Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Plane ...And Simple ~ WideAngle Wednesday!

"North American Harvard IV"

If ever there was a subject that benefited from the use of a wide angle lens, it was the winged machines ready for flight and display at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. You're forced to get low, to include the actual space in most every composition, and to emphasize shape so as to emphasize power and history.

That wide perspective and slight barrel distortion that comes with 18mm focal lengths, and extended out to 12mm, is seriously advantageous to photographing this space. I may have to rent an ultra wide my next trip over there. I felt like 18mm was the tip of the iceberg photographically. It's a massive space but tightly packed with these rare birds so you have to get creative no matter what lens you're toting. But I'll say it again. It was a high to be photographing these incredible pieces of history. The plane posted today first flew in 1940...and is still in working condition.

Photographers, it sounds simple, but be sure to check out everything your city or area has to offer! Get excited about it! And let it show in your images.

More to come from my exploration of this wonderful spot in the Hammer. Have a good one folks, thanks for the ramble.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A New Love ~Mono Monday!

"Catalina PBY-5A Canso"

Propellers, gears, wheels, rivets, wings. I had no idea I would become so enamoured photographing planes on an outing last week. But I think I spent nearly four hours within the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, and easily came home with approximately 400 images to sort through. And images I'm so excited about too.

Sometimes I visit a new location with the camera and I have to feel my way around for a while, get a feel for it's story or it's possible subjects. Sometimes I return to my desk knowing there's only one or two gems to be harvested from all my efforts trying to really see the true essence of a place or thing. Often you really make those first visits, scouting visits, so you can have a good handle on the best time to be there, and how best to approach photographing an area.

This was not one of those times. The obvious potential was nearly overwhelming, and it did not take me very long to find the less obvious rhythm and approach to photographing the museum either. Every plane had fabulous light, or details, or presence. And the space itself, the hangers where they display these thrilling workhorses of our war heritage, for me ended up being a subject all it's own with fabulous angles, spaces, lines, and light. Before I knew it, four hours had passed and I was dying to get back to the computer with my load of images. That's when I knew I was in love.

And the craving for B&W? I can alleviate it here, in many of the images to follow over the coming weeks. I saw the potential for mono in nearly everything. And I shot with it foremost in my mind, as I composed, as I assessed the light and the angles. I was a kid in a candy store friends.
In fact... yep... still giddy!

The shot for today was taken from underneath the wings of a massive PBY-5A Canso. It is tempting to try to get the entire plane in a shot, and the space is big enough to, let me assure you... but I didn't want just any shot. Especially when you considered the backdrop of the girders above in the hanger's ceiling. The Canso itself is white which only adds to the multiple dimensions of the composition for me. And the giant propellers? I was in awe.
And a bit of history. The Catalina first flew in 1935, and apparently was used for naval rescue and reconnaissance for a period of time before it was used for more industrial purposes.

Quite a few other photographers there that day, but none of them got up close and personal with the planes from what I could see. But I have to say... I wasn't looking at them as planes. I was looking at them as designs, as lines, as spaces, as powerful shapes. And when you remove the label, you remove yourself from the average approach. And you find a new love.

I'm already yearning to return... and I've only just skimmed the surface of images to edit or post. A few are already up on my website here. And here also. A new love, a new photographic obsession.
War planes! Who knew?

Hope you all find something to thrill you into picking up your camera with fresh eyes this week! Have a good one, thanks for the ramble friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's the Story? ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Honoring History"

So here's the puzzle. You tell me the story. This is a picture within a picture... but what exactly are we looking at? It's up to you to guess.

My family and I have been taking in a few historical places and such. Yesterday's location made it easy to be overcome with nostalgia and gratitude, and education. Some of you may remember where I said where we were headed...

I'm mainly taking this approach today because I love to be a tease... and I'm out of time for posting anything longer. And if you KNOW what this photo is, leave a comment in the comment section of this post with your answer. 

The first person to guess correctly gets a free 8x10 black and white print also taken at the same location, of this image...
seen here. To qualify you must be a resident of Ontario.

