Sunday, October 30, 2011

When Trees Are Enough ~ Mono Monday!

"Hidden Forest Paths"

I love the Bruce Trail. Ask me how much. Go on. Ask me. No, don't even ask me cause I'll tell you anyway. I love it more than pizza. I love it more than Harry Connick Jr. I love it more than reruns of Bob Newhart. "Geez," you think, "she must love it a lot!" How'd you guess?

Because Hamilton and beyond is anchored along the Niagara Escarpment, it means I and my Nikon have access to the many threads of the Bruce Trail on a whim. Yesterday was so warm and sunny for the end of October that the whim was, shall we say, overpowering. So out I went with the camera, and it wasn't long till I was surrounded by trees, trees, and... oh yeah, more trees.

"Escarpment's Edge"

I long ago decided that anyone who could photograph a dense tangle of trees and still make it look like it was deliberately composed and executed, was a photographer to be reckoned with. And I also decided long ago to isolate what one needed to see past the forest and photograph the beauty of the tree, no matter where I was. Over time I began to learn that besides good light, you need to be able to really see layers, shapes, groupings, and the way all those things relate to one another to form a composition. When you can do that, then you find the vantage point that emphasizes that composition, and adds interest to the space you're visualizing in the lens. What you wind up with is a photo that the viewer can imagine themselves stepping into, or at the least, a photo that still draws the eye through every area of the scene.

The Bruce Trail lets me hone this skill, stretch this skill, and learn new things about it all. Focusing on trees as a subject alone is enough to strengthen my craft. Don't know if I'll ever fully master it but that's okay. I like the "trying" to attain it! The process is so darned enjoyable when it's about something you love and are passionate about. And I'm passionate about nature AND photography.

I love them both. Go ahead. Ask me how much.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fallen ~ Floral Friday!

"Fall Rushes In"

Well, they aren't exactly flowers, but they're close... and with my busy week I knew I needed to post an ol' favorite today in order just to get the blog up. I couldn't bear letting you all down yet again with a missing post.

This is a shot from last fall... mainly because the colors died on us early this year in the greater Hamilton area, just as I predicted. We just didn't have weather conducive to bold autumn color. I've noticed many a tree trying valiantly to turn color just within the last couple days, but many are simply dropping green leaves now since it's so late. Not good for picture taking that's for sure. But what can you do?

So I'm off this morning to the Gage Park Greenhouses to photograph the Annual Fall Mum Show. They installed a massive new greenhouse this summer, and have filled it to the brim with chrysanthemums they've nurtured themselves even in the midst of all the construction.

I highly recommend you come and support the show and visit their always lovely tropical greenhouse as well... the staff once again have outdone themselves and this is one feature we Hamiltonians need to be proud of!

Maybe I'll see you there?
Have a great weekend folks... next week, posts will be back to normal,
I promise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Conveying Space ~ Mono Monday!

"The Meeting House"
Old Order Mennonite Meeting House, Elmira, Ontario

Another photograph from my recent ramble through St.Jacobs and Elmira, otherwise known as Mennonite country. What do you do when you go hunting for a historic setting, and what you find is relatively flat, open, and almost devoid of character? This was the challenge when we pulled up to this historic and well maintained meeting house... so well maintained that at first glance my first thought was "boring!"

But upon taking a closer look, we realized the entire property held a simplistic significance that needed photographed. There was a pristine beauty and a simple story to be witnessed in the quiet countryside. I just needed to change my definition of great composition. I needed to utilize a tool at my disposal that I hadn't really relied on in a while... and when I did, my perspective corrected itself. Literally and figuratively.

Since no one detail stood out above all others, I chose to rely on the overall sense of space to anchor my composition. Gosh, when was the last time I used space to my advantage in a shot like this? After berating myself for growing lax with such a valuable element of photography, I got to work. The first thing I had to address was the most powerful vantage point from which to shoot from. I quickly decided that the repetitive shapes of the centuries old grave stones could be the element that draws the eye right into the image and up to the meeting house, and the diagonal lines add interest as opposed to aiming past them. This also adds an asymmetrical element and gives a better sense of depth to the shot. Suddenly your eye travels around the rest of the image and back once again to the main subject, shining white and pure in the sun, fitting for such a simple place of worship.

