Self Portraits

I took these self portraits a couple of nights ago. I’ve been thinking about starting to do more studio-style portraits and as I wanted to see if there was enough room to do them at home, I thought I’d try it out myself.

I took them in our lounge and I honestly wasn’t sure how it’d go at first but it actually worked out quite well. We have some dark blue velvet curtains which were great for the background and I used two flashes on light stands and stood about a metre from the curtains which more or less turned the background black. I had my camera on a tripod and triggered it with a remote which gave me time to pose and try different things.

I didn’t do any full body shots as I didn’t want to move any furniture out of the way but there would be enough room to do that if I wanted to in the future which is good to know. In this case I was more interested in shooting from the waist up anyway.

The main thing I found a bit hard was positioning the flashes given it’s a small room and if I wasn’t careful the light could spread too far; sometimes the background looked totally black in camera but later on my computer I found I could make out the curtains. So I think I’d use a proper background next time and maybe step a bit further forward to fix that. A textured muslin background would look good too.

They came out well overall though and for just a fun experiment I like them a lot. I particularly like the shots with the masks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the masks we wear in our everyday lives lately, how the person we are in public differs from the person we are in private. I wanted to try to convey that in the images: the tie and jacket contrasting with the mask, a scream of repression.

With the Venetian masquerade mask I was particularly thinking of the Uncle Sam Wants You poster from World War I and how governments use masks of propaganda to convince people of their cause and given a lot of what’s happening in the world at the moment, I thought doing a take on that pose was interesting. Looking at the final image, it feels a little accusatory which I like as well… it gives it another dimension and I guess it’s a reflection of what I was feeling in that moment too.

I also thought the masks just looked pretty cool too which was the main thing!

I hope you like the photos. I really enjoy making creative self portraits like these, I’ll have to get back to doing them more regularly.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

Playing with Fire

 

The photography group I’m part of here in Newcastle met over the weekend and we did something a little bit different from normal: rather than go for a photo walk or do some landscapes, we played with fire.

Fire is a really interesting subject to photograph as there are so many different ways to capture it and you’ll never get the same photograph twice. If you use a short exposure, you can freeze the flame and show its power; use a longer exposure and you can make the flame seem silky and fluid. You can even use sparks to draw in the air and create interesting patterns and images.

I’ve experimented with playing with fire and light before so I had some idea of what we’d be doing but it was a really fun evening and it was great sharing it with other photographers, swapping ideas. Our group’s organiser, Steve, was our fire model for the evening and enjoyed it so much that he didn’t even get to take photos himself!

We also were very careful about safety and made sure there was minimal danger. That’s one of the other things that has stopped me from experimenting with these kind of images more often as I don’t like shooting them alone, so it was great being with other people.

I was pleased with how the images came out and I particularly like the black and white ones. I like the mood and contrast and they seem to really pop in monochrome. I like the shooting sparks as well – they were fantastic and lots of fun to shoot.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2017

Revenge of the Fifth


A long time ago
In a shopping centre
Not so far, far
Away

Yesterday was May the Fourth, or Star Wars Day for fans of the series. It’s a fun day where fans show their love for the series and generally just embrace their inner geek (myself included).

In that spirit I was out shopping yesterday afternoon and came across some of the Southern Cross Garrison of the 501st Legion in full costume outside 2012 Tattoo in Charlestown Square. 2012 Tattoo were having Star Wars-themed events all day and the 501st were there posing for photos for a gold coin donation for charity, so I gave them a couple of dollars and took this.

For just a quick portrait I really like it and it was nice meeting some of the members of the 501st. Their costumes are absolutely fantastic and they do great work for charities and helping to bring cheer to sick kids in hospitals etc. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them when Episode VIII opens and maybe see if they ever need a photographer to cover any events for them, it looks like fun!

I meant to post the photo yesterday for the 4th but ran out of time. So I’m posting it today instead – on the Revenge of the Fifth! 🙂

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2017

Ripper Little Christmas (an Aussie Christmas Song)

I finished this year’s Aussie Christmas song earlier. This year I did an Aussie version of Holly Jolly Christmas called Ripper Little Christmas.

I chose it as it’s a fun, recognisable song and I think we could all use a bit of fun after this horrible year.

It’s more inspired by the original song than a true parody (I changed the rhyming and structure a bit as I didn’t want it to seem too cutesy) but I hope you enjoy it. And if you have any suggestions for next year’s song, let me know. 😀

Kangaroo Bauble

Ripper Little Christmas

Have a ripper little Christmas
It’s a beaut time of the year
We’ll have lots of fun in the sun
And a glass or two of beer

Have a ripper little Christmas
And when you go to the beach
Say hello to mates you know
And shout em a cold one each

Oh oh look at the lights glow
So pretty on the tree
Grandma’s baked a cake again
Save a slice just for me

Have a ripper little Christmas
Enjoy the fun and cheer
And make sure you have
A ripper little Christmas this year!

Oh oh look at Uncle Joe
He’s fallen asleep by the tree
The kids are playing in the yard
While we have a cup of tea

Have a ripper little Christmas
Hold your loved ones near
And make sure you have
A ripper little Christmas this year!

My other Aussie Christmas songs:
The Aussie 12 Days of Christmas (2008)
Aussie Jingle Bells (2009)
We Wish You An Aussie Christmas (2010)
Deck the Ute (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2011)
Have Yourself an Aussie Kind of Christmas (2012)
Santa Matey (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2014)

I’m Dreaming of an Aussie Christmas (2015)

Sitting by the Tree

The Two CJs by the Tree

Lights, music
Gifts under the tree:
Another Christmas
Has come again

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today. I hope you have a wonderful day with much joy and laughter and have a peaceful rest of the year.

