My Self Portrait

I recently wrote a post about 7 NYE resolutions that will help you as a photographer to develop, hopefully over the next 12 months, well I decided to undertake one of the ideas that I talk about in the post, A Self Portrait Project and see what I come up with, if you want to read more about those resolutions I blogged about, click Here and if you are considering a 365 day project over the next 12 months, you may want to check out this two part series (Part 1 & Part 2) on the 365 day project written by Takahiro Yamamoto as it may provide you some insights as to what you are going to be doing plus these two posts contain some great tips to help you keep going, and also this morning I received an email from WordPress talking about the Project 365 and they have been kind enough to provide links to 8 inspiring blogs from people who have been doing it for the last 12 months. If that project is something that you are considering, these links are definitely well worth checking out.

I must admit that I have had fun doing this Self Portrait Project and I will continue with it throughout the year to improve my photography and how I direct people when they are in front of the camera because now I have a better understanding of how daunting or even scary it can be being in front of the camera. Everything that I have used in these shots is stuff that I have found lying around, Some of these shots are good and some are not but that’s the idea, to improve your photography. So these are the Self Portrait photos that I have taken over the last few days.

This is my profile photo that I use on the majority of social media platforms such as Google +, cough Facebook muttered under my breath, here on the blog. This photo is really what got me started with the Self Portrait project and as per usual, these ideas sooner or later develop a life of their own.

So give it a go, honestly what’s the worst thing that can happen, you may improve your photography without you knowing it.

Happy Shooting

A Thief Images Merry Christmas

Today is a pretty simple post. I would like to thank everyone who reads, subscribes, follows or simply stumbles across this blog for your support and your comments over the last 12 months. It has been a long year and in somecases a tragic year with all of the world events that have happened, one can only hope that the New Year brings peace and friendship amongst all of us.

So from me at The Official Thief Images Blog and Thief Images, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year.

Happy Shooting over the Christmas and New Year period, I hope you get everything that you asked for and have dreamt of.

Merry Christmas

A Letter to my Wife from your Photographer Husband

Well Dear, there is less than a week before Christmas and thank fully you are not like me, I haven’t even started Christmas shopping yet, I must admit that I have sort of been shopping, if you could call it that, I seem to wander without any real idea of what I want to buy for you or the rest of the family but as usual I have left it all up to the very last minute, Where I fight the ever increasing crowds and find that I am followed on the way back to the car, only to realise that they only want my parking spot and not my wallet (Phew, huge sigh of relief, how surprised would they be after robbing me only to find its empty). Once I get home with all of the presents stashed where no one ever looks, in the car, I will do the same thing I did last year. Put the kettle on whilst complaining about the crowds and the lack of parking at the mall only to have you remark that I should have started Christmas shopping a lot earlier than leaving it all to the last minute. But with all of this mayhem that goes on every Christmas I wonder how you know what I would like for Christmas so I thought that I would write you, my dear Wife, a letter outlining what I want, I mean, like for Christmas.

Now what I would really, really like is Nikon to release either the Nikon D800 or D4 but I have to be realistic. Nikon won’t be releasing it anytime soon especially after the Tsunami that struck Japan, closely followed by the Nuclear reactor going into melt down and then Mother Nature threw in some floods in Thailand and both of these tragedies have surely put a dent in their manufacturing capabilities. I would think that they may be trying to maintain their current line of models rather than release new models. I am not really expecting any new releases from Nikon any time soon. This is something that I don’t think Santa or even you can help with.

So in lieu of Nikon releasing their new models, I would be more than happy to find a new Nikon D700 under the Christmas tree. Nikon may have been possibly targeting the semi-pro photographer market which has relatively been untapped for some time, for awhile there, there wasn’t a camera from either Nikon or Canon that was aimed at this market. I mean how many Full Frame DSLRs can you sell to Pro photographers to cover your costs of manufacturing them. At least with a camera aimed at the semi pro market that has the same sensor from the pro line up would certainly help cover those manufacturing costs. I will clarify for you my dear Wife what I believe a Semi Pro photographer is. A Semi Pro Photographer is some one who is transitioning from amateur photographer to full time Pro Photographer, some one who still has a paying job but that income is slowly being replaced by income from their photography business. This can happen either very slowly or very quickly.

