Archive for the Photography Category

How to photograph your own wedding

It’s hard to break a habit of photographing weddings…even at your own wedding, so at our wedding last year (branded as KISTfest), we decided to set up a camera to take a picture every minute in the 2 days prior to the wedding and on the day itself. It’s not every groom that has to think about changing camera batteries, timelapse controller batteries and memory cards (we ended up filling four 4GB cards!) in the build-up to the wedding!

In order to get the best overall feel for the day, we needed the camera to be quite high up, so it was shot from a windowsill, overlooking the main marquee and the space in front; the hub of activity on the day. The windowsill position presented a few challenges with glare from the white frame, rain on the glass and then condensation on the morning of day 2. We also couldn’t go quite as wide as we wanted with the image, as the window frame would have featured. We think it was fairly successful though in capturing the the overall feel of the occasion though and we love freezing individual frames to see some of the great moments captured by the all-seeing eye.

As for camera settings…we didn’t do quite so well. It was one of the first time lapses we’d done and we foolishly decided to go for manual exposure so that you’d get a good feel for the changes in light. On the positive side, this decision gave us some lovely sunrise and sunset transitions of light, fading to and from black. But sadly it also led to some rather over-exposed shots of the marquee roof in bright sunlight and loss of detail at dusk. We’ve learned from that since though in our subsequent time lapses!

Kiri then created a soundscape to accompany the resulting time lapse, using mainly sound bytes from the day of the wedding, but a few off-the-shelf sounds to fill the gaps in the first two days.

Will we now be offering time lapse services as part of our wedding photography offerings? We’ll have to see when we get back from our travels!

At a crossroads

For several months we’ve been thinking that it would be really cool to climb up to the top of the tower at St. Mark’s Kennington and take some long exposure images of the crossroads at Oval tube station at night. But hey, why stop at just still images? Why not go for a time lapse? So that’s exactly what we did.

Last night, just after 7pm we climbed up the tower and set up a tripod in the roof space, with a camera on top pointing at the crossroads and a timer remote control attached. With the camera all set up (see below if you’re interested in the settings), we set it going, then headed into nearby Kennington Park to have a picnic.

We returned to the camera just before 10pm and this is the footage that it had captured (played back at 12 frames per second):

We’re quite pleased with this, although due to the limitations of where we could fit a tripod in the tower we couldn’t go as widescreen as we would have liked. We particularly like the detail of the London Eye rotating in the background though, which you can just about make out.

Once we’d taken a few long exposure photos from other angles, we came back down to earth, recorded some video footage at the base of the tower (so that we could have sound to accompany the time lapse), then headed off home.

For those who are interested, our time lapse settings were:

  • Fixed ISO of 400 (so the “grain” remained consistent through all images)
  • Manual focus (for consistency between images)
  • Aperture of f/16 (so as to have a largish depth of field)
  • Aperture priority (so the exposures would get progressively longer as it got darker)
  • Image preview off (to conserve battery)
  • Quality of images reduced (to allow 3000 images to fit on a 4GB memory card)
  • Photograph every 3 seconds

The first wedding…

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking photos at the wedding of Emma and Ben near Maidstone; the wedding was in Mereworth, with the reception held just up the road in West Malling. The church was a lovely building, with a grand entrance and an amazing ceiling and it had a balcony affording good views of the proceedings. I was a little taken aback (as were some of the guests I think) when the vicar suggested that I should do the group photo of everyone from up there before the final hymn, but she was in charge!

BenAndEmma

The wedding was beautifully styled with a lot of the details hand-crafted by friends and family. The bus ride on an old Routemaster between the wedding and reception venues was a lovely touch, the sensitive decoration of the reception venue (complete with black and white movies in the background) and all of the smiling faces helped to make my job easier.

All weddings are special obviously, but for me this was a special one as it was the first wedding I’ve shot under the name of Lightbulb Head (the previous 30 or so were as “srphotos”). Whilst Kiri came to the last wedding that I shot under my old photography company, I did this one on my own and it felt a bit weird not having her to assist and capture moments where I couldn’t physically be in two places at once. I think we’ll probably do future weddings together.

All that remains is for me to once again congratulate Ben and Emma and thank them for sharing their special day with me.

Cultivating creativity, Cornish style

We’ve just returned from a lovely break in Cornwall, where we stayed within a stone’s throw of the sea at a lovely apartment near Coverack. We can really highly recommend the place that we stayed – not only did it have stunning views, but it felt like home from home and was a wonderful place of beauty where we could be creative.

