A Change of Direction

Change is inevitable I hear quite a lot these days.  Not that I am adverse to change in all honesty.  I actually think it is a good thing and helps oneself progress beyond the initial limits that we set ourselves.

That’s why I decided around about the time of my last blog to make some changes and start to introduce a new direction in my photography.  I don’t have the time or passion these days to continue on the wedding photography front so that side will die off.  I now want to focus on portrait and landscape photography and make sure I grow as a photographer in that space.

As photographers, we are usually our own worst critics and in the past this has held me back from trying new things.  Well, not any more.  I recently found a couple of spare hours in an otherwise busy day (believe me, getting 5 minutes as a new-ish father is quite difficult at times) and I decided to give time lapse photography a try.  I tend to be the person that researches a particular trend/theme/way of working to the death and never really get round to doing it but on this particular occasion I decided to just go ahead and give it a bash.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So I went out to the Forth Rail bridge, set up the camera, plugged in my trigger trap to my phone and set the interval to take photos every 2 seconds for a period of 10 minutes.  This in turn, as I had researched, would give me around 360 photos to piece together and make a 10 second time lapse.  The clouds were perfect that day with just a hint of anger to them and made for some dramatic skies.  Well, 8 minutes into the time lapse, my phone died.  I hadn’t checked that I had enough juice in the battery and that was the end to my time lapse photos!  So much for all that research and checking.  At that point, it was time to scoot back home and stitch the photos together and I have to say, it turned out brilliantly. It took some time to get the hang of putting a video together but the end result was worth it. I’ll definitely be doing more time lapse photos going forward.

Which brings me nicely back to why I was originally posting on tonights blog. Having decided that I no longer want to do wedding photography, I have pretty much exhausted my research into portraits and I really want to try out some new ideas. To that end, I will be looking for some people to use as models and I will no doubt ask friends and family if they would like to join in my experiments.  I also want to try the model route and I am already a member of a few forums and websites where models post looking to collaborate with photographers and I just need to get out of my comfort zone and make those connections.

It’ll be really exciting to try this stuff out and I’ll post my progress as I go forward.  I’ll also need to update my website and perhaps split them out in to two separate entities, one for portraits, one for landscapes. Let’s see how that all goes. Like I said earlier, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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For Auld Lang Syne – Part III

I was going to post a Part IV to these series of 2015 blogs but I think I am getting into the realms of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, where too much is just too much so I’ll make this the last one in the series.

The final act of my 2014 year takes into account a family photo shoot that I was commissioned to do and also my Florida holiday snaps. With regards the family photo shoot, this was the second time I was asked to take photos as the first session was really successful and the family loved the photos. Second time around was taking some baby brother photos of the big sister whom I had taken photos of the first time around. The little guy (Bruce) was a star and managed to hold on for nearly an hour whilst I snapped away. The lighting for this was just my Rotolight Interview kit as I wanted to keep it simple and not have umbrellas and soft boxes hanging about. It was a tight living room that I was shooting in too, so I didn’t want to leave too much equipment lying about. Processing was in lightroom and using the SLR Lounge presets that I had recently upgraded (and I must say, are awesome!) Here are some of the photos on the day.

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

The kids were just adorable and were brilliantly behaved. Doesn’t happen that often when you work with children so this made things a lot simpler.

Speaking of children, I took my kids on their first big holiday last year and we all packed up and flew off to Orlando. My wife Debbie and I just love it there and to get the chance to take the kids was priceless. I realised they wouldn’t be able to go on much of the rides in Disney or Universal but we wanted to see their little faces when they got a chance to meet their characters. Suffice to say, we weren’t disappointed when they met up with Mickey, Minnie, Jake, Princess Sophia and the rest of the Disney gang. The only one that caused a problem was Optimus Prime as he terrified my daughter but I wasn’t missing the chance to meet him! I shan’t post too many holiday snaps as I don’t want to scare off followers.

