Thursday, September 29, 2011

Really Marvel ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Autumn Hosta"

Just a quick post today, so let me ask you photographers a question.
Are you taking the time to marvel at what you put in front of your lens?

Or are you just a photographing machine, you're inspired of course, but it's not till you work on the images that you see the treasures you've found?

Obviously there are scenes and moments we just have to go with the flow and we appreciate the entire experience later when we're back in our work spaces and homes. And maybe I'm the only one who's learning to appreciate the process as it's happening, but when did you last marvel at that structure you love to photograph, or the details in those butterflies in your garden.... or the swirling vortex of design found in a single hosta leaf like today's post, even before you took the image.

Oh we marvel at the latest lenses, we are in awe when a newer more efficient camera is created, and we're even enthralled by certain up and coming world photographers. But are you as equally enthralled with the material at your disposal for photography?

I only ask, because I'm seeing a pattern when I review past images with this question in mind. The images where I took the time to be curious, appreciate and marveled at life's intricacies have a better dynamic than the ones I took just because they seemed like a good idea at some point. And I edit them with much more care as a result as well.

I guess it's an obvious observation, the things you're are passionate about, and marvel about, and revel in, are the things you are going to capture the best... but as I discover how complex I am as a photographer, these realisations help me become better at how I choose to photograph, and what I choose to photograph. And I'm hearing a lot of other photographers say they still don't know if they have a style that's unique to them alone... so I'll ask you again. Do you have something that makes you stop and marvel at it's uniqueness and design? Start there.

Thanks for the ramble folks! Have a good one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beyond A Butterfly ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Monarch In Blue"

I was on a mission. It'd been awhile since I'd looked for the enchanting details of our local parks and gardens. We had a great day for it yesterday, so I jumped at the idea of finding the wonderful amidst the flower beds over at Gage Park in Hamilton. Turns out I didn't have to search for long.

Several perennial flowering shrubs and bushes attract monarch butterflies in the gardens, feeding them for their long journey they're currently making. But I was a little wary. It'd be easy to simply raise the camera and let these beautiful creatures do all the work, but I've been learning about the photographer's intent lately, and this is exactly the kind of scenario I wanted to avoid. I wanted more than just a nice butterfly shot. Now, I know I can't control when and where a butterfly lands, which flowers, for how long, or the angle it sits at. And I can't tell it where the nice light is, the best backdrop, or the best time of day to stop there.
Instead, I kept my eyes peeled for any unique circumstances wherever I spotted the butterflies. I noticed that some evergreens in the shade off in the distance could fill my composition, and at the right aperture, they could be diminished to an interesting smokey bokeh. I knew I'd want this as the backdrop to the monarchs with their brilliant colors if I could get it.
I tested exposures till I got the right look, then waited for a subject to land.

No, not the most remarkable image of a butterfly ever. I can be honest. However, it's the first one for me in the last recent while, that I decided intentionally what worked and how I wanted it to look no matter how long I had to wait. I wanted the light to be the dramatic foil to a common subject. A pretty subject, but common. Now, I always take this approach with B&W's, architecture, and other subject matters... but why was I not applying it to the simpler subjects as well? Instead I'd gotten into the poor habit of letting those shots just fall into my lap. Not that those shots can't be great, and there's definitely a magic to getting those cool spontaneous photos, but sometimes I think we can get lazy with our discoveries. Instead we need to be ready to work at making them everything they could be.

This has been a good reminder for me. And I got two or three shots that proved if I want my photography at a whole new level, I'm going to have to be aware of my intention behind a shot in the first place. I'll post those later on. But for now, I'm pleased to show today's photo.

Thanks for the ramble... have a great day friends!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Hunt ~ Mono Monday!

"Come To Life"
Eramosa Karst Conservation Area Trails, Saplings & Blackberry

Fall is morphing our trails and forests with rapid abandon here in Ontario. For someone like me, aka the nature photographer, it means I go into a photog frenzy. If I don't get out to shoot the textures and colors and various weather of this season, I become feverish, mumble things like "must... find... gumboots..." and I begin to channel Grizzly Adams.
Well, maybe it's not that bad.

