Behind The Shot 61

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Canon 6D, Canon 24-105mm lens @ F4, 1/60s, ISO 800, 66mm

with Dianne Whitehead

Tell us about yourself and your journey into photography so far…

I have always loved taking photos, but it was not until I got my first DSLR (about 10 years ago) that I realized photography was much more than just recording events. I have a cousin who is also keen on getting out with her camera, and we did a photography beginners course together. I found it exciting but, at the same time, rather daunting as there seemed to be so much to learn.

Then I began a 365 project, putting an image up every day on the 365 Project website for a year… nine years later and I’m still participating! I find it makes me look for things to photograph each day and serves as a photographic diary too. I have seen a huge improvement in my photography over this time. I am also a member of The Waiuku Camera Club and enjoy the company and challenge of taking images for their competitions.

How would you describe your photography? Is there a genre you’re most passionate about?

For me, photography is a form of recreation that brings me peace and puts the world into perspective. I find myself drawn to the landscape and nature genres as these take me to places where I can slow down, observe, wait for the light and give myself some space in a busy world.

I don’t really have a specific style, except to say that I prefer ‘real’ looking images and don’t spend a lot of time on the computer editing and manipulating my photos.

What are you shooting with?

I generally shoot with a Canon 6D. To go with that, I have a 70-200mm, 100mm, and a wide-angle lens (which I admit to not using as often as I thought I would). I also have a Manfrotto 190 tripod.

I also shoot with a Sony alpha 6000, which is a nice light option. I am seldom without a camera, so I carry a Lumix TZ220 in my handbag, and of course, my phone is never far away either.

Tell us about your photo

For a long time, I have wanted to try to get a nice silhouette image of someone's face and decided a child's face would look nicest.

It is always nice to try something different, so when my 22-month-old grandson was staying at the end of August, and we had a lovely sunrise, I tried a silhouette shot, and this is the result.

Rudy had just woken up, so I quickly gathered him up and stood him outside against the gorgeous sunrise sky. He was still somewhat sleepy and stood looking at the cows over the fence, so stood nicely and didn’t move. I love the messy wispy hair and especially the bit sticking out at the back; this photo was taken before he’d had his first haircut making it a great image to look back on when he’s older, and his hair is not so wispy. His cute wee face looked so nice against the colours, and to me, this image represents the innocence of childhood.

His parents were delighted with this photo, and it made a nice framed print to give to them. My daughter has shown it to friends with children of a similar age, and now they all want one!

What was happening behind the camera?

We live in a rural setting and have wide views to the east, which means we see some fabulous sunrises. The sunrise on this particular morning was beautiful and so suitable for a silhouette image. The cows over the fence were being nosy and served as a great distraction for my cute wee subject, meaning he stood nicely. I had to stand him on the outside table to get a better angle to remove trees and buildings, which would have made the image too busy.

All photographers realise how quickly the colour can change at sunrise and sunset, so there was a bit of urgency to take the image.

I used Av for this shot so I could get the photo without any hesitation. I had the ISO at 800 because I knew my subject wasn't likely to stand still for long and that the colours wouldn’t last either - another couple of minutes and the image would have been very bland.

What editing did you do to this photo?

Very little editing was done to this image. I just tweaked the colours and contrast a little in Photoshop Elements. Taking the image is the fun part of photography, not spending ages on the computer; however, learning Photoshop properly is one of my next learning goals!

What tips can you share with readers for achieving a similar silhouette portrait?

I think it is important to keep silhouette images simple and uncluttered whilst capturing strong colours. Composition is important in silhouettes too, so that the image looks balanced.

A good strong silhouette image needs to be taken with the subject between the photographer and the light. Focus on the edge of the subject, where it is against the light because the camera will have difficulty focussing on the dark subject.

On a final note, the winter months are good times for sunrise silhouette images, as you don't have to get out of your cosy bed so early!

What else should we know about you, this photo, or your photography in general?

I continue to learn about photography, reading lots and looking at videos for inspiration. We have a camper van, and photography is a great hobby while my husband is happily fishing. Taking photos makes me slow down and appreciate all the wonderful things around me.

