Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Week 30 of the photo a day challenge

This week's theme was "A week in the life.....". This theme was about portraying ourselves and our life in any way we wanted.

I started out with a bit of a plan to pick something each day that was an important aspect of my week, washing on a Sunday, walking to school one Monday, catching the train to work on a Tuesday, being in the office on a Wednesday..... But it didn't quite work out like that. It was the first day of the school holidays and a busy week at work for me and I found all my inspiration went out of the window. Plus having such a loose brief meant I struggled to focus.

Day 202, Sunday - a trip to my mother-in-law's and lunch outside in the garden

Monday - I usually work from home on Mondays but as this was the first week of the school holidays I decided to go into the office otherwise I wouldn't get much done with the kids at home. I had so much to do that I even had to work on the train on the way home

Tuesday - an evening battle to get my daughter to stay in bed, she ended up sleeping in my bed, with a fluffy teddy and a headband - which is looking strangely like a halo here

Wednesday - my least favourite part of the day, battling through the crowd at the train station to get my train

Thursday - meeeeeee time! A lovely bath, I try to have one a few nights a week

Friday - we managed to get away to Ambleside this weekend, this was the view as we got out of the car

Saturday - Full American breakfast at the B&B, weekends are really the only time I get chance to have breakfast

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All images are owned by Nicola Dawes unless otherwise stated

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Week 29 of the photo a day challenge

The theme this week was "signs". The brief didn't limit us to actual signage but could also include the signs of things, like the signs of pregnancy, tiredness, happiness etc. A self-directed theme within the theme was allowed too. I didn't strictly stick to a theme, though most of my shots this week focused on people and street photography.

On Sunday, however I couldn't resist this public footpath sign we saw when taking the dog on his first family walk

During in the week I have been trying to capture commuters on my way to work to practise my street photography, so this theme gave the perfect opportunity to practise. Monday's shot was of the lollipop lady helping people cross the road, a sign that it was school run time (I work from home on a Monday so no commuter shots today)

Tuesday's photo was a sign of boredom, people waiting for a delayed train

On Wednesday I was taking a photo of this chap for my commuter blog, the sun was shining on my phone screen so I couldn't really see what I was getting and when I reviewed them on the train journey to work I was delighted to see that I'd caught this sign of tiredness -yawning

On Thursday I was hoping to get something on the way home and happened to walk passed this scene - a sign of confusion as it takes three student to put up a tripod.

On Friday the train station was predictably busy - a sign of home time!

I finished the week thinking about next week's theme. I didn't go out on Saturday so no commuter shots (though I have collected a few during the week that could've been used - I'll save these for my commuter blog). Next week's theme is "a week in the life of....", it's about portraying your typical week, telling others about yourself and your life through a daily photo.

Emily's new bed had arrived this week and as is typical with anything that needs constructing, it was my job to build it. After laying all the fixtures out in order and lined up I realised that's a sign of me being slightly obsessive, some would say organised, but I'm sure other's would say anal.

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All images are owned by Nicola Dawes unless otherwise stated

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Achieving the Bokeh effect

A few people in my photo group have been playing with an effect called Bokeh. This is where the background of an image is so out of focus that lights and bright parts of the image become pleasing soft blobs of colour. So I wanted to learn how to do it. One way is to post edit the effect in using editing software, but to me that's kind of cheating. I wanted to learn how to take photos that have a bokeh effect by using my camera settings. The key is achieving a shallow depth of field so that the background is out of focus. This can be achieve by using the aperture priority setting on your camera which makes your aperture wide and getting as low an f number as possible. With my 18-55mm kit lens I could only get as low as f5.6 most of the time. It also helps to have as much distance between the foreground and background as possible.

My first attempt was with some fairy lights in my room, it's not perfect. I think it would have been better with a lower f number and if the lights were further away. But I think it's a good start:

I read that a good way to practise is to focus solely on achieving the effect and so have nothing in the foreground. I had a practise in my living room when I noticed the light coming through the window. This was Mr Nikon on auto:

And this was Mr Nikon on aperture priority, I had to increase the ISO to 800 to get enough detail since it was quite dark. The shutter speed was 1/15th of a second and this pushed the f number down to 5.0. I love the effect.

One of my friends in the photo group convinced me that bokeh with natural sunlight was easy to achieve. So when we went out for a family walk with the dog I had a play.

First of all I wanted to see how it works outside in natural light. It seems really odd taking a photo completely out of focus, but that's what I did with these trees.

Being happy with that I tried to get something in the foreground that was in focus. I forgot to say that with a zoom lens like the one I was using you're best at the highest zoom. There were plenty of pretty nature things to use as subjects

I need more practise to get one of my kids in the foreground (they don't stay still for long enough for me to fiddle with manual focus) but I did manage to get this one of the dog which has a slight bokeh background. I'm quite happy with my efforts, but definitely need more practise.

