Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Natural smiles

Apart from looking at backgrounds during the pre-wedding meeting, I also mention some of the poses that could be used on the wedding day. You get smiles all day and sometimes I want a variation with non-smiling faces, but mostly I prefer natural smiles. You get them when confetti is thrown and you get them when the bride is lifted by groom.

On the lett is a piggy back. Expressions are certainly different from normal poses. You can't tell from the crop on the right but this is another photo of a lift. You can always tell when I like photos because you get variation in sepia, monochrome and other variations too.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Look for the backgrounds

At the pre-wedding meeting we go to the venue for the wedding and the venue for the reception. We look at possible backgrounds, in particular we look for the area where we are going to take the group photos. You won't be surprised to know that this isn't the background for the group photo.

I didn't particularly like the fallen tree but when I got home and looked at it again it didn't look too bad. In fact I quite like it there and whenever I like a photo I change it, sometimes into monochrome as with the photo on the right, and sometimes into sepia. The main purpose of this meeting is to look at backgrounds but if we get good photos of the bride and groom to be then that's not bad too.

Happy snapping
Favourite photo of the day hence variation.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Preparations for the big day

We have moved on from the wedding venue to the reception and here is a typical modification that I like to make with my wedding photographs. During the preparations for the wedding I take photos of the bride and groom separately looking into a mirror or picture frame and then superimpose a photo from the day. If I were writing artistically I would say the airbrushed image is a metaphor of their thoughts, but it could be exactly what they are thinking.

I like the photo on the right. This pose shows of the back of the dress, if I stood back a little more, and it also mimics the photo of the bride being given away earlier in the day. It is good to use the pre-wedding meeting as a means to look at backgrounds for the photos, but it is also nice to prepare in general for the big day.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 28 March 2010

You recognise it now

If you didn't recognise Blackpool from the photos of the Town Hall then you won't have a problem with today's photos. On the home page of my website at I ask if brides and grooms can make use of local landmarks. Well here are some that you can't mistake.

These photos were taken more or less in the same place. Look at the slope of the North Pier. You would think that all the piers at Blackpool were more or less flat but there is certainly an initial slope here.

You can't see it on these photos but there is a lot of work going on at the moment. The reason that you can't see anyone on the beach is because of the work that is going on. So although I like to look at all the photo possibilities at the pre-wedding meeting, there may be a few more backgrounds on the day.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Avoiding converging verticals

Here are two photos from a pre-wedding meeting on Thursday. You may have already guessed that we are in Blackpool as the Town Hall is in the background. The advantage for the photo on the left is that there are no converging verticals. On the right the verticals are moving towards each other in just the same way that a path gets smaller as it goes into the distance. This happens if you are too close to a tall subject. The eye accomodates for this but cameras don't think about amendments unless they are told. I can amend the verticals on the computer but this was only a meeting to see where photos may be taken. The disadvantage with the photo on the left is that there are more distractions. The fence is a significant part of the photo but I think there is a better balance to the photo on the left.

Unusually in this blog, I am only demonstrating one point on avoiding converging verticals. Over the next few days I will show you a closer look of the Town Hall and we will see some other sites in Blackpool. The reception is in a country hotel and you will also get to see some photos taken there.

Happy snapping

Friday, 26 March 2010

How do you view these changes?

I didn't take many photos of this statue but there are many vantage points to get good photos. Sculptures are not bad models for your photography. They are already posed, they don't blink and you can take your time and walk around them. If you don't like the light then go back later when the light has changed and the pose is still there.

In a similar way to yesterday's blog, I converted this photo to monochrome, increased the contrast and made it a little darker. The increased contrast highlights the shadow. You may be guided by titles of scuptures into seeing metaphors. As to the effect of these changes, well I'll leave that to you.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Let's call it artistry

I am sorry if you spent some time looking for changes that weren't there yesterday. I won't ask you to look for changes again but I don't think that you can miss these changes.

