Category: Photography


Photograph or Painting?

Whilst trawling through the Internet, as one does with increasing frequency these days, I came across this arresting image.

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Like WOW. Mind blown.

The caption read : Orange sand dunes of Sossuvlei, Namibia. And at the bottom left of the image was the National Geographic logo and the photographer’s name Frans Lanting. So I simply Googled those keywords and almost immediately came across the National Geographic’s article about it.

Yes, it really is a photograph. Even though it may look like a surreal illustration for some science fiction/ fantasy book.

I just thought I’d share the awesome image with you all, and also the National Geographic’s interview with the photographer, Frans Lanting, where he describes how he came to create this masterpiece. (This image, by the way, isn’t new, it’s been around since 2011. It’s just that my radar has finally caught up with it. Darn…time to upgrade said radar ;))

From the National Geographic article:

Behind the Lens
Photograph or Painting?
While on assignment in Namibia for National Geographic magazine, Frans Lanting captured this surreal landscape image in a location called Dead Vlei. Due to the nature of the lighting in the frame, the photograph appears almost like a painting. We asked Lanting to take a few moments away from his current assignment in Africa to answer readers’ questions about the photograph. Due to limited internet connectivity in the field, he was only able to provide brief responses to questions, so we asked Elizabeth Krist—Lanting’s photo editor for this story—to offer additional detail where appropriate.
(If you are interested in acquiring this image as a fine art print, please e-mail gallery@lanting.com.)

From Shay Mordo: Absolutely amazing composition! Did it require prior planning or it was just being in the right place at the right time?

Lanting: Here’s a short summary about the making of the photo. It was made at dawn when the warm light of the morning sun was illuminating a huge red sand dune dotted with white grasses while the white floor of the clay pan was still in shade. It looks blue because it reflects the color of the sky above. Because of the contrast between the shady foreground and the sunlit background I used a two-stop graduated filter which reduced the contrast. The perfect moment came when the sun reached all the way down to the bottom of the sand dune just before it reached the desert floor. I used a long telephoto lens and stopped it all the way down to compress the perspective.

Camel thorn tree in the shade, Namib-Naukluft Park
Photograph by Frans Lanting
Krist: Our photographers do extensive planning, often selecting specific locations before they even set foot in the field, and in this case Frans was fortunate to have his wife, Chris Eckstrom, helping with research and logistics. A key factor in all our stories is giving the photographer enough time to scout situations so they know where the light will hit, when people might arrive, what the problems will be, etc., and can return at the best times.

From Ana Paula: What is it that appears white in the orange background?

Lanting: The sand dune is dotted with white grasses.

From Cathy Cory: What editing did you do to this image and what software did you use? I’m an art student working toward my B.F.A. and this image does look to be heavily edited. Some explanation would be helpful. Thank you.

Lanting: The colors in the final printed image were true to the scene as I saw it—the only technical adjustment I made was the use of the graduated filter, which only reduces contrast but does not affect the colors of the scene.

Krist: We never touch anything that will affect composition or the action that happens in a frame, but we do crop images to fit the layout, and our pre-press staff are masters at helping to adjust color or exposure so that the photograph will print well.

Visitors descend upon Dead Vlei, Namib-Naukluft Park
Photograph by Frans Lanting
Can you describe what it is that makes this photo look like a painting to so many people?

Krist: I think it’s the intensity of the sunlight falling only on the dune in the distance, while the foreground is still in early morning shadow, so the trees are almost in silhouette. The dune, called Big Daddy, is almost 1,200 feet tall, and is an intense reddish-orange color, so it creates a mysterious backdrop.

Are there techniques people can use to capture similar images?

Krist: One reason people respond so strongly to this image is just how surreal and otherworldly it looks. My advice to both students and professionals is to always, always, always use the drama of light (and composition, too, of course) to go beyond simply recording the scene in front of you. If you’re standing with a group of photographers, why would you want to shoot the same picture everyone else is shooting? You have to master the equipment, but you also want to find your own distinctive approach. A lot of that is sheer effort—trying different angles and distances (lying on the ground, climbing a hill), or investing the time to wait for just the right moment or weather and coming back the next day for a second chance. But there’s always that elusive imaginative element, too.

