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A Christmas Surprise

A Fox Tale.

Had a bit of a Christmas surprise the other day. Back in the Spring and Summer one of the local foxes kept coming into our garden. Now if you have read any of my previous posts you will know that we often have foxes come to the garden in search of food. Well, one particular fox this year really made himself at home.

Most nights he would come in search of food and we noticed he had a mange problem.  My partner bought some mange potion from the Fox Project and laced food with a few drops, positioning it around the garden so that our fox could find it.  Freddy soon caught on………. oh did I tell you someone named him Freddy.  Anyway, this went on for a bit until Freddy would come and sit amongst us when we were sitting in the garden, eventually feeling very relaxed because he would lay facing away from us. He would always have one eye on us if anyone stood up. I guess natural animal instincts were still there.

He used to have fun following Mrs AB Photography around the garden during gardening sessions and digging up newly planted shrubs, sometimes running off with her gardening gloves.  Never letting you get too close – not that we would ever want to invade his space.

Fox sitting on a wall

The Fox had easy access to the garden partly due to groundworks being done by the neighbours.

It was quite an honour for us all to be with this wild animal for most of the summer.

All of a sudden he stopped appearing. We are hoping he just moved on and didn’t succumb to forces of nature or indeed humans.

Surprise

Well as you can see from the images below I shot loads of images of him throughout the summer months and it was suggested that I send an image up to the Kent Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. The surprise was that I actually won the section I entered –  Wilder Towns and Cities.  You can click on the images to enlarge them for a closer look if you wish.

They are running a campaign to get more people involved with local wildlife. It’s a worthwhile thing to encourage wildlife into your garden and can put a smile on your face just by observing birds, foxes and squirrels while enjoying a glass of wine or sipping on a beer on a warm summers evening.

So a fitting tribute to an old friend is that his face is going to be shown around Kent to promote the Kent Wildlife Campaign. Hopefully next year he might return. Rest assured there will always be a welcome for him in our plot of land in this urban landscape.

Please feel free to leave a comment on here. Let me know what wildlife you encounter in your garden.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Andy

Fox eating food

Fox sleeping under a picnic table

The fox had an afternoon nap underneath the picnic table

Fox startled by a noise from over the back

Photobombing fox

Our Fox photobombing some of my outdoor portrait sessions.

Fox in the spring

Posing this time in our flower beds

 

Looking around the garden for food

The winning photo

Most of the time he ignored the birds

Making an appearance in the late evening sunshine

A glowing tree stands tall above some bracken in a woodland near Cliffe Marshes

A Woodland Walk

A Walk in the Woods

 

I thought I would take myself out for a walk to a nearby woodland.  Now it’s quite hard to spot any sort of composition in a forest, mainly because of all the branches and leaves going off in all directions throughout the scene.  The leaves and other foliage seemed bright like a luminescence that I haven’t seen before.  It looked like everything had a dose of saturation from photoshop although this was before any photos were taken.  Luckily, as I was coming to the point in the walk where I was about to turn around, a glow that caught my eye in amongst the very green leaves.  I realised it was light bouncing off the stripped bark of the tree below which made it stand out amongst the surrounding foliage.

 

Setting up

So the next thing was to set up my tripod in the dense bracken underfoot.  All was well until I mounted my camera –  the added weight made one of the legs slowly sink into the earth!  After re-jigging the tripod and a composition set up that I was pleased with, I set about taking the shot.  1/8sec f18 IS0 400.  It was very windy so the slow shutter speed picked out movement in some of the leaves.  I tried a shot with a faster shutter speed but was happier with the first effort.

Back Home

Back at base, in the editing programme lightroom, I found the foliage still far too bright so I toned it down a little bit.  All that was left to do was add a vignette and do some selective dodging and burning on the tree.

I titled this the ‘Bracken Beacon’ on Instagram which I think was quite apt for the glow that this old tree was giving off on that windy day on my woodland walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glowing tree stands tall above some bracken in a woodland near Cliffe Marshes

A tree glowing in a Woodland near Cliffe Marshes in Kent.

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Calendar

 

A3 2020 Calendar

A calendar is a very personal thing, which makes choosing the images to go into my 2020 Calendar quite a challenge. When I have spoken to people about calendars I normally get a very mixed reaction from liking wildlife, landscapes, fluffy things, flying things. I Can sense some people now trying not to make eye contact and say “run”, “he is trying to sell another bloody calendar”.

 

Variety

So with this calendar in mind, I tried to get a mixture of the furry and the fluffy, Just look at June and December, Bees are fluffy too, check August. I don’t recommend stroking one though. There is a bit of blurb on the calendar explaining a little bit about each image. There is also some info on image use.

Some studio work is also in the calendar with some cosmetic stock related images and a bottle of ice-cold beer.Calendar showing wire binding

 

Quality

It is very important for me trying to brand myself that I get the best quality for a fair price. This Calendar printing company by far met my expectations in terms of printing and producing a product that I could add my name too. They even managed to get the early May bank holiday (VE Day) in the right place and I didn’t know it was changing.

