Wednesday, December 22, 2010

on snow, disrupted travel and isolation on white


along with thousands of other travelers in Europe we didn't travel anywhere. So we are probably not really qualify to be called travelers at all.

We were supposed to fly to Fuerteventura on Sunday morning (very early morning, so favoured by cheap airlines). We didn't, because the evening before a lot (I mean A LOT) or snow fallen and settled on the ground. It was very respectable amount of snow for single snowfall, even if I apply russian standard to it.

Anyways. On Sunday, while the snow was still fresh, I went out with my camera, and got pictures of a few trees, isolated on white background, small twigs and all. And just wanted to stress again how easy it is if the original lighting is right - be it natural milky-white sky or studio setup.

I am pretty sure I first saw a variant of this technique described by Laurin Rinder on shutterstock forum. He wrote something like "just call up Levels dialogue in photoshop, take a white pipette and click on background". And it works perfectly well if background was white and uniformly lit.

A goodish while ago wrote up a slight variation on this here - that works nicely even is there are dirty patches on the background.

I continue to use more or less the same technique now when conditions are right. I call up Levels dialogue, and start dragging the white point (upwards arrow on the right of the diagram), while holding Alt key (for PC) visually controlling the results. Sometimes it works just like that, sometimes I need to play with a few layers, but it works very nicely. Hope it helps if someone is still struggling with isolation.

Monday, December 06, 2010

drip drop splash


spent some happy time photographing water drops today. while stock photographer in me keeps saying "you never get those past inspectors", art photographer in me says - "but how beautiful".

I followed the tutorial from here (first video), with some differences. First one - I used a studio flash to light (doesn't really matter though). Second - couldn't find a suitable frame to hold bag of water in the air, so used upright floor lamp that has a squiggly flexible bit.

The resulting pics don't really stand scrutiny at 100%. Don't know it that's because it's a first try or what. One theory I have is that the lamp I used to hold the water bag is too tall, and drops were hitting the water at too high speed as a result, making 1/200 exposure (flash duration) too slow. Lens could be better too, but I am pretty sure it's capable of better performance if I can get the physical setup right. I'll have another go for sure. Watch this space



Friday, December 03, 2010



this time paint-through-water session produced not many useful images, but some that look sort of interesting. very organic.


ink and water images at shutterstock

Wednesday, December 01, 2010



I love making those cookies. They turn out slightly differently depending on type of chocolate and probably a few other less obvious factors, but they always taste nice.

I got the recipe (in Russian) from here, and that blogger took it from Anita Chu’s Field Guide to Cookies. I haven't made any other things from that book, but if this one is something to go by, it must be a great book. Won't mind getting one for Christmas.

Update: and here is the recipe I use in English, since I was asked for it. Mind you, it's a product of two translations by now (English>Russian>English) and I am not sure about my source, but I definitely omitted couple of small things, so it's best to get hold of the original book. But still

170 g chocolate, broken - any kind, depending on your preferences. I use dark chocolate.
60 g softened butter
95 g sugar (I use vanilla-flavoured sugar and omit vanilla essence from my source)
2 eggs
195 g plain flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
icing sugar (generous small plate) for dusting.

Melt chocolate and butter together, mix well. Beat eggs and sugar together, join with choc-butter and mix well . Sift flour, baking powder and salt, add to the mixture, mix well. Put the dough into a fridge for couple of hours to make forming of cookies easier.
Heat the oven to 170 (160 for fan-assisted in the original recipe, but mine is temperamental). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll dough into large walnut-sized balls and roll in icing sugar, covering the surface. Don't flatten the balls - they will spread a bit as they bake. Bake for 12 mins or so. Leave to coll on a rack

baking-related images at shutterstock

Friday, November 26, 2010

another one


The pink phalaenopsis was opening more and more flowers for about two months now, and I got tired of photographing it somewhat.

Now the white one fully opened its three flowers. Yellow one formed two flowering spikes, and cattleya is about to open a flower. I think it's yellow one, although not sure.

I just checked and apparently many orchids start blooming in response to dropping temperature. well, temperature inside our house is well and truly dropped what with cold snap and all. Let's see if that's going to be too low for them. So far they are doing great

orchid pics at shutterstock

Monday, November 22, 2010



Kirill's back from Fuerteventura, and this time he decided (to pass some time on a rainy day) to adorn himself with multiple braids. There were some ladies on the street doing it, usually on women' and especially girls' hair, so his request was sort of paradigm shift (as in pattern change, no science involved there). Caused a lot of interested from passers-by, in any case.

