Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas To All!

"The Christmas Hearth"

Visited the Tropical Greenhouse over at Hamilton's Gage Park the other day and amongst the banana trees and tropical ferns was their lovely Christmas display... a Christmas tree and fireplace decked out in poinsettias and amaryllis, so very sweet and homey. This is one of my favourite times of the year. I love watching loved ones open their gifts in surprise, I love reading the true Christmas story, I love the food and the friends.

This is a shot of the wreath over the fireplace... and if you ask Ron, my photography partner in crime for the day, he'll confirm that the minute I lay eyes on it, I knew I wanted this close-up. The colors and the textures called to me. And there's some great lines on the background from the mantle and windows nearby. And I knew I'd wait and share it today, my last post before the Christmas celebration begins in earnest.

I do wish you all a very blessed Christmas, and even if it is not your religion or holiday of choice, I hope you'd not be offended that I send you all the best my own seasonal celebration has to offer. If the tables were turned, I'd be touched that you'd extend the same. And many of you in other cultures have already... I'd never consider it to be anything other than an honour. Whatever you celebrate in the coming days, my prayer is that you be surrounded with family and friends, that your coming year abound with adventure and blessings, and that the peace extended to us in the gift of a babe in manger permeate the entire New Year and beyond.

Merry Christmas friends. See you on the flip side!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Channeling Escher Again ~ Mono Monday!

Which Way Up?

I'm short on time today... was playing with some old architectural photos from last December. Thought I'd post one for you here.

I'll let you decide what to make of it.
Try something, anything, creative today... it's good for the soul.

Thanks for the short ramble! Have a good one!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Little Things ~ Floral Friday!

"Curly Vine"

Without any naval gazing whatsoever today, thought I'd post a random list of all the little things that I've learned to remember whenever I'm out photographing flowers or anything for that matter. Here we go;

1. Keep a sense of adventure.

2. Use my Exposure Compensation button more. It's my friend.

3. Watch my histogram. NOT my LCD screen for accuracy.

4. The light dictates my technique. The subject in that light dictates the story.

5. A tripod slows me down. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes bad.

6. The flash comes OFF the camera. I get better photographs every time.

7. I need to continue learning about my flash.

8. I always look up. Way up. There's always something above you to see.

9. The right half of the right half of your Histogram is crucial to knowing if you have a photograph with the largest amount of information possible.
(Thank you David DuChemin for this one)

10. My telephoto will always require a tripod in less than brilliant light.
It's just a slow lens.

11. If my exposure is dead on in camera, or darn near close to, my higher ISO isn't going to ruin a photograph.

12. I do my best work in Manual mode. A total 360 from four years ago, I was terrified to leave Program mode. Total control in manual is so freeing.

13. It's okay to take sucky photographs. I learn from them. Every time.

14. Photography is hard. It's hard.

15. It's hard.

16. Keep a sense of adventure.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Large Space, Large Plane! ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Presenting The Catalina PBY-5A Canso"

I have a pressing need to go back to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum over the holidays at some point. I had such a blast photographing all the aircraft there, and the overwhelming space as well. The hanger really can become it's own character in each shot if you so choose. That always intrigues me.

What will happen though is I'm renting either an ultra-wide, or fisheye lens... and would love to hear which one you think I should go with?

Here's the thing... I don't think my nice little 18-55mm is doing the space justice. I did my best, getting low to the floor, using various aviation-type details to emphasize the perspective, the height, the vast space, all those cool lines... but I still think I could go much wider. And I'm torn between the two. I realize the easiest thing would be to rent both but I'll have enough to do adjusting to using one never mind two new lenses.

Anyways, the shot above was my first attempt trying to convey how large and beautiful the space was, and also how big the Catalina was, looking out over all the rest of the aircraft parked within the hanger. The guy walking up to the plane also helps with the scale of everything.

Ultra-wide angle? Fisheye lens? And hey, if you'd like to join me for a morning of photographing these amazing machines, drop me a line and let me know! It'll be around the first week of January!

Thanks for the ramble! Have an awesome day gang!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Photography, No Matter What!

"Curious Little Fungus"

I can deny it no longer. The crazy schedule I have right now due to the Christmas season means I may not be blogging daily for the next while. And I don't mean my work schedule, although that was busy for a bit too... I mean my personal schedule. I love Christmas and this means I make time for family, friendly gatherings every other night, and all the special activities I can't do without.

However, I DO find time to photograph SOMETHING through the week. No matter what! And so today's image is from a jaunt we made last week to try out a new hiking trail in the greater Niagara area. One we'll definitely be visiting often over the coming year. The Short Hills Provincial Park is one I've been wanting to visit for a while. Three major trails prevail, loads of birds of every color and size, deer and coyote... and I can't be certain but we think we saw fox tracks too through some mud.

