Monday, 17 April 2017

Kim Ayres – Using your camera for video

Most cameras these days have extremely good video capability. But creating bad videos seems to be even easier than creating bad photos. It’s not just poor lighting and out-of-focus images you have to deal with, but movement that can make you feel seasick too!

But don't let this put you off. If you tap into your photographic skills, then you can have quite a bit of fun with video too.

There are 2 different ways to film with video – one is to follow the action with the camera, while the other is to keep the camera still and allow the action to happen in front of it.

It’s this second style that suits photographers particularly well. If you compose the frame as you would with a photo – paying attention to light and composition – then anything that happens within the frame has a good chance of looking OK.

You can also use Photoshop for basic film editing, and it has the advantage that you can apply a lot of the effects, such as manipulating the colours and contrast too. Do it right and it almost becomes moving photography.

But before you decide to create your own epic 3 hour film, it's a good idea to start with something short to try things out.

My friend, the poet David Mark Williams, was bringing out a book, so we decided to do a series of short (around 1½ minutes long) videos of him performing his poems to camera.

With "The Solace of Cupboards" we did a very simple setup with the camera on a tripod, Mark (as he’s known to his friends) against a black backdrop, and a single light, which he clicked on at the start and off at the end to hint at the idea he might be in a cupboard. And in the editing, I converted it to black and white and darkened down the shadows until only the highlights remained

"The Devil’s School of Motoring" required us to leave the confines of the studio into the cramped conditions of the car. However, by using a wide-angle lens, and Mark leaning into the camera, it created a very claustrophobic atmosphere, which was ideal for the sense of discomfort you might have if the devil himself was your driving instructor.

Getting ever more ambitious, for "I Don’t Know The Address" we roped in Mark’s wife, Val, to drive us around the town while we did the shoot. And this time I filmed him performing it from 3 different angles to edit together aftewards. I might have done a 4th, but unfortunately bouncing around in the car while constantly looking through a camera lens made me feel car sick, so we cut our losses rather than make a mess of their car.

The point of this post is to encourage you to get creative with your camera in other ways. If you know how to light and compose an image, then you can use these skills for video too.

And if you need a subject to experiment on then local bands, who are always skint, will be delighted if you can help them create a video for their music.

Or find yourself a poet…

Kim Ayres

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tom Langlands - Small But Beautiful


The wren is not the smallest British bird. That definition goes to the even more diminutive goldcrest. However the wren along with the goldcrest present interesting challenges for the photographer. Apart from being very small they are also quite flighty and tend not to sit for long in the same place.



This is a great time of year to photograph either of these species as they tend to be quite active hopping about hedgerows and in the case of the wren foraging in the reed-beds at the edges of ponds.


As spring moves into summer their habitats tend to get more overgrown making it harder to find them and even harder to get those nice clean shots with uncluttered backgrounds.


For its size the wren has a remarkably loud call that makes it easier to locate.


With both of these species patience is the name of the game and it takes good fieldcraft and lots time and patience to locate the right environment, find spots where the birds appear reasonably regularly and wait for that combination of the right light and the right pose.


When it all comes together I find it hugely rewarding to get shots of these very small and very active little birds that are such a lovely and important part of our natural world.


Tom Langlands

Monday, 3 April 2017

Roger Lever - An Hour in the Woods

What a difference a good spell of weather can make!
Location. Culrain, Sutherland.

The woodland behind the cottage was made up mostly of Scots Pine, Larch, and Silver birch. In March none of these trees have yet come into leaf. This allows plenty of light into the wood itself through the canopy. At 6.30 in the morning the sun had not risen but the sky was clear and a gentle frost hung on the ground.

Rosie our dog trotted along in front of us sniffing the scents of wild animals and vegetation. We both spotted the red deer hind at the same time.

Rosie made a brief dart in its direction but it was soon lost in the denseness of the woodland and we all continued our stroll up the path towards the small lochan about a quarter of a mile through the trees further up the hillside. Before we got there the sun had risen its rays illuminating small trees

Patches of mossy earth and the old mans beard (Osnea) dangling from the branches of the old birch trees. Osnea is a lichen which often grows on sick or dying trees. It is very sensitive to air pollution especially sulphur dioxide. Where the air is unpolluted they can grow up to 20cm long as I saw in the trees on the lower reaches of Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago. This lichen also has medicinal properties as an antibiotic and is used as a dye producing various shades of orange, green and blue.

When we reached the lochan the far side was lit by the morning sun and there were geese and ducks in pairs skirting around a little island at the far side.

A frog was swimming breaststroke along the waters edge in front of us and came to rest on a small rock not far away.

It created gentle ripples that extended way out to the island and not seeming to lose any of their original momentum until it got there. This created small gentle undulating wavelets with reflections of the loch side trees creating an upside down abstract impressionistic painting in the water.

After lingering a while on the bank watching the ducks come and go and the odd heron flying by we made our way down the steep path next to the burn. An isolated little primrose had just come into flower

the surface of the rough water glistened as it plummeted down the hillside burn. The waterfall forming masses of bubbles on its tortuous path between the rocks.

Then just a gentle walk home listening to the birds and watching the suns rays illuminating the trunks and branches of the trees before tucking in to a hearty breakfast.

Roger Lever