Soft, shadowless light has become the general direction that a lot of portrait photographers take, attaching fast lenses to their cameras, opening up the aperture as wide as their lenses will go, in order to blur everything behind the subject and I have been just as guilty of this technique myself.
I recently I watched Damien Lovegrove’s Lumen video that makes use of Godox Equipment and in particular, hard light. What really grabbed my attention apart from his images, was the limited amount of gear he used to produce images with so much impact, which got me thinking about embracing hard light, rather than steering clear of it.
I have been using Godox equipment with various softboxes and umbrellas for location shoots for just over three years now and although I am far from being a master of lighting, I am always looking to develop new skills and ideas in relation to lighting.
This weekend I decided to experiment with the Godox kit that I have and see what I could produce using hard light instead of using the light modifiers I normally use, so kindly Fran agreed to leaving her camera in her bag, so that I could experiment with hard light on her and stand around whilst I moved a light stand from one location to the next.
Godox AD200 with 5″ reflector
For much of the Lumen video, Damien uses 2 lights and two light stands, he does use a few lighting modifiers, but for the majority of the shoots that he walks through, he is using either 5” or 7” reflectors, so his kit is minimal. Apart from uniqueness of the hard-light images Damien produces, what really appeals to me is the simplicity and the reduction of the amount equipment he uses. Lighting modifier’s all have to be packed and carried to locations, so the idea of creating more edgy images with limited kit, is really appealing for numerous reasons. I also thought that learning to make use of hard light will also enable me to offer something different from my current equine work.
I am used to scouting out interesting backgrounds for horse portraits where I can make use of a shallow depth of field, but I decided to set myself a challenge, not to blur out backgrounds, so from the outset I would doing something different. Damien takes no longer than 10 minuets for the placement of his lights to create dramatic location portraits, which is down to a combination of his experience, knowledge and skills, but also his creativeness as a very talented photographer. However, it took me a little longer, “but hey, we all have to start somewhere in terms of learning”.
I think the first thing I experienced and learned is that the placement of your lighting with hard light is more critical than when I have used larger modifier’s and made use softer light. As I was not intending to blur the backgrounds, I thought I would try using different focal lengths and apertures to my normal 135mm to 200mm at f/2 to f/2.8, so the next thing I started noticing were textures and shadows, which I had up until experimenting with hard light overlooked.
There are numerous resources on the web that talk about soft and hard light, but when you start exploring and playing with soft and hard light, you start noticing many differences that you may have overlooked or even be aware of. By exploring and embracing the differences of hard and soft light, it is enabling me to further develop a better understanding of light and how it can be applied to create different types and styles of images. Playing with hard-light is rewarding and enjoyable no matter how many mistakes I make and I intend to keep practicing and learning.
Personally I think the Lumen video by Damien Lovegrove and his team provides more than just a look at how he creates images using hard light, it gets you to think about trying and doing things differently with light, and that’s what good education should do, inspire you to learn and try new things.
You can find out more about Damien Lovegrove and his training videos via the link below.
The power of Photoshop never ceases to amaze me as I continue to learn how to utilise it’s full potential. Over the years I have learned that a Lasso is not only associated with cowboys and that layers are not only associated with bricks, cakes, clothes and geology. However, I was completely in the dark when it came to Blend Modes, but we need to start at the beginning.
Layers were introduced into Photoshop a long time ago in version 3.0.1 and are definitely where the real magic of Photoshop happens and where most people start to learn and appreciate the power and creativity Photoshop can provide. Prior to Photoshop 4.0, you had to duplicate the original image first, in order to preserve the file if you wanted to edit non-destructively, but with the introduction of Adjustment Layers things have and continue to evolve.
