Photography course: Day 6

This is a delayed post for the sixth day of my photography class. I’ve had a lot of things on my plate lately that there just hasn’t been time enough to type this up and post it. However, I want to type this up before completely forgetting about the session so here it is. The topic for this particular night is people photography.

The lecturer started the session with a challenge for us to be photo heroes. By this he meant that we should capture an image that the subject would be proud to show off and would show the subject’s personality and zest for life. The question is how we could achieve this. He suggested that we look at books for inspiration to start off with and try to achieve something similar to what we like.

He then went into giving us tips on how to take photos indoors with soft natural light coming in from windows, shooting in the shade outdoors and how to meter when the subject’s face has light and shadows. He also mentioned using a large aperture to throw distracting elements in the background.

Next, he stressed that subjects should be at ease and that the photographer should gain the subject’s trust. He suggested talking to the subject and telling them what you as the photographer want to achieve. This might include deciding what goes in the photo, what the subject should wear and how they would pose. However, he also stressed that the photographer should be mindful not to invade the subject’s personal space. He also mentioned that we should get our act together technically because models would quickly lose interest if they see that the photographer isn’t ready for the shoot.

Next, the instructor delved into how to take group photos at a party. He said that the usual tendency of lining up people against a wall is a big no-no because the flash would bounce off the wall and you’d end up with a horrendous photo. Instead, he suggested that the photographer be the one standing against the wall to get rid of the big shadows around the subjects. Another tip is that a blend of existing light and flash work best and that apertures should be wide open to let as much light in. He also showed examples of bounced flash and how it could put dark shadows under subjects’ eyes.

As well, he showed the class some samples of his work. He also touched on framing the subject diagonally instead of the usual vertical format. Cropping could also make a huge difference and re-enforces his mantra of focusing on the subject and not wasting space.

Lastly, the lecturer suggested that sometimes a simple change in the photographer’s point of view could make a huge difference in a photo. He said that we should take as much photos as we could but stop when we feel that the models are becoming tired. Again, this emphasises the major role of communication and putting your model at ease. As he kept saying, if you’re model’s uncomfortable, it will show!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 7

Click here to view photo album

We had our final photography workshop yesterday at Melbourne Uni. The first exercise called for architecture shots around the square and we were only given 45 minutes to complete the task. The course coordinator explained that learning to shoot on a limited time frame would also be good exercise in preparation for times when we need to join a tour group where stops are scheduled.

Aside from the architecture shots, we were also required to make a self-portrait, one that made me go, uh-oh, mainly because I wasn’t carrying a tripod with me. Even if the point of the exercise was for us to learn how to use the timers on our camera, I still had the problem of where to put my camera while taking the said self-portrait. To see what I dreamed up, please see the photo album above. Even though the focus was off, I was a quite happy with the first shot.

Since the previous lectures leading up to the workshop were about composition and people photography, we had our group portrait taken by the club member who’s known for his work in portraits. He took the photos from a balcony and had us in a rough circle below looking up at him. The course coordinator explained that this trick works because it’s easy to organise, relative heights of the subjects don’t matter as much and is flattering (mostly to avoid double chins).

After that, we practised taking solo portraits and were mentored by another club member who works in fashion photography. He had the model standing casually against a wall with plenty of light coming in through the arches along a hallway and he discussed how pointing the flash either to the left or right when taking the shot vertically affects the resulting photograph. He also mentioned that we need to talk to the model and make her/him feel at ease. We took turns taking the model’s photograph. When my turn came, it was then that it dawned on me that not only do I have to make the model comfortable, I would have to be comfortable with the situation as well, which I wasn’t. Anyway, the model was gracious enough to let me take her photo twice and I thought they turned out well. However, I don’t think I would like to do a lot of portrait photography after that, specially on total strangers. I’m just too awkward with it and art direction’s not my strongest suit either.

The session was fun overall and I learned a lot by taking the advice of several club members and being able to try the advice straight away.