On the left I have simply converted the photo without the sign into monochrome. On the right I have increased the contrast and made it a little darker. Just like any changes, they are better if you prefer them. I have moved away from a typical photograph so there is an element of novelty about it - let's call it artistry.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Spot the changes

If you are not sure where Scalestones Point is then go to Morecambe and drive along the prom. Pass Happy Mount Park and when you get to this statue called Venus and Cupid you are there - and here it is. The statue was originally designed for St George's Quay in Lancaster but it seems to fit in so much better in this location.

It looks like a mother playing with her child on the beach. The sculptor is Shane Johnstone who called it "Love, the most beautiful of absolute disasters", known locally as "Venus and Cupid". I am told that the sculpture is dedicated to those who are lost at sea.

As for the difference between the two photos - take another look and spot the differences. I'll post the answer as a comment.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lots of room for conjecture

So now that you can put your words into the mouth of Danielle from Brighton what will they be? The Tories support big business. Is Danielle a big business woman? Why has she never voted Tory before? Is it that she has voted for other parties before, as the Tories would like us to believe? Is it more likely that she has not voted for anyone?

Why should she think that the Tories would support society. I thought they wanted individuals to stand on their own two feet - you know, the opposite of society. Margaret Thatcher is famous for saying that there is no such thing as society, so I had to add these words to the poster on the left.

On the right I simply thought that it was an opportunity for Danielle to become famous. At the 1987 election I left a polling station and there was a television crew and a reporter outside. They asked me if I had changed the way that I had voted. I knew that if I said yes, I didn't vote for the sitting MP because he is rubbish then I might have been on TV. I couldn't do it. I simply said no and walked on. Maybe Danielle isn't too aware of Tory policy, maybe she hasn't voted for anyone before, maybe she genuinely believes in Tory policies to strengthen society, but there is a lot of room for conjecture.

Happy snapping

Monday, 22 March 2010

Stages of transformation

Yesterday I looked at how to fit a photo into a specific shape. The photo is distorted which may be to the advantage of the model if they want to be slimmer.

On the left I have removed the words. I couldn't find the correct font but I didn't think that it mattered that the exaggerated inverted commas were left in situ. Now the field is clear to do with it whatever you like. I am not greatly concerned that I am putting words into the mouth of Danielle from Brighton, firstly because in this context it is obvious that it is my work, it is a little like graffitti. Secondly I think words have already been put into her mouth. Tories aren't known for mending society. It might be easier to think of them as bringing back corporal and capital punishment or standing up for entrepreneurs by giving them huge tax breaks but my first thoughts are not that they search out and support the root causes of society's ills.

In fact if you ask Tories whether they prefer prisoners to be punished or to be rehabilitated I believe they would go for punishment. This doesn't mend a broken society, it is directly related to it. Previously I went into details as to how Julie from Llandudno shouldn't have been persuaded by Tory policies on the family. It is just not right that they are the party to support society. If you want to add a comment for Danielle then feel free to do so and see your words on the poster.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Amending political posters

I have written about political posters in earlier blogs. This means that I can write about them in my politics as well as my photography blog. There is so little content in them that they are ripe for parody and that was the title that I gave to them previously.

Here I am showing you the original photograph on the left. The only thing I did to change it to the photo on the right is to fit it into a 6"x 4" format. It didn't really matter about the cropping here because I am not going to print it, but look what happens to the image. It has been distorted and the model (sorry genuine voter) becomes slimmer. This manipulation is exaggerated. It doesn't look right, but you can see how slight variations may not be noticeable.

Over the next few blogs I am going to show you how to change the words. If you have any suggestions for new reasons to vote Tory then let me know and your words may be seen in the near future.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 20 March 2010

A caricature from Chris Murphy

There is some software that changes photographs so that they look like they have been drawn. This is not an example but I wanted to say something about photography before I talk about this image of a sketch by Chris Murphy. I received it a couple of days ago by email and it now has pride of place printed out onto card. In fact it is better to have an attachment to an email as I can now print it out in any way that I like.

I met Chris at a recent wedding. I have come across him working once before but that was several years ago. So it is unusual to see wedding guests posing for their caricature but it did give me more photo opportunities.

If you want to see more of his work take a look at

Happy snapping (and happy sketching)

Friday, 19 March 2010


Yesterday I showed you a photo that was then compared with a version that had a little more contrast and had been made slighter darker and slightly sharper. As with any amendment, if you like it then it is good to make the change and if you don't like it then don't do it.

I have used the same photo today and used a technique called posterization. This means reducing the gradations of colour within the photo. Instead of smooth transitions between the grades of colour there are fewer variations and more obvious demarcations. This technique has its origins in poster making, hence the name.

Compare this photo with those of yesterday. See which one you prefer and then think about amending your photos (or not).

Happy snapping

Thursday, 18 March 2010

It was mother's day

You are probably well aware that it was mother's day last Sunday. It was a popular day for giving flowers and the Gradwell household was no exception so here is a photo of some of them. On the left I have simply cropped the photo.

On the right I made the photo a little darker, a little sharper and added a little more contrast. It is worth experimenting with changes. There are probably settings on your camera that allow for some change but there is so much more that you can do on a computer.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Name those steps.

Take a look at the photo on the left. Do you know where it was taken? I will give you a clue and tell you that it is somewhere in Lancaster. If you don't know Lancaster then you don't have much chance of answering my question so just think of it as a social comment on urban infrastructure (OK think of it as some steps). If you know Lancaster then you may just recognise it as the steps that take you from St George's Quay to the Carlisle, the railway bridge over the Lune.

I took the photo on the right from more or less the same place but this time you should recognise something. Even if you don't know Lancaster if you travel on the M6 past the city you will see the Ashton Memorial which is seen high up on the horizon lit in all its glory.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

No need for a suntan

A couple of days ago I wrote about the difference between colour and monochrome. For this portrait(s) I have preferred the sepia option. It has the same effect as monochrome in that the eye is not distracted by a bright colour in the background or a bright colour in a piece of clothing.

You may prefer sepia just because you prefer it, and sepia has the added advantage that it makes you look like you have a tan. Simply increase the contrast a little and your tan increases too. On the right I have added a vignette. There is no great interest in the corners of the photo and by using the vignette it puts the main emphasis on the subjects of the portrait.

Happy snapping

Monday, 15 March 2010


I have broken my normal rule of moving away from people who are working. I tend to feel unwell when too much work is going on, but this time I have recorded it.

This tree had no leaves last year. It may well be dead but I am no tree expert. I suspect the tree went for timber and I hope that the cost to the council of cutting it down was more than offset by the income from the wood.

I think that trees are worthy subjects for photography, and as you can see from the photo on the right, cutting one down is more interesting than the television.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What are you looking at?

Here is another photo of my ever-willing model. There may be a criticism that I have not included the full face. I cropped it like this deliberately. I thought it looked better this way as all the attention is on the dog. There is no distracting background.

I used natural light. I often like to use flash in daylight as it reduces hard shadow as in this photo. However whenever I take a portrait I try to take one with flash and one without. Sometimes I prefer the former and sometimes the latter.

If you are ever asked about the difference between colour and monochrome then think of this photo. On the left your attention is directed towards the brown eye. In monochrome it is much easier to admire the texture of the fur or the skin on the nose. The main area of attention is totally changed by the conversion to monochrome.

Happy snapping.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Lindisfarne 2

Yesterday's photo was taken from the other side of the causeway. This is taken from the car park. If you drive to the opposite side of the car park there are no views of the castle. I would guess that this is deliberate so that you have to take the time to walk there to get your photo. As I didn't have the time I had to settle for this even though there are overhead cables.

On the right I have taken out the cables. It is a fairly simple technique to airbrush them out but it would have been so much better if there was one place in the car park where you could get a good view.

