New Photography Website

Helo!!

I miss all of you who have kindly followed my photography blog, and I would love it if you would navigate over to my new, professional photography webite http://www.cathywagner.co.za and follow me there.

I will be posting all new blog and portfolio updates there, because, yes, I have quit my Financial Management position and taken the leap into full-time, professional photography!

I would greatly appreciate hearimg from you again, as I always enjoyed your comments and compliments on this blog (who wouldn’t?) and I can use all the encouragement I can get right now 🙂

Yours creatively
Cathy Wagner
Cathy Wagner Photography

Studio Portraits

I was very excited last weekend – I finally bought my first studio lighting kit. Two 300 watt lights with stands, a soft-box, some reflective umbrellas and a backdrop kit.

All pretty basic. I didn’t want to spend too much because I haven’t built my studio yet and I don’t have anywhere to KEEP all this stuff! (We have a pretty big house, considering there’s just two of us living here, yet there never seems to be enough space.)

Angela & Mike and their baby were visiting so I asked if they would sit for me so I could try out the set-up. Well, we were really just messing around – 90% of the photos are not for public consumption! – but the other 10% came out pretty well, I think 🙂

The soft-box, set at a 45-degree angle to the model, and slightly higher than their head, plus a black backdrop – and there you have it. Beautifully modeled shots, so different to the effect you get with available light.

Angela for Web

Mike for Web

Daddy's Little Boy copy for Web

Angie & Carl for Web

I even managed to get Hubby to pose with Mike, wrapped in a bright pink feather boa 🙂

Glenn & Mike for Web

I have a feeling studio photography is going to be FUN!!

Photography: Twisted Architecture!

 

I did a bit of a photo-safari around Sandton, near Johannesburg, and snapped lovely clear photos of the buildings from ground level. Being in a creative mood, I tried to turn them into “Planets” in Photoshop CS6. like I did with this photo of Dubai.

Dubai, from the viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa

This was taken from an extremely high viewpoint – most of the buildings you see are between 40 and 70 storeys high, yet they look like little toys.

This shot, of the Dubai Marina, was taken from a yacht at water level. I think it also makes a very acceptable “Planet.”

My Sandton photos, however, turned out VERY differently!

This one looks like a BUG’s head!

And this one just looks awesome! Like an alien machine or something…

I would like to sell prints of these images, and I have a few more that I haven’t included here. They are all over 80MB, so can be enlarged very significantly without losing the incredible detail.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a print, please contact me 🙂

Photographing older couples

 

I enjoy photographing older people because their faces are not perfect – the lines of smiles and frowns are permanently engraved on their faces and, far from being ugly, those lines give them character.

Older couples are often not that comfortable in front of a camera (especially older men!) so you have to work at helping them to be less self-conscious, to just be themselves.

That’s where the wife comes in…. I find it easier to get the wife to do something specific – like kiss Hubby gently on the cheek – and wait for Hubby to melt a little.

THAT’s when the delightful expression comes out 🙂

Some ladies are so beautiful and full of love for their husbands – even when they’ve been married for a lifetime – they make the photographer’s life so much easier!

 

(A little tip – ask the lady to just touch her lips to her husband’s cheek, she should not purse her lips.)

Brothers in Arms……

I took this photo of Owen and his baby brother, Carl, yesterday before Owen’s Primary School Mini-Cricket tournament.

Carl was sleepy, but Owen just HAD to show his baby brother to his friends and their Mums 🙂

The original shot had a very boring background of dark cement stairs, so I altered it in Photoshop CS6.

I selected the boys, inverted the selection, then applied a radial blur to the entire background, I played with the settings until I found the right effect.

Canon EOS 60D – f/11 – 1/200 second – ISO 400 – 180mm focal length

Photography: Army-themed Birthday Party

Owen turned 7 two weeks ago, and his Dad decided to throw him an Army-themed Party.

All the children were asked to wear the appropriate clothing (camouflage prints). a 12-meter long army-style jumping castle was hired for the occasion, and a “challenging” obstacle course was laid out. The idea was to have the Drill Seargents (the Dads) drill the kids, get them to march up and down, and then let them do the obstacle course. The “reward” was to have army stripes painted on their cheeks afterwards, and receive a pair of toy binoculars and a badge.

The party was such a success, the Birthday Boy forgot to open his gifts! He was having way too much fun!

Canon EOS 60D – f/9 – 1/200 second

It was a very hot and bright, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky (we’re lucky like that here in South Africa!), and I was struggling to get the exposure correct. Many of my shots were over-exposed, but a few minutes work in Lightroom 4 sorted them out nicely.

