Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Miss Them ~ Telephoto Tuesday.

"Nestled In Sun & Sand"

I get an idea in my head and can't shake it. Nothings right until I can make it happen. This was my frame of mind Sunday evening. We're were out for a stroll along the beach at Van Wagner's, and I knew there was a cool little tree way out by the rocks and water further along the trail. I knew the scene should look amazing with the light from the sunset warming it all. I knew that it would look haunting if I waited till twilight too. I knew I wanted a photograph of it.

We got there and the clouds vanished, a murky haze settled over the water as the temperature suddenly dropped, a wind picked up... and my idea went out the window to be continued in better sunset/twilight conditions.

But as we wandered around waiting for the sun to drop before everything went cockeyed, I realised I shouldn't waste the time. There was still lots to photograph. Tucked my telephoto on the camera and started noticing the details. I started getting photos of the way the seaweed (for lack of a better term... maybe lake weed? kelp? someone help me out here) stranded on the winter shoreline had dried around rocks and silt. Details weren't in the cards to begin with but you use what you have. And in the end, it's a good thing I did. I got some images that were studies in texture, shape and sidelight. And didn't mind that I had to return later for the others... and return I will. That little gnarly tree in twilight is still the goal.

But thank goodness I improvised and didn't miss the details either.

Have a great Tuesday gang, and thanks for the ramble!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Critical Mass ~ Mono Monday

"Sky Inside Out"

It's a simple thing. But a necessary ingredient for photography. It's defined differently by everyone, and can change depending on the situation. Hopefully it's more of a conscious decision towards having it in a photo, than an unconscious one, but either way, when it's there... you know it.

I'm talking about impact. And photographs without it generally get lost in the shuffle. And it starts when you're out with the camera. I've been out with photographers on walks often and there's two kinds of photographers, or so it feels like. There's the photographer who only raises their camera when a scene or subject really strikes them as interesting or beautiful or dramatic or informative... and later they post them and the impact carries over to the viewer. And I've also seen photographers who simply shoot anything within range and then say, "that might look good in the computer later. Guess we'll see!"

Tell me that's not you. At least not all the time.

Impact. You find it everywhere but it's up to you how to make the most of it. Great shapes could provide it. Great light. Great lines. A cool perspective. An unexpected moment on a street corner, a burst of isolated color... the sky's the limit. But I don't know if we approach our photography this way enough.

And rarely can you create the impact needed later in photoshop if it's lacking somewhere in the image to begin with. I cringe when I hear new photographers decide that instead of honing their camera skills or compositional skills, that what MUST be lacking is more photoshop. I'm sorry, but processing is there to enhance what you already have. And if what you have isn't cutting it already, no amount of digital darkroom is going to make it fabulous. You can't enhance what isn't there. But on the flip side, if you have a great photograph be careful you don't lessen the impact it has by not processing an image carefully so as to preserve it either. It's a balancing act you learn over time. Add personal vision and you have the makings of a pretty great photograph if you make all your choices intentional ones.

Time to make a conscious decision to use impact as one of the first tools of the craft. Keep it foremost in your mind along with finding great light... and then have fun!

Thanks for the mini rant/ramble... have a fantastic week friends!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where's The Junk? ~ Exploration Thursday

"And She Saw Earth and Sky"

Just a harmless post today with another image from my recent rust and decay theme. Scrap metal, old farm equipment, and decrepit cars provide loads of opportunity to create abstracts... but this time it was the side of a dumpster along the docks. It has three different layers within. The blue, the gold, and the erosion. It simply grabbed my attention.

Just wondering what you think. It took a while to select a composition that made some sense out of the chaos. And in Corel I was careful to pump up the contrast a little and boosting the saturation slightly as well.

These types of photographs allow me to lose myself to seeing and thinking creatively with the camera, and with constraints gone, the act of discovery is priority #1.

Try it yourself. And thanks for the ramble!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How To Enjoy The Process! ~Wide Angle Wednesday

"Rafaga At Sunset"

So yesterday's post received some great feedback. The emails came in all day and it would appear we've all gone through the feelings I described. Which makes today's post a no-brainer. It's easy to say to keep photographing, and intentionally enjoy the process it provides, but how?

