Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Not About the Picture

I have a lot of these pictures.


It's my beautiful partner Jen, holding a light meter and smiling for the camera while I check the accuracy of the lighting set up. Even though the smiling part is optional, she is typically smiling. Heck, even the part about helping me at a photo shoot in the first place is optional but she still does that too. She helps me lug and set up gear, she herds unruly kids and adults, she adjusts outfits and hair and lots of times reminds me about things I am liable to forget.

She does all this because she loves and support me and for that I am ever so grateful.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Need Better Gloves...

It was a frosty evening, about -30 degrees Celsius with the wind chill but I decided to venture out anyhow and try to capture some of the amazing colour at the new LRT station on the West end of downtown Calgary.

I tried a few different locations before settling on the piece of curved track where the trains exit and enter the downtown core. It was a great spot. The worst part of the endeavour is waiting for the trains to come, especially in the very chilly night air. Sometimes though, patience is rewarded and you get a couple of trains at once.


I was only out there for about and my hands were aching from the cold by the time I made my way home but it was totally worth it.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

West LRT Line Opens!

I have watched the West LRT for three long years while it was being constructed, waiting eagerly for it to open so I could get out there and make some pictures. I finally had my chance tonight.


I only had a chance to visit two stations: Shaganappi Point and Sunalta. This picture was taken at Sunalta station, which is really incredible. I am excited to explore the line more looking for interesting shots.

Keep shooting.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Love the Easy Ones...

I did some family pictures tonight, which were great, but took a little more effort to organize and align kids and then get everyone to smile nicely on cue. It's the way it is, it can be hard work and I love the challenge but I also love the easy ones.


After the family shoot was done I was asked to take a few shots of another person. And that was all I took to get a great shot - three frames. So awesome.

I love the easy ones.

Keep shooting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Nice "Test" Shot

A lot of my test shoots around the house start out with the same question - "hey, Jen can I borrow you for a second?". The "second" turned in to something like an hour but both of us liked the result in the end, even though it was really just a test.

I have a family Christmas shoot coming up this Friday and I just wanted to play around with a couple of ideas to prepare. These kind of things always take a bit longer than I expect but a little preparation goes a long ways to getting a great finished product so I am happy to put in the time.


Even though we are not wearing our finest Christmas duds, we still may use the picture because, well, we kind of roll pretty casual all the time anyhow and it turned out pretty nice.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Patience on the Bridge

I don't have a lot of patience. However, I have learned that if you want to make good pictures, patience is a prerequisite.

I spent nearly an hour today hanging out on Calgary's Peace Bridge in the fading daylight waiting for my pictures. It didn't come easy. I was waiting for cyclists and/or runners. I preferred them to come in to the frame on camera left but I wasn't a stickler about that. Most of the runners stuck to the sides, which they should, but that didn't work for the shot. I needed them to run where the cyclists ride. Then I got picky about colour. I liked brighter, more colourful clothing but I didn't always get it. And then when I had all my criteria set it was up to me to make sure the exposure was correct and my timing was good to catch them at the right spot. I often missed both.

However, I was patient and eventually I got one, this one.


It was close but I have some ideas for next time.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

West LRT

I really enjoy night photography in the city and I just love taking pictures of the Calgary Transit Trains (CTrains). Living downtown makes this very accessible for me and tonight I braved the elements to make some pictures and scope out some future locations.

Earlier today I had to run an errand in the west end of downtown and I noticed that Calgary Transit was testing the new West LRT line. After darkness fell, I had the itch to go out and make some pictures and I was hoping that they would still be testing the new tracks. I was in luck, the trains were still running. Unfortunately, due to a technical issue, the trains were only running on one side of the tracks and that limited my opportunities but it was still fun to get out there.


I can't wait for the new line to open on December 10th.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family Shoot...

I had a quick but fun shoot today with a wonderful family who also happen to be good friends of Jen and I. This shoot had been in the planning for a few months but schedule conflicts kept pushing it back. We finally were able to get it in today and the weather was darn near perfect considering how cold Calgary winter's can be.

I had gone out the day before to scout out the location and check the lighting for the time of day we had scheduled for the shoot. The preparation was great but today didn't quite go as planned. We got a bit of a late start because the little guy wasn't feeling one hundred percent so he had slept a bit later than normal. Arriving at the location nearly an hour late the light had already vacated the area where I did test shots the day before. Fortunately I chose a location with lots of great spots to choose from so a quick drive but us back in the light.

The sun was just beginning to set and the light was gorgeous. Although there was a bit of chill in the air, there was no wind and the sun made it feel warmer than it probably was at the time. With the poor little fellow feeling a bit under the weather getting him to smile was a challenge and he tired out really quick. The neat thing about kids is when they're done, they're done and they let you know really quick that it's time to quit.