Lastly, I knew I needed to include the sky... and when I saw the clouds angled in perspective with the rest of the scene I knew the sense of space was complete. The combination of each simple element combines into a dynamic shot. After I realised what I had, I knew this would be a B&W photograph no matter what. And taking it into Corel to convert it, reducing the blue channel, pumping up the red channel, and adding some clarifying tool, I quickly had a scene I would not soon forget.

After you locate your subject, an image is never just about that subject anymore. It's then about the best principles of design and compositional approach to emphasize that subject, according to the kind of light you have and the kind of story you want to convey. Space can be a very powerful tool. Let's use it more!

Thanks for the ramble, and have a good one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Something from Nothing ~ Wide Angle Wednesday!

"Converging City"
(Toronto's ROM which hangs out over the sidewalk, taken during Nuit Blanche)

It's a blustery day and I haven't left the house except to walk the pooch. So in keeping with the chilly weather, thought I'd post the only keeper image from my night in Toronto for the art festival called Nuit Blanche, which could have been retitled The "Every street in TO is a wind tunnel, where did I put my long underwear, people must be crazy to wander around the city at 3am looking for hidden art, because all the streets have been sectioned off for the festival" Festival.

As you can gather, it was a less than perfect night.

The wind was so strong, that the tripod still wobbled after I lashed my two teenagers to it. It was so cold, my hands stayed in the shape of the camera even in my pockets. And the set up was so confusing we wound up at one point in front of the Parliament Ottawa.

So, I made one shot count. I was determined. I found a nice corner tucked out of the wind up against The Crystal addition of the ROM, composed to get a tidy convergence of shapes and forms, and even caught the odd star burst from the lights. My wide angle lens bowed the scene inwards to emphasize the way the ROM leans out over the street defying gravity... and then we hightailed it back to the car, shivering and complaining.

 A great night was had by all. Sort of.
Not really.

Moving right along. So... any location disasters that taught you to work fast for one doable shot? Or are you trying not to remember, like me?
Have a great day, stay warm, and thanks for the ramble!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Swept Away ~ Telephoto Tuesday!


I've been swept away by a sinus cold. And you must know, I really am a big baby when it comes to being sick... just ask my husband Richard. Many trips to the store for everything from popsicles, to soup, Kleenex, and lozenges.

So today I'm taking it really easy. No work today, just sleep. If I could use the brooms in the image above to sweep away this miserable cold, I certainly would. These were hanging on the front door of a shop in St.Jacobs, Ontario. They're made by hand and I dare any manufactured broom to last as long as these pretty things.

And it was funny, because if I recall correctly, my photog buddy Kelly raised her camera to photograph these at almost the same instant I did. And it wouldn't be the first time, would it Kelly?
No. No it wouldn't. Heh heh heh...

Back to my soup and my pj's I go... get some wonderful pics for me today gang! And don't stand too close to the screen... I'd hate for you to catch my cold eh. Have a good one, thanks for the ramble!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Latest Project ~ The Notations Collection!

The Notations Colle...
By C.Duncan's Photog...

I don't usually use the blog for more than presenting images I've worked on, and thoughts those images have brought to mind. But today is the exception. I've been trying out a new format of self publishing through and wanted you all to see the resulting project!

I decided to call it the Notations Collection. Three books filled with my most frequently viewed images in each catagory: Landscapes, Architecture, and Nature. But to make it worth your while, I formatted these as something a bit more practical than a coffeetable book. Instead, these are filled with lined blank pages and come in the new Notebook format! And they each come in the softcover, hardcover, and image wrap options. Journaling, note taking, list making... it's up to you how you use them. I am very excited to present these in time for Christmas, and hope you'll check out the preveiw feature for each book on Blurb itself.

The Notations Colle...
By C.Duncan's Photog...

If you live in the greater Hamilton area and would like to purchase one directly from me, I will be placing bulk orders starting this week and will have them here shortly. You can request your copy on Facebook, or here at the blog, or even through Twitter at @cduncansphoto. If you prefer to order directly from the site you can do so through the links as well, both here on my blog, and on my website. Be careful to let me know which notebook, and also which cover format, as prices vary per format.
This is very exciting for me, and I hope if you're a fan you'll find a way to support a local artist. And tomorrow, the blog will be back to business as usual... or should I say "rambling" as usual?
By C.Duncan's Photog...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fading Beauty ~ Floral Friday!