Adjustment Layers have now become a key part of most photographer’s workflow and provide a way to edit non-destructively. When you add a new Adjustment Layer, it automatically adds a white Layer Mask (white reveals and black conceals)
I will be uploading a beginner’s guide video to Layers and masks with some other editing tips, but in relation to my own continuing Photoshop learning journey, I am currently on a Blend Modes curve. What Are Blending Modes? A Definition A Blending Mode simply tells two layers how to work together to create a combined image. Photoshop will check any overlapping pixels between those two layers and then, depending on the blending mode you’ve chosen, decide how those pixels will blend. I am no expert and am still learning myself, but have at least started to identify which of the blend modes work for me and what they do. PDF download link coming soon, that will provide a description of each of the blend modes and what they do which I think will help others starting out.
Why are Woodlands so Special For Horse Portrait Photography?
The natural ancient woodlands we see today have been shaped by human history for hundreds of years. However, today the only truly wild woodlands that remain are inaccessible pockets in steep ravines, on cliffs or on some wooded islands.
Only 1.2 % of semi-natural ancient woodland is accessible in the UK, which makes our woodlands very special places and a resource that we should take care of. Woodlands provide unique and aesthetic backdrops for horse portrait photography and depending on the seasons, they offer translucent greens, yellows, oranges and browns adding a rich splash of colour and texture to any photograph.
Over the last four years I have visited numerous woodlands looking at there unique qualities and potential for horse portraits. Of the woodland areas I use, each have their own character and some provide great hacking opportunities. if you are considering a horse portrait and would like guidance on some of the most beautiful and photogenic woodland locations in Yorkshire, drop me an email and I will send you a guide and of maps of the locations I use.
After presenting and promoting off camera flash at a few camera clubs, I was contacted to ask if I did any, one to one training, or off camera flash workshops.
Although I use flash for my horse portraits, running a workshop with a horse as the main subject would be difficult logistically, so I started thinking about what would be a little different subject wise for an off-camera workshop.
I have photographed Red Squirrels with flash numerous times, so I thought they would make an interesting subject, so I started working on a few ideas and some promotional ideas for the website.
I had met Andrea very briefly at Halifax Photographic Society whilst presenting the Lighting The Way Workshop (Off Camera Flash) but unfortunaly I was unable to get Andrea’s Canon 4000D to fire with the Godox Triggers I had, or with any other third part triggers at the club, so when Andrea contacted me about the Red Squirrel Workshop, my first thoughts were, why did the triggers not work on her Canon camera, but other people’s Canons?
I soon learned that the triggering issues with some newer Canon cameras is the discussion on various forums and I found out that Godox had released a new firmware to overcome the centre pin issues, so I was confident that the problem was sorted, but as I did not own a Canon 4000D, I would have to wait to see if Andrea got back to me to make a booking.
Andrea contacted me again about a week later and made a booking for herself and her daughter Em. As a backup plan I took my camera along, so Andrea would at least be able to learn how to use off camera flash in the event of the trigger not working with the Canon 4000D and Andrea was happy with this.
Arriving high up next to the stacked logs and wandering sheep, we left the cars and started walking down to the woods, Andrea and Em started telling me about their interest in photography and nature and that Em had won a few photography competitions. I also learned that they had never been to this location before, so it was there first time.
I helped both of them setup their cameras up into manual mode, showed them how to change the, ISO, WB and then gave them both a trigger and explained how to use them.
My original idea was to provide them each with one light which would be on different channels and ID’s and then introduce a second light as they progressed. However, it soon became apparent that they were both really enjoying photographing the squirrels and so my planned intentions, were becoming undone.
I asked if they would like me to set both lights and triggers to match each other, that way they could still take advantage of the flash, but photograph the squirrels as they moved from one stump to the other, Em was a little more trigger happy than her mum, but they shared the lighting well and as the lights were at 16th power, they were recharging very quickly anyway. From the images I saw on the back of the cameras, I think they took some good images and they learned how to turn the power of the light up and down in relation to the ambient light, so they did learn the basics.
I decided to write this reflective blog to remind myself, that learning anything should be flexible in order to make it enjoyable. On reflection did Andrea and Em learn how to use off camera flash the way I had planned? Did they enjoy the experience and learn something new?
