person into a lane and then add a shadow I realised that he just added a solid colour, shadows are rarely solid colours.  They often have light areas and dark areas, depending on what is around them.

The same guy also made the edge of the shadow very feathered, and soft, but then again it really depends on the light source and where that light is coming from, how direct it is.  If you went and stood outside in the sun, especially in summer, you would see your shadow would have a hard edge.  However, if you went into somewhere where the light wasn’t as strong you would see a softer edged shadow.  It really does all depend on the light.  Which is why in studios the light is often controlled with soft boxes and reflectors to make it like a secondary light source, sort of.

A drawing I did of my daughter, using window light.

A drawing I did of my daughter, using window light.

When you learn to draw you learn to watch and see how things are.


Another important aspect is perspective.  It is something you learn in drawing and painting, probably most art forms.  I didn’t do a lot of drawing where you needed to worry about perspective, but it was always something you had to consider.

I have seen the work of other photographers and one of the things you notice is how they don’t understand perspective when they are doing composites and then the work doesn’t look real.

Faking the Real

It is an important thing.  You hear writers talking about how if you don’t make your characters real then people won’t believe them, so isn’t it the same with images, if they don’t look real then people can’t relate to them.  You have to make sure that everything in your image makes sense and is believable.  It is where learning to

A shaving brush, just studying how it looks and looking at the light.

A shaving brush, just studying how it looks and looking at the light.

look and observe the world around you really helps.

If you want to get into more photo editing or manipulation, then one of the best things you can do is learn to look at what is around you.  Don’t just take photos, look at what you are taking.  You don’t have to learn how to draw, but you can always learn how to look, observe.  Watch how light hits objects, where the light comes from. How does the light affect the shadows, are the shadows solid, or do they have lots of different strengths.

I think it is an invaluable tool and one we don’t take enough notice of.  Through drawing I really began to understand light and how important it was.  I also started to understand how I could use that in my photography and become a better photographer, at least I hope it has helped.

I have been going through all my drawings, I’ve found a lot that were just exercises, where I was just trying to see how I could draw them.  There are others that are more, a couple of etchings and some lithographs.  I will try and label them so you can tell what each is.

Influencing Me – Albert Bierstadt

A while back someone said I should take a look at Albert Bierstadt from the Hudson River School of Artists.  I am so sorry, but I can’t remember who told me about him, but I am glad they did, what an incredible painter.  I have to admit I don’t know a lot about the Hudson River School, but I am always willing to look and see what I can find out.  However, upon looking up Albert Bierstadt I was more than pleasantly surprised to see a painter doing big landscapes.


One of the things that really caught my attention is the way he showed light.  Unlike many painters of today, he wouldn’t have used photographs to give him an idea of the landscape as he was painting it.  I know photography was around, but nothing like what we have now.  I have been out to take photos and a scene like the one above would be rare, so I think if he saw it, he must have painted it from his memory, which I think is truly extraordinary and wonderful.  It is a great scene, I would love to capture something like that through the lens of my camera.


The level of detail in his work is amazing.  I know painters paint the sea and waterfalls, but I was so taken with what he has done.  I love the water paintings.  I love how you can almost see every little drop of water.


There are some paintings that he had done that I think are a wonderful record of history, and I am sure it is pretty much how it was back then.  I found this on Wikipedia about him:

A German-American painter best known for his large, detailed landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

That explains why there are paintings like the one above.


I imagine this is what Autumn in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere are really like.  The colours must be so amazing.  I hope one day to travel to these areas and see this for myself.  We don’t get autumn like many other parts of the world.  Most of the trees in Australia are evergreens, so they don’t change their colours.  I love the colours in this painting, it is so vibrant, and calming in a way.


Another big landscape painting.  It is such a shame that paintings like this are not valued so much anymore.  The detail and the incredible talent that an artist must have to do work like this is amazing, but when you look at the world of art these days, you won’t find many artists doing paintings like this anymore.