Nikon have got some pretty good specs squeezed into the D700 which has been out for awhile and I must say that I was rather disappointed that I didn’t get it for my Birthday but you should consider that this camera from Nikon has a full frame sensor capable of shooting at 5 fps which is pretty good to catch those fast moving kids, which is a lot faster than me but sadly the Nikon D700 doesn’t come with a video capability, so there will be no filming of the kids, shoots very well with high ISO in low light conditions which I seem to find myself shooting more and more in and thats only because of all of the family gatherings are happening later and later in the day, honestly who has lunch at 3 pm, not me that’s for sure and it ruins dinner ! The Nikon D700 also has 51 AF points and 12.1 megapixels. However Canon have got their camera squarely aimed at this market as well, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II which is boasting a massive 21.1 megapixels, Canon developed CMOS sensor with a new 4 processor called DiG!C and the live view mode has some new features like Live Face Detection AF mode plus throw in 1080p HD Video with 30 FPS which is awesome for shooting video, the camera also comes with continuos shooting of 3.9 FPS and standard ISO from 100 to 6400 which will provide excellent detail in low light. All of these make for a formidable DSLR from Canon in anyones terms. I am still undecided if I want or for that matter need a video capability in a DSLR but what ever you decide I will be very happy with but please remember if you are going to give me a Canon EOS 5D Mark II for Christmas, I will need all new lenses to match because the Nikon ones that I currently have won’t fit. I know, I know, its silly.

Speaking of witch, I mean which not witch. Sorry, let me start that again. The love of my life, If a new DSLR is off the table for Christmas, I would certainly be interested in a new lens. I really like, not necessarily need, a Macro lens, and it doesn’t have to be Nikon lens either. It could be a Tamron or a Sigma Macro Lens but the lens must be capable of not only being used for Macro shooting but also for Portraits as well, I mean what good is it just having a Macro Lens for photography of small creatures (and that doesn’t include your nieces and nephews either) if I can’t use it to capture our beautiful family, so the new lens needs to be sort of two lens in one basically. Tamron has got one on offer, its the SP AF 60mm F/2 Di II and is pretty well priced at my favourite camera shop. You know the one, and yes before you ask it’s the one that I spend my Saturdays in with my face pressed up against the glass display cabinets. There’s nothing wrong with that you know !

Now if that’s off the table as well and I certainly hope not but Nikon recently released a new model for their flash guns which is to replace the SB900 flash gun which I have already got, the SB910 was released in mid December which is just in time to be placed under the Christmas tree. I know, I know, what would I want with another Flash Gun thingy I hear you ask. Well I could certainly become very creative with two flash guns and really get some amazing shots of the family….. alright and your friends as well. This flash gun boasts similar specs to the SB900 that I have already got but has some improvements like an overhaul of the menu system which should make it easier for me to use and they have upgraded those flimsy gel white balance filters to hard filters however having another flash gun could increase my creative side using flash and I can use my SB900 together with the SB910. So this is something that you should certainly consider as well. But remember though love, if you have bought me the Canon EOS 5D Mark II I will need a new Flash gun as well. Canon have got the Speedlite 580EX II as their top gun in Speed Lights. This bad boy can be wireless and has the E-TTL II Flash metering which can be set to 1/3 stop increments.  So also another choice for you to consider.

I know that I always use Nikon but you have heard me say many times before that it doesn’t matter what camera you have in your hands, its what you do with it that counts. You are the creator of your vision not the camera, the camera simply captures your vision or your idea. Please when you are feigning interest when I talk about cameras and photography I would rather not hear ‘hmm’ but rather a response resembling words.

Anyway I started to get off track there for a bit but I know that this may seem a lot to undertake and even comprehend but I feel as though that I have to be quite honest, Jocks and Socks simply won’t cut it this year, or that awful thing you have been knitting with your friends for the last couple of months. That can go in the bin with all of the other “excellent presents”, sorry into the cupboard where I treasure those thoughtful gifts (they will never see the light of day).  If all of this seems a little to much. I’ll just take a $500 gift voucher from my favourite camera shop, not the one in mall that you like to go to with your friends, the camera shop in the mall that I go to to avoid your friends that way I can still take photos like this one where I spent the day with MY friends at a Free Style Motor cross event.

Lots of Love

Your Photographer Husband.


My Monthly Inspiration

I don’t know what keeps you motivated or your creative juices flowing especially with todays technology and social media, they can become real distractions, throw in kids, paying bills and this little old thing called life gets in the way of you getting out there and creating something regardless if its a photograph or a clay sculpture, and some of these things can literally put you on the side line resulting in you becoming an observer of whats going on around you instead of a contributor.

So to avoid this I like to try and give myself an assignment at the beginning of every month, something that I will hopefully be able to complete within that month with all of life’s distractions around me. Sometimes that assignment can be updating this blog, revamping my website or photographing a certain subject. This month was inspired by a photograph that really grabbed my attention as it

was full of colour and looked simple enough to achieve. This assignment did however have some challenges not only creatively but finding the time to actually get it done within the month especially with Christmas fast approaching.

