Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Kayell Selfie Comp

In April I saw an instagram post from Kayell about a competition they were running.  Kayell is a photographic supply business with an outlet in Artarmon, Sydney.  I've been there a few times to both purchase goodies and for a workshop on lighting.   So when I saw Kayell had a comp running I had to join in.  The rules were simple... take a fun selfie whilst in Covid 19 Isolation with some of my imaging gear.  Upload one shot a day....  until 31 May!   So... why not I thought.   I have plenty of gear, a fully operational studio space and plenty of Iso time!

I made a few notes in my shot book and prepped for a couple of shots.  I use a shot book because my memory is ..... shot after some fancy cancery treatment stuff in 2013.  In my shot book I write up a props list and draw very poor stick figures and lighting diagrams.   But it works for me and that is all that counts!    I listed the props, wigs, gloves, glasses, hats and camera gear! It was surprisingly easy to list the ideas. They just kept flowing onto the page!

I have sufficient gear for my needs,  in fact I sometimes tag my instagram shots  #allthegearandnoidea !  Not strictly true, I don't have all the gear and sometimes I have a bit of an idea!!   Notwithstanding I thought taking some selfies would fill some of my free isolation time.

I'm still working my 9 to 5 grind with my long term employer in emergency services/justice, but weekends were lockdown. So free time was plentiful and I had canned all my studio bookings.  I'm not mad keen on a selfie and am far from model material, but, what the hell!  I thought I'd give it a go!  The 15 or so entries before my first one went up seemed to be outside the rules of the comp!  Lots of selfies, just no imaging equipment in the shots.

So into the studio I went.  Set up my camera on a tripod and started clicking!   If you know me then you know I have no photoshop skills. So these are simply cropped square in Lightroom and then uploaded.

Fast forward to this morning and an email from Peter Munro, head honcho at Kayell, informs me I have won a prize!  A Xlite Multifunction Metal Boom Stand which is PERFECT for the studio!  I was elated to receive this news!  I don't have a good sturdy boom! I have a cheap shitty eBay version that I can't risk hanging a D-lite off!  NOW I have a good one!

So which pic won?

The last one. The 4 shot fighting with the reflector got the prize.

What do you think?  Is it your favourite? Did Kayell get it right?
I have to admit it wasn't my favourite..... but it sure is now!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Studio Spam

Well I've been tinkering in the studio a bit of late, primarily doing some still life stuff.

Had a couple of girlfriends come over to give it a go and the Nikon Chick struggled, but managed a few decent images.  This is because my lighting gear is all Canon.   I seriously am a Canon girl!  The other visitor is also a Canon Chick and she leapt in,  cracked on and just shot, shot and shot!

I'm still no lighting guru, but I do enjoy OCF (off camera flash) for those of you who wonder what OCF means.

If you enjoy looking at the pics as much as I enjoyed making them, then we will both be very very happy!

I've also been seeing a few live bands of late... so I'll post some pics from them on the next blog post.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


It took me some time to get it happening, but finally the studio is up and running.   There are three shooting areas.  One for natural light, one for table top and still life work and a full length section.  No cyclorama.... the space isn't big enough for that, but there is a full kitchen for food prep, a models change room with one whole wall of props and another of clothing and a small but functional bathroom.  There are a few more things I would like to do to make it perfect..... but it is pretty damn good as is.    I would consider swapping out the tripod backdrop stands for ceiling mounted and rehoming a couple of large pieces of furniture to allow for more diverse lighting placement.   

I currently shoot with 4 Canon Speedlights and have all manner of modifiers from Honl gels to big arse soft boxes.   I use Pocketwizards (TT1 and TT5) to trigger and they all perform seamlessly and wirelessly... but still I would like a nice pair of Elinchrom BRX 500's.  Well a pair isn't enough, I'd need 3.  The downside to that purchase, and the only thing holding me back, is cords.  Power cables. They will be nothing but trouble for me in the studio.  There is a terrible story from way back in 2009. About getting tangled at an outdoor shoot and only the swift response of a naked model capturing my brand new 5D2 from certain death as the cable twisted around my leg dragged it off a plinth onto rocks below.  But lets not go there.  It still sends shivers!!  Hence my aversion to cables.  Many years have passed, but I'm still scarred by that near tragedy!