SO HAPPY GUESSING! I'll post the winner here on my blog!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Swingtime! Wide Angle Wednesday

"Carnival Designs"

You'll have to excuse me if over the next few days you see images from my ramblings with the family 'cause it's VACATION WEEK!
First up, we went to the CNE or the Canadian National Exhibition or affectionately known as The EX... take your pick. Regardless of what you call it, it's an entire day of midways, rides, shows, competitions, animals and food. It's just so gosh darn fun to take the family. So we did.

At night, the place is lit up like a Christmas tree on the fourth of July. While I wasn't there to play photographer except to capture some memories, I managed to sneak in some shots just for me anyways. The swings are one of the classic rides of all time. And it sure is purdy at night!

I jacked my ISO to about 800 or 1000 for this one I believe and steadied the shot across my forearm on a post nearby. Very little has been done in post processing.

Today we're off to the WarPlane Heritage Museum... images are sure to follow!

Enjoy your day folks! And happy rambling!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Favorite Bridge ~ Mono Monday

"Structured Beauty"

A short post today revisiting an older image. It's my favorite bridge in the greater Hamilton area to photograph and has been a popular print in my collection. If you'd like to see a larger version click here to visit my website. 

I love a subject with repetitious lines, and no matter what part of this skyway you photograph, you get 'em! They emphasize perspective and create elements your eye travels to throughout the image. I can't resist this structure. And the obvious choice was to go with B&W.

I'm on day trip with the family today, and of course I'm taking the camera... so I thought I'd make this a quick post and hit the road! But I really should go back to the Burlington Skyway soon, it's been too long since I last shot it.

Have a fabulous day gang! Thanks for the tiny ramble!

Friday, August 19, 2011

World Photography Day! ~ Floral Friday!

"Bold Whimsy"

It'd be a shame if I didn't actually post on the blog today, seeing as it's world photography day! So here I am, a little later than usual but it's a post none the less. I saw quite a bit of activity today in all sorts of photo communities, celebrating World Photography Day. And if you didn't actually take a photo today, I hope you were able to appreciate some instead.

Needless to say, there have been some amazing people who have mentored or befriended, or encouraged, or supported, or inspired me on my own pursuit of better photography. If I named everyone, we'd be here all weekend. But you all know who you are. And my thanks knows no end.

You've been the ones that corrected my skills, and sometimes my attitude. You've applauded my efforts, and prayed for my future. Some of you have provided direction, some of you have provided honesty. Many of you have stoked the fire for my love of all things art, some of you have succeeded in stoking my determination at being a better business manager. Many of you have come with cameras and shot alongside me for an afternoon. Many of you I've never met but you've been my life line at some point. And many of you I've admired from a distance, gleaming wisdom from your books, workshops and blogs. And most important, you've extended your friendship or supported me as family.

World Photography Day! I'm so happy to share it all with YOU.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Manufactured Patterns ~ Exploration Thursday!

"City of Glass"

I love exploring Toronto. In fact, any big city will do when it's populated with the kinds of condos and skyscrapers that draw the eye all over the crowded skyline. Toronto has some especially cool modern architecture, and it calls my name frequently.

This was taken quite a while ago but remains a favorite. No the building was not on a tilt, that's me... but it was curved, nary a straight wall to be seen. The design established with this towering condo begged to be photographed. The patterns are like candy to the photographers eye. The fact that it's also unified in color due to all the glass reflecting the sky blues and water blues it looks out over, and in complete even shade made this shot a no-brainer. I remember how excited I got over just this shot. Which brings me to a story.

Taking this shot, I was standing inside the courtyard entrance of the building. People were coming and going, and some stopped to turn around and look up to see what I was getting shots of. Most went on their merry way. But one lady with her 7 year old in tow stopped, came back to me and asked if she could see what in the world I found so interesting. I told her I was a photographer, and that the city was full of these fantastic designs. My subject for the day was manufactured patterns. I showed her this shot I was already dying to get home and see enlarged and her comment was "I don't get it." She began to walk away, but the little guy with her took a final look at my screen, looked back up at the building they were going to enter, looked back at me and called out, "That's cool lady!"

I hope he gets a camera for Christmas.