Cracked desert ground, Namib-Naukluft Park
Photograph by Frans Lanting
Did you have any expectation that this particular photo would be so popular?

Krist: I can’t speak for Frans at the moment he shot the image, but it was fascinating to see the reactions here at the magazine. People were polarized. Most of the editors loved it, but it left a few people cold. This scene, with the dead trees, stood out for us immediately while we were editing, but Frans shot a lot of variations, and we did have to do a lot of close comparisons before we finally settled on this one frame.

Why did you choose to shoot the five different frames that appear on this page, and what were you trying to tease out of the landscape in each frame?

Krist: Frans shot almost 16,000 frames for this story, and when I went back to look, I found that he had shot 321 images of the dead trees in Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. (That’s actually relatively few frames for such an iconic scene, but Frans had a shorter time than usual in the field for this assignment, and he was trying to cover a lot of ground.) He was simply trying to give us the greatest visual variety from that unusual location in the brief time he had there.

Camel thorn trees in the shade, Namib-Naukluft Park
Photograph by Frans Lanting
Could you talk about the quality of light at different times of the day in the locale and what’s better for achieving the perfect photo?

Krist: The early morning light and the light at dusk usually yield the most romantic and beautiful feeling for most locations. But it all depends on the kind of effect you’re going for, and if you want the harsh light of midday, that can also give a certain kind of drama. There is no such thing as the one perfect photo!

Here are some other images of the Sossuvlei sand dunes, courtesy of Google images:

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These photos look strangely familiar…and then I remember a film where Sossuvlei and Dead Vlei featured in a film. It’s the opening scene of the 2000 movie “The Cell” starring Jennifer Lopez. Yes!!

Here’s a video clip of that scene:
http://anyclip.com/movies/the-cell/the-desert/

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Dušan Beňo is an amazing Slovakian photographer specialising in Macros of insects. Enter his microcosmos here.

Dušan’s photographic skills are not limited to Macros; he is also a dab hand at human portraits, animals and flowers, as evidenced on his site.

Here is what I managed to glean about Dušan, from various searches online:

He is a student of Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.  He’s 27 years old and has been shooting and specializing in macro for over 7 years. Dušan loves the details of his insect subjects and finds their bright colours and characteristics charming. His favourite camera is the Canon MP-E, which he considers the best universal lens for macro shooting.

Here are some examples of Dušan’s magnificent insect Macros:
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Here’s a photo of Dušan, the photographer, himself. Keep up the wonderful work!

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I also found a YouTube video by Dušan himself which showcases his wonderful insect Macros:

 

Visarute Angkatavanich hails from Thailand and has a wonderful talent for photographing fish. I keep fish, but I can never get mine to stay still long enough to be photographed properly ;-). And my photos of fish never come out as envisioned. Quite possibly because my weapon of choice is a mobile phone camera and not a professional SLR with all the bells, stops and whistles attached to it. And definitely because I am not a patient person who’s willing to sit for hours watching for the perfect photo opportunity. I’m like that proverbial Panda that eats, shoots and leaves lol. Visarute uses specialised lighting and crystal clear water to shoot his subjects. (I have problems getting my fish tank water to stay clear and my subjects to stay alive long enough!)

Visarute is perhaps most famous for his portraits of Siamese Fighting Fish or Betta Splendens. A fitting tribute, for these fish originate from his own homeland and are part of a rich cultural history going back to the 19th century and Siamese royalty.

Here are some examples of Visarute’s glorious Bettas, courtesy of Google Images:

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To me, it seems almost balletic, the way the wavy fins appear to dance in mid-air. The Betta Splendens is a beautiful fish in its own right, and Visarute has managed to enhance its attributes even more, with his photographic prowess.

