Lillian Lewis Interview

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lillian Lewis the other day on camera and talk to her about what she has been up to lately as well as some of the cool things she has done in her career.  Below, you’ll find a link to my Tumblr site that will take you directly to the song file Reckless Love because to add an mp3 file here I would have to “upgrade” (you may have to just copy and paste it cause not everything comes easily).  Oh well. I am also providing a direct link to Lillian’s Linkedin profile.  Check out the song and say hi to her on via the link provided!

Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island

I have nothing visual to give you for this place (yet).  You’ll just have to take my word on what I’m about to tell you…

Old Westbury Gardens is located at 71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, New York.  Not that far of a drive from Queens.  It just so happened that my wife and I were in Farmingdale (Long Island) for business.  We had anticipated this business to have taken more than half of the day and it had nothing to do with photography or videography.  Of course I didn’t bring my equipment with me due to that.  As luck would have it, business wrapped up way sooner than we expected.

The question now became, what do we do with the rest of the day?  Grocery shopping came up but I wasn’t feeling it (what gut does…right?).  I then had a brainstorm…find a park or garden to check out!  We spent some time going over the possibilities (thank you smart phone and wireless web access!) and eventually narrowed it down to Old Westbury Gardens due to it’s close proximity.  So off we went.

From the get go, once we turned onto the entrance drive, we were in awe.  I’m not going to give away all the cool things about the gardens.  I plan on either doing another write up or a video of the place (if I can get permission for that).  I can sit here and write so many descriptive words and in all honesty, I feel I could not do it justice.  Lets just say that the first cool thing you see is a very old mansion that dates back to 1906 (and you can even tour the house at no extra charge).

My elation didn’t last long though.  In fact, it turned to sadness because once you get past the house and into the gardens area you get a slap in the face of reality.  I broke a big giant fat rule and I was about to pay for it.  I was in a magical place without my camera.  A photographer always has a camera, on him or her, just in case.  The just in case was then and there and I was left wanting big time. The gardens and mansion sits on about 200 acres.  There are a couple of small lakes and plenty of flowers and trees that makes this another photographers paradise.

Unfortunately the gardens close for the winter starting November 1st and doesn’t reopen until April 5th (weekends only) and then weekly starting sometime near the end of April.  You have time to go check it out and take some pictures (I would highly suggest that you read their rules for photography and videography). I won’t be getting back there again this year BUT I will sometime in April or May.

In the mean time here is a link ( ) for you to get more information on the gardens.  Who knows…maybe we’ll see each other there one day soon!

Best ~ R

DOF and composition…


Two elements of photography that are keys of taking your pictures from snap shots to “artistic photographs”.  Take a look at photography books, magazines and the online community dedicated to photography and you’ll always find and read that they will harp on these two elements.

Why am I mentioning them if you can read about it elsewhere?  Well, in case you haven’t heard about yet.  I also find that these two elements are the easiest to understand but more difficult to get in the habit to think about.  I don’t know how other photographers instruct at their workshops (if they do workshops) but I talk about these two things first and try to get everyone thinking about the shot before the shot.

With all that being said you will also find that photographers can defer on their opinion of how something should be shot but we still hold on to some basic photography “guidelines” or “rules” but understand that sometimes the rules can be broken. I’ll explain as we go along.

The picture of the spider hiding behind the leaf of a plant is an example of the use of a couple of the basic photography rules…composition and DOF.  For those of you who doesn’t know what DOF means it means Depth of Field.  DOF is the term for the area in front and behind the subject and how much is in focus and out of focus.  This one thing alone can make a tremendous impact on a photograph as you can see in that picture.  Depending on your subject will often dictate on what kind of DOF you need to give the photograph the most impact possible.