I find it fascinating to look at artists who were painting the type of thing that I want to photograph.  I love big landscapes, and looking to see what I can bring to images of them.


He looks like a nice man, though you can’t really tell from a photo, but he was a great artist and I can tell that from his work. Wikipedia has information on  Albert Bierstadt if you would like more information.  There is also a list of the massive number of paintings that he did in his lifetime here. I do have a gallery for you now of his work, some paintings that I just loved.

Weekend Wanderings – Around Woomelang

Last weekend I was in the Mallee, you all know that, but I haven’t shown you many photos of the place since I got back.  I am slowly going through them and today I am going to show you some photos I took one afternoon while on a stroll around Woomelang.  It started with the train station and then I went to a place I didn’t know was there, before ending up somewhere very familiar again.


I have played with a few of the images.  There is a feeling you get when you go there, that doesn’t translate straight from the camera and I am trying to work out how to get it in my images.  I might have to keep trying.  This is the old train station, with the grain silos in the background.  The train station is no longer used, and, I’m told, neither are the large orange silos anymore.  They have become too old and aren’t good enough for grain anymore. The train station doesn’t get used anymore because passenger trains don’t run this way anymore, which is a bit sad.


We picked one of the worse weeks to go up there, it was cold, really windy, and raining on and off the whole time.  Usually when I go up there it is sun, sun, sun. It is one of those places that hardly gets any rain, but they got it that week.  The wind was icy and really cut through you.  It wasn’t nice being outside really.  As we were walking around I saw this big puddle and wanted to get the reflection of the silos in it.


This was an area I had never been too before.  As we were walking around the silos I saw an shed or something through the trees, so we decided to investigate, and we found this.  I knew of Cronomby Tanks, but thought it was really nothing, but it is a whole lot more.  There is something like a dam, though it is almost sculpted, as the shape is not natural.  I am going to have to go back there next time.  I love discovering new things in places I thought I already knew.


After there we headed over to the old shearing shed.  I have photographed this so many times I’ve lost count, but my friend who came with me had never been there before, so we went over.  On this afternoon we approached it from the back end and went through all the sheep yards out the back.



Before ending up out the front.  The light in the above image is perhaps my favourite sort, I rarely get to see it, but I do love it when you have a dark brooding sky, but it almost seems like the sun is out, so it is also bright.  It is like a contradiction of light.

We didn’t go far in our wanderings, but it was wonderful to do it.  I can’t believe I never knew what Cronomby Tanks were, or had not explored that area before.  I have more photos for you to look through.  As I said in the beginning, I have done some more work to some of them, which you may or may not be able to tell, the rest were processed quickly in Lightroom.  Hope you discover new places when you are out wandering this weekend.


Introductions – C R Photography

How I discovered the work of todays Introduction is very different to the way I usually do.  Really he discovered me, so to speak, in that he sent me an email about something, and it got me curious.  I looked at his blog and really liked the work I saw.  So today I would like to introduce you to Chris and his blog C R Photography.


There are some great images on his site and the perspectives of some of them, like the one above are great. I love seeing work that I think I can learn from.

I asked Chris why he takes photos.

I take on a very poetic-philosophic approach to my photography. Ultimately, I make photos because it’s therapeutic for me. It allows me to focus my mind into something creative.


As you go through his blog you will see there is a large variety of work and he photographs many things.  There is a concept in the art work, that you have to be one particular type of artist, in that you specialise in a particular area or genre, I think is the right term.  In photography we see it all the time, you are a landscape photographer or a portrait photographer, but I think many of us just want to take photos.  I like trying lots of different types, and I think perhaps Chris does too.  I can see many different sorts of photography and a great variety amongst his work.

The second question, as always, was about inspiration.

If I’m photographing people, it’s the mysteriousness and the dynamic of people that inspires me. When I’m making photos of nature, it’s nature itself that inspires me. I pull from within for a large amount of my inspiration but occasionally some of my favourite poets and photographers inspire me as well.