I spend much of the time on new trails or locations just getting a feel for the area, the possible conditions we'll experience, the amount of time we need to experience it all, and what times of day would be the most ideal to visit. Also the history of the area. I don't do a ton of shooting my first walk through. But I do bring the camera on the off chance I need to remember what I love about the trails, and to photograph the odd scene that grabs my eye.

We were in a darker part of the woods when I spotted some fungi I had never seen before on the Bruce trails in the Hamilton area. Tiny, tiny, white with ruffles and tinges of green throughout. I loved the texture, but hated that I had neglected to pack my tripod, which I didn't really want with me this first time through. It was super bright out for the most part with harsh light and I wasn't thinking about how thick and dark the canopy of trees can be even without their leaves. So this one was taken with the ISO jacked up to about 500 to avoid any camera shake. The rock bed I stood in was not too sturdy either and I couldn't find a secure spot to place the camera on a support of any kind without it getting wet. So this is the best I could do.

I still like the image and it speaks of the future photo possibilities awaiting me the next time I return. Possibilities I'll be able to anticipate and try to be prepared for. But it's a fabulous park and the walk with the hubby was wonderful regardless of what little material I came back with this first go round! How about you? Do you always scope out a new area before trying to spend hours photographing it? I highly recommend it. No matter what.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On My Bookshelf ~ Exploration Thursday!


It's occurred to me that I've not had time to discuss the type of material I keep handy when I want to be inspired, challenged, or taught. Nor who's teaching or writing styles have been (in my opinion) the most instructive and motivational without being a difficult read. These five books featured on the post today will forever be on my bookshelf at home and I'm about to break down why.

My first pick is pictured above (from Amazon.com so the action statement above each book will not work, just letting you know now...) and it is hands down my favorite David DuChemin book ever. So far. His new one is on order and after I read it this one may have to make room for "Photographically Speaking"... anyways... as I was saying, "Within The Frame" is invaluable to any photographer, David has an easy going yet no-holds barred kind of writing style, the images fully explain each concept he introduces to what makes an engaging photograph and you are left feeling like you finally understand why you love to approach photography the way you do.


This is my latest acquisition and you'll appreciate Manning's breakdown of how to discover who you are as a photographer and then how that applies to the various avenues available for boosting your career as a photographer. Simple easy tips on how you can start making money now, and then the bigger picture for later on. Another uncomplicated read, Erin lays everything out for your consideration and even has spot light sections on various pros who answer questions on what their own hardest obstacles were and what they're still learning today about their business and their photography. I'll be hanging on to this book!


There is a lot of great Canadian content featured in this post, but none more magical than any book by the great Freeman Patterson... including this new and improved revision of "Photography and the Art of Seeing". Freeman's books contain enchanting images, and he gives you an intimate look into his inspiring photographic thought process. His goal? To motivate you to look closely and think completely about all the fantastic subject matter you have around you even now. Patterson really does challenge the lofty photographer to stop skimming the surface and start doing the work it takes to recognize great photo ops even in your backyard if need be. I really love this book.


When I first saw this book on the shelf of the local bookshop, it was the beautiful colors that drew me, and then the title. Then when I realized it was Michael Freemen, I HAD to have it. If anyone can breakdown the inner workings of how the eye sees imagery, and how composition can be your strongest tool, it's Michael. He stresses being the "informed" photographer, assessing everything from the subject's story, to the light, to the location, to how it all feels together. Much like DuChemin's book, if you can't put your finger on why you put your finger on the shutter for a certain shot, then it's time to stop flying by the seat of your pants when you can, and start really seeing what makes a great photo to you personally. The minute that happens, your viewers will notice and feel compelled by your images also. Whew. Good stuff folks. Read it!

And finally (excuse the giant space around it) the book I keep handy for pure inspiration. "Manufactured Landscapes" by Edward Burtynsky is a visual adventure into the manufactured footprint we're leaving on our planet. If you've ever had the pleasure of viewing one of these magnificent photographs in one of our national galleries, you know that these images are the epitome of excellent photographic skills and a passion for our planet put together.  He explains at one point about the use of the "essential element"... something that brings you right into the photo, that can only be captured from a certain point, at a certain time, from a certain location, in certain light, etc... in other words, be deliberate.
You cannot help but walk away from this monster of a book feeling like you need to make a change somehow. And landscapes will never be the same again my friend.

Each of these books will change how you feel about photography. No doubt about it. And there are so many others. Inhale each and every one and you'll reignite you love for the photograph and the camera!

