Thursday, 9 June 2016

Wild Place Project

      I read a blog post a while ago about photography tips to get you inspired. One of those tips was to make the effort to keep going back to the same place a number of times to get yourself more familiar and to challenge yourself to create new images with the same subject. I went to Wild Place in Bristol at the start of April, it is kind of a cross between a zoo (with much larger enclosures than Bristol zoo in the city) a kids play area and wild gardens. 

      I really enjoyed walking round the area as it is very open and quiet, even if it is just off of the motorway! There are lots of wild flowers all around with lots of different colours and they also have their own gardens which are maintained by staff. The walk round takes you to different animal enclosures - the meerkats and lemurs are the most fun I think. There is also a lot for kids to do including lots of mini playgrounds with tyres and dens and also a barefoot walk with lots of textures and materials, including mud, for kids to run through. 

      I signed up for an annual pass after the end of my first trip and now I have been back twice. I have only been in the week but even though there are lots of kids, the area is so spread out it has felt incredibly quiet and nice to just walk around alone and explore in the woods and gardens. 

      Each time I have visited I have taken a different lense with me which I think has helped get different images each time. With my Nikon D5100 I use:

Sigma 17-50mm f2.8
Nikon 35mm Prime f1.8
Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6

      Todays shots were with the zoom lense, which was interesting as it helped me get some super close up of animals faces like the meerkat below:

      The lemurs are in an enclosure you can walk around which means I could get really close to them. There have been a few new babies over the past couple of months which has been good to capture. 

      These brown lemurs (feel free to help me out with the species) are very friendly, I got the photo of this one in the tree just before one poo-ed on my arm... not so fun!

      As well as the larger animals I have found this area great for getting up really close to flowers and smaller bugs. I think I may have to get a macro lense or extension tubes at some point so I can get even closer! 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Macro/Close up featuring Moomins!

      Everyone loves Moomins right? Ok so I started a course in Macro/Closeup photography last week. This one was quite interesting as I tend to move towards this type of photography anyway. I have a bit of an obsessions with narrow depth of field and blurry backgrounds and photographing close up gives you lots of opportunity to get these effects. 
      My first challenge was to go around my kitchen and take images of what I could find. I bailed on this one and went with the living room instead as it happened to be where my desk is! Funny thing is that my living room features lots of Moomin things which made for good subjects:

      Like this wonderful tealight holder which my parents bought for me in Norway. The characters are ever so cute close up. 

       This little Moomin Papa model was 3D printed for me by my dad hence him having no face. I liked the super blurry background with the carpet here I think it looks quite interesting. Love his little feet!

      A couple more nice little objects above. After this I went into full blown macro photography. Since I do not yet have a Macro Lense or any extension tubes I was using reverse-lense technique for these. I found this much harder than on my previous camera where you could manually change the aperture on my old Oympus OM lenses. The images below are fairly abstract consisting of metallic sellotape, a candle wick, candle holder and the inside of a bag. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Night Crawling in Bristol

      A few weeks ago I took an online course in Low Light photography on I had been meaning to go out in the dark for some time but I am not really one for wandering around alone at night especially hauling a rather large expensive camera! Last night I went to visit a friend who lives down in Stokes Croft in Bristol. On my way out I took some photos of the plants and shrubbery around my house. 
       These first images were super super dark and blurry, I had to push my ISO right up to 6400 to get anything while my camera was handheld. Also the white balance on Auto was terrible. In hindsight I should have had a fiddle with this when taking the images but was kind of embarrassed skulking around our estate in the dark so I didn't take many pictures. The joys of working in RAW meant I could push the white balance completely in another direction without damaging the image too much and it was crazy what came out of some very super orange images. 

       Here are a couple of the final images, they were quite soft in the end and pretty grainy I think next time I will use a tripod and longer exposure. 

       I then drove over to my friends house, this area of Bristol is known for graffiti and there is some pretty amazing artwork around. I didn't venture far but I got a few interesting images. These mostly just needed brightening up, I had less issues with the white balance so I just had to push the contrast a bit to bring out the details in the graffiti. 

       I would like to do this more but I think I might get a friend to come with so I don't feel so worried about wandering about in the dark! There are some pretty interesting streets in Bristol which would make for some great photos. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Introduction to Visual Merchandising Review

      So many of you who know me personally know I do visual merchandising as part of my job. Working for an electronics retailer means the scope of this is fairly limited as it mostly comes down to tidying phone accessories and speakers and fixing cables on a daily basis! Last year I decided I wanted to see if I could expand my creative eye into something down the fashion/homeware route. I did a lot of research into short courses and I stumbled upon a 3 day course on "Introduction To Visual Merchandising" at the Fashion Retail Academy in London. 
      I chose this course because the website blurb said it was a very practical course which involved you learning lots of skills before putting them together on the last day and creating your own window display from scratch. I loved the idea of building something from nothing and was interested to see how much we could actually learn in such a short space of time!

Day 1 - 

      For the duration of this course I stayed with my sister in Mile End as she was working in London over the summer. I would recommend staying in or close to London if you are doing a course like this as I was exhausted each day and the thought of getting a long train would not have been good! Safestay in Elephant and Castle is a place I have stayed 3-4 times and can recommend it as the premier Inn of hostels! Everything is purple and very cosy and you get a surprisingly decent breakfast included. 
      The Academy is around 10 minutes walk from Oxford Street tube, 2 minutes from Tottenham Court Road. We arrived and all sat down in a classroom full of undressed mannequins - an interesting start to the day! There was a small group of around 8 of us, we all introduced ourselves and said a bit about what we do and what experience we have. There was a huge range of backgrounds, one girl worked in John Lewis, another in a football club and another had her own company selling products across Europe. 
      We had a short powerpoint with some history of visual merchandising and window displays. We got to see some interesting examples and find out some merchandising techniques. The rest of the day was spent getting involved and merchandising a wall which had magnetic shelves and clothes rails which we could move around to our hearts content! This was pretty fun if hard work.

We had a winter collection and a more summery set of clothing to hang, it took a good amount of adjusting to get these to a point where everyone was happy. 

      After doing the larger merchandising we moved onto accessories and jewellery. The rest of the afternoon focused on us picking a set of things and using pyramid merchandising to arrange the objects in an interesting way. My attempts are below, we had a very short space of time to pick our products and arrange them and I would have liked to have spent a little longer. 

      One thing I will say about day 1 is that I was surprised how much we fitted in. It was a huge amount of information and I felt we did a lot in a short 10-4pm day. The only slight negative to the college is that it is a bit rough around the edges! Do not wear fancy clothes to this type of course, it will only make you uncomfortable and worried about getting messy. The shelves we were merchandising were pretty covered in dirt and dust which I wasn't expecting, maybe because it was the summer and they hadn't been in use for a few weeks... The clothes we had were pretty good but the accessories and jewellery varied in wear and tear and nice-ness. There was a lot of trashy stuff which you had to sift through, though our tutor made the point that in a job you don't choose what you merchandise and you should be able to make anything look good!

Day 2 - 

      Our second day was centered around mannequin grouping and styling. We started off talking about different types of mannequins, ranging from very abstract to the more realistic with facial expressions and makeup. We each got to pick a mannequin to dress and were shown how to move them the proper way and how to remove limbs and re-attach them (such a strange thing to learn!). This is my first mannequin dressing, I chose her because of her funky festival hair! 

We then got put into pairs and we were given a space to fill with a group of 3 mannequins. We had to arrange them at different levels and then gather lots of different clothes to create a group with similar styles and colours. Ours went a little bit H&M/New Look folksy with lots of 70's suede and fur in browns and beiges!

Here is one by another pair which I really liked - this one was very pop art punk rock, I loved the attitude of the mannequins they chose!

      One of the last things we learnt about that day was dressing bust forms, we learnt about making tissue paper arms - something I never knew was a thing! We each had to use some layering of a jumper and a jersey top so we could style the arms and give the models some life. 

Day 3 - 

      The final day was by far the most fun, and the most knackering! All this lugging around of mannequins and running around hunting for good clothes is super hard work by the way so if you do take one of these course wear good shoes and comfy clothes. 
      We had a room full of props to have some fun with and everyone was being a little cheeky trying to get the best stuff. There was definitely a little bit of competitive spirit that day even though it wasn't a competition for the best window, we all wanted to do something impressive! We worked in pairs again, me and my partner found a bag full of sparkly black artificial vines with leaves on. I liked the idea of using these to make shadowy shapes in our background. We also had lots of small pink flowers to add to the edges to bring some colour to the display.

      Our models were naked for a lot of the day! Picking matching clothes was the hardest part for some reason... We spent half the day staple gunning flowers to the walls and getting bits of glitter and flower petals everywhere.

      The finishing touches to the display were adding some artificial coloured birds and a bird cage before getting some spotlights to add to the shadows. 

      So above is our completed window, which I was pretty happy with for  first attempt. Below we have the other two groups. I loved the very different concepts we all ended up with, though we did all fight over the pink flowers as you may be able to tell!

      I finished this course feeling happy with the huge amount we achieved in 3 days, I think it is a great introduction to a lot of different skills. For me I knew I would then need to find ways of expanding and practising what I have learnt which I have found hard over the past 6 months! Still, I hope this can give a good overview of the course for anyone who is looking into it and maybe help you see if it is for you or not.