The morning light over the sea was incredible each day (apart from the day it rained) and although we knew we couldn’t capture the scale of the beauty, we had a bash at it one morning. We called the resulting time lapse “Sea Meets Sky” – to be honest we would have loved to have dedicated more time to it, but there are so many exciting things to do and see in that part of Cornwall and we didn’t want to leave the camera all by itself.

However, we did decide to dedicate our day in Marazion to capturing a hungry sea consuming the causeway:

We had a minor creative disagreement as to the composition for the first part of the time lapse (should we focus on the silhouette of St. Michael’s Mount, or people crossing the causeway?), but that doesn’t really matter as after an hour and a half we chose to move to a better location anyway! The tide times really were perfect as it was slowly getting dark just as the sea was lapping over the top of the causeway. We won’t lie – it was absolutely freezing sitting with the camera, but it was also incredibly beautiful.

So was it just a holiday of time lapses? Not really – we did take plenty of photos too – why not check out the album of photos on our Facebook page or the selection of photos in our Flickr account (there are fewer on Flickr!). Whilst you’re there, feel free to follow us or become a fan of our page!

No business like snow business!

It’s snowing! Well…it was…but there’s not quite so much of it any more…I’m still hopeful that we’ll get some more though! Back in February 2009 I had my first ever “snow day” where I couldn’t get into work and I was forced to play in the snow in Sevenoaks and build this snowman (it’s a hard life!):

snowySevenoaks017

Since then I’ve had several opportunities to photograph snow and over that time I’ve learned that the following few tips that I wrote back in 2009 still stand when shooting the white stuff.

  • Exposure – It’s quite difficult to get photos of snow looking as white as it actually is. The automatic metering on a camera goes ‘oooh, I see lots of white, therefore I must be over-exposing this image’. So it’s necessary to compensate in the other direction. Open up the aperture by a fraction of an f-stop, or by 1 f-stop. Most digital cameras have an option to do this, and most of the photos I take in the snow average 1 f-spot of compensation.
  • Light – Light and shadow is even more important than with normal photography, as the range of colours is diminished (mainly white), so try to keep the composition interesting. A splash of colour in an otherwise white photo always works well.
  • Protection – Keep your camera protected! This is essential. It’s often been snowing pretty hard for some of the time I have been shooting snow, so I make sure that I am quick with shots, and between shots I keep the camera covered. I also allow a little time for the camera to get used to the colder temperature outside so that the lens won’t steam up. Also, protect your batteries – they don’t like the cold, so keep any spares very close to your body.

Since 2009 I’ve had several opportunities to see “proper snow”, with my favourite being a New Year trip to Riga in Latvia a couple of years ago. The depth of snow there could be measured in feet rather than inches, even though it was regularly carted away to places outside the city. Amongst several standard winter scenes that I photographed, my favourite from the trip has to be this one, taken from the Sky bar in Riga.

rigaNYE2010081

In the next few days Kiri and I intend to actually start using our Flickr account (flickr.com/lightbulbheaduk) and we’ll upload some of our snow pictures from previous years.

For now, we’ll sit in the warmth, charge up the camera batteries and hope to get some good photos of the snow tomorrow when there’s a fresh new blanket. Love it!

KISS

When I started taking photos properly, I didn’t really know much about cameras or photography. What was the relationship between aperture and shutter speed? How could I vary how much of the picture is in focus (later understood as “depth of field”)? How would I know when to use flash? What did the different lens numbers mean (I’ve now got a watch with these numbers on!)?

basiccamera

I found some of the answers in a book – Keep it Simple Guide to Photography. It’s a very basic book, but has some great examples, and it makes photography accessible for the beginner. I can really recommend it for anyone wanting to make more out of their existing camera, or anyone wanting to take the step from compact to SLR. In fact, I’ve recommended it to so many people over the years that I should probably get commission…aside from the fact that you can buy it for a penny at Amazon!

I say that I found some of the answers in there – but I don’t think you can fully learn photography from a book. It’s by taking loads of photos and making lots of mistakes that I’ve properly learned and that’s what I’d recommend.