Happy snapping

Friday, 12 March 2010


On the way back from Edinburgh I wanted to see Lindisfarne. I had not seen it before and didn't realise that the causeway was three miles long. I was on a long journey already but I did manage to get these photos while I had a cup of coffee. I did drive to the three miles to the car park only to realise that I didn't have time to make a full visit. I would really need to have a few more hours to spare to make the trip worthwhile.

The photo on the right is an amended version of the photo on the left. If you like it then that's good. If you don't then it doesn't matter as it is the same photo. The cafe was very nice and this was my view while I was drinking. I have mentioned that a tripod should be used if you want the best possible photo, if you are zooming in a lot, if your subject is at a distance, or if you are taking a photo at night. In this case a coffee table served as a tripod.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 11 March 2010

It doesn't look like Mel Gibson

These windows are to be found in St Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle. If you go to Edinburgh you have to visit the castle, primarily for its geographic dominance over the rest of the city. You also get a wonderful sense of history in the walls (and windows) of the castle as well as the artifacts like the Scottish Crown Jewels. And if that isn't enough, for one entrance fee to the castle you get to see many different buildings, exhibitions and museums.

These windows are works of art in their own right but the walls are wonders to behold. Built around 1130 it is the oldest building in Edinburgh. You obviously rely on ambient light because they are stained glass windows. You may take this type of photo without a tripod but for me this is one example of when you have to use one. Take a moment to look at each photo and you will see that St Columba is depicted on the left and Mel Gibson - I mean William Wallace is on the right. It doesn't much look like him though.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A flat but sloping surface

I don't think that you need to be Sherlock Holmes to realise that this photo was taken in the centre of Edinburgh. I wasn't carrying a tripod as I had just been to the theatre. In fact it was taken with a compact and I found a flat sloping surface, hence the photo on the left. I can't
remember why there is a blurred red triangle in the bottom corner.

On the right I have straightened the photo. I had to add a little bit of road in the bottom left corner and I removed the road markings. Regular readers will know that I am not a great fan of the distracting markings. One thing to note is that a daily bus pass was £3 and the services were excellent. The £3.50 is a different scheme.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Personal artistic detail

The Nottingham Playhouse is in the centre of the city and outside the building is this mirror. It is called the Sky Mirror and it is certainly different to see a parabolic mirror in a public place. It has been here since 2004 and is a creation of the sculptor Anish Kapoor. I knew about the Sky Mirror in New York but I didn't know about this version, also by Kapoor but the New York model has only been there since 2006.

I thought of parabolic mirrors as something to be found in physics, not arts departments but if it is the job of a work of art to get you talking about it then this certainly works. The photo on the right of just the mirror shows its defects, otherwise known as personal artistic detail.

Happy snapping

Monday, 8 March 2010


This portrait was taken a couple of weeks ago. It was a nice day and there was a convenient green background. A natural background with no centres of interest is a good choice for portrait work as interest is directed towards the person. Look at the chink of light through the tree. It is distracting and I was tempted to airbrush it away. I decided against it but it is a simple process with things like leaves and bushes.

On the right I have converted to monochrome and increased tone. It is also a little darker but all changes are matters of personal choice and the bottom line is that I prefer these changes.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 7 March 2010

One of these photos has been airbrushed

Yesterday I was being driven through Chesterfield. We didn't stop but I had my camera in hand and I took this photo. I didn't have time to compose it although I have since cropped it. I am sure that I could have taken a much better photo if we had stopped. It would have been taken from a much better angle and it would have been a much higher quality if I wasn't moving at 30mph. There are so many other factors that could improve this photo but this snap was taken because it is such a distinctive spire.

I did airbrush one of the photos. Can you tell which one I worked on?

Happy snapping

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Royal Mile

If you visit the camera obscura in Edinburgh you get a great view of the castle. Turn around and you get this view of the Royal Mile. It certainly helps if you get a nice day and even better if you get contrast between light and shade which helps to bring out depth in buildings.

On the right I slightly lowered the camera angle. As someone has gone to such an effort to tell you what you are looking at, it seems a shame not to record it so you know what you can see in the photograph.

Happy snapping