The 2020 calendars come pre-packed in poly bags. Customers know that they are getting a product straight from the printers. As a result, these Calendars are hot off the press.

My Calendars are wire bound so you can fold over or just rip off to reveal the next month to see whether you have a nice holiday coming up that month or how long until payday. Enough of my calendar habits.

Delivery Options

Although I’d love to hand-deliver every calendar (and boy do I need the exercise) it’s simply not possible. For that reason, there is a flat rate postage and package delivery charge for this item for UK wide delivery. You can, of course, choose to place an order and collect from me. I may throw in a cup of tea and a biscuit. Oh, the selling tactics are shameless.Back of Anrew beck photography 2020 calendar

Cost of this locally produced quality product.

What we’ve got to pay for it? Doh. Yep and its great value at only £8.99 which represents good value for and A3 sized beast as this is. At this size, it shows each image off at its best. This gives you more room to add notes etc like paydays and holidays.

If you have started to make eye contact and have been sold then please click here to be taken to the Calendar more info page.

There is a golden ticket inside one of them. The finder gets a tour around my special photo factory. Stop it. No, they don’t, but I may still throw in the cup of tea and biscuit. Reluctantly I can’t send tea and biscuits through the post. Royal Mail frowns upon such actions.Detailed shot of calendar

Summary

So to sum up, a quality locally produced A3, wire bound, calender with quality images. Something for everyone male, female and a good stocking filler for Christmas.

If you would like one, please click below. Thank you.

BUY

 

 

 

 

calendar page showing dates and a fox photograph

Andrew Beck photography calendar page showing dates and an image of a stunt horse rider

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Event Photography

Event Photography

What to expect from me when I photograph your event

There are many genres of photography I like to shoot but I particularly like event photography. It is great to see people having fun and to capture those key moments which can be very rewarding. There are a few hurdles to overcome with this type of photography.

Venues are very important as there is usually a lack of light which makes focusing awkward at times but luckily can be overcome.   Modern Speedlite flashguns throw out an optical grid to help the focusing sensor lock-on to a face, thus keeping the amount of properly focused images (keepers) to a maximum.Three women having fun using props in a natural pose at an event

As always I try to strike a balance of the type of images I take at each event.  My preferred style is a natural one, taking people enjoying themselves without them realising that I am even in the room.  I appreciate that some clients would like posed shots of themselves with friends and family on special occasions and then I try to put the subjects at ease by asking them to do something a bit different to the usual pose and smile.  Sometimes a silly interaction can make a more interesting image.

I like to throw in some black and white images too. Black and white images can cut out the distraction of colour and give more power to the actions within a scene which, in turn, lets the emotion of the image come shining through.

A black and white image showing people in a natural pose without the distraction of colourA black and white image focuses on the emotion of a proud father and daughter have a hug.

Ambient light v Flash for Event Photography

Ambient light, the light in the room usually dictated by the disco or band lighting, can give a more natural picture. Always good for the dancing shots especially when the alcohol kicks in or as seen here when the band are in action. The last thing you want to do is destroy the atmosphere of the concert lighting with a big white flash.

Varied colours from the lights of a Rock concert

 

Two women pose for the camera at a private functionFlash comes into its own when you want to overpower the uneven colour or dark areas you would normally get with just using ambient light ie group shots and photos of couples. There is another method that can be used creatively which is known as shutter drag, whereby there is a  mixture of the two for some unusual creative effects.

Two women smile at the camera while a third woman interacts by pointing at the camera.

Event Photography Details

I always like to get details of an event whether it be of the hard-working staff behind the bar, a decorated room or a birthday cake. A lot of time, money and preparation by the hosts deserves to be recorded for future posterity.  The details of a birthday cake

 

More Information about Event Photography

For more information on my event photography, portfolio and price please click here.

 

 

a Black and White image of bar staff hard at work at an event.

Lipstick taken in the studio

Cosmetic Studio Shot

Lipstick taken in the studio

Cosmetic studio photography

Here is an image taken the other day of some cosmetics in my studio. I lit the shot from above with one strobe and diffused the light with some white perspex material. This gives the nice graduated glow on the black perspex base.  I then placed a light off to the right with a large softbox which diffused the light and pushed some additional light back onto the edge of the cosmetics.

Patience is needed to keep the lipsticks in the right place on the plexiglass as they move very easily.  A few strategically placed thin pieces of paper were used to stop them rolling.

Tethered Capture

I tethered my camera to my laptop to give a bigger image. I find this slows the process down and aids composition when you view these images on a bigger screen.

Original image

The picture below is the image straight out of the camera and, if you look closely you can see a lot of dust had settled during the shoot.   Because of the small aperture, dust on the camera sensor is more apparent and I removed this by using the healing brush in photoshop. The head of the lipstick was smoothed out slightly and the reflections from the softbox in the water droplets off to the right were also removed.