Here is Owen, demonstrating the correct technique for the tyre obstacle course:

Canon EOS 60D – f/11 – 1/640 second

The children, saluting the Drill Sargents at the start of their drill….

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

….and marching up and down the driveway. (I think someone needs a lesson in gun-safety!)

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

After completing the course, they received their stripes. (Aren’t these two just so STUNNINGLY beautiful?)

Canon EOS 60D – f/5.6 – 1/640 second

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

And then it was time to play….

Canon EOS 60D – f/4.5 – 1/500 second

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/400 sec

So, if you’re looking for a fun theme for your child’s birthday party, I can recommend this one. We also had:

  • Black, grey and green balloons (army camouflage colours)
  • An army cake ( camouflage coloured and patterned icing, with toy soldiers, tanks, helicopters and crashed jets for decoration!)
  • The obstacle course consisted of the 12-meter long jumping castle with climbing rope (picture 1), and other “difficulties” for the kids to jump from or climb through, the tyre obstacles, and a belly crawl under ropes tied between poles. They ended the course with climbing a rope swing to touch a balloon tied just out of reach.
  • The “training” consisted of being (gently) yelled at by the Drill Seargents (” get back in line, Soldier!!), saluting, jumping jacks, and marching in “formation” up and down the driveway.

The children ranged in ages from 3 to 7. Some of the littlest ones needed a bit of help sometimes,so it’s handy to have some teenagers around as well.

I really don’t know how we’re going to top this party next year!!!

Photography: Monte Casino and The Pivot at Night

I am starting to LOVE night-time photography!

I was always under the impression it was “too difficult” and I would have to use a flash (which I hate) – but I tried it when I was in Dubai, and now I am thoroughly HOOKED!

Last night, I took my dear Hubby to a slap-up dinner at Monte Casino, in Fourways Johannesburg, in exchange for his body-guard duties and patience while I indulged myself in some outdoor shots of the beautiful Casino and Hotel complex (which Glenn was partially responsible for building about 10 years ago.) Glenn is a Landscape Architect and a Director of Landmark Studios. He was involved with the fountains, gardens and lighting of the Casino. I am very proud of him – the place is stunning 🙂

The entrance to Monte casino:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 1.3 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Once inside, you are instantly “in Tuscany.” The complex is inside a huge warehouse structure, with buildings that imitate Florentine architecture to the “T” – right down to washing strung across balconies (even bloomers, bras and a g-string!), pigeons nesting on ledges, dozens of Italian restaurants, and a “sky” full of stars. The detail is truly impressive!….

My favourite part of Monte Casino is the outdoor (for real) Piazza, with its fountains:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 1 second, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

On the hour, every half-hour, visitors are treated to the beautiful musical fountain, accompanied by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or some other dramatic piece of music:

Canon EOS 60D, f/2.8, 2.5seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

We wandered back across the road to the Pivot hotel and office complex, which was another one of Glenn and Landmark Studios’ beautiful projects.

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 0.8 second, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

In case you’re curious about that tall glass and steel structure, here’s a close-up:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

And, in an alcove, this statue entitled “Autumn”:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Getting good night-time shots is really pretty simple. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a good, sturdy tripod. Hand-held will not work at exposures shorter than about 1/40th of a second, and even then only if you have EXTREMELY steady hands
  • Exposure times should be between one and 10 seconds, if there is enough ambient light in the scene.
  • If it’s really dark, use your “Bulb” setting and a remote release so you don’t bump the camera during the exposure
  • Use a LOW ISO. to avoid graininess. You want the blacks to be black – not full of little coloured spots! Start at about ISO 100 and gradually increase it if necessary.
  • I tried to include some watery reflections in every shot to add movement and colour.

I hope you give night-time photography a go, if you have never tried it before. It’s very rewarding 🙂

Photography: Family Portraits

This morning, I took the latest addition to our family to meet my Mom-in-law.

Carl is two months old today, and Granny – well, let’s just say she’s a little older – but just as beautiful as ever.

I was very lucky to get these lovely photos of their first meeting. I used my Canon 60D with my 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, hand-held and only natural indoor lighting.

Post-processing was in Lightroom 4 – I adjusted the exposure slightly and applied a sepia-toned filter but left in a bit of de-saturated colour. I think this effect really brings out the beautiful skin tones of both Gran and Baby.