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

For Auld Langs Syne – Part II

Happy New Year everyone! 2015 is now upon us and I can easily say that I feel a lot more motivated now than I have in a long time. I saw some good posts over on old Facebook that said that any unfinished business in 2014 should be left firmly in 2014. I couldn’t agree more. A new year doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is forgotten and we can just move on easily but we can surely start with a more positive attitude and make those sweeping changes in our life that are going to make this year a lot more worthwhile.

I have more than a few ideas bubbling about this bald head of mine that will keep me busy in 2015 and this year I am going to stick to them. These ideas are far ranging from just my usual photography and I am hopeful that they take off. I know that in a lot of them I will fail but in doing so, I just know that I will also learn some valuable lessons. Failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to creativity. In fact, I’d go as far to say it helps the whole process as you can then learn from these mistakes and build on them. We just have to let go of the idea that failure is bad. I’m going to embrace that and see where it gets me.

But back to the blog in hand and as part II of the yearly review, I’d like to post some photos of the stuff I was doing over the summer months. I made a conscious decision this year to stop chasing the wedding photography dream and call it quits on that side of things. Main reasons for doing so are that it takes an awful lot of time to arrange, photograph, process and finalise the wedding shots and it also takes up many a weekend in the calendar, which is something I just don’t have. With two little kids to keep me busy, I’d rather spend the time with them than on weddings. It’s a big decision to make to take that side of my photography away but to make it successfully, a lot of time and effort needs to be spent in order to be successful at these sort of ventures. My photography in the future will be mainly focusing on portrait as I can schedule this into my timetable easier and practice a lot more on my poor friends and family!

So for my last wedding, I had the pleasure of photographing my friend Dave and his new wife Susan. Turned out the day couldn’t have been better as the weather was perfect and the setting even more so. A wedding at the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander is really one of the most beautiful wedding settings ever. Here are a few of the photos from the day.

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

For Auld Lang Syne – Part I

Well, what can I say?  I’ve not been exactly prolific in posting to my blog in 2014, have I?  Or, for that matter, prolific in taking photos throughout the year.  At least not to the extent that I wanted to take photos.

Again, life has taken over and to be honest, I’ve been seriously lacking motivation of any kind to get the old creative juices flowing.  I have done a few paid assignments in the form of portrait shoots and a wedding, all which were extremely satisfying and fun.  Outside of that though, I’ve just not had enough impetus to get out there and shoot.

I’ve fell into that old trap that photographers tend to, in that I’ve been reading about techniques and styles and just not trying them out.  That to me is pretty sacrilegious in all honesty and I’m more than a little embarrassed about it.  One saving grace for me is that in my place or work, a few photogs have decided to put together a little group, come up with a monthly theme and then post photos to it.  So far, so good.  Two months in and I’ve posted a couple of photos to the area but I just hope that the momentum keeps going.

Anyways, this post was supposed to be about the year gone and not just a quick rant! Apologies about that.  To cover off what’s happened, I’ve decided to post in parts.  In fine tradition, this will be Part I and I’ll make sure it’s not in the fashion of a Peter Jackson directors cut trilogy and keep it short.  I’ve thought I’d keep it in the fashion of thirds of a year and blog that way.  Helps keep it semi short!

The first third of the year is a bit of a blur and is covered in the blogs previous to this one.  It covers off the fact that I had been busy being a father to my two children, using an iPhone to capture as much photos as possible and keep my head down at work.  We had our first mini holiday away and it turned out very well indeed, especially seeing as the wee man needs his routine and could turn out to be problematic if things didn’t go to plan.  They didn’t but he handled it very well and for all that we thought it was a disaster, he reminisced for weeks after about the caravan trip.  All good in my eyes!

I’ll not be posting any photos in this blog but I’ll add some into Part II of my year in review as I’ll have some photos from the family portrait shoot and my last wedding!

Going Over Old Ground

Having had little to no time to take some new shots, I decided to go through some more of my old New York shots and see if I can reprocess them now that I have a little bit more skill.

For this particular blog post, I’m focusing on the Ai Wei Wei Zodiac statues that were on display in New York City near the Plaza Hotel.  I was instantly mesmerised by these statues.  All twelve animals of the zodiac were there and the detail contained on them was incredible.  I just had to try and get some individual shots as well as a panoramic shot of all twelve.  The panoramic shot has been on my website before but the ones in this blog have been reprocessed to bring the contrast a little more along with one that I used some textures on along with a change in the hue within the texture.  Hope you like them.