I wish I could remember where I saw the original photo that gave me the inspiration for this assignment, it may have been on Google+ and there is loads of inspiraton on there as well, its like having the worlds photographers walk past your door.  The original photo that I saw had three bottles of brightly coloured nail polish pouring out on to a mirror forming a neat pool at the base of the bottles.

I figured that if I wanted to do this I should try and do the shoot as cheap as possible because I had no idea if it would work or not, So I went in search of what I figured I would need to do the shoot. In my local hardware store I found a full length mirror for $10 which had a poor plastic border that I could remove with ease and at my local pharmacy I found a bargain bin full of cheap, brightly coloured nail polish bottles. The sales staff certainly had a laugh at my expense as I mumbled ‘wheres the blue nail polish?’ whilst rifling through it like a mad man. The sales girl certainly had a smirk on her face when I was forking out my four dollars. I did try to explain what I intended to do but I am pretty sure that she didn’t buy it and now thinks I’m crazy every time I go in there.

I needed a black back ground and for this I simply opened the garage roller door and faced out into the night. I removed the plastic border from the mirror and put it on a small table that I had laying around. Then came the hard part, originally I decided that I would glue the bottles of nail polish to the mirror and each other so they would be uniform and wouldn’t move when I tilted the mirror towards me.  The issue that I had was that I purchased extremely cheap super glue and it had done as promised on the package, hardened before I could use it so I reverted to the old sticky tape method.

Once the nail polish bottles were stuck to the mirror using my ever so cheap sticky tape, I took a few test shots with the lids still on so I could get the exposure right and adjusted the flash gun into a good position so I could get a uniformed fill of flash across the shot. I was happy and decided that it was time to remove the lids and use a small wedge under the mirror to tilt it forward. This is when I realised that the square lids on the bottles wouldn’t come off while they were stuck down, so I had to remove them completely, re stick them back down, tilt the mirror backwards and away from me so the nail polish wouldn’t run out while I was trying to focus and compose the shot.

The next issue that I found was that once I started to tilt the mirror forward by jamming pens which acted as small wedges under neath the mirror the nail polish started to run very quickly and I had to act fast. I don’t know if it wad cheap nail polish or because it was hot and humid at the time but slowly down the flow was problematic. After thinking about it, possibly putting them in the fridge may have increased the consistency of the nail polish and slowed the flow down to a more acceptable flow rate.

Once I was happy with the 20 or so shots, I decided that I wanted to change some of the colours around to change the dynamics of the photo overall.

I changed the red nail polish for the white nail polish which meant that I had to go through the entire set up process again. I did find that the white nail polish ran very quickly and spread across the mirror almost uncontrollably, I added colour to it by getting the red nail polish and pouring it out directly into the white nail polish . I got another 20 or shots and decided that it was time to download these photos to see what I had and if I had achieved what I set out to do.

I don’t use Photoshop at all, in fact I have no idea how to use it. I use Aperture 3 so what ever I get wrong I must be able to either clone it out or repair it some how using contrast or Dodge and Burn.  So everything I do, I try and do in camera by setting up the shot first. as you can see by the two photos the first one I haven’t cloned out the dust on the mirror nor the edge of the mirror that has shown because of the flash, and there is drops of nail polish in the corner as well. I also had to clone out the flash reflection in one of the bottles of nail polish which proved to be a little difficult. The second shot is one that I have processed using Aperture 3 and removed all of the blemishes from it to provide an overall clean image which is what I had wanted to achieve.

The third shot is one that I am also happy with as well, here you can see that the white nail polish has run pretty quick and the bottle is half empty. I did pour in some red nail polish as well to increase the contrasting colours. Overall I was happy with what I had created and I did enjoy doing this as I learnt a lot from it all. All I need to do now is find a new pharmacy where I don’t get strange looks and hushed giggles from the sales staff.

Canon vs Nikon, Nikon vs Canon

I have been out on many occasions photographing an event and on some of these occasions I strike up a conversation with other photographers that are also in attendance. One of the most striking responses I have had is “Oh you are one of those !”. At first I was a little miffed as to what they were talking about and then I realised that they were talking about me being a Nikon user. To me it didn’t seem to make any difference as to which camera you used, either it be a Nikon, a Canon, a Sony or a Pentax. Its what you do with that camera that makes the difference. Camera’s are like cars, designed to get you from A to B with comfort and safety where the camera is designed to take a photo regardless of the knowledge of photography that person holding camera has.