Thanks for the ramble, and have a good one! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time For Cards!


I don't usually use this space to promote my sale items, but I've had a number of folks ask if I'm still selling our Art Card Sets. The answer is yes! So I thought I'd include them here on the blog and get the word out.

And I have also been asked before if these come in bulk from a printer of any kind. These are made by hand, each and every one, and before you decide that's a little too "Suzy-homemaker/old school/craft nut-ish" I can tell you that they are a fine quality watercolor paper card stock with detailed edging on both cards and envelopes, with heavy quality photo paper in brilliant clarity, adhered completely and professionally with much care.

Each and every one is then signed.

These come in sets of 12 assorted images, the Landscape Set and the Floral Collection... easy to purchase through my website when you click on the links I've just provided and scroll under the image to the Purchase button.
If you are in the Hamilton, Ontario area and wish to avoid shipping and handling, please paste the link to whichever set you'd like and your particulars in an email to cduncansphotography@gmail.com and we'll set up your order for you and a drop off/payment time.

I've been told they make a great gift for others or yourself, and have had many folks tell me a few stay on their walls in frames for safe keeping.

This is one of those rare times I indulge in a little self-promo here on the blog... I'll be back tomorrow with my usual ramble!
Have a super day gang!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pursuit of the Better SP ~ Part II

"Finally Smiling!"

So here we are with Part II of my quest for a better self portrait. With the inclusion of some very important tips, I was able to get a few images I felt good about. This is STILL not my favorite activity of all time but it was good for me to get a better handle on this particular subject. I'm including two of my favorites today.
Here's what went down....

Last week I said my basic approach was just playing with my settings and trying to get some over all good light. But let's face it, it was boring light. In order to get some interesting light with nice coverage, I took a moment to get an exposure that wasn't being affected by the ambient light in the room at all, so basically, my test shot result was a black screen. This is the only time that this is a good thing. But it was all about to change! Enter my speedlight and reflector/light panel. The flash was about to override any available light in the room and help me get better portraits. I placed my flash fairly close to my location, at half power and aimed/bounced it behind and up into my reflector. This disperses your flash light evenly and with better quality than just the flash aimed at the subject. (Do a little experiment next time with just flash and then flash diffused or bounced out towards the subject and see the difference in editing.) 

With my flash being controlled totally by the camera, it made it easy to change settings too instead of running over to the one and then the other. I had my reflector on a stand, clipped at an angle and positioned just in front and to the right of me. I positioned the camera at eye level, and quite close to create a more intimate portrait. Still using my 50mm prime lens at a softer aperture of about 2.8 - 4.5 meant getting a depth of field with some drama. And the smaller the aperture, the more powerful the flash setting needed to be. Why? Because the light I ultimately wanted for the shot needed to break through the available light currently in the room. When I first learned this concept, flash photography really began to make sense to me as another type of artist's tool, and not something scary to overcome.
I did start out with the flash at it's maximum sync speed, but decided artistically that dialing it down to half created a light I liked.

At half power, I started to get very subtle soft shadows. This adds volume to the image and avoids looking harsh and flat. Later in processing, I used curves to ensure that there were also nice highlights to balance out the shadow areas without having too much contrast. Skin tones in portraits need to seem soft and clean. Save your edgy, clarified, high pass sharpening skills for more editorial or street photo type portraits. There's nothing worse than razor sharp wrinkles and features with deep contrasting lines within a classic portrait. What I did pay attention to in processing was the odd blemish, and the detail around the eyes. And I'm deathly opposed to making people look like wax figures with that often overused skin-softening tool. So just the make-over brush was used to even skin tones in the odd spot.

I've done one in B&W and one in color today... I may yet attempt to get a better B&W done. Am not sure if I like so many dark areas in the final one above. But it's much improved from last week's portrait and that was the point of this exercise. The moral of this pursuit? Everything takes practice, your flash is a wicked tool the minute you remove it from on top of your camera, and that if you truly want to know how many wrinkles you have, just smirk into a 50mm portrait lens.... you can count each and every one. Sigh.

"Yours Truly"

Thanks for following along on this journey not yet over, and have a
super Monday gang!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flowers and... Trucks? ~ Floral Friday!

2011 Fall Mum Show, Gage Park, Hamilton

Back to Floral Friday and I thought seeing as we're now into the cold weather I'd post something bright and colorful... and automotive. Yes, you read that right. For all you men out there that think flowers are for girls... well, they are. But put a massive antique vehicle in their midst and suddenly you have men flocking to the nearest flower show. Ha.

