Friday, 30 October 2009

Tips on How to Shoot Self-Portraits (or not)

The following tips, hints and how-to's are in no way to be viewed as being completely instructional, or even helpful... I just thought I'd clarify before you read any further. Anyway, let's begin to take a look at what's involved in taking Self-Portraits.

1. It's a good idea to use a prop, such as this teddy bear, as a point of focus - the aim is to replace the prop with yourself, of course.

2. If you have one, use a remote shutter release - they are really handy, as you don't have to rush back to the spot within 10 seconds (like I had to before I bought the shutter release) - oh, it's also a good idea to remember where the spot was, and to hide the remote from view...

3. If you're a little shy, then get a family member to join you in your Self-Portrait, especially when they also don't normally like having their photo taken. Then the two of you can learn to relax and go with the flow. Note: sitting with the reluctant family member and using a remote shutter is a stroke of genius that I wish I had thought of way before now.

4. The reluctant family member, who is by now enjoying this little photoshoot, may even pose and smile at just the right time. No, wait, this shoot is about taking Self-Portraits...sorry, but I couldn't resist adding this photo or this quite useless tip.

5. Taking a Self-Portrait doesn't always mean facing the camera. Have you thought of a profile pose?

6. If you're not happy with a profile shot, there's always the stand-by "look-at-the-camera-with-a-semi-serious-expression", but don't be shy, fill the frame, don't hang around the edges....

7. Yes, while this is a Self-Portrait shoot, it's also good manners not to hog the camera and push the family member out of the way. There is room for both of you.

8. Placing yourself, or your subject in this case, in the centre of the frame isn't necessarily the wisest choice. Sometimes this can make for a very static and boring composition. Place yourself, or your subject to the side, leaving some negative space for the eyes to rest on.

9. Who said your eyes need to be open when you're taking a Self-Portrait? Who said you even need to be awake when you're taking a Self-Portrait? These are questions you should ask yourself.

10. When using a prop as a focusing tool, it's a good idea to remove it completely from the shooting area. Unless of course you want to incorporate it in your Self-Portrait. In that case, it can make for a quirky element in your shot. Mind you, you can also crop the image, or clone it out.

11. If you're sharing your Self-Portrait with a family member, you don't need to have both of you in focus. In fact, it looks quite nice if only one of you is in focus, and the other is all soft and blurry. Using a shallow depth of field will mean the eye will be drawn to the part of the image in focus, in this case, the precious family member.

12. Use a Soft Focus, Cross-Screen or even Rainbow filter to give a soft and dreamy feel to your Self-Portrait. Using such a filter makes for a very forgiving image result.

13. A little bored with straight photography? Then why not incorporate some texture layers to add some interest and depth to your Self-Portrait. Either download these from around the web, or photograph your own, as I've done here. The number of layers and how you blend them will depend on what you're trying to achieve with your Self-Portrait.

I used my diffuser propped against a fairly bright window, camera on a tripod and a 50mm F1.8 lens. The 50mm is known as the "portrait lens" and the fact that it's only the f1.8 means it's called the "plastic fantastic". I also used a speedlite flash (just a teensy one) with a tissue as a diffuser to soften the effects of the flash.

If you haven't tried taking your Self-Portrait, give it a go, you might be surprised at just how much fun it can be. If you have taken your Self-Portrait, and can share some useful tips, feel free to comment in this blog - share your tips with others.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

From Nothing to Something

Hmmm, I wasn't sure what I was going to blog about this week. I had run out of words to say. Thankfully that all changed earlier this afternoon - woo! I sold two of my photographic prints at the local Falls Art Festival. Now I have plenty to say - all incoherent of course, as I'm running around the room with my t-shirt over my head as though I have scored the winning football goal! I have been smiling all afternoon, and even the MOTH was delighted as we spied the precious red dots these galleries assign sold works. I actually noticed quite a few red dots this year, and that's always a good sign.

The Falls Art Festival is the annual fundraiser for Wentworth Falls Public School and last year over $10,000 was raised - so it is a big to do if well organised. It's also a nice feeling to be able to support my local community in this small way.

And then, if my smile couldn't get any bigger, I logged onto RedBubble to find out I had sold a greeting card earlier today, as well as winning a photographic challenge (albeit with a handful of images competing in the challenge).

And - I bought a new pair of shoes today - Woo! So, this is one very happy gal!.

Have a great week!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sunrise at Echo Point, Katoomba

It's not very often that I find myself witnessing a sunrise with a camera in hand. Not very often, as in, ummm, never. So it was with a little apprehension that I tagged along to a sunrise shoot at Echo Point this past weekend.
Now, I'm not one to be anal or superstitious about things, but as soon as I put on my shoes and socks in the incorrect order, I knew this was going to be one of those days. Sure enough, I wasn’t 200m from my door when I realised that I had forgotten my jacket, beanie and gloves. Although it’s October, these items are essential for the upper mountains, especially since the sunrise shoot would be one of two locations that day. In the process of performing a U-turn, I managed to spill most of my espresso into my centre console (why don’t they make travel mugs to fit centre consoles I’ll never know...). So with jacket, gloves and beanie now in hand I hurried, as best as the speed limits allow, up the mountains before the sun rose over the horizon. Did I mention there are major road works being carried out in various locations up the mountains, which I hadn’t factored into the time required to get from one end of the mountains to the other?
I could see the sky was getting increasingly lighter with each passing kilometre and I was possibly not going to make it in time. Not only that, but there were no clouds or mist to be seen. I was also 10 minutes behind schedule, and I was meeting two other photographers, lets simply call them P1 and P2, and I certainly didn’t want to keep them waiting. Taking advantage of a red traffic light, I took the opportunity to call P1 and P2 to ascertain their whereabouts. Imagine my surprise (read horror, shock, astonishment) to find they were actually about 25 minutes behind me and would certainly not make it in time...P1 and P2 are dedicated and passionate photographers who think it quite normal to get up at stupid o’clock, drive countless kilometres simply to shoot a stunning sunrise – had they put their shoes and socks on incorrectly that morning as well?
Needless to say, it’s just as well P1 and P2 didn’t make it in time. The sunrise, while pink and pretty, was also very plain, very quick and very ordinary. This wasn’t going to be one of those Kodak moments. There was no cloud. There was no magical Katoomba mist rolling through the valley. And it was over in a matter of minutes.
Remind me again why Cosy Bed Syndrome as mentioned in a previous blog posting is a bad thing?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Long Live Rock and Roll

At the moment I'm reading the book "10 Songs that Changed the World" by June Skinner Sawyers. I should actually be reading that Sister's Keeper book, but that's another story... Back to the songs that changed the world, I'm only at number three, and I am totally engrossed with the amount of information that has been compiled for the songs. The book is a mixture of history and entertainment - so would that be histortainment or enterstory? Who knows. I'm not going to spoil it and announce all the songs here - you'll have to read the book yourself for that! I will say that the book is a trivia-night nut's delight! The question remains: will I be able to retain the information, and will I also be able to retrieve the information at the crucial time during a future trivia night? Only time will tell.

Sawyers' discusses the many aspects of the song "Hound Dog" in particular as sung by Elvis Presley, and how that changed the way we listened to and enjoyed music worldwide. Notably, she talks about the time Presley sang that particular tune on The Milton Berle Show in 1956. In Sawyer's words, "he slowed the rhythm right down to a licentious bump and grind to such an extent that everyone knew what was on his mind. The arbiters of good taste must have felt that the world was coming to an end, and all decency thrown out the window". Phew - thank goodness for the world of YouTube, because this "licentious bump and grind" I had to see for myself - could it have been so risque? Well, for 1956 it certainly was as Presley was only shown from the waist up in future performances, so as not to offend the television audiences...

Here's the clip from that historic performance, I won't spoil it and tell you when he slows that rhythm down, you'll simply have to see it all for yourself. Enjoy! Long live Rock and Roll!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

~Nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon ~

Recently I came upon a collection of surreal artworks created using simple pencil. The drawings were extremely detailed and quite large and I can only imagine the hundreds of hours taken to create each drawing. I only had time to admire about 6 or 7 of these beautiful drawings - there were so many more - and the ones I did view took my breath away. I have no idea of the age, gender or name of the artist, but I know they were very beautiful drawings that Salvador Dali would have been proud to call his own.

At the same time, I had bought a bunch of daisies I was intending to photograph. And while I did take photos of the daisies while in their prime, they remain simply 'photos of daisies' - really nothing special at all. As the daisies slowly wilted and decayed, it was interesting to see they took on the surreal features - they became very Dali-esque, with gravity dragging down the petals and flower heads. I wouldn't have considered photographing wilted daisies, thinking them too ugly, but instead seeing those wonderful surreal drawings inspired me to capture the daisies in their surreal best.

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