Decide What's Ultimately Important To You. Then Eliminate the Rest.
This means you may need to rediscover what you absolutely love about photography in general and your photography in particular. Actively using your camera will do that for you. Use this time to photograph what you love that's accessible right now. Start using what images you do get to hone your true style. Make the point of the photograph to express what you feel or know or love about it. Not how many hours work went into it, how many new programs you used or could have used, or if the location is popular to anyone else. Go back through your files and round up the past images that really got responses and interest from viewers or fans and make sure you know WHY they worked or evoked those responses over others.

Eliminate the Rest
Thought I skipped this part didn't you? This is a hard topic for photographers desperate to start working or to find their niche in the business world. While you are establishing for yourself who you are behind the lens, don't try to be everything to everybody just to make a buck or get some exposure somewhere just for the sake of exposure. Eliminate the distracting offers. Take something on only if it's where you belong and have the established skills for. In the meantime, start using your strengths while you shoot. And in the genre you love. With subjects that speak to you. Anything that doesn't fall into those perimeters, ask yourself if it's important to your growth as an artist to keep aiming your camera at it, at least for now.

Know Who's In Your Corner
I did a post last month that really resonated with a few of you about the four types of people you need in your life as a photographer. The Critical Eye, The Beacon, The Cheerleader, and The Partner In Crime. They each have something valuable to offer so don't lose that connection. Take one of them out for coffee, get chatting online and on the phone regularly. Do a photo day with them. Get them talking about how they dealt with being overwhelmed, striking out on their own, and how when mistakes happened they got back up or changed direction. If these relationships are solid you can ask them for their perspective and advice and they'll happily give it. Usually because at some point someone invested in them the same way. Photography in this day and age is more about community than ever before. Don't forget that.

So get out there. Circumstances or what-ifs can't stop you. Enjoy the process of photography your way. You never know what you might discover. Just remember discovery is the point. Throw some fun into the mix and you're on your way to emerging from yesterday's "fog of despair"

Keep shooting. Enjoy the process.
Thanks for allowing me to ramble once again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Despair. Keep Shooting. ~ Telephoto Tues.

"Steel & Steam"

You feel like packing it in. You feel like your passion is growing stale. Everyone seems to be doing it better, with better gear, in better locations, for better money. The dreamer in you feels suffocated. The enthusiast within is limp with worry. The practical personality in your head says, "lets just switch to scrapbooking and be done with it."

Scrapbooking? What? (No disrespect to scrappers everywhere. It's a very serious calling I know.)

If you're anything like me, you've been there. It's not easy finding your particular vein of photography, your style, what you'll bring to the table that hasn't already been done, and most importantly, why and when it'll come together for you. And you want it so badly too. But some days it's like fighting your way through a thick fog. On a roller coaster. After having too many chili dogs. Okay, forget that last part. If you can.

My point... all this really means is that it's time to make the process, or your journey on the roller coaster in the fog, count. Make "now" count for something. Something that will feed into your final destination when you finally decide on where you want to end up. Sounds simple. Sounds cliche. But I've seen it transform my own attitude towards my photography. Even just recently. So don't despair. Keep shooting.

The image above was the result of a desperate jaunt at the north end of the city. If it seems that I've been in an industrial type photo groove lately, you'd be right. I forgot how much I love it. Grit. Smokestacks filtering light on the street below. Odd colors. Rampant decay. Layers of steel. The incessant puffs of steam no matter where you look. I had been bemoaning the fact that I haven't had to work on a location recently. That I wasn't breaking any new ground with any new skills. I was doing a good job of talking myself right into the first seat on the roller coaster in the middle of a hail storm, never mind the fog. What brought the sun back out? What kept me from trading the Nikon for some scrapbooking lessons? I kept shooting. Enjoyed the process only. And this was one of the shots from what I thought would be an exercise in futility. It won't be every body's cup of tea, but that's not the point of the image. The point is realizing photography equals discovery. Now I have a little bit better idea of where I'm headed. And you will too.

I'm not sure who this post is for. I just felt like this was a good time for this benign ramble. That there might be others like me who need to know this happens to everyone. So don't despair. Until you know where you want to go with all of this, keep shooting. The act of taking photographs will propel you towards the right destination for you, whether it feels like it or not. Leave the scrapbooking to the pros.