Patterns in the city. They inspire me to look waaaaay up, for crazy lines, for great shapes, for elements of design that shine. And when I find the perfect mix of those requirements I snap a photo and say quietly to myself,
"That's cool lady."

It's one of the easiest ways to learn more about your style, your way of seeing, and your camera, so get out there with those cameras this week gang. Send me a heads up if you get something cool and we'll feature your shot here on the blog!  Seriously. For real. Ya wanna?
Have a good one folks, and thanks for the ramble!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doors To the City ~ Wide Angle Wednesday!


Dug around in my older files yesterday. I am getting ready to do a few portfolio sorting exercises, which I'll share right here on the blog, pictures and all of the whole process. Should be soon. But for now I thought I'd post an oldie, taken a few years back that has always been a personal favorite.

I love exploring the city. You get glimpses of everything within even one hour of walking with the camera. This historical church sits literally up against the sidewalk of a busy downtown street. Makes it a challenge to photograph because of the power lines, street signs, stop lights, a bus terminal directly in front of it, traffic, and huge trees pressed up into it's many vantage points. But really, what's more significant than the doors into the building's main sanctuary? So I skipped getting the rest of the building that day and focused on getting a decent B&W of the door.

Shadows of tree branches stretching over the entrance gave it a bit of a mysterious feel so I was okay working with the light I had. If I were to go back today, I would wait till late evening when the entire thing is in much better shade, or get it at night with the lamp shining over the door. But for now, the older image speaks to me still.

Doors to the city. Hmmm... perhaps I'm sensing a theme. Another personal project? It's hardly original I know... but it'd be fun. And I love when photography is fun.

Thanks for the ramble friends! Have a good one! Make it fun! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Full Sun & DOF ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Beauty and the Beast"
(1/100sec.@ F/8, ISO 200, 160mm fl, Exp.Comp+0.3, Center Weighted Metering)

Wouldn't you know it? I go out for a simple walk with my camera through Dundurn Castle's gardens and suddenly all cloud cover disappears. When I started out there was this wonderful gauzy cloud cover in the sky, perfect for shooting. Then the minute I stepped out of the car poof! All clouds ceased to exist and I'm left with direct hard light in full sun.

We all know there's a few things we can do to work with light like that. Let shadow and contrast become your subject matter instead, or bring along a ton of reflectors, flash, scrims, anything to battle the light. But this was supposed to be a simple walk for a few garden shots in a historical location. My first inclination? Find the shade!

Around the very edges of the property was a little shade. So I had resigned myself to slim pickings in the way of evenly lit subjects. Till I looked through my view finder.... and saw the sun light in the background! Rich, bright light, that if metered correctly would be a magical foil for anything in the shade. I wouldn't have to resort to full shade after all! But here was the key. I had to use a lens that would allow me to shoot the scene with a softer Depth of Field. I needed a sharp foreground, to isolate my subject (which at this point were these lovely whimsical tiny lilies being buzzed about by busy insects almost as big as they were) but enough compression that a sharp aperture like F/8 would still blur out the sunny distant garden behind. "Hello my sweet little telephoto zoom."

Yes, I could have done some picky post editing and blurred my own background later... but when you can get it done in the camera first, why would you even consider it? I got down close to the ground, kept my subject only in the shade, and moved till the distant row of plants was illuminated behind my target. The farther away the rest of the scene, the better your soft DOF results. But you guys know that. I metered for the subject only and let the scene fill with light. Yellow and gold foliage in the distance kept it from looking blown out, unlike if I had included sky. I got a few snaps off of just the flower, but this was my favorite. The hornet landed just as I pressed the shutter, and his wing position makes him look like he's mimicking the petal shapes... and the one leg dangling off the edge? Priceless.

I couldn't wait to share this image today! And the reminder that full sun and a shallow DOF using a pretty backdrop makes for a magical image without stressing over hard light. So let the clouds come or go! Who needs 'em? Just find a teeny bit of shade and the rest is good to go!
Thanks for the ramble gang! Have a super day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Feel Gritty ~ Mono Monday!

