Posts Tagged ‘photograph’

Down at Marina Bay, Singapore’s modern, sleek (expensive) waterfront by the central business district, a funky little collection of light art is drawing in plenty of visitors; local and overseas. I took my camera down and grabbed a range of shots, but it was these two that caught the eye of the Flickr gallery curators, who added them both to a Flickr-wide gallery and graciously afforded me hundreds upon hundreds of new eyes to gaze over my Wall Art. The gallery can be found at

And the images are here: enjoy! Click on the image to view in my Flickr feed, please star them on Flickr if you like them 🙂

The Red Dot - I Caught A City!

Sea shells close up

A close-up of a dark grey scallop shell amongst smaller white shells, on a beach of shells in Eastern Tasmania.

This close-up image of a scallop shell sat amongst countless others on a beach in Tasmania is currently leading the view stats over on the Flickr feed.

This beach was simply amazing. The entire beach was made of shells. And it was a big beach – with shell dunes, shell ridges, wet shells and dry shells all sweeping round in a shell bay. It was a surprise to see no sand or pebbles beneath the billions upon billions of shells. And the best bit? Like most Australian beaches, there was no-one else on it!

If you want to hang this image in your space, and be inspired by the natural coastal scenery, and the connotations of space, calm, fresh air and solitude that it brings, head on over to the Wall Art website to place an order. Use the code 25launch before September ends to enjoy a generous 25% discount.

Thanks for looking!

I’m talking about a new addition to – this Black and White of a single tree in a freshly cut rural landscape:

Black and White tree under dramatic sky

A filtered black and white image, with a solitary tree in a recently harvested field, set against a dramatic sky of white cloud reaching into inky black.

I created this image purely by accident. The photo was shot in colour, and that is how it remained in my library until yesterday, when I clicked an option I had no intention of clicking. I was struck by the result – which turned a nicely composed, but with weak colour in the sky image into something I am happy to put my name to on the Wall Art shop floor.

Moral of the story? I will be revisiting a lot of images in black and white now: it really does remove the distraction of colour, and provided the elements in the shot are composed interestingly, will enhance the impact significantly.

Here’s the original image, that was ruled out of being offered for sale:

Lone tree in field - colour

The original file: the sky wasn’t blue enough for me, and there was a little too much yellow in the foreground field. The wonky horizon was also fixed.

Receiving a lot of attention lately is this shot, representing the root and vine-like creeping of exposed iron bars in a very urban setting of decay and destruction.

Exposed twisted iron bars

Twisted and exposed iron bars, with remnants of concrete and an out-of-focus concrete block in the background.

I took a look at the views on my Flickr photographs the other day, and saw that this shot was particularly popular:

Cold, cramped space in the roof void of St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The main dome of St Peter’s Basilica – an imposing landmark on the skyline of Rome – is actually composed of two domes: one inside the other. The cavity between the Catholic Church’s public image and its inner workings is a cold, shadowy and cramped space.

Although shot and digitally developed in full colour, there is a naturally occurring grey-blue tint amongst the shadows that give an almost monochrome feel to this shot.

The Story Behind the Shot

The Catholic Church is an immensely huge institution, with over 1 billion followers worldwide. At its headquarters in the Vatican City in Rome, Italy, the Basilica at St Peter’s Square forms the focal point for worship, pilgrimage and sightseeing. At the top of this sacred building is an enormous dome, visible across Rome as the centre of Roman Catholicism.

After a long, meandering hour or so up from the sprawling piazza at its base, I climbed through the tight walls at the edge of the dome (‘cupola’ in Italian) to find myself amongst the mosaics and frescoes that make up the fine artistic interior. A quick skirt around the edge of this very high vantage point – overlooking the main altar and entrance to the tomb of St Peter – and I was back inside the dark, twisting interior of the main cupola.

Dark, narrow, twisting staircase inside the bowels of the Vatican

The twisting, dark staircase that winds up through the narrow void towards the top of the main dome at St Peter’s Basilica.

As the dome reached its apex, the passageways became ever more horizontal, diagonal and cramped. Eventually, just before I emerged onto the roof of this Roman landmark, I came upon the sight of the wooden bars at the top of this post. This cold, cramped space fills the void between the inner dome that contains the frescoes and mosaics inside the Church, and the separate outer dome that projects the status of the organisation upon the outside world.

What this shot says to me

The imaginary lines formed by the tops and bottoms of the wooden bars lead the eye naturally through the image and around the curve of the dome, through the blue space before disappearing in an apparent infinity. The infinite coldness, and the prison-like claustrophobia of the bars add to the darkness around the image’s borders to create a sense of the inhospitable workings of the Church – in much contrast to the opulent interior and grand exterior image of the institution. Given recent controversies with the Catholic Church, I am quite intrigued by how the underbelly of the Church’s central headquarters can be a direct representation of the murky world that sometimes pokes through the slick public image. The bright circles of the skylights offer a useful shape that draws the eye in at a glance, as well as offering the only light in the image.

