Stepping out of the comfort zone: The importance of self belief

Recently I had some friends ask me to take some portraits of them. No big deal right? well my friend happened to be heavily pregnant and wanted some pregnancy themed images. Cue panic. I think she caught me looking for the nearest fire exit to escape! I had literally no idea what a pregnancy shoot was or should be, all I knew was there would be pictures of a heavily pregnant bump. My brain was telling me "whoa! boy you ain't done nothing like this before, you are well out of your depth. After my mini stress and chatting it over I realised I was a fool for freaking out, a shoot can be anything you want it to be. My friend sorted out a Pinterest board and started collating images she really liked and wrote a few noted on them. Before the shoot we had a chat about what kind of things she liked and discussed what we could do. Now I quite like to shoot with flash but I knew for this shoot I wanted to utilise soft natural light and play around with silhouette. 

Im not going to go into much detail of the shoot itself as I want this post to be aimed more about recognising your own skills and self belief. From saying yes to the shoot I learned that its good to push yourself and shoot something you may not be familiar or comfortable with. It's too easy to sit in your comfort zone and shoot stuff you are comfortable with. I knew very little about photographing couples, families and pregnant women as its not been something I've actively sought out to shoot. I guess its never held much interest for me as it always felt like more pressure, more things to go wrong and ultimately more people to disappoint. This may all of course sound like utter rubbish to you, but to me these are the feelings I internalise before every single shoot, mr self doubt pops his head out and starts whispering his wicked little words in my ear. If theres one thing I can say to anyone else who has the same feelings, is believe. Believe in your vision, back yourself that you know your gear and know how to master it and get it to work for you. But most of all believe in yourself.  

As always heres a few pictures from the shoot.

A behind the scenes look and thoughts on my recent Icarus themed shoot

I was taking part in a weekly photo comp last year, it was nothing big just a group of friends who took it in turns to set a theme for a shoot on a weekly basis. One of the themes that popped up was gravity. I got thinking about gravity and wanted to try and tell a story with the image instead. I got inspired by old stories and greek mythology and thought it could be fun to shoot an image with an Icarus theme, after all he did try to overcome gravity but you just cant beat the laws of physics!

Anyway stuff happened, I got busy and never got around to shooting my image for the gravity theme. Skip forward to the new year, a friend had found me some convincing feather angel wings and another friend was free and super keen to be involved so with his help I kicked my butt into action, picked a day and off we went.  

I knew I wanted some light coloured rocks to help tie the image to its greek/mediterranean influence. Wellington is pretty rugged coastline, exposed to the elements most of Wellington's south coast tends to be black sharp jagged rocks. Luckily around the miramar peninsular you get these warm coloured smooth sandstone rocks which just happened to be a perfect fit for the shoot. After a bit of scouting around trying to find a quiet sheltered spot (it was blowing a pretty strong northerly!) we found an area I thought could work well, it had all the elements I wanted, nice big rock for the model to lie on surrounded by clear water with a sandy bottom. The light refracts through the water much better with a sandy bottom and the sand reflect some of the light back giving it a nice turquoise blue colour which also helps add to the mediterranean feel. I thought it would be fun to show a behind the scenes shot of the model testing the location and helping me figure out my angle and what I wanted to include in the final shot. So below is a shot of Dave the model catching some rays, which also gives you some idea of how bright the overall scene was!

 The model Dave testing the location out

The model Dave testing the location out

The one thing you can't see in any of the shots is how incredibly windy it was, we got lucky with a spot behind a huge rock but the wind was still a concern and I almost called the shoot off. I was lucky to have two amazing friends as assistants for the shoot and they are exceptional photographers themselves. Both Dan and Jenn convinced me to crack on and get the job done, so a massive thanks to them, I literally couldn't have done it without you guys! Take the time to go check them out!

 A test shot showing the lighting setup and Dan the VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand)

A test shot showing the lighting setup and Dan the VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand)

So its pretty obvious the overall scene was bright. I knew I wanted to use flash to over power sun as it would give me the desired look I wanted. From experience I know I could get away with using only 2 flashes providing I could get my shutter speed up over 1/2000s. This is where the Fuji X100s kicks butt! The X100s has a fixed lens and a leaf shutter system, the beauty of this is it allows you to fire a flash at full power sync'd up to its maximum shutterspeed (1/4000s) WITHOUT needing to use a hypersync flash system. Combining this with the X100s inbuilt 3-stop ND filter means i can severely cut the amount of light from a scene and still shoot at a wide aperture. In the end I wanted to preserve some detail in the rocks and water so chose to shoot at f4. In post production I pulled the images into Photoshop and blended a couple of shots together to make the wings bigger. Then I tweaked the contrast a little and added a touch of grain. In the final colour grade I wanted to reference the early renaissance greek mythology painters so I went with a slightly yellower palate with deep shadows and muted tones. This final image is below, please click for a slightly larger version!


Time out in the South

After a hectic end to 2014 I decided a bit of downtime was needed and headed off for a roadtrip around the South Island visiting places I hadn't been to before. The weather couldn't have been better with some nice hot days - perfect for late evening lake swimming. I have been pouring through the images and thought it time I shared some on here. As always grab a cup of tea, have a flick through and enjoy!