Behind The Shot 60

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?

Behind The Shot 59

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Personally, I would prefer a Nikon
Nikon D500, 200-500mm Nikon lens @ F5.6, 1/50s, ISO400, 200mm

with Carole Garside

Carole, remind us who you are and what you do!

I am a graphic designer by trade, but after being made redundant, I decided to take time out of the workforce. I still haven’t gone back! I have always owned some kind of camera from when my parents bought me a Kodak Instamatic for my tenth birthday. A legacy from an Aunt meant that I bought my first DSLR around the same time I stopped working. It was quite a steep learning curve from my previous bridge camera, but I turned it to manual mode, made myself shoot every day, and have not looked back since.

Since my feature in issue 21, just over three years ago, I have qualified with a Level 5 diploma in photography through the Southern Institute of Technology. This was a great way to learn about different genres. It covered everything from street photography, portraiture, food photography, real estate, landscape etc.

I entered the Pukekohe Creative Focus Salon last year for the first time and was really happy to receive a highly commended for one of my pieces. I also got my Licentiate through the Photography Society New Zealand in July of this year which I’m absolutely thrilled about. I am starting the Level 6 diploma next month, which I expect will push me out of my comfort zone.

How would you describe your photography?

I would describe my photography as fairly eclectic. I will give anything a try. Having said that, if I look back at my favourite shots, they tend to be nature and wildlife shots. I love photographing birds and fungi in particular.

I’m always trying to improve my landscapes as we have such beautiful scenery here in New Zealand. I have also started dabbling in composite work, whether simply changing an untidy background with a texture or doing a full-out creative composite.

What are you shooting with?

I still have my first DSLR, a Nikon D7500, but I mainly use a Nikon D500 now. I seem to have acquired quite a stable of lenses. My latest one is a Nikon 70-200mm. I regularly use my Nikon 16-80mm, 200-500mm and 105mm macro lens. I also have a Tamron 10-24mm wide angle and a Tamron 18-400mm (a good all round travel lens, but I seem to have retired it.)

My current tripod is a Peak Design carbon fibre one. I changed from a Benro one, as it’s much lighter and packs away very compactly. I also have a Benro filter system with a couple of ND filters and a hard graduated one.

Tell us about your Kakaruwai photo…

At the end of May, I was lucky enough to attend one of the New Zealand Photography Workshops, led by Richard Young to Stewart Island. This was a great opportunity to visit somewhere new and covered both landscapes and wildlife.

The highlight of this trip for me was visiting Ulva Island to see the birdlife (and my personal goal of finding my first Entoloma hochstetteri (blue fungi). This photograph is of one of the South Island Robins (Kakaruwai) we saw on the island. They were generally very inquisitive but quite difficult to shoot in the darkness of the bush. This shot was taken out of the forest on the beach.

After walking through bush and forest, we stopped on the beach for refreshment. This particular robin was hopping around on our camera equipment and rucksacks. For a minute, it actually sat on my back!

I thought this shot was quite amusing, a robin showing off his photography skills! I was having to back away, as I still had my long 200-500mm lens on the camera, and he kept getting too close. I would have liked to stay longer on the island, but time was limited due to ferry timetables.

What editing did you do to this photo?

I use both Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for editing. As I was caught off guard, I still had the aperture set wide for the dim light in the bush. Consequently, the shot was a bit bright, especially the background.

I used the curves adjustment layer in Photoshop just to darken it a little. No cropping was needed in this bird photograph, as it was actually too close for the lens I was using at the time.

How happy are you with the shot, what would you do differently if given a second chance?

I wish the back of the camera was in focus, and I wish it was a Nikon, not a Canon! As I mentioned, it was such a surprise shot that I was still set up for shooting in the darkness of the bush. Given a chance, I’d have changed to a shorter lens as I couldn’t back far enough away from him without getting my feet wet.

What tips can you share with readers, given your time on location and the surprise opportunities?

First of all, be prepared; you just don’t know what will happen in a wildlife situation. We saw saddlebacks in the bush, but I just wasn’t quick enough to capture them.

