Monday, 1 May 2017

Vivid Night Photography Workshops

This year Sydney's Vivid light extravaganza runs from 26 May to 17th June - I'll be holding two workshops during this time: one on 5th and 11th June...

Cost $100p.p.

Location: meeting place TBA
Includes instruction on the night, plus feedback on your work after the event.

For more information, call me on 0426 748 652 or 
email me:

Here's a timelapse video I made at last year's Vivid event

Vivid timelapse from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Using High Speed Flash Mode

One of the drawbacks to using an accessory flash gun is with the maximum shutter speed it can  synchronise to  (trivia note: "Flash", or "flashguns", as I was brought up to call them, are now generically termed speedlights. Those produced by Nikon are called Speedlights, while those produced by Canon are spelled differently; Speedlites).

This synchronisation problem is caused by the shutter design. A modern electronic shutter is usually made from fabulously thin, but strong, metal blades that open and close by rolling a two-panel 'blind', or curtain, over the frame opening. Press the shutter button and the curtain opens fully, waits for the appropriate shutter delay time, then a second curtain is dragged, in the same direction as the first, across the aperture and therefore 'finishes' the exposure.

For shutter speeds slower than 1/200s, the aperture fully opens before the second curtain is dragged across it to finish the exposure. But if you want to use flash with faster shutter speeds, the camera has to move the second curtain before the first curtain has finished opening to achieve a very fast shutter speed - like 1/4000s.

At 1/4000s, for example, the second curtain is so close behind the first curtain that it resembles just a thin slit travelling vertically across the sensor. So, if the flash is fired in combination with a fast shutter speed, it will only illuminate part of the sensor, producing a horizontally-flashed stripe through the frame while the rest of the exposure has no flash. It's a disaster.

To prevent this happening, manufacturers now place a top limit on flash sync shutter speed - this varies slightly depending on the manufacturer, but it's usually 1/200s - to find out either check your camera's tech specs, or place the camera into Manual metering mode, pop up the flash and try to increase the shutter speed - it will not go past the maximum allowable - the flash sync speed.

The trick to getting over this technical shortcoming is to use the speedlight's special High Speed Flash Mode (called FP Mode on Nikon Speedlights).  This very neatly gets round the problem of a single, quick flash of light (typically at 1/1000s). The speedlight actually fires a burst of many thousands of flashes in a very short space of time, creating - effectively - one single, but much longer burst of light that covers the time it takes to move the shutter curtains across the sensor. This all happens, well, in a flash, to our eyes with the amazing result that in this mode, we can shoot at any fast shutter speed, from 1/200s up to and including 1/8000s.

This function provides photographers with the benefit of being able to shoot at very wide apertures (i.e. f1.4) for an extreme shallow depth of field, in bright light. Without this mode, you'd have to shoot at 1/200s at f22, producing a good depth of field, which is not what we want...

Cat wrangling tips:
To make shooting easier I placed the (large) dog bed in the centre of the frame to give the cat something soft to land on.

The white background material is clipped and stretched between two lighting stands to give a seamless background.
A new $2 K-Mart cat toy ensured the correct amount of interest from stunt cat Sooty.
(One thing to bear in mind before you start shooting is that any type of flash synchronisation, on-, or in particular off-camera, is reliant on having the right gear. If you plan on working with multiple flash units, it really pays to have the same gear. Mixing and matching different speedlights with non-standard triggers can prevent you from using all the speedlight's features, in particular its high speed flash sync mode).

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Mastering Your Speedlight Class at CCE

Left: Caroline by Les Harvey using an SB910 speedlight and honeycomb grid to limit the spread of light. At right: Emma, again by Les Harvey using a far softer, modified speedlight source to present this sensitive portrait.
Water being sloshed into a glass - this was an exceptional result from Tanya Kastoumis. Without an audio trigger this technique is easy to set up but a matter of persistence and repetition to get the 'moment'.
Portrait of Kristina using an Orbis ring flash adaptor, shot by Beate WildnerThe advantage of this process is that the 360 degree illumination around the lens produces a soft, indistinct shadow around the subject.
Obviously Beate like the Orbis ring flash adaptor - here's another striking portrait of Emma, one of the students taking part in this class.
Team effort!
To combine the potential of a single light portrait plus a bit of background interest, we fired a speedlight behind the model towards the camera (Beate at right, Emma at left).
Two assistants sprinkled flour in between model and speedlight at the moment the shot was taken to give additional highlights to the black background.
(see the "how it was done" picture at the bottom of this post).

Another great result from Tanya Kastoumis
Because of the backlighting, it's necessary to punch as much reflected light back into the front of the model to lighten the face...
Two more cracking flash portraits taken in the Uni grounds.
Caroline by Beate Wildner at left and Emma Foster by Les Harvey at right.
A great example of how a simple and inexpensive honeycomb grid can stylise a portrait
This looks like a still from a film. Kristina, shot by Emma Foster.
In this nice multicoloured portrait Emma Foster used red gels over the back speedlight left-hand side, and nothing on the front flash which adds a little more natural light to thew face.

Camper product shot from Emma Foster
Using nothing more than a Caonon speedlight and a honeycomb grid to achieve this impressive-looking studio shot.

