Monday, 26 September 2016

Holly Burns - Building an Impossible Photograph from Start to Finish

First things first, to create an impossible image, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to create and the foresight to know what photographs you will need to make it. Don't worry, I am not going to harp on about how to photograph in order to create a composited image, however if you DO want to know, please refer to my blog for my tricks and information on how to successfully create a composited image:

This article is a specific step to step workflow of my photographic and post-processing for one of my favourite photographs, ‘Kaleidoscope Heart’.

1. The Concept:

The concept is always the most important part of my workflow. I want to create something that means something to me, something I care about. I can only do that if I have a concept in mind and work to convey that idea.

For this image, I had been inspired by a short song by the name of ‘Kaleidoscope Heart’ by Sara Bareilles,

“All the colors
Of the rainbow
Hidden 'neath my skin
Hearts have colors
Don't we all know?
Red runs through our veins
Feel the fire burning up
Inspire me with blood
Of blue and green
I have hope
Inside is not a heart
But a kaleidoscope”

I love the notion that we might not have a heart that bleeds red, but of blue and green and every other colour that denotes an emotional outpouring!

Upon hearing this beautiful and ethereal song, I immediately starting picturing a heart with colours emanating from it. I could see in my minds eye the kaleidoscope of light and colour coming from the heart and a woman allowing herself to be consumed by it. To me, the different colours symbolised the spectrum of emotional qualities that make us who we are, our identity. Lets face it, not one of us has just one shard of personality. Today, if I were a colour I’d be red, a bright swinging red. Last week I was covered head to toe in Van Goghs acidic yellow, brown and orange, like the ghastly patterned wallpaper that my grandmother would have been proud of 60 years ago. When my little boy comes out of school I will be completely pink with a candy floss texture.

The theme of understanding identity is prevalent in a lot of my work. I began to think that accepting these contrasting colours within us would allow us to embrace ourselves and be an uplifting experience. I had my concept - Light needs shadow, and the most profound understanding of our identity includes both. Embrace it, love it.

2. The Planning:

As soon as concepts enter my head and form into an idea, I like to sketch it out and map out the photographs I would need in order to create the final piece. Here I needed at least two images of a woman, one of her head and torso and another of her waist and legs. I’d needed extra shots of a skirt hanging and a tranquil looking background.

3. The Shoot:

I had this concept in my little book of ideas for about 2 months before I found the right location to shoot in. This happened to be in Sennowe Park, the Edwardian home of Thomas Albert Cook, when at a photography retreat hosted by Brooke Shaden. There I met a wonderful model by the name of Jen Brook whom, as soon as I saw her I knew, had the perfect look and demeanour for my Kaleidoscope Heart concept.

In order to get the model to appear as if she were floating, I had to take the following pictures with a selection of a skirt that I could replace her crumpled one with. I also took many pictures of the background without the model so I could create a big stitch in which I could move the model around independently:

4. The Editing:

I blended the two images of the model together and added a new skirt to give the illusion that she is levitating above the ground.

Once the main compositing was done, the only thing left to do was to add light and colour. I firstly added a big burst of light positioned over her heart and masked the effect off the parts that her body would be blocking.

Easy to use sunburst brushes can be obtained for free here:

I then began the fun part: adding the colour! This was simply done by making shard-like selections with the polygonal lasso, feathering by 20 or so pixels and changing the colour balance.

I quickly realised that my initial idea of light and colour being enough to give the feeling of a kaleidoscope wasn't working. I almost tore my hair out and threw my mac out of the window trying to figure out how to translate what I could see in my minds eye to reality. Eventually after a lot of aimlessly searching ‘Kaleidoscope’, I found this free vector on deviant art made by Kaze Hime and finally it clicked as to where I must take this image.

I warped it to look like it was projecting out from her, duplicated it and changed the blending mode to luminosity. I repeated the effect on the floor and finally it was beginning to look as I had envisioned.

The next step was to warm up the image as a whole and bring out the colours of the light burst using gradient maps and selective colour.

This remains one of my favourite images because to me it represents having love for myself, warts and all.

Holly Burns

Monday, 19 September 2016

Kim Ayres - Colourful Kimonos

When I started my photography career, I concentrated on moody black and white portraits. I've always loved the landscape of the face but, if truth be told, black and white was a practical choice as much as an aesthetic one. The reality is, colour scared me. There were just too many variations and combinations that might not work, and I didn't feel comfortable enough in my own skill to navigate the multicoloured ocean of possibilities.

Eventually I began dipping my toe in, and it wasn't long before I started to delight in the expanded colour palette. And these days its not unknown for me to use coloured gels with my lighting to get particular splashes of colour when needed.