"Autumn's Final Rose"

I'm so thankful I have a local rose garden nearby. Even as fall overtakes the flowers we've enjoyed all summer long, there's always one or two remaining that brave the chilly nights and manage to find a single patch of sun in which to bathe their delicate petals.

Soon these interesting and dramatic subjects will be gone, the biting winter will come, and I'll be forced to rely on our beautiful greenhouses at the same park for any source of color, floral shapes, and tropical temps. Trust me, it's a heavenly locale when the thermometer drops below 0* Celsius!

I'm told our weekend here in the Hammer might be a tad soggy, so I shall be prepping for sessions coming, and getting ready for a new product reveal in time for Christmas shopping... am excited to share it and Monday can't come soon enough.

So stay dry, do some indoor photography, and see you all back here next week! Have a good one, and thanks for the ramble!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Invitation to Imagine ~ Exploration Thursday!

"The Dreamer's Forrest"

I have been waiting to post this image for about a week now, and will be delighted to know what your reaction is. It's been quite sometime since I've been able to stretch my abstract skills while out on a countryside photo jaunt, and I was anxious to process this image most out of my last outing's results.

I know most people find it difficult to interpret how they feel about abstract art or photography. Most see a bunch of shapes or colors or concepts that require some mysterious code to unlock their importance. But really, an abstract piece is simply a photographer's invitation to unleash your imagination for a bit, and allow yourself to step away from the practical. And it's inspired (at least for me) by something very real that caught my eye and seemed magical somehow. And then I simply strive to share my interpretation of that object or scene with all of you. Take a moment and decide what you might be looking at in the image above, before we continue.

What I love about abstract images is that the underlying significance of the whole piece can simply be how light was reflecting off a tree, or how a close-up of a leaf out of context can look like a miniature landscape, or how a piece of rust can look prehistoric in a macro lens. It just begs you to put aside how you label what you see, and look for new possibilities. I find that exciting. For it seems like the imagination is rarely called upon during the daily grind, and  even the imagination can get rusty from lack of use.

The image above (which you know you can click on to enlarge) was the result of noticing the calm water along the shore before the St.Jacobs dam rushed along the river bed... and I began to look for interesting subjects in the shade since the sun was mighty strong that afternoon. I zoomed in on the reflection of a Poplar tree several feet away, rising up through a tangle of brambles and over the water. With my circular polarizer on the zoom, I was able to cut the reflection enough to see the form and color of the tree. I thought it looked like what a scene in a dream would look like if someone could step into it for a moment. You can see the odd ripple, and some blur, and it requires the viewer to determine if it was in the lens or if I processed it to look specifically like a reflection to begin with.

It's just a reflection. I did some minor brightening to allow the dark details to be a bit more visible. That was it.

It's a call to use your imagination folks. Don't make abstracts so complicated you can't enjoy them. It takes creativity to first capture it, and then the viewers ingenuity to really see and absorb.

Thanks for the interpretive ramble! Have a super day gang!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Respectful Photographer ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Working the Fields"

Was out last week in Mennonite country. The color around St.Jacobs and Elmira is just starting to riot, and the warm temps make it easy to get out and wander back roads for great scenes. If you're ever in the region, take the opportunity to explore beyond the main drag of town.

The images today were taken with my telephoto from the side of the road, and was the perfect tool from my kit to be a considerate photographer. Mennonites are a quiet, humble group to say the least, and are generally okay with you getting photographs as long as you are respectful and refrain from being intrusive. We stayed out of this gentleman's way and simply followed his progress through his fields from a distance. He'd spotted us on the road and smirked from behind his sunglasses at one point, and then went on his way slowly, enjoying the sun and his team.

What I realised very early on in my pursuit of photography, is that even though I have a right to photograph beautiful scenes and public spaces, I still need to conduct myself in a way that shows that photographers are simply eager to share what they see, not eager to exploit what they see. All too often I've been out with other photographers and noticed someone pushing the personal space or privacy boundaries. Making everyone, including other photographers, uncomfortable. And for the most part, if you ask first anyways, most folks will allow you a second to take your photo and be on your way.