There are plenty of arguments out there as to why either a Canon or a Nikon is better than the other and I am sure that the camera manufactures love the debate and the loyalty to their brands, as this debate and loyalty more than likely drives some serious sales when they release a new model, much like when an Apple product is released. Huge line ups on release day and plenty of people talking about their latest product including news coverage. Just have a look at the Nikon Rumors and Canon Rumors websites. They are full of rumors what the new model is, what specs that camera will have and when it will be released.  Don’t get me wrong there is nothing with either of these two sites, in fact not only are they full of great information but I seem to spend quite a lot of time on the Nikon Rumours site looking at what may be coming out in the future hoping that the new Nikon will delivered sooner rather than later.

Recently I was asked by a good friend who was going overseas on holidays for a month which camera should I buy and my response seemed to create a look of confusion especially being a Nikon user, maybe he was waiting for the typical response, Nikon of course but that’s not what he got. I gave him the following response:

Go to your local camera shop, don’t look at the brand (which is not that easy to do), hold the camera in your hands. The camera should feel like an extension of your body, you should be able to feel where all the buttons are with your eyes closed, you don’t have to immediately know what those buttons do but you should be able to feel them with your eyes closed. This provides you with an overall idea of what the user functionality of that particular camera.

Ask the sales attendant, if you can take a few photos with it, and it doesn’t matter if you take a photo of the guy behind counter or the rest of the shop, but you should at least take several photos to see the results even If you have to leave your drivers license or your wallet behind as security.

Is it in your budget range and what are you going to use the camera for? Happy snaps of the kids, to record your holidays or portrait photography.

Then after all of these questions have been answered have a look at the specs of that camera to assist with determining if it meets your needs or not. These decisions should help you choose the correct camera and hopefully you shouldn’t have purchased a camera based on brand loyalty.

I would love to hear what advice would you give to someone who is about to purchase a camera, either a compact or a DSLR? and would you be biased towards a brand such as Nikon or Canon?.

The Formal

The way I approach every job is different for example, Late last week I was asked to photograph a pre-formal gathering which was planned for Friday afternoon. The plan was for all to gather in the once spot with their parents before they went to their Year 12 school formal (much like a prom) in a limousine, a very large limousine at that. I was also asked if I could shoot it all in an hour or less, so this was going to be a pretty quick shoot with no real time to be artistic to a high degree. I must admit that I had some concerns on how I would achieve the desired results and this is what was going through my brain which was racing at a million miles an hour considering it was late Wednesday already.

1.  How would I capture those expressions that you only seem to capture when people aren’t looking at the camera.

2.  The amount of time that I had to do the shoot.

3.  How would I develop a relationship quickly with the people that I was photographing.

4.  How many people were going to be involved in this shoot, was it 6 or 16, I just didn’t know.

5. How much space was I going to have to work in.

These were all questions that I needed to answer and some of them wouldn’t be answered until I was actually there on location seeing what I  had to work with. So after some serious thought whilst I was sitting in traffic, (we all do it and what better time to think) I decided that I would be able to relax everyone extremely quickly by introducing some party poppers, streamers, confetti and some of those whistles that are rolled up until you blow them and then they make that ridiculous noise plus this also helped with me getting the shots that I needed to create that party atmosphere with relaxed crowd. 

I also figured that by using these “props” would also break the ice considering that I was really unable to develop a relationship with each and every person that was going to be photographed. I also had no idea how many people were going to be there, I did ask and was told probably 6 but with most things these days, have a back up plan and sure enough there was about 12 at one stage, twice as many as originally planned and I also didn’t plan on having the parents of all of this young people ask “Would I mind if I took a photo of them with…..”. Of course the response was No, Not at all, please jump in and have some fun and well get some shots.

This method turned out to be quite effective and really lightened the mood because when asked to stand in front of the camera and those ever imposing lights, the majority just brace up like they are getting the drivers license or their prison photo taken. Its not the case but I really didn’t have time to develop a relationship with each and every individual that had their photo taken, so getting them to relax quickly was a priority if I was going to achieve the look that I wanted. Smiling, acting naturally and having some fun at the same time.

The biggest question that I was asked was “When will I see the photos?”. I made a promise to all of them that I would upload at least 50 images by Sunday night and they could then download their favourite photos from my website which meant that I was going to have to work the majority of the weekend to meet the deadline. I ensured that I had them uploaded by Sunday afternoon and within 3 hours, over 60 photos had been downloaded and paid for.

So with a bit of thought about the short notice job on how I would approach it has paid off with the results that I and the client wanted to achieve.