Glendalough, County Wicklow, with an Ultra Wide lens

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A lovely morning for Good Friday this year, so we gathered up the kids and headed up into County Wicklow. Literally heading “up” as we went into the mountains and through the Wicklow Gap to visit Glendalough.

I brought the lightweight Canon EOS1100D, with my (heavy) Tokina 12-24mm f4 ultra-wide lens.

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I’ve been using the lens for a while, and getting only so so results. I tend to shoot a lot of Portraits wide open, and  I have had some problems with focusing. I don’t think it’s a weakness in the lens as such, more a fact of not using it in the right way. It tends to be a bit soft at f4, and indoors I find it struggles to find focus from lack of available light.

Out in the sun today, I had it stopped down to f8, and fairly fast speeds from 1/125 and upwards. The results were great! I can now see what this lens was meant for.

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I think I may add the 11-16mm f2.8 to my wish list for the indoor shots.

Craig Lucas

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Blog, website or both?

I’ve been struggling with my website for some time. Trying to make it look professional, interesting and engaging, and at the same time keeping on top of writing posts for my blog and Facebook etc. It’s all been a bit much for me.

So I’ve decided to cut back a bit. I’ve been doing a bit of trimming on here and have decided to do away with the “storefront” style website I was originally aiming for. I find I enjoy writing my blog posts (as rare as they are) so I want to keep that side of things going.

I’ve also changed the template for my blog to one I think suits my style better.

Well that’s what I’ve been doing with myself this evening, and in answer to my question in the title, I went with the blog, the one I like most. It took me a while to realize it, but I definitely don’t have the time for both.

Craig Lucas

Dakota

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I met this lovely young lady named Dakota, along with her younger brother back in October 2010. Recently, her mother came into the photo-lab, and told me the very sad news that she had passed away last September, after a long battle with Leukemia.

I often admit to being an emotional person at the best of times, but with children, I am a really big softy. The news affected me deeply. At first I thought it was because she was a similar age to my own daughter, but on reflection it’s more than that. I knew Dakota. I may have only known her for the half an hour while she was in front of my camera but as a portrait photographer, I like to have a connection with the people I photograph and I definitely achieved that with this little girl. My current sadness is one of the risks involved with that connection.

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Looking at the images I took that day, I remember Dakota so well. At the age of four, she was quiet, yet confident, and although she didn’t say much, those beautiful eyes of hers spoke volumes. There was so much love for her little brother, although it also came with that “long suffering” look of all big sisters.

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I met Dakota’s mother again yesterday, and she gave me permission to write this post, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. She told me that the photos I took bring some comfort, and that she looks through them regularly. I’m so very glad that they help, and My deepest sympathy goes to all of Dakota’s family and friends.

Craig Lucascol-8

“For no mere mortal can resist, the evil of the thriller…” ~ Michael Jackson

Pumkin, Halloween, Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, Candles

I know, overly dramatic title. Halloween always makes me think of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Vincent Price narrating at the end of the song, “Creatures crawl, in search of blood, to terrorize y’all’s neighborhood…” I bet you’re already singing “Cause this is Thriller…”  Good luck getting that out of your head.

I thought that today would be a great day to share my number one tip for photographing  a carved pumpkin.

I left it fairly late in life, but last year was first proper attempt at carving a Jack-o-lantern, I went with something simple, Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas. See the image above.

This year I went with something a bit more spooky. Photos below.

So have you guessed my number one tip yet?

Candles.

Yes, candles. If you take a photo with your camera on auto the flash will fire and you’ll completely lose the spooky effect and the flash will shine off the pumpkin’s skin.  Unfortunately I can’t show an example of this as I never use flash on a pumpkin. Trust me, it just won’t work.

I can however show you what  it looks like to leave the camera set to auto, but with the flash off.

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It’s okay, but it’s really just a disembodied face, there’s no references to turn this into a picture. Most of the photos you’ll see online will be like this, but add a couple of candles…

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Isn’t that better? You can still see the glow from the candles inside the pumpkin, but the ones outside have added a reference point. You can see the surroundings, you can see that it’s a pumpkin and if anything, I feel this looks a little more sinister.

I also shot these in manual mode. The camera’s auto exposure will make the scene too bright, and will also try to give a really long shutter speed to achieve this, which introduces camera shake. If you switch to manual mode, aperture as wide as possible, (f1.8 in this case as I used my 50mm prime) and a shutter speed of around 1/30th sec, and a fairly high ISO ( i used ISO 800) then you should be fine. Always experiment. Take a few shots and choose your best.

Finally, it’s also worth taking a picture without having the lantern lit up. Just to show how different it looks in the natural state.

What do you think? Any other tips you could share?

