Monday, January 31, 2011

Mono Mondays!

"Wherever You GO"
(1/2 sec @ F/16, ISO 100, 27mm fl, 18-55mm Nikkor Wide Zoom, Pattern Metering)

Monochromatic images (aka B&W's) have always been one of my favorite types of photography. There's just something about the way line, shape, dimension and angles are accentuated when color can no longer distract from or fill up the space before the lens.  Possibilities abound with a B&W photograph. Maybe it's just me.

My first Mono Monday features a B&W I took last weekend at the Go Station downtown. If you click on the image you'll see in the larger version the slight ghost images of the public moving through the station to catch buses or trains. I ensured I could open up my aperture enough that a) I'd get the effect of a bit of movement, and b) I'd still get a clear view of the interior design elements of the building which I love without actual clusters of bodies frozen in motion to impede the comp. This is the scene you see as you first enter from the west entrance. The interior seems designed so that the eye travels the length of the station first and makes an impact. It has a very art deco feel, retro in it's styling, and this seemed to be the best way to portray it.

I normally don't like to take such an "eye level" approach to architectural compositions, but the guide belts and stands set up for ques of passengers were directly in front of the doors. So I forced myself to compose accordingly. I also tried shooting from the opposite side, but those booths were open for customers and would get cluttered with travellers. I may yet try that approach still. I also have a color version, slightly different to post later this week. I used my remote shutter release and tripod since my slow exposure would require the camera not to move at all, left my white balance on auto since I work in Raw files and can correct it in editing, and used pattern metering. I played with the length of the exposures till I had some form to the people passing through - too slow, and they disappeared moving through the shot, too fast and they were frozen in clumps. 1/2 a sec seemed to expose correctly at my aperture.

Monochromatic images. You'll find them here every Monday... a challenge to myself actually, to stay aware of those subjects and scenes that lend themselves to the balance of light and contrast, design and space, pattern and perspective. Thanks for letting me ramble on, and as always... have yourselves a good one folks.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Floral Friday!

Late Summer Peony
(1/320 sec @ F/6.3, ISO 200, 110mm fl, 55-200 mm Tele Zoom)

I'm thinking about devoting themes to my blog. To help keep me focused on the different areas of photography I love to work in. And I'm thinking Fridays will be floral... hence "Floral Fridays". A fun way to go into the weekend, to add some color, drama, and beauty to our final week day. I'll add links to great places to photograph flowers and fauna. And local botanical events coming up. And always include a botanical image for your viewing pleasure. What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments below.

I particularly wanted to post something floral today. Here in Southern Ontario, we've had snow, snow, and more snow. And as fun as that can be, I'm just hankering for color! The image above was taken this past summer. It was part of my job to capture the color and beauty of the Perennial Beds at Gage Park, overall AND up close and I will admit the close-ups are my favorite part. And I love peonies. This was one of the last fresh blooms of the summer, and was pristine. I composed the shot in the late morning shade before the bright day's heat had a chance to wilt her. I set up the tripod and remote shutter release, and used my telephoto for the close-up so I could soften the shot slightly without losing too much detail. Almost like photographing a beautiful lady.

Using public greenhouses and nature centers through the winter is a great way of making sure those photog skills don't get too rusty while you're waiting for the nicer weather to come along (unless you're one of my many friends living in a toastier climate for much of the year, you know who you are) so keep an eye out for local bulb shows, orchid societies, and growers associations having exhibits. Many of them are free, and hoping to see more of the public come out. You'll stay warm, and get some great images to lighten your winter!
So thanks for letting me ramble on, and drop me a line to say what you think of themes through the week. Gosh, now I need ideas for Monday.... hmmmm.
Have a good one folks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still Learning!

"DeGroote School of Medicine"

At the start of January I made a conscious decision to take myself back to school as it were, to read, dig through various learning sites, and tweak all the areas of my photography AND small business skills that are in desperate need of tweaking if I'm ever going to expand my horizons as a serious photographer. I am even now on the lookout for a couple of specific night classes or workshops to hone two areas that have always intimidated me. I knew I had two choices. I could waffle around and learn what works and what doesn't by accident, or I could take the bull by the horns and make a serious effort to be the photographer I know I can be. Anyone out there know anything about bulls before I step into the proverbial ring?