I also found on Google some examples of Visarute’s photography that are Not of the Betta Splendens. This leads me to believe that he is flexing his photographic skills and observing the characteristics of other types of animals, no doubt in the near future we shall see more of his astounding works.

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Portrait of Visarute Angkatanavich and his beautiful young family (from Google Images):

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I contacted Visarute on Facebook, and asked if he would like to add anything to my post here. He told me that his work is available on Amazon through this link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=art_artist_search?node=6685269011&field-keywords=Visarute+Angkatavanich

 

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Alexander Semenov is a marine biologist with a wonderful sideline in undersea photography. You may recall recently that I posted up some images of jellyfish in a previous post. Some of those images may well be by Alexander Semenov. This young man is no landlubber, preferring a life on the high seas!

In Alexander’s own words:

In 2007, I graduated from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University in the department of Zoology. I specialized in the study of invertebrate animals, with an emphasis on squid brains. Soon after, I began working at the White Sea Biological Station (WSBS) as a senior laborer. WSBS has a dive station, which is great for all sorts of underwater scientific needs, and after 4 years working there, I became chief of our diving team. I now organize all WSBS underwater projects and dive by myself with a great pleasure and always with a camera.

When I first began to experiment with sea life photography I tried shooting small invertebrates for fun with my own old dslr camera and without any professional lights or lenses. I collected the invertebrates under water and then I’ve shot them in the lab. After two or three months of failure after failure I ended up with a few good pictures, which I’ve showed to the crew. It has inspired us to buy a semi-professional camera complete with underwater housing and strobes. Thus I’ve spent the following field season trying to shoot the same creatures, but this time in their environment. It was much more difficult, and I spent another two months without any significant results. But when you’re working at something every day, you inevitably get a lot of experience. Eventually I began to get interesting photos — one or two from each dive. Now after four years of practice I get a few good shots almost every time I dive but I still have a lot of things that need to be mastered in underwater photography.

And the most important thing — I love Sea.

Some images of Alexander’s amazing sea creatures, courtesy of Google Images:

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And here are a couple of photos I found of Alexander Semenov himself, one as he is, and one with his underwater photography and diving gear:

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Alexander Semenov’s underwater photography can also be found on these sites:

https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/a_semenov/

We owe a debt to Alexander and other photographers of his mien, who constantly work tirelessly to bring us images of deep sea creatures that we would otherwise never encounter in our daily lives. Maybe “work” is not the right word for what Alexander does, it is clearly his passion and more a way of life than a hobby.  It is his calling.  He’s one of the lucky ones who actually does what he loves for a living. Thank you, Alexander Semenov!

Postscript: Alexander replied to my email enquiry and provided some further insight to his aspirations. His newest and most ambitious project is Aquatilis, a 3-year expedition on the high seas to capture images of deep sea creatures. This will be an epic, scientifically important project. Please show your support if you can!

Aquatilis TV

Aquatilis Indiegogo Crowdfunding

Aquatilis Flickr

Once in a while, I feel the urge to conduct some sort of retrospective look at my Art. It’s a way of looking back to the past at what I’ve done, looking at the present at what I’m doing, and hopefully getting an idea of the direction I should be heading next.

By looking at the past, we learn what worked and what didn’t, and if we can learn from our mistakes, then we will know what to do and what not to do in the future. This applies to Life as much as it does to Art.

By looking at the past, I also find new inspiration. Something that I might have tried but didn’t turn out as expected the last time might be more successful this time, now that I have a little, or a lot, more experience and/or technology has advanced enough for my original idea to work. Or, something that Did work but got sideswiped in my rush to try new things might get resurrected for Round Two.

I sometimes look at a favourite piece of mine and marvel at how I managed to create that look or effect. Wow, was I that good? Ha ha ha…I haven’t a clue now how I did it. 😆 Seriously, I don’t!