For bird photography specifically, the best tip I can give anyone is to use back button focus. It feels strange at first but will soon become a natural habit, and you will hit the focus on more shots.

Where can we see more of your photos?

Behind The Shot 58

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Living Art
Tiles: Nikon D850, 28-300mm Nikon lens @ F7.1, 1/160s, ISO1600, 85mm
Trees: Nikon D850, 28-300mm Nikon lens @ F7.1, 1/8000s, ISO1600, 44mm

with Ann Kilpatrick

Ann, Tell us about yourself and your journey into photography so far…

I retired in June 2019 and have been able to spend a lot more time on photography as a result. I have always photographed the candid moments going on around me. As I age, those recorded moments become more precious for the memories they evoke.

I bought a DSLR in 2015, so to make best use of that investment, I have been actively learning about photography, online, in the classroom at structured courses, and at workshops.

How would you describe your photography, is there a genre you’re most passionate about?

I think my style is still evolving as I am very much still learning. As above, I enjoy photographing the candid moments that occur around our property, within our family, and out on the street. My photography is simple, I try to make the subject obvious and to create a good quality image.

I am enjoying learning how to use my camera more creatively and to manipulate images in Photoshop. I am still very much a learner in this regard. However, it is very therapeutic to make an image which tells a story through photography and helps one to move forward in a more positive frame of mind.

What are you shooting with?

I shoot with a Nikon D850 and various lenses: 50mm prime, 16-35mm, 105mm prime and a very flexible 28–300mm. I practice with a specific lens consistently for a while to best understand what I can do with it.

I have a set of Benro filters which I don’t use often enough and various CPL and other filters. I borrow my husband’s Manfrotto tripod a lot and there’s also a Godox flash that I need to master.

Tell us about your photo, ‘Living Art’

This photo is a multiple exposure made in camera. My camera will allow me to make a series of images with a range of multiple exposures in each image. Often, I will set my camera to make a series of multiple images with usually two exposures in each image. Then I will shoot away and review the multiple exposures later to see what images I made, essentially by chance, that I like, or which ones “worked”.

For this image I liked the look of the tiles on the wall and decided to try a more deliberate approach for multiple exposure. I shot the tiles and then selected “multiple exposure mode” selecting the tiles as my “first exposure”. My camera gives me a choice of overlay modes: Add, Average, Lighten or Darken. This meant I could take the first exposure of the tiles, then go outside and shoot a range of images using the tiles as the first exposure and various plants and trees in our garden as the second exposure. Using the “select first exposure” option, and my preferred overlay mode, I had more control over the composition and look of the final image.

I was deliberately trying to learn and apply a new way of working as I made this image, and I had been thinking about the tiles and potential images that might work with them for a while. It was a process of trial and error and applying my camera to blend art and nature in a way that worked for me and created the image I had imagined in my head.

What editing did you do to the final image?

I didn’t do much editing at all, mainly just used the standard sliders in Lightroom, increasing the whites and reducing the highlights, adding some clarity and dehaze, some sharpening and some noise reduction. I also removed some spots off the wall.

How happy are you with this multiple exposure, is there anything you would do differently?

I am reasonably happy with the image given I was trying to learn a new process. It worked as I envisioned and I will probably use the “select first exposure“ option more often in the future, instead of mostly shooting multiple exposures at random and hoping I will get a “lucky shot” that I like. Of course, I would probably also try to get the tiles straighter if giving this another go!

What tips can you share with readers for achieving a similar shot?

Check to see if you can easily make multiple exposures in camera with the model that you have. Try the different overlay modes to learn how they impact your image. This might also help you to understand some of the blend modes in Photoshop.

Have fun, experiment with your camera - turn on the multiple exposure mode and shoot away to see what comes up. Then, once you understand what your camera can do, be more deliberate.

Where can we find you online?

Behind The Shot 57

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Moon Rising
Nikon D3400, 55-300mm Nikon lens @ F5.6, 1/30s, ISO200, 300mm

with Peter Maiden

Peter, tell us about yourself and your photography journey…

I’ve appreciated great photos from a young age; the best ones I collected from newspapers and magazines and put in a scrapbook. Unfortunately, my own attempts to take great images generally ended up as miserable failures, with many a film wasted. My family still reminds me of my classic shot of Big Ben with only half the clock face in it.

