Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Buckfast Abbey at sunset

A few weeks ago, I had a friend staying over and we paid a visit to the Abbey at Buckfast. As the afternoon turned into evening, the light took on that beautiful quality you sometimes get in the aptly-named "golden hour".

In all its glory...

Buckfast Abbey at sunset
I fired off maybe twenty shots from various angles, viewpoints and at different settings, trying to make sure I captured "the shot", the one that shows off the abbey and its beautiful architecture to the best.

..and I think I got it.. ..what do you think?

In the digital darkroom

I decided to take the shot through the HDR process to try to reproduce what I has seen with my eyes, so prepared a number of different exposures from the same RAW file. I used Dynamic Photo HDR to combine them all into one tone-mapped image and then it was into Photoshop for the editing.

I cloned out a small figure, waiting discreetly at the edge of the frame for me to take the photo; kind person :) I also removed a couple of distracting low pillar lights in the bottom left corner. They added nothing and, being so close to the frame edge, were just plain distracting — they had to go.

As a final step in this part of the process, I corrected / straightened the converging verticals a bit to give a more eye-pleasing end result.

I then applied my normal workflow, relying on a tad of contrast achieved with a 5% opacity curves layer set to the overlay blend mode, a slight adjustment to the levels and finishing off with a subtle vignette to keep the viewer's eye in the centre.

A final bit of sharpening with the unsharp mask finished off the image.

The joy of photography

I enjoyed the company I was with, the cream tea(!), making the capture and working with the image in the digital darkroom — I hope you take pleasure in the result as much as I derived in bringing it to you.

Season's Greetings to you :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Back to black and white

After my last couple of adventures with colour, here's me back with black and white...

An exploration of low sunlight on rock

As the sun dropped towards the horizon on my visit to Bantham beach, the fast-changing lighting conditions gave some great shot opportunities.

Yearning for More
In this one, I was exploring the interaction of the light with the rock face, searching for that magic moment when the light hits at just the right angle, and the rock lights up as if from within. It didn't quite happen with this one, but it's fairly close, I reckon. Must keep trying... ;-)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

On a colour roll...

I was at Bovisand beach with a friend last weekend and have now managed to squeeze in some time to get this one out of the digital darkroom.

Bovisand Third Beach

Third Beach Rock

The shot

It was quite a chilly day but wrapped up warm and in good company, it was great to be on the beach again with my camera. In late autumn (fall, for my American readers) you get lots of opportunities at the beach; overcast skies give lots of diffuse light (light spread out in all directions) that saturates colours, and if it's a little chilly, you should get the beach pretty much to yourself!

Not entirely. Not always. Bear with me while I digress a little...

While we were there, a middle-aged lady out to take the clean, fresh air blowing off the Atlantic, approached and asked about something she'd often wondered about. She asked how come the really famous photographs can fetch thousands of pounds, when all they need to do is print off another, just like printing money.

I explained that it's not like a photocopier... the likes of Ansel Adams would return to the negative for each print, and reprocess it applying his zonal system and masking, dodging and burning to his heart's content. Each one is subtly different from the next and a work in its own right.

I've only just thought of it now, but a better analogy might be that of a sculptor sketching out what the finished statue is to look like and then using the same sketch to sculpt a few. Each one is a re-interpretation of the sketch, just like each print is a re-interpretation of the negative.

When I hand-print one of my limited edition images, I go back to the digital darkroom, to very early in the process and start from there, with each one taking three or four hours - maybe more - to go through the re-processing.

...anyway, back to the shot

The rock itself had a really interesting shape, with a "nipped-in" waist where it has succumbed to the waves. I tried making the shot from different positions, angles and heights and this was one of my favourites, largely catching the essence of its shape.

I liked the way the little flecks of darker slate on the lighter sand formed striations pointing out to the sea and also the way they lined up with the general direction of the rock, which also seemed to be pointing to the sea. In amongst all the other things to juggle in the composition, I wanted to make sure I caught that aspect.

I thought the little ripples and patterns in the slate flecks would give some balance and interest to the shot and it's turned out that way quite well, I reckon.

In the framing, I've nodded in the general direction of the rule of thirds, but not at the expense of the overall composition, I hope :)

Digital darkroom

I started off as usual from a RAW image out of my camera and, once in Photoshop, I straightened the squint horizon and removed a couple of small distracting pieces of seaweed.

I gave it the usual slight contrast adjustment and balanced out the levels before setting to with a bunch of dodging and burning on the rock. I wanted to sculpt and emphasise the depth and curve, its three-dimensionality. I also dodged the face to give some fill-in light, burning back the mid-tones a little to maintain area contrast.