Anyway, here are some of my own personal favourites, from back when I first started in iPhoneography at the end of 2010, right up to this year, 2014. You may notice that after 2013 I dropped the year from my digital signature, as I felt it dated the artwork…that pun was intentional, by the way ;).

As the words of that famous song go – “These are a few of my favourite things”:

image This is of a bird sitting amongst the branches of a Coral Tree (Erythrina Lysistemon). I love those trees and every year I will cycle around my area looking for their brilliant, scarlet flowers to fuel my next photographic project. The best time to photography Coral trees, in Western Australia anyway, is in July-September. This image reminds of of an Hermès scarf, perhaps it’s the vibrant colours against the white background.

image Gardenia. I love how this turned out looking like the flower at the top has been highlighted. The colours are romantic, the light is soft, and the fact that the flower at the bottom has flaws only makes it more real to life. This image went over to New Zealand for the MINA photography exhibition in 2011.

image I found a stand of huge sunflowers outside a neighbour’s garden in the Summer of 2012, and took over 200 photos of them. At the time, I was experimenting with Macro photography, using my iPhone 4’s native camera, and also some Olloclip-type lenses (I couldn’t afford the real thing so mine was from China on eBay), and my own homemade “Noodle Macro”, which was very simply the lens off a cheap plastic Twin Reflex camera, fixed into a slice of a swimming “noodle” float. I love this photo for its bright, saturated colours, and the fact that it looks like I’ve caught the sunflower in mid-furl.

image These “Hen and Chicks” Sempervivum were in a pot in my garden. I don’t recall which App or filter I used to process the photo on my iPhone 4, but the colours somehow changed and became varied, giving me this almost-floral image. I still have the original plant, only it’s been divided and replanted into several different pots now.

image At the time of creating this image, I was experimenting with combining DSLR photography with mobile photography, using an Olympus E-PM1, my Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone, and my iPad2. Between the three devices, I managed to produce this image of fallen frangipanis around a turquoise floral teacup and saucer. I liked how the teacup and saucer came out in the photo…which subsequently led me to experiment with using just teacups and saucers sans flowers, and stacking them…which in turn led to an entire series of images in a project I called “The Madhatter’s Teaparty”.

image I can’t remember the name of these purple trumpet flowers. They are quite small, about an inch long each, growing in clusters off a medium-sized tree. By the time I took this photo, the leaves were quite wilted. I like the old-fashioned, romantic, grunged-up look, and the contrast between the turquoise glass and the purple flowers.

image This was an experiment in 2013, again using my Olympus E-PM1 DSLR camera, my Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPad2. Somehow, the petals at the end of the lefthand-side stems appear to have mysteriously disappeared into the ether. I like the bokeh, colours and textures in this.

image This is one of my favourites…the blue colour of the glass vase really pops. The 3 Chrysanthemums – pink, purple and yellow – contrast well with the blue and turquoise tones of the vase and the background. I love the grunged up textures here too. The title of this one is “A Beautiful Mess”.

image I love the simplicity of this image. Just a few tweaks of colour saturation and contrast, the addition of a multi-coloured background, and a “rainy day” effect filter.

image This one I mistakenly called “Red Poppy” before I did some research and realised those were Anemones, not Poppies. (I’m terrible at identifying plants, just so you know. I once went around telling everyone I had photos of Peonies when in actual fact they were of Parrot Tulips). I wrote a tutorial about how I created this particular image – here.

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I wanted to share these brilliant videos by Philip Scott Johnson, celebrating women in Art and Film. The first video takes the viewer through 500 years of Western Art, encapsulated by the faces of 90 celebrated paintings of women.  The music is Bach’s Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello no.1 in G Major, BWW 1007, played by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

If you’re wondering who the women are in the video above, check out this site for a comprehensive list with descriptions. In 2010, Philip Scott Johnson created a sequel of sorts to “Women in Art”.  “Women in Film” uses Bach’s Prelude from the same Cello Suite as above, again played by Yo-Yo Ma, but this time morphing the faces of famous actresses of the Western world, past and present, spanning a period of 80 years.