I took this photo last night for a bit of festive fun. I was trying to think of what I wanted for Christmas, then it hit me – I could really use another pair of hands around the house, so I asked Santa for a clone. My wish came true!  Thank you Santa. 😀

CJ and Friend

I took this one too which was fun. We have three of these mice, they’re very cute. And mischievous as you can see.

CJ by the Tree black and white

And this one too. I try to do a photo in front of the tree each year. I like how this one came out in black and white.

Merry Christmas. I’ll have my annual Aussie Christmas song posted later tonight as well. 😀

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Steampunk Photoshoot

My photography group did a special steampunk-inspired photoshoot last weekend. It was a very fun shoot in a rundown part of Carrington in Newcastle which really suited the theme. Our model for the day Tina and makeup artist Jaymee-Lee were absolutely fantastic and very creative.

This was a bit of a first for me. I’ve done portrait work before, including for friends and clients, but it’s almost always been in a controlled environment with flash. This was a very exposed environment, with lots of reflective surfaces and very harsh midday sunlight. So it was an interesting challenge.

We used reflectors to soften the light a bit and rather than try to avoid them, I decided to use some of the reflective objects and backgrounds as much as I could to create some interesting textures and shapes in Tina’s funky glasses. I also shot a couple of photos in black and white and I think those came out very well, particularly the final photo which is my favourite.

Overall I’m happy with the results. It was a good learning experience and was definitely something I’d like to do more of in the future. These kind of themed portrait shoots and covering convention cosplay are two things I’d really like to get into going forward.

I hope you like the photos.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2016

The Chess Match

Do you play to win
Or for the love of the game?
Life is how you play

They say no one knows you like you know yourself so I thought why not play myself in a game of chess and see who wins? So here it is. Chris vs. Dark CJ. The prize? My soul! 😉

More seriously I took these last night for some fun and to experiment a bit in Photoshop. I’d wanted to do a quirky self-portrait like this for a while and as I wasn’t doing much last night I thought it was the perfect time to try it.

Chris vs Dark CJ

Chris warns Dark CJ not to get cocky

Creating the images looks hard but it’s actually quite easy and you can do it with any kind of camera, even a simple point and shoot. The most important thing is having a background that doesn’t move and using a tripod or a flat surface so the perspective doesn’t change. You can then take as many photos of yourself in different positions as you want.

When it comes to combining the photos I use Photoshop CC but you can do it in Photoshop Elements or a number of other programs as well. You simply open the photos you want to combine, copy and paste them on top of each other, and then use a layer mask or an eraser tool to paint over/erase the sections where the other versions of ‘you’ would appear. Because the background itself never changes, you should end up with something like this.

Taking these was a lot of fun and has given me a few ideas for some other projects as well. I’m still not sure who would win the match though. I’d like to think Chris would but maybe Dark CJ might have more to play for. Might have to go best out of three. 🙂

Chris Levinson smiling

I took a more normal self portrait as well which came out quite well too. Think I’ll use this as my writer’s photo for the year.

Photos and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016

Star Wars: Episode X – The Dark Side Rises

Just a bit of fun to go with all The Force Awakens hype this week. I know people are starting to think about Episode VIII now but I thought I’d turn my attention further ahead, to the next trilogy. And I think I already know who the villain might be…

(Warning: there are a couple of mild spoilers for The Force Awakens in the video if you haven’t seen it yet).

Apologies for the audio by the way. I used the StarWars.com creator to make this but for some reason the share/export isn’t working so I did a screen capture instead. It made the audio a little tinny.

What did you think of The Force Awakens? I’m going to do a post after Christmas touching on it and nostalgia in general but basically I enjoyed it. I liked it but didn’t love it I guess – I thought it felt too familiar and nostalgic at times. It sets up Episodes VIII and IX well though and hopefully they will be more original.

I’m Dreaming of an Aussie Christmas

I finished my annual Aussie Christmas song tonight. This is my seventh song now and this year I thought I’d do an Aussie version of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

I chose it as it’s one of those songs everyone knows so hopefully it’ll be easy to follow, and also because I wanted to tell a bit more of a story this year. Christmas is a fun time but it can be very hard too, particularly if you’re missing people you love. I really wanted to try to capture that feeling in the song.

I hope you enjoy it and if you have any suggestions for next year’s song, let me know. 😉

Sydney Lego Santa

I’m Dreaming of an Aussie Christmas

The snow is falling, the wind is cold
The airport is crowded and grey
There’s never been a colder day
And I miss my family so far away
It’s December the twenty-fourth
And I’m still waiting here way up north…

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the summer sizzles
And it never drizzles
And there’s cricket on the radio

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
With friends on a warm December night
May your summer be warm and light
And may all your Christmases be bright

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the water shimmers
And the hot sand glimmers
And we play in the sun’s golden glow

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
With everyone I love holding me tight
May your days be filled with delight
And may all your Christmases be bright

And may all your Christmases
May all your Chrissie days be
May all your Christmases be bright

My other Aussie Christmas songs:
The Aussie 12 Days of Christmas (2008)
Aussie Jingle Bells (2009)
We Wish You An Aussie Christmas (2010)
Deck the Ute (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2011)
Have Yourself an Aussie Kind of Christmas (2012)
Santa Matey (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2014)