But…photography is so much more than understanding your way around a camera. Some of the basic philosophies around photography that I stated in a blog post in 2008 still stand:

  • Practice the art of seeing – so often in this digital world where you can take hundreds of pictures without paying the earth, people just take photos. I know I shouldn’t be bothered by it, but it makes me sad to see people absently pointing their phone at something and clicking the button whilst not even looking.
  • Kill the phrase “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” – composition and lighting can all be changed after a shot, but you can save so much time by getting it right in the camera. I’m a real traditionalist in this respect, and don’t do any post-processing (aside from occasionally removing sensor dust from my photos)…but I find myself being more sloppy with digital photos than I am if I’ve got a film camera in my hand.
  • Style happens, don’t think about it – when I first started taking photos, I didn’t think about style, then I went through a stage where I was obsessed with “finding my own style”, and my pictures deteriorated in quality. I then forgot about style, and my own style emerged!
  • Examine your own photos– once you’ve taken a picture, look at it afterwards. I don’t just mean glance at it – critique it. Decide what you like about it, decide what you don’t, and then use what you’ve learned when taking more photos! Don’t just stop at your own photos – do the same with other people’s photos (but don’t be rude!)

Obviously you never stop learning and developing (pardon the pun) your photographic style, but I think the book and the basic philosophies got me started along the right track.

400

Four hundred. That’s the number of blog posts that I wrote for srphotos.co.uk in the last 5 and a half years, and in the last year of that, there have been fewer than 30 posts. That’s a lot of blog posts that I don’t really want to get rid of as part of the merge with Lightbulb Head, accounting for a good few hours of my life! It’s lucky that I don’t have to – Kiri has said she’ll make a book out of them, creating the story of srphotos.co.uk.

srphotos

However, within that vat of old blog posts, there are a few which are still pertinent today, others which are amusing to read in hindsight (think technology predictions!) and others which, quite frankly, deserve to be dropped on the floor. So, my plan is to choose some of the better posts, update them and pop them up here, but don’t worry, you won’t get all of them! I’ll start with one about my camera equipment.

Back in January 2008 (almost 5 years ago to the day) I wrote about my cameras as the most frequent question I was asked was “what camera do you use?” followed by “what do you recommend I should buy?”. I’m still asked these questions today, and I’ll come on to recommendations in a bit, but firstly, this is how my kit bag has changed:

  • Main digital camera – back in 2008, this was my trusty Nikon D50 – I still regard this as a cracking piece of kit, but I sold it to my brother-in-law. Nowadays my main digital camera is a Nikon D700
  • Main film camera – a Canon AT-1 that was my Father’s and Grandfather’s was the answer in 2008 and it’s the same answer today – it’s doing well considering it’s around 30 years old
  • Backup digital camera – I don’t think you could call my Canon Powershot A510 a backup camera, but it was the only other digital camera I owned. Now I have a Nikon D5100 that I use both as a backup, but also as my main camera when I have to think about weight of equipment
  • Backup film camera – funny story here – the answer in the original blog post was a Canon AV-1. Between then and now, I have owned every single camera in the Canon A-series (A-1, AE-1, AE-1 Program, AL-1, AT-1, AV-1) – they are beautiful items, but it did get a bit silly. I’ve now downsized again, and have just the A-1 as a backup
  • Lenses – I’ve got largely the same lenses for my film cameras – 28mm-70mm, 70mm-210mm and 50mm. Digital is where there’s been the biggest change – back in 2008 I had an 18mm-55mm. Now I’ve got an 18mm-200mm VR lens (almost welded to my D5100 – the best all-round lens I’ve owned), a 50mm, a 24mm-70mm f2.8 and an 80mm-200mm f2.8. They weigh a tonne!

So that’s the kit, but what about recommendations? Please feel free to let me know what you want to be taking photos of, and I’m happy to make individual recommendations. What I will reveal is that I intend to buy a new compact camera soon and the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 looks very attractive!

Mobile photography

Yesterday we went for a bit of a wander and I thought I would use the inbuilt camera on my Android Wildfire (I’m a little behind the times with phones!) rather than taking a dedicated camera, just to see what it was like. For a start I don’t have any special photo apps on my phone yet – there are just so many out there. This is what I managed to take:

Peckham Rye Common on New Year's Day

What I should probably say is that it took me about 5 minutes to take it by the time I’d taken the phone out of my pocket, unlocked the screen, been distracted by a new text message (well, 2 actually), opened the standard camera app and pointed it in the right direction, worked on a nice composition, unlocked the screen again after the 5 second inactivity time-out, chosen which point I wanted to focus on and then pressed the button. OK, some of that can be attributed to lack of familiarity with the phone, but I can’t help but think that for that amount of faffing around I could have taken a better photo on my DSLR or even a compact camera, whilst having more control over the shot. However…I was able to upload the picture directly to Flickr from the phone, which in turn automatically tweeted it – an obvious benefit.

So, my question to you is – can you recommend any good android apps for taking photos? I’m not talking about photo editing apps, but ones which give you nice control over ISO, shutter speed etc. Answers on the back of a postcard (or just reply below!)