Can there be anything more wonderful than holding a bonny baby boy in your arms for the first time 🙂

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Tips for photographing babies:

  • Pick a time when his tummy is full, his face is clean and he’s happy
  • If he’s VERY wriggly, use a faster shutter-speed – about 1/125th second, and a wider aperture setting
  • Try to capture his expressions, and those of the person holding him. You can see the tenderness in a mother’s/gran’s eyes – catch those moments if you can
  • Use natural light – a flash is likely to make the baby jumpy
  • Babies look good in pale colours – it brings out their delicate skin-tones
  • It looks great when both the adult and the baby are wearing similar toned clothing.

Photography: Birds & Bees

I live in the middle of suburbia, between Pretoria and Johannesburg – a very densely populated area. And yet, surprisingly, there is still a wide variety of bird-life that manages to survive around here. All the more amazing considering I have two cats who regularly deposit an “offering” of dead bird at my bedroom door….

We have a small but densely planted garden – aloes, cycads, proteas, clivias, ferns and a few trees, and a pot with water flowing out of it that is a favourite spot for the garden birds to come and have a splash in the late afternoons.

The Aloes are flowering at this time of the year, attracting the sun-birds – we have two varieties that visit our garden almost every day:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6 1/60 second, ISO 100

Canon Power Shot SX30 IS, 150mm, f/5.8, 1/80 second, ISO 400

The sun-birds have to compete with the bees – I’m very glad to see we still have a few bees! I haven’t seen any around for ages…. These two photos were taken with a macro attachment on a Lensbaby Double Optic lens. I really LOVE the very shallow depth of field – but it does mean you have to get really close… I was worried about being stung. The things I have to do for my Art 🙂

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic & 10x macro lens,1/250 second, ISO 100

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic and 10x macro lens, 1/250 second, ISO 100

The Sparrows seem to be confused because it’s so warm – even though it’s mid-winter. I caught these two mating:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6, 1/200 second, ISO 100

Our little Cape Robin is still waking us every morning with his beautiful songs – he doesn’t seem to mind the early morning Highveld frost at all.

Canon 60D with 500mm zoom lens, f/6.3, 1/100 second, ISO 400

This little guy is totally unafraid of humans – he comes around every day, asking for cheddar cheese! No wonder he’s getting FAT.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, F/5.8, 1/40 second, ISO 400

I was very fortunate to get this shot of an Ibis taking off from my neighbour’s roof and flying directly at me:

Canon 60D, 225mm, f/5, 1/8000 second, ISO 6400

In general, when photographing garden birds I use a zoom lens, and just sit quietly and wait for the shots to come to me.

Photography: Dubai UAE – Architecture and the Marina

I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Dubai, and have chosen some of my favourite photos to share on this blog. These are mainly of the modern buildings around the Dubai Marina – most of which are less than 10 years old.

When you walk around this area, you notice that the buildings are all in shades of pale khaki, blue and grey. It’s surprising how beautiful high-rise buildings can be!

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO800

We walked around the Dubai Marina quite early in the morning, having caught a bus to the Metro station, and the train from there to the Marina. The Marina is full of luxury yachts, as you would expect. I didn’t see many people around – it was pretty warm, about 30 degrees C by 10 am.

Canon 20mm lens – f/5.6 for 1/250 second at ISO250

A closer look at some of the yachts – dream on, guys! We will NEVER be able to afford one of these babies…

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO 1250

Now here’s something you don’t see every day – this brand new building TWISTS a full 90 degrees between the base and the top – I’m dying to see how they finish it off… it just begs to go around at least another 90!

Canon 20mm lens – f/11 for 1/250 second at ISO1000

We took the ferry from the Marina out around the Palm Island, at sunset. I took this shot on the way back. The light was just right….

Canon 20mm lens – f8 for 1/125 second at ISO400

Back on solid ground, we took a walk around the gardens of the magnificent Royal Mirage Hotel. This photo was taken from their private beach, looking towards the Palm Island, with the causeway between the mainland and the Island on the right.

Canon 20mm lens – f 2.8 for 1 second at ISO1600

And finally, because I can’t resist it, here’s a photo with my crazy Canon 7-15mm lens. This is the Palace Hotel, near the Burj Khalifa – at the other end of town from the Marina. (See my previous blog of photos of the Burj and Downtown Dubai for more photos of the Palace Hotel at night.)