Once again, I've used a soft-touch vignette to bring the viewer's eye into the centre, and to finish off I've sharpened it and given it my final contrast "pop" (by dint of a sneaky use of the unsharp mask).

Ok me luvverlies, until next time... take care and have a great Christmas :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Oooh, colour - a rare one from me!

A few weeks ago I was at Bantham beach with a friend. This is the first shot I've found the time to process - I hope you like it!

Bantham Beach

Bantham Rocks to Burgh Island

The shot

The light was changing from one moment to the next when I was taking this shot. That and with the advancing tide, it was touch and go for a while.

Wintry showers had eased off and as the sun lowered beneath the clouds, shafts of golden light were piercing the gathering dusk.

Trying to time the shafts of light with the waves, and at the same time making sure the hotel in the distance on Burgh Island was caught in the light was a bit of a game!

Patience, wet feet and taking lots of shots paid off quite nicely in the end, don't you think?

Digital darkroom

I've given the shot a subtle HDR treatment (yes that type of seaweed really is that green!) and a bit of dodging and burning on the rocks, both to sculpt them and to bring the scene nearer to what I experienced.

A gentle-touch vignette brings the viewer's eye in towards the centre and I've given it a little "pop" by enhancing the contrast


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Lenses tutorial from Canon

A sponsored post all about the range of lenses from Canon and what they're for.

So you want to learn about lenses...

My mainstay is the EFS 17-85mm with image stabilizer. I keep it mounted on my 350D body at all times and on the occasions when I need a bit more "reach", I use my EFS 70-300mm, again with inbuilt image stabilizer.

Watch this video tutorial from Canon about their range of lenses, what they do and the benefits of each.



comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Energy Taskforce

Whew - five minutes spare to update my blog!

Day job

I'm settling into my new contract assignment now - I'm working with a UK-wide energy company on their carbon footprint reduction programme.

It's good to be able to have a direct influence on such a massively important project for carbon reduction in the UK (80% by 2050!!). I'm (ahem, cough) really good at what I do in my day job; understanding and analysing business requirements, then specifying them in a structured way to make sure solutions get designed that do what they're supposed to.

So wish me success in helping make sure that the company achieves its aims - it represents a significant chunk of the UK's total carbon footprint!

Energy Taskforce

I was asked to do a sponsored post and agreed because I think it will encourage people into the industry, one which needs the right sort of engineer to design with greenhouse gas emissions in mind.

Here's the blurb from the sponsor...
"Energy TaskForce” is a serious game that will be played out over a 3-week period this coming January. If you’re an engineer, a student or a young graduate, and you think you know the various disciplines in the energy sector, you can already register in teams of 4 at http://energytaskforce.edf.com and visit the game’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/edf.energytaskforce.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Autumn 2010 showing and the end of my sabbatical

I hope all's well in your neck of the woods!

It's been six weeks since my last update and there's been a lot going on since then... But before all of that, here's a great tip for you to use and share:

Top Photoshop Tip

A cool method for dodging and burning, where you can go back and edit what you've done, is to use the following layer-based approach—and because it's a layer, you can go over the top a bit and then tone it down using the layer's opacity setting.

Here's how:
  • Add a new layer with an overlay blend mode and fill it with an overlay-neutral grey.
  • The easiest way to do this is to alt-click on the "Create a new layer" icon in the layers palette and make the Mode and Fill selections in the window that then pops up.
  • Then just paint in white or black on the new layer to dodge or burn respectively.
  • Use a fairly opaque brush and build up the dodging or burning with multiple strokes.
  • Paint over the white with a black brush to lessen the effect of a heavy-handed dodge and vice versa

Autumn Showing

The gallery where I regularly display my work, Martin Bush's studio gallery in Royal William Yard, Plymouth, had its new Autumn Show Private Viewing a couple of Fridays ago, before opening officially to the public the following day.

It was well attended and the wine, chat and worthies of the art scene flowed freely, stopping occasionally for nibbles and to absorb and admire each piece. Some of Martin's newer pieces were attracting a huge amount of attention - two were especially popular, Lady in Red and Fusion Landscape 1.

Martin's abstract paintings have that quality, rarely found, where each viewer "sees" their own version of the work, with some being reminded of one thing and others another. Somehow those embedded interpretations flow from Martins artistic core. His sense of composition comes unanalysed from within and the elemental balance he achieves is one any photographer would do well to study.