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 5

Before we started our first class for our photography course, the course coordinator had us fill out a survey which included questions about the main reason we decided to attend the course. Last week, the coordinator told us that a big portion of the class chose the usual answer of wanting to find out how to work a new camera and improve personal snapshots but a huge majority said they wanted to learn more about the art of photography. So with that introduction, the coordinator eased us on to the topic for that night, composition.

I have to admit I didn’t think the class would last the full one and half hours just talking about how to compose a photo but the time just flew by. The lecturer talked about elements in composition like lines, shapes, colour, size and perspective and how they could be used to improve a photo. He also mentioned how to be aware of how warm colours advance and catch a viewer’s attention first and contrasted it with how cool colours recede.

However, the best part of this lecture was when the instructor showed us examples of famous photos and asked us to think about why the composition works. The examples included David Moore’s Migrants arriving in Sydney and Sisters of Charity, Max Dupain’s The Sunbather, a work by Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare and Hyeres, Arnold Newman’s portrait of Igor Stravinsky and finally Dorothy Lange’s Migrant Mother. The instructor drew our attention to the use of triangles in Migrants arriving in Sydney, The Sunbather and Igor Stravinsky’s portrait, the implied diagonal line in Sisters of Charity, spirals in Hyeres and the rule of thirds in Migrant Mother. As well, the instructor stressed how we should make use of the rules of good composition and then break them. To support the breaking the rules bit, he also showed us a couple of photos which broke the rules but still worked.

Before ending the class, the instructor explained that because most people read from left to right, we also have the tendency to look at a photo from left to right. With this in mind, he showed us how horizontally flipping the picture could affect a viewer’s perception.

Wrapping up, he said that we should study successful photographs and figure out why it worked. He recommended the books below before wrapping up one of the best lectures in the course so far.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: day 4

Click here to view photo album

When I woke up last Sunday, it was raining and gloomy outside so I considered not showing up for our scheduled outdoor photography workshop at the Treasury Gardens. I don’t like shooting in the rain and since it’s supposed to be about shooting outdoors, there really isn’t any point huddling under cover is there?

Hubby won’t have any of it though, he thought I would be missing out on a great opportunity if I don’t go. So I went and was glad I did. The rained stopped just as we were being handed the list of the exercise photos we were supposed to take.

The exercises involved taking photos of a single person standing up, then sitting down then filling up the whole frame with just the subject’s face. Next is to take the same sort of photos with two people in the picture, then again with a statue. We were also asked to take photos of flowers and Cook’s cottage using a big then small aperture. I took some of the required photos and then some. My favourite part of the workshop though were the extra exercises not on the list like practising panning, taking portraits with rim lighting and using environmental objects as reflectors (i.e. putting your subject beside a white wall).

We finished just before noon and it was good timing too as the skies darkened once again.

Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still life, take 2

Click here to view photo album

My work mate liked my photos of the worker statues yesterday that she asked me to bring my camera with me today. We went out together at lunch time and took another go at shooting the statues with our own cameras then swapped cameras. Here are my own shots using my Nikon D40x.

Published in: on August 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still life


A work mate brought her Canon 400D today and I had a bit of a play with it. Most of the photos I took were fuzzy, dark and had the focus on the wrong thing. It was a bit frustrating because I wanted to test the lens, a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is supposed to be tack-sharp and allows heaps of light. I guess it goes to show that a good understanding of how your camera works is the foundation of taking good photos.

Anyway, these are the best of the batch and I loved the depth of field on these. It’s a bit of a cliche but I just couldn’t resist taking photos of these businessmen statues!


Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  

Photography course: Day 3

The word photography came from the combination of the Greek word phos (meaning light) and graphis (meaning stylus or paintbrush) to form a word that means drawing with light. This highlights the importance of light in this kind of art, because without light, we could not see anything nor the camera be able to capture a photograph.

