Return To Blog 09 October 2015

Mike Langford: What it takes...

NZIPP Iris Awards 2015 Travel Category Finalist

 Mike Langford - Canon Master

The travel category demands that you put in a straight image. As a result these images are pretty much straight out of the camera with most of the actions done at the time of shooting using the monochrome picture style.

For me, the important thing in entering the awards, is that I put in images that I love and that I believe in, not just something that I think a judge will like.

Bali Dance (Silver Award)
5D Mark III, EF 24-70 mm f/4L IS USM @ 44mm f/11, 1/3 sec 100 ISO.


In many ways this image is quite complicated and I wasn’t at all sure if the judges would get it or not. Before the dance started, I worked out where to stand so that the dance had an environment in which to live. It was very important to me that the Balinese architecture of the temple entrance ways be included, as this tells the viewer that the dance was in Bali. Lining up both entrances with the tree in the middle was also visually important to the overall balance of the shot. The next difficulty was to know at which point to press the shutter button, as I didn’t want the dances to visually obscure the architecture in the background.  I wanted to use a slow shutter speed so the dances would have a sense of movement, as well as a small aperture to give me a large depth of focus. (In retrospect I should have used a slightly faster shutter speed, as the dances are just starting to become a little too abstract). What made the shot really sing for me was the moment when someone looked through the doorway at the dances.


Bali Procession (Silver with Distinction Award)
5D Mark III, EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM @ 200mm f/6.3, 1/200 sec 400 ISO.


When moments occur in front of you, you are obliged to photograph them. What I love about this shot is the way that all the boys are focused on stepping their way through the field – being careful not to stand on the rice stalks. The misty background helps separate them out from the background which otherwise would have been very busy and cluttered.


Drepung Pilgrim (Silver Award)
5D Mark III, EF 24-70 mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm f/4, 1/15 sec 800 ISO.


After getting permission to photograph inside this monastery in Tibet, I positioned myself in a dark corner behind these large yack butter urns, and made a series of photographs of pilgrims pouring their liquid offerings into the candles. What made the shots interesting was the soft glow of light from the candles that illuminated the pilgrim’s faces as they lent forward.  What made this shot extra special, were the two people in the background looking on.

NZIPP Iris Awards 2015 Landscape Category Finalist

Mike Langford Canon Master


Yangshuo Pagoda (Silver Award)
5D Mark III, EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM @ 200mm f/11, 1/10 sec 100 ISO.


This is a double exposure in camera of firstly the vertical face of the mountain and then a second exposure on top of the pagoda. Both of these exposures were selected for the blacks. I also added a third exposure that I had taken of the bamboo on another file, in Photoshop. These three exposures together gave me the feeling of being in this mountainous area in southern China.


Li River Cave (Silver Award)
5D Mark III, EF 16-35 mm f/4L IS USM @ 29mm, f/11, 122 sec 100 ISO.



Finding shapes in the landscape that have visual depth is very important to the overall design of an image. With the Yangshuo Cave image the stepping-stones lead the eye out of the cave and into the river, which has become smooth and silky due to the very long exposure. Beyond the river, the misty sky and mountains recede into the background while the strong darkness of the cave with its mysterious faces on either side, bring the eye back to the foreground again.


River Weed Farmers (Silver with Distinction Award)
5D Mark III, EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM @ 200mm f/6.3, 1/200 sec 400 ISO.


The first shot of this double exposure was of the weed farmers working in the heavy rain. It was important for me to shoot this slightly over exposed so that the background could only just be seen – which made the weed farmers stand out from the background more. I selected this frame because of the gestures of the two farmers were in sync with each other. The inclusion of the shot of the bamboo was to create a foreground in the top part of the frame. Without this, the upper part of the image was a little empty and one-dimensional.


You can follow Mike's photography via his website, here.