Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The easy solution would have been to open my wallet, buy some more disk space, archive a bunch of junk and be done with it. But as it turns out going through years and years of pictures turned out to be a pragmatic process.
First, it made me realize how many bad pictures I had to take in order to start making good ones. It gave me a chance to see how my photography had grown and improved since I grabbed my first SLR shot with a Canon Rebel Xti. I was able to spot photographic flaws more readily. I became ruthless in my editing, deleting literally thousands of images. It was a long, tiring, yet rewarding experience that is still only half way complete. But I think the best part of the whole exercise is that I found these little gems along the way. Images that stood out amongst all the - *cough* - crap. Small, positive reminders of growing skills.
It seems to me I *had* to make thousands of crappy shots in order to realize how to make good ones. I just wish I had of cleaned up the mess as I went (sigh).
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Snoof was also quite camera shy. It would be very lucky to get a shot of her actually looking at the camera and nearly impossible for her to seem pleased about the process. As soon as the camera would come out, she would hide her face or completely turn her back to the camera. Sometimes I think she would toy with me and let me believe she was cooperating while I set up lights and umbrellas only to walk away just as the camera came out. On a few rare occasions I was able to grab a shot or two but now that she's gone I regret not making more of an effort to capture pictures and video of an amazing little cat.
It is easy to fall in to thinking the shot I didn't make today is the one I can make tomorrow. Sadly, tomorrow is sometimes too late.
Rest in peace little Snoof.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I shot a bunch of stock images on the weekend in a yoga studio space that I rented from a friend. While reviewing the images one thing became immediately clear - I practically needed zero colour correction. It was a really nice surprise. I alway shoot a grey card during my shoots to use in post and in a lot of instances I can see a colour bias when I pull up the images on my Mac. Fixing the colour in post is easy with the grey card shot but for this shoot the images were clean right out of the camera.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
I arrived home tonight with my partner Jen and shortly after we settled in, Jen announced that Steve Jobs had died. I could not believe it. I pulled out my iPhone and checked. It was true, he had passed. A wave of sadness flushed over my body. I guess we all kind of knew that Steve Jobs would eventually succumb to his illness but this just seemed too soon.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
OK, seriously, I really do love my Mac but enough said about that… for now. :)
About two weeks ago I used a built-in Mac OS X application called "Automator" for the first time. Automator is a simple yet incredibly powerful automation assistant. With it you can create workflows, scripts and even executables to manage mundane or very complex tasks. I've known about it for quite a while but never really had the inclination or need to try it out. But just a couple of weeks ago I finally had a reason to give it a try. I had a requirement to rename hundreds of digital images before uploading them to a website. Doing this task manually would have been a complete pain in the butt and likely would have been somewhat error prone. Using Automator for the first time ever it took me about three tries and 15 minutes to create a proper workflow. Awesome! I was quite impressed.
Today was the my second time using Automator and the results were equally impressive. This afternoon I had to resize a bunch of images for my website. Sure, it's something I could have done manually but why would I bother when I have this powerful ally on my side. I fired up Automator and using every bit of my 15 minutes of experience I cranked out a two step workflow in about 20 seconds. I'm not kidding. It was literally 20 seconds! After building my workflow I hit the "play" button and under 3 seconds later all my images had been shrunk to 50% of their original size. Simple, perfect and so, so easy.
My new best friend - Automator.
Monday, September 26, 2011
One such gadget is the remote transceiver caddy from FlashZebra.com. For those of us who use PocketWizard Plus, Plus II or Multimax transceivers it is a simple device designed to mount your PocketWizard securely to a light stand or directly to the flash itself. The PocketWizard has a 1/4-20 female threat mount on the back and the caddy quickly and securely screws in to that mount without tools. If you have super strong finger nails you could probably manage to attach it but a simple coin will do the trick. Of course, you could always use a screwdriver.
Once attached, an elastic cord holds the PocketWizard tightly on a light stand or flash. Before I had these little beauties I used to just hang the PocketWizard off my light stand by its strap. That worked OK but it wasn't great. It was messy, prone to falling off, generally insecure and it certainly had an unprofessional look about it. Now my PocketWizards stay exactly where I put them, even when I am relocating light stands.
I really do love these little caddies but nothing is perfect so I have a couple of minor quibbles. First, is the price - $15. Seriously? $15? That's pretty steep for a hunk of plastic! I've been shooting pictures for a while so I know all about paying too much for a hunk of plastic, yeah I'm looking at you Sto-Fen. My other minor (very minor) quibble is the screw mount. Yes, it's secure and yes it works great but when I have to change the batteries, which I admit is not often, it always seems to be at an inconvenient time and I never have a screwdriver or coin handy.
