Moving up another Photography gear

At the beginning of June I had the opportuntity to undertake some one-on-one training with renowned Bjorn Thomassen in the beautiful Cornwall. 

My plan was to continue transferring my existing landscape photography skills to the world of portraiture and to continue to develop my own unique style and approach and set myself some new creative challenges. 

It was an intensive and thoroughly enjoyable long weekend. While everyone else was partying in the street and enjoying the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, we were hunting down mystical locations in the woods of Cornwall and working long hours in the studio to get the perfect picture. 

I'm thrilled with the results - though I haven't space to post them all here - but here's a little insight into how some of the shoots were created.

Concept: a young Goddess - floating above the clouds, over-seeing all that is on Earth

 setting up the studioMake up and costumefull set and lightinggetting in positionback-of-the-camera previewpicking the perfect take in Lightroom

The "out of the camera" shot in itself is rather lovely - but I had bigger ideas for the image. I wanted to give it an even more classical and ethereal look. This is the final image:

"Goddess of the Cosmos"This "crossover" between photography and painting is part of my personal style and part of the repertoire I can offer to clients, particularly those who want a timeless, classical and very high quality look. 

(Lots more at )


Not sure I could live without Twitter any more

If I ever needed reminding that the world of social media has introduced so many new opportunities to communicate and collaborate (and I don't need reminding) and make connections that never used to be possible, then monday was it. 

Three things happened. 

First, it was nice to wake up to a nice tweet from Dragonfli, who are the suppliers of our beepol lodge and beepol bumblebee colonies. They were very complimentary of the modifications I'd made to their lodge and tweeted that out to their followers, which has driven some extra visitors to our bumblebee project information - which obviously makes me happy. 

That's an amazing customised Beepol Lodge Nik!! Love the idea of temperature display as well!

Great to get such a ringing endorsement from the manufacturer. You never know, maybe they'll make the temperature display a standard feature? ☺

Next, I was contacted by the Richard at waspinator - this was a result of a couple of tweets in a combined conversation with Martha Kearney (radio 4 presenter) who keeps honey bees. She appeared on Simon Mayo's radio show in an interesting segment on beekeeping, and after when I checked her tweet stream I noticed she'd been in contact with waspinator due to some lack of success with the product at keeping wasps from hives.

I added to this thread, as we too had tried the waspinator but not managed to keep wasps from raiding our bumeblebee nest for precious honey at the end of the season, and Richard got in touch. Following some discussion with him, he gave some advice and offered to send us half-a-dozen waspinators to trial around the garden - to basically create a "ring of defence" around our bumblebee hive.

This is great news, as not only can we hopefully keep the wasps at bay this year, but we can also trial the waspinator in a bumblebee-inhabited environment and provide this data to the company and generally improve the understanding of how to use the product with bumblebee colonies.

Finally, I was honoured to be selected by The Tiffen Company to provide the cover photo for their facebook page. Tiffen is the leading movie and photographic effects accessory company and I use their software extensively as part of my workflow. The desktop software mimics their vast range of photographic filters and accessories and I love being able to take an "analogue" approach in the digital domain. This is the picture they chose:

A big thanks to Tiffen! 

So, all in all, busy day with my new found social media contacts. Not sure I could live without twitter anymore!

Focus On Imaging 2012

We had an excellent trip to Focus On Imaging (Wed 7th March), which is the UK's leading exhibition for the photography industry. Everyone who's everyone from camera manufacturers, album producers, frame makers, camera retailers, lighting companies, hosting companies, societies, awards bodies and so on is usually there. This year was no different and after the shock of Canon pulling out in 2011 they were back there this year showcasing the new EOS 5D mark III. There is also the usual array of seminars and tutorials for software and technique, and these are often very interesting.

 However, I actually completely avoided Canon's stand (didn't want to be tempted for a second time in as many months!) and I had some specific purchases in mind.

Focus is also a chance to meet up with fellow togs and I was delighted to meet up with some old colleagues/twitter friends and share a coffee and catch up with them. 

I got some great bargains, here's what I ended up:

  • A new top-end tripod, suited to the 5DmkII and for shooting video, with a pistol grip head and movement in about 11 dimensions! Saved about £100 on this. 
  • A Loweprowe "Flipside" camera bag (actually we got one each). Total bargain with about 50% off high street price - and it has room for oodles of gear and quick access without removing it from your waist. 
  • A set of two studio lights, stands and soft boxes (about 1250W total equivalent output) and carrying bag - these were a complete steal and a great way to get started experimenting with some indoor studio work.
  • An infra-red trigger system. This has yet to come in the post as they were out of stock at the show, but I am so excited about this. Again, it was much much cheaper than anything I have seen to date and actually supports IR, light and sound triggering (anyone fancy shooting a glass object?). I'm hoping (at first) to get some amazing bumblebee pictures with this kit! 

Once I get all this set up I will be able to post some pics, both of the gear and of the results... 

How I multiplied my Flickr traffic 20x times

It's no secret any longer that Adobe Lightroom has transformed my photographic workflow and I love the power it puts at my finger tips. It seems each week I'm discovering a new way to put it to use and take my photography to better levels, using automation to reduce the need to perform hours of mundane tasks. 

The latest trick has been to implement publishing to Flickr - but not only that to deliver upto 20x the traffic views for my photos that had been the norm before I started using Lightroom. 

Here's an image of some stats at the time of writing:

At the start of this graph (start of Jan) I did a little manual test to see what effect was caused, and this explains the rise to about 35 image views per day. However, after this you can see the natural tail as traffic drops back down to its organic level of about 4 or 5 views per day. 

The I implemented my lightroom meets flickr strategy and the traffic rose sharply. The peak on this chart is 100 views, representing about 20 times the traffic of my previous normal levels. That's one heck of a turn around. 

So, what's the secret? Well, there are two:

1) replace the standard Lightroom Flickr "publish" plugin with a much cleverer version written by Jeffrey Friedl. His plugins are awesome and by far the most full-featureed and flexible I've found. 

2) Use the plugin to submit your images to relevant photo groups on flickr. This is something you can configure the plugin to do automatically for you when you upload an image. By posting to interested and relevant groups your images will be exposed to a wider audience and generate more traffic. 

However, there are, of course, a couple of cautionary notes. The main one is that different groups have different rules and you have to adhere to them. This might include, for example, a limit of one picture upload per day. Lightroom won't count this for you - you need to just tracj this yourself. 

Also, you need to be relevant to the group - so if you are posting to a group which accepts sunsets, but with no people and with the sun below the horizon then you need to be sure that your automation is able to control this - i.e. that your metadata is sufficiently rich and granular. There's always going to be a fine line over how much is enough and how much is too much metadata: so pick your groups with this in mind. 

After setting all that up, publishing to Flickr is just a one click process, and hopefully you can see the results I have, or better! ☺