But I spend almost every waking moment looking for great subject matter. And if you haven't visited one of the many trails in Ontario yet with your camera, you're missing the showstopper known as Autumn. It's even a great season to work in B&W believe it or not.

Tonal values seem heightened this time of year. Contrast and texture can be found in almost any light any time of the day because of how low the sun is much earlier than ever. And even midday photography has a defined and chiseled light, not as direct and hard as early summer. Find some compelling natural lines, like the small trees seen here guarding a blackberry thatch, and the late afternoon light coming from over my shoulder making them pop, and you have a gnarly and whimsical nature scene.

I could have leaned towards a very stark exposure, enhanced further with the much overused spike in contrast and sharpening that seems to be so popular the minute anyone wants instant drama in post production, whether that was the intent initially or not... but I didn`t want to downplay the soft tangle of the brambles while keeping the saplings part of the whole scene, instead of separating them too much by making them stark white. I am learning more and more about intent, and how to creatively express what my eye was impressed with, and then process the image so that it replicates that scene as closely as possibly... maintaining the scene`s integrity.

Anyway, I`m hoping that those of you that haven`t ever enjoyed an Ontario Autumn get a chance to do so, and those of you who`ve taken it for granted get out there to one of your local park or conservation areas, get some fresh air and get some compelling photography, whatever that means to you and you alone! I`d say more, but I`m feeling that call already this morning.
Gotta go! And thanks for the ramble!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Pleases The Eye ~ Telephoto Tuesday

"Habour Sailing"

There's always going to be a trend to follow. We're bombarded with trends. Individuals start them, corporations start them. The photography community is no exception. Trends in gear, trends in locations, and trends in processing.

"Web of Rigging"

And I'm not talking about making improvements, or growing in skills. I'm not talking about having a niche you specialize in, that your unique style utilizes. I'm just talking about the "band wagon" effect. I learned a valuable lesson very early on about remaining true to yourself, and not molding yourself to what you see being presented around you.

"Eastward Bound"

As a photographer, I first and foremost go with what pleases my own eye. And then I hope how I complete the process of taking the photograph will also draw your eye, and whatever your process of relating to it is.
I'm hearing too many new photographers talk about the things they're chasing, and not enough about what they're personally invested in and building towards on their own steam.

Today's series of images don't strive for anyone's latest standards but my own... is that wrong to say? I don't think so. In the midst of new apps, new actions, and new trends, be sure you can still spot something of yourself within the results.

Thanks for enduring the soapbox ramble gang. Have a good one!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Using the Reveal ~ Mono Monday!

"Catalina And The Bomber"

I'm an avid reader. But you probably knew that. I spent much of this weekend, when not editing or enjoying the great weather, catching up on some much anticipated photog related literature. And I was so excited to learn a new approach, and a new phrase, crucial for having the viewer intensely engaged when they see your work and discover it's story.
It's called the "reveal"... and it can be powerful.

Although I didn't know it had a name, I'd been using it already. The image above is a good example. When I composed the shot, I knew I wanted to convey how large and powerful and shapely the Catalina was when you're standing under it at the Warplane Heritage Museum. The plane is the primary subject, very obviously, with the enormous hanger space accentuating it with great lines. But the viewer, after taking in the major part of the image, finally sees one last striking detail... the regal Lancaster Bomber in the background but not as the backdrop. It's positioned relationally to the Catalina Canso PBY-5A, so that at the last minute the viewer spies one more important detail, and is delighted by the discovery. In some instances, the rest of the comp can build towards that last remote but surprising detail. Used by cinematographers and master photographers alike, "the reveal" is a tool that can take everything to a new level.

Here's what is required though. More direct intent from the photographer, less "fly by the seat of your pants" thinking. More substance, less "found art" technique. Not that those can't be exciting for both shooter and viewer, but this adds a new dimension that conveys a certain care and intentional process that the audience responds too because instead of everything being laid out for them to take in at once and be done with it, they are asked to contribute to the piece. They are forced to work for the story's completion. This, I learned, is called "The Beholder's Share"... a phrase coined by art historian Ernst Gombrich, (and was quoted in the book I read all weekend). And this excites me, this learning that the viewer doesn't just want to be engaged in the viewing, but wants to work and contribute to what they finally arrive at visually.