The theme for this years past Mum Show was "Fire" and there were massive displays throughout the brand new spacious greenhouses that were full of bright color, dragons spitting fire, a giant flame, and these beautiful old firetrucks, polished to a mirrored finish and decorated to within an inch of their shiny chrome. Naturally, I had to take pictures.


The space was well light obviously, and the only downside was trying to photograph between crowds of visitors. Space like this requires you to truly pay attention to the clutter and chaos intruding into the frame, and to still try to get the big picture for those who may not have been there. The two shots up this morning were my favorite from the show. And I hope you enjoy, whether you're partial to flowers OR trucks!

Have a good weekend folks, and thanks once again for the ramble!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pursuit of the Better Self Portrait ~ Part I

"Photographer's Self Portrait"

I must admit, self portraits are my least favorite project of ALL time. So when I thought about a new two part post on a subject I rarely post about, this totally fit the bill. I say two part post because today I'll show you the first  shot from the beginning of my pursuit for a better self portrait... and next Monday I'll show you the final portrait after my wrestling with off-camera flash, lens choice, and processing... not to mention putting a more positive expression on my face. I was going for smoldering and mysterious.
Seriously. Stop laughing now.

The first part of this session was rough for me. I'm still learning about off-camera lighting. I'm so skittish with light. But I did remember one thing I've learned recently... the closer the light source, the better the light wraps around the entire subject. The further away, the more harsh and hard edged it gets due to fall-off because the light has to travel further to light your subject... er, yourself... you know what I mean. Makes sense but it takes me a second to remember this rule of lighting. So at least I remembered to set my SB-600 on a stand with a diffuser really close to where I would sit... and by close I mean it intruded into my personal space bubble. But it was not directly in front of me either... it sat at a slight angle to me. I also had on the immediate right a large window with soft white curtains diffusing the light. My speedlight was in manual mode, not quite on full power (could have dialed it up a little more), triggered by my on-camera flash which had been dialed down all the way so as to keep from overpowering the shot by itself.
Needless to say, it took many adjustments, and many trips back and forth to the camera to set my flash settings.

But here's where you have to pay attention to the ambient light in the room if you've never worked on this type of shot before, and decide if you want your own lighting to overrule the room's ambient exposure. Or you may want to preserve the light already in the room and simply enhance it. I pretty much overlooked this in the image above, I was so busy just trying to get the camera in a good place, my head in a good spot, and get my gear working the way I learned. Next week you'll see what I decided on.

Oh, and I cloned out all the panicky little beads of sweat across my forehead in this shot by the way. Just saying. It's not easy to put up before & afters, online for all to see. Geez the pressure.

Lastly, we'll talk about lens choice. I used my portrait lens, my 50mm F/1.8 prime, and I think it was the right choice from the start. It gives no visible distortion no matter where you position the lens around the subject... er, yourself... and it has fabulous depth of field. I could have used my telephoto for similar results, but the camera would have been much further away to compensate for it's long range. The wide angle really is a no no for this type of portrait, the minute you angle it the lens slightly distorts various facial features... definitely not a look for me.

So not a terrible self portrait, but not a real prize winner yet. Stay tuned for next Monday when I discuss all the additional things that I needed to change and to see the "after" shot! I will also attempt to have a diagram for you of the final set-up for those that would like to see what worked best in my tiny little work space. Can't wait for PART II... I think.

Have a great day gang, thanks for the challenging ramble!




Monday, November 28, 2011

Direction and Decision ~ Mono Monday!

"Autumn's Last Gift"

Dug into my files for todays image. Truth be told, my photography seems to be in a holding pattern for now. I'm trying to make some decisions, ones that will help my full time approach to photography, and expand my portfolio, and am starting to feel overwhelmed I guess. I'm sure you've all had those days.

The question is "where is all this taking me?"

I have to answer this question in the not too distant future. Not sure how. But I will say this. I'm excited to step out of my comfort zone a bit. If I've learned anything this year it's that there aren't nearly the amount of rules I thought there were as a photographer. So what am I waiting for? I can make my photography go anywhere I want it to! You can too!

Where DO I want my photography to go next?
I'll let you know, when I know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Changing Seasons In the Camera...

"Before The First Winter Wind"

The days are so much shorter, and the temperature's dropping slowly. I love autumn, mostly because the weather and the light provide ample ways to add a richness to any photograph.

But there's no doubt about it... winter approaches!
I've already noticed that the warm light of late afternoon is beginning to be replaced with the cooler tones of a sun distancing itself for the coming season. Oh sure, there'll still be sunshine. But it's of a different quality for the next while. You're thinking, "she's off her nut! It's the exact same!" But images taken during the winter months have a completely different quality, and science would back me up... possibly.