Luckily we were able to get a bunch of wonderful shots before the light left us for good and this was one of my favourites from the session.


Keep shooting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

NYC + 50mm

My partner Jen and I recently spent a week in New York City. It was her birthday gift to me earlier this year. Although we have only been there once before it is one of our favourite places. There is just so much to see and the city has an amazing energy.

Whenever we travel we try to pack a light as possible, it just seems to make everything about travel that much easier. The same thing applies to my photography kit - pack as light as possible. My “normal” kit usually includes two lenses and those two lenses are typically my 70-200mm f/2.8L and my 24-105mm f/4.0L. They make a great team, handling most every situation with ease. For this trip though I wanted to pack even lighter so I brought only one lens, my 50mm f/1.4. For the price this lens can't be beat. It's sharp, it's fast, it's light and inconspicuous. The downside is you're stuck with one focal length and that means you zoom with your feet and you are forced to be more creative with your shots.

Sticking to just one lens is exactly what I needed. I wanted to force myself to think more, to be more creative and to break away from my typical shots. There were times that I really regretted not having another lens *cough* space shuttle *cough* but the objective was to be forced out of my comfort zone and look for more creative captures and this was just the ticket.

Keep shooting.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blue Hour in the City

Making pictures in the city after the sun goes down is one of my photography favourites. I went out on Friday night to see if I could get a picture of something I saw the night before on my way to hockey. I came pretty close.

On Thursday night I was just pulling out of downtown, heading south, just after sunset and looked back to see the downtown towers glowing as they bathed in this gorgeous, warm light. The warm light was also illuminating the newly constructed CTrain platform just west of the core. And, best of all, dark clouds hung over the core, increasing the colour and saturation of the light and providing this amazing contrast. I wanted that picture.

On Friday night I set out to get the shot. The light was close but not as good as the night before and my location was OK but not quite the vantage point I had the previous night. Still though, it was decent light and a pretty good shot.


The best part is there will be many, many more opportunities to find a better spot and that perfect light.

Keep shooting.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Love Bikes!

Have I mentioned that before? That I love bikes? I am sure I have, heck, I probably have another post with the same title somewhere in the archives.

I really do love bikes. Not just any bike though, it's the vintage looking ones that I really dig. The ones that look like they have been ridden for 30, 40, maybe 50 years and have faithfully carried their owners through it all.

The problem with shooting bikes on the streets is that they are usually surrounded by a whole bunch of elements that I don't want in the frame. The challenge is to capture as much as the bike as possible while leaving out the undesirable elements. Sometimes that means making shots like this.


Even though I am shooting right through a bike rack the frame still captures the essence of a cool ride bathed in late day light. And, really, that is all I'm after. Capturing these two wheeled beauties in their natural element.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Back on the Street...

It's been a long while but tonight I got back out on the streets of downtown Calgary for some night shots. I really love shooting in the city at night, it is one of my favourite photographic activities.

When I hit the streets I had a few targets in mind but I didn't get two blocks from my home before I found something interesting to shoot.


I love bikes, especially old, vintage looking ones and this one was perfect. It wasn't in the optimum spot though. There were a lot of elements in the scene I didn't care for and I did what I could to frame them out of the picture. I used a single flash just out of the frame on camera right to rake some light across the front.

Less than a block from the bike I found another scene I liked.


It was good to be back on the street.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On Camera Flash = Good Picture? Really?


Looks like a pretty good shot, no? Pretty nice light, certainly not at all harsh. A fairly hard shadow underneath noses and chins but nothing too crazy. It doesn't seem like something that could be done with on camera flash but it was.

It was our last night of our Okanagan camping vacation and Jen and I were enjoying an absolutely beautiful late summer evening down by the lake. The sun was setting and the light was incredible. I never seem to remember just how quickly a sunset fades until I'm trying to make a picture. Sunset's move fast. Really fast. I set up my gear as fast as I could but I almost entirely missed the amazing red light that was washing over the sand and the water.

The set up for the shot was really simple. Camera on a tripod with a 580EX II flash in the hot shoe. PocketWizard with a shutter release cable connected to the camera and a PocketWizard in my hand. Focus on Jen, tell her not to move and switch the camera to manual focus. Adjust the exposure, take a few test shots and then step in to the picture and push the button on the PocketWizard in my hand.

My secret ingredient for better light with on camera flash? The Lastolite Ezybox Speed-lite. This little puppy is very well constructed (like most everything Lastolite) and it pumps out really good light. Even when you punch the light straight at your subject like I did, it still manages to make it look like you didn't. And, because it's small, it takes up next to no room in your pack and you can use it for even more exciting stuff like the shot below.


