Double Exposure Portraits by John Williams

At April and John’s Wedding at Consall Hall we tried something a little different from our usual bride and groom portraits and combined two photos in Photoshop to create a cool double exposure portrait effect. Here is a brief tutorial explaining the technique behind the effect.

Double-Exposure

First of all, you need to choose your starting photos carefully. A portrait shot that is near-silhouetted against a bright background is ideal, and it will work best if your subjects are recognisable from their silhouette. You can place your subjects beneath a clear sky and get low to eliminate background distractions, or just erase the background clutter in Photoshop if you don’t mind the extra editing involved. Once you have your portrait shot, the second shot you are after is one with lots of texture and detail. Trees and foliage are ideal, in this example we’ve used a bride and groom photo that is mostly trees and grass.

The portrait shot needs some tidying up first, so we have erased the background clutter, converted to black and white and boosted the contrast a touch.

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That’s most of the hard work done, all that remains is to layer the two images in Photoshop and set the blend mode of the upper image to either Lighten or Screen – both give similar results, Screen is somewhat lighter and smoother:

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And that’s all there is to it! As you can probably guess, your starting images will determine to a large extent how successful the end result is. The key is to experiment and try all sorts of combinations, it may take a few attempts until you get something you are happy with but you’ll love the results of these double exposure portraits when you do!

JP Williams is a Wedding Photographer based in Staffordshire, England.
http://www.jpwilliamsphotography.com

Sunrise at the Yellowstone by Aleksey Khmyz

My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Yellowstone Park last fall. It was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend visiting if you have the chance.

Sunrise at the Yellowstone by Aleksey Khmyz

Primarily, I am a wedding and portrait photographer based out of the Buffalo, NY area, but it’s always nice to take a couple images of wildlife and amazing natural scenes for my personal collection of images.

First of all, I have to worn you that this park is HUGE!!, so if you’re planning to visit you’ll need at least 4-5 days. Driving between points of interest can take 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Wake up early, so you avoid the massive amount of tourists (like yourself), and you’ll be able to see more nature unfold in front of you. Make the most use of the time you have.

Sunrise at the Yellowstone by Aleksey Khmyz

Images were taken during the golden hour from 5.30 to 6:30am

Equipment used:

  • Tripod
  • Shutter release remote control
  • Canon 5D mark II
  • Canon EF 24-70 f2.8.

Technical Tips:

  • Tripod: is essential to prevent camera shake at the long shutter speed.
  • White Balance: Auto; I shot in RAW format, so if I needed to do adjustments I could do so in postproduction, but the camera did a good job.
  • Manual mode: gives you full control of exposure.
  • ISO: 50-100; try to keep as low as possible, to minimize noise.
  • Aperture: f5.6-f22; f11 – will be a good starting point,
  • Shutter Speed: 8 – 1/15 sec, you can easily go for 30 sec or even more, to get the smoothness of water, and moving sky.
  • Focal Length: 24 mm as wide as I could go.
  • Focus: Manual, Pre-focus at 1/3 of frame and then turn of auto focus, that way you don’t need to worry that the camera will focus on the wrong plane or go crazy in a low light scenario.
  • Mirror Lockup: Enable; decreases camera shake when the camera releases the shutter, improving sharpness of image.

Sunrise at the Yellowstone by Aleksey Khmyz

The last image of the two of us I exposed the camera for the sky; focused on my wife; turned off auto focus; went to her; using radio shutter release remote control, released the shutter; and we got a beautiful silhouette, which is now hanging on a wall in my studio.

Wedding and portrait photographer serving the Buffalo and WNY area.
http://alekseykphotography.com

A Glimpse of Ancient Egypt by Jayant Neogy

It is almost impossible to compress the history and architecture of ancient Egypt into a brief travel blog. Perhaps, that is why it is an audacious and an exciting challenge. So, here is a highly compressed whirlwind tour of Egypt from the Nubian desert in the South to the Northernmost part of this ancient land on the Mediterranean shore.

Ancient Egyptian civilization stretches over 3.500 years even if we ignore the period of pre-dynastic settlements in the Nile valley before Upper and Lower Egypt were consolidated into a single mighty kingdom.

The historical records of ancient Egypt as a unified state, begin around 3150 BC when Menes, the king of Upper Egypt unified the country after conquering Lower Egypt and killing the king. The resulting ancient Egyptian culture, customs, art expression, architecture, and social structure was closely tied to religion and remained remarkably stable for three and half millennia.

The ancient Egyptian architecture that modern-day visitors wonder at, are breathtaking in their scale, imagination and sheer volume. Much of this, including the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx belong to the period known as the Old Kingdom, especially during the rule of the third, fourth and the fifth Dynasties. The fourth Dynasty produced Egyptian Kings (or Pharaohs) such as the founder Sneferu, his son Khufu and his grandson Khafra. These Pharaohs achieved immortality because the Great Pyramids they built, stand to this day at Giza near Cairo.