"Just Your Typical Alleyway"

Gritty back alleys are the theme today. Couldn't tell you why. I think I just needed to forget about flowers and roses, (my personal project, vintage florals) take a break, and plug my creativity in elsewhere. And I came across this shot. And it made me stop. And that was good enough for me.

I love gritty street shots. Lonely corners, shadows from the steel mills beginning to cut across the closest walls, leaving ominous shapes. And the only sign that anyone even knows the alley exists is the tagging on a solitary door.

Took this last spring, with the last of the dirty snow still sitting in pockets of old lots. And it's just the antithesis of the lovely summer day right outside my door as I type. But I was still drawn to it...

Where's all you B&W enthusiasts out there! Let me know if you have any monochromatic images you want to show off... and the rest of you, have a super grit-free day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's The Plan? ~ Floral Friday!

"The Peony And I"

I find myself wondering what my next direction is in my pursuit of photography as a vocation. Sure I have some small projects on the go, and some sessions coming up. But as the fall season approaches and the lazy days of summer dwindle, I feel compelled to have a game plan. And so far? I don't mind being honest...I'm stumped.

The social connections around the Internet have made it very easy for folks starting out to find information, support, education... everything that can jump start your career. But sometimes all I see are very talented people with cameras spending every waking moment maintaining profiles, threads, and streams, and I wonder - All these photos, all this talent... is anyone actually printing them? Selling them? Pursuing something more? Is anyone venturing out of web land long enough to really be a photographer? Am I?

Not easy answers to find, and never the same answer for everyone. All I know is I need a plan, a road map. And then I need to supply myself with everything I need to endure the journey. I have the feeling I need to seriously up my game. The question becomes how?

I posted this image today and thought about the simple act of getting a great peony photo. It wasn't that simple. It was actually a process. I must have wandered around getting shots of every peony I owned, started with simple compositions, typical close-ups with the bursts of petals only, and then the approach evolved. I had to watch my perspective, get creative with the composition, and be aware more of my gear possibilities. Wait for light to soften, time things well, and change how I saw the blossoms all together. And when I got the above shot, I knew.

I guess I just answered my personal "how". I need to change my perspective, try a new approach, be ready with my gear, and use what I already know. Timing will be important, wait for conditions to be right, and stop thinking inside the box when it comes to my pursuit of photography. Huh. A good starting point anyways. After that? Who knows.... I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for the thoughtful ramble gang. Have a good one. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Passion for Personal Projects ~ Telephoto Tuesday

"And When I Say I Love You..."

I have some time between gigs, so I've given myself a couple personal projects to challenge myself and have fun at the same time. One was to learn how to use my flash better... and that will be a life long project for certain. But my less demanding project is inspired by my collection of ancient postcards and memories of vintage images my grandmother used to cut out of old magazines and keep about her house. She was essentially scrap booking before the name was invented... and all the cut-outs decorated her home simply because they brought her joy.

So, I've been out photographing roses (roses and vintage go hand and hand) and then adding some vintage flair in processing. I posted an example last week, and received an overwhelming response asking if I'm going to do a series or collection on canvas or cards. My intent all along, but had no idea it'd take hold so quickly.

So here's peak at yet another vintage photo, initially taken with my 55-200mm telephoto. I will be revealing them all on my website soon, and the option to buy a set of twelve cards as well, very practical, and very gift worthy.

I'm so enjoying the process of deciding which roses lend themselves to this aging effect, and carefully process each one without an action or preset, but hand tailored to suit each exposure.

Projects that bring you enjoyment are really a gift to yourself... have you given yourself a personal project, something that has sentimental attachments? It does the heart and soul good.
Thanks for the ramble ladies and gents! Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What I Know Now ~ Mono Monday!

#7 ~ The Grad Dress Session ~

I'm rather proud of today's post. Not because this is the most stupendous B&W ever known to man. Not just because this features my beautiful daughter as model, although it would still be a reason. But because I learned a week or so ago.... drum roll please... to take my flash out of auto mode and into manual. This folks is huge for me. I cannot tell a lie.