Possibly one of my most colourful photo shoots came out of a collaboration with Morag Macpherson - a textile pattern designer based in Kirkcudbright.

Among her many creations are some amazing kimonos. The shape and cut are based on the Japanese robes, but the patterns and designs are completely Morag's.

We'd been talking for some time about doing a photo shoot, but finding the combination of the right time, the right models and the right idea proved elusive. It wasn't that we were short of ideas - if anything the problem was too many and trying to narrow it down.

The Yellow Door is a gallery in Dumfries, occupied and run by a collection of artists, with ever changing exhibitions and displays. And last autumn, the room at the back had been done out like a boudoir, which tied in to one of the ideas we'd been discussing.

Morag's friend, Jessica, was coming down from Glasgow for a weekend and would be available for a shoot. But Morag had also been talking about this captivating lass she'd often seen on the bus from Kirkcudbright. As she described her, I suddenly realised she meant Alamnesh, the daughter of a friend of mine. A few more calls and texts and we had both models lined up.

As photo shoots go, this had a lot going for it. Not only did I have wonderful models in amazing kimonos in a great location, but the owner, Luke, had been running a breakfast event before we arrived and there was plenty of food left over which we tucked into when we had a break.

Additionally, he gave us the run of the building, which included a run down, decaying attic space that has yet to be done up. This meant we could do a second, very different style of shoot. From sumptuous boudoir to urban decay - showing how the kimonos could be used in a variety of settings.

I should also mention, the cushions in the boudoir shots are also Morag's creations.

Below are a few of the photos from the shoot, but click through to my Facebook album (you don't need to be a member to access it) to see the full set.

Kim Ayres

Monday, 12 September 2016

Roger Lever - The Art of Mono

Most people will be familiar with black and white photographs but one doesn’t see them quite as often these days since colour became the norm. If you look back in the history of photography from the early 1800’s onwards and at some of the images produced by famous master photographers such as Ansel Adams and David Bailey, it is very difficult not to marvel at those images which were taken on black and white film developed using liquid chemicals and then printed in a traditional dark room using photographic paper and more chemicals.

The computer has become our modern dark room. Today's photographers both amateur and professional cannot but admire these wonderful works of art some of which are worth considerable amounts of money today.

Photography then was very much a highly skilled art expression. Despite all the ultramodern high tech equipment available to today's photographers those images are hard to beat. A lot of time was spent preparing the shots and the lighting before the camera trigger was ever released AND they were all Black and White or Sepia.

My own photography especially portraiture is becoming more focused on the black and white image. Even some of my wedding photographs I am converting to black and white with some very pleasing results.

Modern DSLR cameras give you the opportunity of shooting in black and white so that you can see the image on the rear viewer of the camera as soon as you have taken it. More often however it is a case of shooting in colour and then converting your image to black and white afterwards. There are several ways of doing this in today's post production software but this would take much too long to explain in this article.

Roger Lever

Monday, 5 September 2016

David Moses - A Point of View

"Life on our planet has been a constant series of cataclysmic events, and we are more suitable for extinction than a trilobite or a reptile. So we will vanish. There's no doubt in my heart."
Werner Herzog

On the face of it, Herzog's assessment is a fairly pessimistic one. It implies that there is no meaning and that everything is ultimately pointless. But what really interests me about that perspective is how we respond to it. Do we wallow in our transience, or do we create meaning in it’s spite?

I was thinking about this on holiday, away from the bustle of street photography, with it's focus on people, the everyday, the routines. We were on a hillside in Wales, no people around so I was shooting in unfamiliar territory in every sense. But I realised that I could take my modus operandi and apply to this context too.

Whilst working, I always try to have a hook. Some way of approaching my photographs that offers me purpose and direction. It does not do to wander about aimlessly, just taking random pictures. Although to watch me at work, you might say that is exactly what I doing, in reality I am looking for scenes that offer me a certain feeling, that resonate in a particular way. This is really, really important because over time it will create repetition in your work. And repetition is meaning.

So I began to look for compositions that allowed the setting to impose itself on the viewer, vignettes that imply vulnerability in the face of external forces, of being shaped by our environment. I found that I could take those feelings away from street photography and apply them to these images (landscapes I suppose).

I also used another technique from street photography and shot from one place, working the scene. Each image in this little mini series was shot within 10ft of each other - about 50ft from the door of the cottage we stayed in. That’s an oft overlooked point - work the scene and come back often and shoot wherever you are. Try different times of day, different conditions, different directions, same location.

But most importantly, always shoot with a point of view.

David Moses