studiojoslizen

The photography of Alex Baker

Nature’s very own fireworks

2013-Scotland-Highlands-New-Years-97 by Alex Baker Photography star trail

I spent New Year’s Eve (2013/2014) in a very remote part of the Scottish Highlands. The cottage was on a small island connected to the mainland by a floating footbridge. In the absence of fireworks I thought I would let the stars light up the sky.

How was it done?

  1. I made sure I had a sturdy tripod
  2. I made sure I had a fully charged battery
  3. I made sure I had a torch. You may not believe it but it was pitch dark on the night. There were no lights, no moon, just distant specs of light from houses across the bay.
  4. Check the sky for the moon. If you can, try to do this when there is no moon. I was fortunate to have no moon on New Year’s eve. The moon actually produces a lot of light so it’s best to avoid it so the sky has a chance to remain dark and the stars can still be seen.
  5. Trees or hills provide a nice fixed point for the stars to move around so position your camera with something like that in the foreground.
  6. Exact tech details: I used my Nikon D800, shooting in RAW. The lens was a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. The lens was at 14mm to get the most amount of sky in the frame. Aperture was f8, ISO was 640, and the shutter was left open for  3609sec.
  7. Once I’d locked my camera into position I set  my focus to infinity and then made sure my autofocus switch was off (this ensures the focus doesn’t shift). With focus set to infinity (the stars and beyond!) and an aperture of f8 I had a good chance of having most of the shot in focus.
  8. Since the most time a shutter can stay open is 30sec, I set it to ‘bulb’ and then attached a remote shutter release cord to the front of my camera. This meant I would not disturb the camera by pressing down on the camera button myself. And it meant I ccould lock the shutter to be open for as long as I needed.
  9. It was pretty cold and wet out there so I didn’t want to leave it for longer than an hour since condensation and moisture will build up. Star trails are best taken in high dry areas so you don’t have to worry about moisture. This is why the desert is so popular. Plus the skies are clearer there. I left my shutter open for 3609secs. Which is pretty much an hour.
  10. Despite being pitch dark there was enough ambient light from the houses in the distance to light up the horizon as well as the trees in the foreground.
  11. A little contrast adjustment and colour correction in Photoshop and voila.

Happy new year!

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Mirrored reflections

I had a lot of fun, albeit it in muddy fields, with mirrors and reflections (and a brave model).

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So how did this happen? Or did the model just happen to have a hole in her? Was there some double exposure in camera? Is there another mirror reflecting back? Does the landscape opposite the model mirror what is behind her?  Or is there some photoshop trickery?

The last two options are where it all starts to make sense. If you do have a place that is symmetrical and identical on all sides then plonking a model in the middle while taking a photo at a slight angle (so you don’t appear) can work. A walled garden is a good example. In the absence of that – there’s no such space near where I live – I opted for good old-fashioned photoshop trickery. Set your camera up on a tripod (in this case ISO400, f2.8, 1/1000sec), take a photo of the model, lock the focus, ask her to move out of shot, take another photo. Now it’s time to head over to photoshop where you create a layer mask of the mirror shape so the background shot appears on the model shot. Presto.

Warming up the stage

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This is from a recent shoot at the Polka Theatre in London where they have some local schools put on some plays over the summer. This man deserves a Tony for his warm-up routine.

The air is heavy with a smell like molasses

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The air is heavy with a smell like molasses.

Every year my brother-in-law sets fire to field after field of sugar cane on his farm in Natal, South Africa. It may look chaotic, fun even, but there’s a good reason for doing so. The fire destroys all the dried leaves and other unwanted vegetation which grows up around the cane while leaving the cane itself unharmed. To do it by hand would require a day or more. The fire barely takes 45 minutes.
Did I mention how much fun it was to watch?

Guerilla knitting

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Guerilla knitting on the lamp posts of Oxford (I’ve also heard it called graffiti knitting). It certainly brightened up what was an otherwise very overcast day.

Fields of Spring

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It really hasn’t been the best of Springs here in England this year. Rainy, grey, damp and chilly, it’s been pretty crap to be honest. However, last weekend the clouds parted and the warmth returned. On my way back from photographing a 40th birthday party I drove through the rape fields outside Henley-on-Thames. It was dusk, the sun was setting at around 8.30pm. And these photos were the result.

The steampunk minister

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This is Geoff, a young minister-in-training, who works in Bristol (where we were shooting a short film about bicycle-repair ministries). He also has some serious steampunk skills. Any man who rocks the pith helmet is okay by me.

Sisterly love

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Teresa and Natalie are the daughters of someone who works where I used to work. It’s her husband’s 50th birthday next week so she figured, why not surprise him with some lovely portraits of the girls? I’m hoping he likes them (the photos that is, I’m pretty sure he already likes his daughters).

Behind the scenes

Collage-Frankfurt-Movie-Set-Voyeur-Behind-the-Scenes-by-Kate-MillerBehind the scenes in Frankfurt on the set of ‘Voyeur’ (directed by Johann Lion Cachet, in the leather jacket) where I was doing video and photography. These beautiful photos were taken by the very talented Kate Miller (www.katemillerphoto.com/blog).

Runner-up

This is old news but a little while ago I was a runner-up in a photographic competition for Oxford Dictionaries. Check it out:

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/07/photography-competition-results/

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