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Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Richie Heaney Photography

Nostalgia For a Tenement

I’m back!  After what seems like a super long hiatus, I’m back in the land of the blogging.

No excuses other than life took over.  I had thought that I could juggle all of my life’s commitments at once, only to be taught a very harsh and succinct lesson.  Life will always dictate how you live it! 

You all know that I now have two children and they currently take up a lot of my time.  Not that I am complaining mind you.  I love spending time with them.  It’s just that I tend to not get the chance to do the other things in my life that I love doing, like photography, spending time with my other half, cinema (in that order..  the wife will kill me when she reads this!)

In terms of my “current” photography projects, the kids are being used a lot as guinea pigs and although I would love to show you their photos, I am unfortunately not allowed to due to the law.  I’m not able to post pics of them due to us adopting them and they may get recognised.  It’s like a self inflicted Witness Protection Program!  

Other things that I have been doing is actually signing up to the Adobe Photography offer whereby you pay £9 per month and you get to use Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC.  I’m really enjoying this as it gives me all the necessary updates and I don’t have to think about it. On the negative side, you never get to own the software as it’s like a years rental.  Hopefully the offer keeps on going as it is beneficial for me.  I would actually say, if you can afford to do this, get yourself over to the Adobe website and sign up.  Their products are top notch and yes I know there are some brilliant free/cheap alternatives, but I just think that the Adobe packages rock.  

So, back to my photography.  I had been thinking about the photos that are hanging about my hard drive and I thought back to a trip I took to NYC way back in May of 2011.  That seems like a lifetime ago and it was whilst going through these that I decided to see how my photography stacks up to my attempts way back then.  I do seem to have came on leaps and bounds in the last 3 years and it is good to go and take a peek back into your past photos to see the transition.  I’ve also jumped up 2 cameras since then so the gear has improved also!  One thing that does strike me is that I had a lot more passion for going out and at least trying to improve my photography.  I need that passion back!

Now the title of this blog harks back to a picture that I had sitting on my hard drive and I had always wanted to go back and process it once I had up skilled.  To this end, I tweaked the photo in Lightroom to expose it better, then converted it to black and white in Photoshop.  See what you think about the before and after. 

Before – Taken hand held on a Canon 7D whilst walking down to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Having never been this side of the bridge before, I was a little bit lost and not really sure of where to go.  I also remember being really p*ssed off that the bridge was being worked on and had huge tarpaulins hanging all over it!

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After – Exposure brightened using Lightroom and also used the import option of the SLR Lounge presets along with a Vintage Punch – Cool Cross to bring the colours out a bit and then used Photoshop CC to open the photo and used Nik Silver Efex to convert to Black and White.  I also passed it through the Nik Efex Output Sharpener.

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One final note.  The blog title is also the name of a poem that used to hang on my Grans wall by a Scottish Poet.  Can’t for the life of me remember who it was by.  Cracking little poem too.

To Cap It All Off

Another week has zoomed by and I wonder how I actually manage to get some time to spend taking photos.

These days I don’t get to go out much as I am looking after the kids, which is good in itself but it then takes away the chances to get out and shoot some early morning or evening landscape shots.  To ensure I don’t go completely crazy, I decided to just spend some time seeing if I could take some product shots using a £10 light tent I purchased off of eBay.  

So I popped open the tent, thinking it wouldn’t be up to much but I was extremely surprised to find it was of excellent quality and at 80cm cubed, it was of a very decent size.  For those of you who maybe wish to purchase the tent, just pop onto Amazon.

With the tent up, I then had the dilemma of what to shoot.  Time being of the essence I didn’t want anything too complicated so I started off with some empty decorative bottles I have on my shelf.  Having not powered the batteries in my flashes beforehand, I sort of hamstrung myself and could only use 1 flash until the batteries were charged.  The light wasn’t particularly good if I am being honest so I just waited until the batteries had charged and in the meantime, remembered that I had these bottle top pop caps that I had picked up in Mount Dora, Florida on my holidays.  They had been enamelled with some peace signs and love hearts and I always wanted to do some sort of macro photography with them so I decided to blu-tack them to the bottle, set up the extra flash and see what I got.