"Heading Home"

It was a good reminder for me, to be aware of making people more comfortable with photography, as opposed to creating a reputation that cause the public to be wary of it. After all, it's the public that we want to love the resulting images to begin with. Time to treat them with some respect if we don't already.

Thanks for the ramble folks, enjoy the autumn weather!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Being Thankful

"Place For Reflection"

Here in Canada we're getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. So I've relaxed my Floral Friday routine in order to post a photo from my photo jaunt last Wednesday... and to say thank you.

Thank you for reading my little blog as often as I post to it.
Thank you for sending me your encouraging emails, your great comments, and for many of you, your long distance support. If my google stats are correct, thank you for reading from places like the U.K, India, Texas, and for that one person in the Congo... I'm happy to have my photographic ramblings entertain you every week.

To my mentors, and my friends on a quest to express life through their own photographic vision... thank you for involving yourselves in my personal journey. You guys keep me extremely inspired. And grounded. I've been very grateful. I hope I show it often enough.

To my friends... thank you for putting up with my obsession and encouraging it to continue. You're all extremely fabulous :) And thank you for pulling me away from my desk and computer often enough to remember that life still has room for fun no matter what project is looming.

To my sweet family, immediate and extended. My cheer leading section, and my very constant support. I'm grateful for how often you humour me when the lens is stuck in your face, or when I have to be out shooting at all hours, in all weather, in inconvenient locations. For when I'm cranky after my shoot disappoints. Or when I have to do taxes... in the middle of the dining room... while you wait for supper... to arrive in take-out form... again.

And finally, to my Lord and Savior, who is continually doing a new work in me personally, which as a result flows into my photography and business. And has been the source of my obsession with the beauty and design He established for us to enjoy.

Just the very tip top of the list of thankfulness for me.
Thanks for letting me post it for all to see today, and have a terrific long weekend everyone.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Heralding in Color ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"Herald of Autumn"

They are my favorite fall creature. Monarch butterflies are stunning in color and form. And as they begin their yearly migration, they find our gardens and parks, and if you know where to be, you can witness a beautiful display of how much care the Creator put into these tiny works of art.

"Delicate Acrobat"

One can get wonderful images with even a decent point & shoot with a manageable zoom factor these days. These were taken with, what else, my go-to tele zoom mounted on my trusty D80, a 55-200mm VR. With a more sensitive ISO dialed in, the slight breeze was ignored, and keeping my aperture wide open meant selective focus on these dazzling critters.

"Clothed in Beauty"

Until I hit the roads tomorrow for some official fall color with my favorite photo buddy, I thought I'd post these captures of living fall color for you all today. They are the perfect subject to herald in the Autumn color beginning to burst forth all over the province. So get those cameras ready gang! It goes fast! Where's your favorite place to photograph in the fall?

Thanks for the ramble! Have a good one

Monday, October 3, 2011

At War ~ Mono Monday!

"Flight and History"

Today is my 170th post. Where has time gone? Anyone? I can tell you where it's gone... it's been slipping away while my daily battle to be equal parts pro photographer, student, business owner, mentor, mom, and wife is being fought. On days where I'm feeling creative, but must fill orders, bookings or get projects in on time for Christmas, it feels like I'm at war... with myself!

I'd rather be anywhere but at my desk today. But one must work at making a living. So since I can't make time today to do the fun things I love about my job, I've returned to my archive of files and pulled a couple that I'm fond of and keep coming back to when I think B&W.

"The Heritage of Flight"

I'll say it again, if you haven't taken your camera to the Canadian Warplane Heritage museum, you need to schedule a visit in. Great light, amazing space, subjects oozing history... I think about how energizing the whole morning was for me as a photographer and I feel motivated to get through my business items that swamp me today. It helps me win my personal war and promises me that once the hard work is done, I'm free to enjoy my camera once more.

It's just one way I use my passion for photography to motivate other aspects of my daily chores. Hope you do too!
Thanks for the ramble... have a great day friends!