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Monday, 29 December 2014

Leaves are falling.. (Part 2)

Finally here is the second part of my short look at how the image was made.

This is the image after I photoshopped the leaves in that I had shot separately. It's basically all using a photo of leaves and then adding a layer mask to fit it into the image. Sometimes also adding a curves layer to darken or brighten parts of the leaves helps to make it look realistic

Here I added a blurry background which I tried to match to the colors going on in the image with the model already. The color matching can be done in several ways. What I like to do is open up channels and then start with, say, green. This now displays a monochrome image where ONLY green color is shown. With this selected I add a curves layer to the image background (and only the background) and start tweaking the green curve. I look at the image and adjust the background until the image looks like the background fits in. Once this is done, do the same for red and blue. It takes some time but usually gives nice results.

Here I added some atmosphere by painting some smoke into the background and the foreground. You can do the same by photographing some smoke and blending it in. I tried to make some smoke using a mixture of glycerol and water (in a mix of about 1+6 or so) and putting it into a humidifier. This actually gives nice smoke but I probably need to find a more powerful humidifier given that the smoke just pours out of it more or less and I'd rather have it emmited a bit.

Now I added some color grading using a curves adjustment layer in order to make the shadows a bit colder and add a bit more punch. The curves adjustments are shown here:

Final touches. Here I decided to tone down the image a bit to not make it too saturated. In the end I actually made it a bit brighter again (see final image in the last post)

So I hope you found this in any way useful. Given that this year is approaching it's end I wish you a happy new year 2015- don't get too wasted on new year!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Leaves are falling.. (Part 1)

Some days ago I had arranged a photoshoot with a model online and over coffee we had gone through a list of things we could try to shoot. On the day of the shoot I was passing a playground in the morning that was surrounded by a lot of trees and suddenly the idea came to my head to create an image where the model's hair had been replaced by leaves and she was holding an hourglass representing the passing of time.

Photos like this, of course, have probably done before - but sometimes it's just fun to give something your own spin and try it out. Admit it, you have shot water droplets before too haven't you? Or that portrait of an old man in black and white? I know I have.. ;)

So as I was passing the playground I just grabbed a handful of leaves and put them in a plastic bag I had brought along.

At home I washed the leaves just to make sure there were no crawly things hiding in there that could make the model uneasy.

Since covering the whole head in leaves is a bit of work (and we were limited by the amount of hairpins) I decided to just put some leaves where her hair meets her face (the temples, the side of her head) and we took a picture like that. (One light source - it was an umbrella up top and my Yognuo 560 II)

After this shoot with the model I then set up a styrofoam head (that I had adjusted to exactly her height) and pinned lots of leaves all over it. I then took a picture with exactly the same settings as in the shot with the model and replaced the styrofoam head with her head in the final image.
This way we saved a lot of model-time and a lot of hairpins!

I will go into the post-processing that went into this shot in a second post.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fate II deconstructed (tutorial)

This is a deconstruction for one of the recent images I have worked on called "Fate II". The basic idea was to have something remincescent of the greek fates that, according to mythology, were responsible for weaving the thread of every man and woman's life.

This is the image:

Some parts of this shoot were planned and some were improvised. I knew I wanted to have a mysterious, etherial look and that the model would be wearing a red veil of sorts that would be see through. I also wanted her to hold an hourglass because this fit well with the symbology of the initial topic.

I bought the hourglass on ebay (10€) and got some red organza curtains from a local shop (mömax, about 6€).

I went for a mysterious atmosphere and therefore wanted to have some smoke in the image. One good way to make your own smoke is by adding some glycerol to water (I added about 1 part to 8 parts water) and make that mixture evaporate. The easyest way to achieve that was by mis-using my humidifier for this purpose.

The lighting had to be dramatic and spooky so I decided to have one speedlight mounted right above my model shooting through a white umbrella (about 10€ on amazon) mounted on a lightstand (dynasun) connected to a weighted arm, holding the umbrella (wallimex).

The other speedlight below the model was first wrapped with some paper to prevent light spilling out too much and to only light up the background behind the hourglass and the model's chin.
This speedlight was put inside of the curtain.

Both were triggered by the on-camera flash from my Nikon D610 set to the lowest flash power (Slave mode 1 for the Yoguno's. Both were set to 1/16 power).

This is the photo that we got. Notice that there was too little smoke in the background. I later went back and just shot some smoke on black background to later composite into the image. The model came up with this really great looking pose. Getting the curtain to fall in a way that looks nice was some work. We used some clamps to give it a bit of shape. The rest of the steps were done in Photoshop.

Next the main character was separated from the background. This was done by adding a layer mask and painting with black on that layermask where the background was. To be faster you can also use the magic wand tool first to select the black background and then do a second pass with the paintbrush to remove all the background. I knew up front that I wanted to replace the background with something else so this step, although somewhat cumbersome, was necessary.

Next I made a new layer behind my character and filled it with a desaturated and dark color, creating a new background.

Leaving a solid color would have been possible but I wanted to give the scene a little bit more of a setting so I chose an image that I had shot on a photowalk the day before and put it between the character layer and the background layer at low opacity. I placed it such that the arc would form a "halo" around her head, leading the eye to look down.

Now I lightened up the face and the hourglass by using a curves adjustment layer (click for an explanation) and the paintbrush.

I added smoke by taking a couple of different smoke images and carefully overlaying them over my character. I used the "Blend If" function to only blend the bright parts and leave the dark ones out. You can use layer modes like "Lighten" for a similar effect.

Last but no least: color. I chose a color that was opposite (click for a color wheel) of my light red (green) using a curves layer and colored that background and some areas around the hourglass with that color to bring out a stronger contrast between the character and the background. Eventually I shifted the whole picture from red-green more towards magenta-cyan using a hue-saturation layer. I did this because I found the green looked a bit too harsh while the blue had a bit more of a natural/pleasing look.

I hope you found this little rundown useful. If you would like to see future posts like this or things were unclear, please make sure to drop me a comment.

All the best and have fun!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Long time no see

Oh my.. it's been forever. I had a long break from blogging now.

I spent the last months on various RL issues, finishing science projects and making some major life decisions. Since most of those have been done, it's time to get writing again.

I have updated my website and got a new domain (, I much prefer the new layout to the old one. I will keep it rather minimalist and simple.

Other than the website relaunch I have been working a lot on getting a nice portfolio together including several fine-art images. Some of which are shown here:

A lot of images, especially collaborations with models, are coming up.
I will also post quite a couple of how-to's in case you are interested in a behind-the-scenes look for some of these images.

Take care and happy shooting,

Friday, 25 April 2014

concert photography

i brought the camera along for a rock concert yesterday and learned a couple of lessons
(also thanks to matthias hombauer, an established concert photographer who gave me some tips afterwards)

1) pick a lens that has a decently wide aperture. i had an 18-135mm f5.6 with me and that was not so great. next time i will try a 50mm 1.4 - although that one is quite heavy.

2) shoot in manual. my camera likes to make rather "creative" choices under the lighting conditions of a stage so i set it to manual and went this way. my settings for the pictures below were f5.6, 1/60 iso 6400.

i'd prefer to shoot at a smaller iso setting due to excessive noise but in the end.. well, you learn. here are some pictures from that shoot:

Saturday, 12 April 2014


a friend who is also a very talented painter invited me to the atelier recently and to me it was an almost religious experience. the smell of oil color and canvas, the brushes, colors, tools, the old flat it was in.. little bits of artwork here and there.

the place was fairly dark with a lot of mood lighting spilling in from the streets outside through the windows.
i did not want to use a flash so i had to take pictures as rather high iso settings (3200 or 6400) on my pentax. i have to say it worked better than expected even though i definitely should have brought a tripod. next time.

here are some of the shots i took there:

Friday, 4 April 2014


the sun is getting stronger and stronger over here and so this was the perfect time to pack some gear and go out into the wild. the wild being the forests close to the danube slightly outside of vienna in this case. i wandered about there and took a couple of pictures of trees (mostly). here are a few from the shoot last weeked. have an awesome week!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Interview: Philomena

recently, as i was browsing deviantart ( i stumbled upon a couple of photos that totally blew me away. the images below are some examples from Philomena's body of work ( who i decided to interview and she was kind enough to accept my request:

For the people who don’t know you yet, please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live currently.

I'm Philomena and I currently live on the outskirts of a larger german city. I moved here to study.
Creative work is a constant part of my life and a kind of an inner need for me.
I discovered photography for me about a few years ago on my journey to find ways to express myself, and I do this currently mainly with portraits/self-portraits.
Photography is also a passion and love. I spend a lot of time in nature and even there I always go with a camera.

If you could wake up tomorrow in any city in the world you wanted to, where would that be (and why)?

Maybe a city near the sea in France or Sweden, because I love these countries and I love the sea.
But if I can wake up in a place I want to be, I don't would wake up in a city,
but in a place with pure nature around me. Nature has always been a precious ally and refuge for me.
Cities are often too noisy for me, too crowded and unpeaceful.

What music can be found on your ipod/mp3 player/walk-man/gramophone at the moment?

Music! I listen to so much music, it's an important thing in my life!
A small excerpt from my current playlist:
And Also The Trees - Dialogue 
Sixth June - Back For a Day
Gertrud Stein - Sick
Ane Brun- To Let Myself Go
Nirvana - Something In The Way
Daybed - Lack Of Light
Of The Wand and The Moon - The Raven Chant 
Depeche Mode - Blasphemous Rumours
Apparat feat. Soap&Skin - Goodbye
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Weeping Song
Lebanon Hanover - Gallowdance
Goethes Erben - Schreiheit 
Rammstein - Eifersucht
John Frusciante - Going Inside
Deine Lakaien - Vivre
 I listen to many genres, but have a fable for Dark wave, New Wave, Gothic, Ambient, Electro Wave ...

How did you start getting into photography and art?
Did you go to art school or are you self-trained?

I discovered photography actually just a few years ago,
but I had it for some time in mind as an idea.
As a child/teenager I photographed infrequently
and learned a bit about in school. I'm a autodidact
in many things, also in photography.
At the moment it is the most direct way of creative expression for me.
If it wouldn't be photography - what other creative outlet would you have chosen?
Do you currently indulge in art forms other than photography?

I paint and I write a bit. But till now only for me.
I find it interesting to combine different creative outlets with photography; maybe I'll spend more time on it in the future. I am also interested in sculpting (but completely inexperienced so far).

You have a very mysterious and fairy tale-like theme in your photos. What inspires your work?
Are there any photographers or other
artists you would count as your influences?

Mostly I'm inspired by inner processes of myself - emotions, dreams, fears, thoughts, experiences, memories ...
Of course things around me inspires me also - people, nature, music, books, art ...
stuff and themes, that move me and trigger something inside of me.

Your visual style is very recognizable. Is this something you achieve mainly in camera or in post production of your images?
Could you take us through the process of one of your images from concept to realization?

That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the american photographer Ruth Bernhard:
"I never question what to do, it tells me what to do. The photographs make themselves with my help."
I never follow a strict pattern.
But mostly it starts with an emotion, an inner process and then I'm guided by it.
Sometimes it makes me change only a few things, sometimes it makes me carve out details for a longer time. Many of my pictures have their own way of coming to existence.
For me it's important to try making the emotion or the thought, that led to the idea for the picture, is not only just visible to the viewer, but can be felt.

What are the things currently in your camera bag? Is there anything essential that you wouldn't want to miss there?

In my photo backpack are: my DSLR (Olympus E-5), 3 lenses, extra battery, small cleaning set, paper + pen (for ideas or some notes on the road). And sometimes a instant camera and/or a other analog camera.

How much time on average do you spend on a shoot?
How many pictures do you take until you are happy with a shot?

This is very different - it can take between 5 minutes and few hours. The number of pictures varies likewise.

What advice would you have for someone just starting out in photography (or art in general)?

Hm, that's difficult, because I myself still feel as a beginner or rather as a seeker in art.
Perhaps something like "be patient with yourself, let you not to be put off by others and find your own way".

If there was one single thing that you have learned that you could let everybody in the world know about/experience - what would it be?

You can not get out of your own story.

What does the future hold for you?

Undreamt dreams.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

under the bridge

i had another photoshoot with helen recently and this time we decided to take a couple of pictures outdoor. i brought a lot of equipment along i did not end up using (lightstands, multiple speedlights, umbrella) because there was a fairly strong wind which made it very difficult to not be hit by the lightstands.

still, there were a couple of shots that, after adjusting the exposure settings, turned out quite nice i think.
here are some of them:

while a few people walking by stopped to look at what was going on and what we were doing, there was not too much distraction. unfortunately it was also quite cold on that day and the light was fading quickly so we had to make the shoot rather short.

Monday, 24 March 2014

plants at night

i went out to take a couple of pictures a few nights ago and only recently managed to have a look through them. the idea initially was to do some light painting which in the end did not quite come out as planned so i will have to give that another try.

i realized however, as i took a couple of shot of the plants around the area of altes akh in vienna, that you get a really nice color gradient going on with all the soft bounce-light at night.

in combination with a really shallow depth of field this gives a somewhat dreamy look:

Friday, 21 March 2014

fundamentals (tutorial)

this time let's have a look together at the very basics of photography,
what the different terms mean you often hear and, most importantly, what you can do with it.

any picture you take with a camera is influenced by a couple of factors. if you use the "auto" a lot, you get something that you have very little control over. that might be great for snapshots, but sometimes you want a specific look in your pictures. this short tutorial is meant to put you behind the wheel of what comes out when you press the camera's shutter button.

here is a summary of the most important information to get you going, feel free to distribute:

some of these things may not be scientifically correct to the camera-repair guy (if you are one, please correct me) but they are artistically correct enough to make it easy to understand for you and keep it as a reference.

in order to get your feet wet with all this information, you could just forget about the auto modes of your camera and stick with manual mode for some time to practice (that's usually the one called "M" on your camera which allows you to set iso, aperture and shutter speed as you like). i will do that with you, let's see what we learn.

there are many different automatic modes (Av, Tv, Sv, ..) on most cameras and they are very useful too - but i will ramble about them some other time. if you have suggestions or questions don't hesitate to comment and we will figure it out.

have fun!

Thursday, 20 March 2014


i'm trying to make a habit of always having my camera (a pentax k-3) with me whenever possible. so today during a coffee break i snuck (yes, that's a word) to the terrace of our beautiful research building to take a couple of quick shots and on the way home there also was a cool street lamp that needed to be captured on chip.. hmm.. film would sound better here but it was digital so there you go.

i particularly liked the sci-fi look that these images had (or i just watched too many sci-fi movies for my own good). in both cases i added some split-toning which actually didn't change it too much as the pictures were already taken at sunset where you get the nice cool blue shadows and bright warm highlights.

i used the incredibly flexible 18-135mm kit lens for both shots.

the really strong out of focus effect is a combination of (as you may already know) a very wide open aperture (f 5.6, the largest on this lens) and a long focal length (100mm here I think). this means the rest of the image not in focus will be very efficiently blurred out as you can see.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

old school

since i bought a holga camera some time ago i started to dabble a bit in middle format film (so.. old school stuff that is) including developing it at home and "scanning" it with my dslr. [i will make a blog about that process some time in the future.]

so i was starting to dabble with my holga when i was invited to a friend's party .. and there i saw it! the most beautiful piece of camera equipment imaginable. an old twin lens reflex (tlr) camera.. something so striking and intriguing that i knew i had to have one..

source: wikipedia

so i feverishly browsed ebay and it's clones for some time and in the end (since the rolleiflex depicted up there is a tad expensive) i settled on a cheaper version, the "seagull".. basically a chinese knock off version produced in the 1960s:

source: wikipedia

while these cameras are perfectly capable of taking high-quality photos in the hands of the experienced film photographer (which i am not) i particularly like the low-fi, gritty, dirty side i can get with it. including dust on the film, scratches etc.

.. and if you want to collect hipster-points, these cameras are just the thing.

(plus you can take the obligatory selfies because these things a mechanical self-timer)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

DIY ringlight

as promised i finally got to write a very small how-to on making your own inexpensive (50€) ring light for video and stills (most suited for indoors since it is cable-bound and not weather proof).

step 1: buy a lamp with a circular tube (see below). those you can get at any hardware store (got mine at bauhaus jägerstraße in vienna if you are a local). some of them are around 100€ because they have reflectors and glass covers. the one that i found and used here does not have all those things and therefore was comparatively cheap.

this is what the lamp looks like:

step 2: since i want to view through the ring towards the model i need to somehow separate the lamp base from the tubes and rotate them up. in this case it was easy as can be because the fluorescent bulb is just clipped onto these two plastic holder that you see there. the third one i secured with tape so the ring does stay in position once i move it up.

step 3: the lamp is of course made to be connected to your ceiling, not a power socket, so just was two cables hanging out of the back side. to make it into something i can plug in i sacrificed an old computer cable and soldered it to the wires. this allows me to use another standard power cable and just plug it in without the clutter of having the cable constantly dangling below the light in case i want to transport it.
if you don't feel comfortable doing the soldering yourself ask an electrician friend to do this for you. this should be done properly! i secured the cable with some tape which looks a bit like a hack but so far it works fine.

step4: plug it in, shoot away and have fun with it. here's a quick mugshot made with this lamp