I took numerous shots and used my live view to get optimal sharpness as I wasn’t using my macro lens.  Time was of the essence as the kids were waking from their naps and I didn’t want to waste any more time.  To cut a long story short, I managed to get a few nice sharp photos and I decided to leave the processing until through the week.

So throughout this week, I’ve processed the shots and they’ve turned out surprising well.  One piece of software that’s really helped with the photos is the Nik Effects suite of add-ons.  I had purchased this one Friday evening when my wife was out with friends (she really shouldn’t leave me alone sometimes!) and I never really got a chance to fully utilise them.  I went onto YouTube to see what benefits there was and it’s opened up a whole new world for me.  The contrast add-ons are superb as is the output sharpener.  It has actually transformed my work flow!

Anyways, here are the output photos after processing.ImageImageImageImage

And here is the original photo before the processing takes place:

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It’s The Simple Things In Life

I recently read an article over on http://www.slrlounge.com about elitist photographers and how overall they can actually turn off other photographers trying to make a living or just generally trying to better themselves in photography.

The article was impressive.  Firstly, from a start off point, it could have come across as “preachy” but I found it to actually be quite truthful in what it was saying.  Secondly, it was a refreshing article in that I think it had to be said.  I’ll not go over the whole thing but to reiterate what I got out of it, it basically states that there can be too many photographers out there who seem a lightly too high and mighty and don’t take other photographers at face value.

I suppose my comments could be misconstrued as being a little too aloof but I do think it needs to be said.  We can all be a little precious about our photographs.  I mean, we sweat blood and tears to get the perfect picture and for someone to try and criticise it is just down right rude.  Right?  To a point yes.  I’m always on the lookout for constructive criticism as I think it is one of the main avenues for pushing yourself further in the field.  I just don’t like the people who criticise for the sake of criticality.  Just to take you down a peg.

Every day I am in contact with other photographers, as in IT it seems to be a popular hobby with the geek community (I totally put myself into that geek category and I don’t mean any disrespect with it.  I embrace it!)  Some of the guys and gals are better at taking photos than others but I am always impressed with their efforts.  It actually inspires me to get out there and try new things.  Gets the old juices flowing as they say.  I do find it harder to get out these days so anything that can get me off my fat arse is got to be good.

I suppose the main thing that I am trying to get at here and more from my own point of view, is that the main underlying message from the article that got to me was that as long as you are happy with your photography, who is anyone else to try and ruin that experience?  Yeah, go out there and take photos.  Get onto the computer and process it in a way that speaks volumes about your style.  There’s no wrong way or right way.  Just what ever keeps you going and creating new and beautiful art.

Which I suppose brings me onto a couple of simply composed photographs that I processed from Blackpool.  Both of these particular photos were taken handheld as I had the two kids in tow and to try and get the camera on a tripod and take time to apply filters and compose, re-compose and compose again, would have been Hell.  Plus the wife would have killed me!

The first is taken from Central Pier and looking towards the tower with a lead in line from the promenade.  The sun was starting to set and the colours just screamed out at me.  All I had on the lens was a B+W circular polariser (this CP filter ROCKS by the way) and it brought the colours out spectacularly.  I just straightened the horizon and that’s really it.Image

The second shot was taken whilst waiting for ye olde fashioned lit night tram to come along.  It was getting late and the kids were getting crabbit (rightly so as it was well past their bedtime).  The tram was taking ages and I looked to my left while my wife went searched for a toilet for my son and spotted the sun setting.  I also happened to be standing in an area where the composition really caught my eye and I just took the picture.  The processing in this case was a little bit of burning to darken the blacks and a slight colour wash to enhance the pink/red hue in the sky. Image 

 

Walter White and the Missing Hours of My Life

By now, I would certainly expect most people on planet earth to know who Walter White is.  The man in question is played by that talented actor Bryan Cranston in the hit TV series “Breaking Bad’.