I sat in online with CreativeLive's free webinar two weekends ago, and much of the teaching revolved around using flash. Flash had overwhelmed me. Flash had left me feeling that auto was safest and good flash exposure was a fluke. Instead, they gave us info on the variables of exposure, and how each effects the others (order the Lighten Up and Shoot webinar to get the low down, and no, they don't know I exist, so I get nuthin' for saying so) and I walked away realizing once again that education is freeing, and only makes you open to more creativity if you let it. And to have fun, which is Mikey and Andy's motto at all times, webinar or no. Am learning to make it mine too.

Getting back to my humble little speed light. I learned that the zoom length feature on your flash results in how wide and far a net your flash light casts over the subject. I learned that the closer you get with any kind of soft white modifier, the better lit your subject is, and the farther away your light source, the harsher since it has further to go to wrap around your subject's features. I learned about flash power, about ambient light, and how to use what you have on hand for great portraits...

And all of this in manual mode on the flash... because that's how you stay free to be creative. I promptly rearranged my entire living room (note to self, lift with the legs, not with the back) and set up a DIY mini studio in front of a large white window and window seat. Made myself a scrim out of an opaque white curtain in front of my flash set up as a slave over on a stand very close to my subject. A subject who wanted some images of her grad dress, some  creative images of her grad dress. Set up a reflector on the opposite side to bounce any scattered light back to her, and set my cameras exposure to ensure the backlight was blown out behind her to eliminate a cluttered window view. The point of the flash firing through the scrim was to soften the expanding light... and the reflector just managed to throw highlights over her hair on the other side, giving depth.

Everyone's cameras and flashes and spaces, and lighting... are different. So giving you my exposure info won't really be helpful. But I'll say this. Expose for your subject and how you want to control the ambient light already filling the space. Then set your flash according to how you want to accentuate both... and go from there.

Get out your gear, stop being afraid of it, and play. There's no end to the rewards. And your daughter will thank you for not sticking her out in front of another bush in the garden for pics while you artfully try to avoid including the garden hose in the background or the newspaper guy making his delivery on the sidewalk. Been there, done that, never going back.

Thanks for the Monday ramble gang! Have a good one!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vintage Roses ~ Floral Friday!

"Fair Is The Rose..."

Friday once again, and that means flowers here at the blog. I've had a week free of any work, which means you seen some photos manipulated, played with or just were wonky enough on their own straight out of camera. Just because it was fun to do so!

Today's image is brought to you by the letter R... wait... sorry, mild flashbacks of Sesame Street, ahem. Today's image provoked me to edit with something aged in mind once again. Sepia shots of old rose gardens with some hand tinting came to mind for this one. Taken in the right light, roses have this lovely crisp texture to them so I was dying to try finding something to compliment that in editing. I found it when I used a duplicate layer to add a sepia conversion and used curves on the same layer to pop the mid tones and highlights. I dropped the opacity on that duplicate till I liked how much color showed through for effect. Another layer was applied with a textured old canvas effect, and I used the eraser tool to soften and remove some of it especially around the roses. Layers were flattened, and a bit of high pass sharpen applied at the hard setting which suited the overall look.

I think I may have to print this one as a canvas... makes me think of some of the old postcards that my grandmother collected way back in the day. And I think I may do a series for cards, which will finally be going up on the website for ordering within the week.

Thanks for the Friday ramble... get out there and capture your vision folks!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Simple Decisions ~ Exploration Thursday!

(1/8 sec.@ F/16, ISO 100, 50mm fl panned, dark overcast light, potato vine as subject)

Simple and uncomplicated. Two words that can describe photography when you decide they should. You can find yourself walking up to some potato vine draping over a planter, decide you like how it naturally spills over the edge, and just as easily decide to allow that one feature to inspire your next image.

You can decide that the fun is in the photographing. That panning your camera across and downward will yield colorful and expressive results. You can decide to let your camera and your skills convey how you feel, not just what you see.

See? Simple and uncomplicated. You look through the myriad of experiments on the screen back at the computer... and suddenly stop at the one image that speaks to you the loudest. You decide to leave it pretty much as it was straight out of the camera with some slight adjustments. Surely if it immediately conveys the sense of motion and vibrancy to you, it will do the same for others.
If they decide to let it.

