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?

Behind The Shot 55

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Happy Trails
Canon 6D MKII, 24-70mm lens @ F14, 1/800s, ISO800

with Teresa Angell

Teresa, can you introduce yourself to us?

I grew up in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, then moved down to the Wellington region in the early 1990s with my husband and our two children. Since 2005 we’ve been enjoying life on the Kapiti Coast. I no longer work full time, which allows me total flexibility to pursue my photography.

My hobbies: riding my mountain and motorbikes, going for walks and keeping up with our young grandchildren reflect my love of being active and in the outdoors. 

How and when did you get started in photography, and how would you describe your work?

My father was a keen family photographer, and having set up his own darkroom at home, I was introduced to photography and basic film processing from a young age. It was a fun thing to watch, but I never really got into it at that stage. Throughout my teenage years, I remember always having a camera and taking lots of snapshots of family and events. In my early twenties, I bought a Canon SLR and took a night class for a few weeks, but having two children soon after meant my attention went elsewhere. It was in October 2010 when I bought my first DSLR (a Canon 500D), that I started to pursue the art of photography once more.

I took my camera with me every time I went outside, learning everything I could through the local and national photographic societies and workshops, trying all the varied genres of photography. I was always drawn back to my love for animals and the outdoors. Birds and dogs are my favourite subjects. It is so special to capture their beauty, emotion, strength and character, including those split-second moments in time that our human eye can miss due to the speed of a bird in flight or a dog in action.

My photography in recent years has been focused on documenting the sled dog racing community in New Zealand, so more photojournalistic - but my love for birds and wildlife remains.

What are you shooting with?

I shoot with mostly Canon gear. The camera bodies I am using are the 7D MkII and 6D MkII, with the 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses being my favourites, especially for the action/documentary photography I love. My Canon 100-400mm is for birds and wildlife, and I also have a Canon 50mm f1.8 and a Tamron 10-24mm.

Accessories include a Benro tripod, wireless shutter release, and a raincoat for the camera as I am out in all weathers. Torch, headlamps, and a plastic sheet are also part of my photographic gear as I spend a good amount of time on the ground in all types of weather to get the best angle.

Tell us about your photo, ‘Happy Trails’...

This photo was taken at the Snow Farm in Cardrona. I was there to photograph sled dog racing events for my book project, documenting the only snow racing events of the year, the Cardrona Stage Race and the following weekend, the Wanaka Sled Dog Racing Festival. Some of my friends from that community organised a team of ten dogs and Tony (a musher with decades of experience) took me out to feel for myself the thrill of being on the snow with these wonderful dogs.

The morning was calm and cold, with the sun was just peaking over the horizon. Sheryll, Sarah, Jon and Tony harnessed the dogs to the gang lines as I squeezed myself into the canvas bag on the sled. I got as comfortable as I could, tucked up inside the sled with the canvas cover zipped up as high as possible but still allowing my arms to be free to hold the camera at the ready - my Canon 6D MKII with 24-70mm lens. I had to use a fast shutter speed to factor in the movement of the sled and the speed of the dogs' movement.

The team was made up of Alaskan and Siberian Huskies, with the lead dog Waylon (in the red booties), a very experienced sled dog and Iditarod and Yukon 1000 veteran.

Tony kept the dogs at an easy pace. He explained it wasn’t about going as fast as possible; it was about keeping a steady pace, looking after the dogs and enjoying the time together. The peace and tranquillity of being out there with the dogs was amazing. All you hear is the sliding of the sled runners on the snow and the soft padding of the dogs' feet.

What editing did you do to this photo?

I made basic adjustments in Lightroom with colour temperature, exposure, contrast, shadows and clarity. In Photoshop, I added a little sharpening to the sled and dogs.

Is there anything you would do differently if given a second chance?

I would zoom out more to get shots that include the wider landscape and take as many photos as possible. On this trip, there were times when I just sat back to take in the moments and absorb the incredible feeling of being in this environment, which was great, but I know in doing that, I missed some prime photographic opportunities.

What else should we know about this photo?

This shot came about through my adventures working on my personal project, bringing together two great loves, photography and Siberian Huskies. The five-year adventure culminated in the publication of my book, Sled Dog Racing In New Zealand, which also includes the history of how the sport began in New Zealand.

What’s next for you?

I am now keen to get back to some bird photography and apply the skills I learned in my recent adventures to create story photo albums for mushers and their dogs. And looking further into the future there’s potential to expand into other dog sports and farm dogs.

Where can we find you online?