The Ezybox Speed-Lite comes with two layers of diffusion to make the light extra creamy. In most cases, including the shot at the top, I only used the outer most diffusion layer. I did so to put less stress on my flash as I was shooting at f/8 and I had a 1/4 CTO gel on the flash head, which also eats about 1/2 stop of light.

The Ezybox Speed-Lite has become my favourite, new light modifier. Check it out and keep shooting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Handsome Fella...

I took some quick shots of my Canon 40D today. Nothing too fancy, just a bit of light from behind and a bit from the side. I needed these shots because I am going to be selling my trusty 40D, which has served me faithfully for nearly four years.

I picked up the 40D in late 2008. It was my second DSLR. My first was a Canon Rebel XTi. The 40D was my first prosumer camera and it was an amazing beast. It was built like a tank, it was pretty speedy (at the time), focus was great and best of all it took fantastic pictures.

Me and my 40D made a lot of pictures together until my 5D Mark II came along about a year and a half later. Once I got the 5D, the 40D was relegated to backup and saw little to no action. Occasionally, I would take it along to events so I could shoot with two different lenses without swapping but those events were rare. Regardless of its infrequent use, the 40D never let me down - not once, not ever.

Sadly, for the 40D anyhow, there is a new kid on the block, the 5D Mark III, so the 40D's time as backup is over. My 5D Mark II will take over the backup role now. I really am sad to sell the 40D it really was a great camera and a really handsome fella too.


Keep shooting.

Monday, August 27, 2012

GlobalFest Finale

The 2012 Edition of Calgary's GlobalFest wrapped up on Sunday night with perfect weather and record setting crowds. I worked all six nights as part of the volunteer photography team and I had an absolutely blast doing it. It was a wonderful experience and I welcome the opportunity to jump in and help again next year.

GlobalFest obviously has great fireworks but I think for me it was the people that made it such a special event. From the amazing volunteers to the hard working performers that showed up night after night and poured the heart and soul in to everything they did. I met and chatted with a number of wonderful attendees too. It really is just such a well done, fantastic people event. So much colour and culture! So much to see and do and honestly they could not have asked for better weather. It was awesome.

It would be quite hard to pick just one people photo from six days worth of shooting but this shot of the belly dancers is certainly one of my favourites from the event. I loved their costumes, the colours and the detail but most of all I really appreciated how much fun these ladies were having performing. The music and their attitudes were infectious.


And, GlobalFest has fireworks. They were amazing and some of the best I have ever seen. Again, it would be challenging to pick just one favourite but I really did like this one particular shot that I took on the second night during the Mexican display. I love it because of the context of the crowd and surrounding water and buildings. I love how everything is illuminated from this amazing burst of light.


It was such an incredible event and wonderful experience that I am already looking forward to doing it all over again next year.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GlobalFest 2012, part II...

Monday was China's turn for fireworks and I was back on duty as part of the volunteer photography team at GlobalFest. The event runs every second night for six nights so there are lots of opportunities for great fireworks pictures. And, since there are six nights to shoot fireworks I am pushing myself to find a new spot each night.

Besides choosing a new location, I also decided to use a different lens. I almost always shoot fireworks with my 17-40mm lens but for Monday night I decided to try my 70-200mm. I had an idea and I wanted to see if it would work.

The challenge (and beauty) of the GlobalFest fireworks is that every night features a different country and you never really know what you're going to get. The Chinese put on a BIG show and I actually switched lenses a couple of times during the show to try and better capture the display. Despite the on-the-fly lens switching, I still managed to grab a picture or two I was happy with.


Keep shooting.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GlobalFest 2012

This year I volunteered for Calgary's GlobalFest as a photographer for the first time. I am on a team of 10 shooters and Thursday was my first night of shooting.

The entire event is held at Elliston Park in the City's southeast. It is a great venue and never having attended before, I was quite surprised to see that many people.

For me, the best part was the fireworks. Each night features a different country's fireworks show coordinated to music. The first night was the Philippines and they put on a wonderful show! Stampede fireworks are great but after seeing the first night of GlobalFest fireworks, the Stampede light show seems more quantity over quality.


When the fireworks show ended, I quickly gathered my gear and began the trek back to my car. The area was thick with smoke and it lender an eerie look to the surroundings. I came across a group of school buses waiting to shuttle attendees to parking and my imagination took off. I plunked down my tripod, quickly composed my shot got in a few pressed of the shutter before the scene changed.

Turns out I got one of my favourite shots of the night.


Keep shooting.

A Baby's Bum...

Seriously, is there anything cuter than a baby's bum?


I don't think so.

Keep shooting.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shooting Products

Today I did product shots for a wonderfully talented woman who makes incredible handmade wearables. Hats, toques, mitts, bracelets - all sorts of stuff. It is amazing how much time and energy goes in to creating such beautiful things.