In the same way that b&w photography removes the colour to focus attention on other aspects of the piece, so abstract painting removes all the familiar visual clues. And that leaves your subconscious and creative side to somehow make whatever "sense" of it it can. The genius of Martin's work is that he somehow includes visual hints, just enough to jog your mind in one direction or nudge it in another.

Thank you...

..to all my patrons who came along. You're continued support is very welcome and I enjoyed the time spent with you listening to your views on my work. It's always fascinating to hear how you connect with what my camera has seen and how I have interpreted it.

Tim Thompson

I was delighted that the respected and world-renowned oil painter, Tim Thompson, visited and spent time with my work. He said that he and his wife enjoyed my black and whites very much—praise indeed!

Tim's work covers a very broad range of subject matter, with particular focus on the Americas Cup, Racing Yachts and Clippers, as well as producing various period Seascapes and historic and periodic marine art. His work covers both dramatic rough seas as well as calm tranquil seas and the mastery of the way he uses light is something every aspiring photographer could learn from.
See his work here

New day job

My sabbatical has come to an end, so that my 100% devotion to making and promoting my art now drops back to make room. The new contract I'm working on involves some travel, so there'll be lots of opportunities with the camera, once I'm settled in a bit more and it becomes more routine.

My Zazzle store

In preparation for the end of the sabbatical, I finished off my Halloween series, added a new series for Christmas and filled out my Plymouth and Devon postcards range.

Here's an example from each:




One lady from the USA bought 6 of my postcards featuring Dartmoor Ponies. So thank you, Lucy of New Caney, Texas, your custom is very much appreciated :)

My new Razamazazzle blog

I've started a new blog all about my Zazzling experience, including some tips, help and advice, as well as sharing what I feel are really great designs. Join up if you like :)

That's all for now, folks!

Thanks again for taking an interest in my artistic journey and the day-to-day happenings in my world (and very close friends do say I seem to live in my own little world, hehe!)

Until next time, take care, have a really great weekend and good luck in your endeavours!
Cheers
~~Mark


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My fine art photography in new exhibition

Royal William Yard

The famous abstract painter Martin Bush is Artist in Residence at Royal William Yard (affectionately known by the locals as Royal Willie) and has the official opening of his Autumn Showing following the private showing on Friday 15th October.

The gallery is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am - 5.30pm, official details here: Martin Bush Gallery, Autumn Showing

As well as my fine art photography, there is also photography by Trevor Burrows and pottery from internationally renowned potter, Mansour Eskandary.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

For the chocolate lover - Chocolate Panda Shopping Bag and more...

New design at my Zazzle store...

Chocolate Shopping / tote bag

Don't you just love chocolate? If you can't be without it, here's a great bag for getting all your chocolate purchases home! Or maybe one of your friends has a bit of a chocolate habit? If so, this is perfect for them.

The design features a lovable, cuddly Panda, with fur made from chocolate - a great combination.


The text is fully customizable and as designed (which you can change) reads "Just big enough for this week's supply of chocolate !!"

The environmentally friendly canvas bag has a wide bottom that makes it perfect for groceries or larger items (of chocolate!). It's made from durable 340g cotton twill and has cotton web handles reinforced with stress-point stitching. Dimensions: 33cm wide x 39cm high x 18cm deep

See more of my gifts and greetings cards using the Chocolate Panda design. So yummy you'll want to lick the screen!


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Playing with perspective

For a while I've been meaning to do a vid tut on straightening perspectives. I set out with the intention of getting a shot I could use for it...

Ah those best intentions...

I know you all like me to keep my vid tuts as simple to follow as possible, so I was after a clean shot with rather strong perspectives that could be put right with a couple of adjustments. As I found out later, to make this possible in future I'll really need to use a tripod and spirit level to get the shot perfectly horizontal.

Or I might cheat! More on that later...

Anyway, when I got the shots into the digital darkroom (and spent ages straightening the perspectives to boot!) I found that I'd naturally taken a couple of my signature shots.


Bell Tower Nappy

Pardon the title - but that's basically what it is. The scaffolding structure is to prevent debris falling on the heads of folk or their cars as they come and go from the visitors car park, on the other side of the tunnel. It's just an extra precaution as they work on the refurbishment.

So, what attracted me to this viewpoint and shot? On top of all those lovely shapes, patterns and textures in the stone, I really liked the almost complete darkness of the tunnel and the way it framed the wall on the other side of the courtyard beyond. Although it's a shame I wasn't observant enough to wait another 7 minutes :)


Overhead Protection

Here's a close up of the nappy. I liked the interaction of the triangular forms created by the deep perspective, also the lighting coming through on the underside of the boards and, finally, the wonderful contrasting textures of the stone and wood. In the digital darkroom, my processing was all about enhancing those features.