Simple and uncomplicated. I've made no bones about the fact that I like to decide to use that as my approach in photography more often than not. Behind the lens, and in the digital darkroom. The act of photography has to be that simple, or the pursuit becomes more of an obligation. And I've simply decided not to let that happen.

What aspect of photography you love is always your decision, and everyone is different. Just decide to stay true to it, and then enjoy yourself. It's really that simple.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vintage With Meaning ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Memories of Papa's Garden"

Today for Telephoto Tuesday, I felt like going back in time. I have always had a very strong connection to gardens and flowers, and it's in part because I'll never fathom how the Creator began to design such varied beauty down to the tiniest detail for us to enjoy, and also because I've been told I spent my earliest years out in my Papa's garden watching him coddle and prompt various wonderful plants into bloom long before I could even pronounce their names. Indeed, there are quite a few pics of me as a toddler sitting amongst the garden ornaments of little ducks or with the cat, Papa's flowers in profusion behind.

So the other day, when out photographing my garden, the light seemed flat no matter what I did in camera. A very flat grey sky was all I had to work with. But after some thought on what I'd want to accomplish in editing, I decided one approach would be to do a little digital darkroom playing and try to add some age or retro effects to give it some life. So I photographed with that goal in mind, using the telephoto lens to get shallow DOF, selective focus, and solid groupings of flowers that would lend themselves to a 70's treatment.

I've been especially wanting to find the right use for the Monday Morning Violet filter from Nik Color Effx. Whenever I see the results it takes me back to those old photos of me in my sunbonnet with my grandparents in the garden... so in Corel I brightened the original shot for today's post in an adjustment layer before putting it into the Nik filter, adjusted to retain highlights and shadow, then used the clarify option to add some definition. I also duplicated the layer, and subtly added an old paper texture, using the eraser tool to erase the texture from the flowers so they aren't overwhelmed and stand out.

The framing is a Corel picture frame filter added last. It makes it feel like a photo you can pick up and hold... unlike today where it seems no one actually prints their photos anymore.

I look at this and automatically am transported back to having "real" tea parties that always ended in a game of hide and seek with Papa, or a game of chase - Papa chasing the cat out of his flowers for the fourth time in an afternoon. He passed away while I was still very little, but if I think hard enough I can see his large hands and his huge work boots... and every garden somehow makes me think of him.

Thanks for the ramble back in time folks, and have a good one! Find a memory you have always loved, and then find a way to honor it in a photo by you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hibiscus ~ Mono Monday!

"Rose of Sharon"
(1/15 sec.@ F/18, ISO 160, 200mm fl, Remote Shutter/Tripod, Overcast light)

I find Hibiscus challenging to capture properly and with any kind of finesse. They are only in their prime individually for about a day or so, then wilt considerably. I find it easier to photograph them before they fully open. The long flimsy petals crease, flop over, and stick together once they've bloomed. I stand out on the lawn with my camera and I find myself muttering things under my breath like, "come on, work with me girls!!!" as I try to find a single perfect flower to photograph. And if profuse on the tree, the blooms stand out in the background like a bad quilted effect, splotchy and clumped. So I thought I'd try to find a specimen from my front garden that would be workable as a monochromatic image today. It took some doing.

I let the fact that it was overcast after a rain, and that I wanted to use my telephoto, which is a fairly slow lens in low light, to dictate that I needed my tripod and remote so there was zero camera shake. I also know that in low light, my camera doesn't have great noise control when going higher than 200 ISO so I kept it down, also constituting the need for the tripod since after I metered and checked my histogram I realized my shutter speed needed to be longer to let in enough light.

I converted the image to B&W in PSPx2 by using the Platinum Film Fx filter and Curves to fine tune the exposure a bit while in Raw. Some high pass sharpen was applied when everything else was done. In the end, it reminds me of film instead of digital and I like how it looks as a print, with some texture almost.

Hope you all like it! This one goes out to my buddy Lonnie, who is always reminding me not to forget my love of B&W.

Thanks for the ramble, and have a great Monday gang!