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The Great Pyramid at Dawn

For a long time, it was believed that such massive amount construction must have been achieved by driving thousands of slave laborers. However, recent excavations near the pyramids have uncovered evidence that large, well-organized cities were built to house thousands of farmers out of work due to the periodic flooding of the Nile. So, the workmen seem to be free men who lived in some comfort and received food and payment for their labors.

In later years however, the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom that followed the Old Kingdom, took to building temples and not Pyramids. Pyramids were traditionally abandoned after the Pharaoh died, and in time, were looted by grave robbers. Temples on the other hand continued to attract worshippers and remained in use for longer periods, glorifying the builder-Pharaohs who often claimed close ties with Egyptian Gods and their temples filled with statues, paintings, bas-reliefs and Hieroglyphics proclaimed the Pharaoh’s Godhood.

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The Temple of Abu Simbel with colossal statues of Pharaoh Ramesses II

During the reign of the Nineteen Dynasty (around 1300 BC) The Egyptian nation-state probably reached its peak in power, wealth and influence in the Nile valley. The most powerful Pharaoh of the dynasty was Ramesses II who ruled for 67 years starting at a tender age of 18. Since his mother was not of royal blood, Ramesses claimed his right to rule by proclaiming that he was the son of the God Amun whom the Egyptians revered. Ramesses built the massive temple to Amun near the Nubian border of his kingdom at Abu Simbel to celebrate his victory in the battle of Kadesh and to proclaim his kinship to the Egyptian Gods.

Following the heyday of the New Kingdom, Egypt gradually went into decline. Continuing wars, untimely floods in the Nile Valley and weak Pharaohs were all instrumental in bringing down a once-proud nation till the Persian and then the Greeks drove out the native Egyptian kings and ruled Egypt until around 30 BC when Rome annexed Egypt and turned the country into a province of the Roman Empire.

The decline began long ago but became terminal by the time of the Twenty sixth Dynasty when Egypt was conquered by the Persians. Egypt became a Persian Satrapy and Cambyses declared himself a Pharaoh of Egypt. Except for a brief period of freedom, Egypt remained under Persian rule under rulers such as Darius and Xerxes until 322 BC when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt virtually without a fight.

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Sunset off Alexandria’s old harbor

Alexander founded a new capital for Egypt on the shores of the Mediterranean, facing Europe. After Alexander’s death, Ptolemy, one of his close companions, founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty that ruled Egypt for 300 years until the Roman Empire absorbed Egypt and made it into a Roman province. The Greek and Roman influence brought many European customs and values to the Mediterranean coast of Egypt that make Alexandria more European than Asian. Modern day visitors will be quick to observe this difference even today.

The Experience of Newborn Photography at the Hospital by Kim Rix

I often get asked what my favourite age to photograph is, and although my honest answer is “it’s difficult to choose’. I would have to say that photographing babies, (especially newborns) is a magical experience. Being part of those first days of life and sharing the journey with the parents at such a special time is such an honour and privilege.

Baby Photography Story-1

I love the fact that I get to be an honorary member of the family and I cherish the opportunity to capture such important images. The parents, grandparents, siblings and friends are so full of love and joy, I soak up and relish the energy of it all. So I have made a personal commitment, to help families invest in their memories. Once such heirloom piece I enjoy creating is the one year baby album. It tells the story for the baby’s first year of development. The journey starts at either the hospital, or at home, within the first twelve days of life.

Baby Photography Story-2

The first time I attended the hospital was a huge learning experience. On high alert, and eager not to miss the event, I rushed to the hospital when I received the text message saying my mother-to-be, Victoria, had gone into labour, only to find myself waiting for twelve hours. I sat through the night, patiently, listening to her labour as it progressed. In fact, at 5am, when there was still no baby, I left the hospital to get some rest. I made this decision with a heavy heart knowing that I could risk missing the birth, but equally, I knew I had to be fifty miles away by midday to photograph a birthday party. Of course, after two hours rest at 0815, I received a text message with the birth announcement, so I drove like Kimi Raikkonen back to the hospital, to capture the newborn portraits at 2 hours old.

Baby Portraits 7 Months

For privacy, the curtains were drawn around Victoria’s bed, and the baby was lying in the crib. It was such a small space, the lighting was poor and being a newborn baby, I wasn’t using flash. So, with the help of Grandma, we wheeled the crib to the nearest window where I just took the newborn portrait capturing the moment as it was – natural and breath-taking. I was gone 15 minutes later.

Some say that the birth of a baby is a private affair and professional photography at the hospital isn’t the right time or place. Personally speaking, I am happy to attend the hospital if asked. But speaking from experience, newborn photography is easier and more relaxed when done at home once mother and baby are fully rested, where the room is warm, space is plentiful, where there are lots of natural light, and there are no time restrictions.

London Portrait Photographer Kim Rix strives to create beautiful family heirlooms, making memories precious, across London, Essex and the UK.
http://www.kimrixphotography.co.uk

Get To Know Your Photographer by Steve Brill

I have been photographing weddings for around 6 years now, and have been very fortunate to be able to contribute in my own small way, in making these fantastic events a memory that my clients will treasure every time they look back at their photographs and albums.

The added benefit for me is that my by the end of their wedding day, is that we have also become friends. This friendship will then quite often lead to me being asked to photograph their children as they are born, so photographing their wedding day is just the start of the relationship.

Get To Know Your Photographer by Steve Brill

I think it would be safe to say that the majority of my wedding clients, (and I would probably include most of my commercial and portrait customers), would usually start the conversation with “I hate having my photograph taken”. So the challenge for me is there from a very early stage, to get them to relax in front of the camera, and who knows, they might even actually enjoy the process of being photographed?

To overcome this common situation, I offer (and almost insist) that all of my wedding clients meet up with me again (usually 6-8 weeks before the big day) and have a pre-wedding photo shoot. This very informal session, which will usually only last for an hour or so, is a great way to get to know them better, but also us allows up to catch up the final timings of the actual wedding day.

The black and white photograph was taken at the couple’s wedding venue, as this also gave me a chance to look for possible photo opportunities on the wedding day. Sadly the wedding day was a complete wash out, with rain from start to finish. So unable to take any photographs outside, they were so pleased that we had gone there prior to the big day, as they had many lovely shots taken around the grounds.

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So as we get to the actual wedding day, I arrive (usually pretty early) to either the brides home or a hotel room. The girls are often in curlers and their onesies, and maybe not exactly looking their best. But within seconds of me walking in the room they are at ease with me being there. They have probably seen the DVD slideshow that I supplied following the pre-wedding shoot. And they now trust me to go about my business, and observe the day as it unravels in front of me.

Certainly all of the couples in the photographs showed signs of nerves, before entrusting me with the task of documenting their wedding day. And it’s not unheard for other members of the family (including dogs) to be involved.

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The photograph of the couple laughing on the steps is another prefect example of them both being very camera-shy beforehand, they were joking as to what to do, and how to behave in front of me. I managed to catch a great natural moment when they both cracked up, and this shot became one their favourites from the session. Once they had seen the photo on the back of the camera, they both instantly relaxed into and we had a great time together (even though it was -5 degrees)!!

So my message to all of the beautiful brides to be is, get to know your photographer before the big day. You may even be able to relax and enjoy it, and know that the photography is in good hands.

Northampton based Professional Wedding, Commercial & Portrait Photographer.
http://www.brillpix.com

The Weavers of Varanasi by Jayant Neogy

Varanasi is the ancient name of Banaras located in UP, India, a city considered most holy to the Hindus. It is the longest continuously occupied city in the country. While some claim a 5000 year old history, the city may actually be about 3,500 years old, making it one of the few oldest continuously occupied cities in the world.

One of the reasons for its longevity and existence in the same location is because the river Ganges, on whose Western bank the city lies, has remained remarkably unaltered in its course over Milena. While both city and river hold a place of reverence, the city has another very old tradition that makes it famous. This is its unique handloom weaving industry that has flourished for centuries.

Caught in his own web of tradition?

Caught in his own web of tradition?

Indeed, silk weaving is the dominant manufacturing industry in Varanasi. Weaving is typically a cottage industry, operated from home in which the entire family pitches in. Most of the weavers are Momin Ansari Muslims. The Arabic word “Ansari” means helper. For generations they have passed on their craft from father to son, hand-weaving silk on room-sized foot-powered looms.

The pride of the weavers are their very fine silk Banarasi saris. The saris are adorned with intricate designs and zari (gold thread) embellishments making them popular during traditional functions and weddings. In the past, the embroidery were often done with threads of pure gold. Today, silver and gold plated silver threads are more common. In addition to saris, the industry also produces dress material, stoles and furnishing fabrics.

Proud of his workmanship

Proud of his workmanship

Although much sought after and prized in the past, the industry is now threatened by the rise of power looms, computer-generated designs and competition from Chinese imports. To combat the threat to their livelihood, many weavers have upgraded to Jacquard looms. Many such looms use punched cards to control the weaving process. While this does reduce the time to weave a sari, the mechanization reduces the variety of designs and the uniqueness of each sari that used to be one of the hallmarks of the saris woven in Varanasi.

Now what design is he dreaming up?

Now what design is he dreaming up?

Some weaving co-operatives are supported by the UP State Government who also helps to sell their products in well-appointed emporiums. A visit to one such emporium showed me that the weavers are dedicated, proud of their heritage and craftsmanship while being very individual and unique characters as well. This is a study of three such proud weavers of Varanasi.