Part of this learning process has brought me back to older, earlier photo files. Specifically images that on the whole would be considered very successful if only I hadn't ______ (pick any flaw here). Now, this isn't dwelling on the negative just for the heck of it. This is being realistic about whether I have been growing, learning, and improving since then. This is about taking stock and figuring out where I'm still struggling. I must admit, doing this very simple step has been enlightening. And it's not as awful as I thought, since being real about my weaknesses has strengthened my resolve to start getting it right. And not by fluke. Although I too love a good "happy accident" where everything comes together in the lens despite my disjointed efforts.

The image above is a reworked version of one I took two years ago, on a photo walk with the Hamilton Flickr Group on the McMaster University campus. This may have been one of my first attempts at night photography from back then. I was able today to correct the distorted perspective gotten from my wide angle, decrease the noise overall in editing, and sharpen it much better than in the original. (And even now it's not that sharp, lol) With this first attempt reworked I can still see where I went wrong. I had paid no attention to my aperture (sitting at F/5 if you can believe it) which meant  lost clarity as the building faded into the background, and since I had a tripod with me, should not have needed my ISO to be at 400 either, and wouldn't have needed to excessively reduce the grainy effect like I did to get it looking cleaner. I know now, to enable my remote shutter release so as to avoid touching the camera and avoid any camera movement whatsoever when using a slower exposure on tripod. And my speed would have been set to an ISO 100 to allow for more light, and less noise. I also have learned since that night, that you never walk away with one shot or composition, you keep shooting, you keep changing your angles, your point of view. Then I would have had more than one image to show from that part of the walk. (In fact, it's almost second nature to me today.) And all this is just grazing the surface. Man I was so green... and still am in so many areas.

We artistic types often times will move on to some new inspirational lesson, something that excites us, leaving the flops and failures in the foggy past where they can't squelch our enthusiasm. But after working on this image from the past, and isolating what went wrong AND what went right, I find myself deeply motivated and inspired. In fact, if I can convince my poor hubby to brave the -18 degree temps with me in Hamilton, Ontario tonight, I may go practice a bit, just because I can.
Thanks for letting me ramble on! And have a good one folks!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Before Heading Out With Your Cameras....

One of my goals for 2011 is to provide more helpful info and techniques for my readers. And not just from my own personal experiences, but from other experts in other relevant fields as well. Which is why I'm delighted today to introduce my Guest Blogger and good friend Tracy to share her top six things to remember when you're out there hoofing it around town or hiking to your locations for a shoot. I know I needed to hear these too, my wish is that you find them super helpful as well!

Thank you so much to Christine for inviting me to do a guest post for all of her photog friends! I am so happy to be sharing with you :)
Over at my blog, Commit To Fit, I try to share tips with readers to help them live a healthy and balanced life. As photographers, I know you spend hours a week hiking the great outdoors in search of the perfect shot. You may not even realize it, but this is a fabulous way to stay active. Walking and hiking help boost your energy levels, burn calories, and strengthen your heart.
Today, I would like to offer a few tips to help you stay safe and get the most out of your weekly trek.

1.Dress Appropriately - In the winter, it is best to dress is layers. Wear several layers of light clothing, so you will be able to adjust if you get too hot or too cold. Style is not important here, comfort is.

2.Balance Your Gear - If you are carrying a lot of equipment with you, use a gym bag with thick shoulder pads to protect your back. Make sure that it goes over both shoulders to evenly distribute the weight.

3.Wear the Right Shoe - Invest in a good pair of outdoor hiking shoes or boots if you are going to be exploring uneven ground. For flat surfaces, a solid walking shoe will get the job done. Try on several different brands to see which one fits you the best and feels the most comfortable. Just make sure you wear several pairs of socks to keep you toes toasty.
(readers will note, the kit bag being carried here in the image to the right is not being carried properly as suggested in tip #2)

4.Warm Up and Cool Down- Although you will most likely be walking in intervals (hiking for a few minutes, then stopping for your pictures), this is still a very important step. Walk at a moderate pace for about 5 minutes at the beginning of your adventure and include some light stretching at the end. You body will thank you for it.

