Sunday, 28 July 2013

Business Networking: One-to-One with Kimmo Hakonen from Responsified

Kimmo Hakonen
I recently had a One-to-One meeting with Kimmo Hakonen from Responsified. Responsified is a web site design company in Gothenburg specializing in responsive design.

Responsive design is the method recommended by Google for building smartphone optimized web sites. The idea is to serve the same content, regardless of the device used for viewing, but use CSS3 style sheets to layout them differently depending on the size of the viewing device. With responsive design text is always viewed at a readable size, and pictures are resized to fit the viewing window.

One of the reasons why responsive design is big, is that Google boosts the rank of web sites that use responsive design. The main reason though, is that more and more people surf the web using smartphones and tablets. According to a TechCrunch blog post, more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated each day. Add to that the iPhones and the iPads.

With browsing habits changing, there is a need for responsive design, and that is where Kimmo and Responsified are focusing their efforts.

Kimmo and I met at Business Network International (BNI) (BNI International, BNI Sweden). Web designers and photographers can help each other out:

Some of my clients need help with web page design, so I can refer clients to a web design company that I trust.

In his work, Kimmo's company sometimes has clients that need photos for their new website. If you start looking at business websites, it is amazing how often the photos on them could do with a bit of extra pizazz. If Kimmo and his partners like my work, and trust me, they can refer clients to me.

You may have noted, it all boils down to mutual trust. This is why Kimmo and I met, not to do business, but to get to know each other, to see if we can be of value to each other, and to each other's clients.

Getting to know each other means more than just understanding each other's business. Kimmo is a painter. He also works with Photoshop, starting with a photo which he turns into an abstract work of art. His work is different from mine, but I appreciate and enjoy it a lot.

Over time, we will continue to meet to explore how we can build a trust based, mutual benefit relationship. At the same time, we will both explore in other directions, with clients, fellow BNI members, and others.

Because we will meet at BNI meetings once a week, building a working business relationship will be much easier than it would otherwise be.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Rock'n Roll Wedding

Tanja and Hasse at Mopperock. As one guest commented, "it's the coolest wedding I've been to, including my own!"
Tanja Vornanen and Hasse Kosonen met five years ago at Mopperock, a Swedish rock festival. It was the last Mopperock festival, until Tanja and Hasse decided to get married.

To celebrate the way they met, they decided to reboot Mopperock. Reboot it they did: 1,200 people came to the coolest wedding party ever.

The moment. 
I met Hasse because he is a member of the rock band Mays Hounds. I was shooting at a Mays Hounds gig recently. When Hasse told me about the wedding plans and asked if I would be the wedding photographer, I was both honored and delighted.

Hasse Kosonen in action.
A very warm Thank You to Tanja and Hasse for allowing me to be their wedding photographer, for giving me permission to blog about their wedding, and for allowing me to add their wedding pictures to my portfolio. (I'll post a link when the portfolio is updated.)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Photo Duel - Lifestyle Portraiture with Patricia Mellin

I had a photo duel with Patricia Mellin yesterday, got thoroughly trounced, and loved every minute of it! Don't get me wrong, I got some very good shots of Patricia, it is just that she shot a whole series of excellent lifestyle portraits of me. I like them a lot, and I am very happy to show some of her photos off here. I will also do an analysis of each shot, to show why I like them, and what to learn from them.

Patricia is a social media strategist, and owner of Patricia Mellin Consulting. I met her at Business Network International (BNI) meetings a couple of times, but it was when I ran into her at a café that we  started talking.

What I immediately liked about Patricia was that she practices what she teaches. She has built a great social media presence. When she speaks about social media, it is from personal experience. You can get an overview of her social media presence on As a photographer, I am of course interested in social media, and Patricia's experience makes her very well worth listening to.

Patricia showed me a couple of shots she had taken at a BNI meeting the very same day. Some of the shots had me in them, and in every one, she had caught me when I had an odd facial expression, or had twisted parts of my body into unlikely positions. I had no idea I looked that weird at business meetings...

I did the natural thing for a photographer: I challenged Patricia to a photo duel. She accepted. Yesterday we went to the Gothenburg Gardening Association to duel with our cameras.

I hold to the Marine Corps motto: If you get into a fair fight, you haven't prepared enough! In this case, I knew that my greatest advantage would be that Patricia is beautiful, whereas I have a face made for radio. As it turned out, it wasn't enough of an advantage. Patricia made me look good in the pictures. Quite a feat for any photographer.

I knew I had considerably more camera gear, but camera gear does not enable you to take better pictures. Camera gear enables you to take different kinds of pictures, which is another thing altogether. Thus, I went lightly armed, with just my camera, couple of flashes, remote controls, small softbox, two lenses... Well, that is a lot less gear than I usually pack when I go out the door.