Tomorrow, join me for Part II... "How To Enjoy the Process". I'm off to find me a decent chili dog.

Thanks, and have a good one gang!  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Using Size & Space ~ Mono Monday!

"The Guardian"

Sometimes your circumstances force you to be creative. No easy answers pop into your mind, no quick fixes will do a subject justice. Gosh darn it, you have to apply every skill you've filed away for just such an occasion. This was the situation I faced as I walked the pier by the bay in Hamilton last week.

This Algoma Central Corporation Tanker is part of the largest fleet of vessels serving the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence Waterway. And due to it's enormous size and proximity to other industrial spaces hovering near along the pier I discovered I didn't have enough focal distance or enough room to back up and include a hefty portion of her all tied up to the dock. But I liked the lines and anchor chain sweeping away from her, I liked how massive her front end looked (not a nautical term by any means but hey, I'm a photographer) and I realized that even the weight and size of her could be conveyed if I was careful.

The key to this image working well, is playing her size against the steel mill off in the distant haze. There were no dramatic clouds, there were no people I could coerce into standing in the photo to give perspective and scale...
but I anchored the remaining part of my composition and perspective onto that steel mill and suddenly this image tells a story. Those lines lead your eye down to the outside of the frame where you suddenly realize there's something in the distance and the image comes together. The contrast of size and all the space needed really worked in the photographs favor. To say I
was giddy when I realized I could work this out is an understatement. Okay, so I did a jig in the middle of the pier, but don't tell.

I still wasn't fond of the the color version when I was editing, so I decided to process in Corel's Platinum b&w filter and warmed it slightly with a Nik plug-in called Skylight to remove the starkness from the image. Now shape and space and size are the main characters... and the Algoma Guardian now looks as if she's watching over the harbour.

I've missed focusing on monochromatic photographs. I hope to have some more ready soon. In the meantime, enjoy your day. And take the time to photograph something. Have a good one folks, and thanks for the Ramble!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Tide Arrived! ~ Floral Friday!

Just a sampling of Gage Park's "Spring Tide" 2012 in Hamilton, Ontario. I attended with fellow photographer and friend Ronald Barrons to photograph the displays and get our fill of spring color! And the colors are amazing this year! So vibrant! I was in heaven.

The spring bulb show continues until Sunday but unofficially remains viewable until the displays fade throughout the coming week or so. Admission is free. Let the staff know Christine sent you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Epic Personal Challenge! ~ Exploration Thursday

"The Big Bang"
The Epic Personal Challenge #1

Today's image is the result of a conversation I had with good friend and photographer David A. Pratt the other week. We've both been learning and working in photography now for a few years at around the same time, albeit from different countries and it's not unusual for us to encourage the other in some practical way, or exploring a new technique in camera, or in editing, or processing... well you get the picture. (pardon the pun)

The conversation involved which other photographers we'd been following that week, whose new work we admired and ended with us deciding to do a spontaneous bi-weekly photo challenge to keep our creativity honed. Easy enough to do on your own I suppose, but much more exciting when someone else is in on it too. And so began The EPC! (Epic Personal Challenge)

The grand thing about this is every other week we'll just pick a random theme and have to find ways to give our own interpretation of it in a photograph (not a new concept really but so much fun)... and the interesting part is waiting to see how the other is going to approach it. Last week's challenge was , you guessed it, Rust and Decay. But our approach and decision making in regards to subject matter, interpretation, and even processing were completely different. To compare the image above to Dave's resulting photograph and his description of it, you can view his image HERE. See? Vastly different.

While he found an object that exuded rust and decay with great textures and a really gritty sidelight suitable to the theme, I went in a different direction and chose to make the rust, found in the inside of an old wheelbarrow, it's own subject, giving an abstract feel the felt like some kind of crazy sky or atmosphere in space effect. I think the differences are fantastic... Dave's approach made me realize just how varied every interpretation will be, sometimes I get too caught up in my own style that I forget that the possibilities are endless. Photo challenges are the perfect way to have fun with your camera, have fun with your peers, and start seeing your world around you better. And after we revealed our images to each other, we decided we needed a round two!

