Working on Guardian Of The Forest has been a love-hate relationship for me. It’s both one of my favourite ever images and also my nemesis. Allow me to explain…
A few years ago now, I was dabbling with some photos I’d taken and decided that a landscape I’d photographed would be better with something added to it. I chose a deer. Some (very amateur) Photoshop later and I had my first composite. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge stepping stone in my photographic journey. My “A-Ha!” moment if you will.
It was at this point I fell in love with compositing; with making fantasy images full of magic and mystery. I realised I don’t just want to show a landscape as-is. I like to show them how I imagine them – as if they’re a location in a fairytale.
Skip forward a few years and my Photoshop and image planning has improved massively. Through sheer grunt work and determination I’ve taught myself enough that when I look back at some of those older images, I feel like I could do so much better if I were to remake them.
For the majority of images, I like to let that feeling linger. I look back on them, see my growth and feel good about where I’ve come. I leave them as they are and they become part of my photographic diary.
That first deer composite is different though. It’s so special to me. It’s become part of my photographic identity. Hell, even my brand logo is a (symmetrical) version of the same deer’s head. I couldn’t let it go. I had to try it again.
The remake of Guardian Of The Forest has taken many, many months to get right. I’ve had to try and let go of the old edit – the colours, the style, and bring it up to my current standards as best I can. I’ve wanted to give up SO MANY TIMES, but I persisted. Perhaps foolishly. However I felt I owed it to myself, and to the deer, and even to the original image, to see it through, no matter how difficult the process might be.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few months as I ramp up to my exhibition, particularly as I was determined to have a remake of this image done in time. It’s not been easy. There have been tears and sleepless nights. There have been times I’ve wanted to quit. But I haven’t. We made it.
My muse, the magnificent stag I photographed so many years ago, has been brought to current standards and is ready to print. I shall hang his updated image in the pride of place during my exhibition. There’s something rather poetic about it being my first ever composite, but the last image completed for this gallery show.
I hope you like the remake as much as I do. If you trawl through my Facebook page you can likely find the original should you wish to compare.
Venue: Lower Galleries, The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL
I’m thrilled to announce that two of my artworks have been selected to be displayed at the Royal Scottish Academy‘s Open Exhibition of Art for 2017.
The two works on display will be “A Winter’s Flight” and “Lost in the Fog”, two of my personal favourites from my collection.
The event runs from July through to October and shows 400 works by artists from Scotland and beyond. Artworks on display are available for purchase, including my two. My pieces will be available at £280 (framed) for a limited edition signed print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl paper. The limited editions are of a very limited run of 30. Once those are sold, no more of that size/edition will be available. There is an open run of A4 prints (retailing at £55 unframed) which runs alongside the limited editions for anyone who misses out on a limited edition.
The exhibition runs from 22 July through to 1st October and as such will overlap my solo gallery exhibition in Ocean Terminal. That event runs from 1st-30th September at the Image Collective gallery and will display a larger selection of my work.
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of dark dreamlike images.
Ever since I left Scotland I keep dreaming about walking through the gorgeous snowy woodland there. I can’t physically go back yet, so I decided to revisit it in the next best way 🙂
For my photography friends, here’s a little bit of additional info… The backdrop is from Scotland – a shot I took a few weeks ago. The person is me (in a wig – a purple bob wouldn’t have worked so well!). I photographed myself today against a plain magnolia painted wall. Since I was wearing black, this made it super simple to create a layer mask in Photoshop using luminosity masks. The toning and slight glow to the image was added as a final step using Macphun’s Tonality Pro. All images used were shot with my Sony A7ii.
As always, a larger version and prints are available on my portfolio.
Happy new year from the beautiful Scottish Highlands!
Here’s my latest image taken with my new Sony A7ii camera. If you’ve been following my recent series covering my switch from a Canon DSLR to Sony mirrorless system, you’ll know I’m completely in love with this new camera. If you missed them, do take a look:
The image above was taken bright and early this morning in the village of Portnockie, Scotland. For this image, I used my trusty Sony A7ii and Zeiss 16-35mm lens. Again, the camera was AWESOME and only required one single exposure to capture all the shadows and highlights. That still blows my mind!
What you can’t see in this picture is that I stood in the sea to get this shot. I used my Manfrotto Compact Action tripod to keep my camera steady and it did a great job. Ideally you’d need a heavier tripod to balance out the force of the waves, but I managed to get a sharp shot regardless (thanks Sony!). The reason I use the Compact Action tripod instead of a big heavy one is that it’s super portable and light. I’m always on the move, so having lightweight and compact gear is important to me. This tripod has been with me all around the world and it’s still going strong.
In order to get the water all soft and dreamy, I used my Hoya Pro ND 16 Filter. This filter provides 4 stops of light loss meaning you can take a longer exposure than normal. This is only my second attempt playing with it and I love what it’s done to the water, particularly at the front near the pebbles.
If you’d like to see the image in a higher quality, you can do so over on my portfolio.
For today’s test, I decided to use the Sony 16-35mm f4 Zeiss handheld with the Sony A7ii. As with earlier tests, I let the A7ii figure out its own ISO and white balance. In most cases I used auto-focus and aperture priority mode.
I tested without tripod today as I wanted to see what was possible without one, and test some even higher ISOs to see where my breaking point might be in that regard. Below you’ll find my unedited shots SOOC which demonstrates the capabilities of this lens handheld.
Test 1: Channelling My Inner Pink Floyd Fan
My first test for today had me wandering around the local village looking for worthy test subjects. I particularly wanted to test lens distortion and the sharpness across the entire image.
What better test subject for distortion than a lovely brick wall?!
In the words of Pink Floyd: “Wrong, do it again!”
Before I dive into the detailed shots of the wall, I need to tell you that I had a serious WTF moment with my camera today. I want to mention it because it REALLY stumped me for a while. I’m hoping that exposing my silly mistakes as I get used to the A7ii will help anyone else who encounters the same issues.
When I first tried to auto-focus on the lovely wall below, the focus would constantly bounce back and forth. It just wouldn’t lock on. I tried various apertures and it got worse the narrower the aperture was. Super weird.
After much fiddling, it turns out that if your auto-focus is set to continuous it REALLY messes with static objects. I’d been testing that yesterday for moving targets and it was fine. The moral of the story seems to be to only use this occasionally and set it to “Single Shot AF” when you’re not shooting moving objects. Lesson learned!
Back To The Wall
Once I figured out that focus issue, I could return to trying to photograph the wall! Below are two shots, taken at 16mm and 35mm. I wanted to show you examples of the distortion and sharpness at the extremes of the lens. I took both of these handheld at f11 which should in theory be nice and sharp:
The above image was shot at 16mm and if you look at the very bottom, you can see the line of the wall curves up toward the edges. To me, this distortion is pretty minimal and Lightroom has had no trouble at all straightening out the wall.
If you click the image, you’ll see the full size jpq which shows you the detail and sharpness across the image. Remember this was shot hand-held so if there’s any minor blur across the image, that’s probably my fault! Overall, I’m really impressed with the sharpness – it’s lovely and sharp from the centre to the edges.
As with the 16mm, you’ll note some distortion here, as expected. Again, it’s really quite minimal and Lightroom does a fantastic job of straightening it out.
This shot was also hand-held and despite that it’s done a great job of being sharp throughout the image. I’ve uploaded the full resolution jpg if you’d like to see for yourself. Just click the image!
Test 2: A Difficult Indoors Shot
This test is probably a little harsh. I took the camera inside the local church which is REALLY dark inside, and has super bright back-lit windows. Not only that, I made the camera take this shot hand-held. Normally I’d use a tripod in this situation, but I wanted to see what it could do when really pushed!
Here’s the result:
As with the wall shots, clicking the image will show you the full size jpg.
Let’s tackle various aspects of this image in detail…
There’s so much going on in this image that I find it hard to spot distortion myself. If I let Lightroom adjust it, it does change the image quite a bit. Since Lightroom does a good job of fixing distortion it seems fair to move on!
Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t see any colour fringing in the image. If anyone spots some, let me know!
I think we’ve found my ISO / Noise limit! In this image, because there are a lot of smooth surfaces like the wood and shiny floor, the noise at 6400 ISO is pretty noticeable. That said, it’s still nowhere near as bad as my old gear would have been. If I really wanted to, I could probably fix some of the noise in post-processing. Realistically though, in most cases I’d be shooting images like this on a tripod at a much lower iso.
This is a touch image for the camera to capture. Those windows are so bright and the ceiling is almost black. Note I’ve said “almost black”, because the A7ii in all its dynamic range glory has managed to capture most of this image without clipping.
There is a tiny bit of clipping to the highlights, but there’s still enough information captured that I can rescue the window highlights pretty easily in Lightroom. Here’s a before/after:
All I’ve done here is a little bit of Lightroom noise reduction and reduced the whites/highlights. Given it’s such a small area of the image, I think most people won’t be looking this close, but it’s nice to know the information can be recovered if needed!
As with the wall images, the image is a consistent sharpness from centre to edges. Obviously this is a difficult test image for sharpness due to the high ISO and noise, but from the tests, I’m confident that a tripod shot at lower ISO would give fantastic results.
This was only a super quick test of the 16-35mm lens today. Overall it has performed very well hand held. The stabilisation of the A7ii combined with the Optical Steady Shot (OSS) of the lens results in some great images even when hand-held at slower shutter speeds. I’m pretty confident that I could take this lens out on most daytime shoots without a tripod and it would do well.
For darker indoor shots and long exposures, I’d definitely want to use a tripod. It’s also worth noting that the lens isn’t the lightest, so while I easily carried it around in my hand for a couple of hours, a monopod or tripod for support might be nice for long shoots.
Overall, the Sony 16-35mm f4 Zeiss is a fantastic lens to use – it’s sharp, feels lovely to use, and focuses well. The only downside of this lens that I can find would be the hefty price tag. However, it’s Zeiss quality glass and in this case, you really get what you pay for. If you can afford this lens, I wholeheartedly recommend it!
I’ve got a filter adapter on the way to make my 77mm ND and polarising filters work with the 72mm diameters of these Sony lenses. Once I’ve got those, I’ll take both lenses out for a proper landscape shoot with tripod somewhere scenic. Anyone fancy a photo roadtrip to the seaside? 🙂