Thanks for sharing your time with me and my monochrome struggles! I hope you've enjoyed looking :)


Oh, about that cheating I mentioned. I think I might take the top shot and apply a couple of perspective adjustments. If I make the resulting shot the one that I start with in the vid tut, well I'll then know it only takes a couple of moves to correct. That way, I'll be able to keep the viewer's concentration on the technique itself and not have them distracted by too many of my clumsy attempts to get it right!


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

White Dartmoor Pony Portrait

Ok, so when I said it was the last Dartmoor shot in my previous post, I fibbed a little! Only a little mid-you because it came from my last-but-one trip to Dartmoor. Actually I've got a few more left to do from both trips still in the digital darkroom and I'll post them as and when...

Pure-bred?

I'm no expert but from what I do know it does have the look of a pure bred Dartmoor Pony about it... ..and it was shot on Dartmoor!



I had to darken down the image a fair bit first and then emphasise those glorious textures in the mane and the musculature of its body.

To do get the emphasis I was after, I dodged the highlights and burned down the midtones a little. There were a couple of small distractions that had to go—some blades of grass that were reflecting the light too brightly in the foreground and a piece of bright litter behind its bum.

I hope you like the end result as much as I do :)

More to come so visit again soon!



comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Last from recent Dartmoor photo shoot

I thought I'd treat myself with this shot...

Infra-red treatment

The tree was quite surreal in itself, just surviving in its struggle against the prevailing wind; bent over so far that the trunk weaves close to and even into the ground!

I had been meaning to have a play with an infra-red approach for quite a while, and during the processing of this shot, it became more and more apparent that this would be a great shot to try it out.

That's what I meant by treating myself—a little experimentation without thought for any commercial aspects, just pandering entirely to my own tastes.


Surreal Horizontal Tree

In the dying, golden-red rays of the setting sun, it could almost be that the tree is rising, reaching to bathe in the explosion of light before the light shrinks back once more and is enveloped by the encroaching night.

Well, that's what it says to me, anyway :)

I did a little dodging and burning in Photoshop (around the tree leaves and the top edge of the trunk, just to help bring your eye through the shot). If you've kept up to date with my blog, you might have spotted that I've used the techniques from my recent video tutorials, Centering A Viewer's Attention and Perfect Contrast in this one.

I hope you've enjoyed sharing the image with me. Watch out for some from Royal William Yard soon...

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Dartmoor Trees in black and white

As promised yesterday, here are the shots in b&w

Wind-formed Trees

This is the first, a tree making the best of the wind-swept moors. Totally bent over by the prevailing winds, this is survival on the edge!

Dartmoor is such a gorgeous place when blessed by the heat and stillness of a summer's day. Late in the summer it cools rather quickly once the sun begins to drop, as it did on this day. Even though the scene was brightly lit by the golden rays of the setting sun, there was more than a little chill in the air.


Growing Up Is Hard

I've given this already high-contrast scene even more of a boost to accentuate the harsh environment and the wind-swept nature of the tree.

I love the way the trunk rises and falls in its growth. Each time it makes some upward progress, the prevailing wind forces it back downwards again, so it has ended up snaking along the ground in an interesting way.


Two Trees on Dartmoor

This was taken only a few metres away at the other end of the raised bank from the first. These two trees have fared much better, so must be out of the full brunt of the prevailing winds. It's hard to believe that just a few paces can make such a difference!

I hope they were worth waiting for after my little tease yesterday :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Hot out of the digital darkroom

After an internet outage for a few hours, I emerged from my digital darkroom...

Late summer, Dartmoor

At the beginning of August I managed a half-hour on Dartmoor.

I'd wanted a standing stone circle or just some impressive standing stones but only managed to find these. The light was my friend in the end but it did take a while.

A thin band of dark cloud lying above the horizon was blocking the rays of the evening sun when I first arrived, but I could see that as the sun set, it would burst through into that layer of cloud-free sky on the horizon.


Dartmoor Ruins and Tree

I used the time looking around the site, checking out various angles and perspectives. I took a few test shots while waiting for the sun to peek under those clouds. I was starting to get really cold (doesn't take long for a thin rake like me, hehe!) when the sun finally burst through in all its glory.

So I ran around the various places I'd already sussed out, firing off shots and doing my best to keep camera-shake to a minimum as I went.


Dartmoor Old Archaeology


I hope you like the way these have turned out. I'm quite pleased with the way they have caught the low light of the sun—one of the reasons they call this time of day the golden hour.

