Portraits of a cow, a wicked witch, a fool and a dame

This can only mean one thing…

… Panto portraits!

Nice feather duster you have there in your hand sir! One of the pantomime cast posing for a portrait.

This was my third year of taking pictures on the evening of the full dress rehearsal for the Killigrew Drama Society (KiDS) pantomime, the Adventure in Pantoland by Alan P Frayn at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.

This year I wanted to take some portraits of the cast before they went on stage. Time was extremely tight on the night as everyone was so busy coming and going. I only had a couple of opportunities to capture anyone that was willing and able to have their portrait taken just before going on stage or just coming off.

I set up a small umbrella and a Speedlight in a room next to the stage. The background was poor no matter where I tried to do a setup. I decided the best plan of action was not to worry about the background at all. I would concentrate on taking the portrait and then I could remove the distracting background later in Photoshop, replace it for a more interesting one.

So, Aladdin was first, followed by Tommy the cat, then it was the turn of The Fool, Prince Charming, Snow White, a Villager and Fairy Honeysuckle. And these were just a few of the incredible characters appearing in this years pantomime.

Below is a rogues gallery of some of the incredible cast that performed in the pantomime. Click on an image to enlarge.

Each portrait took no more than between thirty seconds to a minute to take. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to take pictures of these actors in theire incredible makeup and costumes.

As you can see, this was the not so flattering background I had to work with.

Below is the image which replaced the boring backgrounds of the portraits. I had taken the picture earlier of a rather atmospheric stage shot with smoke lingering on the stage and backlit by the stage lighting.

There’s no smoke without a panto dame. This was the picture I took of the front stage just as they let rip with the dry ice machine and thought it would make for a good background to the individual portraits I was taking.

Below are three examples showing the before and after post-processing. Removing the distracting background and replacing it with the much more atmospheric smoke version makes a panto world of difference!


The 12 disguises of Christmas

I came up with the idea of creating this fun little stop-motion selfie for the 12 days of Christmas. I used what we had gathered over the years from the Christmas box and hey ho here we go – the 12 disguises of Christmas!

See you next year!

5 things that got me gingered up this December.

Oh my word, how did we get to December so quickly! The last month has zipped by with such speed it’s difficult be believe in less than a week it will be Christmas! With a hop, skip and a jump we will be fist footing into the new year where we reset the clock and start the whole thing all over again.

Below are a few things that grabbed my attention in the last month that you might find of interest too.

Merry Christmas and see you on the other side for Brexit (ooh, now that’s going to be fun). 

No.1 // Film – They Shall not grow Old – Peter Jackson

The Imperial War Museum and the BBC wanted to use their black and white film archives of the first world war to commemorate the centenary year of the Armistice. Peter Jackson took the original black and white film footage and turned it into a stunning visceral colour documentary – They Shall not grow Old.

. You can view a couple of clips on YouTube where Peter describes how they laboriously turned the black and white footage into colour. You really have to watch it to see what a stunning job they’ve done and then watch the incredible movie afterwards.   

  

No.2 // Adobe Photoshop action

If you subscribe to Adobe Create Magazine you can get your hands on a fabulous Photoshop action which turns photographs into drawings. From Photoshop artist Nuwan Panditha (BlackNull) comes the Scribble Artist Action Set exclusively to readers of Adobe Create magazine.

The action set applies pen strokes, colours, and background textures to photographs transforming them into unique, custom drawings. 

No.3 // Photographer – Alexey Titarenko

Alexey Titarenko was born in 1962 in Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) and has been taking pictures since he was nine years old. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he produced several series of photographs about the human condition of the Russian people during this time. To illustrate links between the present and the past, he created powerful metaphors by introducing long exposure and intentional camera movement into his amazing and atmospheric street photography. His St. Petersburg body of work from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. 

No.4 // pottery – Joe Smart & Emily Stephen

Jono Smart and Emily Stephen, are a Scottish based couple who live and work together in two studios on the top floor of a converted Victorian school in East Glasgow. Jono works as a potter and Emily as a woodturner. They open their website shop a number of times throughout the year but you better be quick as the work often sells out within just a few hours. Their work is stunning, simple, classic and elegant and if you want to buy any of their wares you better sign up to the newsletter to be one of the first to know when the next shop opens.

 

No.5 // Stationery – Present & Correct

Present & Correct has been around since 2009. As well as selling their own unique designs and stationery items, they also source and sell unique and vintage stationery items from around the globe. This is the sweat shop for stationery lovers.

How I create my holiday photo books

Overview

When creating a holiday photo book or any other photo book for that matter it really pays to think and plan in advance (and I’m talking, even before you go on holiday). This blog gives some key principles (in no particular order) I apply to new projects. At the bottom of the blog I have attached a pdf and a hires version of a workflow I use when working through a piece of work. Hopefully you can apply a few of these ideas and principles into your own future projects. 