Last night’s lecture about light and lighting was the one I’ve anticipated the most because I want to be able to use available light properly, introduce artificial ones if necessary and use it to create mood, texture and drama. The class started with the theory of light, how light has different colour casts and how it affects the photographs we take. The instructor also mentioned the importance of paying attention to the quality of the light (hard versus soft light), size of the light and the direction from which it is coming from.

The lecturer specialises in portrait photography and it’s obvious from his body of work that he’s a skilled photographer. Unfortunately, the lecture started on a lot of concepts about light which didn’t seem to be connected to photography. After about the fourth or fifth slide about light theory, one of the class participants asked exactly what the theories had to do with photography. The instructor replied that he just wanted to emphasise how light works and not jump into light in photography without an explanation of how light might affect a photograph. However, his first few slides were quite wordy and practical examples didn’t come until later into the session. By then, I think some of the attendees were too confused or disinterested. I think his lecture would have been better served with more examples at the beginning of the session, a little less theory and perhaps a more practical live demonstration.

That is not to say though that the lecture wasn’t useful because it was. I loved the bit when he showed examples of his work and had the class guess the quality, size and direction of the light and I thought there should have been more of that. He also showed some photographs where the lighting wasn’t the best and how he worked around it or used reflectors and a flash pointed at an angle to remedy the problem.

One photograph he showed as an example was of a lady wearing a white top and black skirt standing against a black background. The light source was to the lady’s right and it wasn’t a particularly big light (if I remember correctly). The photograph came out flat and because her skirt blended with the black background, it looked like her top and therefore her torso was floating in space. In the comparison photo, a reflector was used and placed on the other side of the light source. The light gave the figure a third dimension and picked up some detail in her skirt and showed texture and the end photo came out heaps better than the first.

The lecture ended a bit over time but I stayed back a bit to flick through the lecturer’s album of photographic works. If there’s one thing I learned from the session, it’s that paying attention to the light and how it hits the subject makes or breaks a photo. Whoever coined the term photography really had hit the nail on the head, it literally is all about painting with light.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 2

The weather yesterday was freezing and it took all my willpower to get out of bed earlier than usual. All I wanted was to curl up in bed and stay warm under the quilt. However, it was the second day of my photography course and the first workshop session. I certainly cannot miss that despite the rain and the winter chill outside.

I expected the workshop to be a full hands-on, practical session but it turned out to be a lecture with a 15-minute break for an opportunity to take a few photos outside to support what has been discussed. The lecture revolved around the auto-focusing system of most cameras, how it gets it right most of the time and what to do when it fails on difficult situations like contrasty scenes and smooth toned backgrounds. Then there was also a discussion of the three triangles of photography – ISO, aperture and shutter speed – what they are, how they affect a photograph and how they can be used creatively.

At one point during the lecture, the instructor asked how many people in the class enrolled because they want to be able to take photos in manual mode. Since my instructors from previous photography classes frowned upon not using manual mode, I was among the participants to raise their hands. Imagine my surprise then when the instructor said that that kind of thinking probably stemmed from the belief that a good photo would have to be taken from manual mode but that he recommend we use program, aperture or shutter priority. In fact, he said that we shouldn’t attempt to use the manual mode until we’ve taken at least 10,000 photos (film) or 100,000 (digital)! His reasoning is that the camera would be able to take good photographs with these settings most of the time anyway and it’s certainly better to get the photo than missing out on the opportunity because we’re worried about having to remember what the correct settings are.

It’s a departure from what I’ve been previously taught that using these modes were just crutches that should be avoided. I definitely could understand his reasoning though and I guess as long as I learn from using aperture and shutter priority for now with a view of using manual mode once I’m comfortable doing so then it’s okay. Experience in shooting and learning which settings suits particular situations are important factors for a beginner and I suppose aperture and shutter priority would suffice for now. Perhaps he believed that we might just be discouraged if we use manual mode then get terrible photos and stop photography altogether?