I know Godox AD400's or the new 600's are an alternative to the BRX500's, but I really have an Elinchrom mindset.  I have only used them twice, but the build quality impressed me to the somewhat obsessional stage.   The one thing they have over what already exists for me is.... a modelling light.  Shooting tethered is a reasonable alternative, but.... it's still not Elinchrom.  I tether to a MacBook Pro and I do use a Tether tool I picked up from Kayell in Sydney recently.  The Tether tool gives me some security when I feel clumsy around cords (hence my one and only Elinchrom issue). 

So far the Speedlights have not left me wanting.   I have to say output control via the PW's and portability are totally winning points.  I can't fault the gear I have..... but the desire for the big E is strong.  Maybe it's just the choice noise they make when the fire and recharge!

So below are few pics I took last Sunday.

Paper backdrop,  mostly softboxes and one attempt at Clamshell..... we did venture outdoors at the very death, but it was still too early in the afternoon to really achieve my desired outcomes.

The subject, Miss A, was a real trooper.  She gave me "sinister" when I need it!  She sat well, followed instructions and looked dead set stunning in the vintage gown...that I 'nearly' didn't buy!! She was recommended to me by a friend as a potential sitter and was accompanied by family. I'm so lucky to have met her and hope to shoot her again one day.

I was ably assisted with lighting by the aforementioned naked model as she is an accomplished photographer in her own right and for some reason volunteered to be my VAL for the day.  I very much enjoy her friendship. Shooting with her is a real joy.

So below are just five of the images of the day.  There were quite a few more and all required minimal editing, primarily cropping out a tiny sliver of softbox!  

The studio in the making was knows as Duna Studios.  Duna - Doona "well keep you covered", but we do need a new name.   So far StudioNao is atop the list.  If anything grabs you, send a message and I'll add it to the short list!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Home decorating 101.... by a NON expert!

Well much has transpired since my last post.  I'm now in full blown home reno mode.  I blame too much American daytime television for that!!     Fixer Upper, Good Bones, Flip or Flop.   I am amazed at the seemingly lack of governance in their reno regimes..... but perhaps those boring legal bits have been edited out for effect.   I'm not undertaking that level of work at this stage, but I am doing some decorating!   One of my jobs has been to create a functional office space. Having achieved that with a huge L shaped gloss white desk big enough for my editing computer and my smaller Family History and general laptops and some gloss white Ikea storage units, time has come to decorate the blank wall behind the desk.

The whole room was gutted and two coats of Taubmans was liberally applied.   My mate Moo was the paint buddy on that gig.   I did the patching, sanding and cleaning prep then she did all the cutting in while I rolled along behind here.     We did that on a stinking hot day so there was not a lot of time needed between coats!  And here we are 3 months later ready to create a gallery wall of images.   I purchased 11 black frames with white mattes.  Different sizes and formats, but the black and white theme was what I was after.   I then had 11 of my fave black and white images printed (oh there could be a whole blog post on that debarcle alone).   I finally framed them all.

As the frames were all different styles using old style wire and hanging hooks was just going to be a drama.   Moo suggested I try the 3M "Command" system of wall hooks.  Essentially they are sticky backed velcro.  Surprisingly they hold considerable weight.

I made paper templates the size of the prints and blu-tacked them to the wall.   This made it very easy to move images about and get the look I wanted.  I didn't want all the people pics on one side and the architectural images clumped together on the other side, so the templates worked a treat.

The process for hanging the system is to affix the velcro to the frame,  wash down the wall area where the sticky velcro will end up with rubbing alcohol.  Then remove the protective paper from the velcro and place the image where you want it.....and then..... instantly remove the image!!  That leaves one half of the velcro on the wall,  allowing it to cure for an hour before reattaching the print. 

Each stage of that process is fraught with problems.  Firstly all the frames had different widths on the reverse.  Fortunately the "Command" hooks come in varying sizes, so be cautious if you are embarking on this journey to match your frames with your hooks or, like me, you will be racing to Bunnings for more appropriate supplies!    The next problem was... hanging the images straight.  For this I used a Ryobi Air Grip Laser level.   Air grip, such a cute term for suction!    A mate at work loaned me two laser levels, but for them to be used "single handedly"  they needed to be affixed to the wall...with a nail!   Errr NO!  Not after all the cleaning and patching I had done!!   There are a number of different Laser levels out there and not knowing my arse from my elbow in this selection process I consulted he who shall be known as the "Oracle of Home Renovation".   Without hesitation he recommended the Ryobi.  He was right.  Suction was the answer.

