“Blaaaa”, Pritzerbe, Germany

Before heading off to Germany for a week (I’m going to Elgersburg, near Ilmenau), let me post an image that I took last year, also in Germany.

A bunch of friends from uni got together and we went on a small canoe tour on the river Havel, photos here. While readying our canoe on the pontoon where we left, I notice this super old ship just rusting and pretty much dying away, a great photo opportunity.

The shot presented here is a detail in the ship’s hull planking. Having cropped it a bit, I gave Matt Kloskowski’s cross-processing LightRoom preset a got, and I think it works great. This was inspired by an episode of the lovely Photowalkthrough podcast, in which John Arnold showed a cross processing technique for Photoshop, applying it to a similar “nautical detail”.

Funnily enough, the hose coming out of the hole now almost looks like a tongue stuck out of it, hence the title ;-)

Focal length55 mm (≈82 mm)
Exposure1/100 s
LensCarl Zeiss 16-80
LocationPritzerbe, Germany

I [Heart] You

I ♥ You! Maynooth, 2009

Let me tell you a little story: The story behind my latest photographic “creation”.

I was pondering for two weeks about another photo-assignment, this time on the topic hart (as in, the German word for “hard”). After a while I came up with Hässlich Aber Richtig Teuer, which means “ugly, but really expensive”. I was thus looking for an object (or subject even…) that would fit this description, like an u.b.r.e. piece of jewellery, an u.b.r.e. car, or whatnot — but unfortunately I didn’t come across anything fitting this tagline, and the assignment’s deadline was approaching fast.

At some stage I remembered this Boing Boing post, more specifically it’s title: “Man in ‘I [Heart] My Marriage’ t-shirt arrested for domestic battery”. Bingo. “Heart” is a beautiful homonym of “hart”, so there we go.

Next up: How to render “heart” in a photo. Well, many people (including myself) sometimes end up expressing their affection towards someone using “I ♥ You”, so that’s it. Finally. Here’s my image.

Tuesday then I set up my camera with a long cable release (that I operated with my toe), some flashes and a black background and went ahead for a series of silly self-portraits, the end result of which you see above.

I think this is another nice example how photographic assignments can really fuel your creativity (or weird associations).

Focal length50 mm
Exposure1/250 s
LensCarl Zeiss 24-70/2.8
LocationMaynooth, Ireland

Unexpected stock

Picture used for <i>RUHR.2010 European Capital of Culture</i> publications, Stuttgart, Germany, 2008

Today’s photo has been taken at a Poetry Slam in Stuttgart, just over a year ago. I was visiting Steffi (who was doing her internship at the time) and we had decided to go to one of the slams in the Rosenau which that hosts them regularly. I took a few pictures at the event, all excited to test my Minolta 100mm ƒ/2.8 macro as well as the KonicaMinolta 28–75mm ƒ/2.8, both of which I had just bought on eBay and gotten them delivered to Steffi to save on the shipping.

When I got back, I processed the pictures and posted them, as usual, on my flickr account. I also sent the artists (that had performed on the night) links to their pictures — to make them aware of the fact that I posted them (in case they mind), and maybe to sell them. In the end, I didn’t sell any, but offered them for free to the project, as it turned out to be non-profit (which I didn’t know at first). They were glad to be able to use some of the photos for their websites and other promotions. As a small thank you, I got a few free tickets.

However, the best bit was that one of the more “stock” like pictures was used in a number of print publications for RUHR.2010 European Capital of Culture events as well as on their website. This was the first time one of my photos was published — and I was all to happy to “license” the picture to this non-profit organisation. I would never have thought it when I first took the picture, so watch out, maybe one day you’ll get an email with people kindly asking permission to use one of your snaps…

Focal length75 mm (≈112 mm)
Exposure1/60 s
LensMinolta 28-75/2.8
LocationStuttgart, Germany

Sugar Loaf

Hiking to the “Great Sugar Loaf”, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, 2009

Last Sunday a bunch of colleagues and Steff&I went on a little hike to the “Great Sugar Loaf“. It is (by orders of magnitude) less impressive than the real deal, but it makes for a very nice hike (provided it’s a nice day ;-)).

