Category Archives: Scotland

2011: A year in review

What a year 2011 has been for Marianne and me! If you were to ask us what the highlight of the year would be, of course the simple answer would have to be the birth of Charlotte.  Sure there were sleepless nights, bad days at work etc but why focus on negativity when the everyday little things she does makes us smile and proud. From her first toothless smile, gurgles, discovery of her fist and all things which fit into her mouth, her first triumphant roll. Milestones fly in unexpectedly and will continue to do so over the years . We hope to be as good a pair of parents to her as we can be ! What about photography? We’ve been a little slack in updating this blog post but I think somehow time has eluded us like never before and what used to be done in 10 minutes now takes 10 minutes spread over several hours! Nonetheless, it has been a big year for us and we look forward to 2012.

In January , we photographed Katie & Trent at the botanical gardens of Adelaide and learned a thing or two about being prepared for 4 seasons in one day. An old image of Cape Huay also ended up on the front cover of Australian Photography Magazine.

Katie & Trent got married

Cover art: Australian Photography Magazine January edition

In February, we travlled to Longview winery and continued to evolve the way in which we handle weddings both at the scene and in post production. Bettina and Simon were particularly cooperative and even walked in the rain with us to take some images on a wet and blustery day. We found ways to catalogue files for two photographers such that merging the combined proofs would still result in a presentation of files in logical order.

Bettina & Simon got married

In March, Australian Photography Magazine featured Marianne’s image of Korpudalur on the front cover as well as a 8 page feature article on travelling Iceland. Our wedding forays also continued with Anh and Ty’s wedding at the beautiful Mount Lofty house. It was our last wedding for the 2010-2011 season.

Anh & Ty got married

Cover art : Australian Photography Magazine March edition

In April and early May, Marianne and I planned a 10 day trip over Easter to Tasmania. This trip was one where we travelled slightly more comfortably than previously as Marianne was 5 months pregnant. We still managed short walks to slightly  ‘out of the way’ places and managed to snag a few images which would later be published. Fortuitously, we also bumped into Ian Wallace and Tom Putt’s photography workshop at Cradle Mountain on many a dawn and dusk. From the brief encounter, I was introduced to his website. After becoming a regular contributor on the site, one thing led to another and the end result is my first contribution to a publication! (More on that later)

Tasmania's forests were magical

Bay of Fires and its striking lichen.

One could go into waterfall overload in Tasmania!

In June, we took our last chance to travel without children and travelled to Victoria for an extended long weekend. It coincided with a lunar eclipse which I managed to photograph over the CBD but unfortunately, it also coincided with a flu-like illness which affected me for most of the brief trip. We based ourselves in the Dandenongs while travelling out as far as Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island. With Marianne now in the third trimester, serious walking was quite limited and taken with caution given the  slippery wet conditions.

The end of the eclipse from Federation Square

Cape Woolamai and the wild weather!

The weather was mostly wet and slippery in the Dandenongs

In July, we had the first of several exhibitions for the year which taught us the value of picking locations for exhibiting our work. We felt that our canvas prints of images from our big trip in 2010 looked better than any other work we had produced, however, canvas printing meant that our costs were also significantly higher.  We achieved great exposure at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and sold some prints not related to the actual works exhibited. During this penultimate month of Marianne’s pregnancy, I felt as though I needed to get the photography bug out of me and travelled further from Adelaide on my weekend forays. One particularly memorable dawn occurred at a favourite location down at Port Willunga.

Old and new technologies to harvest wind near Burra

A most memorable dawn at Port Willunga

In August, we also managed to exhibit our works at the SANTOS conservation centre outside the Adelaide Zoo. In retrospect, we feel that our works aren’t suited to exhibiting at SALA ( South Australian Living Artist) . Photography as a medium seemed to be appreciated in a different manner to other more traditional or abstract mediums and as such, most of the questions directed at us were regarding the use of photoshop! An annoyance which has since given us much time to consider future responses. And of course, at the end of August, Charlotte came into the world!! Need I say any more than I already have!

Travels were limited in August for this reason!

One of our 40" prints to sell during the year


In September life was all about working out this thing called parenthood! Photography took a back seat but toward the end of the month, I started making some trips out on weekends again and we had to consider how to photograph a wedding with Marianne needing to express milk and training little Charlotte to be ‘babysittable’. As it turned out, she has given great joy to our grandparents while being cared for (with scattered moments of anxiety during prolonged fits of crying).