So with all the good gear, good info and good intentions I began removing the templates and hanging the pics.    I started in the middle and worked out to the edges.   The "Command" hooks do leave a little wiggle room so fine tuning is an option.  And if you totally stuff up they can easily be removed and repositioned with a new wall mount piece (which can be bought separately).

The one negative I found was that one of the larger format frames I bought had perspex not glass and was scratched before I even got the print into it.  Lesson learnt,  Microfibre cleaning cloths and perspex don't go mix.   Its an easy fix though.  I'll have a sheet of 3mm glass cut for the frame and replace the perspex at some stage. 

Naturally I took progress images so you can follow the bouncing ball below if you need to.
I am chuffed at the look achieved for a minimal outlay.

Thanks must go to Moo, Joshy, The Oracle and Ash.  Job done! 







Wednesday, December 28, 2016

6 months today

It's been 7 months since my last blog post and 6 months today since mum died.

I was sitting alone with her at the Mater Hospice, just holding her hand, when she faded away at 10.13am on 28th June, 2016.  She survived 313 days when her Oncologist said it would be  a whole lot less.  313 days, and each one was a battle.  She was scared of death and didn't want to be left alone. She didn't want to die.  She was scared of being buried alive and kept asking me to check and recheck that she was actually dead before they put her in her coffin.  She wanted to live to be 100.  She remained alert and aware until the very last day.  Her body, on the other hand, let her down badly.  Pancreatic Cancer has a very low survival rate, something like 7% last 5 years.  The national average is 180 days. Mum smashed that record!  Although she suffered a stroke and a heart attack, she remained strong.  She had little pain.... until 4 days before she died.  Even when on the drug pump she could still talk, but could no longer swallow.  She told me she wasn't hungry or thirsty.

I was extremely privileged to be able to care for mum.  She was an amazingly strong woman. She endured so much.  We talked about so much and laughed a lot. The daily photo for Instagram was a blast and is a daily record of her strength.... and her demise.  It also records the trips out, the ice creams and the many visitors she had during those last 313 days.

She might be gone, but she will never be forgotten.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

257 days later.....

About 9 months ago mum was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  She had been poorly and had turned a nasty shade of orange.  Actually it was 257 days or just over 36 weeks ago now.   Her doctors gave her no hope.  Prognosis was vaired depending on which oncologist was offering numbers but the average was 26 weeks.  The doctor in Emergency that actually gave her her diagnosis said 12 months, so right then and there we decided to do a 365 photo project.  Decided to take one photo a day for 365 days.

So here we are 257 days later and  it has been something of a roller coaster ride.   Initially the plan was that I would stay at work until she was incapable of caring for herself on a daily basis and have care workers come in to clean.  Meal prep and shopping would be my domain and she would take care of her midday meal and personal care.

She went downhill very fast and in late october it was obvious I had to take leave from work.  I quickly ran out of Annual Leave and had little sick/family leave of my own after using 8 months of my banked leave with my own cancer treatment in 2012 and 2013.  Fortunately I had just over 12 months of long service leave I could call upon and so I have been in a nursing role since.

We did have some assistance in the home from an agency "assistant in nursing".... until I caught her stealing cash, but that is a whole other story.  We now have a woman come in for 90 minutes once a week.  She cleans the house, vacuums, steam cleans the floors, scrubs the bathroom, dusts, changes the sheets and puts the washing on.   Mum now has a hospital bed and soon a stand up recliner.  She can still walk short distances on a wheely walker but we rarely venture outside the house.  Palliative Care nurses and her GP visit once a week each, but both are only a phone call away if needs must. We've had the ambos come a couple of times too.

Mum recently spent a week at the Mater Hospice. They worked miracles getting her medication under control.  After a mini stroke and heart attack all her meds were fighting each other. So now she is home on reduced medication and we just take each day as it comes.

She enjoys the photo a day shenanigans.  If I forget, she always remembers.   Some days they are posed and themed, but most days they are just as she is.  She always worries about her hair!  The images can all be seen on Instagram here

But here are some of my faves:-


Thursday, December 31, 2015

When Violet went viral !!!