Other than two very nit picky cons I absolutely love these gadgets. They make my photographic life just a bit easier and I like that a lot.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Fall in Calgary can be kind of unpredictable thing. It is rare for this city to get a long, drawn out, gradual change from summer to autumn. Sometimes we are blessed with a gorgeous fall with the leaves changing colours gradually and staying on the trees for months. Sometimes we get a snap freeze and the leaves are gone rather quickly. This fall has been the former.
Today being such a lovely fall day gave me a great opportunity to capture I scene I see so often on my weekly runs. And, never knowing precisely when this lovely weather will leave us, there is no time like the present.
I tried the above shot from a couple different angles and this turned out to be my favourite. The most surprising thing was how long I would have to wait for a runner or cyclist to come by and complete the picturesque scene.
After my first shot, I gathered up my equipment and headed to another location to try and capture the sunset. Sadly, the sunset was not all that great and I think I arrived a bit too late to take advantage of other possibilities. Undeterred, I moved on to the next location.
I had spent a bit too much time chasing the sunset so I arrived at my final location a little too late to capture the fading blue sky. Nonetheless I made the most of the situation and captured a cool shot before retiring for the evening.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
We had a pretty ambitious night of shooting planned with a couple of locations on the agenda. We arrived at the first location at about 7PM. I was guessing on how the dimming sunlight would hit that spot and I guessed wrong. So, after a very quick evaluation, we jumped back in the car and looked for a new spot while we waited for the light to drop a bit. We found our spot amongst the thickly canopied residential streets in the community of Bridgeland in north west Calgary. About ten minutes later I was taking the first test shots.
The great thing about the spontaneous location was that I knew right away what I wanted to do. I wanted to light my subject with flash, I wanted to add a nice backlight too and to make my subject pop I wanted to dim the ambient light by about a stop. I suppose the other ingredient for the shot was to shoot with a telephoto lens fairly wide open to minimize the clutter of the street. The set up was pretty straight forward. Two Canon 580EX II speedlites shooting through a 60" umbrella to light my subject and a bare, 580EX II on a stand behind my subject to get some great backlighting.
It took only a few test shots to dial in the look for the shot.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Anyhow, I wanted to get a couple of different looks out of the same location so Jeff would have a good variety of shots from which to choose. My first idea was to mirror the idea I tested the day before, which was basically underexposing ambient by a stop to get a more dramatic look and use flash to light my subject. The added pop on this first idea was to shoot the scene with a tungsten white balance setting so daylight becomes a potent blue and gel the flash tungsten so my subject is the proper colour balance. Using the faster shutter speed I could, which is my max sync speed of 1/200th and a small aperture I was able to pull off the look. It wasn't quite as dramatic as the day before because there was a thin veil of cloud and that really soften the light and took the hard edge off the shadows. Nonetheless we were able to get a really cool looking shot.
The second look I wanted to shoot was more straight up, so proper white balance and proper exposure or perhaps slightly overexposed. My first few test shots with this second look were OK but they weren't great. Typically, overexposing a shot is going to flatten the image as you lose both contrast and colour saturation. Underexposing it would have the opposite effect. I decided the image needed a little pop so I exposed the scene correctly and added a bare flash to put a pop of light on my subject. Instead of using a grid or any other flash modifiers I just oriented the long edge of the flash vertically, zoomed it all the way out to 105mm and fired it pretty much straight at my subject at about head height. Instantly I started seeing something I liked. I dialled the flash in a bit to be slightly brighter than my ambient exposure. This gave me a "halo" of light around my subject but also produced a great shadow, which to me, added some much needed depth. Here is what I got for the second look.
One location, two looks. Awesome.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I packed a basic kit of gear, hopped on my bike and pedalled to the location. After snapping a few general pics I decided that I may as well get a bit more serious and try some of the actual shots I am planning to make. I was shooting at just past midday so the sun was full on and the shadows were thick. The shadows I love but the overpowering light I could do without, especially for the kind of shots I wanted to make. I cranked up the shutter speed to my max sync (1/200th) to kill as much ambient as I could it was not quite enough so I had to close down my aperture too. I wanted to shoot more wide open but gear has limits so I had to make concessions. I ended up with an exposure of 1/200th, f/11 at ISO 100. I only had one flash so f/11 was about all I could push. I would have liked to cut ambient by another stop but again, I was at the limits of my gear. Oh well, I was getting some good shots so I kept going.
After a while a father and his young son arrived in the same space where I was shooting. As it turns out he was in a wedding on the weekend, which took shots in the same location and he thought it would be a great place to get some shots of his young son. He was an amateur shooter, so he asked me for a couple of tips along the way. I was happy to oblige. As I was getting ready to wrap up he asked me if I wouldn't mind taking a shot of him and his son. I tried to but I'm a Canon guy and he had an older Nikon and to me the Nikon menus, button placement, etc are really foreign so I deferred and ask him if he wanted to jump in on my set up instead. He was for it and I snapped a bunch of pictures for them. As it turns out I managed to grab some great shots, which was fantastic because it gave me even more of a chance to play a bit more. It is always so hard being a photographer and the subject.