I contribute this exciting discovery of how to better my craft to the current book I'm studying right now. It's authored by the talented and exceptional Michael Freeman, who's books are fantastic in both practical and artistic ways, and this great read is called "The Photographer's Mind"... if you haven't picked up any one of his many wonderful books, I urge you to do so soon. They're the meat and potatoes of all that's amazing about photography, period. This post was just one way I learned more about my craft, thanks to Freeman's book, and is where I found the Gombrich quote that in my opinion, changes how I see the purposes of visual art.

Something I'll be pursuing more of... the reveal, the beholder's share. Hope it inspires some of you as well. Thanks for the ramble folks, have a good one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Role of Color ~ Floral Friday!

"Soaking Up The Sun"

I can't remember when I last looked to make color my main subject in a photo. Just looking at this image makes me feel awake, energized, and in a positive frame of mind. Color is a powerful element for the photographer. And yet I just read an article on color, and in it they state it's one of the least utilized or understood tools of photography for most people.

Color IS a powerful element for story telling to be sure. I think we assume that as long as the image is in color at some point, it's doing it's job. What we forget is that it can control the response the viewer will give, the impression it will leave, and the emotions within their response. When I think about it that way, I want to make sure I don't just shoot in color, I want to make sure I shoot for the precise role color will play. Huge difference I'd say.

It'll also dictate the way I process an image. Because I can control how much of it is shown, the intensity, where it is in my composition and framing, and whether it should be warm or cool depending on the mood I hoped to convey when I first took the photo to begin with, this means color becomes a mega tool to apply to every photo you intend to display.

Here in Ontario, our Autumns are renowned for amazing color. I won't be able to help but make it my subject and my muse for the next couple of months...
and I look forward to sharing them with all of you.

If you've been blogging or posting images about color, especially fall color, send me the links... we'll share them here on the blog!
Have a super Friday, and thanks for the ramble!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nautical Cyanotype ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Onward To Distant Shores"
The Pride of Baltimore II, Maryland Tall Ship Replica @ Hamilton Harbour

Well, I did say today would be one of the images similar to yesterday's post but after having experimented with Corel's Cyanotype conversion from the Time Machine Fx filters. Voila! Anything of a nautical theme looks well in this old 1800's processing look. I think I associate it with many of the old dutch paintings on pottery and dishes that I used to see in everyone's homes when I was growing up... it was trendy at the time. Trust me.

What I love are how delicate lines pop within the prussian blue hues of a cyanotype printing. Very much like a blue print. I knew after editing my images that I had to use this filter in post processing. And not with a heavy hand mind you. But just enough that you stop and look carefully to notice the hint of color still lying underneath, (the original layer before converting) adding some depth and keeping it from being too stark which tends to be popular in the digital darkroom these days.

I don't see this effect being utilized like I did back in my darkroom days, and much earlier than that obviously... and it's a beautiful way to age an image without it looking hokey. It doesn't suit every subject matter so consider if it suits before you use it.

It's very nostalgic and fun to work with, adding something different to your scenes. Give it a try in whatever processing program you run. And thanks for the ramble.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sailing Away ~ Wide Angle Wednesday!

"The Pride of Baltimore Embarks"

The fanfare was gone, the sky was hazy, and as the crew shouted orders to one another, she pulled away to begin the next leg of her voyage. The Pride of Baltimore II was leaving the harbour in Hamilton where she'd rested for two days. I'd had an hour to place myself in a good spot compositionally without any of the handful of people around getting into the shot. And as she began to sail away all I had to do was press the shutter.

Have you noticed that sometimes, there's no special approach or angle or lighting to be had with your targeted image, you just need to tell the story visually, and let the subject do the showing off?

"Bound for Montreal"

You can see the poor air quality that morning as she turned towards the sun to exit under the Lift Bridge. And they couldn't drop all the sails till they cleared the harbour, so that type of shot was out of the question. So, once again a lesson in making the most of what you have and knowing that it's enough. And I also know that the image above will make a nice cyanotype conversion for a coming Thursday's post... you'll see.

If you're in Montreal this weekend, she'll be docked there for two days before she's off again. And she's beautiful to see up close. Take your cameras! And make the most of whatever opportunity you've got.