I’m sure that by now you have heard of the f-stop.  The numbers that represents how much light gets to your sensor.  I’ll break it down simply for you.  The lower your number (example f/2.8) the more light that hits your sensor.  The more light that hits your sensor the shallower your depth of field will be.  A shallower DOF means that more of the area in front and behind your subject will be out of focus. Now just reverse that thought and you’ll figure out that the higher your f-stop number (example f/22) the greater your DOF.  That’s right.  How much of the foreground and background is in focus.  Pretty much every professional photographer and serious enthusiast have what are called fast lenses.  Fast lenses are considered any lens with an aperture (f-stop) of f/2.8 and lower.  Most lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or lower (we also call this faster) is a fixed aperture lens.  In other words, if it’s a zoom lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.8, no matter whether you are zoomed all the way in or out you can shoot at f/2.8.  Lucky for you fast lenses are fairly inexpensive if they are small lenses.  I will talk about lenses in another blog so these pieces start to tie together.  One thing I can tell you  is that a shallow DOF can be had even with slower (f/3.5 and up) lenses just by getting closer to your subject.  If you keep your f-stop at it’s maximum setting (the lowest number) then the closer you get to your subject the more you’ll have out of focus in front of your subject and behind your subject.

The picture above also gives a great example of composition and how it can impact a photograph.  This other key photography rule is called the rule of thirds. A lot of the digital cameras that are out now have an option within the menu to display a grid on the LCD.  Check your camera menu and see if you can get this option as it will help train you to compose your subjects in the thirds portion of you frame.  If your camera doesn’t have that option then you’ll have to mentally think about a grid cut into thirds (below).

Rule of Thirds

Most everyone who are casual shooters tend to always center their subject in the middle of the frame rendering the look of what is called a “snap shot”.  If you are reading this then I’m sure you would like to go beyond snap shots.  Right?!  Good!  You are already on your way.   I have added a “Rule of Thirds” chart that I created (it’s not perfect but you’ll get the idea if it shows up here correctly when posted).  Just think about the area of the circles as the rule of thirds area along with the inside lines.


Landscape photography is one of those that can be a bit tricky depending on what the landscape is.  A lot of people will line of the horizon in the middle of the frame.  Even in landscapes you should be thinking about the thirds (in this case for the horizon line).  To get the most out of your photograph try and line up the horizon towards the upper or lower third of the frame.  Be careful here though.  Once photographers start developing the “thirds mentality” they then need to start thinking about the space within the frame.  I don’t have an example picture for you but lets try the art of visualization.

Think about a beach scene.  There is nothing on the water other than small waves.  The sun is past midway to the high noon mark.  The sky is blue with some white puffy clouds.  The first instinct is to line up the horizon (where the water and sky meet) in the center of the frame but now you are thinking about the rule of thirds so you decide to line up the horizon in the upper third of the frame.  This gives you less sky and more water.  You snap the picture and you look at it on the camera’s LCD.  Your thinking you like it…but wait!  Look at it again.  I mean really look at it.  Look at the water and what do you see?  Water!  Lots of water.  Endless water doing the same thing all over two thirds of the photograph.  Hmmm….now it’s beginning to look a little boring right?!  Take another picture but this time bring the horizon to the lower thirds of the frame.  Take the picture and look at it.  It looks less empty doesn’t it?  Less empty water and more sky with white puffy clouds makes it more interesting and full.  If the sky  was clear of any clouds and the water empty as well then don’t take the picture.  Wait for a boat or ship to come into the picture so there is something taking up space in the water or come back when the sun is low or have clouds in the sky.  It gets a bit trickier and complicated with scenes with a lot of things in it (such as buildings, mountains and so fourth).

The picture above with the bridge you’ll notice that I not only kept the horizon in the lower third but I made sure that there was more to the picture than just the buildings.  I used the bridge to make it more interesting and kept it to the right thirds of the frame.  It would have still worked without the bridge because of all the clouds in the sky but lots of people have shot that type of landscape scene.


In this picture there is no bridge but what I did to make it a little different is by shooting it at an angle that gives the feeling of the buildings getting further from me.  The horizon in the lower thirds and turning the camera to the right rather than shooting it straight on makes it feel so different doesn’t it.  That’s one of the fun things about photography (especially digital because we won’t waste money on bad shots) is that you can try many angles and so forth to give that photograph a unique look.

Sometimes you can even break the rule of thirds and have the photograph work. This will be more up to you and your vision than anything else but the type of scene that usually works with the rule breaking are scenes involving reflection in the water (your land based subjects are also reflecting on the water clearly).