 5.Log Your Route - If you are shooting alone, tell a close friend or family member where you are going and for how long. It is always a good idea to have a cell phone and money with you, in case of an emergency

6.Stay Hydrated - Don't forget your water bottle and make sure to sip before, during and after your route. Drinking water will help replenish your fluids, relieve fatigue and keep your joints lubricated.

Now, hit the streets and the trails and have fun!

Stay Healthy,

There you have it folks, I hope there was something here for each of you, I know I'm guilty of slacking off in a couple of the above areas myself. And I hope that if you found this post by Tracy at Commit to Fit  informative and fun, that you'll check out her blog for more posts that will help you stay active and safe no matter what your interests are! I follow her blog, and I know it's helped me be a healthier, more energetic photographer!

Thanks Tracy! I appreciate you spending some time with us!
And to all of you who let me ramble... have a good one! Get out there and get shooting!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

And Now For Something Slightly Different...

I think it's a pretty wonderful thing when your efforts and passions are acknowledged by your peers! And this week, my blogging efforts (which I realize still need work, don't get me wrong) were awarded with the above "Stylish Blogger Award" by my good friend and fellow blogger Tracy @! I was thrilled, thanks Tracy!!!

And we want to keep this random act going too! So, if you'd like to post an award like this and acknowledge your fellow bloggers out there, here's what you do:
~First: Make a post linking back to the person who gave you the award
~Second: Share 7 (random) things about yourself
~Third: Award 15 recently discovered bloggers with this award, or as many as you can.
~Then: Contact these bloggers and tell them they've won an award!

Now for my 7 Random things you might not know about me!
1. I'm such a procrastinator. This is definitely something I've been working hard on since beginning my photography business, but it's still the truth. I work better under immense pressure, so often I let little things go till I absolutely MUST do them or else. One of the few things though that I never procrastinate on is taking my camera out... it rarely leaves my hand. However, could take me months to post the results, hahahaha.

2. I hate to cook. It's messy, it's requires running to the store when I'm comfy at home, and I just don't seem to have the knack... barbecuing I love though (mmmm summer food) and I can make a mean apple pie in twenty minutes from scratch... go fig.

3. I desperately want to visit Turkey. Obviously the photo ops would be awesome, but ages ago I saw a special on the market places and caves way up in the mountain rock face in the desert where you can stay overnight after riding on horseback to get there... and I've never forgotten how amazing it all looked.

4. I love Celtic Music. My family roots are Scottish, and also from Maritime Canada, so I love anything with fiddles, jigs, reels, aires, marches, you name it. I have a family fiddle that's roughly 180 yrs old, and have been known to play it myself ;-)

5. In another time and place (and body type, ha), I think I would have been a dancer. I'm amazed by a dancer's grace and flexibility, and focus too... any style of dance or choreography really mesmerizes me... seriously, it's weird.

6. I LOVE airports. The energy, the anticipation of traveling, the throngs of people, the architecture, the planes lifting off through the massive windows... LOVE it.

7. I really don't enjoy portraits. I love taking photos of my family and friends, because there's already an emotional investment, and I love taking photos of people on the street when I get a chance to... but I have a real respect for portrait photographers. The gear, the pressure, the lighting knowledge I find intimidating. I'll stick with nature, architecture, and design thank you.

So here's some other blogs I would award this badge to. Each one motivates, inspires, teaches, and shares in remarkable ways.
Bob @
Tracy @
Sarah @
Heather @
Ali @
Kelly @

Anyways, thanks for a ramble of a different kind! And stay tuned, this week we'll have a guest blogger with some photography related tips but from a totally different angle... have a good one folks!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The City Scene...