Craig Lucas

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Location, Location, Location…

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As you may have guessed from my photos, I love taking pictures outdoors. I am always looking for new places to photograph, and locations for photo-shoots.

With a very hectic work and family life, I need places which are near to home, about an hour’s drive is about my limit, especially if I bring the kids as their patience runs out in about half that!

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Yesterday I visited the picturesque village of Moone in County Kildare. The girls had a great time in the playground there, and we also visited the Moone High Cross, a place I’ve  heard quite a lot about since we moved to the area eleven years ago, but I had never gotten around to visiting.

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Both the village and the High Cross are bursting with photographic opportunities, so I’ll definitely be heading back that way again soon.

Craig S Lucas

Make it fun!

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Back the hazy days of summer, you know, that good weather we had two weeks ago, we planned a barbecue for Sunday just gone. Well the weather let us down in a big way, so all the outdoor entertainment we had for the children was off the table.

Fresh from the Sam McCauley’s Photo Day in Bunclody on Saturday, I decided to arrange an impromptu mini photo-shoot at home. I had my bag of props still handy, mostly  a selection of hats and sunglasses, so all I had to do was say the words “Dress Up” and the kids were completely on board with it!

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Now getting kids to pose for photos can sometimes be a chore. It’s no great experience for the children who are being told to “do this,” “stand there,” “say cheese,” “do as you’re told,” and million other things we want them to do for the camera. And it’s no fun for us to be always telling the kids what the have to do, only to end up with photos which lack something, because lets face it, we can all spot a fake smile from a mile off.

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Well all kids love to play, and dressing up is always a hit. It’s a great way to get some fun, natural looking photos which are a bit different. I usually throw in a few questions to distract them too, like “what’s your favourite TV show?” Or “what did you have for breakfast today?” That moment when they are thinking of their answer and not about the camera in front of them, is pure gold.

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Do you have any tips for photographing children? If so, leave a comment…

Craig Lucas

A Satisfying day with Sam McCauley’s…

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A very busy day at St Aiden’s Hall in Bunclody today, but very satisfying too. I got a lot of lovely photos and we had a good bit of dress up fun along the way.

A big thank you to the lovely Niamh for all the help she gave me during the day.

Here is a small sample of the images taken today, the The Sam McCauley’s photo-shoot was so successful we are already talking of doing another!

Craig Lucas

 

Eureka! The G11 Moment…

I have a Canon G11 which I picked up cheaply a while ago. I’ve never been particularly impressed with the results. No matter how I set it up I’ve always been disappointed with the final image.

We went to the beach recently and I decided to bring it along as I didn’t want to risk my DSLR getting sand or sea damage along the way. The G11 being a camera I thought I could afford to lose if the worst did happen.

While were out, I had my “Eureka” moment.

It occurred to me that I had the wrong attitude to the camera. I had been using it as a smaller version of my DSLR, and was trying to obtain results of a similar quality.  In fact, I needed to think of it as an advanced Compact camera.

I adjusted my settings according to that mind set. I left the camera in P mode (Programmed Auto), although I still shot in RAW so that I could correct things later if they went wrong. Then I just kept snapping, My Dad called it “the machine gun approach,” fire enough bullets and you’re going to hit something.

I was quite pleased with what I got out of it in the end, the G11 is not the lost cause I originally thought.

Craig Lucas

 

Equipment checklist: Camera, zoom lens, old mattress…

Recently, we decided that our youngest daughter was getting a little too long for her junior sized bed. We also noticed how the springs on our eldest girl’s mattress were in danger of coming through the cloth in the not to distant future. I’m surprised she was able to sleep at all with all the lumps and bumps in her bed.

So there was a fairly complicated shuffling of beds, with our elder daughter have the new bed and a redecorated bedroom, and the younger, inheriting the older bed but with a new mattress. Both girls are now sleeping better than ever, which gives Mummy and Daddy a lot more peace in the evenings…

 

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The question is, how to get rid of a knackered old mattress? Well, we didn’t. We threw it in the garden and let them jump on it. It’s a very cheap trampoline. Also a great photo opportunity, as you can see the effect on hair is pretty amazing if you capture it at the top of the jump.

 

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I simply put my long zoom onto my DSLR, switched to continuous, kept my distance and started snapping. After about 400 photos I went through them all to find a few hidden gems…

 

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The best part of of doing this was watching the kids have so much fun with something so simple. I can’t wait for the next time.

Craig Lucas

A day after the Communion…

Eileen asked me a month ago, to take photos at her son’s communion, but as I had already committed to another client for the Bennekerry communions on the 10th May, it was out of the question, I only get one Saturday off work per month you see.