Daddy's little girl!

Our little lady!

One dawn took me to Lochiel and Lake Bumbunga

In October, we got back into the swing of wedding photography with our busiest season planned to date. A total of 7 weddings booked until March 2012.  Alice and Matt’s wedding was photographed at Clare and Bungaree Station. It was the first time we had offered to create an album for clients and we are awaiting the final result of the album. We as a family also survived Charlotte’s first prolonged absence! Later in October, Carina and Paul tied the knot at the picturesque Al-Ru Farm in the northern outskirts of Adelaide.  Also in that month, we squeezed in another cover and feature article in Australian Photography Magazine based on our travels in Tasmania earlier in the year.

Cover Art: Australian Photography Magazine

Alice & Matt got married

Carina & Paul got married

In November, the book production process was finally reaching its end. Starting from June, the 12 contributors were busy selecting , rating  and re-editing images for publication while Ian Wallace had the mammoth task of coordinating,  putting together the book and sorting the necessary technical requirements and authorship. As the months progressed and the various drafts of the book unfolded, all of us became even keener for the release date of the book. Personally, 15 of my images were chosen for publication including the back inset and back cover image. The book so far has been a great success , particularly for the Tasmanian contributors who rapidly recuperated their own costs. Thus far, of my 100 copies, 50 are either sold or consigned for retail which has been great considering the very little time I’ve contributed to promoting the book. The book would only arrive a few days before Christmas!

Tasmania : A Visual Journey (back cover)

The books finally arrived!!

December rounded off 2011 with our busiest month yet. Another image found its way on to the cover of Australian Photography Magazine and the editor Robert Keeley requested an article and cover(s) for early issues in 2012. We also managed two further weddings. Jane and Mike’s wedding was set in the beautiful vineyards of Bird in Hand Winery in the Adelaide hills. We are also in the process of creating an album for them. Our final wedding was photographed in the interiors of St Marks College in North Adelaide due to the inclement weather.  Over Christmas and New Year, I managed to take a few more images around South Australian sites in between managing Charlie’s disrupted routines from the various celebrations during this period.

Jane & Mike got married

Amy & Dylan got married

Cover Art: Australian Photography Magazine December edition

In summary, we have much to be  thankful for in 2011 and here’s a short list :

  • Black and White photographics who consistently print our work and bring reality to our digital visions
  • All of the exhibition centres who have allowed us to display our works. Hampstead Rehabilitation centre, the Challinger Gallery, SANTOS conservation centre and Gallery M in Marion.
  • The online community and photographic support we have received through : Facebook (thanks to the 1000 fans!) , Flickr , Australian Photography forum, Deviant Art and Google Plus. Thank you to all of the photographers on these sites who continue to inspire and critique images.
  • All of our family friends who have been incredibly supportive throughout the years and particularly since Charlotte arrived in the world. She now has many playmates, friends and cousins to grow up with over the years.
  • Ian Wallace and all of the other contributors from the book project : Tasmania, A Visual Journey.
  • Robert Keeley and the editorial staff from Australian Photography magazine who continue to ask us for content and publish our work. We are only happy to deliver !
  • Our brides and grooms for allowing us an intimate look in on their most personal and special days. We hope you have enjoyed our services!
  • Mother nature and her fickle ways ; thanks for the beauty all around us waiting to be captured by would be artists.
  • Lastly, a personal thanks to Marianne and Charlotte for being the base upon which anything in life has been achieved and will be achieved in the future !

Cheers to 2012 and for those around in South Australia, we hope to see you at Gallery M for our first engagement of the new year! 🙂

One final shoot on New Years Eve



Neutralising Colour Casts : A Photoshop Tutorial

In a previous post, I’ve described my approach to using filters and how much I love them [Filter Tutorial]. They are however, far from flawless and can introduce many imperfections to an image. One of those imperfections is a colour cast. The most common colour cast I have seen in images are a magenta cast when a graduated neutral density (GND) filter is used. This often results in the sky taking on an unrealistic magenta hue. Sometimes, I like the effect caused by this imperfection and don’t make any attempt to correct it. However, on many occasions, the differential colour between sky and foreground detracts from the image and so, I’ve found a few different ways to neutralise the colour cast. In the example below, I used a 9 stop neutral density (ND) filter while photographing Rannoch Moor (Scotland) to lengthen the exposure enough that the choppy waters appeared smoothened. This particular brand of ND filter (Fader) tends to produce a magenta cast while I have heard that other brands produce a green cast.