He especially noted a reaction of a practically bald guy, who walked up to their little group and asked if they can do something with his hair.

While I don' think this hairstyle suits him much, they are sort of fun and they won't last long in any case.

toned monochrome images at shutterstock

Saturday, November 20, 2010

smoke tornado


Once a method for doing something is perfected (or something close to perfected), it should theoretically get boring, right? Learning curve is in the past, after all.

Somehow, not so. It seems I can annoy my family with burning incense sticks and photographing the smoke endlessly. It's hypnotic, the shape the smoke makes.

When Timur saw this one, he went "Wow! Tornado!"
smoke pics on shutterstock

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aira Force


funny name, almost air force but not quite.

The format of the main waterfall is not suitable for the orientation of most computer screens - it's very vertical. So what you see above is the Aira Beck just above the falls.

Main cascade would looks great on a hanging scroll, though


all images from Cumbria on shutterstock

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

sparkly stuff


Now, she had a dream about the king of Sweden,
He gave her things that she was needin',
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
A diamond car with a platinum wheel.
(Cab Calloway, Minnie the Moocher)
I need a King of Sweden to give me things that I am needin'. And I don't even need a diamond car. Cheaper things of sparkly variety will do just as nicely.

I spent a few minutes yesterday in Scotsdales garden center looking though their Christmas decoration things. I like it, I just do. I don't need any of that, But I bought two branches with crystals hanging off them. I wanted to buy one, I really did. I couldn't choose. I asked for help from another shopper. He graciously agreed to choose for me. I took the branch that he choose, wandered off... Returned and took the second one as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

hoar frost


It was frosty today in the morning, second time in a row. I had to spend some happy time with ice scraper before we could start for school.

While checking for the correct name of this type frost (yes, I am a checking person), I found the name for another type of frosty formations that I saw only ones before. I didn't see any today, but basically it looks like thin flat same-width rims of ice. Pics that I took on one occasion I saw it - here and here

According to wikipedia it's called advection frost or wind frost and it forms _against_ the wind direction. A puzzler that.


winter images on shutterstock

Thursday, November 11, 2010



pomegranate on black mirror

it's difficult to guess what the inside of it will be like once you opened it, but this one proved to be good choice - nice-looking, photogenic, and apparently tasty. I didn't try it - I don't like pomegranate, bought it as a prop :)

black mirror images at shutterstock

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nashi pears (apparently)


Bought those today in Chinese supermarket on Mill road. Lady behind the counter told me that they are thought to be good for lungs. That's news to me, but I like the crunch of them anyways. And the look of them too.

In wikipedia I found that I those round ones are called "Nashi" pears, and that the ones that are more, well, pear-shaped, are called "Ya".

black mirror images at shutterstock

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I just like it


no other reason.

Continuing down the nostalgic route - close to my house in Moscow, there used to be "birds' market" - biggish marketplace dedicated to pets or all kinds. As kids we went there to look at cute puppies and kittens. There were also other things - plants and natural objects for home decorations (come to think of it, it was rather like a big pet-shop combined with garden center merchandise-wise).

Anyway, there were couple of traders there selling exotic seashells. I was convinced that they were not real shells - I just couldn't imagine that something so beautiful can just happen, surely cunning artifice came into it at some point.

By now the market was moved beyond the outer ring road of Moscow, apparently - they figured out it was not sanitary enough, or something.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010



when you go along A66 to the west, not long before you come to Keswick, the road goes up and then along one side of a pretty valley for a while. I don't know the name, although I am sure it's perfectly findable. Most of my photos from this visit were taken from a lay-by somewhere, because it seems the the best light of each day was gone by the moment we came wherever our destination was. This photo is no exception - roadside one, from that section of A66

btw, in our family those slanted visible rays of sun are called, strangely, "death rays". The origins lay in a comic seen somewhere decades ago. Drawing was showing a little boy pointing some sort of toy at his dad's back, saying "Daddy, do you feel anything?". Open box with inscription "Death Rays" was beside him on the floor

PS: Apparently what we see here is a view of glacial valley "St. John's-in-the-Vale"

Cumbria pics on shutterstock

Monday, November 01, 2010

green fractal


I was choosing the most undamaged and photogenic romanesco broccoli at our market, accompanied by the usual trader shouts ("strAAAAWWberrrrYYY! Put a cauli in your trolley!", etc), somebody asked me "What are they?". I explained of course, although was surprised that they didn't know.