I'll tease you a bit now... I've done another two taken in the same location as black and white—I couldn't resist it and they were great for it.

Peachy indeed they are—but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for them...

Until then, Cheers ~~Mark


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Desiderata on Fruiting Wild Oat

Since starting my store on Zazzle (American version here) my top best-seller has been Desiderata on a variety of images - almost 50 so far and counting... Well, I finished another one...

Fruiting Wild Oat

This is one of my favourite colour images, gentle autumn pastels and a beautifully crisp wild oat, seeds near to bursting from their husks. The image's theme echoes some of those in Desiderata and makes a beautiful accompaniment to it.

One of those is the representation of the young adults that the verses are aimed at, by the seeds about to burst from their husks.

When those seeds emerge, everything will be fairly cushtie, but in the out of focus brightness of the real world there are many surprises, joys and pitfalls awaiting them.


I think one of the reasons this appeals to teens (and adults, too!) is that it doesn't particularly ban anything and it arms you with unbiased advice that's good to have when faced with anything that life occasionally throws at you from left field.

And for this reason it gets past those rebelling, disorientating youthful hormones and sinks in, no matter how surly they look when reading it!

As for the look and feel of the prose, the text uses three layers of goodness - the back-most is a Gaussian-blurred version to give it something to "sit" on, the layer in front of that is a drop "shadow" of the text to provide contrast and some sharpness. The layer on top is the real text, now beautifully readable in all areas of the image and matching its hues.

So, how do you like it? Is it appealing, with harmony and balance between image and prose?

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Coordinated Wedding Stationery

I'm proud to announce my new page dedicated to Bridal and Wedding Stationery
(trumpet roll.....)

Total Weddings

The hand-picked (by me) Zazzle stores that I've featured all specialize in coordinated sets of stationery in many gorgeous designs. Each can be customized or personalised with names, invitation details etc., and many allow for a photo of the couple to be included.

Each featured storekeeper also offers a bespoke design service to tweak the stationery to your exact needs, if needed.

And with Zazzle's fast service and superb customer satisfaction guarantee, there's no place better to buy!

So if you or someone you know has some wedding bells in the not-too-distant future, pass this link on to them—it's so good, it could even count as your wedding gift to them!! Ok, maybe a bit cheeky :)

So, here it is Total Weddings, check it out and you'll see what I mean—some really breathtaking designs for the bride-to-be. Enjoy :)


comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Hooray for me - a raft of new sales!

Forgive the pun in the title - I didn't notice until after, hehe!

New off- and on-line sales!

Off-line

After a very poor summer in the bricks and mortar galleries, I decided to have a "tag sale" at one of them to test the water. (There's nothing special about the name "tag sale" it's simply one where you attach a luggage tag with details of the sale price to each item.)

It's only be on for around 10 days at Martin Bush's gallery in Royal William Yard (map) and I've already sold three framed prints. So it seems to be working :)

The three I sold are Fuel Terminal Railway, Sutton Back Lane and Haystack and Tracks:


On-line via my Zazzle store

I've been selling a slow but steady stream of products using my fine-art in my Zazzle store. Here's an example of a recent sale: a framed canvas of my "Desiderata on Lake's Edge" piece.

What's new in store?

I've been designing some fun cards, party invites and trick-or-treat tshirts, ready for Halloween. And I've been up to my usual trick of composing some groaner-verses for the cards :) Well, you've gotta laugh, ain't you?


(click on any you're interested in for more details)

Just thought I'd share :) Have a great week, all!
~~Mark

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Up to 60% off in my Zazzle Store - Hurry, ends soon!!

Zazzle are having a labor day sale, valid until this coming Monday

Get your coupon code

Labor Day Weekend Sale! Up to 60% OFF! Click For Code (opens in a new window, shows Ts&Cs)

If you've had your heart set on any of my posters, shoes, t-shirts, bags or aprons, now's the ideal time to buy with up to 60% off the net price when you use the coupon code!!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Reworked Photoshop Video Tutorials - now in HD

Two of my older video tutorials weren't great quality - partly down to my getting used to the complexities of compression, video codecs and other stuff I still don't really understand(!) and partly because High Definition has come along on YouTube since...

Perfect contrast

This one is about achieving perfect control over the contrast in your shots. The quality is so much better that it's a lot easier to see the subtle changes in contrast that are shown using this 2-step technique. Highly recommended



Sky Rescue

This one shows you how to go about rescuing a blown (i.e. a too bright) sky. It works using a novel technique for combining two shots of the same scene, one exposed so that the sky gives plenty of detail, and one exposed for the ground.