At any rate, it's a great way to start getting creative with what I might choose to photograph, since I'll no longer have glorious flowers or summery trails at my disposal. I start hunting down older architecture, cemeteries, street photography, and play with my itty bitty studio gear. I switch to more seasonal scenery to inspire, and try my hand at a few new things too... for instance, this week I'm trying to get a self portrait done that I actually like, and next week I'm going to try making my own seamless/backdrop for some fun portrait work I've always wanted to try.

And never fear, I'm not opposed to being out in the weather catching some light on a snowy field or two. I'll keep the landscapes comin'. But much like taking in the patio furniture for the next four months (who am I kidding, more like 6!) I'm already deciding what to change about my photography while the great Canadian winter prepares to give us a good wallop!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If I Had To Be Honest ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"The Bomber and The Catalina"

Maybe I'm an odd duck. Let me rephrase that... I know I'm an odd duck. But there have always been a few things in the photography world that have puzzled me or that, despite mass interest, I've been reluctant to endorse as a photographer looking to create a career as opposed to a hobby. I thought I'd get them off my chest today. But please know they're only my opinions, and if you are coming from a different place in your photographic journey they may not apply to you in the same way.

Firstly, online photo communities that have a cost to join. Now if you're just getting started and need to surround yourself with various talent and styles, and haven't pegged your true niche yet, or strengths, these are a great tool for learning. Discussions happen, tips are swapped, and there might even be contests that keep you motivated. But honestly, after you've grown, you're simply paying to remain inside a tidy little photographic playground where the only others there are exactly like you. You generally won't see companies lurking these member-only sites looking for future talent, especially local businesses who can connect with you right away... it's JUST more photographers. There's no one who's looking for stock photos, they have sites of their own where you go to them instead. So I'm sorry, but after a while, these feel like a dead end to me unless they have something to connect anyone who'll ever need a photographer in some capacity. Meeting other photographers from around the world is fun, but there's so many free photo communities that offer that, that the paid members-only just seems stifling. In the end, even the free communities can be a drain on your valuable time that could be spent making face to face connections that might open up new opportunities. In fact, Twitter has brought me ten times the opportunities in less than a year, than all the other communities I was once apart of for several years combined! Why?
Because your photography gets exposed to EVERYONE.

Whew. Good to have that off my chest. Next, the group photowalk. Now before anyone gets upset, I'm greatly in favor of meeting other photographers, getting to know them, swapping funny stories and advice. And I'm also in favor of workshops that challenge you to stretch, try knew things and meet some people in the process, because these are usually groups of no more than ten, and you have a vast location to utilize while you focus on learning. I'm talking about the group walks that take place in the local park down the street and about 30 of you swarm it with cameras, and everyone is trying to get the shot no one else will get. It just seems crazy to try to accomplish so much in such an overexposed area. Maybe it's me, but I much rather prefer working alone, able to concentrate completely on my process of learning, exploring, and redefining what I love about a certain location, instead of having to time everything I do around whether someone else is in my spot, or in my shot. I can count on one hand the people I know I can photograph with that don't feel the need to constantly walk the same paths, keep up conversation, or need to compete for "the" shot of the day. Have I done group walks? Yes. Did I get great photos? Yes. But the cons outweighed the pros after a while, and if you're far enough along that you no longer need a life line, be careful that for the sake of being one of the group, you don't get held back. I've seen it happen.

Lastly, make decisions for yourself. I'm all in favor of continued learning, reading the latest photography books, following the blogs of the pros... but as you do all that decide why something does or doesn't work for you, and avoid the bandwagon mentality. Test things for yourself. Stand up for your creative vision. We're discovering as digital photography evolves that the die hard rules of photography, and processing, and use of gear are all changing too. Labs print jpegs way better than they used to, Raw isn't always necessary, sensor size/quality is still more important than mega pixels, and not everything has to be neon-like HDR or special effects to be fabulous photography. And sometimes it does. Know your camera. Stop obsessing about digital noise so much that you never get the shot with the higher ISO. These are just a few examples of what we all struggle with. Decide what's important to where you are and go with it.

Like I said, I feel like these were things I always wanted to say, and was in the mood to say them today. I don't expect everyone to agree, and my views could even be wrong for all I know. But this is the great thing about owning a blog... I get to have my say regardless. Just bein' honest!

Thanks for the ramble... and have a super Tuesday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Glorious ~ Floral Friday!

"Bloomin' Sunshine"

I love a challenge don't you? Right now I'm preparing to try some new avenues within my photography for the coming new year. I'm reassessing my skills, deciding what needs an overhaul, where I might be wasting my time, and how I want to present it all. It excites me. It intimidates me.
It's a glorious process.