Later on I remembered that I didn't know either till a few years ago. First I saw it on photographs and couldn't quite believe that it was a real vegetable. Then I saw it outside a deli in Norfolk somewhere. And now I finally made a picture and have subsequently eaten one

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Watendlath Beck


We went for a circular walk that goes along Derwent water, into the woods to Lodore falls, up more or less along the Watendlath Beck (small river that is falling at the falls, so to speak) and then looped back down to the lake. I am reasonably sure we went slightly wrong at some point, but we got there in the end. The diversion didn't really matter, and one fellow walker poiter to us - "you can't go wrong, it's Lake District, it's pretty everywhere".

I agree with her, it's beautiful, and especially in autumn.


Cumbria pics on shutterstock

Saturday, October 30, 2010



on our way back from the lakes yesterday we took not the most direct of routes but went for scenic instead, going along the smaller roads for large portion of the journey, including A65, which runs along south border of Yorkshire Dales

It took us past Skipton, where we stopped for some food and drinks. On our way back to the carpark I've noticed a very tasteful flower display in front of BLOEMIST florist, and went in to have a look. Inside the shop was also very nice and unusual - sort of spare and designery, not the more commonly seen chaotic floral abundance.

I bought myself this peacock feather. When I got out, both Kirill and Timur wanted to have one, and got one each. Kirill wanted it to complete a costume when they do samba drumming. Timur went for it in his usual magpie "grab a pretty thing and carry it to the nest" style.

Friday, October 29, 2010

old-fashioned tea


we are back from Cumbria. Stayed in a cottage close to lake district. Weather weren't that great, but we did have two ok days, so not too bad

Cottage was full of old stuff that just asked to be photographed. Some of it I ended up not photographing due to lack of light and this and that, but this kettle and old tea things asked the loudest

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zelkova serrata


Interesting name - the "zelkova" bit, "serrata" is pretty straightforward. I was half-expecting to find that it was named after a botanist (Russian or Bulgarian perhaps) with surname Zelkov. But Wikipedia has this to say on the subject

"The name Zelkova derives from the native name of Z. carpinifolia in one or more of the languages of the Caucasus, as shown by the Georgian name, ძელქვა (dzelkva). ძელ dzel meaning "bar", and ქვა kva meaning "rock". The tree was often used for making rock-hard and durable bars for building."

There is a very nice tree in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and it is of this interesting yellow-orange-brown color right now.

Zelkova serrata at shutterstock

Thursday, October 21, 2010

what is Cassandra wearing today?


She's wearing a monkey-head knitted hat and no arms.

In the article below it is explained that one hand went missing last week. When I popped into the shop today, Pamela told me that since then one arm turned up, then another went missing, so the mannequin is guarding its street corner "completely 'armless".

She also told me of her call to the police. She wished to report a theft, she said. Policewoman on the other end of the line, preparing it write it down, asked what was missing. An arm, said Pamela. You can probably imagine that it was not a very straightforward affair, that report.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

wild grape vine leaves


at least I am pretty sure they are. They don't give change in the parking meter on Mill road in Cambridge, and we didn't have the right coints, so decided to gain something extra out of the overpriced stay visit - collect some of the turned leaves from the brick wall surrounding the car park.
I had to scrape ice off my car in the morning - hopefully that means that leaves will finally start turning en masse. So far it was only the old reliables that did

Sunday, October 17, 2010

dirty face


Timur spend whole day doing activities with cubs and scouts. He came home looking like this. I am sure this war paint rendered him perfectly invisible.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



continued experimenting with lights. I always wanted to do some pics with strong-contrast side light and now I have the wherewithal. Two lights with umbrella reflectors to the side and back of the model in a darkish room worked nicely.

So here we are. Kirill was the model, and there are a few more pics here but this one is most laconic and I like it the most.

all music-related pics on shutterstock

Monday, October 11, 2010

backlit one


As one of my birthday presents, two small-ish studio flashes (similar to ones on amazon, but different ones) arrived a few days ago. I never have enough courage to unpack and test things immediately after their arrival, so they stayed for a few days in their box

this is first experiments with them and my still-beautiful birthday flowers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

today's flowers for tomorrow


received two huge bunches of birthday flowers today for tomorrow

I mean yesterday for today :)

Monday, October 04, 2010



I am not great fan of them, I do eat them but I can just as happily eat something else. The colors are beautiful though, especially on black

black mirror images at shutterstock

Sunday, October 03, 2010



Keywording processed images sometimes brings me knowledge that I somehow managed to happily avoid before. For example, I never knew that this wooden spiral bit is called scroll.