Patricia used just her pocket camera and camera phone, and got this shot:

Henrik, fotografen, framför kameran

This is an excellent lifestyle portrait: Patricia caught me with a big smile on my face. The composition is very good, with my head and my camera as balancing elements. And, she went in close, which makes for a more interesting picture.

The background is also very good: A bit darker than my face, which helps viewers focus on the subject, which happens to be me.

A lifestyle portrait should tell something about what a person is. Patricia told my story, "happy photographer guy", and did it very well, with one click!
Henrik, fotografen, framför kameran

If you follow this blog, you may recall that I am working on a photo book. I have been working on a chapter on portrait photography, and how to catch the essence of a person in a photo.

I needed some new portraits for the chapter, and yesterday, while we were dueling, Patricia did the job for me. In the photo above, we see it again: There is great composition, this time with the camera lens creating a leading line to my head. The background is darker than my face, which makes the face stand out clearly. The story is about focus, determination, and dedication.

Henrik, fotografen, framför kameran
We finished off by having coffee at a café, and there, Patricia nailed it again: Happy photographer guy!

I love this one: Great composition again, with the camera in the foreground, main subject in the middle ground, and the trees as the backdrop.

Patricia uploaded a set of pictures to Flickr. Go and have a look!

Of course, I did shoot some pictures too. Here is a slideshow for your enjoyment. I think you can see how enjoyable the shoot was.

You can find Patricia on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, and of course her company website. You might guess that a social media strategist would blog, and you would be right. Patricia does blog.

Patricia and I have decided that this was too much fun to do only once. We will have a rematch. When we do, I am sure we'll have some interesting photos to show you.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

High Key Dreaming

High Key is a photographic technique where you create bright, very low contrast images. Usually, the background is white, though any color can be used.

Originally, High Key lighting techniques were developed for early film and television, which could not handle high contrast scenes. Nowadays, High Key is mostly used to create an upbeat or dreamy mood.

For the image above, I used a light box. I lit the back screen with spotlights from behind. The mask was lit by two flashes from the front, as in the lighting diagram.

The original photo, before post processing
As you can see, the original photo, straight out of the camera, is much less enticing than the final result.

To begin with, I cropped the image to remove the space between the chin and the edge of the photo. I then used a Repair brush to remove the eye, nostril, and mouth holes in the white mask.

Then, I reduced contrast, and increased Brightness and Exposure.

Throughout the process, I kept a careful look on a histogram showing me the brightness levels in the picture. My goal was to shift low and mid level parts of the curve to the right, without having the rightmost parts pushed off the right edge. That way, I could create a low contrast image, without overexposing parts of it.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

High-speed Flash: The Darkness of the Mid-day Sun

With a flash you can turn daylight into darkness! The photo above was shot in daylight. Yet, it looks like a night-time shot.

The trick is to set your camera to manual, and set exposure time, aperture, and ISO so that when you take a picture, the frame is dark. If you then add light from a flash, whatever the light from the flash hits will be lighted. Anything else will remain dark.

This works in principle, but there is a snag: Normally, the shortest exposure time you can use, and still get the flash to sync, is 1/250s. At 1/250s, you may not be able to get the photo dark enough, even if you use the lowest ISO setting, and the smallest aperture (highest f-stop number).

High-speed flash to the rescue: With a DSLR, you can set the camera to high-speed sync. This means you can get flash sync at much shorter exposure times than usual. The downside is that the sync won't be perfect. A lot of the light from the flash will hit the shutter. This effectively reduces the strength of the flash.

You can still get excellent results though. I shot the flower at 1/2000s, f11, ISO 160. the combination of short exposure time and fairly small aperture reduced the ambient light to almost complete darkness. The flash lit the flower.

Quite easy to do, and a lot of fun.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Apple Motion Tutorial: The Smoking Ghost

For me, photography is about continuous learning. If you learn all the time, you will become very good at what you do.

Because you are always pushing the edges, you will also do a lot of things you are not good at. With practice, you will get better, and eventually, you will be good enough to integrate the new thing into your arsenal of techniques and methods.

The video above is my first attempt to create a ghost by shaping smoke into the outline of a human head. The smoke is a computer generated particle animation. I composited the original head onto the smoke.

I used Apple's Motion, a very capable VFX application, to create the animation. To bend the smoke, I drew several bezier curves tracing the outlines of the head. I used basic smoke emitters, one for each bezier curve. To make the smoke bend along the curve, I set the Shape parameter in the Emitter tab to Geometry. I then dropped a bezier curve into the Geometry well in the tab.

I did a lot of other things. For example I turned the photo into a black and white sketch using Pixelmator. In Motion, I played around with blend modes, behaviors, and bump mapping, before I found a way to create the effect I wanted.