Even though I got a sneak peek today, I can't wait to see the website when it's up and running and check out all these gorgeous creations.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Calgary Stampede Fireworks, Part III

Last Sunday marked the end of the 2012 (centennial) edition of the Calgary Stampede and also marked the end of my fireworks shooting, at least for a little while.

In keeping with my theme of trying to discover and shoot from different locations during the 10 day event, I found myself shooting right from the Stampede grounds. It was my intention to find a spot that incorporated some of the action of the park with the amazing fireworks show. I had a lot of time to kill before the fireworks began so I started taking pictures of the midway. I really got lost in the moment and didn't do a good job of tracking the time. When I finally did, I had about 30 minutes to go before show time. As I searched around for a good spot, I checked the time again, now I only had about 10 minutes before the fireworks. Turns out the big clock on the grounds was wrong! My pace quickened and my search became more desperate. Everywhere I turned I could see people filling up the "good" spots. I saw nothing I really liked. But finally, on a last minute gamble I decided to set up on the outdoor concourse that wraps around the southeast part of the Saddledome. It was all I had.

Only minutes after I set up the first few preliminary bursts shot in to the sky marking that the grandstand show was concluding and the main fireworks event would be close behind. I used those bursts to adjust my settings and frame my shot. This is what I got.


It wasn't the best location nor was it the best shot but I did get something I liked. And, like they say, there's always next year.

Keep shooting.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Calgary Stampede Fireworks, Part II

After Friday night's mosquito infested fireworks failure from Nose Hill, I decided to try a different spot for Saturday night. Although Friday night's quest fell short it was good in the sense that I got to see fireworks exploding from all quadrants of the city and even better, it helped me pick my Saturday night spot.

My Saturday night firework quest landed me a bit closer to home than Friday night. Once again, my partner Jen and I mounted our faithful steeds (bikes, not horses) and made the trek to our spot. The great thing about having a partner along for the shoot is that they can swat mosquitos while you set up the gear. And, the good part about that is mosquitos LOVE me but really don't care to nibble on Jen so it works out pretty good for everyone.

Despite Jen's vigorous swatting efforts the mosquitos were winning so I had to relent. I jumped back on the bike and made the quick ride home for more bug spray. On the ride it began to rain. Jen was at our spot watching the camera so I was confident she would pull out one of the many plastic bags I packed and cover the gear. Upon my return I switched from the garbage bag she used to the Op/Tech DSLR Rain Sleeve to shield the gear from the rain. OK, let's quickly talk about that. The Op/Tech Rain Sleeve is seriously the best bang for the buck in moderate rain protection out there. You get two sleeves for about $8 and they are beefy enough to be re-used several times before needing replacement. I have taken mine out in snow and rain and they work great! Now, I likely would not take them out in a massive downpour but heck, I would not be out making pictures either, so it's nothing I worry about. If you need basic wet weather protection for your gear, check them out.

Back to the shoot...
The rain wasn't too menacing for the gear but the rain also meant cloud cover and cloud cover was exactly what I needed to get the shot I envisioned. My camera position was not the greatest for getting clear shots of the fireworks but I knew that. What I wanted was what I saw on Nose Hill the previous night. I wanted to capture the wash of colour behind Calgary's downtown and maybe catch some of the light and reflections bouncing off the buildings. The cloud cover was perfect for collecting all that light and sending it back to the camera.

As the first few bursts of fireworks exploded in the sky, my suspicions were confirmed, my spot was not the best for capturing the fireworks themselves. I waited patiently for the finale, snapping a few frames here and there. And then about 10 minutes later as fireworks flooded the sky my colours and light were revealed and this is what I shot.


I have one more night of fireworks shooting before Stampede wraps up for another year. If the weather holds, I hope to be shooting the fireworks right from the grounds. It should be awesome.

Keep shooting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Calgary Stampede Fireworks, Part I

The Calgary Stampede is a great time to create some great fireworks pictures. For ten nights, the sky above the Stampede grandstand is set a blaze in a fantastic display. This being the Stampede's 100th Anniversary the fireworks are being set off simultaneously in the four quadrants of the city on weekends. I did not catch that action on the first weekend on Stampede but I did manage to get some great shots nonetheless.

Below is my favourite from the first Sunday of Stampede.

A Great Spot…

Getting good fireworks shots starts with having a great location. I had scouted out Sunday's location months before Stampede. I knew it would be a great spot. It had all the pieces. It was very close to where the fireworks were being launched, it had a clear view to downtown so there would be a good background and the Elbow River was in the frame which meant great reflections. I was so sure it was a great spot I arrived about an hour and a half before the show just to make sure I got my spot. Much to my surprise, I was the only person shooting at that spot.

If you Google how to shoot fireworks you will get about a million articles to get you started but I will share a couple of tips that may not be as common.