The internet is an amazing thing.  The popularity of this blog surprises me.  The amount to views is beyond belief for what is essentially a blog about my dance with cancer and my veggie patch.  Knowing this I thought a picture I put in a comment about the awesome Hunter Valley Santa Claus might garner about 50 views.  I was very very VERY wrong!  It went viral.  And the flow on effect was even more amazing.

As you may be aware my mum, Violet, has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  The bevy of oncologists can't offer her any hope and she is deemed terminal.  The oncologists have offered themselves available for advice and information, but have passed mum's care over to the Westlakes Palliative Care team.  Knowing this mum is not happy with her lot and as a result is doing it tough.   

Unrelated my sister Nola sent me a link to a photo of a Santa with an amazing set up.  That got me thinking that it might jolly Violet up to have a photo with Santa.  She has always loved Christmas.  So I found The Hunter Valley Santa on Facebook and I made contact with them asking if they were able to accommodate an 86 year old in a wheelchair.  They replied to my enquiry saying they would love to.  A few days later I went to the venue, "Sinclairs" on Hillsborough Road, Warners Bay, here in Lake Macquarie.   I needed to check wheelchair access.  Mrs Claus was brilliant.  Santa was busy with kids, but Mrs Claus showed me side access easy for a wheelchair and we confirmed a time and date.    A few days later Violet frocked up and off we went to meet Santa.   

Santa and Mrs Claus asked the crowd in front of us if we could pop in straight away and from what I could see no-one there minded, even though they had already waited some time.  Santa is VERY popular out there!     So mum was wheeled in and Santa helped her out of her chair.  She sat on his knee, then on his throne and as he was about to help her back to her chair I asked if Santa could dance.  He could, so they danced just a few steps and we helped her back into her chair.    We weren't there long, but Violet was very very happy at what had just occurred.  We collected out images and USB and headed home.  She was very excited.    I used those images to create her Christmas Cards and had them printed by Redbubble.  One larger print was framed and took up residence on the china cabinet.  That's were I thought it would end.  

So a few weeks later a woman I do not know posted a pic of Santa and her son Levi, taken at "Sinclairs".   I commented on her photo that Santa and Mrs Claus bent over backwards to help Violet get her first ever photo with Santa.   I added a small copy of the image in my comment.   

Violet's photo and comment on this lovely photo of Santa and "Levi" was then picked up by the television show "Today" and they created a new thread or page or whatever you call it with Violet's photo and the story.   I didn't know anything about it until about 10 hours later when Josh rang me and  told me to go have a look and that 6000 people had "liked" it on Facebook.   While he was on the phone the "likes", "shares" and "comments" continued to grow.  He kept calling new figures thru the phone to me.  By morning about 12,000 people had "liked" her photo dancing with Santa.    

Now Violet doesn't really understand how the internet works and isn't on Facebook, but she understood what I said when I told her 12,000 people had clicked a button to say they liked the photo of her dancing with Santa.  By the following morning over 21,000 people had "liked" the photo, over 800 had "shared" it on their own page and over 400 people commented on the shot.    I showed her the Today story on the iPad and she sat and read every single comment.  She recognised just 3 names  and spent the remainder of the day smiling and joyous.  

The following day Santa contacted me on Facebook.  We had tried to organise a family photo with mum, myself, my sister and all three adult grandkids, but two of the kids were working and one was off in Sydney, so it couldn't happen.  It was a very kind offer though.   Just another indication of how awesome Santa and Mrs Claus were.   Sometime later Santa told me that the local television station, NBN, had contacted Mrs Claus hoping to interview Violet and do a story about her visit with Santa.   As Santa and Mrs Claus had been so wonderful to us I offered to get Violet back to "Sinclairs" so NBN could do their story.  And so it happened.   Violet was as excited as a kitten to be interviewed by the lovely Emma Murphy.  She was going to be on the news!!

NBN played to story on Christmas Eve and put it on their website too.  She tells everyone who comes to the house.  Shows them the clip on the computer and we watched it a couple of times on christmas day with all the grandkids here.

So one simple comment about how wonderful Santa and Mrs Claus are had made Violet go viral and she loves it!

Below is the link to the NBN news story.  I hope you enjoy when Violet went viral!