Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Camera Confusion

So.  I got this new job writing and taking photos for a magazine.  It's brilliant.  I love it.  It gets me out of the house and going new places.  I meet new people and get to escape the kids for a while (!)  For example on Saturday afternoon I tripped off all the way down to Fish Creek in South Gippsland to interview a lovely couple at Amber Creek Farm and Sawmill, where they have paddock raised pork and a sawmill producing quality timber.  I took off in my husband's ute (which is fun in itself), and yelling "Weeeeeeee" out the window....I buggered off for the afternoon. 

Amber Creek Farm and Sawmill, Fish Creek, South Gippsland

The only thing is that I know that I am taking photos with a camera that is a little, well, old.  It's a Canon 350 D, I got it almost 10 years ago, and get this....it is 8 megapixels!  Ha!  In a world where your phone now has more megapixels than this trusty old camera of mine, for magazine work it isn't really going to cut the mustard.  It actually does take brilliant photos.  There is certainly nothing wrong with the quality and I've even had a full two page spread of a single photo published in a magazine.  The photo came up great.  It's just that I feel a little unprofessional and know that my editing process is limited by using this camera.  It is kind of amusing, as I have gone into two different shops to talk to the assistants about cameras and both of them hadn't even heard of my camera model.  Actually they both made me feel old by stating "Wow, that was before my time."  Grrrrr.   They kind of make me feel that I've gone out into my back garden and dug up a fossil then proceeded to traipse around and record images on it.

So this is where I come to the confusing part.  What camera do I buy???  There are so many out there.  What I do know is that I definitely want another Canon and I also want something that is for more of the semi-professional photographer.  (I've seen the 'professional' cameras and they are well beyond my budget).  I do keep coming back to the Canon 70 D and I have had a look at it.  It is a lot heavier than my current piece of equipment and it looks 10 times more confusing to use with all the buttons, bits and bobs.  The LCD screen is enormous, which would be lovely when checking out shots immediately (unlike mine), and it does have a video camera, although I know this will just serve to confuse me even more because I am, frankly, a bit of techno bimbo.  I do figure these things out eventually but try and explain it to me, and my brain just switches off. 

Camera still works fine!  Late afternoon shot, sun starting to disappear.

This camera has 20 megapixels (wow!?!), which to me sounds amazing because, as I said, I'm technologically impaired, and you can buy it with a lens that is more capable than mine.  Still, this does not mean that I am decided on what camera to buy.  Why is this so difficult??  Perhaps because it's a lot of money to spend, or maybe because I know that it will likely be another 10 years before I can update again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Propping up Photos

Recent Wedding Dress shoot for Gippsland Lifestyle magazine, Winter edition, and a well placed prop.
I really love taking photos.  It's what I do to make me happy and amazingly I'm now blessed enough that it is also something I do for a living.  It's a little living at the moment but I am hoping that it will turn into something even more consuming.  Writing is, of course, my other passion, hence the blog, but this is where the title "Sweet Words Pretty Pictures" comes from.  I'm so lucky that I can combine the two with my job on the magazine I work for.   
I enjoyed photography right through school.  In Year 10 I was the School Photographer, which didn't mean much really, but I did get out of class sometimes so I could run about with a camera slung around my neck and look important.  I wasn't a trendy kid so this meant something.
I went on to study photography at university and this was a time when I had to use an SLR which required FILM!!  Yes actual film, and we had to develop it ourselves and print our own photographs.  It meant a lot of time in the dark room inhaling a lot of horrible chemicals. 
Today, finally I am getting paid for my photographs, something I think that every photographer, whether serious or semi-serious aspires to.  It's a rare thing.  It's a rare thing for writers too...so basically it means that I am poor a lot. 
As you can see, I have a thing for balloons...