I'm going to try to include this process here on the blog... my attempts at change, what I'm getting inspiration from, what I fail at... all of it. My hope is that it'll help someone else out there step out of their comfy zone and embrace a different approach to whatever their own passion is. And as always, I'll keep posting photos!

Anyways, that's my plan over the next little while... just in case you see some changes! Have a groovy Friday gang, and thanks for the ramble!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Faces of Honor ~ Exploration Thursday!


Every so often the opportunity arises to capture a community event with the camera. For me, it's a chance to try documentary style, or photo journalism type photography. Forget setting up a shot, this is go with the flow-by the seat of your pants photography. Nov.11th provided some practice at this down at the Cenotaph Ceremony in Hamilton. And so this visual tribute to the men and women who have bravely represented freedom and honor, is posted on the blog today.










All these moments become reminders on two levels. One: that great photography doesn't have to have bold effects or massive vistas but can simply share a story with you, and two: that one day we may not have enough "faces of honour" left. I hope a week ago, you took time to honor someone who has fought for your freedom.
I hope we do it every week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Massive Architecture On The Brain ~Mono Monday!

"Union's Majesty"

Oh what I wouldn't give for a decent fisheye lens, or ultra-wide angle right about now. Because when I think about photographing massive architecture like the powerful looking and massive Union Station in Toronto, I always want to include as much of it as possible. And it's hard to do with a modest, run-of
-the-mill wide angle. Even a Tilt-shift lens would have been doable.

But I gave it my best shot. Those other lenses will come in time.

The other obstacle in photographing this grand terminal is that it sits right up against the street... and I don't know about you but it's never fun being run over by hectic Toronto traffic while on a photowalk. Maybe that's just me.

As I worked on photographing Union Station, I decided if I couldn't use the actual size of the entire building to create a sense of power, then I would have to rely on wide lines, distorted perspective, and a sense of symmetry to convey the same feeling. The strong visual lines up and across engage our sense of space, allowing us to understand the possibility of a bigger picture. The perspective influences our perception of height, and we reason that it's towering over us, as opposed to in front of us. And symmetry seems to add weight to a photo. It worked in this case because the sculpture itself is symmetrical in shape and in it's placement on the grounds of the property. It's okay in this instance for the eye to continue returning to the center of the image, there is engaging subject matter there and makes sense.

Converted to a classic platinum B&W in Corel with some slight tweaking in curves and such, and I think I'm content with today's image.

But the minute I have a wider lens, you'll know. I won't be able to help myself. I'll always have architecture on the brain. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Remember Now...


Freedom

 Fallen Soldiers

Pride

Strength

Thanksgiving

True Patriot Love

War

Salute

Veterans

Protection

All Who Went Before

Lives Given

Honour

Poppies

Oh Canada

We Remember

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Muse ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Cascades"

What do you use as a muse, to allow yourself to be inspired? Something colorful? Your favorite subject? Your favorite location? Interesting weather? Music? Literature? What talks to your creative side so thoroughly that you then have to grab your camera, your pen, your paintbrush and fill that desire no matter where you are or what you felt prior to.

Tomorrow will be my Remembrance Day tribute on the blog, so I thought I'd post Floral Friday early and ask these questions of you today instead. Why? Well, here's the thing... I asked a talented beginner photographer these questions in a conversation not that long ago, and they couldn't answer me. No definitive reason why they pursue photography. Or what they use to gain inspiration.

It doesn't have to be a complex reason why you love to photograph anything, or pursue anything. I think one of the best reasons to do what you love is because it brings you joy. Simple right?

The rush of color, the tangle of shapes, and the sweetness of the subject in our photo for the blog today is enough to make me anxious to pick up my Nikon right now and find a subject to enjoy and share.

So, think about it? What's your muse?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You Just Know ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Keep Me Hanging On"

It's when the light is doing something magical and it shouldn't be. It's when you spot a surprising element in the middle of chaos. It's when it'd be easier to leave all the gear packed away, and you stop for "one more shot" anyway. It's when your husband is anxiously waiting to get back home to his football game, but you know that if you don't take the shot you'll regret it way longer than he will for missing the first 2 minutes.

All are examples of those moments when you press the shutter and you just know it's the one shot that made the trip worthwhile. You know what I'm taking about. It's the discovery of a moment you know you must get or you'll forever remember the "one that got away". It's that simple.