Click here to view photo album

After the lecture, we had a bit of a break when we had to go out of the building and take 3 shots – one with almost no sky, one with a bit of the sky and the ground, and one with a lot of sky. It was drizzling when we went out and most participants were hesitant to expose their cameras to the rain. I quickly took a few photos and went back inside the building.

After everyone had gone back into the lecture hall, the instructor uploaded his own photos. He used aperture priority and made us take note of the camera settings and how the photos turned out. Two out of three (the ground shot and the one with sky and ground) had pretty accurate exposure but the third one, the one with the biggest portion of the sky, was under-exposed. This supported what he said about the camera getting the settings right most of the time and how it could get it wrong. He explained that the under-exposed photo was the result of the camera metering off the sky and thinking that the scene was brighter than it was. He also mentioned that the solution to the problem would be discussed in the next lecture, which would be tomorrow!

The class would also be having another workshop on Sunday in one of the CBD gardens, hopefully with more shooting involved. I’m also hoping for better weather than we got yesterday but the forecasts aren’t very good. I know there’s still a drought on but could the sky please hold it in for a few hours on Sunday?!?

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 8:18 am  Comments (2)  

Photography course: Day 1

After receiving the payment for the use of my photographs in Metropolis a couple of months ago, it was a toss-up between spending it on a camera lens and enrolling myself on a short photography course.

I took two short photography courses many moons ago when I was still in the Philippines. The first was basic photography and the second one was black and white. Both were aimed at the absolute beginner and were geared toward film photography (digital was still out of the price-range of hobbyists then). Although I had heaps of fun in both classes, I wasn’t able to make the most out of them because I didn’t have an SLR camera.

I used my point-and-shoot for the basic photography course and wasn’t able to maximise learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. After all, most those settings are chosen by the camera for me and there was no way for me to adjust them. The black and white course was slightly better in that I managed to borrow the instructor’s camera and at least have some practice with it. Trouble was, I only had the camera to practise with when we have to do our photo assignment. Given a limited time to shoot, grapple with the idiosyncrasies of the camera, worrying about the subject for my photographs and trying to remember what I have remembered on the first course, it was small wonder that my photographs were rather simplistic and not particularly attractive at all. Heck, I was happy to be able to a sharp photo using manual settings during that time as opposed to the fuzzy ones I had the first few times. I didn’t care about lighting, composition and all the other things that would make a good photograph.

And so I opted to try for another photography course again, this time with a SLR and better idea of what I’m signing up for. I originally wanted to join last February’s session of the Melbourne Camera Club course but was told that it was quickly filled up and would I want to be register my interest for the August one? I said yes and I got contacted by email toward the end of May stating that if I am still interested in joining the course, could I forward my application and $250 payment by snail mail as the class is now quickly filling up and there are only 9 spots left!

I mailed my application and payment on the same day and crossed my fingers. People who don’t get on the August class would be offered places for the one in February next year but I don’t think I could wait another six months! Luckily, I was able to get on the class this time around and we had our first lecture last night.

There were several club members who welcomed us to the course, gave us our course materials, name tag, club’s programme of events for the rest of the year and a survey form. The class was bigger than the one I attended in the Philippines. Whereas the Alcove classes only had about 10-20 students, the one last night probably had 40-50 participants. This class also seem to be more diverse in terms of age and interests.

Although the topic for last night’s lecture was about the basics like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lens and exposure, I still got some gems out of the session. It was good to see how a lens hood could make a difference when shooting against the sun, how to use AE Lock to meter, what settings to use for particular photographs and how to use different settings for the same scene to change the impact of a photo. Some of the examples used throughout the lecture were the instructor’s own photos and it was interesting to hear the stories about the photos as well as see his creativity at work. Questions from other participants also added to the lecture – the questions that particularly stuck me were where to focus when taking a landscape photo (1/3 into the scene if I remember correctly) and how to remember the relationship between higher ISO and noise (one club member had a particularly good analogy of imagining it as a volume control on a radio, the higher the volume, the more the noise).