Thanks for the ramble. Have a good one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Candy Store Effect ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Roped Against the Mast"

You must know the feeling. A delightful subject awaits and you have no idea what to photograph first. Nor do you know how much time you'll have to get everything you'd like in the lens. And there's so much subject matter that you immediately feel elated and stressed at the same time. Where to start? That tick in your right eye pulses slightly. What to do? You start to sweat. Wide angle lens? Telephoto? Go big? Go close? Include people or wait?

Or maybe it's just me.

It WAS me two days ago. We went down to the Hamilton Harbour to see the tall ship that docked for the weekend. It was beautiful. And I was struck with that "kid in a candy store" feeling. And I've been photographing for long enough to know to breath, assess the location and light, and decide what's a must-get shot and what's a "bonus if I can get around to it" shot. But I still felt giddy with such a lovely subject to feast on through the lens. Luckily my intuition finally kicked in. Whew.

This is when I love my telephoto lens. I got the big all-inclusive shots with the wide angle out of the way, trying to strategically compose around the masses of visitors on the pier, then I got serious. My telephoto got me past the people, into nooks and crannies, and up against details without even stepping foot on the ship. (Although we did climb aboard for a tour) And suddenly everything in the "candy store" was fully accessible.

Today's image stood out to me in editing as a definite post. The light is hard and bright but is perfect for the canvas folds in the sail. Slight sidelight as the sun was moving into the west gives highlights to the texture in the ropes. The wood gleams. It's nautical, and it's cliche and I still love every element used within the image.

This is preaching to myself as much as anyone, but you can't deny it. Know what your tools are instantly capable of, be aware of the light around you at all times, and be drawn in to the subject matter the way you hope your viewers will be drawn in. Oh yeah... and be aware of that candy store effect.

Thanks for the ramble... wide shots of The Pride of Baltimore herself coming up tomorrow! Have a good one till then folks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Surprise Treasures ~ Mono Monday!

"Harbour's Pilot"

This morning seemed iffy at best. There was a steady breeze, but a thick haze in the sky. The temp should have been a lovely 17 degrees Celsius, but it was so muggy you still felt sticky just walking to catch the bus. And there was no guarantee that by the time I'd gotten the kids out of the house, "watered" the dog, and caught my transfer downtown, that the naval ships, tall ship replica, and tugs that I was dying to photograph this morning, would still be in the harbour. There was also no guarantee that I'd come back with any images worth mentioning. Yet persevere I did, and when I arrived at the pier almost an hour later, they were all still docked and I'd have my pick of subjects and points of view.

Let me backtrack here a moment. It was a packed and busy weekend in the Hamilton Harbour over the last two days. The Pride of Baltimore II, a tall ship of historical significance was docked at the pier for the weekend, and further down at the industrial pier was the Canadian frigate the HMCS Montreal... both equally breathtaking for a land lubber like myself. And the crowds were insane. I caught wind that both vessels would be heading out of the harbour this morning, and decided to return today to catch whatever action I could in the camera. I rarely pass up an interesting opportunity to watch something like this, because you never know what kind of photographs you might return home with.

Today's image is a portrait... and I decided to start with it in my posts this week because it was not what I expected to come home with. Oh, I still got plenty of shots of the historical tall ship readying for it's journey to the next port in Montreal, and I got some quick shots of the frigate too, but the subject above is crucial to how the harbour functions and he was just leaning against his tug having a smoke and waiting to be called upon. Below is a shot of the Omni Richelieu, the tug he pilots through the harbour for much of the year.

"The Omni Richelieu"
(Harbour tug docked at the pier in the Hamilton Harbour)

Initially he did NOT look this friendly, but after chatting about his boat and his tasks for the day, he finally agreed to let me take his photo... and didn't he go and smile for me too! Just once. Told me I better use that one because he never smiles for anyone. So here it is. And he was one of my favorite shots of the whole morning.

It's my favorite part of being a photographer... even in locations where you pretty much know what to expect, you can still find hidden treasures. Or hidden smiles.

Thanks for the ramble! Have a great day matey!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pure Joy ~ Floral Friday!

"Crowning Glory"

When was the last time you took your camera out just to explore? No daily quota, no must-have money shot, no pressure to perfect technique.