Canon 7-15mm lens – 8mm focal length – f/10 for 1/400 second at ISO200

Next time, I will share photos of the Dubai Creek, the Souks and some little ocean-going Dhows you won’t believe people are brave enough to sail in all day 🙂

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P.S. If you’ve recently been to Dubai, or if you live there, I’d love to know what you think of the city’s modern architecture. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Photography: (Lion)sex – Rated PG

Okay, I know some of you may have found my post (Lion)sex in the city(zoo) a bit of a let-down in the end – a bit of an anti-climax, you might say 🙂

I’m sorry about that – I didn’t want the blog to be in bad taste.

However, friends and family who have seen the photo of the lions actually doin’ it don’t think it’s so terrible…. and I don’t want to be accused of false advertising!…..so here goes….

(if you have a six-year-old sitting next to you, perhaps you should put your hand over his eyes about now….)

Naughty beast!

Photography: Dubai, UAE – Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai

When I mentioned that I was going to Dubai for a short holiday, my friends said “Oh, fantastic! You’re going to Shop till you Drop!”  I gather most people think of Dubai as one big shopping Mall! Well, apart from gifts for my family and friends, a book, a bag for my iPad, a few t-shirts and a Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens, I didn’t do any shopping….. For me, this was the ultimate Photo Safari, and I’d like to share some of my images here.

When you drive around Dubai you are immediately struck by how everything is so MODERN and CLEAN. Many of the buildings are less than 10 years old, and there are many  more under construction.

The Burj Khalifa, completed in January 2010, is the world’s tallest man-made structure (almost 830 metres!), and is situated on Sheikh Zayed Road in Downtown Dubai. We had booked online to go to the observation deck, which is at 425 metres (just over half-way up the Burj.)

Don’t worry, it doesn’t really bend like that – the only way to get the whole building in the frame was to use my Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens – 1/400 second at f10, hand-held

The view from the deck is mind-boggling! Having driven around Dubai for two days before going up the Burj Khalifa, I knew just how tall the buildings in that area are – and yet from the observation deck they look like toys!

Looking north: the Trade Centre. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/250 second at f6.3 hand-held)

The view directly downward: The Palace Hotel and the magnificent musical fountains. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

If you enjoy photography, I recommend that if you are in Dubai you take a trip up the Burj Khalifa. Take your widest lens, as well as a zoom lens, so you can get shots like this:

(Canon 70-300mm f1.4-5.6 zoom lens –  1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

After our visit to the Burj, we had dinner at an outdoor restaurant, with views of the musical fountains. As the sun set and the light faded, the Burj and surrounds became even more exciting to photograph!

Looking back at the Burj, from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8 sec at f11 with a tripod)

The Burj Khalifa, seen from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8sec at f11 with a tripod)

The stunningly beautiful musical fountains! (Canon 20mm f2.8 prime lens – 1/6 second at f13 with a tripod)

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dubai: it’s clean, the people are kind and friendly and I felt safe wherever I set up my tripod. There was so much to see and do I could happily have spent another two weeks there….. I’ll be back!

Next time, I will share my photos of some of the architecture, and the Dubai Marina.

Photography: Dubai Creek and the Souks

The Dubai Creek and the Souks were closer to my expectations of a Middle Eastern city… The Arabian architecture, the people in traditional dress, and the incredible HEAT!

After a very pleasant morning wandering around the Dubai Marina, and an excellent breakfast in an outdoor restaurant (in the shade), we caught the Metro and headed for the Souks.

The Metro in Dubai is fully automatic, driver-less, spotlessly clean, perfectly safe and very well signposted. In spite of that, we still managed to get lost!

Well, not really lost – we were headed for the station called Dubai Creek, only to find out that was actually a water-park, and was closed. It was also in the opposite direction from where we wanted to be.

In case you’re ever on the Dubai Metro, looking for the Creek and the Souks, head towards  “Al Ras”.

After the air-conditioned comfort of the Metro station, the heat outside was impressive. I reckon it was about 35 C, in the shade….. another tip: take a wide-brimmed hat and a dark coloured umbrella if you’re walking outdoors, unless you want a serious tan in five minutes flat!

We walked along the Creek to where the water taxis were operating. These are very interesting; wooden craft (I hesitate to call them boats) for short trips up and down the Creek. They are obviously well-regulated because each taxi has a cover, a number, two fire extinguishers and two life belts.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO400

Unfortunately, each one normally transports at least 10-15 passengers!

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3 1/400sec, ISO 400

As you can see, these taxis sit pretty low in the water, and there is nothing to to stop you falling in the water. I would definitely not take my toddler on one of these! (If you look carefully at the water-taxi on the left in the picture above, you will see two prams – those mothers are obviously more brave than I would be….)