Since we started slightly later than scheduled, we had to rush the last few minutes of the lecture and went into overtime for about 10 minutes. Robert, the course coordinator, then reminded us to bring our camera on Sunday since we would be having a hands-on session and would be taking about a dozen photographs. He then asked how many people would be using film cameras (a couple), and advised them that it might be better not to load the film prior to the session so that they could practise the settings on the camera without wasting film. He also asked for the survey form back where we are asked what kind of camera we would be using and what sort of photography we are interested in. After a few more reminders, the class was ended and most everyone quickly spilled out into the night.

Nothing mind-blowing in this first session but it was interesting nonetheless. Although I can’t wait for the practice session on Sunday, I still have to find time to look for and read my camera’s manual, get the concepts to stick and probably get some practice in.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 8:04 am  Comments (4)  

Mobile photo dump

At the risk of this blog being all about food, I did a photo dump from my mobile and found more food photos. What can I say, we absolutely like to eat!

This is by far the oldest photo in the batch and is so far my first and last attempt at Spanish Flan or as Filipinos know it, Leche Flan. I think the finished product looks decent but it was on the bland side. It wasn’t creamy enough nor was it sweet enough. Definitely not one of the best that came out of the our kitchen. If I ever have to make one again, I would have to look for another recipe to use.

With winter well and truly upon us, our usual breakfast of cold sandwiches just have to change. We wanted something to warm us up in the morning and I don’t remember anymore how I came up with the empanadas but I recall searching for recipes online. Some of the recipes mentioned using frozen puff pastry instead making my own and I did just that even if it’s technically not the proper way of doing it.

Well, the empanadas worked well and we’ve been having them for several weeks now. I’ve used two brands of puff pastry and I find the most thing I have difficulty with is estimating the amount of filling to put in. Too much filling and the filling would spill out as it bakes, too little and we’d end up hungry before lunch.

While we were in our weekend away at Brissy, we frequented the food courts for some fast food. We found a Japanese shop at Wintergarden on our second day called Hanaichi and decided to try the limited menu mainly because of the number of people queueing in front. With the price ranging from $6.20 to $6.70 a bowl, it’s quite affordable as well. I gave the Chicken Hanaichi a try after seeing so many other customers order it and I must say that although I initially had misgivings because of the amount of greens it has that it’s almost like a salad on rice, the accompanying karaage chicken with the sour cream made it my favourite. Gabriel, on the other hand, was consistently a Katsudon fan.

Another thing we tasted in Brisbane was the Wicked Banana at the Southbank markets. It’s basically a banana that had a thin strip of chocolate injected at its center. They had different kinds of chocolate such as milk chocolate, dark, hazelnut and a few more. However, we only ever bought the milk chocolate ones and hubby loved it so much that he bought one again when we visited the market again the next day. Having the combination of a naturally sweet banana paired with chocolate though gave him the inspiration to create his own version. He bought a bottle of chocolate hard tops, sliced a banana and had the chocolate as a topping. I must say it’s his favourite snack at the moment that he keeps stealing the bananas I’ve been buying for baking!

I like my salmon occasionally and rotate through a few recipes. Unfortunately, hubby doesn’t like salmon and hasn’t taken to any of the recipes I’ve cooked. However, I recently tried this recipe that’s supposed to be simple but yummy. I marinated the slices overnight then baked it in foil packets. I gave Gabriel a small slice as usual and lo and behold, he actually liked it enough to ask for more! With this small miracle, I wrote the recipe a review and said that even my salmon-hating hubby liked it. After typing up my review, I proceeded to read the comments of the other reviewers and found out that most of the other reviews were the same. Something along the lines of even husband who won’t eat salmon loved it. Gabriel jokingly then said that the recipe’s title should be changed to Salmon Hater’s Grilled Salmon. Yeah, maybe they should!

Published in: on August 2, 2008 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment