Category Archives: Projects

Blue Rose

Blue Rose

This was always a shoot on the move. From the initial idea based on the dress, I decided it needed more and began to create a headpiece from some artificial blue roses I had lying around. As I was constructing it I was listening to Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow” and suddenly a new concept came to mind based on the song.

After an aborted shoot due to bad weather and the MUA having to cancel, we rescheduled for a Friday afternoon. Unfortunately there were storms coming over and I didn’t get the lovely golden backlight I had hoped for. Most of the SOOC shots were poorly exposed or I missed the mark with the speedlight. I was going to have to pull something out of my hat in post!

After an initial cleanup in Lightroom where I adjusted exposure and lens corrections, I brought the images into Photoshop for my normal post production workflow. I actually have a batch process set up for the first four or five steps of the video but I don’t show that in the video so you can see exactly what I do.

This my first bts video and recording of my methods so please be nice! It’s a little long because I’m a little slow. Unfortunately it doesn’t show brush sizes but I’m sure you’ll work it out. The colour toning and texturing is a little different to what I normally do but the basic process is the same. Anyway hope this helps someone!

Model: Catherine Hargraves
MUAH: Irima Vee

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Swamp Queen – The Post Work

I’ve had a few people ask me about my post-production work so I thought I’d include a behind-the-scenes post for this shoot.

After moving from one scene to another during the shoot, I noticed a light haze as I looked through the viewfinder. At first I thought it was just the scene and took a few snaps. But it still didn’t look right so I checked the lens and found it had a little condensation on it (about as much of the fog as we got!). I duly wiped it off and continued. Of course Murphy’s Law states that one of the few shots I took before cleaning the lens would be the shot of the day and sure enough it was (see SOOC shot at the bottom of the post)!


I loved everything else about the shot though so I decided to persist. I pulled the file into Photoshop via Camera Raw and used a curves layer to even out the light. I cleaned up the skin and did a bit of reshaping. It’s not something I would always do but this was going to be somewhat of a fantasy image.

I wanted a little more drama for the face so I added the lip colour and finished off the dress with a red ribbon to tie the colour elements together.

I darkened and desaturated the background and increased the overall contrast, then sharpened. At this point I flattened the image and started a new Photoshop document as my computer was starting to groan under the load!


I ran Florabella Luxe actions Pandora and London, reduced them both to 50% and removed the contrast and vignette layers so I just had the colour toning.

I wanted to create more separation from the background (oh for a faster lens!) so I duplicated the layer and ran a gaussian blur filter, masking out the subject. I then added two rust textures (set to multiply and hard light at low percentages) and two cloud layers set to soft light at 30-50%. For all the textures I masked out the skin areas. I then added a vignette and reduced the overall opacity to 80% before a little Levels adjustment to bring up the highlights.

Overall I’m happy with the result. Am I heavy handed on the textures? Sure, but I like that in the context of the swamp and I feel like I fulfilled my own brief for what I wanted this image to be.

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Shot at f5, ISO 100, 1/80 at 55mm.

Photography and styling: me!
Model: Kim Boyce
Makeup: Kayla Lapworth
Behind the scenes shooter and assistant: Pauline Mandry.



Swamp Queen 1

Swamp Queen – The Shoot

After making Driftwood, I knew I wanted to shoot in the swamp again, preferably with a model and someone to give me a hand. I figured if I was going to do it again, I wanted to do it properly. I put quite a bit of effort into the pre-production, making a dress from a mosquito net and some old curtains and creating a headpiece from feathers, grass and an old hair comb. I spent a good hour or two weaving a nest from grass clippings and leaves, which we did use on set, but didn’t end up in any of the final images!

Swamp Queen - BTS 2
It’s amazing what you can do with a mozzie net, some curtains, elastic and safety pins!

Swamp Queen - BTS 3 
Pinning the hairpiece in.

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally managed to get the shoot organised and we set off in the pre-dawn light of Saturday morning. We picked up some large coffees from the local servo, then convoyed down the road to the swamp. There was heavy fog as we came down the road, and we trudged across the muddy field (filled with hundreds of sparkling spider webs) hoping the swamp would be foggy too. Alas it was not and as soon as the sun came up the light was really harsh, so it was far from the moody lighting conditions I had in mind.

Knowing how muddy the location was, I’d brought along some old car mats in the hope this would help to stop us sinking into the mud, but really they just sank too. As the shoot went on we got used to it and by the end we were walking confidently from spot to spot, with the exception of one area where both Pauline and I discovered a mud hole that almost reached the top of our gumboots.

Swamp Queen - BTS 1
t helps to have a sense of humour when working in a muddy swamp. Putting out the car mats.

Swamp Queen - BTS 4
Time to venture into the water.