If you shoot using the format called RAW (available on most mid-range cameras) then this will be something you can do on existing shots. If not you'll need to shoot a scene twice at the two different exposures.

Whichever is right for you, this is a great 3-step technique. It has the advantage over other methods of making the transition imperceptible as it moves from perfectly exposed sky to perfectly exposed ground.



Both are  (I hope!) simple to follow and understand and should make great additions to your toolkit, whether you're a beginner or someone who wants to expand their knowledge.

I'd love some feedback; you could think about: a) Was my voice clear enough? b) Were my descriptions clear and easily understood? c) Was my pace about right, too fast, too slow?

You don't have to answer any/all but feedback will help me improve the vid tuts, which has got to be a good thing for everyone! :)

I hope you enjoy,
~~Mark
comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

New Vid Tut: subtly bring a viewer's attention to the centre of your photos

Another of my occasional Photoshop video tutorials... (similar techniques exist in Corel Photopaint and Gimp)

Centering their attention

Here's a video tutorial I recorded in HD that shows a great 2-step finishing effect for your photos. It shows a simple yet effective way to bring your viewers' attention into the centre of your photos (and other graphic images too). It's a technique I use on pretty much all my photos, black and white and colour.

This how-to won't make bad images good but it will make good images better!

I used my image of a Dartmoor Pony mare suckling her yearling foal to demonstrate the technique and in the video you'll see the before and after compared.
When you do, I'm sure you'll agree that it's both subtle and effective and a technique you'll want to use on your own photos.



To see this best, pop out the video and watch at full screen size - make sure you watch in HD (720p) to see the subtlety of the effect as the tutorial progresses. If you use this technique, drop off a link to the results in the comments so we can all share. Thanks from all of us :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

40% Off My Posters

Great news but you'll have to hurry!

40% off all my posters over at Zazzle.com

Until 22nd August 2010 all my posters over at Zazzle have a massive 40% off, so if you've had your eye on any of them, what better time to buy than now!

As a reminder, here's my best-selling Desiderata poster - click the image to buy...


To get your 40% off, use the code BTSRULEPRINT when you get to the checkout. Full terms and conditions are here

See all my poster prints and take full advantage of this amazing offer by choosing a selection for friends and family.

It's a great time to be getting Christmas presents, especially at these reduced prices. So buy today, save tomorrow!!

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Monday, 16 August 2010

My Latest Designs on Zazzle

Some of my latest designs available on a range of products on Zazzle - here's a few to whet your appetite...

Iridescent Dragon Design




This really great design is available on a range of products including mugs, car stickers, hats and ties.

Calendars with US holidays

US size Avery Binder - takes 8 1/2 x 11inch paper


One of the many great things about Zazzle is their 30-day satisfaction guarantee - so what have you got to lose? Go ahead and buy one of these today! Click any of the images and you'll get taken to Zazzle where you get the chance to personalise before you buy.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dartmoor Pony Head and Mane Study

After a few recent colour shots...

Back to Black and White


Dartmoor Pony Head and Mane Study

I love the texture of the manes and the jaw-lines of these beautiful creatures. They roam free on Dartmoor and those that run true to the Dartmoor Pony form, like this one, are a direct link to our prehistoric past. They are ideally suited to a life on the unforgiving moors, making the most of the poor vegetation and able to withstand the cruel and harsh winters.

They're a great hit with visitors to the moors, being quite approachable and unfazed by close human proximity, as this shot shows.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

I aint movin' Mum!

Here's the shot I promised in my last post...

Awww, Mum


This foal had been lying down having a sleepy snooze, then woke up a bit and got onto it's knees, still chilling out. Along comes mum and gives a nudge as if to say, "night time is for sleeping, day time is for eating, now get up!"

Disgruntled Foal

Take a look at the lips of the foal -- now that's surly! I'm sure many of you parents reading this recognise that look!

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Some more Dartmoor Pony shots

A couple more from Dartmoor...

Dartmoor at its best

Another shot of that cute yearling foal from my last post. S/he kept trying to lie down and have a snooze but mum kept nuzzling her up again. It was a hot day so I think it was just sleepy and not sickening for something -- at least I hope not!

I've got a shot still in the digital darkroom showing that happening -- and the reluctance of the pony to be shifted. Lets hope it makes it out of there so I can share it with you :)

Kneeling Dartmoor Pony Yearling Foal

This next shot shows a couple of the branded but free-roaming ponies at a watering hole, quite full from the recent rains. The way the late afternoon sun was catching their coats really made them look their best.