The result is a nice clean image of some cosmetics taken in the studio.

swede whole and mashed with parsley

Using natural light for food photography.

You don’t always need flash.

You don’t need expensive strobes to get some decent food photography. Here I just used natural window light from a north facing window to give a nice soft light to the image and what’s more it is free.

My camera was mounted above on a sturdy tripod and with an aperture of f16 a shutter speed of 4 seconds was required at ISO 100.  Using this shutter speed meant that I could keep the swede and the mash in focus but slightly throw the wooden floor out of focus just a little bit

 

Using flash isn’t always necessary its about using the right light for the job in hand and sometimes there is no better light than diffused window light. The benefit with flash is that you can control or modify the light a bit easier in my experience.

Have a go.

Still life window light photography is something everyone can have a go at. The thing you really need to do is keep your camera steady so a tripod is great however, just supporting your camera on a flat surface and using the self timer to trip the shutter will let you take a longer exposure possibly needed for this type of shot.

Razor Back Craft Beer Ringwood Brewery

Razor Back Beer Bottle

 

Craft Beer Shot

For those tuning in to find a blog on shaving your back, well I’m sorry to disappoint.

Razor Back is a craft beer and one of the perks of taking photos of beer is, of course, the fun of taking the empties back to the bottle bank with the stench of stale alcohol wafting around your car.

Using a shutter speed of 1/250 @ f8 ISO 100 ensured that no ambient light was going to be messing with the lighting, which meant that there was no interference of the studio strobes. It also helped to maintain a black background.

Lights

Lighting was two strip boxes either side using some diffusion material to make it a softer fall off of light around the edges and then backlit.

I will be disposing of the bottle carefully but I shall make sure that the contents don’t go to waste either.  Well, someone had to drink it!

 

 

Razor Back Craft Beer Ringwood Brewery

Feeling part of the party with shutter drag

Shutter Drag

Shutter Drag

No its not smashing your camera up and pulling some important internal parts of your camera across the floor.  Shutter drag is a technique where, instead of using your cameras sync speed to take a flash photograph, you set the shutter speed to a slower amount, for example 0.5 sec.

The examples here are of a Wedding function from last year. You can see everyone is having a great time and the camera has caught that.

Dancing shot without slow sync

Example using shutter drag

However, in the second example, you can see the motion of the disco lights as they streak through the image which gives a more dynamic feel to the images as if the viewer was in that dance.

Dancers having a great time

So what’s going on?

What happens is the flash fires as the shutter opens and freezes any movement caught by the duration of the flash.   The trick is then to move the camera in that half a second window to streak any light from the disco lights thus giving the look of streaky coloured lights throughout the scene.

The trick here is not to overdo this technique. I like to give clients a mixture of both to see what they prefer but I usually get asked “Wow! How do you get those crazy lights?”  Now you know.

With flash there are really two exposures going on. Your aperture controls your flash exposure and your shutter speed controls the ambient light.

I hope to get more into this in future blogs but for now just try messing about with a shutter speed of around 0.5 sec, an I.S.O. of about 400 and f5.6 Aperture – but do experiment with these figures and give it a go next time you are out at a party with your DSLR.

More about flash

Abstract sunflower

Sunflower

 

Backgrounds

Recently I have been back in the studio creating some abstract sunflower images for stock agencies. I initially tried taking a portion of the sunflower head on a white background with a key light with a soft box off to the right and my lastolite background with one bare flash strobe firing into the cavity giving an even white background.

I think this looks good as an abstract image especially with a square crop.

Abstract sunflower

Roll in the dark background

So on now to my very dark brown canvas background where I tried to get some nice brown yellow colour combo’s going.

I decided to make this a square crop also as it seems to hold the composition better.

Lens Choice

Both images were taken on a Canon 100mm macro 2.8 IS lens which gives superb quality and sharpness and is my “go to” lens for this type of shot, although there is a narrow depth of field and the focal point of the image was the flower at centre left, making it pop from the page.

Please feel free to comment.

 

Sunflowers against a brown canvas

 

Young woman clutching hands black and white copy space

The result of one flash

Happy New Year!

Well to bring in the new year I decided to give a new strip soft box light modifier a try.

The idea being to try and get some low key images which had a certain simplicity to them. Armed with the Canon 1DX on a tripod this time as I usually shoot hand holding I set about taken a series of images in profile with different poses

Charlotte 1/250 sec f8 ISO 100

Profile

I decided on this shoot that I would take some profile shots of my model Charlotte. After some serious shots I cracked a joke about something and she gave out this lovely smile. A first for me she never normally laughs at my jokes and caught on camera. Anyway it turned out to be one of the best shots of the session.

Post Processing.

Not a great deal was done to the image in post other than a mono conversion and I did originally extend the canvas to the left to give Charlotte more space to look into and give a more isolated look to it but I think it took away the impact of the original expression.

Please feel free to comment on any images that I post or have any questions on anything.