What are your thoughts on the shot? Can you see the leading lines (actually, both shots used in this post make use of this technique)? Would the use of more saturated colours, or even a clearer lean towards monochrome have affected your interpretation of the image? Let me know your thoughts!


There are two types of photograph that catch the eye. The first type excludes almost everything, giving a blank canvas that the photographer then paints on with a single subject. Framing a neutral or blank background, with only a single, clearly identifiable object is so successful that the stock photo industry and advertising industry primarily uses such processes. Fine art photography also makes use of the exclusion technique, though not exclusively, of course.

So what is it about the exclusion technique that makes it so successful? It is one of those unwritten rules (that of course means it can, and should, be broken): the eye is drawn first to the part of the image that most in focus, contrasted with its surroundings, or simply brighter than the rest of the photo. Where there is one lone subject amongst a plain background, it is the contrast in colour, shape or brightness that draws the eye in.

Man in crowded street

A man in a yellow t-shirt stops to watch the world go by in this bustling street market in Hong Kong.

So we can apply this theory to images that either you don’t want to strip of all other mise-en-scene (literally the things in the scene), or can’t. Such as street photography. Now, when in a busy environment, it is of course possible to apply the exclusion theory by getting closer to your subject. But capturing the hustle and bustle is just as valid as excluding all from a shot. To draw the eye, simply follow the same rules. Take the image above – where is your eye drawn first? For most of you, it will be the man in the yellow t-shirt. In a sea of dark coloured clothes and hair, his shirt stands out by far. He is also facing the camera, as opposed to the majority of the crowd which is facing away. And he is in focus, which contrasts against the blurred heads in the foreground.

What about photos that don’t have a natural highlight? If there is a point you want your viewer to be drawn to, you can provide some subtle help. Digital photo software offers the ability to lighten and darken selective parts of an image using a brush (mouse) to select. This is called Dodging (lightening) and Burning (darkening), and can be found in Aperture, if you’re an Apple fan, and Photoshop if you’re an Adobe fan. Lightroom by Adobe doesn’t have this built in as of yet – you have to export to Photoshop.

Balinese Women Side Saddle on a Motorbike

In Bali, living is made possible with the motorbike. Friends and relatives share journeys; like this woman carrying groceries in a basket.

This image was originally difficult to focus on, as the brightness of the road was similar in intensity to the brightness of the woman on the motorbike. With selective dodging of the women and motorbike, and burning of the road and background, more of the viewer’s initial attention goes to the motorbike – particularly the woman sat side-saddle on it.

For travel photography, which is most of what I do, I believe it is crucial that the photograph represents what I actually saw at the scene. I don’t like using Photoshop or anything else to artificially create an impression of a scene that wasn’t what I actually saw. So, for me, any use of digital dodging and burning has got to be true. Keeping it subtle (exposure shifts of maybe a third of a stop) is key. I am happy that the refinements applied above bring that photograph back to what I saw when stood on the street – and are not creating a false view of something that I kind of saw. Of course, if I don’t have to refine on the computer, even better. The man in the yellow t-shirt at the top of the page is completely untouched: no digital enhancements whatsoever.

To sum it up – brighter points of your photo attract attention first. Try and achieve that in-camera first, and then give dodging and burning a shot as a Plan B.

Surfer Looks On In Envy

A surfer in a wet suit, carrying a surfboard, runs toward the water as he watches fellow surfers ride impressive waves off shore.

The most vIewed Image of the last few days is…

So from time to time – as often as I can – I will poll my photo views on Flickr, and give some background info on the most viewed shot of the last week or few days. Today, such a look at the stats shows that ‘Surfer Looks On In Envy’ is getting a lot of hits. Now this actually comes as a surprise for me, as I had only taken this image off sale from a few days ago as I thought it wasn’t good enough to be displayed. I’ll tell you why in a moment, but first – the story behind the shot:

Cape Bridgewater Beach

I’d been driving for a few hours on the coastal road between Adelaide and Melbourne, in Southern Australia – before it comes to the official ‘Great Ocean Road’. This road is stunning. This whole coastline is stunning actually, and I’d managed to get quite a few decent images before the tedium of inland roads behind a tractor took over. When the tractor finally pulled off the road into a field, the crest of a hill appeared in front of me. As I very quickly reached the top of the hill, one of the most spectacularly beautiful scenic sights unravelled before my eyes. A deep and endless blue sea stretched towards me from a clear but distant horizon, wrapping itself around unfolding green-topped craggy rocks. In between two of these rocky headland points, a stunningly beautiful golden sand beach swept across the landscape, offering a great contrast between the deep blue and the luscious greens.