This is the reference image exported from lightroom showing the clear magenta cast to the whole image.

Original Image with magenta cast

I’ve found that the following technique most accurately neutralises the unwanted colour cast. The key word is ‘neutralise’ meaning that colour cast is turned into a neutral grey. This technique can be extrapolated to introduce a different cast to the image such as creating warming or cooling filters but that won’t be discussed in this tutorial. The following steps were undertaken in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Step 1:

Click Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Colour

Create the filter layer

Step 2:

A new dialogue box emerges. You can select any colour at this stage and rename the layer. I’ve called it ‘Neutralise cast’ for this example. Set the blend mode to soft light.

Creating the filter layer

Step 3:

In the Layers palette, make sure you click off the eye dropper tool so that you can still see your original image with its colour cast.

Click 'off' the layer

Step 4:

Still in the layers palette, double click on the coloured rectangle to bring up an adjustment dialogue box. (yellow in this example)

Step 5:

Hover the mouse over the section of the image that has the relevant colour cast. In this case, the waters of the lake have the most pronounced purple cast. Click on the section of the image and look at the ‘a’ and ‘b’ values as dotted on the screen capture below.

Selecting the colour to neutralise

Step 6:

Invert the ‘a’ and ‘b’ values. In this case ‘a’ changed from 11 to -11 and ‘b’ changed from -9 to 9. You might be wondering what ‘a’ and ‘b’ are all about?

‘a’ represents the colour component of the selection which ranges from magenta to green. Zero is neutral while negative values represent the greener end of the spectrum and positive values represent the magenta end of the spectrum

‘b’ represents the colour component of the selection which ranges from yellow to blue. Zero is neutral while negative values represent the yellower end of the spectrum and positive values represent the bluer end of the spectrum.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise then, that the colour for this layer changed from magenta to green!

Neutralise! Using the 'opposite' colour of the cast

Step 7:

Finally, you may not wish to neutralise the colour cast in the whole image. This is particularly relevant when correcting casts caused by the use of GND filters where only part of the image is affected. For this reason, use the layer mask as seen on the right of the ’Neutralise Cast’ layer. Select a brush [shortcut B]  at a gentle opacity and fill. Set it to paint black and gradually fill in areas of the image you don’t wish to have the colour correction applied.

Selective application of the filter

Final Touches:

As I alluded to in the introduction, this is only one of many ways to correct a colour cast but I have found it to be very simple and accurate. I put the image through the rest of my usual post processing to end up with the following result. Thanks for reading and I hope that you have found some part of this tutorial useful!

Magenta Neutralised

The End Result


The ‘Lucky’ Shot

I’ll start this blog post with a list of questions that we are often asked by people who have seen our work.

1. Do you photoshop your photos?
2. That’s an amazing shot ! What camera do you use?
3. Wow! You were soooo lucky to be there in those conditions! Did it really look like that?

I have answered the first question in a previous blog post :. The simple answer is yes.

The second question implies that the camera is the be all and end all of the image. Put simply, if the late Ansel Adams had used any other brand of camera, he would have still taken striking images ; If Roger Federer used the 50 dollar tennis racquet I use, he’d still be an awesome tennis player; If Jamie Oliver used the cheap K-mart cook set I own, he’d still be able to cook up a feast with panache.

Finally, the topic for discussion in this post is making the most of your opportunities. Because of mother nature’s moods, there will always be an element of luck, but if you know what to look out for and plan your location shoots wisely, you minimise the chance of that grain of luck falling through a sieve.
The following images were examples of varying degrees of ‘luck’ mixed with planning.

Aurora at Hveravellir

When planning our trip to Iceland in 2010, we wanted to visit the interior highlands when the weather was at its most stable and accessible to my novice 4X4 driving. Toward the end of late August, we also knew that there would be periods of true darkness at the tail of the Icelandic Summer. This would give us a small chance of viewing the Aurora Borealis. Initially, Marianne and I had planned to drive through the interior in one day but two things changed our mind. Firstly, auroras themselves are remarkable to watch but we felt that an effective photograph should somehow encompass the location from which it was shot. What better location than steam from  a geothermal area! Secondly, wherever we had internet access , I had been checking a very rough aurora forecast from this site:

During our night in the interior, the forecast was for a moderate degree of auroral activity. As the sun set on this evening, there very few clouds in sight and so, we went to bed during the daylight hours and set our alarm for midnight. To our relief, the clouds had stayed away giving us a clear view of the night sky with a near full moon. This was an added boon as it gave the foreground illumination. Due to the clear skies, the temperature dipped to freezing and the surface became iced over. As we waited, and started to lose hope, the ribbons of light slowly began their dance across the skies. Imagine standing among steaming fumaroles by the light of the full moon while watching green lights of the aurora dance overhead.