~Abandoned Decay~
1/30 sec.@ F/5.6, ISO 250, 55mm fl, late day
overcast light, handheld, manual

Urban Decay, Street Photography, Cityscapes... call it what you will, it's one of my favorite genres to work in during the winter. All the different textures exposed, the perfect lines and aging patterns sometimes mingle with lightly falling snow, no crowds impeding your view.
I am particularly attracted to the aging buildings, and old alleyways. Why is that? There's so many handsome, historically restored buildings within the city, but it's scenes like the one posted above that draw me. Closed in, shadowy spaces, filled with wires that crisscross through the image, poles, grids, grates, and iron steps crawling the walls. I've often kept these images to myself, thinking there won't be many like me who'd appreciate the poetry seen within the vertical lines and gritty brick patterns, chipped with ancient paint, or new graffiti. You can't say there's no character within those walls, that's for sure. If you haven't already, I urge you to explore the city limits with your camera in hand!
So what do you need to remember when you decide to take the plunge into street photography? Here's a few things I learned, perhaps they'll help someone else get excited about exploring their city if they aren't already.
1) Use light to your advantage. Early morning side light can give real definition to brick, stone, and glass patterns. Cloudy or overcast days are good for detail, stormy and sunset skies are perfect backdrops for cityscape's in a wide lens. Warm late day light is great for illuminating angles, reflections, or including people on the street.
2) Vary your perspective. Get down low on the ground, use an ultra wide lens, and emphasize the sprawl of a classic piece of architecture. Find a position that lets you photograph looking down on a busy street or deserted alley at dusk. Lean against a soaring tower or condo and distort the receding stone pattern till it looks like it never ends. Use a telephoto and zone in on one rustic detail clinging to the side of an abandoned building.
3) Be safe! Certain locations or times of day require a photo buddy. And they can double as a model in a pinch. Never step backwards into traffic... if the angle you need is in the middle of the street, find yourself a crossing guard or find a new angle. Don't carry so much gear that you'd tempt being mugged for it... I was once asked why I don't carry a tripod in the city. It screams "female photographer with her hands too full, and her attention elsewhere!" On my own, shooting urban decay, I make sure I can raise my camera easily from around my neck or shoulder, and that my backpack is strapped on well. I never stay in one spot for too long bringing attention to myself, and if alone, I shoot in well populated areas. I know this all sounds like common sense, but I've heard stories to the contrary.
I hope this has been helpful in some way. I've met many a beginner that simply shot in every tourist location, and never considered anything but composing from eye level. Add a new element and watch your street photography come alive.
The image above can be enlarged by clicking over it and I'd be ever so pleased to hear what your thoughts are on the image or the topic that accompanies it...
thanks for letting me ramble, and have a good one!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Directions for a New Year...

Ah, January... when so many make resolutions and build for themselves impossible goals. It's a recipe for failure often times, and I for one try to avoid failure at all costs.
I have been reading David duChemin's book "VisionMongers" and learned a very important principle I'm going to apply to my photography and my business for 2011. And that principle boils down to this; pursuing what you love to photograph, and positioning it where you want it within the photographic community... like giving yourself a road map and prepping for a long trip, you can take your photography to your ideal destination, and have an adventure along the way. The preparation is the focus, even more so than the journey sometimes, because it's in the prep work that you secure a successful journey in the first place.
I find myself wishing I could go back and change things about my photography or my approach to some gigs I wound up with last year... but instead I'm going to spend January digging deeply into my past images, and learning from them... who I am as a photographer, the direction I need to be going now as I mature and grow, and what I need to aim my Nikon at next... not to mention how to update my website, bring in a new logo, and decide what my true market will be that I begin to strive for...
Check out David's site at  where you'll see his incredible images and come across some excellent books, and perhaps start thinking about where you'd like your photography to take you, and vice versa in 2011.
The image above is called "South Side" and was taken last weekend as I drove around my city. Architecture is one subject I can't help but photograph. You're about to see a lot more of it on this blog!
Thanks for letting me ramble... and with the new year, you'll see me ramble on perhaps a bit more frequently so you all have a peak into my own journey with my photography! Have a good one folks!