The interesting thing about my photos now is that I have discovered that I like to use props.  Not all the time, sometimes it just doesn't call for it, but in my recent Wedding Dress shoot, and in Fashion shoots that I can do for clients, sometimes a well placed prop does the trick.  (ie. the lovely red heart shaped balloon in the photo at the top). 
So how do I come up with these prop ideas?  Actually it isn't a process that requires hours of research, it's more that I think about the outfit the model will be wearing and the location first.  I either try to place the outfit in the best location or work the other way and have the location sorted first, then find an outfit that will suit the spot.  Strangely I am able to picture what I want in my head first, which means the outfit, location and the model's pose, and if the shot requires a prop that will sort of just drift in there too.  Then I go about finding that prop, which is actually quite fun.
I prop might not be something that is being held by the model or client either.  It could be a piece of clothing or accessory that is added to the photo, usually something that is a little bit unexpected... like these boots in this photo....
Boots as a prop...and the flowers of course.
The boots can be considered a prop because it isn't too often that cowboy boots are worn with a wedding dress...although a lot of country girls do tend to do it for their wedding photos and it looks fantastic!  I wish I'd thought of it for my wedding!
The other thing that makes great props are animals.   This is my horse.
A word of caution when it goes to using 'living' props however.  They are unpredictable and my horse was pretty grumpy in this photo.  She doesn't like being floated and my husband had to stuff her into the float to get her to the shoot, then stuff her back in afterwards.  She was a big sweaty nervous mess when she arrived, but thankfully she calmed down enough to get a few shots in.
The other thing that can be considered a prop, and to keep in mind when taking photos, is to make use of an interesting feature at the location.  These wedding dress photos were taken at my parent's farm and they have a lovely old gate.  When I saw the colour of one of the dresses I knew straight away that it was perfect to go alongside this old gate and the Autumn coloured leaves in the background.
Coffee coloured dress and Autumn colours...perfect with the old rusty gate.
Using props is a bit of a trial and error kind of thing.  Pop a prop in the shoot and if it doesn't work you can always remove it.  Ahh...the brilliance of digital...just take more photos.  The key to using props is not to overdo it.  The whole 'less is more' thing really is what works here.  I also like to go for the unexpected too.  It keeps things interesting.  The other thing to do is trust your instincts.  If it looks wrong it probably is.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A New Writing and Photography Job

I haven't been here for a while, been a little side tracked.  I'm pleased to say that I have a new job writing and taking photographs for a magazine.  It's called 'Gippsland, The Lifestyle' and it was one of those jobs that I got entirely by chance.  Thanks to my Dad, and his skills in making small talk, I was put onto the editor of the magazine who not only needed a new writer, but also one with experience in agriculture.  I have just been handed my dream job.

When I was a teenager and started reading such rubbish as 'Dolly' magazine, I have always been a bit fascinated by magazines.  As an adult my favourite by far is 'Country Style', which I have bought every month since about the year 2000, and which I know subscribe too.  Naturally I was over the moon when I had an article published in their mag in the Jan/Feb edition of 2005.

'Gippsland, The Lifestyle' is published quarterly and in the upcoming Winter edition I will have three articles, along with my photos, as well as a wedding dress photo shoot...which hopefully I'm doing this weekend if the weather holds out!  For the Spring edition I've been given 40 pages that are all mine to fill with ten different articles on all things related to agriculture, along with photos to go with them.  I'm having the time of my life with it!!  I get to get out of the house and go to lots of different places, have a break from the kids, write articles and take photos that will be published (that I will get paid for!) and meet lots of interesting people.  For example, on Easter Sunday I had to go to the Warragul Harness Racing to cover a story for the Winter edition.  I got to ride on the mobile starter gate (so on the back of the ute that carries the big metal gates that the horses run behind before the start of the race), and take photos from there.  What an experience!!  I nearly fell out but I got some awesome photos!


It was worth almost falling out!
I'm hoping to pick up more photography work once my photos get out there, especially after this wedding dress photo shoot.  So far I've done a story on The Old Butter Factory in Drouin which houses the Red Fox CafĂ© (a restaurant, cafe, bar and gallery), and two days ago I went out to harass my husband at work while he was shearing and take photos of them at work.  Doing a shearing story as part of my agricultural spread for the Spring edition.  I've also covered a story on a woman who runs a herd of Murray Grey beef cattle where she sells her beef at Farmers Markets, and next week I have to go and interview the manager of the harness racing school in Warragul. 
It's nice to feel useful for a change....