There is something about the colours in his work, I find I am very drawn to them. When you see the work all together you can see what I mean. It is quite colourful, but I don’t mean in a loud way, it is subtle, but yet the colours and hues are strong.  I’m sure I am not explaining myself very well, sorry, but I just like the colours.

I also asked Chris if there was anything special about the way he works.

Technically speaking, there’s not much that’s special about how I work. Shooting in manual mode is beneficial, but other than that it’s typically in being mindful and allowing all of my senses to be fully engaged. What this allows is for me to change from work or study mode, into a more peaceful and organic state. It, in a sense, allows me to become one with the subject to feel it in all it’s mysteriousness.


There are also quite a large number of black and white images on his blog as well. As we have seen here on Wednesday’s there is something about Black and White images that really draw people in.  It is still so popular, something about the romantic side of photography perhaps.

I asked Chris about his gear.

As a new photographer (I’ve only been shooting for a little over a year), I’ve only acquired a small amount of gear. I have a Canon 7D, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 28-135mm and a Tokina 11-16mm. I have some other accessories, like a cabled remote, an intervelometer, and that’s about it.



I have never photographed lightning like this.  I tried it once out my front door, but wasn’t too successful.  Must try it again some time, though usually when I hear a storm approaching, the only place I want to be is inside.  I do envy those that can get images like this.

Chris told me that he is currently living in the UK, though his is originally from the US.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for allowing me to feature his blog, C R Photography, here on my website, and I would encourage you all to go and take a look as well, you won’t be disappointed.  I have a small selection of his images for you to look at, but I suggest you go to his site, C R Photography, and see a whole lot more.


Weekend Wanderings – Melbourne from across the Bay

Many years ago I saw something while I was in Williamstown and I tried taking a photo of it.  I was so excited, but after I got the film back the image was out of focus, I should’ve used a tripod.  So I have been trying to get that image again and last night I had my chance.

LeanneCole-melbourne-williamstown-20140531-9797The image I had got previously was one at sunset and the sunset was reflected in all the buildings in the city.  We pretty much knew we wouldn’t get a good sunset, the forecast for today was all about rain, so there wouldn’t be one really, and we were right.  There was a little colour, but not enough really.

We decided it didn’t matter, we can always go back and so the trip would be more of a scouting trip for future photo classes.


We watched as the sun went down and the lights on the city came on.

LeanneCole-melbourne-williamstown-20140531-9884Massive ships went in and out of the Bay, leaving big light trails on our images.

LeanneCole-melbourne-williamstown-20140531-9916For me the magic started after the sun had gone down.  The cloud cover acted like a reflector and light from the city was bounced around everywhere.

I am going to finish here, and leave you with the gallery.  It is raining here, so not much chance of any photography, though I do have a class tonight, night photography in the city, I hope my students remember their umbrellas. After seeing the marks on these images, I better go and clean my sensor before I go out again.


Up for Discussion – HDR Photography

Love it, or hate it, it seems to be everywhere at the moment, and has been for the last couple of years.  I did my first HDR image back in December 2011.  I believe this was the first HDR image I put on the blog.

schealesville_hdr1It would have been done with Photoshop, I didn’t get software for doing HDR until later.  I look at it now, as I do most of my early attempts at HDR and just cringe.  The colours are over saturated, they have a very surreal effect to them.  I am not sure that it is what I was after at all.

These, as I said, HDR is everywhere, some are good, some are bad.  I’m not saying which, but I thought we could talk about it here.

So what is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  The idea of it, well my understanding, is that it will take the bright areas of an image and the dark areas and make an image that looks more like what we see with our eyes.  If you have an image, that has a very bright sky in it, behind a building or something like that, and when you take the photo the sky just takes over and everything else, like the building end up black, or a silhouette the an image like that is perfect for HDR.  You would take a series of bracketed images, so all taken at different exposures.  Then software like Photomatix Pro would take all those images, and make the best possible image.  I don’t know how it does it, but the dark areas will have detail and the light areas won’t be so blown out.

Let me show you in pictures.