After a bit of random walking and not really finding where the track started we finally were ready for the ascend. Up there, we were really surprised to find hordes of people going for the summit, and quite a few of them rather not suitably dressed for the tast… But they were lucky and the weather played along nicely.

So on the way up I took this spontaneous photo of Łukasz’s girl friend Christina. Apart from the strong flare in the bottom left (I still had my polariser on when I took this shot) a pretty nice photo, except that it was completely overexposed. I’ve recovered as much as I could from the RAW file, but large parts of the sky are still blown out. Also, as a result, all the dark tones were way to bright and looked rather washed out. However, photos like that don’t have to be lost — just increase the black level until the dark tones are back dark again. You will then get a nice high-key type of picture with tons of contrast and nobody will complain about blown out skies ;-)

PS: My photos from the hike can be seen here.

Focal length24 mm
Exposure1/100 s
LensCarl Zeiss 24-70/2.8
LocationKilmacanoge, Ireland

Old Folks

Old folks in JJ Smyth's Pub, Dublin, 2007

Here’s one of my earlier photos, after I had gotten my first DSLR.

I shot this photo (secretly) in one of my favourite pubs in Dublin, the JJ Smyth’s. Its upstairs part is fairly famous, being one of the main Jazz locations in the city; there are small gigs almost every day, and every now an then someone famous plays there too. On the street level, however, it’s just “normal”, pub — but a very nice and original one at that (i.e. with pretty much no tourists). Usually, you can see some pretty cool, funky old folks hanging out there, downing pints of dark stout at a rate I could never keep up with (or afford, for that matter)…

In any case, it was a very dark situation, so I had put on my brightest lens, a 50mm ƒ/1.4 and set the camera’s ISO setting to the highest possible value (1600) — this gave me a 1/40s of a second (which is still “handholdable”, thanks to the stabilised sensor). However, at the time, Sony was with their Alpha 100 even worse when it came to noise at high ISO values than they are today, so the picture had some really brutal noise in it.

So here comes the cheap solution: Try converting your picture to black and white. Depending on your camera, the noise may then look rather natural and pleasing — adding to the “flair” of the pictures.

Focal length50 mm (≈75 mm)
Exposure1/40 s
LensMinolta 50/1.4
LocationDublin, Ireland

Your Morning

“Your Morning” assignment, Maynooth, 2008

The previous post inspired me to write about this picture here. (Eggs => breakfast => “Your Morning”, an assignment given pretty much exactly a year ago by the Digital Photography School Blog.)

It was shot, again, for an assigment. At the time I was still living in my dull student flat on campus, and my mornings — thanks to an boring elaborate routine were rather identical. My breakfast consisted of toast, Nutella® and cheap orange marmelade (thick cut!) plus a tea chosen at random from the set {peppermint, rose hip, chamomile, fennel}.

To capture my most exciting start-of-the-day, I grabbed the Peleng 8mm fisheye, set the camera (my Alpha 700 at the time, with it’s APS-C sized sensor) on a tripod and took a few timer-delayed shots of me holding the plate directly above it.

So I guess what makes this photo interesting (it actually won the assignment!) is the combination of unusual perspective (straight up) and the distortion caused by the fisheye lens. Using a handy desaturation trick I made the colours a bit colder / duller, with only a few colour accents left (the trick consists of desaturating the picture with the “Vibrancy” slider, not the “Saturation” slider in the CameraRaw module / LightRoom).

PS: I’m on a much healthier diet now that I don’t live alone anymore ;-)

Focal length8 mm (≈12 mm)
Exposure1/50 s
LensPeleng 8mm Fisheye
LocationMaynooth, Ireland


Photo taken for the HappyShooting assigment “weich”, Maynooth, 2009

Reminiscent of my strobist ambitions a while back here’s a photo I shot recently for the HappyShooting assigment “weich“.

The idea was to show a boiled egg dropping onto the ground and shedding its skin. So I boiled an egg, peeled it very carefully, arranged the skin and dropped the egg onto it. The overall set-up and making-of of the photo can be seen here.

In more detail: I chose an oven tray as “stage” in order to get a slight reflection (you know I like reflections); the egg was lit using a combination of flashes and some continuous light. The latter was meant to show a bit of motion blur, the former to freeze the picture and provide some clarity and sharpness. In hindsight, I should have had an even longer exposure time and a tad more continuous light in order to get a longer and more visible motion “trail”, but I was in a hurry and didn’t have too much time to fiddle around.