So this bi-weekly challenge for the EPC is "Machinery" and already I'm finding this a very challenging theme. And loving it. The cool thing is, you never know what else you'll stumble across while out on your scavenger hunt for the assigned subject matter. I have three images now waiting for next week's blog that were exciting all on their own merit while I was out hunting decay and rust... so you can see how this kind of activity can be very important to your own personal exploration of your craft.

Dave and I are very social people as well... if we hear from enough of you that you'd like to join us for the EPC, I'm sure a FB group or page or blog can be put together... or if you'd like to simply follow along on your own, feel free to contact me or leave a comment with a link to your results so I can include you here on the blog as well in two weeks time. I'll be posting our results every other Thursday... and I'll have Dave do some guest blogging those days as well, so you can hear his thought process behind it all... what do ya say Dave? Hmmm?

If you'd like to see today's image larger just click on it above, and if you visit David Pratt's photo in the link above or on flickr, he'd love to hear your comments too. Thanks for the ramble gang! Have a great one!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great Subjects = Great Photos? ~ Wide Angle Wednesday

"Spring and the Love Bug"
Spring Tide 2012 @ the Tropical Greenhouse at Gage Park, Hamilton

One of my most favorite times of the year. The annual spring bulb show at Hamilton's Gage Park. And this year they truly outdid themselves. Bold colors, hundreds of bulbs they grow on site in the new facility, and a groovy theme this year with some retro VW's, including one made out of grass and moss. I applaud all the hard working staff for such a vibrant and delightful show. I make two visits every year, and this image was from my initial visit yesterday. If you haven't been, what are you waiting for?

I particularly loved this display at one end of the greenhouse. Waves of bulbs opening in the sun, the groovy little love bug in their midst, and some raking light moving across the entire scene. I watched as visitor after visitor stood or knelt directly in front of the display where the path widens and got the same shot time after time. Which made me think of today's tip...

A fantastic subject does not a fantastic photo make.
If you make the mistake of thinking the nifty or pretty subject matter is going to do all the leg work, enabling you to  just walk up and get the photograph "as is" then you have limited yourself to all the better possibilities within your camera's reach. It's easy to fall into the trap that a great visual instantly equals a great photograph.

Take the time to see if there's something better. A better angle, time of day, better lens to use. Give it something that takes it from snap shot to photograph. Something to help it tell a story. I waited, I wandered away, I wandered back, and I made a realization that helped me get this particular view. I noticed no one took the time to stop on a little bridge over the pond, getting you up a little higher on the scene, and allowing the camera to include the layering of rock and flowers leading the eye up out of the pond in the corner and into the composition to end with the sweet little VW Bug. Not a Nobel Prize winning shot to be sure, but done with an approach that included observation, time, and thought.

Check out Gage Park's "Spring Tide" in Hamilton, Ontario. Tell the staff how much you appreciate their skills in creating a green space that the city can be proud of and making it beautiful all year round. And get some photographs that reflect all that hard work in a beautiful way...

Have a great day gang! Thanks for the ramble!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mono Monday!

"The Power Grid"

Thought I'd post a fun shot from a recent challenge I'd taken on, with a good friend of mine last week. You can see Dave Pratt's work on Flickr.

I wound up in the very industrial section of Burlington Street in Hamilton and allowed all the unusual and interesting shapes along all the different power grids and steel mills to become subjects all on their own. I don't have anything overly wise to say today, but I think I'll let the photograph speak for itself.

It's the first official day of March Break for my family and I and I see pancakes in my future... so you understand why I'm keeping this short and sweet.

Have a great Monday gang, and thanks for the ramble!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This Isn't New ~ Exploration Thursday!

"Universal Design"

Okay, you got me. Some part of this post is new. The image you're viewing today is brand new. Taken over at the U of T campus in fact. But I'm about to reiterate a couple points I've harped on before. I can't help it. It's not my fault. And it started with a comment made a few days ago.

I had just shown an acquaintance of mine the unfinished version of this image the other day. I love shape, I love design, I love details in architecture. You know this already if you've followed this blog for any amount of time. I'm addicted to these things. So I was excited to show the gem I found while wandering the Faculty of Music building at U of T last Sunday. What you're looking at is a dome in the ceiling of the Faculty of Music. It lets in some light and has this fabulous reflective pattern in it's glass. And their comment was, "well, I've cut through that building often enough... but how come I never noticed those domes in this way?!?"