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Pauline helping out with a little additional pinning. Note the cute little peace symbols on her gumboots. :)

We tried throwing the dress to get some movement in the shot but it quickly became too wet and muddy so I abandoned the idea and moved on. My planned location had Kim in shade in the foreground but the background was too bright for the mood I was trying to create. Ultimately the best shots are those facing away from the swamp, losing the mass of trees in the distance but much better light and more in line with what I wanted.

Swamp Queen - BTS 6
My poor little nest. Just couldn’t get a composition where it looked right.

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Keeping the tripod even in the mud proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Smelly and dirty as it was, we had a lot of fun on this shoot. Kayla did a great job on the makeup and I’d happily work with both Kim and Pauline again.

The images you see here are the shots Pauline took on the day (and one I snuck of her!). Click on the images for a larger view.

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Deciding whether to go further out. 

Swamp Queen - BTS 9 
Arranging the dress. I’ve washed it twice and still can’t get all the debris out!

Keep an eye out for a future post where I cover some of the post-production work that went into the final shots.

Photography and styling: me!
Model: Kim Boyce
Makeup: Kayla Lapworth
Behind the scenes and assistant: Pauline Mandry




365 – I made it!

Today is the last day of my 365 project. It has been a challenging and at times frustrating experience but overall I have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that I know make me a better photographer than I was a year ago. Finding inspiration on a daily basis proved the hardest part, particularly towards the end where the quality varies wildly as I throw myself into major shoots, then scramble to catch up on in-between days. There’s some shots I love and many I hate but I took a shot every day (with a couple of slips where I caught up the next day) and as an overall body of work I am happy with it as a record of my year. So thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the year and those who have worked with me. You are all an intrinsic part of  this project and I would not have completed it without you. So here’s my top 20 from the year (and look out for a 52 project in the coming year…maybe!).

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Dreaming in the bath

Shooting self-portraits vs models

I often feel really uncomfortable posting pictures of myself online, particularly those that are more stories than portraits or family photos per se. I worry that friends will think I’m vain and everyone will realise just how much I’ve warped, cloned and flat out repainted the images. Often the image is not meant to be a literal interpretation of me so much as a character that I’m creating. I don’t even see it as myself when I’m editing, just a face, a figure, a dress.

There are pros and cons to creating self-portraits, as I’ve discovered along the way. Feeling like an idiot (even when shooting at home) is the paramount con for me and increasingly the wrong body shape and saggy face. Corsets are fast becoming my best friends! Difficulty with focus, camera position, overshooting, shot timing, all these things make shooting selfies frustrating at times. And there’s always that embarrassing moment when you get sprung prancing around in a public place in not much more than your underwear and a curtain!

However the good news is you always have a model available at a moment’s notice, you know her dress size and she’s not going to cancel at the last minute (unless you want to!). She’ll pose just the way you want without having to tell her and she’ll follow you into swamps, lakes and creeks. She’ll climb trees, rummage through abandoned buildings and generally go anywhere you are game enough to go.

I get very self-conscious when directing models and often miss a shot because I’m too shy to ask them to do something. However it’s always a joy to work with a beautiful face and the benefits of being behind the camera are well worth the time taken to plan and set up the shoot. Many of the models I’ve worked with so far have been really open to ideas and are happy to get a little uncomfortable for the sake of a good shot. I’ll usually put a lot more thought into a shoot with a model and arrange a makeup artist, hairdresser and assistants if I can. Things I would never indulge in if I was shooting myself, but can make a big difference to the overall success of the shoot.

So the next time you are out and find a great location but think “this would look great with someone standing just there” consider shooting yourself (um, with a camera, selfies really aren’t that bad!). Or jump onto Model Mayhem and hook up with a local model, MUA and stylist. Either way, just keep making stories. :)


The making of Driftwood

There’s a spot just near Nudgee Beach that I’ve been driving past for years and each time I saw it I thought to myself “I must go and check that out”. Well I finally did and I’m so glad I did. It’s definitely a gumboots trip across some marshy grassland to the swamp itself but it’s not far from the road (which is an advantage when you are lugging equipment on your own!).

I went back a week later with a lace top and an old lace curtain. I was lucky and the light was just how I wanted it and on the day I was shooting the water was reasonably clear (if you didn’t stir it up too much). Unlike when I went back a few days later and it looked like this:

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Without an assistant (or a model!) I missed out on doing a few things that I had planned but overall I’m happy with the result.

Here’s the original series of shots that I used:

Driftwood WIP


I gave myself a Photoshop makeover and cloned the fabric from the top to cover the legs and gumboots and to match the skirt to the top. Then some gap filling, colour toning, a new sky overlay, a couple of texture overlays and voila!



There’s much I learned from this shoot and a few things I’d do differently or would like to try with more available hands so keep an eye out for an upcoming shoot at the same location. ;)