Category Archives: discussion

In search of monochrome…

Prior to switching to digital photography in 2002, I shot almost entirely in black and white. My film of choice was Kodak Tri-X and after experimenting with a few developers over the years, I settled on Rodinal. My favourite paper was Agfa, I loved the rich blacks and the contrast I could get from the Tri-X/Agfa combination.

In the early days of digital, I was captivated by the new world of colour I had had easy access to, plus my early attempts to create monochrome images pretty much stopped with desaturating the colour image; never really successful.

As I learned more about image processing in general and Photoshop in particular, I tried a few times to re-discover the magic Tri-X look, but I never managed to consistently produce images I was happy with. I wasn’t sure if this was because:

  • Digital didn’t produce good black and white images
  • I didn’t know enough about converting colour to black and white
  • I had been making colour images for so long I no longer ‘saw’ monochrome images
  • All of the above.

I have just had yet another day of trying to develop a workflow that will consistently produce results I can accept. This first image, Stobie pole, was processed using the Alien Skin Exposure Tri-X preset.

Stobie pole

The next image, Three trees, was made with the Nik Silver Efex plugin. Silver Efex doesn’t have a Tri-X preset, so I picked the nearest ‘look’ I could find for this image and that turned out to be the Ilford HP5 preset.

Three trees

Both images were then tweaked; extra contrast, some dodging and burning and other minor, darkroom-like changes.

I am still not entirely happy with the results, but I feel like I am making progress and learning more about how to change a full colour image into a monochrome one.

After that, must learn how to make good monochrome prints again.


Also posted in explanation, opinion

Tilting at windmills…

The windmill is a part of the Australian landscape, familiar to anyone who has driven through the Australian countryside.


The windmill is used to pump underground water into a trough or water tank sitting beside it. One of the fascinating things about windmills is that they are seen in a wide range of conditions, from brand new and shiny to completely collapsed.

Windmills are one of the re-occurring subjects in my rural photography. Who knows, they might even get an exhibition of their own.

Also posted in art, explanation, influences, Travel

Looking back

From time to time I go back through my store of images; looking for usable ones I missed the first time, or ones that I can extract more from due to new tools, more knowledge or just a different idea.

Recently I revisited images I took in the South Australian town of Marree during a trip in 2012.

At the time I was after a strong evening summer sun look, but wasn’t very happy with the colour in the shots. I have revisited them with new tools and some different techniques and managed to get them to be much closer to what I envisaged at the time.

Don’t forget to go back through your archives to find the hidden gems.


Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Marree, South Australia

Also posted in art, changed thinking, explanation, opinion, Travel

St Helens

St Helens is a small beach/boat harbour/fishing spot on the western side of Corio Bay in my home town of Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

On a recent morning visit home I noticed the heavy overcast and subdued light as I drove past, so a quick stop and a wander around with the Canon 5d3 between rain showers and I had a handful of interesting images.

St Helens, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaSt Helens, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaSt Helens, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaSt Helens, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaSt Helens, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Also posted in Canon

Walking to work

For several years now I have walked to work along Exhibition Street in the Melbourne CBD, usually fairly early, sometimes in the dark.

I have taken photographs on many occasions as the time of year and the weather keep changing the mood and the interplay of light and shadows.

Recently I have started a project to photograph all of the corner buildings between the beginning of Exhibition Street and my office. The challenge is to photograph each corner from the other side of the road with no people or cars in the shot.

I am making some progress, but there are a few corners still eluding me. I’ll report back on this when the project is complete.

In the meantime, I add new images to this album on Flickr when I manage to get a clear shot at a corner.

The Exhibition Street Corners Album on Flickr.

Cnr Exhibition and Bourke StreetsCnr Exhibition and Little Bourke StreetsCnr Exhibition and Little Bourke StreetsCnr Exhibition and Little Bourke StreetsCnr Exhibition and Bourke StreetsCnr Exhibition and LaTrobe StreetsCnr Exhibition and Little Lonsdale Streets

Also posted in collection

The more things change…

“In those days a photographer ran his career upon the celebrities who came to him”

~ Mathew Brady, 1891

Also posted in art, History, Photographers

Photographing Freeplay

I recently had some fun photographing the events at the Freeplay independent games festival held in Melbourne, Australia.

The events I photographed took place in an auditorium at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a theatre at the State Library of Victoria, an exhibition space in the State Library and a dimly lit bar where the awards presentation was held.

The lighting conditions varied from marginal, lit by spotlights of various strengths and colours to almost pitch black lit by dull red spots (the bar).

The white balance was non-existent, depending on where the speakers were standing, what was being displayed on the screen behind them and whether or not they were using a tablet for reading notes.

Mare Sheppard of Metanet Software Inc.

This was an excellent chance to try out the low level response and focusing of the new 5D Mark 3 which had arrived a week or so earlier.

The first surprise was the focusing, much, much faster than the original 5D I had been using prior to this. It was grabbing focus as fast as I could press the shutter button, even in the dimly lit bar there was no lag or focus hunting.

Morgan Jaffit of Defiant Development.

The low level performance was brilliant, it can practically see in the dark and this came in very handy in the bar for the awards night. Sure the files have some noise, but this cleaned up to an acceptable level for the conditions. I’ve never shot an image at ISO 25600 before. This gave me 1/80 at f4.5 and combined with a monopod I was able to document the evening and capture not only the presenters and award recipients, but also the visuals on the screen behind them. See more of the images at the Freeplay galleries.

Paul Callaghan, director of Freeplay



Also posted in Canon, equipment

Russell Boyle

My good friend and poet Russell Boyle has added his words to two more of my images. I am always very impressed with just how well Russell captures the mood and the thought process behind the image.


This is based on my image Early Morning in Little Lonsdale Street. The photo was taken with bright low morning sun shining directly down Little Lonsdale Street, turning the old building facades into a series of light and shade and vertical lines.


This image was taken in Fitzroy. I was attracted by the band of diagonal light down the wall. The original image can be seen here.

A framed A2 print of this image is for sale at Seddon Deadly Sins in Victoria Street, Seddon, Victoria. Ask for Chris and have a coffee while you are there.

Also posted in art, Poetry, Russell Boyle

In a Hallway

I am working on a set of images that I want to use for my first attempt at an art folio. I came across some neat (and cheap) folios at Dane Creek Folios. I’ve purchased three to have a try and only realised the issue after I received them. They are sized for US Letter paper and not A4.

Try buying US Letter sized fine art photo paper in Australia. However, the good folks at Giclee Media are helping me with that (big thanks to Anne-Marie for her patience and information).

Last week I organised a series of test images to see if the idea would hold together and produce something worth putting into a folio. I was happy with the results I got but need to work on getting the exposure and contrast working better before I try printing them.

Here is one shot from the test. Once again, the subject is my good friend, the multi-talented Miss Sharon.

In a hallway

Also posted in art, explanation

Head Shot

My good friend Ben McKenzie and I were discussing some photos that Ben could use for publicity. We decided to start with a traditional black and white head shot that could be used as an avatar for Twitter (@labcoatman) and other online uses, and could also be printed and handed out when needed.

Ben McKenzie

The aim of the photo was to let Ben’s personality come to the fore, so I decided to use the classic Hollywood-style clam shell lighting. One umbrella is placed directly in front and slightly above the victim’s eyeline with a second umbrella lower down and set two stops below the main light to fill in the shadows and put light in the eyes. The white back drop is a piece of foamcore clamped to a stand.

It is a simple setup and one that gives very even results. The rest I left up to Ben.

Ben McKenzie

And yet again…

Also posted in How I shot..., Portrait