The violin is on loan from the music workshop, and you might expected, it scratched, dirty and looks like it was used to repeatedly bash someone with. Only partial side view is relatively free of marks. I am not complaining, just stating the fact. I wanted to process the full violin reflection image, but it required such extensive digital repairs that I gave up.

music-related pics at shutterstock

Saturday, October 02, 2010



Now it's Timur turn to learn the guitar. He himself seems like playing violin more, but I must say that it's a lot easier to extract ear-torturing sounds out of violin than out of guitar, so I kind of enjoy his guitar more.

Interesting. While I am typing my post, amazon associates panel next to the editor window gives me various suggestions as to what I can link it to. I was overjoyed to find that there is such thing as Guitar For Dummies Acoustic Guitar Starter Pack (Guitar, Book, Audio CD, Gig Bag). I mean, most of the "for dummies" books are excellent, it might actually work :)

music-related pics at shutterstock

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

isolation on white


after going through all the pics from zumba mastercalss with Naomi Mokoena I figured that this one might just be isolate-able. I caught a lucky break there - the tips of the hair were against a relatively light background, and Naomi is dark-haired, otherwise it won't work at all. I did have to spend some time with selection tools and eraser, but not excessive one

However, my predictable conclusion was that maybe I don't want to do that again :) shots for isolation are best done on plain background and with good light to start with. Then it's doable in a couple of clicks, like here. But it was a nice challenge and it worked reasonably well

I can't really explain why the reflection, except the angle was such (Naomi was on podium) that the soles of her trainers are flat and horizontal - necessary condition for half-convincing reflection.

Monday, September 27, 2010

spooky beauty


don't know about you, but for me full-face mask are always spooky, even the most beautiful venetian ones.
fortunately, the one I have is small, so it's not so scary. but when pics are taken, the scale becomes unclear, with expected effect.

It was very weird to look at people in full masks and costumes the only time I went to carnival in Venice (years ago). They would chat merrily between themselves, and laugh, and while body language will say "I am happy and relaxed and chatting with my friends", the masks will maintain that slight haughty smile that says "I am so not interested in anyone, I am the most beautiful creature for miles around"

white mask and black mirror on shutterstock

Sunday, September 26, 2010

reflective one


I don't know what to write here, really. Pepper was very bright and shiny and my "tabletop" setup suits this type of object very nicely and that's enough reason to make a picture

upd: and it was yummy :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

black and, er, sort of white


It seems that I am slowly but surely going off monochrome images. I used to convert to monochrome a lot, which was not altogether unconnected to the fact that my very first digital camera produced an awful lot of digital noise and incorrectly exposed images (well, the last bit was my fault too). Monochrome conversion was a handy way of hiding those defects.

Sure, there are situations where pictures are asking to be converted, but it happens less and less somehow. Even in where the color is very difficult to handle, it feels a shame to destroy it altogether.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

zumba masterclass


some pictures from zumba masterclass yesterday in Chilford Hall with Naomi Mokoena (lady in grey above with her back to the camera) hosted by Natalia Bull (heading the dancing line in the next picture). Participants enjoyed it :)

It was interesting to see how my old cannon 5d will perform in these rather extreme conditions - the hall is quite large with high ceiling (bounced flash useless) and lit with not very bright (to put it mildly) and mixed light. I had to push ISO up to the maximum in some cases (1600, may the god of photography forgive me), and have the diaphragm open to the maximum (also not ideal on my lens, but lesser crime in comparison with that ISO). Pictures came out extremely noisy and colors are off and seem unfixable, short of converting to black and white (mixed light!). Pics had to be reduced dramatically and are only good for the web, but I like them anyway.

I still have, oh, I dunno, half a thousand of them to look through :)



Monday, September 20, 2010

it is doing it again


our oldest orchid plant is starting to bloom again. it's one of those objects in our house that paid for itself many times over - I just checked how many images of it I have for sale and it's quite a few(there are some different plants in that search result, but still a few)

well, hope it'll turn up as photogenic this time and will sell just as nicely or better again