I could go on and on with this subject but I’m not.  If you are interested in going out with me as a group or one on one let me know.  I’m more than happy to share with you and help you go beyond snap shots.  In the mean time…get out there and start shooting!

Best ~ R

An interview with screenwriter/filmmaker Matthew Edwards

Welcome back once again.  Thank you so much for continuing to follow and tell your friends all about my blog.  Recently I was able to get in touch with, screenwriter and indie filmmaker, Matthew Edwards of Lytham, Lancashire.  In case you are wondering, Lytham is a nice, quite and affluent town about 10 miles south of Blackpool.  Another cool little fact about this town is that it host the “Open Golf Tournament drawing the likes George Clooney and other well known faces”.  Unfortunately, “there is very little opportunity in terms of the film and scriptwriting industry” there.  So let’s see what Matthew has to say about the himself and the industry.

Robert (me) – How old are you?

Matthew – I’m 25.

R – When did you decide that you wanted to be a screen writer?

M – I always had an interest in creative writing when I was a child, and grew up watching a variety of films and TV shows. But it wasn’t until 2009 that I started to study screenwriting. The reason for me studying it was I simply liked writing and liked films so thought I’d give it a go. When I first started I didn’t know how to format a script, let alone know all the other terms associated with the subject, but my knowledge and experience grew as I developed the skills, and still continues to grow.

R – How would you view your experience going to the University of Central Lancashire?

M – My experience in going to the University of Central Lancashire was a very positive one. As I said earlier I didn’t know anything in terms of the formatting of a script, but with the help of my teachers I learnt these skills and improved them as the course continued. This was done through various ways, including reading out our scripts in class and getting feedback from both the teacher and our peers, analysing various films and looking at the different scriptwriting techniques used, script editing and so on. During my 3-year undergraduate course and one year Masters programme, we covered film, TV, and radio formats, and the different writing styles for each. I wrote and pitched scripts of various genres including; monologues, animations, children’s scripts, drama, comedy, action, romance, fantasy and psychological thriller. This included a portfolio with three feature length film scripts, over twenty short film scripts, two pilot TV episodes and two complete radio dramas, one of which was produced.

R – That’s pretty impressive.  Is the film/TV industry strong in the Lancashire area?

M – I wouldn’t say the film/TV industry in Lancashire is strong but it is very close to Manchester, where a lot of production companies, including the BBC, are based. So more opportunities at least aren’t too far away. There are a few small production companies based in Lancashire and BBC Radio Lancashire, a regional radio station, offers a way of promoting your work.

R – It’s good to know that you have something almost a stones throw away.  Have you ever had a chance to work on anything in the USA yet?

M – The only thing I have worked on in the USA was as a film reviewer in August 2014 for the SoCal Film Festival. This involved rating and critiquing films in a wide range of genres, before deciding whether or not to recommend they be screened at the festival. Having attended the festival in 2013, I met the organiser and when I saw he needed film reviewers I decided to contact him and gain more experience through this. Although this wasn’t strictly working in the USA as I did it from home, I still felt like I was working on a USA project if that makes sense.

R – I don’t know if you can count that but what the heck.  Would you want to actually work on something in the USA?

M – I would love to work on something in the USA in the future. I feel the industry in the States is thriving compared to the UK, and would relish the opportunity to work on a project, whether it be for film or TV, in any capacity.

R – Other than the web series “Ambling Man”, what all have you been working on lately?

M – Apart from The Ambling Man web series, which is on the Mort&Pal YouTube channel myself and a fellow scriptwriter set up, I have been very busy with different projects. Recently I received my first paid work co-writing children’s animation scripts and continue to write them for a production company.

I have also written a short, anti-bullying script for a company called ITV Fixers, which I adapted from a short treatment about the true story of a teenage girl being bullied.

R – That’s great!  Do to the difficulties of having a sustaining income as a writer, are you doing anything else to help and try to make ends meet?

M – I have ventured into filmmaking/directing with a fellow scriptwriter, as well as taking on the role of producer, casting, and location scouting for the short film I am looking to shoot, especially as it is an Independent film.