I first caught sight of Breaking Bad in a local HMV store and the first 3 box sets were on sale.  I thought, “Why not?  I will be able to watch it now and again amongst the many other things I procrastinate over.”  Well, as soon as I put it on, I was totally hooked!  What brilliant acting and writing.  A twisted tale of debauchery, deceit, murder with some very black humour flung in for good measure.  So hooked that I got series 4 and 5 on DVD for fathers day and I have just finished watching series 4 last night.

To cut a long story short, all the great intentions I had were stolen away by Walter White once the little ones went to bed.  If there were more hours in the day, I’d have watched it quicker but there isn’t and I’m not able to change time.  Yet.  But that’s another story.

So to let you all know what I have been up to in the last few months, I could probably sum it up in the following:

Looking after my two new adopted kids – 85% of my time

Trying some new photography/photoshop techniques – 10% of my time

Winning my first photography competition – 5% of my time

Now those percentages do not include the usual every day items, such as working, sleeping, eating, etc but you get the gist!

To elaborate a little further on the competition win (my first I may add and I am super stoked about it), I sent in a photograph of Eilean Donan Castle that I took and processed into Black and White.  It’s one of my all time favourite photos and I’m so happy that it won.  I was one of about 11 people to win in the competition and the prize is to get our photos printed onto bottles of cider and be part of special Scottish art cards that will be distributed around the world.  We have been told that we will also get royalties from the sale of each bottle with our photo, so again it’s a win-win situation.  Thanks to Macrae and Dobson Cider, a new startup company who took the initiative to do something like this.  I thought it was inspired but then I could be biased.

For those of you interested, here’s the photo;

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And now for something completely different..

And yes, this particular post will be a little something different from me.

Time is very limited in my household for the moment and as I can’t get out to do much photography these days, I’ve taken to doing three things;

1. Taking lots of photos of the children

2. Going back over old unprocessed photos and finally getting to process them

3. Going over processed photos and trying something completely different.

I’m a big fan of photoshopping and I believe it’s just as big a skill as photography itself.  Now I have to say that there is beauty in the untouched photograph, where we catch the original feelings and sentiments of a time or place but I also feel there is a lot to be gained by “tweaking” a photo and creating something new out of it.

Photoshopping in itself, if done properly, is just as much art to me as a Van Gogh or an Andy Warhol painting.  In fact, Mr Warhol himself (one of my all time favourite artists) did exactly that and took every day objects and gave a different slant on it by using different techniques to showcase his work.  Everyone will have seen his famous 1962 Campbell’s Soup screen prints.  They are just brilliant.  They just give a whole new dimension to an otherwise everyday object.

That’s where I think photoshop can come into it’s own.  There is a chance that a photo can be transformed into another work of art, just by using your imagination and a little know-how.

For this particular post, I had chosen one such photo and tried to transform it into a vision I had.  The particular photo in question is a photo of my niece that I took last year.  We were having a total ball taking these shots and using props like fake moustaches and cowboy hats and the original photo in itself turned out to be brlliant, as you can see here;

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I used simple lighting in this photo to ensure a nice even tone and not to distract from the fun of the shoot (in fact, this shot was done with one speedlight through a white see through umbrella, set to 1/8 power).

Although I love the simplicity of the above photo, I then thought that I could add some drama to it by blending in different layers and turn her into a Zombie Cowboy (or Cowgirl, if we are to be anatomically correct).

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For the “tweaked” photo, I added 7 different layers, with some overlays of rust photos that I took at Bangour Village Hospital and I also added in some splatters and vector graphics.  The splatters and vectors were purchased from a Photoshop Grunge course that I had spotted and it was £50 well spent.  Some very good videos and tutorials, along with some very invaluable resources.  Hop on over to http://photoshopgrunge.com if you fancy trying it yourself.  The price of the course may have jumped up though.

I then tweaked some of the colours and spent some time ensuring the rust “sort of” matched skin tone, etc but I really need to work on that.  Not too bad for my real first attempt at layering, texturising and real photoshopping.  I’m hoping my talent with Photoshop can match the ideas that are currently flowing through my imagination!