Before and After

I mentioned that I might do a before and after post and had some positive feedback on the idea so I thought I would give it a go. This is an image I took in Mt Aspiring National Park, it was taken on a Nikon D800E with a Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8 lens at 70mm, specifically the exposure details were 1/200s @ f/11, ISO 100. The camera was on a tripod and I am pretty sure using mirror up mode (this is how I usually take my landscape images). This is the original image straight from camera – well only the normal RAW processing from Lightroom with no adjustments made.

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In taking the image I had already decided that a square (or possible 5×4) image was the likely result and the initial crop was therefore straightforward. The main overall changes were to set a black and white point and to brighten the shadows just a little, a medium contrast tone curve was then applied along with a small amount of clarity.

The rest of the adjustments were local first I added two gradient adjustments, one from top to bottom and the other bottom to top, both reducing the exposure and highlights a little. I then used an elliptical adjustment tool centered on the peak at the rear to brighten and increase the contrast and clarity in this area only. A final light vignette was added to finish. I think the final image is a big improvement on the original without doing anything very drastic to the original.

The intention of these adjustments was to keep the viewers eye in the image and guide it to the peak coming through the clouds and to emphasise the layers in the image.

OneLight 2.0

Something a little different today, I bought the 5 Day Deal a couple of weeks ago which had lots of great content. This week I have been watching a set of videos by Zack Arias called One Light 2.0. I am about half way through just now and really enjoying it. It is well produced in B&W with clear examples and Zack is a good teacher РI enjoy his sense of humour. It is a great resource for learning about lighting, covering everything from the basics of the equipment needed, the technical aspects of flash exposure and with some real examples along with a very well photographed squirrel.

Meanwhile…I am busy setting up another shoot hopefully with an Art Deco theme to try some ideas out, and a new nightstand with a boom turned up today ūüôā This a shot from a few weeks ago.

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Remember To Turn VR Off!

I took a quick (damp) trip to Sumner this evening, the tide was coming in and there were some good waves hitting the rocks. I ended up using my new Tamron SP 70-200 F2.8 Di lens, I made a small and fundamental mistake for rather more images than I would care to admit! This is only the second lens I which has VR, the other being my macro lens which always has VR off anyway. I forgot that I needed to turn the VR off on the lens when working on a tripod. The difference with it on and off is quiet clear…

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Visual Design Part II – More Lines

Last Monday I gave my talk on visual design at my local camera club, it seemed to go very well. I managed to sound almost sane and we had a good discussion afterwards covering both visual design and composition. This week I want to continue from where I left off last time, with some more types of lines, specifically diagonal and curved lines.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines have more energy than either horizontal or vertical lines and can be used to move the eye quickly through an image, the angle of the line and whether it is angled top to bottom or bottom to top affect how dynamic the line is. Lines angled up are generally more positive than those running down. Of course this depends on the viewer normally reading from left to right and top to bottom. 


This is still quite a calm image, the lines are not steeply angled.

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The angles here help make the image more dynamic.

HongKong_2010-05-13_15-53-20_DSC_2014_©RichardLaing(2010) Curve



Curves are more gentle and restful than straight diagonal lines. They lead the eye more slowly through an image and are often found in nature, a winding river would be a good example but also roads and paths can provide good curves to lead the eye through an image.





Implied Lines

Not all the lines in an image need to be real. The eye is very good at connecting points to make lines and when a person or animal is in the image the subject’s direction of view can make a strong line. We automatically look at eyes in an image and want to see where those eyes are looking. This is one reason that is usually a good idea to make sure that there is room in the direction the subject is looking. This avoid a the viewer from being drawn straight out of the image.

Cat in the grass

Visual Design – Lines

In my last post I talked about the PSNZ judging seminar that I attended. I have since been asked to give a presentation to the club on some of what we learnt and I thought this would also make a series of blog posts. In particular I thought I would work through the elements of visual design. There are plenty of texts which cover this and I have read several including Michael Freeman’s “The Photographers Eye”, “Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography” by Brenda Tharp and “Photographically Speaking” by David duChemin, all of which I would thoroughly recommend.¬†

The elements I am going to look at are:

  • Lines
  • Shapes – triangles, squares, circles
  • Textures
  • Perspective
  • Light

In reality light is probably the most important of all these but perhaps the hardest to explain – you really need to see the light!