Also recently co-directed a music video for a singer/songwriter student.

At the moment myself and a fellow scriptwriter are looking into doing online promotional videos for businesses and their websites and other social media platforms, so have been discussing this opportunity with owners of hotels, shops, restaurants etc. so hopefully this will take off in the near future.

Also looking to set up a production company with a fellow scriptwriter/filmmaker in the very near future, as well as in the process of casting a short film that I’m looking to co-direct in the next few months which will be sent to festivals.

Finally, I have been working as a teaching assistant since October 2014 teaching at the University of Central Lancashire developing the students monologues. I get to choose three or four of the monologues to be made into short films which will be screened at the LIFE Film Festival in March. I will also produce and co-direct the monologues so this is an excellent opportunity.

R – Do you find it challenging as TV script writer to constantly come up with new material or are you one of the lucky ones who’s head is just full of ideas?

M – I have a lot of different ideas in my head so don’t really struggle with getting a concept for a script. I usually try and get the themes of the script first and then develop it from there. Then I work on character as if you don’t have a character the audience cares about then the idea can fall flat in my opinion. I also like co-writing as I find it good to bounce ideas off other people.

R – What is the most memorable experience you have had since getting into the industry?

M – There are a lot of projects I am proud of since I’ve been a writer but the most memorable experience I’ve had has probably been when I was interviewed live on BBC Radio Lancashire about The Ambling Man web series. Also getting a short film I co-wrote and directed shortlisted at the LIFE Film Festival in April 2014 was something I am very proud of. Completing my Masters in September 2013 was a memorable moment too, especially the feature length film script I wrote in three months as I poured a lot of effort and emotion into it.

R – Is there a time that you wish you could forget?  Care to share?

M – Good question. There isn’t really a time I’d wish to forget but the number of rejections I’ve had for freelance work and jobs in the industry has been incredible, and the number of times I’ve not even had a response has been a little disheartening but it is to be expected in the industry.

R – How hard did you find it to get into the industry once you graduated?

M – I have found it very tough to get into the industry since finishing my Masters in September 2013. As a freelance writer I am exploring new ways to try and get a consistent income, including branching into filmmaking after buying a camera, audio and lighting equipment as I feel people would rather see something visual than read a script on a page. Apart from the children’s animation scripts, every other project I have worked on has been for no pay. It has developed my resumé  and portfolio which hopefully in the long run will lead to more paid work. Networking events have been beneficial also, as to an extent this industry is more about who you know as opposed to how well you can write in my opinion, so building up industry contacts has been a massive part. Also going into filmmaking and even marketing and self-promotion of my work has been a new experience I didn’t envisage doing.

R – Where do you hope to be or hope to have accomplished 10 year down the road?

M – In that time I hope to have accomplished writing and directing credits on a few short films, with at least one of which has been screened at numerous festivals, as well as completed a feature film by then. I would also like to have been hired by at least one production company to write a film for them as well as have several online promotional videos completed. Part-time teaching would be a useful.

I’m sure Matthew’s future is bright.  He has accomplished a lot in such a short period of time.  At 25 and having a drive to succeed he will only be limited by the limitations he puts on himself.  Check out his current web series “Rambling Man” on youtube.  Leave a comment for him as well.  We as writers and filmmakers get better through your feed back.  I, and I know you do as well, wish Matthew Edwards great success in everything he does.  For all of my counterparts here in the good’o U.S. of A., reach out to this talented young man.  He might be that hidden gem of a screenwriter that you have been looking for.

One last note.  I sometimes find difficulty with with imbedded video and WordPress.  I have included a file at the top of the page and below for the “Ambling Man”.  If you don’t see the video itself then click or copy/paste the link to check it out.


Until next time ~ R

Studio shot or not?


That is the question!  I, of course, know the answer.  The photo above was shot outdoors in the woods.

Creating the look of a studio shot outdoors is easier than you think.  Let’s talk a little about this shot.  As I mentioned, this was shot in the woods.  It was nice and shaded thanks to the high canopy of the trees.  I picked out these leaves as they were far enough away from any background subject and presented abstract simplicity.  Armed with a tripod (very important for this), shutter release cord (also important) and an off shoe flash, the shooting commenced.

