Welcome to my blog. I am often asked by friends and colleagues how I approach image making, and so I thought a blog describing my ideas and procedures when creating nature and landscape photography would be useful.

I am by no means an authority on these matters. One thing I do know is that photography, like anything else in life, is an on going process. You never actually get there. Every time I venture out, I find myself experimenting and trying out something new. Although it is important to develop a routine that works for you, it is also important to wonder how breaking a rule or changing an approach might look different. When I started out treating photography seriously 20 years ago, I always seemed to be experimenting to see what worked, believing that one day I would be done. Today I am still trying out new ideas, and I realise this is the engine of art: risk taking and trying out the untested.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

Richard Tonkin

Westwood Photography

Television Hideaway: TV as Fine Art

March 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
Television Hideaway: TV as Fine Art
 
Side by side comparisonA Change of Scenery A Change of Scenery
 
Aren't televisions great these days? They're big, colourful and just look brilliant, adding to any decor – when they're on. Of course, when they're off, it's a different matter. You have this large, black, reflective screen taking up prime wall space, the focal point of your living area. What to do?
TV on a wallBefore
Before
 
A few months ago, friends asked, "Can you do photographic artwork that would hide a TV?" They had just moved into a wonderful open planned home, with the TV on the end wall. It was the first thing you saw when you walked into the room. Hide a TV? I thought. What a great idea.
 
After
 
(note: as this is a photo of a photo, the colours are more accurately shown in the gallery- click the image above to see this)
 
I went away and did some research and discovered that this concept had been around for a while in Europe and the United States, though I couldn't find any reference to it in Australia. As the photographs I take are created with high resolution film and now digital cameras, creating a piece large enough to cover a TV would not be a problem from an image quality point of view. The piece they chose was "Boranup Forest Morning". A large image on canvas seemed to be the obvious solution as it is non-reflective and most importantly, light, allowing for a piece of art to be fitted over a television without putting too much stress on the stand or bracket. But how could this be done without the bracing bars across the back, which is a necessary part of the design to give rigidity, so that it could fit over the TV and completely hide it?
 
I approached my framer and asked for his ideas, so he sat down and designed what I think is a brilliant solution to the problem. He came up with what is effectively a double frame design, making the frame strong and rigid while at the same time maintaining a minimum of weight, eliminating the need for bracing bars. This requires that the image be larger than the screen so that it can also wrap around the double frame. Because the framed canvas image fits completely over the screen, the television is not visible even when viewed side on, completing the illusion that it is not there at all.
 
Now when you walk into their open planned living area, the first thing you see is a large (one and a half metre long by one metre high) image of the Boranup Forest in early morning sunlight. The piece is light enough and easy enough for one slightly built person (sorry Bernice*) to place over the television as often as needed. The colours and detail bring a new focus into the room. Even when viewed at close quarters, there is no loss of quality. To give you some idea, the image below is a close-up of the bottom right corner of the printed canvas. (*Not her real name)
 
Detail of Canvas Corner
 
Frequently Asked Questions:
 
1. Is the weight of a large canvas image going to be a problem for the stand or television wall mount?
 
From the research I did into common television stands and wall mounts, most are made to take ample excess over and above the weight of the television. The weight of this canvas image in the photographs above was only around 5 kg, easily accommodated by most television stands and wall mounts. However, for your own peace of mind, it is worthwhile investigating the weight rating for the stand or wall mount you have, and the weight of your current television.
 
2. How much does it cost?
 
As the canvas framing is a unique design, it has to be custom made and requires more time than the more usual design for stretched canvases. The image is also large to accommodate modern large screen televisions, as well as the double frame around the outside. This puts the price between $1000 and $2000, depending on size requirements as dictated by screen size of the television. If you are interested in placing such an order, please use the Contact page, including the size of your television, so we can give you a precise quote.
 
3. What photographs would be suitable for a large canvas image over a television?
 
As all images on this website are high resolution, any are technically well-suited for this application. So the choice comes down to personal preference. Aside from choosing something you like, think about the theme or colours in your current living space. While most people prefer the images of the great outdoors, don't overlook images of smaller subjects either. For example, a close-up image of a flower or rock pool can look spectacular when enlarged to such proportions. Because we don't normally see these subjects in such detail, they take on an abstract timeless quality.
 
4. What about the shape of the image – I notice a lot of the images are panoramas, but my television is not that long?
 
All of the photographs have ample resolution to be cropped to suit the size and shape of your television. Before proceeding, I always email an image of the cropped photograph for your appraisal.
 
5. If I changed my mind, could the canvas image be relocated to hang off a wall instead?
 
It is a simple matter to add a hanging wire to the back of the frame so it can be hung on a wall in the normal manner. You could do this yourself, or your local framer could do this for a minimal fee if preferred. This option could be useful if you relocate or update your television in the future.
 
If you have any queries or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me using the Contact page.
 
Richard Tonkin
Westwood Photography
 
www.westwoodphotography.com.au
 

Tips on Photographing a Beach Sunrise

October 07, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I guess a lot of us have gotten up early in the dark cold hours well before anyone else is thinking of rising, hoping to see a fantastic sunrise, only to be disappointed by grey featureless skies.