Behind The Shot 54

Behind The Shot

'Tian Tan Buddha'

Canon EOS 550D @F8 1/500s, IS0200, 250mm

with Chaise Taylor

Chaise, tell us a bit about you…

I am turning 37 in June, and I currently live in the Manawatu region. I love living here because of the amazing scenery and the black sand beaches. I was born here, and although I have lived in Northland and Kapiti, I always miss home and end up coming back.

Currently, I am living the single life and have converted my 4WD into a camper. This allows me to go on photography trips into the bush and gives me a place to base myself when I am travelling. I work part-time for the regional council, which helps fund my photography and gives me the flexibility to spend more time in nature.

What’s your background in photography?

When I was three years old, my mother let me take a photo with her Pentax DSLR. The photo was of her, and it came out in focus and framed nicely. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved photography, and over the years, I have collected various vintage lenses and adapted them to my cameras. I primarily use my trusty Canon 550D, which I have owned since 2015, but for the last few years, I have started using a Nikon D600 to get the benefit of full-frame lenses.

Photo editing has become a passion of mine. I find it relaxing to put my headphones on and create something interesting. With so many options available now, I have settled on using a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Luminar by Skylum. I find that I can easily make changes to multiple images in batches between these two programs, reducing the repetitive nature of editing photos. For example, my Canon has one dust spot on the sensor, which is noticeable in most images. Lightroom allows me to remove it once and apply that correction to every photo in my workspace. Luminar uses artificial intelligence to make alterations and supports replacing the background of a photo in just a few clicks.

Tian Tan Buddha

Tell us about this image…

In 2018 I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong for a week with my family. During my stay, I visited the Tian Tan Buddha monument. I took many great photos there, but when I returned home and started sorting my memory cards, I noticed some photos were basically unusable as they were. I decided to edit some of them to create an artistic rendition that was different from the original, but that could still be used as an interesting photo on social media.
This photo is the best example of such a digital edit.

I started by importing the photo into Lightroom, where I made the basic corrections. After straightening the image, I adjusted the contrast and highlights. Next, I removed the haze from the sky to restore the natural terrain feature, which was initially too faint to see. I chose to de-haze the sky using the Graduated Filter with a large feather gap to make the blend look smooth and not affect the foreground too much. Because I was going to edit the photo in Luminar further, I didn’t need to adjust the colour saturation at this stage.

After exporting the edited photo into Luminar, I used the Replace Sky feature and found a free stock image with a sky that would suit what I wanted to create. Once I had the new sky in the photo, I was able to relight the scene and blend the two images together.

The resulting photo looked quite good at this stage, but I wanted to create a mysterious, moody feeling. The monument is located high up in the mountains above Hong Kong, and I wanted my photo to represent that and give the viewer a sense of another world almost, something usually reserved for blockbuster films.

I imported the composition back into Lightroom and started applying various landscape filters I have created. These filters range in various colour temperatures and effects, but I start with them as a baseline to see what is visually pleasing to me, and then I have a direction to move in.

The filter I selected is very warm and emphasises the green channel in saturation and luminosity. I dehazed the lower half of the image and lightened the shadows on the trees to make them stand out more. In the original photo, the trees and surrounding landscape are very flat and boring. I needed to almost create a high dynamic range effect to restore the natural contrast.
The day I took the photo, it was very dull and cloudy. There was little in the way of bright colours, so I tried to emphasise the main colours in the image (the greens and yellows) while decreasing the luminosity of the other colours.

Sadly, whenever a photo is this heavily edited, it is impossible not to create a large amount of noise in the image. I used ON1 Nonoise AI 2022 to remove as much noise from the image as possible without sacrificing too much detail.

What else should we know about you and your photography?

Experimentation is vital for me to get creative. Whether using a fifty-year-old lens from a garage sale or digitally recreating a B-roll photo, thinking outside the box and basically playing with what I can find is what I love to do. For me, photography is a passion, and I love learning new tricks. Computers can help a lot, but nothing can substitute just grabbing the camera and getting out into the world.

Where can we see more of your work?

Behind The Shot 53

Behind The Shot

'The Good Side'

Nikon D500, 70-200mm lens @ F2.8, 1/2500s, ISO360, 200mm

with Jamie Fraser

JAMIE, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BACKGROUND IN PHOTOGRAPHY...

I am grateful to be based down in Dunedin – NZ’s wildlife capital! With its stunning scenic locations and wildlife in every corner, it’s no surprise that it is here I discovered my passion for wildlife photography.

