Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Faking It
Nikon D500, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ F11, 1/100s, ISO5600, 35mm

with Suzanne Renner

Suzanne, tell us about yourself and your journey with photography…

I became interested in taking photos back in my 20s, in the 1970s, when I felt able to afford the costs of a good camera and printing. I purchased an Olympus OM-1 but never learned how to get off automatic settings.

The loss of my Olympus during an international holiday led me to buy my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 4300 (4MP). I became frustrated with the shutter lag and purchased a Nikon D80 in 2008, intending to become more serious about using more varied functions. Alas, again, I didn’t get beyond the programme settings.

The sudden death of my partner and retirement from lecturing at the University of Otago College of Education in 2017-2018 prompted a renewed interest in photography as a means of occupying my mind and getting me out of the house. I joined the Dunedin Photography Society (DPS) and bought a Panasonic TZ220 for use when I went traveling.

In my enthusiasm, I began borrowing and buying photography books and magazines from the city library and charity shops. From learning more about camera techniques and ideas for developing my own photography skills, I soon realised that I wanted to be more sophisticated in my photo-taking abilities. After some research, I bought a Nikon D500 and Tamron 18-400mm lens, and this pairing has become my most frequently-used equipment.

What do you most enjoy capturing?

I enjoy photography because of the similarities to my dance background, in which technique, creativity, self-expression and visual representation are strong elements. It enables me to combine my practical nature and desire to create something that I find personally pleasing.

As I am still trying to get technically proficient at using the camera, I photograph anything that catches my eye at the time - whether it be an architectural feature, reflections, family candids, or street happenings. I like exploring how to record an object, scene, or moment in different ways and produce photos that have some artistic value.

Tell us about your photo titled ‘Faking It’...

I used my Nikon D500 with the Tamron 18-400mm lens, a Manfrotto tripod, and a Hahnel Captur Remote Control and Flash Trigger for this photo. No flash was used; I relied on light from a side window.

The photo was taken during an online photo marathon challenge at DPS. In the event, participants were given a photography task whereby they were to take a photo(s) related to a given theme, process the chosen photo(s) and email it to the event coordinator - all within an hour. A new theme was then given. The event took place over four hours, i.e. four themes, and the coordinator showed the collected images at the end so that we could see each other’s interpretations of each theme. The theme for this particular photo was Faking It.

Deciding how to represent the given theme within the time limit and using your imagination and resources in your immediate vicinity can create some anxiety. Fortunately, I remembered that there was some dress-up gear that my partner sometimes used when presenting at conferences or parties. Once dressed, I set up my camera on a tripod in the bathroom, the only place in my house with some clear wall space for the background. I attached the remote shutter release and used a plant on the toilet seat to gauge focus distance. I took several shots of myself in costume (sitting on the toilet seat!), staring straight at the camera and with some small shifts of my upper torso forward or back to ensure that I had some images that were clearly in focus. I downloaded the photos onto my computer and processed the chosen photo in Affinity.

I have taken photographs of flowers in my bathroom on several occasions because of the light and ability to use the white toilet (lid and tank) and the blue wall behind it as backgrounds. Taking photos of myself in that space, however, felt odd. Not only did the room feel small and confined, but the idea of sitting on the toilet was not how I ever imagined posing for the camera!

What editing did you do in Affinity?

In the Affinity Develop Persona, I moved the black point slider slightly to lower the clipped red tones and reduced the noise in the blue background. In the Photo Persona, I cropped the photo on both sides to eliminate the edge of the shower and some toiletries on the bath.

After sharpening with High Pass, I brightened the photo, added some cyan saturation and slightly increased the white level. Out of vanity, I also smoothed some of the wrinkles in my face and hand using the in-painting tool.

How happy are you with the photo?

I am happy with the image I created on this occasion to represent the theme. The expressionless face, the silly hat and glasses, the oversized jacket and the placement of my hands help to project some mystery about the character. I am disappointed that the wig is bunched on the left side, but it does help to reinforce the idea of Faking It.

Were I to do this photo again with more time, I would check and adjust my exposure settings to improve resolution quality. The high ISO illustrates my tendency to rush picture-taking when time is an issue. I might experiment more with body positions and lighting, but I’m not sure how I would deal with the reflection in the glasses. Converting the photo into black and white could help to make the character more enigmatic.

What else should we know about you and your photography?

Until recently, a lack of confidence has meant that I seldom posted my photographs online for viewing by an audience wider than the photographic club, my family, and Facebook friends.

However, the publication of my photographs in the Readers’ Submissions section of this magazine has given me the encouragement I needed to sign up to the Flickr website, allowing a wider audience to see my work.

Where can we find you online?