Fun product shot from Beate - a couple of remedial balms and their packaging
Shot using a speedlight fired through a translucent scrim to soften the shadows and provide ore of an even illumination.
Amazing what you can create in nothing more than a regular office location, several speedlights and a lot of assistants...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

New Photo Tour for early 2018: Sri Lanka

I have a new photo trip planned for March 2018 (3-20th) to Sri Lanka - to take in some of that island's amazing and ancient cultures, along with some fabulous wildlife, and superb Sri Lankan cuisine, while staying in some of the island's iconic hotels.
Two male elephants having a rumble, Minniriya national park

The Asian tractor
Water buffalo plus cattle egret, Yala national park
Green doves, Yala
Sloth bear snuffling for food, early morning, Yala national park
Toque macaques in
Yala national park
The Ceylon hoopoe
A ruddy mongoose on the prowl
Sri Lankan green bee eater, Yala National Park

Note that the full itinerary is still being worked on. Currently places on this tour are strictly limited
This is my provisional itinerary:

Saturday 03 – 20th March 2018

Transit via Singapore

Arriving Negombo

03 March Overnight Jetwing Blue Hotel Negombo

04 Day One:
Drive to Anaradhapura via Puttalum (salt pans, wind farms)

Lunch on the road
Welcome dinner included

Overnight Palm Garden Village resort, Anaradhapura

05 Day Two

Full day visiting Anaradhapura’s most famous dagoba complexes (local guide?)

Lunch on the road

Overnight Palm Garden Village resort, Anaradhapura

06 Day Three

Drive to Dambulla

Explore the cave temples of Dambulla (no guide needed)

Check into the Heritance Kandalama Resort (lunch at resort?)

Late afternoon game drive in (either) Minneriya and/or Kaudulla National Park (TBA by agent)

Overnight Heritance Kandalama

07 Day Four

Sigiriya (no guide needed)

(followed by a relaxing afternoon off in the pool)

Overnight Heritance Kandalama

08 Day Five

Drive to Kandy
Spice garden at Matale

Check into accommodation

Short city tour + Kandyan dancing in the evening

Overnight at The Mansion (outside city centre)

09 Day Six

Full day tour in Kandy – temple of the tooth and city

Veggie lunch in the town (?)

Overnight at The Mansion (outside city centre)

10 Day Seven

Free Day

Overnight at The Mansion (outside city centre)

11 Day Eight

Drive to Nuwara Eliya

Visit a high estate tea plantation enroute

Overnight Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

12 Day Nine

Early morning short city tour

Depart for Yala

Overnight Mahoora Tented camp

13 Day Ten

Full day touring Yala National Park

Overnight Mahoora Tented camp

14 Day 11

Early morning game drive in Yala(?)

Drive to Udawalawe National Park

Overnight Mahoora Tented camp

15 Day 12

Full day in park

Overnight Mahoora Tented camp

16 Day 13

Drive to Galle

Stop at Weherahena Buddhist temple, Matara temple

Overnight in Galle Fort

17 Day 14

Full day in Galle (unescorted walking tour of fort)

Overnight in Galle Fort

18 Day 15

Drive to Colombo

Stopping to photograph boat builders enroute

and Geoffrey Bawa’s home at Lunuganga

Overnight Mt Lavinia Hotel

19 Day 16

Full day touring in city

Overnight Mt Lavinia Hotel

20 Day 17

Day at leisure in hotel

Farewell dinner at hotel beach restaurant

Late checkout

Transfer to airport for late evening departure

Spectacular cave paintings seen on the walk/climb up Sigiriya rock fortress

Reclining buddha, Anaradhapura
Boat building, East coast, Galle
Art deco restaurant, Galle

And that's just breakfast!
Although the Sri Lankans do make a really good European breakfast, the local breakfasts are equally good (if not a little hot on the palette!)

One of the island's typical British colonial style hotels, perfect for a spot of tiffen or just drinks in the bar...

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Two New Online Classes posted on UDEMY

I have just finished writing and posting these two new online classes on UDEMY: Mastering Adobe Photoshop Elements and CC Projects

Mastering Elements has 73 lectures, running over 8.5 hours, and basically takes you through all aspects of this comprehensive application.
It starts
with the basics and finishes with complex, multi-image montages, selections, masking and automation.
The way UDEMY is set up means that you can do this class at any time and more importantly, in your own time, bit by bit, lesson by lesson. 

UDEMY also offers good discounts (quite frequently) so if you are interested, keep an eye on the pricing at UDEMY.
CC Projects is a little different - in that it is designed for photographers with some knowledge of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements...
It includes a number of project-based real world 'exercises' designed to introduce you to both new features in CC, while remaining entirely practical in its structure.
Creating home made chutney labels, working with (free) downloadable Photoshop brushes to add impressive effects (i.e. lightning and clouds), custom text and fonts, montaging images together, selections, masks and much more (see below).
Create your own custom labels using stock shots, clip art and selection
Adding lightning bolts using a custom Photoshop brush
Blending a publicity shot of Gary Oldman with an old master, Rembrandt!
Adding custom fonts and montaging stock shots together to create a realistic TV poster for Wolf Hall