Rossiter Bay Sunset PhotographRossiter Bay Sunrise

Fortunately, on the coast of Western Australia you have a much greater probability of being greeted by spectacular sunrises than almost anywhere else. It was on one of these mornings that I was fortunate enough to be driving out to Rossiters Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park, near Esperance on the south coast, hoping to see something special. For anyone who has visited this area of coast, it has some of the most impressive and isolated beaches in the world. White sands commonly greet clear pristine aquamarine waters.

When we arrived at the beach that early morning, the predawn sky looked very promising, with clear skies and some scattered cloud beginning to show in the pale landscape.  When we reached the beach however, it was rather disappointing to see that seaweed was the main feature on what would have been a white sandy beach.

Hoping to salvage something of this promising sky but rather featureless beach, my friend and I scrambled up and over rocks to discover what was a small hidden sandy bay that you see in the photograph above. After coming across the main beach full of seaweed, we couldn't believe our luck. The bay was facing east towards the rising sun, with scattered rocks across the water adding interest. As we set up, the dawn sky lit up and rewarded us for our efforts. When faced with situations such as this, it is imperative that you work quickly and with a purpose. You really need to know your equipment backwards so that you're not fiddling or fussing over controls that you are not familiar with. Although the landscape is not going anywhere, the light changes very quickly. At around this time of day and in the evening, the best light is frequently over within 2 minutes. As I often shoot at f-22 with a polarising filter, the exposure can easily be 30 seconds to a minute around dawn and dusk, so you can see that you have very few opportunities for many exposures.

The steps I follow when capturing images like this are:

1. Unpack: Place the camera bag somewhere high out of reach of the high tide and set up a tripod with camera on top. It is important to watch out for treacherous waves, especially if the tide is coming in. I use an app for my phone (Tide Prediction) to tell me tide times which gives me an indication as to what to expect in this regard. An added bonus of low tide at sunrise, if you can time it that way, is that the wet sand produces nice reflections and textures, and there is a chance low tidal pools will be available to add foreground interest.

2. Composition:  Move around the scene looking through the viewfinder to find the composition you want. I have another application called the Photographers Ephemeris to tell me the time of sunrise or sunset and the angle or location of the sun on the horizon. You can then use a compass to predict the position of sunrise and place it in the scene as desired. In this image, I wanted the sun to rise over a small rock in the bay, and this required precise positioning.  It is important to check the camera is level at this stage, using a built in spirit level (or a hotshot mounted one). An alternative is to use gridlines if your viewfinder has them.

It's also a good idea to think about the placement of the horizon. Try not to place the horizon in the centre of the frame, unless that is what you want. The one third- two thirds placement usually works best. If the sky is really great, don't be afraid to place the horizon in the lower third. Here I chose to position the horizon centrally as there is equal interest in the foreground and sky, and the horizon is broken by the outlying islands in the bay.

3. Focus: Once the composition is sorted, it is time to consider the focus and f stop. I know this may sound like an unnecessary step in this age of autofocus technology, but it is important everything is in sharp focus. As I use a fully manual camera, I use hyperfocal focussing usually at f 22. Through trial and error tests, I know everything from 3 metres to infinity will be in focus. I would suggest also using manual focus on fully automatic cameras. By focussing about one third into the scene and using hyperfocal distance settings (details for various lens can be found online at Depth of Field Master) you can ensure that near to infinity elements are in focus. Bias should be placed on the elements closest to the camera. It is OK if the horizon is not pin sharp, but it is crucial that the foreground is in focus.

4. Meter: Take light meter readings through the polarizing filter if using one. I use a handheld spot meter, and so have to attach a separate filter to it. Take note of the highlights and shadows, as you will need to allow for this dynamic range in the final composition.

5. Filter: Although polarization is often minimal when shooting into the sun, it is worth viewing the scene through a polarization filter as it often has wonderful effects on clouds and water when they are lit by the rays of the sun. It is also useful to attach a graduated neutral density filter to bring the sky down to within one stop of the foreground key tone. For this image I used a 3 stop hard edged Lee filter (Lee calls this 0.9 ND). If using digital you could plan several exposures and blend them later in post processing, but as I use scanned film images never seem to line up accurately.

6. Lock & Shoot: When everything is set, take the photo by first locking the mirror up if using an SLR, then release the shutter using a cable release to reduce vibration.

7. Bracket: I always bracket images 1 stop over and 1 stop under to safeguard against misjudged highlights, for example highlight reflections off sand or water. I think deep shadows are OK if they are not too large or in areas of key interest, but even a small area of blown highlights can ruin an image. When shooting into the sun, I take a spot meter reading 15-20 degrees from the sun, placing this bight sky tone 1 stop over the key sky tone.

 

Well, that's it. Time for lunch and a quick prayer that I didn't goof up, like leave the lens cap on or something, before posting the film off for processing. I hope this helps to inform and motivate you the next time you are near the coast and think, ''Should I get up: It just might be a fine clear morning."

 

F22 and be there.

 

Richard Tonkin

Westwood photography


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