She contacted me again recently to see if I could manage the Sunday instead for a photo-shoot and this time I was available.

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The photo-shoot was held at her home, and I found it far less stressful, and much more relaxed than trying to get everything done after the ceremony, at he church, when everyone just wants to leave and go back to whatever celebration has been organized. I think in future, this is the way to go…

Click on the photo above to see the full gallery

Craig Lucas

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Communions in Bennekerry

Saturday 10th May, and the weather was rotten. The dry weather we’ve had for the past month didn’t fool me, and I had been purchasing umbrellas at every opportunity. I chose plain but bight colours thinking I could make use of them as a feature of the photos if necessary.

I arrived at the St Mary’s Church at 11:30am plenty of time to scout the area, and get a few snaps of the church.

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Just as the communion finished and everyone exited the church, the rain eased off and we had about half an hour of breezy dryness. Two of my clients for the day were photographed in the churchyard, before the rain began again in earnest.

A quick visit into the National School to finish up. This Link will take you to the full gallery: http://wp.me/P3XBcM-70

Only one of my umbrellas was used, and that was only for the effect! Were the others a waste of money? In Ireland, I very much doubt it. I’m sure I will have plenty of opportunity to use them the next time.

Craig Lucas

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Sarah’s photo-shoot happens at last…

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I have been trying to arrange a photo-shoot with the lovely Sarah since October last year. Every time we have it organized something has come up and we’ve had to cancel for one reason or another; injury, sickness or most commonly bad weather.

Well, on Easter Sunday we finally got to go ahead with our shoot, the weather was lovely, and although Rathwood was busy with the Easter Egg Hunt, we managed to avoid the crowds of children running around.

There was a particular photo I was desperate to capture, involving Live View on my DSLR and a tripod. I have seen it done many times on the internet with sunsets and landscapes, but I really wanted the shot with a pretty girl on screen. I took the image with my old film SLR, the Canon AE-1, and it is everything I wanted it to be. Thank you Sarah for your patience… Doing something new always takes longer to set up.

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After Sarah’s photos, I met up with Sandra and Amelia. What a character! With a 2 year old as spirited as Amelia, there wasn’t much chance at planning my poses. All I could do was keep snapping and hope that something worked, which thankfully it did. We got some lovely ones.

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Well, I’ve been bitten by the bug again… I can’t wait for my next portrait session.

Craig Lucas

New Year, New Project…

I’ve read a lot recently about people’s New Year’s Resolutions, whether it’s to give up smoking, go on a diet or go to the gym more. We photographers tend to think a little differently.

I want a New Year’s Project. Something to get me out and taking photos more often.

I tried the 365 Project a couple of years ago but I found that I ran out of inspiration very quickly. For those who haven’t come across this before the 365 Project is simply one photo for every day of the year. It’s a kind of photographic diary. Unfortunately I found that on a day to day basis, I had very little time to put into my photography, which resulted in me running out of ideas very quickly. After two weeks of taking photos of my trip to work, I gave up.

The following year I went with a 52 Week Project. As you can guess, it involves one photo per week for a year. It was suggested on a blog I follow, and I signed up for it expecting great things. This time around there were themes involved. The blog host would give a theme for the week such as “Cold” and again I ran out of time and ideas.

I have since read about a project called “100 Strangers.” The idea is to take photos of 100 different strangers, in order to get used to interacting with people and to get over the shyness that a lot of photographers have with people they don’t know. This struck a chord with me as I really want to get into Portrait photography more but I have a shortage of willing subjects.

What I am going for, is a combination of the 52 Week project and the 100 Strangers. I will call it The 52 Portrait Project and I have the gallery started up under my Photo Gallery tab. Getting out to take photos of strangers, is not something I will be able to do every week, so I’ll go with anyone available; family, friends, strangers, anyone.

The first entry of the project is my own daughter Milla. It had to be really as her birthday is also the first week of the year!

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I hope you’ll come back soon to keep an eye on my progress. And please do get on to me if I fail to post!!

Also I’d love to know what projects you have planned this year, let me know in the comments.

Craig  Lucas

“Blogging isn’t…

“Blogging isn’t about publishing as much as you can. It’s about publishing as smart as you can.” ― Jon Morrow

I have just signed up for a WordPress account.

I’m experimenting.

I’m not very keen on my current website (which I won’t share here). I find it very static, and difficult to update. By “difficult” I really mean time consuming. It is actually quite simple, but there are so many steps involved it just takes forever.

We’ll see how I go with this. I’ve tried blogging in the past without much success, I can never think of what to write. This time I will concentrate on my photography, “A picture paints a thousand words…” so hopefully I will have found my medium.

Craig Lucas