It transpired that I had really wonky eyes and was suffering from RP (basically tunnel vision). I became legally blind with less than 5-degree field of vision in middle age. I kept trying to take photos but even point and shoot digital cameras didn’t really work for me.

When I retired seven years ago, my daughter lent me her DSLR camera and lo and behold; I could see through the viewfinder and more importantly, the photos turned out OK. Even when I did get things wrong, nobody had to see it, and there was no wasted film.

Photography then became a retirement hobby, and I was presented with a challenge from my daughter to post a new photo every day on Instagram. That was a good challenge that I've kept up to this day as it motivates me to keep looking for things to photograph.

Being visually impaired is a real pain, but I don’t let that hinder my efforts. In some ways, it raises awareness of the photographic opportunities that are out there and keeps me looking for things to shoot. Also, because my view of the world is ‘heavily cropped’, it enables me to have a ‘singular focus without the peripheral distractions’.

How would you describe your photography, is there a genre you’re most passionate about?

I don’t really have a photography style as I’m always looking to capture beautiful (even ugly is beautiful) and interesting things; anything goes. I’m fortunate to have Wellington’s south coast as my backyard, which provides an unlimited range of subject matter.

Saying that, looking at the images I have had printed and which hang on the wall at home, it seems I have an affection for black and white photos and abstract/arty photos of things like wet stones on a beach.

What photography gear do you have?

Currently, I’m shooting with a Nikon D3400 with a Nikon 18-55mm lens, a Nikon 55-300mm lens for telephoto work and a Nikon 10-20mm lens for wide-angle shots. I also have a few filters and a tripod. It might be ‘old tech’, but it works for me.

I’ve also taken some awesome shots with my Samsung Galaxy S20 phone. It’s amazing the advances that have been made in phone camera technology. There’s an old saying that the best camera is the one you have at the time!

Tell us about your photo, ‘Moon Rising’...

I love sitting out on our deck watching a full moon rise over the houses on the ridge top on the other side of Island Bay, especially at twilight when there is still a reasonable amount of light in the sky.

Last November (2021), I got all excited when I heard there would be a near-total lunar eclipse, and the moon would rise shortly after sunset. Better still, it would rise in the northeast, which would be over the houses.

I’ve taken many shots of the moon rising over the years, but a lunar eclipse would be special, even more so when the eclipse would be in its early stage. All I needed was a cloud-free evening.

The time came, and after a few test shots to get a feel for the required camera settings, I waited in eager anticipation for the moon to come up. A passing cloud thankfully went away, and after five minutes of patting our dog, the moon started to appear over the rooftops, and I started shooting away.

I was thrilled to see how much of the moon was in the earth’s shadow, making the photo more interesting.

After getting the shot I was after, I made myself a coffee and stayed out on the deck watching and shooting the eclipse as it played out. The moon was pretty reddish at its peak, not as much as I expected, but still beautiful.

What editing did you do to this shot?

I mainly use Snapseed on an iPad for ease of use for editing. The image was a bit on the dark side, so I lightened it up slightly while adding some contrast to the houses and the ridgetop as well as smoothing the sky. After a bit of sharpening, I finally cropped it square, which I felt highlighted the moon better.

Is there anything you would have liked to do differently?

From experience, changing shutter speed is the key setting to capturing the detail of the moon. I seemed to get that about right for this shot, but on reflection, I shouldn’t have been lazy and should have gone full manual instead and maybe changed the aperture setting.

Where can we find you online?

Behind The Shot 56

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Falling Oreos
Canon D7 Mark II, 17-85mm lens with x2 studio flashes and softboxes
@ F14, 1/200s, ISO200

with Gary Reid

Gary, remind us who you are and what you do!

I am originally from South Africa and have been living and working in New Zealand along with my wife for the last 17 years. Before I started photography, I had a passion for wildlife, which began while I was still in primary school. So, when I started my photographic journey, it was natural to combine the two.