The actresses used in the making of Johnson’s video are: Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, Norma Shearer, Ruth Chatterton, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Vivien Leigh, Greer Garson, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Deborah Kerr, Judy Garland, Anne Baxter, Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Audrey Hepburn, Dorothy Dandridge, Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Janet Leigh, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Ann Margret, Julie Andrews, Raquel Welch, Tuesday Weld, Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver, Kathleen Turner, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore, Diane Lane, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry

Both videos captured the public’s imagination so much so that to this day there exists several different versions of them, some set to contemporary music.  The versions in this post, however, are the original ones by Johnson himself. Philip Scott Johnson’s handle on YouTube is eggman913.  He has more “morph animations” that you can watch, as well as a whole list of other interesting artistic videos.

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Every year in March for the last 15 years, Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia, plays host to the “Sculpture by the Sea” exhibition. This is a competition which attracts entries by international artists, with big prizes for the winners. More information about “Sculpture by the Sea” here. I recently wrote about this event in a previous post.

Just a little further south of Perth, not many miles away, in May each year since 2008, the city of Rockingham, Western Australia, hosts its own sculpture exhibition on its foreshore. It’s called “Castaways”, and, as the name suggests, it revolves around the theme of recycling and repurposing of materials. For more information, click this link.

In conjunction with the event, Rockingham City Council also runs a photography contest and a poetry competition – details here.

Castaways may as yet not be as well publicised as its sister event in Cottesloe, but it is rapidly garnering more fans and participants, and each year there are more and more members of the public making the (short) trip down to sleepy Rockingham for the event, which spans 2 weekends.

Here are some photos from this year’s Castaways.

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I for one am very proud to call Rockingham home.

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Ummm, exactly what is a Nudibranch? It’s pronounced “noo dee brank”, not “nyoo dee branch” as its spelling suggests. Wikipedia describes it as thus:

A nudibranch is a member of Nudibranchia, a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms. There are more than 3,000 described species of nudibranchs.

The word “nudibranch” comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βραγχια, brankhia, gills.

This website contains many photos of nudibranchs, and is a good place to start if you’re interested in finding out more about these colourful, fascinating creatures:

http://homesteadbound.hubpages.com/hub/Sea-Slugs

Yes, a Nudibranch is a sea slug, but not all sea slugs are nudibranchs. And yes, the plural of Nudibranch is Nudibranchs and not Nudibranches.

Enjoy these Google pics of Nudibranchs. I ❤ Nudibranchs!

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I’ve been working on “100 Butterflies” for about a month now. I first started this project using PicsArt on my Samsung Galaxy S4 to blend several images together to create the background for my butterfly. Then I discovered the App “Blend Collage” and utilised a different kind of blending. “Blend Collage” sadly went kaput as soon as I updated my mobile phone to Android KitKat 4.4.2. Then I found the App “Photo Tangler” to replace “Blend Collage”, but after just a week it too stopped working and was consigned to my App Cemetery as well.

Fortunately, after testing out and rejecting dozens of wannabe replacement Apps, I discovered I that the answer to my prayers had been under my nose all this time. A favourite App of mine, “AThumb Cut”, which I had previously only been using for cutting out my butterfly images, also has a collage function offering that feathered edges look I require. Happy days again!

So, we are back in business. I never really stopped, even with the App catastrophes I mentioned. I’ve been busy creating my “100 Butterflies” digital mixed media collages, and here are a few of my newest ones, I hope you like them!

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Last week I happened upon the HATCHED Exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA). It’s a graduate artist show featuring the works of up and coming Australian artists.

The exhibition runs from 10th May to 29th June, at the time of writing this it’s still on, so if you are in Perth, Western Australia, I recommend a visit to PICA. Entry is free, plus there’s a licensed bar & café within the premises.

A picture tells a thousand words, so here are several for your enjoyment.

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