Today's image was that moment for me. Walking the Albion Falls trail in Hamilton, there were golden leaves everywhere, and we walked the whole trail and back taking nice pictures of the paths, and the light, and the trees... and I had packed up the camera heading back to the car, tired but satisfied with the day... until I spied this leaf hanging on for dear life, caught on a low branch in the midst of it's fall. It was neat looking but I was done shooting. It had this fabulous backdrop of chestnut trees and golden leaves but I was done shooting. It had this wonderful texture and color but I WAS DONE shooting. I stepped away from it... and then turned back, mumbling to myself I was probably insane, got out the tripod, the camera, the telephoto lens and set up the shot. The sun suddenly came out one last time and there it was. I got a few shots off, the sun dwindled, and I was done. Packed up the camera and tripod, and emerged from the trail explaining to the husband where I'd briefly disappeared to. He knows me too well to comment.

But I just knew that this was my favorite shot of the day. And it's everything I love about photography. In fact, every photographer I know is driven by the thrill of discovery at some point. It's what gets their adrenaline pumping. Could be a sudden elusive moment in a studio with a model, could be out in a duck blind when an unexpected species wanders by, could be when your toddler suddenly blows you a kiss when she never has before... exciting right? And you just know that's the shot.

Analyse it later, but get that shot now. It's okay to get a shot "because you just know" it's the shot you've been waiting for. You know?

Thanks for the ramble gang, and have a day of discovery wherever you are!

Friday, November 4, 2011

For Colors Sake ~ Floral Friday!

"The Sweetest Blush"

I'm in love with the subtle range of hues in this image. Until the Annual Fall Mum Show last week, I had no idea 'mums could be grown in such elegant, rich color pallets. Not only that but they are enormous in size. Think blooms the size of a bowling ball and you'll get the gist!

I suddenly have the urge to go bowling... In a garden. Huh.

I pay very close attention to color when I'm shooting nature. I'm always making sure that for the most part I'm not relying on it alone, in place of finding better subject matter, to dazzle the viewer. That's lazy photography in my opinion. BUT... there are times when it's a crucial part of the image, or perhaps color even becomes the subject matter itself. Then it becomes another tool in your arsenal of imagery.

I saw these 'mums and decided that I needed their color to fill the entire frame. That, paired with the repetitiousness of the petals and enhanced by the deep shadows I exposed for, made sure the colors would be the impacting visual factor. And isn't that the reason we even take photographs? Because something made an impact? And we're driven to provide the same visual experience with others? I know that's why I do.

I chose an exposure, I chose a vantage point, I chose a subject, I chose a composition, and I chose my processing approach ALL for color's sake. That's a pretty powerful element when deliberately and carefully put to use.

Skip bowling. I think I'll go find me something colorful to photograph.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Do You See? ~ Exploration Thursday!

"And Then They Were Gone"

I couldn't wait to post this image. I felt like a little kid when I discovered the scene, felt like a little kid at christmas when I took the shot, and felt giddy as a little kid as I posted. And why?

Well... what do you see?

Your answer may be a bunch of leaves. And you'd be right. But when I was busy hiking past them and happened to glance over, I saw what looked like hundreds of butterflies launching into the autumn breeze. It stopped me in my tracks. The light was dappled, kissing some of the branches along the very edge of the escarpment, and it contrasted well with the forest floor in the gorge below. I did not think twice. I switched lenses (55-200mm telephoto), and I waited for the sun to come out from behind some clouds while I composed. And I carefully underexposed slightly to make sure the colors were rich looking without loosing any detail to too much shadow.

It felt whimsical, and dramatic, and I couldn't wait to post it. Even my husband, who is very used to my giddy outbursts when I get a shot that thrills me (and humours me by rushing over to give me a "nice one dear") took one look and said, "Whoa. That's cool... they look like butterflies!"

That sealed the deal folks.

I may play with this and do an abstract version as well... but for now it just needed some slight saturation and high pass sharpen applied for added oomph. Oomph is extremely technical jargon I know, but try to follow along. Where was I?

Right. I guess my tip for the day is don't be so boxed in to only looking for one type of shot, that you miss the other possibilities lurking in the middle of the ordinary. Ask yourself when out with the camera,
"Self... what do you SEE?"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bathed in Light ~ Wide Angle Wednesday!

"Incorrigible Path"

I love autumn. The light alone this time of year makes any scene or subject glow. I find it very difficult to stay stuck behind my desk when afternoon rolls around, because the light is magical. In fact right now I'm duct taped to my desk so I can't leave the work I have to finish this week instead of traipsing around the escarpment with the Nikon.

It's painful. You have no idea how it's killing me to be stuck inside right now.