This image was taken from the west coast of Heimaey , the largest of the Westman Islands of Iceland (Vestmannaeyjar). This was one of those shots where planning and weather all came together with a satisfying result. A very useful application for planning sunset and sunrise shoots as well as knowing moon phases, is the tool “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” , or TPE for short. ( Knowing that we were going to be on Heimaey on the 17th of August, I used the tool to work out which of the distant islands might be a good subject for a sunset silhouette. The three seastacks of Stafnsnes, Hani and Haena off the west coast seemed ideal and with the aid of the tool, we were able to estimate when and where along the coastline we would have to be in order to see the sun setting behind these stacks. We were deceived initially by near horizontal motion of the sun but stuck to the estimates of the program and ended up with the above image.

The Lucky Rainbow!
One thing that keeps me wanting to stay up late for sunsets or wake early for dawn even in bad weather, is the prospect of rainbows. The above image of Ardvreck castle in Scotland was one that I had planned from looking at images on flickr and looking at TPE. In my mind, I had pictured taking some images of the castle side lit while standing on its southerly aspect. As we arrived at the scene one hour before sunset, heavy rain set in. Marianne and I parked the car facing the sunset and had a brief snooze while waiting for conditions to improve. During this time,  patches of light started to appear ,which during rain, triggers ‘rainbow alert’! True enough, behind us and to the east of the castle was one of the most striking rainbows I’ve ever seen. Fearing the fickle nature of Scottish weather, I sprinted out to the west side of the castle and basically abandoned the preconceived plan of photographing the sunset and instead, focussed on the rainbow proper.

The second most remarkable rainbow I’ve seen was at the beautiful West Fjords of Iceland. The town of Bildudalur lies along a stretch of coast which faces north east ; perfect for shooting into the rising sun during Icelandic summer. The dramatic clouds certainly made dawn a wonderful scene but no sooner had the sun risen, did the rain set in. Turning around, we witnessed a rainbow disappearing into the clouds and spent the next half an hour photographing and generally standing in awe of the scene before us.
Facing the sun at Arnarfjordur

Weather phenomena always attract a group of photographers who will often set alarms at crazy hours to capture that eclipse, that incoming storm cell, that ferocious lightning storm or perhaps, that one time of the year when a given scene has unique lighting such as the ‘firefall’ phenomenon in Yosemite. Capturing the phenomenon itself takes a degree of technical proficiency which requires practice. However, my personal opinion is that once the technical aspects have been mastered , it’s time to let the journalistic or artistic aspect of photography take over. The image below was of the recent lunar eclipse. I happened to be in Melbourne at the time and wanted to show that context in the image somehow. As I was wandering the streets, it just so happened that the spire of Flinders Street Station was in a dream position.

Eclipse with a context?

For the next image below, summer storms had hit Adelaide and the reports on showed multiple lighting strikes occurring toward the north of Adelaide. It would have been relatively straightforward to set up taking images of where most of the lightning was in the hope that a suitable composition would follow. I chose instead to achieve a composition I’d be happy with and prayed that lighting would magically fill the frame in the image. There was a risk that I’d just get a bunch of shots of jetty alone but fortunately, during my few hours there, just one lightning strike occurred in the desired location!

Lightning with a context

To sum up then, I would make the following points:
1. Be aware of the very many useful planning tools that will assist you with location and lighting: TPE would have to be high on the list of my favourite programs.
2. Look through as many images of the scene you plan to shoot and challenge yourself to come back with something unique. Don’t be afraid to take ‘that’ iconic shot though.
3. Know a little about weather and remember always to turn around when there is rain or you may miss a striking rainbow!
4. Lastly, as ever, go out and shoot! You can’t make your own luck if you’re not even out there!

Phillip Island Pinnacles in late afternoon light