Fortunately, there are no waves and hardly any wind.

Further down the road, we came upon the boats offloading goods for the many Souks.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/400sec, ISO100

(with HDR processing in Photomatix, and a Sepia tone added)

Life on board one of these vessels can’t be easy….

I loved the ornate deck on this one – note the carved wooden roses!

(Cropped from the photo below)

We had driven past this same boat two days earlier, which was a “Sunday” so no-one was working, and I noticed that all the cargo had been stacked on the pavement. Being from crime-ridden South Africa, my first thought was “That’s stupid – that stuff won’t be there tomorrow morning!” But I was wrong – two days later that pile of goods was still sitting there in the baking sun.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO100

Across the road, we entered one of the Souks. It was a lot cooler under the woven ceiling. The market was typical of most markets I’ve seen – mainly Chinese and Indian goods, very cheap, but great fun to browse through.

Canon60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/30sec, ISO320

I could have spent hours wandering around the markets, but we were running out of time. We had an appointment for a trip to the Burj Khalifa observation deck. I wasn’t going to miss that for the world!

In my next post on Dubai, I will share photos of our Desert Safari.

Photography: Rand Air Show, Johannesburg

I had a great opportunity to try my hand at Air Show Photography about a week ago, at the Rand Airport just south of Johannesburg.

I did some research first, and found out that there are some basic rules to this type of photography:

  • The underside of an aeroplane is not the most interesting bit
  • You should stand at the end of the runway the Sun is at, so you don’t end up shooting into the glare
  • You should use a slow enough shutter speed to capture the movement of the propellers – frozen props look highly unnatural on an aeroplane in flight!
  • You should be careful to not underexpose the aeroplane, or overexpose the sky
  • Try to get the pilot in the picture – photograph the plane from the front or side as it’s banking
  • Pan with the motion of the planes and don’t be afraid to take multiple shots as they fly past (It looks and sounds so sexy and professional)

With those basics in mind, my Hubby and I trotted off to the show last Sunday morning. I took more than 600 shots, and had to discard about 80% of them because they were: too blurry, under- or overexposed, photos of the undersides, looking into the Sun – this stuff is HARD!

I’m proud to say ALL my propellers were obviously whirling 🙂

Fortunately, there were some shots I think are pretty successful – and here are a few of my favourites:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

A flyby of an old DC3 and a whole crowd of colourful little planes – Harvard in front, Yak 52s in the middle. The next shot is a close up from the same flyby (Yak 52s):

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Some spectacular Pitt Specials flying in formation….these guys are brave, or maybe just a little crazy?

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

A couple of Extra 300’s:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

I love this one! These two Pitt Specials did a whole routine with one of them flying upside down. It must be very disconcerting flying for any length of time with the earth over your head… and the sky beneath your feet….

Canon 60D  –  f/11 – 1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Those Extra 300’s again:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 160

I know the next one is not a great photo ( a bit noisy) – but check out these Pitt Special moves!

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

The middle plane (a Mustang) is called Mustang Sally:

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

And, please note – a couple of Pilots! (First a Pitt Special, and below that, a Bell helicopter)

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200sec  –  ISO 100

This last photo, I’m ashamed to admit, was taken by my clever husband – and I think it’s BRILLIANT! Possibly the best of the lot……

*Grrrr*…. I’m the one who stood there for hours, with all the other photographers and their long lenses, patiently panning every passing ‘plane.

Glenn sits on the grass, looking after my camera while I go to the “ladies” – and he just casually takes this incredible shot of the DC3 rumbling past!

Canon 60D  –  f/11  –  1/200 sec  –  ISO 100

Well done, Darling – I’m officially jealous!

Never mind – I will persevere and maybe one day I’ll also be a Genius 🙂

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A note for photographers:

When I was adding the EXIF information for these photos, I noticed that they are ALL shot at f/11, 1/200 second and mostly at ISO 100-200. That’s because I only use the manual setting on my Canon 60D.

I had to do minimal extra work on Photoshop – mainly a little cropping (it’s hard to frame something perfectly when it’s careening past you at 350kph!) and I adjusted the levels on those that were a little over-exposed due to shooting close to the Sun.

I did not use a Polarising filter: I thought about it but realised I would have to be constantly aware of the Sun position with the Polariser on – I didn’t want to have to worry about that, so I only had on a UV filter.

African skies really ARE that blue!

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Update:

I am indebted to the son of a friend, who kindly went through my photos and identified the planes for me!