At The Watering Hole

The branding of the new foals won't take place until the Autumn drift, a yearly round-up in late September / October of all the ponies so they can be sorted into the herds that belong to each farmer.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Yearling Foal - Candy Style

...and another from Dartmoor the other day

Cute as Candy

This was one of the youngest yearling foals I saw on my outing the other day. And it was just soooo cute! A bit unsure, venturing out on its own a little and shyly cautious with me - but still curious! Just like any other youngster :)

Yearling Dartmoor Pony Foal

I wanted to emphasise the cuteness so I went for the "candy" HDR effect I've seen in others' work, thinking it would do the trick. And I believe it has! What do you think?

This is another one that I'll offer to the Duchy Square gallery for inclusion in their upcoming exhibition devoted to this fine pony breed.

As a by-the-way, whenever I'm approaching and in amongst animals, I always try to move gracefully, while all the time "speaking" gently to them.

I reckon that when you make any sort of intentional but kindly noise, you're doing two things to reassure them:
  • you're letting them know you're not trying to sneak up on them (so therefore you can't fall into the "predator" bracket)
  • and by giving them gentle, kindly noises (what I mean by "speaking") while you're looking at them, they feel reassured - this "strange creature" seems to be trying to be friends with me!?

Of course, they'll still be wary -- but that wariness lessens the longer you are amongst them and still doing nothing alarming.

With that in mind, hopefully you'll be able to get more shots that don't just show the ass-end of fleeing birds and beasts! Happy (photo) hunting :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Mum feeding her foal

Here's the next from my trip onto Dartmoor yesterday. Yikes! More colour!

Yearling Dartmoor Pony Foal

A number of the mares in the small herd of ponies were still supplementing their foal's diets. Feeding seemed to be little but often, with some mums seeming quite impatient with their foals, maybe to encourage them to fend for themselves?

Dartmoor Pony: Mum feeding foal

This pair cooperated by feeding at a time when the sun had broken through the clouds. The way their coats lit up in the sunshine was gorgeous with the beautiful light showing them off to the best.

I'll take this one and yesterday's up to the Duchy Square gallery in Princetown (also home to Dartmoor Prison) ready for the Dartmoor Pony exhibition, starting in a few days' time.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Dartmoor Pony and Lone Gorse

Here's a shot I managed to squeeze in today... (wot, more colour from the mono man??)

An hour on Dartmoor

I dropped off a picture for an upcoming exhibition at the Duchy Square gallery in Princetown today. On the way back, I stopped off at a couple of places to see what I could get. This is the first out of the digital darkroom and I like the way it's turned out.

Dartmoor Pony and Lone Gorse

I was lucky with the lighting, getting direct sunlight for 5mins and then cloud for 5mins, then back to sunshine again. It gave me plenty of time to walk among the ponies, preparing for "that shot", should it arise.

Maybe I got it, I won't know for a few days while I work my way through the rest of the shots I took. Watch this space for more!

I'd love to hear what you think of this -- as you know, I'm quite a beginner when it comes to colour...

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A question answered about marketing your designs (in fact, anything)

As my regular followers will know, I sell my artwork via my website, via galleries and, in the last 6 months, via my online store at Zazzle.

A forum question

Zazzle maintains a forum for its shopkeepers and I take a fairly active part (in spurts, if the truth be known! My bad...)

Anyway, one of the newer storekeepers (with some great designs, by the way) asked if in order to make sales, she needed "to be on facebook, twitter etc."

I thought about it, being something in principle that I've been pondering on and around for ages. Here was her question and my reply
I don't really understand Facebook, Twitter etc. Do you need to be on them to get sales? 
The answer is probably "yes" to some of those places. Let me explain.

Two aspects to selling
The wisdom out there is that there are two aspects to making sales - first you have to have a product to sell, and second you have to put it in front of people's faces when they're in a buying mood so they can make their purchasing decision.Shocked

Product desirability
If your product is really fantastic, most folks who see it will make the decision to buy, even if they weren't particularly in a buying mood to begin with.
If the impression your product gives is of low "quality" for the price (maybe the image is placed poorly with important parts cut off or the colour scheme is unappealing) then it won't "fly off the shelves" - you might need hundreds of people to see it in order to sell just one.
So selling success is about the mix of effort you put into a) designing artwork / making product and b) promoting and marketing.

Best/worst product
You can have the best product in the world but if very few folks see it, you just won't make the sales you hope. Crying On the other hand, you can have the worst product in the world and sell loads - if your marketing / promoting is world class.Grin

Where to put effort
Assuming you always produce the best you can, you can't easily "improve" the product - so to increase sales, that only leaves promotion/marketing.
The key point here is to find the places where your Love potential customers go, so that you can arrange to get your "message" in front of them. To be a potential customer they must have money to spend, they must have a need/want for the product (now or soon) and they must be convinced by your sales/promo message that your product will meet that need/want.