With the location check done, I packed up my gear and headed for home. Pulling the images on the computer I was really pleased with the shots and especially the ones of the father and his son. I sent him a few shots and he was happy too. Win win.
Friday, August 12, 2011
I picked up the Apple iPad camera connection kit for my iPad 2 a few months ago and I thought it would be worthwhile to share my experiences. Before purchasing the item myself, I read quite a few reviews on Apple's site as well as other reviews across the web. For the most part, the kit is well regarded with a few minor quibbles. My personal experience has been great and although I have only had it a short amount of time it has already saved the day on one occasion.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
These past few months I have been doing a ton of mountain biking and the iPhone's been with me on every ride. Of course I would love to bring my DSLR on the rides but it just isn't practical. It's too large, heavy and much more susceptible to damge should I crash. And, oh yeah, I crash. The iPhone on the other hand is small, light and quite robust (more on that later) and yet has a very capable 5MP camera that also records brilliant HD video. It is really close to perfect for on-the-go action. But there is a slight downside to always wanting to have a device/camera on your person - you get so very used to it always being with you that may not always be conscious that it's in your pocket. And that can have some major ramifications under certain circumstances.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
This particular image from that day never made the cut but when I saw it again tonight I loved this image much more than the one I chose and, I thought it was the best image of the bunch.
It's interesting how vision evolves.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I met with my friends and of course there was much discussion of film making and photography. Sometimes the conversation veered a little and Instagram popped up. The one fellow, an accomplished film maker, had never heard of it so I showed him my shot I made tonight and explained the phenomenon. Upon seeing the photo, he said, "it's beautiful". The comment immediately struck me. Of course it's beautiful - that's why I made the picture in the first place. At that moment I realized that the title was inappropriate. They were not just weeds, they were "beautiful" weeds.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Today I hopped on the bike with my iPhone and SLR and went scouting locations for an upcoming stock shoot. I brought both devices for different reasons. The SLR was brought so when I do find that great location I can take a shot with the lens of my choice and get a really good sense of whether or not it will fit my plans.
The iPhone, on the other hand, serves a different purpose. With the iPhone, I can bang off a bunch of quick shots but most importantly each of those shots is geotagged. I don't have to scribble down all the locations because the iPhone is already gathering that information for me. So sweet. :)
Sunday, June 5, 2011
I shot pictures before, during and after the ceremony but I felt the best stuff was at the end when I asked the girls if they were up for trying something "different". Of course they were so I came up with a few ideas on the fly. The first thought was to stick the girls in the bleachers where all the parents, friends and family were sitting just an hour before watching the graduates.
I had a couple people hold up a couple of 580EX IIs and we banged out some quick shots.
The next idea was to pose them in front of the large windows on the ground level of the gymnasium. What appealed to me in that location was the backlighting, the red colouring on the window, the colourful green grass and the lovely reflections on the polished floor. We banged out a few quick, more traditional poses. My partner Jen had the great idea of getting the girls to put their hands on their hips and sass it up a bit. Instantly the pose came alive, as did the smiles, and we got a great shot.
For the finally we did the "jump shot". OK, perhaps it's a bit cliche but the girls were up for it and it kept the smiles flowing. It took three takes to get our shot.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I was loving what I was seeing. The light was just a touch creamier than the night before. Gorgeous!
There was only one thing missing. I needed a splash more light on the jewelry. Enter the gridded snoot. I picked up a Flashpoint (Adorama's in-house brand) snoot from Adorama last year. It is the perfect tool when you want to add just a flick of light to a small part of the frame. Here is what the snooted light added all by itself.
Just a flick and just what I needed.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tonight was no different. Once again my supportive partner jumps up to help and models for me while I work out some proof-of-concept shots. I am truly a lucky guy to have such beautiful and supportive partner. Thanks Jen. :)
A simple, one light set up to get this lovely shot.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
For the last couple of days I have had to take a whole bunch of shots of items so I can sell them online. It is not very exciting work and it even less appealing because it's not even my stuff. Oh well, every time I pull out the camera and the lights a learning opportunity always presents itself and this time was no exception.
The first day's session involved getting shots of dolls. I looked at the dolls as if there were real, human subjects so by that I mean I thought I would add a bit of flare to the lighting. Instead of just chucking up a couple of lights and blasting them with dull, flat lighting I thought I would at least make a bit of effort to make the lighting interesting. Interesting to me means shadow. So I concocted a quick set up involving one light on the subject, reflector on the shadow side and a couple of lights on the sky blue seamless background. The resulting shots were well above the typical, online, something-for-sale picture.