If you've heard what I'm about to say before, feel free to gaze at the marvel of architecture that is the left dome in the faculty building, and then be on your merry way. But if you haven't heard this before, then today is your day and you might want to stay put for a second.

No matter where you go, if you love photography, you need to really look at your surroundings. Period. I mean really really really look. The comment above implied that this person noticed the domes in the ceiling before but didn't notice the design within, or the patterns it made, or the shapes it had. Trust me, I don't wander around looking for cool windows, buildings, or "stuff". But I do look for great details, or shadows, or light, or lines. That's why the dome of windows stood out to me. 

Train yourself. Look back through your favorite images and one by one decide what element makes it stand out. Make a point of giving yourself projects where you're only allowed to photograph repeating lines, or shapes. Make texture the theme. Find a way to start seeing "outside the box". Limit yourself to a certain lens to hone how to see details in that particular frame. Start viewing other photographer's sites that don't even shoot what you shoot. You'll start to recognize the elements that matter and not the subject matter itself. I'm still being asked how to spot interesting subject matter... that tells me we're still not really seeing what's available. And that we've locked onto a certain definition of what is visually pleasing, with no room to grow.

I'll have another example of this topic next week as well. A friend of mine whose photography I admire, and myself, decided to challenge ourselves to shooting one type of photo over the course of a week... we chose the theme of rust/decay to see what we could come up with that would stand on it's own as a great photograph. It demands that we start really looking for possibilities. It sharpens perception. It makes photography exciting. You should try it. I'll post my results next week... you can tell me what you think... and what you see.

Have a great day gang! Thanks for the ramble!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Remember To Anchor It!

"Pillars of the Community"

Today's image is courtesy of a little jaunt to the grand and expansive campus that is the University of Toronto. We wandered the grounds for a bit while my oldest child auditioned for their music programme. Since I rarely go anywhere without my camera, I was able to grab a couple images of the wonderful and diverse architecture. And today's image caused me to remember a topic I've been thinking about recently.
How are you choosing to anchor your compositions? ARE you choosing to anchor your compositions?

Looking at the pillars in the photograph it's very obvious what I wanted the focal point to be. Those grand and powerful columns leading up into the sky draw me in, with a slightly skewed perspective so I could include further angles in the peak of the rooftop too. This was a tight little area flanked with and surrounded by new, more modern buildings jutting into my line of sight so I had to be very particular. But the key was to make sure that whatever I did, I had one column within the frame spring right up from the corner. It anchors the frame. Not beside the corner. Not from way outside of the frame. But from the corner, giving it the weight it deserved, and the emphasis it needs to lead your eye into the photo and up and around it before it comes back to where you started. I made a conscious effort to anchor it well into the photograph and the composition. In fact, I know that in a final edit, I will flip this image so that it starts from the left side of the frame instead to give it even better prominance.

Here's what has prompted me to visit this topic. I receive requests a lot to visit new photographers pages or flickr streams or websites. And there's a flawed simularity running through many of them when you have a good look. All too often I see images that seem to have no definite subject, or the subject is lost in the surrounding details. In the end the photographs carry no weight. We have a tendancy to pull back, including everything in the shot whether it's nessassary or not, or will manage to fill the frame with something, but neglect to frame it up so that there is a definite point at which we start viewing the photograph. I see crops that aren't drastic enough, and in the end it just looks like they carelessly cut off part of the scene or object by mistake. I've seen compositions that if they had just cropped a little tighter, the perspective would have stood out wonderfully. Find the most powerful or the strongest element, and anchor that sucker! Make sure your composition is intentional!

Of course this all comes down to using leading lines, dynamic shapes, or interesting contrasts to bring importance to one part of your image over the rest of it. It's not hard. But we have to train ourselves to see those elements first, not the actual subject. That's what can prove difficult for the first while. But the results when we do are far more exciting and much more interesting to the viewer.

So there you have it. If you ever wonder why one image is falling flat over another one that seemed to "work" for some reason, make sure you have found an interesting or strong element to anchor the photograph, giving it weight. As DuChemin would say, "What's your intent?"
There's so much more to cover on this topic so be on the lookout for more posts in the near future.
In the meantime, thanks for the ramble today! Have a good one!