My interest in photography initially started during weekend jaunts with my wife to the English countryside while we lived in London. I used my smartphone to capture our adventures and shared them on social media for family and friends. I then received the best birthday present ever about three years ago, my first DSLR camera (Nikon D3500). How lucky was I?! My interest in photography kind of exploded from then on.

Although I tried many photography genres at the beginning of my journey, wildlife photography just blew my mind. I knew nothing about wildlife beforehand (dare I admit, I would confuse a fantail with a tui…), and ever since I discovered the wonderment of our natural world, I’ve been all in. Nature has introduced me to species and locations in Dunedin that I never knew existed. It’s never a dull day out there!

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING WITH?

I like to keep things pretty simple and I usually travel light when I go out for a look. I always take the same kit - a Nikon D500 with a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 lens. Although I do have a tripod and other lenses and equipment etc., I generally only shoot wildlife and always hand-held. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PHOTO, ‘THE GOOD SIDE’...

The photo was taken at Cedar Farm Forest a few weeks ago – just up the road from where I live in Port Chalmers. It is so quiet and peaceful up there in the forest. I really do enjoy it and of course, there is a variety of birdlife to photograph. On this particular occasion, I noticed a wee silvereye up ahead on the track and it appeared to be walking along the ground from one clover flower to another. This is not behaviour I have witnessed before from these guys (never a dull day!). As I got nearer, the bird seemed oblivious to my presence and carried on. I noticed that one of its wings was splayed out – I assume it had been damaged or even broken which would explain why it was meddling on the ground. As I inched my way closer I saw that its right eye was all puffed up – it reminded me of a cauliflower ear! It had evidently been in the wars at some point, although it didn’t appear distressed and eventually flew up into the trees (which put my mind at ease). I carried on up the track and as I returned back to head home, I noticed it was again nonchalantly tickling the nectar of the ground dwelling flora. The midday sun was casting a shadow across its face as it poked itself up to the meaty parts. I got myself down low and managed to grab this snap. I felt that for the dignity of the wee fella, I had to show its ‘good’ side. There was certainly another ‘side’ to its story. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.

WHAT WAS HAPPENING BEHIND THE CAMERA?

I had my then 7 month old daughter in my backpack (child carrier not camera backpack!). She was passed out asleep, with her head, arm, and a wee bit of drool spilling out to one side. I consider her my wildlife spotter; although, within 20 minutes of walking she usually falls asleep on me. I’m still to establish if it is the monotonous gentle rocking of my tentative steps that puts her to sleep or just my Dad mutterings…

WHAT EDITING DID YOU DO TO THIS PHOTO?

My style involves relatively heavy-handed exposure adjustments to the subject and background during post processing. I developed this over time as I found it quite handy to remove any distractions, while being able to impress the subject on the viewer with the exaggerated contrast between the background and subject. My workflow involves masking the subject, allowing me more control of the exposure.

I make my global editing adjustments and ‘dodge and burns’ to the image, and from then a lot of my edits are trial and error. I don’t use any presets or anything – I feel every shot has to be edited on its own merits. Depending on the intricacies of the image elements, I can spend anywhere from an hour to several hours editing.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY WITH THIS PHOTO IF GIVEN A SECOND CHANCE?

I would have preferred to capture the shot while lying down and shooting up towards the silvereye rather than down. Unfortunately with my daughter on my back, hanging out all manner of sides, it just wasn’t possible. I had to do with a crouch followed by a half
hour attempt to stand back up again.

WHAT TIPS CAN YOU SHARE WITH READERS FOR DEVELOPING THEIR STYLE?

  • Experiment with different approaches to composition. For example, try breaking some of the fundamental rules, and be aggressive and committed to your approach.
  • Try not to be overly influenced by other photographers, but certainly allow them to ignite some ideas of your own which will assist in developing your own style.

...AND SOME TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING WILDLIFE?

  • Don’t be afraid to shoot subjects on overcast or (better still) rainy days for even and soft lighting, some drama, and to avoid harsh shadows on your subject.
  • Get out there as much as possible. Every venture out is an opportunity to capture that special shot. Don’t be afraid to visit the same spot more than once. You never know what you’ll find on another day.
  • Keep your shutter speed above 1000 and your ISO as low as possible. Shooting with an F8 aperture is ideal for wildlife photography. If it compromises your ISO too much, open it up. It is better to have a wide aperture than to have a crazy high ISO.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?

I am currently undertaking my third and final year of a New Zealand Diploma in Photography. All going well, I should finish October this year!

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?