The next day I was shooting plates. It would have been nice to use the same lighting set up but it really wasn't appropriate. For the plates I wanted nice even lighting and zero reflections if I could get them. The reflection part was tricky because every plate was different. Slightly different sizes, shapes, designs (of course) and finishes. Some were matt, some were glossy. Eeek. Turns out the best lighting I could come up with on my own was putting a soft light on either side, perpendicular to the plate surface and maybe even the slightest bit behind. The few test shots looked pretty good but I was getting glare on the camera right side of the plate, which was coming from my light on the left. I only have one softbox so one the other side I had to use a shoot through umbrella. Shoot through umbrella = light grenade, softbox = more directional. I suppose I could have tried bouncing the light in to the umbrella and closing it down somewhat but then I would have had to slap up some diffusion in front of it to create the same, creamy softbox light on the other side.
I stuck with my original tool - shoot through umbrella but it needed help to shape the light a bit. What did I come up with? Yup, you guessed it. Garbage bags and gaffer tape. Without too much effort and a few pieces of gaffer tape I was able to secure two black garbage bags in place to flag off the offending light and create an even look on both sides.
I have used lots of different items in the past to flag off light - towels, yoga mats, foam core board, cardboard, seamless paper but this was the first time I tried garbage bags. They worked awesome although there's no getting the gaffer tape off them without ruining the bag. Perhaps I'll be tucking a few in my kit because you never know when they'll come in handy.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
The other day, I had the great privilege to photograph my good friend and truly amazing yoga instructor Jeff Mah. Jeff has started down a new path lately and needed some shots for his new website. I was only too happy to oblige his request.
After some discussion we decided that we needed some simple head and shoulders-type shots and perhaps a few other goofy, candid frames. Above all I needed to capture his character. The only other decision was what colour of background. I had a few choices - cherry, buttercup, royal purple, sky-blue and of course the standard black and white basics. Jeff decided on purple. I never stress to much about "does this colour go with that" decisions, even though we ended up putting Jeff in a green shirt on a purple background. Does that technically work? I don't know. Does it look good? I certainly think so! And, as my clever partner Jen said, "a purple flower has a green stem, so why not?". The logic sounded good to me.
So off we went shooting green on purple. It's fun, it's punchy and it certainly is vibrant - all qualities of Jeff's character.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I had a vision in my head - something dramatic. I wanted trees and sky. I wanted to turn day in to night.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The location we chose was a small, 1970's style lounge that was part of a restaurant. It kind of had the "urban hippie" look we were trying to achieve. Myself and the lead singer scoped out the location a couple nights before the shoot. My only real worry was the large bank of south facing windows that had no coverings. I suppose the other minor worry was that we had to be in and out in two hours. I know two hours seems like a lot of time but it's not, especially when you factor in the set up and take down of the equipment.
Once we got on site we quickly picked our spot and began setting up the equipment. Because we scoped out the location the day before I was prepared and brought a roll of black seamless to flag the ambient streaming in from the large bank of south facing windows - it worked like a charm!
The shoot itself was very organic. I fed the group a couple of ideas and let them run with it. It turned out to be a much more efficient and natural process rather than trying to sculpt the perfect pose. Lots of sincere smiles and laughs (me too) made for some classic shots like the one below.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
There are a plenty of iPhone camera apps to choose from buy currently my two favourites Instagram and Hipstamatic. Of the two I use Instagram the most. It's a really fun and simple way to grab some great frames on-the-fly and post them to your favourite social media sites.
With my iPhone I now have a good camera on my person nearly all the time and because of this I have found myself making even more pictures. And I think even more important is that I am not worrying about ensuring everything is just perfect before grabbing the frame. Instead, I am focused on getting the picture and that is a very good thing.
Like Chase Jarvis says, "the best camera is the one that's with you".
Saturday, February 19, 2011
I'm really not sure where January and most of February have gone. Was I caught in some kind of winter doldrum? Perhaps. Or was I simply lazy? Maybe. Either way I'm back with renewed energy and just in time to drop another intention for this year. So without further a do I bring you intention number two: clean as you go. OK. Good. Now what does that mean? Well, by clean as you go I mean keep up with proper management of images. For the latter half of 2010 as my 365 project came to a close I found myself getting really lazy editing and deleting unwanted shots after a shoot. After a few months of neglect a reasonably simple task became a daunting one and with that it was easy to put off.
So, going forward, the intention is simple - clean as you go. After a shoot, offload the pictures, back them up and immediately cull the bad ones and tag and rate the good ones. Pretty simple and a *huge* time saver in the long run if you're disciplined enough to stick with the plan.
I have not been sticking with the plan so I have a lot of work to do. Until next time, keep shooting.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I think I will just keep on making pictures and see where it goes. It's been a good run.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Throughout January I will post a bunch of personal intentions for my photography throughout this shiny new year and hopefully beyond. So, here we go, intention number one.