Tip one: Set the white balance to tungsten. I shoot a lot of night photographs of cityscapes and by far tungsten gives me the best results. Fireworks also seem to look best using tungsten white balance. But the best reason to use tungsten is it makes a night sky very blue. Of course, it won't work on a pitch black sky but if there is still some blue in the sky, tungsten will make it very blue, which looks great.

Tip two: My faithful sidekick and partner was beside me on this particular fireworks shoot and her advice was "make sure you get the first one because it's going to be the best". By "best" she meant it will be the cleanest, clearest sky. As subsequent fireworks are launched and burst apart in their colourful explosions, the sky becomes a cloudy mess of smoke which reduces the clarity and perceived sharpness of the entire image.

She was right, the first ones were the best.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Canada Day 2012 Fireworks

Canada Day means fireworks and fireworks means I have to get my butt out there and take some pictures because, well, that's what I do.

This year the City of Calgary decided to launch the show from the Centre Street bridge. The City also announced that this year's fireworks would be bigger and higher in the sky than previous years. I missed the fireworks in 2011 but I do remember 2010 being somewhat of a disappointment. So, with the City's announcement of a better show I was pumped to get some great pictures.

Location Scouting...
On the afternoon before the fireworks show I hopped on my bike and went out location scouting. I was excited that the show was to be bigger and better but I was conceded about getting a good spot amongst the throngs expected to turn out. Perhaps my biggest worry was the Centre Street bridge itself. The City has been working on a major project along the river pathway and the bridge got a big lighting upgrade this year. The bridge has now been outfitted with state-of-the-art LED lighting. I can honestly say the lighting looks great, especially compared to the crappy, yellow, dim lighting it replaced. However, from a night photography perspective it is a bit of a nightmare. The bridge is so bright now it absolutely blows away anything near it. So, if you expose for the bridge, everything else is dark and if you expose for the buildings, lights and traffic around the bridge then the bridge itself is a big blob of white light. I was worried that if I framed my shots with too much bridge in the picture I would end up with fireworks and a big blob of light, which would be terrible.

During my scouting, I looked for angles where the bridge was diminished but the fireworks would be clearly visible. I was also looking for angles where I could get the downtown office towers in the background. I biked to a number of different spots before settling on a location, down low, right by the river. I thought it would be perfect for catching the incredible colours reflected off the water. I was set.

Last Minute Decision...
About an hour and a half before the fireworks show, I was reading about the evening display. The City said that these fireworks would be much higher than in years past so that people wouldn't need to get close to the bridge to see them. Based on that I made a last minute decision to change spots. It was definitely a tactical error.

I got to my new spot about an hour before the fireworks were set to go. There were numerous other photographers on the ridge with pretty good set ups so I figured I had chosen wisely. About two minutes before the fireworks were to begin the Centre Street bridge lights were shut off. Dang, they never said anything about that! OK, well, I was still in a good spot for the newly improved fireworks show. A couple minutes later the first burst of light hit the sky. Hmmmm, it wasn't very high. It was followed by another, and another, still not very high. OK, now I was disappointed. I changed my location thinking the fireworks would be BIG and TOWERING above the bridge and the city and neither panned out. Oh well, it was a good show and I did manage to get a shot or two I liked. I'll get it next year, well, unless they pull another fast one on me.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Global Petroleum Show

June has been a very, very busy month.

Earlier this June I shot for three days at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary. It was not terribly exciting stuff as I mostly shot pictures of empty booths but getting paid to shoot pictures is always good and gaining experience is never a bad thing either.

One particular assignment during the show involved capturing people interacting at the Bolivian national oil company's booth for marketing and promotional purposes. It seemed simple enough and honestly, it was pretty simple. However, the indoor lighting was not great and without adding some light of my own, I would be left with blurry and noisy images. I was shooting with my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm f/4.0L lens. I set the camera to manual mode and my settings to 1/60th of a second, f/7.1 and ISO 1250. ISO 1600 is about the max I will go with my 5D Mark II, unless I'm really desperate for more shutter speed. One-sixtieth of a second is good enough to prevent camera shake on my image stabilized lens. At these settings, ambient light was about half to a full stop underexposed, depending on which way the camera was pointing because the booth is not evenly lit.

Adding the light…
There were many ways to solve the lighting problem. The simplest probably would have been to drop a flash in the hot shoe and fire away but we all know that that combination rarely provides great looking results. Sure I could have added some modified to the hot shoe flash but you still get fairly hard shadows and a higher likelihood of redeye and other deficiencies. My solution? Put up a stand and fire a flash through an umbrella. So what's good about that? Way softer shadows and more natural looking light, plus the umbrella spreads the light more evenly over a larger area. The downside? Having an umbrella on a light stand in a fairly small booth was really conspicuous and could sometimes be in the way. Regardless, I found it to be a good solution and I was quite pleased with the end result.