To get the background to be blacked out (studio look) I had set my setting on the Nikon D800 at 1/80th SEC (shutter), ISO 100 and f/29 (aperture).  The camera was on a TRIPOD and used a shutter release cord so I could be hands free.  So important if you are shooting fine art as detail is so important.  One other setting I used on the camera (and hopefully your’s has this ability too) is mirror lock-up.  What this does is it brings the mirror up into position (and locked) before the shutter curtain activates reducing any camera vibration even further.  This requires the pressing of the shutter release button twice.  Once for the mirror and then again for the shutter curtain.  My lens of choice for this  shot was the Tokina 100mm macro lens.  This lens does not come with optical stabilization but that reflects in how inexpensive the lens is.  With a good steady hand or TRIPOD you won’t need it and the lenses optics are top notch (at least my copy was).  My flash is the Nikon SB-700 (I actually have two which I use sometimes for macro work rather than the SB-200 set up).

So, with these settings in place I did several shots.  I did some with the flash attached to the camera.  Some with the flash off the right and some slightly above.  Playing with the lighting and trying different angles is a lot of fun because you are sometimes rewarded with unique looks.  No matter what though my sole purpose was to get the background blacked out.  Try to pick subjects whose  background is far enough away from your subject and have your camera settings set to allow as little light onto the sensor as possible (without introducing noise).  The flash will compensate for you main subject but I would suggest that you use manual settings on the flash or it may over expose due to the darker scene it is metering).

The setting for the f-stop of f/29 serves two purposes here.  Less light and greater depth of field (DOP) so more is in focus.  The settings I used may not work for every shooting situation.  There are times when, no matter what, you can’t get the full effect of the studio look in camera.


This shot here is the perfect example.  This is a full plant.  All the other plant leaves were always visible to some degree behind the flower.  In this case, using similar settings as mentioned above, I kept the flash at about a 45 degree angle to the right of the camera (trying to make sure the subject is lit but limiting the light on the background).  I took several shots here with slight adjustments to camera and flash settings.  To produce the final look required the use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.  I adjusted the blacks and shadow to the negative a little but not too much.  Then using the selective brush, I proceeded to “paint” the are around the plant that I did not want in the picture.  Once I had that done I then adjusted the blacks and shadows all the way down so I would have a solid black background.

Of course you could do this anyway after taking a “normal” photo but why would you?!  Trust me, unless you are a Photoshop guru, it will take a lot more time to get the effect you want.  It will save you lots of time.  If you have any questions about this particular subject drop me a line.  Until next time….keep shooting!


In the coming weeks…..

Starting next week, get ready, more interviews are coming. The lineup (though not all on next weeks blog) includes directors, producers, song writer, singer(s), musician(s), screen writer, CG artist and maybe a poet as well. Sounds exciting right?! Well, I know I am. Who are they you ask?

First we have Lillian Lewis. A professional writer and an award winning songwriter.

Next we have Christopher Delao. He is a director and producer at 7and3 Media.

Then comes Nick Barghini. One of the co-founders of Headcase Films.

We can’t leave out Patrick Mandeville. Patrick is a director, screen writer and editor at Freelance Filmmaker.

Also on the list is Emmanouil Bampatsikos. A freelance VFX/FX artist in Ruislip, United Kingdom.

Of course I have the ever talented Rachel Arac. She’s an actress and singer who moved from the Brandon/Tampa area of Florida to NYC.

Others that I’m hoping to get on the list soon (but it’s been very difficult with scheduling for everyone involved) is Wilson M’biavanga and Jamaal Green. They are the writing and directing team of M.G. Cinecraft. Carol Mazzoni, who produces and AD’s. Daimon Glenn (also known as D. Glenn), a photographer and indie filmmaker. Patrick DiRenna who is the president of the Digital Film Academy. More to come.

I suppose you are wondering who on the list will be the one for next week.
If he doesn’t have to cancel on me this time around it will be Patrick Mandeville. If he does then it will come down to who’s interview will take the least amount of time to put together. These interviews are all being done on Thursday. So you’ll just have to wait and see.