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All images are owned by Nicola Dawes unless otherwise stated

Week 28 of the photo a day challenge

This week's theme was "upside down". So pictures of things that are upside down, pictures taken upside down and pictures that have been flipped or rotated. We were to try and avoid point and click and random flipping, we were encouraged to try capitalise on our growing skills, continue working on the development of our own style.

So Sunday (Day 188) I went for a bit of a theme blend shot, as I'm in the shot, and upside down

I was really proud of Monday's shot. I spent most of the day on Sunday imagining an egg in an eggcup but the whole thing upside down, but I had no idea how to make it work. Then out of the blue on Sunday evening one of my friends from the photo group sent me a picture of an upside down egg and eggcup saying she thought it would look better than it did. I couldn't believe we'd had the same idea. Anyway seeing hers made me think it would work in low key (shot in the dark with a single light source) and she convinced me to try I made good use of by black, reflective granite worktop too

One Tuesday I opted for simple and flipped, Emily's 'make-your-own' dream catcher was hanging on the living room door, so I thought it would look good upside down

Wednesday's shot - the feathers from yesterday got me thinking about things dangling under the force of gravity, but then rotated. So I went with a water bomb (but I choose pink and it looks a bit like a boob!)

There had been a few wine glass refraction shots this week and I suggested that we all should post a version of it, here was mine for Thursday's photo

I went with simple for Friday's shot. Emily's pretty headband and the reflection in our shiny black TV cabinet

And I finished the week with this rotated image of my lovely 1916 Kodak bellows camera. Well, we're supposed to be selling this for my mother-in-law, but I love it and to be honest I don't think it's worth very much as it has a poor quality meniscus lens (otherwise I'd be tempted to buy some 120 film and use it!)

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All images are owned by Nicola Dawes unless otherwise stated

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Week 27 of the photo a day challenge

Black and white week. I was really looking forward to this because I had enjoyed street photography so much. I had visions of loads more street photography, especially when the brief said to try using a style or genre that we have been good at or feel comfortable with so that we could grow our skills in that area.

But then Saturday evening I watched the Vivian Maier documentary again and I was in awe of her self portrait photography, capturing reflections of herself as well as her shadow and that got me thinking. You see I'm usually the one behind the camera, I don't think there's many pictures of me, not recent ones anyway. What if something should happen to me tomorrow? Would there be pictures for the kids to remember me by?

So, Sunday morning I took this picture using the door of the microwave as a reflective surface, I didn't know if it would look ok, I didn't know if it would work in black and white, but it did (and everyone loved having a glimpse of my kitchen - even if it was a bit messy)

So I had decided on a theme within the theme for the week, I wouldn't focus on street photography of other people, I'd try and capture a self portrait in unusual and experimental ways. I did plan on hitting the street and using shop windows, mirrored buildings etc, but that all went out of the window when I stepped out of the back door Sunday teatime and took a tumble, badly spraining my ankle and rendering me immobile for most of the week!

I spent Monday on the sofa, completely unable to walk, so I cheated a little and used this shot I'd taken on Sunday when me and Ems had gone to the supermarket to get things for her birthday cake. This was obviously before the ankle incident and was supposed to be a practise shot using reflective shop windows, hence the not so good framing.

Another day was spent resting on the sofa on Tuesday, so this reflection of me in my iPad screen was the best I could do.

On wednesday I still wasn't really walking, except for one or two tentative steps. I had so wanted to recreate a shot of mine and Archie's shadows I had taken a few weeks before and while I was staring wistfully at it wondering how I could possible recreate it without walking (or hopping) far, I realised I could see my reflection in it. Took me ages to get the angle right between, me , the iPad and Mr Nikon to get this one and avoiding having the camera in the reflection though

On Thursday I was able to walk a little, P had been out and got me a walking stick so that I could control how much weight I was putting on my foot and help keep my balance. So I took Mr Nikon upstairs and had a play with the bedroom mirror. I ended up with 2 shots I liked, one with the camera as part of the image and one without. I went with this one (I even put the dress on specially!)

For Friday's photo I utilised 2 mirrors and my iPhone. It was dark in my room with the curtains closed and so I put the lamp on, but there was still quite a bit of noise. I liked the lamp because it gave light spots in my eyes, but it created a distracting flash of light on the frame of the mirror. I do like the image, even the graininess as it makes it look like an old photo, but there's something (perhaps that light spot) that bugs me about it.

I tried to re-take it with Mr Nikon in better light but just could not get the angles right between me, the camera and the two mirrors.

Here's the original iPhone shot

And here's the best of the Mr Nikon versions

On Saturday I was a lot more mobile with my walking stick and was able to get outside in the garden for the first time this week. I remembered a fab photo I'd seen during reflections week which involved reflections in spoons and so I did my own spoon reflection image. Sorry for the frowning face, it was so sunny that I was squinting to see.

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All images are owned by Nicola Dawes unless otherwise stated