Keep shooting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Purple on Purple

My partner Jen brought home the most gorgeous purple tulips the other day — instant inspiration! I don't believe I had seen that colour of tulip before, they were just stunningly beautiful.

They had to be photographed!

I really wanted to emphasize the incredible, deep, rich colour so instinctively I stuck them in front of a purple background to really push the colour. However, I did not want to wash out the beauty of the tulips with a big blob of purple so I modified my main light to about a quarter of its size and used a snooted flash to pop a selected circle of background. The final touch was a separation light, directly offsetting the main light, to bring dimension and pop them off the backdrop. Three Canon 580EX II flashes in total.


Keep shooting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Beautiful Smile

I make a lot of pictures of people. And as I'm making those pictures I am engaging them with mostly witty banter. I say "mostly" because it's not always witty but I do try, especially if a natural smile is what I am trying to coax forward.

Anyhow, that's not the point. The point is that during a photo session I am constantly engaging my subject in conversation. At some point during that conversation I usually ask them if they like having their picture taken. Yeah, it's a loaded question and unsurprisingly most answer that they do not like it. Even though I usually know the answer before I ask the question, i ask it regardless because it is a good icebreaker and it can help to address the elephant in the room, even if it's a small elephant. It also helps them to relax when I share that I don't like to have my picture taken either.

It is my job as the photographer to extract the best look out of my subject, even the most camera shy. Sometimes, getting that look can be the most difficult and energy sapping part of my job. Every once and a while though, I come across someone who requires little to no coaxing to produce the most naturally beautiful smile.

Today I had that "someone" in front of my camera. With the minimal amount of effort on my part I received an amazing smile that reflected the personality and radiance beautifully, perfectly and ever so easily. I love it when that happens.

Keep shooting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes...

Man do I love bikes! When it comes to bikes, the older the better and the more unique the better. Calgary seems to have no shortage of cool, vintage commuter bikes.

Today, I spotted this beauty while waiting to pick up my partner after work. I pulled out the best camera I had with me at the time - my iPhone - and I snapped a bunch of pics of this gorgeous, old bicycle.


Sweet! I just can't get enough of these magnificent machines.

Keep shooting.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Quick Spin With The 5D Mark III

My friend Amy Thiessen, the lovely and talented gal that she is, was playing a show Ironwood Stage in Calgary last night and I was invited along to shoot pictures. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out Canon's new 5D Mark III so I rented one from The Camera Store for the day.

Of course, the Mark III was new to me so I spent the day setting it up how I liked and getting familiar with handling it and using some of the new features. Just to be safe though I decided to bring my Mark II along as well and shoot the two cameras side by side. After shooting both cameras for about twenty minutes and comparing the results, there was a clear winner - the 5D Mark III.

Being in a bar, the lighting wasn't great so that meant high ISO. I shot everything at ISO 6400 to have ample shutter speed for my longer lens and the Mark III hands down produced cleaner images but probably even more important than that was it's ability to acquire focus. The Mark II is OK at focusing in well lit places but not so much in dim light. The Mark III on the other hand had no trouble focusing in minimal light and producing many, many more keeper images like the one below.

I didn't have long with the new camera but it was long enough to know it had some clear advantages over the 5D Mark II. Hopefully I will have a chance to use one again in the near future.

Keep shooting.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On The Fly...

I had another fun shoot at a local yoga studio yesterday and this was one of my favourite shots.


More than the lighting, colours or reflections, this one is all about an authentic expression and the joy of the practice. For me, it's the difference between a shot that ends up in the trash or in the keeper pile.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Calgary had a lovely bit of spring weather today so I decided it was a good night to head out and make some pictures.

By the time I got organized it was fairly late and being on foot I decided to stick closer to home. Not surprisingly I ended up at the Peace Bridge. Instead of shooting the same old picture from the same old spot I wanted something unique.

I found it.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yet Another Self Portrait

I seems like I have been doing a lot of self portraits lately. So much so that my one-and-only modeling look is starting to get on my nerves. It is getting harder and harder to muster the patience to make another picture of my well photographed mug. And I won't even get in to moving furniture so I can set up the equipment in the first place.

So if they are such a pain, why do I do them? Simply, I do them for a couple of reasons. First is to test and play with new or proven lighting techniques and second is to keep my skills sharp when I don't have a full schedule of work. Mostly though it's the former but the practice never hurts either.

The past couple of weeks I have probably done four or five experimental self portraits. Today was no different. I needed a lighting solution for teacher head shots for a yoga studio and below is what I created.

And the finished self portrait looks like this.

On shoot day I will vary the looks, the poses and the framing but I am confident in the light and that is what matters most.

Keep shooting.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Really Nice Light...