This is the main dining hall at Montsalvat.  It is a very dark room.  You can see that looking at it now you can see what is out the window, but you can’t see what is inside.

This is the last photo of the bracketed shots, you can see a lot more detail inside the image now, but everything out the window is all blown out.

This is what the HDR software did to the images.  You can see both inside and out now.

When I first started doing HDR, I would make every image one.  I don’t do it anymore, and actually hardly seem to do it much now.  I find myself using single images, or if I do do a HDR I will only use part of the image.

When I look at images these days, I can nearly always tell if they are HDR, there are little things that give them away.  There is often a grayness to them, I’m told by Victor that is a lack of contrast.  There are often Halos, though halos can come from other things, but most often it is with HDR.

Victor Rakmil has written a post just recently on HDR Photography which you might like too.  He goes into the technical aspects of it more than me and gives more detail about what HDR is.

We were discussing it the other day, and something came up that I think is very true.  We think processes first and subject second, rather than trying to work out what is the best way to process an image to show the subject as its best.  It is something we can get bogged down with.  Rather than looking at a subject and asking if it would be better as a HDR, it is easier to just do it, regardless, which is where I used to be.  Now days, I’m more likely to still do the HDR, but then I compare it with just one image that I think is exposed correctly and ask myself which I think is better.  Often the HDR image is deleted.  The subject in the image always has to come first and then what is the best way to process it so the subject looks its best.

I’m coming down with a cold, so my brain is a bit scattered and I hope you can understand this post.  I just wanted to give you my views on HDR and explain it a bit better for people who don’t understand what it is.

Do you do HDR images?  What software do you use?  Do you do it for every image?  If you don’t do HDR then why?  Do you do HDR and then combine it with other images?

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.  I am travelling home today, so I won’t be able to respond today, but I will try and get to them when I get home. I will approve them from my phone.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion.

Influencing Me – Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley is another Australian Artist.  She was well known for her paintings, but also for her philanthropy and was a popular subject matter for many other other artists.  She died in July 2011, and was one of the last of that era of painters.  An era that was important in the Australian art scene.

She was famous for her still life paintings and that is certainly one of the reasons why I loved her work.

Poppies and Checked Cloth

Poppies and Checked Cloth

I love how she laid everything out.  It was colourful and expressive.  Such vibrant colours.

Evening Kitchen Still Life with Apples

Evening Kitchen Still Life with Apples

She has been written about a lot and one of the things that always struck with me is that the still lifes were done around her home.  She would set up stuff and then paint it, but she would move on as the light changed, so she could be painting multiple paintings at one time.

Still LifeYou know when you see this image that it was done in her kitchen.  I wonder how she managed to paint this and use her kitchen.  Was she careful to keep everything in place as she did the painting?

When you look at her paintings you can see different ones were done in similar places or the same place.  You can also see the same items in other paintings.

I have downloaded quite a few images and will include them in a gallery at the end of this post.

She also had a lovely garden, and many of the flowers in the paintings came from her her garden.  I would like to do more of that.  My garden is always so flower poor, well I don’t have good flowers for doing still life images. It has been a dream of mine to have a garden where I could go out and pick flowers to use in images.  One day maybe.

She loved Morandi, remember I did a post on him a few weeks ago.  You can see some of his influence on her work as well.

Set TableThis is not strictly something I set up, it is the set for the play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, but it reminds me so much of one of her paintings.  I know when I was photographing this there was that idea in mind.

Chocolate Cake - Processed ReworkI possibly zoom in more than what she did, and my work doesn’t tend to be as random, as her work appears, but I do like the idea of the ordinary that is in her work.  The everyday.

If you don’t know Margaret Olley, then please look her up.  I would loved to have met her, now wouldn’t that have been amazing.  Check out some of the rooms of her home, she had so many things and I wonder if my home will end up looking the same one day.  It is certainly on its way to getting there.

The paintings are from various sources, though quite a few are from Eva Breuer Gallery and Savill Galleries.


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