The next best thing is to post images from my latest romp over by Albion Falls. This is how I'll have to get my fix. Both images are centered around how the light looked along the trail. Sometimes we forget to make the light the subject, the star of the show. It seems it'd be easier to remember to use it considering that light is the very basis of any photography. Without light, there's nothing to see.

Sounds simple but you have no idea the amount of comments I get where someone says they want to know what caused me to stop and see a certain subject or scene. My answer? It's almost always the light.

"Canopy of Light"

In fact if you review your own images and find yourself consistently thinking something's missing, you may need to pursue better light. More interesting light. Creative light. Pursue the light and you'll find your photography will improve vastly. It's simple but too many try every other solution first. Instead they just need to return to a scene when it's bathed in interesting light.

All this talk of light and photography is making me fidgety. So I must sign off before I run into the street with my camera yelling "I'm free at last!!!"
The sooner I get my work done, the sooner I can get rid of all this irritating duct tape.

Have a groovy day gang, and thanks for the ramble.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Better 'Mum Show Photos ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Floral Waves"

The question has come up regarding what my top advice would be for photographing all the different annual flower shows that happen all year round. The question is well timed, as I just began reviewing my images from my visit to the Annual Fall Mum Show over at Hamilton's Gage Park. So I thought I'd share some tips that have worked for me from day one till now. And as always, you can apply these to much more than flowers. So here we go with my impromptu list:

~No matter what camera or lens, you can always find ways to get in closer. On point and shoot cameras you'd be amazed at how helpful your macro settings are for allowing you to get really close yet still allowing you to focus. And the larger the file (raw or fine jpeg option) the easier it is to crop later in even a simple editing program to give the impression of being closer still.

~With a DSLR it's no secret that a good telephoto lens can be a great substitute for a macro lens if needed. Hence the images posted today. It may require you to stand at a further distance from your subject initially, but it gets you much closer visually. Be very careful to have a tripod when possible though, with tight detail you want the image as sharp as possible. 

~When you can, wait for great light. This is hard to anticipate, but once at the location assess what kind of light you're working with (or against in the case of dark interiors with florescents). Greenhouses are ideal, you know whatever the light is doing outside will be infusing the interior as well. But I have found cloudy weather, though great for even lighting, is still dark enough in a greenhouse that I either need to use a tripod again to use longer exposures with sharpness, or I need to use a combination of subtle flash and a higher ISO. Light in the autumn season is the most wonderful light to work with, even when it's full on sun. It's still warm and no matter the direction, it wraps around a subject. I waited for a sunny day to visit the Mum Show and the wait paid off in really rich light bathing the flowers.

~Stop looking for "flowers" per se, and start looking for engaging shapes, forms, and color patterns. It can be overwhelming to step into wall to wall award winning chrysanthemums, tulips, or orchids and then try to figure out what to actually zero in on. I'll often single out the largest or most boldly colored blossoms and aim my lens at those first. It gets me warmed up, and I start seeing things more creatively. I always look for the petals that might still be holding water drops, that are unfurling in unique patterns, and contrasting colors of petal against others beyond them. Clusters of perfect blossoms can be very dramatic if your exposure is set to maximize deep color.

"Sweet Baby Jane"

~ Change that perspective PLEASE. Many displays are at eye level, and it's easy to forget to change your vantage point after a while. I can always pick out the more intense photographers at a show because they're the ones getting beneath the flowers shooting up, tucking themselves against displays shooting across or into rows of fabulous flowers, or finding the stairs or balcony of a show room and shooting over top of it all. Heck, I've been know to hold my camera way over my head and hope the auto focus does it's job while I shoot blind over the heads of a group of flowers. Or nearly set it on the floor, just as blindly pointing the lens up into identical groupings for impact. Zooming into the middle of a large bloom on a long exposure setting can be magical too!

~Finally, pay attention to your Depth of Field. Understanding how to use a shallow DOF (keeping your aperture wide open, F/2.8 for example) and how it works in relation to the lens you're using, the distance you're photographing at, and what the purpose of the shot is, is key. Dramatic, creative images can be enhanced with a wider aperture. But later when you photograph an entire display with layers of fabulous flowers, you want to close down your aperture to use a narrower DOF to your advantage, getting the whole scene in sharp focus. And be aware if you're not using manual focus that you are choosing a focus point in your viewfinder that allows you to get the most out of the available hyper-focal distance. For landscape format compositions, this can mean being careful to focus a third of the way into the scene so that everything beyond is also continuously full of detail. And pump up that DOF if your goal is to have every petal in the close-up sharp too.

Whew, a lot of writing today. But I find it difficult to dissect what happens every time I consider photographing flowers... I hope this was helpful?
Have a great day gang, and thanks for the instructional ramble!