Tonight was one of those nights. I had an idea and I wanted to try and make a picture. A family picture of my partner Jen, me and the cat, Whitey. After playing around with the idea for an hour or so things were not working out very well, it was getting late so I pulled the plug on it. However, the time was not wasted. Instead of creating a good picture I created some really nice light.

Below you can see one of the test shots as I was in the early stages of setting up the shot.

MG 2904 2

If you look carefully in the top right corner of the frame, you can get a wee bit of a sense of the light source. What I rigged up was two, 580EX II flashes with Sto-Fen caps shooting through a Lastolite 4x6 foot diffuser. I also created flags out of black paper, which I placed on the top side of the strobes to kill the light bouncing off the ceiling.

The set up creates a really large light source resulting in soft, wrapping light leaving only very light shadow beneath the chin. The downside is the light gets chucked everywhere. It is quite similar to what you would get shooting through a large umbrella but the main intention tonight was to try something different, to find a different way to create some really nice light.

The shot didn't succeed (for now) but the light did.

Keep shooting.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Peace Bridge

Yesterday, once again, I returned to Calgary's Peace Bridge to make some more pictures. The goal was motion. Using slower exposures I wanted to capture the pedestrians and cyclists commuting home from a day's work in the downtown core. The light wasn't great but I still managed a couple of keepers from the effort. But rather than it being an immensely successful photographic outing, something much bigger struck me.

I setup on the bridge at the height of the after work commute. That was my intention. I needed plenty of pedestrians and cyclists to fill my frames with motion. A few minutes in to my session one of my friends gave me a wave while he rode by on his bike. I returned the wave and dug back in to my work. Moments after that another friend, again on a bike, stopped behind me and teased at me to stop disrupting bridge traffic. We had a nice chat before he peddled off on his way. I had a several brief conversations with other pedestrians before wrapping up my shoot and having one final conversation with a photography student before heading for home.

On the brief walk home I thought about my outing and it struck me that the bridge, more than a piece of art or architecture, is about building a community. If the bridge ultimately becomes a catalyst to pull more people out of their vehicles and on to the pathways and sidewalks, it will indeed have been a successful project.

Keep shooting.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Different Perspective

Last night I was out once again taking shots of Calgary's Peace Bridge. Now that it's actually open to the public it was great to walk across it and thoroughly check it out.

I wasn't entirely sure what kind of picture I wanted to make but I brought along one flash and a few PocketWizards to give me some options. I played around for quite a long time trying to make an interesting self portrait on the bridge but was not having much luck. The normally super-reliable devices were giving me trouble. I'm not sure if there was some kind of interference or low batteries or, I don't know, the cold temperature but they were not working reliably. However, what I thought was a bit funny and ironic was that I was not able to reliably trigger the devices from my pocket. Huh, PocketWizards don't work from pockets - weird.

Eventually after many, many unsuccessful attempts and freezing hands I swung my camera around and made this picture.

It is a frame that was not possible, well, not easily possible before the existence of the new structure.

Keep shooting.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

14 Hours

I took the two pictures below about 14 hours apart. The first, at night, was taken before Calgary's Peace Bridge opened to the public. The second was taken moments after the public was allowed to cross the bridge for the first time.

Calgarians seem quite polarized on their feelings towards the bridge. Some love it and others consider it a folly at the tax payer's expense. All politics aside, I think it's a gorgeous structure and I look forward to photographing it for many, many years to come.



Keep shooting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I'm Lucky...

Oh, I'm sure I have posted something about this before but yes, it's true, I'm lucky.

I am oh so lucky to have such a supportive and understanding partner, one who is willing to patiently model for me while I practice my craft or experiment with some crazy new idea I want to try. She is one of a kind and I am ever so grateful for her love and support.


Keep shooting.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yeah, I Did...

I bought the "new" iPad. But before to go thinking I'm just one of those Apple fanatics that will buy anything the Cupertino based company produces, please let me explain.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gear Kit: Maui

I recently had a two week stay on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. It was an incredible trip and it was very hard to come back to a cold and snowy Calgary. A few days before the trip I carefully put together an extensive yet compact kit of photography gear so I could record the adventure.

When travelling, I really like to be nimble. I don't want to be weighed down with excessive gear and baggage. I like to have the ability to carry it all on my person and still be able to make that last minute dash to a taxi or to the gate of a departing flight. And, more crap just means more worry about things getting lost or stolen.