I think the important reflective point, is they were able to photograph Red Squirrels using flash and they enjoyed it. Reflecting on learning is an important part, but sometimes we need to reflect on the all aspects not just the main core that was intended.
Red Squirrel Taken with No Flash during the Workshop
Here Are Some Red Squirrel Images Using Off Camera Flash Of My Own Taken Last Year.
Regardless of your interest or skill level of photography Adobe Photoshop has become the most well known name of software as a graphics editor.
Photoshop was developed and published by Adobe Inc. for Windows and macOS and was originally created in 1988, by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, the software has become the industry standard for graphics editing and digital art as a whole and we often take the creative power of Photoshop for granted these days.
In celebration of Photoshop’s birthday, Adobe has released many new features in Photoshop and made improvements too. So what is worth exploring?
Enhanced Content-Aware Fill In this release of Photoshop, you can now iteratively fill multiple areas of an image without having to leave the Content-Aware Fill workspace window. After you get the desired fill result for a selection in your image, click the new Apply button in the lower-right corner to commit fill changes and keep the workspace window open. After applying the fill, use Lasso Tool or Polygonal Lasso Tool within the Content-Aware Fill workspace to make another selection to fill.
Improved Lens Blur Quality The new Lens Blur alogorithm now uses your computer’s graphics card (GPU) to generate blurrier edges on objects that are in front of the focal plane, a more realistic bokeh look, correct color handling for CMYK and LAB color modes, and more colorful specular highlights in your photos.
Enhanced Transform Warp With more control in the Warp tool, you can add control points anywhere or divide your image with a customizable grid. Then transform by individual nodes or a larger selection.
Object Selection tool Create fast and precise selections by drawing a simple rectangle or lasso around an object. Then let Adobe Sensei do the rest.
Performance Improvements Photoshop’s user interface is now more responsive to your mouse and stylus movements. You’ll notice smoother panning and zooming in your documents. With increased responsiveness to your inputs, you’ll also notice improvements in many other UI interactions, especially where painting or dragging actions are involved.
Before I became interested in photography, If someone had have asked me about Location Scouting, my initial though would have been related to the process of film making, but as a result of offering horse portraits as a photographer, I have found myself often looking for suitable locations, scouting old railway tracks, hidden Bluebell woodlands and rustic tracks.
One of the many hurdles in relation to finding good Horse portrait photography locations apart from the need for great landscape aesthetics, is suitable access which is also key, if the access is not suitable people cannot transport their horses and many great locations just cannot be used which can be frustrating.
Although I use portable lighting, equipment wise, C Stands are still vital in terms of safety, especially when booming lighting. Up until recently, the locations that have found to be most suitable have been, Skipwith Common, Parlington Lane, Old Coach Road and Howell Woods, but I’m constantly seeking out new locations and ideas.
One of the first locations I ever used was Brodsworth Country Park and I discovered that by walking along the Roman Road towards Highfields, was there was a great little track for autumn Horse Portrait Photography. Although I have been back and used this location twice, access is problematic and it seems to have become the playground for off road motor bikes and they use the old railway network to ride up and down, so sadly, this location is not so good at weekends.
There is a bridleway that runs past Wortley Hall (The Timberland Trail) that looks promising, as the bridleway has lots of potential for varied Equine Portrait Photography location shoots, from open fields, together with undulating tracks with a few tree clusters, there is good parking access too, so I am looking forward to shooting here in 2020 as I have not used this location so far.
Recently Fran & I went out into south Yorkshire on a Horse Portrait location scouting expedition and despite it being a damp and wet December day, we discovered a stunning place location wise, it is without a doubt the best location for equine portrait photography that we have found to date, so roll on spring 2020. I will then be able post a few horse portrait photographs examples once we have used it.
Know of any potential locations for horse portrait photography shoots or would like any questions you may have answered? I would love to hear about locations, or if you would you like to get involved with a spring collaborative shoot in south Yorkshire send us an email and we will keep you informed as to when and where we will be shooting.