So, to answer your question
So do you need to be on twitter, facebook etc?
The answer is quite simple... If you can reach lots of the people that fit the definition of "potential customer" above by using those channels then yes, you need to be on them.
Be realistic though, from scratch it does take time, effort and familiarity with the channels to build lots of fans/followers. And if you get it right, those fans/followers will include many of those highly desirable "potential customers".

But for the same amount of effort, you might find it better to stand on a street corner and give out flyers! Seriously, starting from scratch, you should consider Facebook and Twitter to be a long-term effort and you shouldn't expect quick results. If you decide to go with it, do apply yourself diligently to the task - half-heartedness just doesn't work.

In conclusion
There are many channels "out there", both in the real world and online, and you can put effort into pumping your sales message down any mix of them. The trick is in finding the mix that suits you, your personality and how you like to work, and which gives the returns you're after.

Sorry about what turned into a lengthy post! I hope it helped your thinking Smile

So there you are, how'd I do? Anything else I should pass on?

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Clean, simple architecture

I've still one or two to process from my trip to Athens. Here's one I've just completed... I hope you enjoy :)

Elegance in simplicity

I love the simple geometry and clean lines of this modern-but-ancient Greek architecture. In this shot you can see how a cylinder, a block and a triangle are the basic shapes used—as simple as the building blocks we used to use as children. Yet look at the elegance achieved by adding a just a few embellishments in the right places.

Around the Block

Another inspired title! ...or perhaps not ;)

EDIT:
(for Betty...) This is on the corner of Monis Asteriou and Konstantinou Tsatsou in Plaka, Athens.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hard at it - Zazzling away...

Dangit! I've spent too much time over the last few days, working on my Zazzle store. It really does suck up the time!! But it's worth it when those sales come in :)

QR Codes after-sales boost tip

I was beavering away on Zazzle and thinking about promotion in between while waiting for screen updates. I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but I realised that QR codes are perfect for the backs of greetings cards. I'd seen nothing about it anywhere else on Zazzle, so I checked out the Zazzle forum, and nothing there either.

So I posted about it on the forum and it got a great response. Thanks fellow Zazzlers, it's great to know when a tip is appreciated :)

If you haven't seen it yet, the tip is posted on the forum here: http://forum.zazzle.com/promote/new_tip_for_boosting_your_after_sales_income. Pop along and let the rest of us know your great ideas for using it!


Quick Create tool

I've been using this tool on and off for a few weeks now and, as I've found, there are lots of gotchas. I'm thinking about doing another write-up (video tutorial??) for folks who have been defeated by those nasty old gotchas.

New style of graphics

What have I been beavering away on? Pretty much entirely on building up a stock of items using my non-photographic graphic art skills. I absolutely adore this blend of neon and stylised outlines colour and the way it comes out on dark backgrounds.




What do you think?

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Monday, 21 June 2010

Passing of Cat Ludwig...

It saddened me to learn of the recent death of one of the photographers I follow...

Thanks for your creative vision

Cat had great vision and this was expressed so well in her photography. My life is a little richer, thanks to you, Cat. See her legacy

Rest in peace, Cat.


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Trying out a new design style

I've been experimenting with a new graphic style for some of my designs in my Zazzle store and this is what I've come up with...

A new life for low res shots?

These were shots I took a very long time ago,when digital photography was in its infancy. The shots were great but the resolution was far too low to do anything useful with.

A shame because they were great images that deserved sharing. I thought I might try and "remix" the images and use them as designs for some gear in my Zazzle store. I loved the shots, the top one was one I took of a dancer on stage, the bottom one was one of the part-goers and the middle ones were shots of dolphin backdrops painted by my company.
(You can see the gear I've designed using these images by clicking the link under each picture.)

I hope you like how they turned out—I put in a lot of effort!

Dancing under laser lights, she looked fantastic!

..now that's what I call "eye contact" - he's swum right up for a closer look at you!

I love the way the sunlight is dappling their backs in the shallow lagoon

What a great portrait this was, now even more intense!


I liked the composition, structure and form of each of these images and I think the approach I've taken has worked. They're still great images, but presented differently and, more to the point, at a much higher resolution. The one with the pod of dolphins, for example, was 700 pixels wide, now it's 6400! All that means that I can now share them with all my Zazzle customers, which is nice :)

So is it thumbs up or thumbs down for you? I'd love to hear what you have to say :)

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

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