I love the creativity that photography in all its forms produces, from being able to take my camera and go for a walk in search of something to photograph to coming up with a concept that may require multiple photos to be creatively combined in Photoshop, as in the case with this shot.

Although I am a self-taught photographer, I have been fortunate to have met and got to know a few professional photographers at various stages of my photographic journey and have been able to pick up huge amounts of information and guidance from them.

Coming from a film and slide background has taught me that mistakes cost money. Digital makes it so much easier, but the same principles apply, so planning is essential no matter what you’re shooting - don’t rush into creating a photo. 

What are you shooting with?

I use a Canon 7D as my main camera. I also have Canon 30D and Rebel as my backups. Lenses consist of 50mm, 17-85mm, 70-300mm, 160-500mm, and I also have a flash, tripod and monopod, and studio equipment.

What was the inspiration for this photo?

I often see how something can be reproduced using a camera, whether I’m looking at other photographers' images or concepts and gaining ideas that I can then try to replicate, or taking inspiration from paintings and trying photographic versions of artworks.

I got the idea for this photoshoot from a photo I saw many months ago on Pinterest while looking for ideas and recreated it in January while I was on leave, using my garage as a studio.

What was your setup for this shoot?

The background was cardboard painted black, set on a black tabletop. Two studio lights with softboxes were placed on either side and slightly in front of the cardboard, with my camera mounted on a tripod with a remote trigger. I also had six packets of Oreo biscuits and 2l of milk to hand!

I had to predetermine the position of the Oreos. For the Oreos that look like they will fall into the glass, I punched holes in the cardboard background with a toothpick. Using a drill bit the size of the toothpick, I then hand-drilled holes in each Oreo biscuit and mounted them onto the cardboard using toothpicks. It took quite a few test shots to get the lighting just right before I started pouring the milk!

Pouring the milk was the tricky bit. I had to take the photos (using the remote trigger) as I was pouring whilst also trying to catch the milk splashing onto the biscuits (to create the droplets) and at the same time trying to get the milk into the glass and not all over the table and the other Oreos.

It got messy, requiring cleaning up after each test shot before being able to repeat the process. As you can imagine, it took multiple shots before I got it just right.

It was surprisingly quick to set up and photograph, probably no more than 2hours, it was the post-processing part that was time consuming, taking me close to a day to complete.

What happened in-post?

First, I had to select one photo that would be the base or main photo. Then I had to select and blend in other photos, a photo with a sharper Oreo, or a different photo with more or better-placed milk droplets etc. In the end, I used a combination of four different photos.

Using Photoshop, I selected the parts of each of the other two photos that would be needed and inserted them into the main photo by creating layers. Working on one layer at a time (there were about six layers), each layer had to be resized and repositioned, and the background of some of the layers (milk and parts of the glass) removed using the eraser tool. The layers were then merged together. Next, I repaired or fixed any irregularities on the photo using the clone tool. I blended the milk layers together using the healing brush, clone, and brush tools. Finally, using the brush tool I worked on the background. This step alone must have taken me about 4 hours as it meant going around each milk droplet, each Oreo, as well as the glass trying to keep the sharpness before blending in the background to create an infinity look. Once all of the above was done, I turned to fine-tuning the photo's colour and contrast.

A few of the processes spoken about here had to be repeated, worked on, or modified because they did not look right. It was only then that the layers were merged. I was trying to create the look of the Oreos falling into and around the glass while the milk was being poured, so I had to try to imagine what it would look like and how the droplets would fall.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to recreate this shot?

One thing that would have made the shoot easier (and a lot less messy!) would have been to have a helper to pour the milk while I concentrated on taking the photos and being able to direct them. I would also have liked to have had a glass table-top to give a bit of a reflection.

What tips can you share with readers for capturing a photo like this?

Don’t be afraid to try something different in photography. Look for a concept you would like to try, research how the shot can be achieved (don’t be scared to ask other photographers how they captured their photos), and then go for it.

Although this was quite a simple shoot, I would not have got as good a result without pre-planning, and the setup would have taken longer, so I advise not to rush into doing a photo like this.

Where can we see more of your photos?