Here is what I put together.Maui Kit

The Details…

Spiralling clockwise and inwards from the bottom left corner, here is the gear:

  • Two (homemade) gels each of 1/4 CTO and full CTO
  • Black Rapid camera strap
  • Canon battery charger
  • Two 580EX II strobes
  • Two Honl Speed straps for attaching the gels
  • 64GB Apple iPad for backing up pictures from the camera, post-processing, blogging and such
  • Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home - fits all the gear with the tripods on the side
  • Joby Gorillapod Focus with Ball Head X - this was my main camera support
  • Joby Gorillapod SLR - for a remote flash
  • Circular polarizer
  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • Canon Remote Switch (RS-80N3) - This well worn remote is used for landscape shots to avoid vibration
  • USB cable with Apple Camera Connection Kit - for pulling pics from the camera to the iPad
  • Spare PowerEX rechargeable batteries
  • Canon RC-1 Remote - for the times when I want to be in the picture :)
  • Two Sto-Fen caps - I used them for times with indoor flash
  • Tiffen 8-Stop ND Filter - when I need less light during the middle of the day
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L IS lens - pretty much my workhorse lens for everything
  • Spirit Level - for getting those nice, straight horizon lines.

Not shown is the six, 8GB compact flash cards I had also packed. Here is one shot where a lot of the pieces came in handy.


And here is how I set up the gear.

Waterfall setup

As you can see, the camera was on the large Joby and the flash was just off to the side on the smaller Joby. The flash on the camera was only used to trip the second flash via infrared and was set in ETTL mode. The main flash was gelled with 1/4 CTO to get a bit warmer skin tones. And, of course, the Canon RC-1 is safely nestled in my left hand to trigger the shutter.

The great thing about the Joby Gorillapods is you can stick them pretty much anywhere. The downside is a few times I wanted them higher off the ground and then you're out of luck unless there is a handy tree somewhere nearby.

For the most part the kit had everything I needed but I had a few regrets.

  • Hoodman Loupe 3.0 - Nearly everything I shot was in bright daylight, which makes it impossible to see the LCD. The loupe would have saved me pulling my shirt overtop the camera to check details not revealed in the histogram.
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS + Canon 1.4x Extender - I didn't need this lens all the time but it would have been great for the surfing and whale watching days. Also, this lens has fantastic bokeh. It is a little heavy and bulky though.
  • Twenty foot ETTL cable (or longer) - Canon's infrared system is good but not great outside, especially in bright sunlight. With the ETTL cable I could have forgone the second flash as I only every used one flash to light my subject.
Keep shooting.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take The Time, Part 2

I have previously blogged about "taking the time" to make pictures but it is such an important idea it's worthwhile to revisit it once more.

My partner and I have been on Maui, Hawaii for the past week. Maui is a gorgeous paradise and we have enjoyed every minute of our stay. Of course being a photographer I brought along a small but potent kit of gear to record our visit in pictures. Sometimes though making a picture requires more energy then you may want to divert to the task and that is where the choice between no picture and "taking the time" comes in to play.

The other day we made a short drive and twenty minute hike to a nearby waterfall. Of course, I had brought along my gear. I took some "easy" pictures during our trek but shots at the waterfall required more effort. To get that dreamy, smooth effect on the waterfall I needed a longer exposure. The longer exposure meant a tripod, variable ND filter and a few other gadgets. No problem. I took the time to dig out the requisite gear and made my pictures. A few snaps later I disassembled the gear and we continued exploring. Not long after I decided to do a shot of the two of us with the waterfall in the background. Making that picture required considerably more effort (I needed off-camera flash) and a bundle of patience to set up the necessary equipment. It was decision time. Take the time or not bother?

I took the time.

I took the time because I know the how much the picture will be cherished when looking back at a wonderful vacation. I know how important it is to document the special moments and I know how important it is to do it right. It is always worth the time.

Keep shooting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beautiful Maui

I have been on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii for the past five days. Its amazing scenery affords limitless opportunities for making great pictures. I packed a very light kit of gear, including a few new pieces - a Joby Gorillapod Focus with a Ballhead X and a Tiffen variable neutral density filter. Both pieces of equipment are small and super light to pack and helped me make this picture.

Beautiful Maui

Keep shooting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Night Moves

It has been quite a while since I got out for some night shooting. I honestly can't remember the last time I did it but I'm sure it has been a few months or more. Sad really because I really love shooting in the city core at night. I especially love long exposures with moving subjects. I love how you never really quite know what you're going to get. The light just seems to bounce everywhere. The mysterious light trails from vehicles that seem to make no sense and the shadows. When it goes well they all perform this magical dance and you get a cool picture. When it doesn't go as planned, uh, well, you just delete the picture when you get home. Regardless, it's always fun to capture activity after dark.


Keep shooting.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This afternoon I had a great time shooting food with my talented friend Jacinthe Koddo. If you have always wanted to learn how to make healthy and delicious meals, you need to talk to Jacinthe. You can find out more about her on her website.

Here is a sneak peak of one of the delicious creations I shot today. It was my first attempt at shooting food in a serious way. I have much to learn. :)


Keep shooting.