For today I can going to look at lines, lines can be calm and peaceful or strong and powerful depending on their type and direction.

Horizontal Lines

Horizontal lines imply stability, and calm. The most obvious example would be the horizon, present in so many landscape images.



Sunset Beach

Calm horizontals, changes in hue or saturation can create lines.

Vertical Lines

Vertical lines are more dynamic, and possess more energy. Someone standing feels more energetic than someone lying down. True vertical lines are not that common in nature but trees, flowers, waterfalls and cliffs are examples or vertical (or near vertical) lines. Vertical lines can lead you into (or through) an image.


Verticals can lead you through an image.

That‚Äôs all for this week, I still need to finish my presentation, I’ll look at oblique and curved lines next time.




Before and After


As part of my 365 project I have ended up taking quite a lot of images of flowers. This is because they are easy to get hold of, they don’t run away and it doesn’t matter what the weather is! In continuing my project into a second year I found myself back taking images of a flower, in this case a lilly.

I took a number of images and thought that it would be interesting to show some of the different looks you can get, there are so many ways to take the any subject and give it a very different feel. For this example I am using a single flower where it should be easy to show some examples. I often end up taking my 365 images late in the day and use flash to provide lighting but that still leaves a very large range of possible looks. The few variations that follow are just the tip of the iceberg.

The images here aren’t necessarily the best images of a lilly, or even my best images, they are intended to illustrate some possible options for how you can photograph a flower and how you can change the look and feel using the aperture, view point and post processing.

White Background

For white backgrounds two flashes were used, one to light the background and the other to light the flower. You can play with the power, the distance form the subject and background to vary the effect.

1) Soft, shallow depth of field (at least reasonably shallow in this case). The after image was processed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to soften it further and give it a little glow. A wider aperture could have been used or by moving in closer an even narrower depth of field could have been achieved. You definitely want to be using a tripod here!





2) Detailed, larger depth of field using a smaller aperture, again this was processed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4





3) Monochrome, sometimes monochrome can simplify an image in this case just to lines and shapes, this was done using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.





4) Shadow, I noticed the shadow of the lilly while I was setting up, that can make an interesting image too. The after image was processed in Aperture to enhance the contrast, desaturate it and add a vignette.

Lilly_2012-01-12_20-57-55__DSC8046_©RichardLaing(2011) - Version 2




Black Background

In this case high speed sync was used with a single flash along with a small aperture to give a dark background. The images was post processed, but only slightly, with Nik Color Efex Pro to enhance the detail, soften and add a little glow.





I love my Nik Software plugins, if you haven’t tried them yet go and grab a free trial! They provide so many starting points for different looks and can help bring out creative ideas.

There are infinite variations in lighting and post processing over and above the few shown here and most can be applied to any subject, not just flowers. Try things and play, once you start trying things it gets easier to come up with new ideas, sometimes you get lucky and if you don’t you never need to show anyone.


Firework Photography Tips

Last Saturday was Guy Fawkes night, celebrated in the UK but also in New Zealand. Despite the fact that I should have been doing my diploma work I went out and took some images of the fireworks. I didn’t get very close to the fireworks unfortunately so a 200mm lens had to be used and then a fair bit of cropping. Not ideal but the images came out not too badly.

Some tips for getting firework shots:

  • Use a tripod, you need longer exposures to capture the fireworks.
  • Shoot in manual mode.
  • Prefocus where you expect the fireworks.
  • Keep your ISO low to capture the best detail and colour.
  • Try shooting in build mode with a cable release.
  • Try different lengths of exposure, from a couple of seconds up.
  • Have fun!


This was a long exposure (about 60s)


Much shorter exposure, about 4s


And 8s for this

One of my favourite shots was taken before the fireworks started, just looking out to sea.


Very simple with the sea smoothed out with a 30s exposure.