Tag Archives: Black and White

Portrait Session with Anabelle

It has been a few years since I shot any portraits, and in recent months, the desire to shoot some more portraiture came back to me.

A friend of mine has a very photogenic daughter, Anabelle, who I thought would make a great subject.

In terms of location and conditions, I want to photograph her in natural surroundings during the warmth of the late afternoon light.

I also wanted to use my new lens for the shoot, plus my staple portraiture lens.

We headed over to Rouse Hill Regional Park, where, after some earlier recce, I had located a nice lake with trees and grasses surrounding it.

Here are some of the images I captured:



In this image, I captured this distant shot of Anabelle beaming as the sun shone upon her.

Anabelle in the Park

Anabelle in the Park

For this image, I specifically wanted rim lighting on Anabelle‘s hair, so I had her facing away from the sun, and I used a reflector to bounce the wam, late afternoon light back onto her.

When photographing human subjects during golden hour, the challenge is that even though the sun is low in the sky, if a human subject looks into the sun, the eyes will be largely hidden due to squinting.

That never looks good in images, so the work-around is to have the subject facing either 90 degrees or 180 degrees away from the sun, and use a reflector to bounce the light back.

Lastly, a black and white image:

Portrait of Anabelle

Portrait of Anabelle

This is a close-up portrait of Anabelle as she sat in the park during the final moments before sunset.

While this image was originally shot in colour, I also wanted a striking black and white version.

All in all, it was a fun and productive session.

It was Anabelle‘s first time modelling, and she did well.  I landed some pleasing images in the conditions I had pictured in my mind, which is always satisfying.


2014 Retrospective: Low-Output Year, but Such is Life

While we’re not quite done with the year 2014 yet, it’s close enough to publish a retrospective of the year from a photographic perspective.

Firstly, it was my most low-output year on record; but with other commitments and interests, and a waning interest in photography, I can live with that.

I only published 32 images shot this year.  2013, despite two overseas trips, was also low in output, with some 50 images online.  In the years before, I had a much higher output rate.

For a number of years, seascape photography was my main interest.  This year I didn’t shoot a single seascape, and I’m not too bothered by that.  I did it for years; everyone’s doing it, and I cannot be bothered any more.  It’s always there, and I can always return to it if the interest re-ignites; but for now, it’s dormant.

The year 2014 started with a trip to Adelaide and the McLaren Vale wine region — it was a wine trip, not a photography trip; but I shot a few images at the Penfolds Magill Estate winery.

Penfolds Magill Estate Winery

Penfolds Magill Estate Winery

Also early in the year, we headed to the Australian Reptile Park, where I shot one decent image of a Tasmanian devil.  It was more of a fun day out with some close friends, but I dragged a camera and a few big lenses along, and shot in dreadful light.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Around Valentine’s Day, the macro lens came out of hibernation, and I shot some very pleasing images of Xenedette’s rose.



My next photographic adventure was a weekend-long landscape photography workshop with Peter Eastway and David Oliver, where I shot some pleasing aerial images of the Hunter Valley.  The trip was organised through the Focus Photographers group, and it was a great weekend away with like-minded photographers.

Hills of the Hunter

Hills of the Hunter

In May, Xenedette and I headed away to Jenolan Caves for a mini-getaway, where we toured six caves, and where I opted for low-light hand-held photography using my fastest prime lenses to capture the ‘ambient artificial’ light highlighting the magnificent decorations in the caves.  I also got in a bit of architecture photography during the trip.

Shawls of the Lucas Cave

Shawls of the Lucas Cave

In August I headed away with the Focus Photographers group again, also to the Hunter Valley, for a weekend of landscape and natural-light portrait photography with David and Clare Oliver.

As always, there is something to learn from these masters of photography, and I gained an appreciation for natural light from south-facing windows, which produces very soft, flattering portraits, and which is consistent throughout the day, making shooting very easy, as the light is always soft and even.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

Finally, I bought a new 400mm f/2.8 lens for next year’s wildlife safari in Kenya, and in the mean time, dabbled with a few images of near-full moons in September.

Waxing Gibbous Part II

Waxing Gibbous Part II

All in all, 2014 was undeniably a low-output year in terms of photography, but I did gain some new images, new experiences and new contacts; and delved into some of the photographic genre I shoot, as well as a few other less-frequent subjects.

Photography is a pursuit I view as one which can have its peaks and troughs, and for me, I’ve been in trough territory for much of the year.  That’s completely fine, as it’s always there, and I learned long ago to read the signs and go with the flow, seeking images and experiences when the desire makes itself known to me, and not forcing productive output when it’s just not in me.

Photographically, next year will be quite different, with the trip to Kenya being the highlight, but who knows what other photographic experiences I will gain…

And so ends a retrospective of my 2014 photographic year.

Hills of the Hunter

This weekend I went away with David Oliver and Peter Eastway — two of Australia’s leading photographers — and some friends from the Flickr FOCUS group.

We attended an intense two-day landscape photography workshop with David and Peter, and shot in and around Gresford and Dungog in the picturesque Hunter Valley, both from the ground and from the air on an early-morning helicopter flight.

The aerial photography component was all about beautiful lighting and capturing the contours of the landscape.

This was the stand-out image from the aerial session.

Hills of the Hunter

Hills of the Hunter

With this image, all of the elements aligned, except I didn’t know it at the time.

A glorious patch of light illuminated this isolated tree on the rolling hills, and a natural leading line points right at it.  Also hidden within the intricacies of this image are animals grazing on the hills.

It was a fantastic weekend, and this image alone was very pleasing.  Peter made an A3 print of this image, so I will have it framed and hang it proudly in our home.

Long Day in Sydney

Yesterday I went for out a shoot for the first time in six months. Yes, it has been that long!

For quite a while I had wanted to shoot the Sydney skyline from a different vantage point to the usual places, and Ballaarat Park on Darling Island in Pyrmont was the place I had in mind.

I set out to capture the golden hour light, and later, the blue hour light of twilight, which was my original intention.

However, having arrived early, I decided to shoot a long-exposure image using my ten-stop ND filter.

Here is the result:

Long Day in Sydney

Long Day in Sydney

In post-processing, I decided that a moody, punchy monochrome version in 2:1 aspect ratio looked best.  Besides, at the time the light was flat and dull, and not ideal for photography.

I am pleased with the result.

Last Night in London

This composition is a slightly different take on an earlier image I published, depicting Westminster Bridge, Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Last Night in London

Last Night in London

This was the last night of our fleeting five-day visit in May of 2013, so I’ve appropriately titled it Last Night in London.

Rather than depicting the rich colours of the blue hour light in stark contrast with the yellow illumination of Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament, I wanted to feature one of my favourite cities in a dramatic monochrome image.  This is the result.

A Second Portrait Session with Shani

Today I’m heading off for a second portrait session with Shani.

Our first session was drastically altered due to wet weather, but I still saw potential for a great shoot, so I changed the location (which would provide shelter) and the style of the shoot.

Amongst some very pleasing images we shot on the day was this image:

The Look

The Look

Today we’re heading to the original venue I had in mind, with the original theme I had in mind, under the original weather conditions I had in mind.

My intention is to utilise the availabile light as much as possible (which I also did during our first shoot), but I will have my most of my rig of lighting equipment with me in case we need it or decide to get a little more creative.

Shani is a great model, and I’m seeing some nice images in my mind for this afternoon’s shoot.

Black and White Rules for Portraits, Okay?

I’ve done a few model shoots lately (and I have one tomorrow with the lovely Sarah).

During my processing of the images from a few recent sessions, I’ve found that I’ve gone for high-contrast black and white treatment.

I think black and white really works well for portraits.  Sometimes colour can be distracting, and if you’re using moody lightning like I often do, black and white treatment, with its removal of the potential distraction in colour, makes shape, form and tone more prominent.

Here are a couple of examples of where I think the black and white treatment has worked well.

First, the talented Jess:

I'm Not That Innocent (B&W)

I'm Not That Innocent (B&W)

In this session, I went for dramatic, high-contrast lighting and seduction/sexyness as a theme/feel.  With this sort of lighting and prominent shadow from which the model emerges, the monochromatic treatment highlights shape and form.

Compare this image to the colour version.

When I photographed Sarah recently, even during the shoot I was pre-visualising black and white.  As it turned out, I prefer the images of her when processed in black and white.  Here’s an example image (and one I quite like):



While I haven’t published the colour version of this shot (yet), I think the black and white version has more appeal.

In processing portraits lately, I’ve adopted the multi-layered, non-destructive approach I apply to my seascapes, with heavy use of lightening and darkening curves adjustment layers to selectively add pop to certain parts of the image and darken others and/or apply vignetting.

I have taken to using two black and white conversion layers and applying a green filter to the base black and white layer, and an infrared filter to another layer which I apply only to the eyes using masks.  This really makes the eyes stand right out, and the eyes are the most important parts of a portrait (in most cases).

In the future I might publish a post-processing tutorial on one of my recent black and white portraits.