As background I used a black shirt of mine, and since all of the light was coming from the flashes I got this naturally black background, without any extra post-processing. In fact, there is zero PP in this picture — what you see here is the out-of-the-camera result!

Focal length100 mm
Exposure1/30 s + 3 flashes
LensMinolta 100/2.8 Macro
LocationMaynooth, Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day

Little girl watching the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Maynooth, 2009

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! If Google has a special logo for today, I should also make a special entry. For that reason, the rest of this post will be in green!

Having been to the Dublin St. Patrick’s parade twice (2007, 2008) I wasn’t too keen on going into town again this year. The problem is that the city is just too full, and you have to be at the parade track 9am at the latest to get a spot (the parade itself starts at 12…). Just catching the train is a pain. So I convinced Steffi that we should give the small parade here in Maynooth a go.

I was told that it would be “pathetic”, but to the contrary, it was pretty cool! This otherwise sleepy town does go beyond the university student population! The parade itself obviously was no comparison to the big one in Dublin, but it was a nice effort none the less by local clubs and businesses to put a few floats together.

However, the best part really was the people / families / kids, all dressed up in green and orange, faces painted, cheering and smiling from ear to year :-) What a great opportunity to take some great shots. Of course, always check back with the parents first if it is ok to take some photos of their little ones.

Anyways, I’m off to the pub — Happy St. Paddy’s everyone!

PS: Here are the photos from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Maynooth.

Focal length140 mm
Exposure1/500 s
LensSony 70-200/2.8
LocationMaynooth, Ireland

Event photos

“Remembering Rose”, Maynooth, 2009

Having taken the promotional shots for “Remembering Rose”, I also went to one of the performances to take some photos of the “action”.

In one word: Awesome. A really great play / script / performance altogether. I really hope this play has a “future” beyond three performances here in Maynooth. But I heard that they will be competing with it at some biggish theatre festival. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Photographywise — well, I already had a post about event photography, and there’s not too much to add here, apart from one thing: It always helps (if possible) to have someone next to you who can give you a “heads up” when there will be some sudden, unpredictable action. This way, you can prepare yourself (switch lens, dial in faster shutter speeds, etc.), prefocus and be ready for it. In my case, Steffi was next to me and gave me a few such clues (she knew the play as she had a small walk-on role in it), which really helped!

PS: Photos from the night here.

Focal length70 mm
Exposure1/80 s
LensCarl Zeiss 24-70/2.8
LocationMaynooth, Ireland

Remembering Rose

Promo shot for “Remembering Rose”, Maynooth, 2009

The drama society recently produced a play call “Remembering Rose”. Written by a student here at NUIM, it was one of the funniest pieces I’ve ever seen! I hope the script makes it beyond three performances here on campus.

Anyway, I offered them to make some promo shots and they gladly accepted. Here’s what came out of it.

So how did I do these photos? Well, the secret to a black backdrop is that you kill all light sources and just use flashes, but making sure that you only light the subject, not the back background (i.e. don’t put your subject in front of a wall). The set-up here was: 1 large softbox fairly close to the person, about 45° from the left, just above eye-level, and another flash with a reflector and honeycomb-filter (to direct the light) from behind to the right, about at hip-level, a fair bit off so it doesn’t fire into the camera.

But the biggest thing here for me was that it was my first proper photo shoot (if you don’t count the one with Andrea a few weeks back). These guys didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, I just bluntly promised them some nice photos (and I didn’t tell them it was my “first time” until afterwards). But it all turned out quite well, I think. The biggest lesson I learned (again) was that you really need to direct people. The more concrete, explicit and precise you are, the better. Being photographed by a stranger is in itself a fairly awkward situation, you’re not quite sure what’s going on, if you’re “doing it right”, and so on — so being told what to do reduces this insecurity as you can just focus on what you’re told to do. However, this can be challenging as you also have to think about all the technical as well as artistic issues… But the best way around this is: practice, practice, practice.

Focal length120 mm
Exposure1/250 s + 2x D-lite 2
LensSony 70-200/2.8
LocationMaynooth, Ireland