Tell a story about the trip

First impressions count, so jot down your immediate thoughts on arrival! Then, as each day passes, note down what you got up to. By the time you get back home unless you’ve written all of this down you’re going to have a tough time remembering what you got up to and in the order you did it! 

  • Describe your: location (countryside or city) /accommodation/atmosphere/people/local area (modern or old)/weather/restaurants/food/bars/costs/beaches etc.
  • What was the local food like, best restaurant, was it reasonable or expensive, how much were taxis/hire cars, a glass of wine/beer? 
  • Did you do any activities or travel to other locations? Did you travel by car/bus/train/plane/boat?

Workflow

This is the workflow I use after I come back from holiday.

  • Create a folder in Lightroom naming it with the location visited, the month and year.
  • Download all images from cameras into the folder above.
  • Import all files into Lightroom.
  • Start the picture culling process. Be brave, be bold, there’s no room on the HD for all those second rate images – Reject all that don’t make the cut. Delete all over/under exposures, blurry/out of focus shots. Get rid of all the rubbish and if using bracketed/continuous shooting modes, pick the best one out the bunch. I do this three to five times on average until I whittle it down to about 10%-30% of the original import.
    I delete the rejects and save the rest in readiness for the book.
  • I think about the format of the book I want to create and then make the decision as to portrait or landscape and the physical size (page count doesn’t matter at this stage as it’s really easy to add or subtract pages as you layout the book).
  • I start editing pictures and then flowing them into the page layout. 
  • Type-up my journal I kept on holiday and decide whether to keep it in one section of spread it throughout the book.
  • Creating the map and infographic is next.
  • Organise book into sections if needed.
  • Once everything has been flowed into the book and I am happy with the layout I will go through captioning all images that require a description.
  • First proof stage. I create a pdf version of the book and print a hard copy. I then use this to markup any issues needing correction such as typos, spelling, layout and and further image editing requirements.
  • Make all corrections as marked upon first proof, create pdf, print off a hard copy and markup any additional amends. On average this could take anything between two to five times but it’s an essential part of the proofing process.  
  • Once the above is complete I am happy to proceed to print. I will choose the quantity, paper stock, and cover type before uploading online a hires pdf to Blurb’s website for them to print. I can then relax and start getting excited about receiving my very own unique holiday photo book.

Book sizes and finishes

There’s a diverse array of sizes and finishes to choose from. Think about:

  • Size: do you want to create a pocket book or coffee table book.
  • Orientation: portrait or landscape.
  • Cover: hardcover image wrap, hardcover dust jacket or soft cover. 
  • Paper type: lustre, matte, uncoated or pearle (this will not only affect how the images will look on the paper but it will also have a big impact on how the book will actually feel. We’re talking tactile, Personally, for me I love the look and feel of an uncoated paper.

Create a holiday map

Create a holiday map showing your location in relation to the local area/town/city or country visiting. You might want to include:

  • Location of the hotel.
  • Places of interest/visited.
  • Use a recurring theme of the area to incorporate into the map such as colours/typography/textures/architecture/shapes and plants.

Applications used to create photo book’s

  • Adobe Lightroom: for storing, editing and creating the photo book.
  • PhotoShop: for finer editing control over images, creating montages and other images that can’t be created in Lightroom.
  • Illustrator: for creating graphics for the infographic and maps.
  • Blurb: for producing photo books.

Create a holiday infographic

Creating an infographic is a great way to visually show, at a glance, key important information about your holiday. So we’re talking about:

  • Accommodation details and places visited.
  • Flight details: carrier, airports, dep/arrival times.
  • Cost details: flights, accommodation, and spending money.
  • Exchange rates.
  • Length of stay.
  • Equipment. Technology is cracking along at a pace! It’s interesting to look back over time and see what equipment you took on a trip and how it has evolved over time so make sure to include cameras and lenses.
  • The total number of pictures taken (it’s an eye opener to see the comparison between the number of pictures captured, compared to the keepers! 

Layout, theme, and flow

You can choose from template-driven layouts to get started or go all freestyle and created your own unique look. Incorporate the essence of your holiday in the form of colours and typography. Don’t forget how much of an impact the type of paper you print the book on will also have. Consider the following:

  • Fonts.
  • Colour.
  • Page numbers: Bottom or top centred/left or right, or middle of the page.
  • Page layout: Clean/creative/portfolio or travel inspired.
  • Use captions for pictures.
  • Write an overview of the holiday.
  • Create sections describing accommodation (inc bedroom, bathroom, living room, balcony, grounds) pool, local area, trips etc.