The huge, empty expanse of fine sand, blue sea and sky, and approaching wispy cirrus cloud at Cape Bridgewater, Australia, was a real tonic after hours of driving.

I drove down to the beach and found it almost completely empty. That’s the thing that gets me most about Australia: they are blessed with not just one beach that is amongst the world’s best looking, but thousands. Thousands and thousands of huge, golden fine-sand beaches that seem to cover 99% of the vast continent’s coastline. And 99% of these have nobody on them. There were so many of these really pretty beaches that I had all to myself.

Cape Bridgewater beach wasn’t entirely all mine that day. There were a smattering of surfers in the water, and one more on the beach, sat on the sand struggling to pull his wetsuit on. I watched him looking forlornly out at the waves, feeling every missed ride, as he bumbled and fumbled to get himself out there as fast as he could. After one failed attempt to run towards the water without his board, I snapped him on his second attempt, managing to capture him looking out to see another surfer getting the waves he was missing, as he ran out to enter the water away from the submerged rocks.

Why I took the photo off display

There are many basic “rules” in photography. None of these “rules” are really rules – they are merely guidelines. But one of them is that objects in the foreground shouldn’t be out of focus, as it distracts the eye. I’ll paste the photo here again, so you can see what I’m talking about without having to scroll up and down:

Surfer Looks On In Envy

A surfer in a wet suit, carrying a surfboard, runs toward the water as he watches fellow surfers ride impressive waves off shore.

My decision at the time was to highlight what the surfer was looking at, so the breaking wave and second surfer riding that wave, is in focus (and further highlighted by the sun making it the brightest part of the image, thus further drawing in the eye). I could have used a smaller aperture (bigger f-stop) to increase the depth of field and have them both in focus, but this would have slowed down the shutter speed so much that the main surfer’s motion blur would have been so much so that he’d have morphed into an unidentifiable splodge of ink.

So my reason for writing off this image is the foreground main object being distractingly out of focus. I was then pretty surprised for this image to get as many views as it did, leaving me asking the question: am I being too rigid with these “rules” of photography?

I’d love to know your thoughts on it!

Art Gallery, New South Wales

The neo-classical facade of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, looms out of the deep blue sky with wispy cloud.

One of the most valuable pieces of kit you can buy as a photographer is a polarising filter. If that surprises you, then I should let you know that it surprised me too. I’ve spent thousands on camera bodies, lenses, bags etc. etc. etc…. but the polarising filter used in this shot cost me £40. A polarising filter is probably the only ‘effect’ you can’t replicate in post-processing – even if you shoot RAW. What it does is weave some kind of witchcraft between the object and your lens, cancelling out much of the reflections of light that bounce off of haze, water vapour and other small particulate matter suspended in the air. It has a similar effect in minimising reflections in glass and surface water too for that matter, making seaside shots and through-glass shots an easy target for cheap but effective image improvement. You can get linear and circular filters: any camera that meters through the lens (i.e. any autofocus camera, or most made in the last 40 years or so) needs a circular filter, but they’re simple and flexible to use.

Once you’ve got a filter that matches the size of your lens (I use Hoya, not the most expensive and I’m happy with the results), screw it on the end – but do note that the filter itself needs to rotate once it’s screwed on. This is because you need to get the glare-cancelling witchcraft sorcerers at the right angle depending on the position of the sun relative to you. Best results (including the gorgeous deep blue sky in the photo above, and the ‘poppy’ vivid colour in the stone of the museum) are picked up at 90 degrees to the sun. This includes up and down 90 degrees, not just left and right – great when you live on the equator and take shots at noon! Rotate the filter to get the effect you want.

Some people caution about using polarising filters with wide angle lenses under 35mm or so. Rubbish. What they don’t like is that you get an uneven sky, as the polarising effect changes with angle from the sun, so a wide angle lens will pick up more of the sky, ergo more variance in the angle. Like this:

Rocks in the Blue

Coastal erosion at a fierce rate leaves the south coast of Victoria, Australia, littered with stacks of rock, collapsed arches, and isolated islands to be battered by the intense blue ocean waves.


You see where the sky is light blue at the left, goes darker and then lighter again as you follow it right? That’s the effect we’re talking about. Some people hate it, I love it – it’s up to you. It can be really effective when you line up a light bit in the centre of your image, surrounding the main subject; giving a natural halo effect that draws the eye into the bit of the image you want to focus on, tapering off into darker skies at the edges.

One other thing to bear in mind is that – as with anything you plonk between your lens and the scene/subject – polarising filters chew up a little bit of light: you will need to allow for 1 or 2 stops of exposure absorbed by the filter. For this reason, don’t bother using a polarising filter at night.