Just to allow the camera to be guided by your eye. By whatever delights you. By whatever intrigues you. By something pretty just for pretty's sake. Experience the joy of photography at it's most simple.

Set aside the expectations that we artistic types are always placing on getting "the" moment and just go with the flow for a weekend. Then try it for a whole week. I dare ya to try it for a whole month...

Dunno why I had this thought today... but some of us are trying SO hard that we've forgotten how to enjoy the process. Get your eyes off the results, and put your heart and soul into the "doing".

Start this weekend. Make it a good one.
And thanks for the short ramble friends.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Being Propelled~ Exploration Thursday!

"Ready For The Skies"

In just about everything we pursue and work hard at, we have good days and not so good days. Days where we feel like everything is truly going according to plan, (like when I spent a morning photographing nothing but planes, see image above) and days when we seriously think throwing in the towel is our only option. Often those days appear back to back and we sit in amazement thinking, "how can I be so confident one minute and so tortured the next?"

I know I'm not the only one. And you'd think it'd be easier when I'm doing something everyday that I obviously love, but there are so many jobs that you take on that fall under the title "full time photographer" that pull you daily or weekly from the actual act of picking up a camera, that sometimes I ask myself "why bother? I just want to shoot!"

I came to a realization the other day. No matter what kind of chore you have in regards to your passion, no matter how unglamourous it is, you can take it on successfully if you know what propels you. It can be something practical like needing to earn an income, or it can be more personal like reaching the much dreamed about goal of traveling one day, or having a gallery showing in New York. I will admit, I first pursued photography six years ago simply to get out of the house! That's what propelled me to constantly pick up the camera. That's changed now, but I have days where I have to remember that my vocation is always being propelled by something, and IF I remember that, I can get through the odd "throw in the ol' towel" moments. And if I'm really paying attention... I learn something about my craft and myself every time I do. How about you? Need to remember what propels you?

Thanks for the rambling thoughts today folks! Have a good one! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Faded Can Be Beautiful ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"She Bowed Her Golden Head"

Autumn is on our doorsteps. It makes me ecstatic! I love this time of the year. Colors deepen, textures emerge, light gathers dramatically. Everyone wears their favorite sweaters. Fall fairs are flooded with apple cider and the people who drink it. My dog gleefully tracks mud and leaves into my kitchen while I start up the baking of the pies once again. Good good times are just around the corner. Love it.

It also means that nature begins to fade into it's pre-winter cycle. But often those plants that were so vibrant all summer present a different kind of drama in the cooler weather of autumn. I love the challenge of trying to capture the unusual beauty that can be Fall.

This sunflower could no longer fight the approach of autumn. I came across her lovely textures and color, and veil of crisp leaves last September at Hamilton's Dundurn Castle's Working Garden. And if you click to enlarge the image you should be able to see the tiny lady bug companion resting on top of her, peaking from behind the shelter of leaves. Despite her diminished petals, and the crumpling of her golden crown, I recognized that I needed to capture this new stage of beauty. The slow sweet fade that overtakes our gardens in the coming weeks provides unusual subjects. Look close enough, there's still beauty to be photographed.

Explore the approach and arrival of autumn with new eyes friends. You won't be able to put the camera down.

Thanks for the ramble! Hope you all had a marvelous long weekend!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just Because!

I've decided not to do Floral Friday today. Just because. September has rolled in and soon the kids return to school all day. Work resumes at it's fastest pace. The summery days of setting a schedule full of nothing will be gone. We went for a wander through the Eramosa Trails the other day for one last lazy afternoon outing and these images pretty much sum up how wonderful it is to enjoy God's green earth and my family before the bustle starts once again. 

Obviously I took my camera.... just because you never know what you'll see worth photographing.

Just because you may discover how wide the blue blue sky is that day with bits of nature rising up to meet it.

And just because it's good to be able to freeze happy, contented, quiet moments like this. To have them to look back at when your son's gym clothes are missing, your daughter's trip money is suddenly due, your dog has dug up yet another dead squirrel, and after the washing machine has pooched out again in the middle of the load of school uniforms!
You know what I mean. So you can remember that life doesn't always look like a mangled episode of "Malcolm In The Middle..."

September's here. Brace yourselves. And keep the camera handy.
Thanks for the ramble!