Equipment used

I used to travel with a DSLR, at least two lenses (a wide angle, 10-20mm and telephoto, 28-135mm), filters and all the usual accessories. I got so fed up of constantly changing lenses, equipment being too bulky, awkward and rather heavy to carry around with the other usual holiday essentials stash in my backpack. And finally I really didn’t want to take it out at night.

There’s no one camera or lens that does it all. The camera I chose to fulfill my particular travel photography needs was the Sony RX system. It’s so small, lightweight, the spec of the camera and quality of images are amazing. I also take a GoPro along for the same reason but with the added bonus of being waterproof and having an amazing wide angle lens!

  • Sony RX 100 IV.
  • GoPro Hero 6.
  • Gorilla Pod.
  • A6 notebook.

 

Below are six pictures showing some of my holiday photo book covers.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-29The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-38The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-22The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-6The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-16The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-5

 

The below three images show the different types of introductory text I have used to describe the overall holidays.

Below are examples of holiday maps and infographics from various holiday photo books.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-4The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-21The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-28The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-44

 

Below is a slideshow showing various spreads from different holiday books

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Below are pictures showing the different layouts of sections I have used for the various photo books. The sections range from Accommodation, location, tours, the pool to road trips.

 

Below are two hires images detailing my workflow process. You can also download a free pdf which describes and shows you the creative process I go through when creating a holiday photo book.

S121_How to create a holiday photo book

 

 

Quotes that got me thinking No.16

The Shortbread Shed-movement

“A blurry photo communicates feeling
in a language that perfection never will.”

Yan Palmer

Moving still – Cinemagraph experimentation

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been really trying to create and make better Cinemagraphs, some examples of which you can view below.

The main takeaway from my experimentation are three-fold –
1. looking for opportunities 
2. planning
3. using a tripod

Looking for opportunities

I’ve been much more focused at looking for more opportunities to create video for use in Cinemagraphs. When I’m out and about – walking, driving in a car or commuting on a train, I’m looking for opportunities that might make a good image. If I don’t have a camera with me, I’ll take a mental note of the situation and location for future projects and then make a point to return to take the footage. Alternatively, I may come up with a concept or idea at home and when I’m out and about I’ll be looking at places where I could execute my idea.

Planning

Planning saves a lot of time and helps to alleviate some of the stress in capturing the footage. The more you plan the better and smoother the shoot should go! So, the things I look out for or will be thinking about before the shoot will be some of the following: best time of day to take the footage (busy or quiet), lighting (night, day or artificial) what camera to take (DSLR, GoPro or point and shoot), What’s the subject matter (people, machinery, wildlife etc), angle (above, below, sideways, wide of zoom angle).

Using a tripod

I have realised this is critical to successful shots! I have tried on numerous occasions and thought I would get away with handholding a camera. I would always be convinced I was not moving, not shaking and not breathing to avoid as little shake and movement as possible. When I got back home and downloaded the footage it was immediately apparent just how much movement there was. Unfortunately, in most circumstances the footage was no use and I couldn’t use it. So now I don’t bother to hand hold and hope for the best. I always take a tripod with me or if I’m tight on space and need something a bit smaller and lighter I’ll take my Gorilla Pod with me which has become invaluable.

I’m off on holiday in the next few weeks and looking forward to having the opportunity to capture some unique footage to allow me to create some more exciting Cinemagraphs.

I hope you like the ones below and don’t forget your tripod!

Mum takes eight-year-old boy to war… and he loves it!

No, not a real war. I’m talking about the Warrior Adrenaline Race (WAR) held recently at Woodhall Estate, just three miles north of Hertford.

 

The shortbread shed - WAR Race 2-5520

WAR is a unique obstacle challenge course, set over 5K, 10K and 20K, featuring slides, tunnels, rope climbs, water and mud – lots of mud!

My wife has taken part in these races for a few years now and thought our son might like to have a go since he was now at the right age to participate.

He was up for the challenge, and so the both of them entered the 5K Family race. On a glorious Saturday morning in the middle of a large field the two of them got into they’re running gear, applied the cammo face paint and went off to WAR!

The shortbread shed - WAR Race-5264

I on the other hand had a camera in one hand and a rather heavy backpack on my shoulders. I was going to try and follow them as best I could around the meandering course without a map to navigate the route and a lot of my own obstacles to overcome.

The shortbread shed - WAR Race-5250

I managed to keep up and track them down for about a quarter of the course and got some great action shots of them attacking the obstacles on the way.

The shortbread shed - WAR Race-5625The shortbread shed - WAR Race-5622

Both of them managed to complete the 5K in a very respectable time and want to sign up again for the September WAR games – this time with daddy!

The shortbread shed - WAR Race-5439

So it looks like I’ll be putting down my heavy guns for the more agile GoPro, dawning some running gear, applying the cammo face paint and head on into combat with the family in September – watch this space.

 

Camera gear:
Canon EOS 5d Mark IV
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens