I am sooooo proud!

I’m not even going to try to pretend that this is a small thing for me – I just can’t believe there’s a whole episode of the pod Drinking from the toilet with my voice in it! And I’m saying some good stuff! I have decided that my accent is charming and not annoying at all and that I’m actually doing a decent job – with a lot of help from Hannah – trying to explain my Swedish thoughts in English.

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We talk about what makes a good photo, a few tips on what to think about when you want to photograph your own pup, a bit about why I feel strongly that no photo is worth a sad dog, and about the training of a good Top Dog Model.

There’s no photo worth a sad dog! There just isn’t!

And it’s free to listen to. Let my (not so) soothing voice join you in your next car ride (that’s the time in my life when I listen to podcasts), train ride, or dog walk. I hope you get some new ideas!

Studio work

Winter is coming, and I’m trespassing on my husband’s garage…Why? Because it’s nice and warm – and has room for a (very simple but still) studio!

Yep! I’m all set for winter. It’s not a lot of fancy stuff, most of it is second hand, but it works! Two large softboxes with continuous light. Some backgrounds. A fake-floor. Some cheap props.

I’m having so much fun!

My own dog is really easy to photograph, a trained model who loves to work with whatever I bring home.

Do you want to train your own dog to be a Top Dog Model? There’s an online course in the making right now… Just saying… 😉

I’m learning about studio lights, fixing the background in post, trying to get that personality showing.

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It’s really fascinating. And I get to work with different kind of breeds, colors, and furs.

I just love finding the right ways to combine training and photography. It’s all about happy dogs!

So…All set for winter! And one step closer to my dream 🙂

Exercise in creativity

A few weeks ago I purchased Eric Kim’s “eternal return to creative every day”. It’s a fun little booklet with creative ideas and exercises, and I finally printed it and started with the first task yesterday.

Photograph everything that interests you during one day. Go through the images, see what you like.

I did. These are the ones I chose (from a trip to Copenhagen):

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I am pleased with the result, Every one of the photos tells a story – at least to me. From the moment we left (Midori says “Huh! You leaving?”) to waiting in traffic five minutes from home at a roadblock.

Christina and Fant the Fant-astic!

I’ ve known Christina on the web since she took one of my online classes, and I’ve admired her work. She and her beautiful cocker Fant lives in Paris at the moment (enjoy her insta! ), and as they were passing by Sweden she asked for a private session. Some new ideas on street photography, and how to pose Fant in order to not make him look posed, was on the wish list.

We met in Västra Hamnen in Malmö (a beautiful part of the city, do not miss when passing by!). I know the area fairly well, and as Christina wanted to work with the composition of lines and shapes with her 16mm wide-angle, I added the idea “dog goes on an adventure in town” to give a bit of backstory.

And then we got to work. For me, one of the keys is to really “work through” an area. Different angles, compositions distances, poses…Little by little that makes me realise what I want from this scene, and I often end up with something completely different than my original idea. So that’s what I had Christina doing.

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Fant is a very well trained model, and seemed to really enjoy himself! Lots of treats were involved 🙂

We deliberately chose poses that did NOT involve looking into the camera. The idea was to capture Fant’s view of the town – how would a dog explore? If he was a bit adventurous, and more about seeing than sniffing (I know, it’s not super realistic, but the images get better…)?

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This part of town has lots of big windows, and that means lots of reflections. So much fun to play with!

Of course, a dog visiting Malmö would want to look at the sea and the bridge to Copenhagen. We got him to look in the right direction with a little help from some strategically arranged treats.

I really liked the idea of him lying almost like a statue, overlooking the city with the Turning Torso behind him. Him – not so much…But hey, anything for Mom!

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And my last one of a very warm and tired Fant. He did not actually seek that shadow by himself, we put him there. It still tells the story 🙂

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My shots are a bit haphazard, I wasn’t there to shoot but to teach and give feedback and suggestions. I know Christina got some really good ones, and can’t wait to see them!

So. Lesson learned:

  • What’s the story?
  • Try, try, try!
  • Change something in every shot
  • Leading lines
  • Diagonals
  • Rule of thirds
  • Play with reflections
  • Avoid poses that look posed
  • Work with the light, make the subject stand out
  • Don’t be afraid to go close
  • Don’t be afraid to back up
  • Keep the dog happy!

And to finish: keep your eyes open. What happens around you?

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Speedlight for dummies: part 2.

Pretty soon after my first speedlight-try, I realised what an advantage it would be to separate the flash from the camera. So I got a transmitter. On the list of what I love about Godox: it’s cheap. That means I can learn without having to invest a fortune (so far under 2000:- for flash and transmitter!).

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Lensbaby is too soft for this purpose and my taste at f/2,8, so the rest are taken with f/4.

Today I have been working with my Fujifilm t-x2, Godox tt350, and a transmitter. Lens: I made a bad choice. I couldn’t choose between working on my speedlight skills and working on my manual focus skills, so I chose the lensbaby. I should have gone with an af-lens, as I don’t quite handle manual focus yet. Oh, well! One sharp out of every ten isn’t too bad, is it? Love the look of the lensbaby when I get it right! 😀

Anyway. I wanted a controlled environment, so all photos are from inside my living room with a simple black backdrop.

 

Todays tasks:

  1. Find out how it works.
  2. Try different settings (more or less flash, more or less natural light)
  3. Try different angles (because lighting dogs are NOT the same as lighting people. People don’t have huge triangular ears or very long snouts).
  4. Try to get the eyes sharp.
  5. Maybe get something worth saving.

I wanted kind of low key, and in my mind the photos were fantastic (of course). In reality…Let’s just say I need more practice!

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Flash straight from the side/behind her. “Are you done soon?”

I was worried the flash would be distracting for my model, or even frighten her, so the first thing I did was to flash it in a different direction and give her a treat a few times. Flash = treat. She got that really fast, and there were no problems at all!

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Flash behind her. I so missed the focus on this one, but wanted to show the effect. The light on her face is natural light from a window.

I started with TTL-mode, and adjusted the amount of light. I got the lighting of her really nice, but wanted to get a darker background so I changed to manual mode instead.

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Flash bounced in the ceiling. Nice, but too much light on the background.

In manual mode I set the exposure on the camera first, and then I added a tiny bit of light from the flash.

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Flash almost straight in front of her a little bit to the side.

I also tried to bounce it in the ceiling, and compare that with flash straight-on. The bounced one is much softer, obviously, but also harder to control.

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From the side, bounced in the ceiling.

Luckily, I have a very patient model who works for a handful of kibble. That allows me to play and test things! After an hour of shooting, I know A LOT more than I did an hour ago. And I guess that after a few more sessions, I may even start to know what I’m doing…:D

Play is good for you!

My lensbaby has not left my camera, I’m mesmerized. It’s so different from “normal” photographing. The combination of mastering the manual focus (hard!), the special soft qualities of the lens, the fact that I’m spoilt with the perfect technical quality of Fujinon lenses (they just deliver without any thought process from me), makes me feel like a beginner.

And I like it! I’m learning to see things differently, to use my camera differently. The images, of course, come out differently, and I edit them differently – realism is boring. Sane is boring.

I guess it’s a phase that gets old soon, but some of it will linger in my future work – that I’m sure of. But for now I experiment like crazy.

Click on the images to see a bigger size

My camera join me at every walk. I find Little things to try to focus on. I try different apertures, and play with light and colors.

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My husbands birthday tulips in front of my window. The short dof is interesting to work with, and the fact that the edges will be unsharp is an invitation to compose differently.

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Playing with shapes and structure. This session, the sweet spot of the lens was at f/4. I find that it varies with the light.

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Love the falling snow in this one…

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And with a smaller aperture (this one f/5,6) it’s really sharp – when I get the focus where I want it.

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I love the soft effect, but not in every shot. In this one…perfect!

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Is I mentioned, the editing of these photos sometimes gets a little…different. I love the matte retro-effect, and I allow myself to play as much as I like 🙂

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And I look at photos from other lensbaby-photographers, especially with the velvet 56, and OMG, the beautiful images! This lens will probably live on my camera for a few more weeks, Before I feel that I kind of master it.

I even tried some action shots…Interesting with only manual focus!

I think a slightly smaller aperture will be better…:D The photos are sharp, but the soft glow is a bit much.

So. I’ll continue to reject your reality and substitute my own! At least until it gets boring 😉

Lensbaby velvet 56 + Fujifilm x-t2

A few weeks ago I chatted with a friend about different lenses to the x-t2, and she dropped “you should get a lensbaby. I think you would like it!”.

Hmmm…I had looked at lensababy before, but only manual focus…seems difficult! But when I start thinking about something I often have a hard time letting it go. I wonder how much they cost? Where can I get them? Ooops…kind of ordered one…

It arrived yesterday. And I’m hooked.

A lensbaby is a toy, a lens that gives a velvety feel to the images. It’s sharp in the middle, and makes the highlights bleed a bit, like a glow. With a small aperture the effect is very subtle, with a big aperture the dof gets very narrow and the soft effect is very clear. It’s not for every image, but I’m learning as I go…

First of all, when I put the lens on I couldn’t take a single photo. Thank god for Youtube, where I quickly learned that I needed to enable shooting without a lens. Problem solved.

The tulips above are the first two photos I took. Then I brought the camera for my dog walk, and tried it on different motivs, with different apertures:

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I love the effect on the bokeh, it almost looks like under water. The lens is sharp and I can get really close to my motivs.

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I was a bit nervous about the manual focus, but it was a lot easier than I thought. As you can see I missed it a couple of times, but with a little training it will be fine. I set my camera to focus-peaking, it made it a lot easier to see where focus is (it’s outlined in white or red).

I also tried some wider shots. You can clearly see the difference the size of aperture makes.

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I Think I need some more experimenting here, to know what works and what doesn’t work for me. My learning curve is pretty steep, but it’s far from done!

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I really like this one, the softness works really well with the small feather.

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As this feather is a bit more textured, I chose a slightly smaller aperture.

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Here you can clearly see the effect of blur all around the edges. I have to think a bit differently to make it work to my advantage (not sure about this one…)

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My favorite of the day. I love everything about this photo, the difference between soft and sharp, the colors, the composition.

So pleased with my lensbaby! Yes, it’s a “one trick pony”, but what a trick!

Speedlight for dummies: part one

One of the things that I could see everywhere at Fotomässan was light.

Not strange, as a photographer is totally dependant on light! As I am outdoors most of the time, I use the sun as my lightsource, and if I need to I bounce the light in a reflector. (Wait, that’s a lie…I bring my reflector, and think I will use it, but never do. I just…forget…)

But sometimes I have felt the need for a second source of light. To brighten shadows on location, and save me some time in Photoshop. Something small and easy to carry. I know what you are all thinking: “you need a flash!”. But me and flashes don’t really work well together. I hate being photographed with a flash, and I have seen in my four-legged models that many of them feel the same way. Plus I don’t like how it looks. And the eyes get red or green.

Or maybe, just maybe, I don’t know how to use it properly…

Luckily for me, I could listen to no less than three seminars on how to use flash. Speedlight, Prophotos A1 (a speedlight/studioflash hybrid), and studioflash with softbox.

It actually seemed easy. It actually seemed like it could work for me! All of a sudden I knew what I had been doing wrong, and – maybe – how to fix it!

Although a prophoto A1 seems kind of fantastic, it COSTs about 10.000 sek. That’s way over my budget for “fun things to test”. Instead I got a Godox TT350 to use on my camera, just to give it a go! Price: 1100 sek.

All the photos today are straight from my camera, no editing whatsoever, just to show you what I did:

 

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No flash.

 

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How it usually looks when I try to use a speedlight. Terrible!

So far so bad – but I knew how to fix this! I switched from TTL (that means that the camera and flash talk to each other and agree on the best exposure. In this case they are wrong.) to manual flash mode, and used my flash compensation to turn down the intensity of the flash…

 

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Much better, but still not really perfect…

…and all the way down…

 

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Yes! That’s it, the result I have been looking for! Just a touch of light.

One of my biggest concerns was if my model would find the flash scary or uncomfortable, but she didn’t seem to mind.

 

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The Godox speedlight comes with a “catchlight-card”, that reflects a bit extra in the eyes. Works really well!

This is the effect I wanted – photos that doesn’t look as if Ihave used a flash, they just…pop…a bit more. Switching from TTL to M gave me the possibility to set my cameras exposure as I wanted it, and then just use a tiny bit of flash to fill the shadows. Nice!

This was my first attempt, and I have a lot more that I want to try with that small speedlight. But there is hope!

 

 

 

 

 

Gathering inspiration

Creativity needs to be refilled. At least that’s the case for me. I need input – new ideas, new ways to see and interpret the world. I get that in a lot of ways:

  • Watching TV (yes, it’s true!)
  • Talking to friends
  • Take a walk with my dogs, with my mind open
  • Talking to new people
  • Look at images and films
  • Listen to music
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Learn new things
  • Get new equipment (something small is enough)
  • Go to an exhibition or art-gallery
  • Discuss with other photographers
  • Teach
  • Experiment within boundries (only 23mm, only night, only flatlay, etc)

And a lot more…

Some of these things I do automatically almost every day. Some of them I need to plan for. And some of them happens rarely, but makes a great impact.

As an introvert person I enjoy the company of one (me) or maybe two (my husband), and I tend to not make interaction with other people my priority.

That’s why events like Fotomässan are extra good for me! I’m forced out in the world, and for a few days my head is wide open and I take in a lot of new impressions at once. It’s exhausting. But it’s exhilirating!

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A calm photo to rest my brain a bit…;)

Yesterday I spent the whole day with other people. Talking, listening, looking, learning. I will do the same today.

And then I will need at least two weeks to process everything, write down all my new ideas, try everything I learned, follow up on new contacts, and little by little make sense of what now feels like a beehive in my mind (but in a good way!).

I’ll write a bit more frequently here, as a part of my “get everything out of my head into the open and take a good look at it”-process. Maybe it will be interesting for someone else, mostly it will be interesting for me.

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A mobile-photo of poor quality, but it’s still valuable to me – it will always remind me of Fotomässan 2018!

My creativity is full, overflowing actually, and will be for some time 🙂

Feed your creativity

You need fuel.

I mean, your BODY needs fuel, obviously, but so does your creativity. So does your mind.

I find that it’s easy to get lazy. It’s easy to do what you know will work, use the settings you are familiar with, use the poses you know will look good. Let’s face it: it’s easy to get stuck…(There is, of course, a possibility that this only applies to me – but I don’t think so.)

What you feed your body is easy, but what do you feed your mind? Let me share some of my best tips!

  • Join a photo community. An FB-group is one possibility if you find a good one. A site like Youpic, Gurushots, 500px, or Swedish Fotosidan is another good option. Engage. Comment.
  • Learn more. In Sweden we have Moderskeppet, internationally I like CreativLive and Skillshare. (Oh, by the way, I can get you two months free on Skillshare! Follow THIS LINK! I love Skillshare…)
  • Get inspired by social media. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook…Follow people whose work you admire.
  • Try a new field of creativity! I have recently started drawing and painting, something I looooved doing as a child but haven’t done in…20 years…
  • Get inspired by other great artists. Go to an exhibition. I love Louisiana in Denmark, but I also visit my local galleries and museums. Even the camera store shows photos by local artists from time to time!
  • Join a challenge. From time to time, there are challenges to participate in that gives you a task or subject, you create your image, and upload it with other participants.
  • Compete. Not to win. Just to produce a certain kind of photo, that you think will fit the contest. It’s all about participating!

There is one more thing I think you already do, but maybe you don’t think of it as feeding your creativity: watch moving pictures. Films, series, shows. The basics of how to create a mood, with light and composition and colours, are the same in moving pictures as in photos. Film-makers are often very, VERY good at this!

I started watching Stranger Things this Monday, and apart from being an awesome series, it is beautiful to watch! They use just about every trick in the book – and it works. I freeze my screen multiple times each episode and just look at the details in light and composition that creates the mood in the scene.

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Both photos from google

Next time you look at a film – watch for the small details that build the scene. Get inspired. Feed your creativity.