At this point, I can move forward in several different ways. For example, I can experiment with the same technique, but at much higher resolution, to create special effects in photos. Or, I could work with video, and use Motion Behaviors to attach the smoke shapes to a human body.

No matter which way I go, I will learn something useful, and have fun.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Tutorial: Shooting at the Zoo

It's summertime, and sooner or later, you'll end up at a zoo. If you want to bring home a memorable photo, how do you do it?

I took a stroll through Slottskogen today, and got some pretty good shots. Here is what I did:
  • I set my camera to underexpose one full stop. This will make colors more saturated.
  • I set the camera to high speed mode, to capture animals when they actually did something.
  • I shot mostly in aperture mode, which enabled me to use a wide aperture, and thus a narrow depth of field. For some things, like fast moving birds, I switched to shutter priority mode.
  • I set ISO to Auto. This freed me from worrying about very long exposure times. The camera will increase the ISO instead of making the exposure times too long.

After setting up the camera, I just walked around, camera ready, and observed what was going on around me. As usual, when shooting animals, it is best to get in close.

Zoos are often built so that you look down on the animals. Unfortunately, this is not a good angle to shoot from. I went as low as I could, to get closer to eye level with the animals.

A key thing is to look for animals that are doing something. It does not have to be much. Anything they do, except sleeping or just standing there will make your photos more interesting.

If the animals won't cooperate and do interesting things in front of your camera, look for other things to shoot! Chances are you will find an interesting looking statue, or people, or insects. A nice looking flower will do in a pinch.

One final piece of advice: If you go to shoot, go alone! If you have spouse and children with you, they will demand attention. They are unlikely to value your need to get a great shot as highly as their need to make you buy ice-cream for them.

It does not matter if you are a man or a woman. If you have a camera, you will become the designated servant. So, enjoy the day with your family, and sneak back later to take good pictures, if you can.

Street photos: More than One Way to Play a Fiddle

When you do street photo, observe carefully, and shoot the slightly unusual.
Lots of musicians and performers in the streets of Gothenburg right now.

For these three pictures, I used a very simple trick to make the colors pop a bit: I deliberately underexposed by 2/3 of a stop (-0.67 EV).

The top photo was shot at f3.2, the other two at f2.0. This gave me a narrow depth of field, and a nicely blurred background.

The lens was actually a macro lens, because I was on my way to make a macro shoot: Tamron 60 mm f2.0 Macro.

Find the moment. In this case, the moment right before the clap.

Wait until you are noticed. If you see a slight smile and a slight move forward, it is ok to take the picture.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Macro tutorial: The Lost World

Today, I went out to shoot some dinosaurs for my forthcoming book, Photo Fun. In the book, I have a chapter about photographing monsters. The chapter is shaping up quite nicely. There is only one section left to write, about what to do if you live in a monster deprived environment.

The solution is quite simple: Go to a toy store, or raid your children's toy collection, and grab the most realistic looking toy monsters you can get hold of. My son, Tim, has an interesting collection of creatures from the dawn of time and the farthest reaches of space. Finding monsters to shoot is not a problem.

Most of the chapter in the book is about finding and shooting full scale monsters, but for toy creatures, a macro lens is the way to go. I used a Canon 60D DSLR with a Tamron 60mm 2.0 lens. Most pocket cameras will have a macro mode that is quite sufficient. A camera phone will also do in a pinch.

When shooting toys, background and lighting will make or break your photos. I went to a park and found some ferns and low bushes I could use as background, and set up the dinosaurs.

I used a remote controlled flash with a CTO gel to warm the light, and a speed grid to shape the light into a tight beam. I wanted the dinosaurs to be lit, and the background to be as dark as possible.

Before shooting, I set my camera to manual, 1/250s, f18. I took a test shot, which was all black. This meant I had eliminated ambient light.

I then took a few test shots, with flash, and adjusted my camera settings until the pictures came out the way I wanted them.

In the shot above, both dinosaurs look a bit plastic. This is because I shot them on the side lit by the flash. You have the same phenomenon in portrait photography. Most of the time, you should avoid shooting the side of a face, or monster, that is lit by the flash.

This picture looks more realistic. You can see how the flash lights the side of the dinosaurs opposite from the side I photographed.

You will need to experiment with shutter time and aperture to control ambient light. If you use a speed grid on your flash, you have to aim it very carefully. It is easy to miss the models altogether.

I won't go into details about post processing in this post, except one thing: On dinosaur models like these, the nostrils are dead giveaways. They are not deep enough to look realistic. Because of this, I have shaded them with Aperture's Burn tool. You can do the same thing in Adobe Lightroom, or whatever program you use to post process your images.

Finally, if you do something like this, bring your children in on it if they are interested. After all, it's their toys.

If you liked this tutorial, you may also enjoy my tutorial about photographing full size animatronic dinosaurs.