Monday, April 30, 2012

Beyond The Formal ~ Mono Monday

"Working With A Pro"

Today I thought I'd discuss something I hear frequently from other photographers. And I would be in the same boat as them when they say, "My family just HATES having their photos taken!" It's that whole "set up the seamless, point the big intimidating lights" feeling, or even just the deer in the headlights look everyone gets after dad yells "hey everyone, look over here and say cheese!"

I had to work hard around this the other day for a personal project I'm beginning, and wanted to ensure that my family wouldn't run screaming from the camera or look stiff and uncomfortable once they stepped into a shot. So here's some tips on what I did to get the moment above of father and son looking relaxed and having fun without it looking staged.

The Most Comfortable Place
When is your spouse, child, or subject most in their element? The place or spot that they're the most involved in, most proud of, most comfortable in. For my husband (and it's a tie between the him and the dog for who hates the camera most) that's his workshop. All his tools familiar to him where there, on-going projects he's excited about are there, and he proudly renovated it himself. It is the quintessential comfortable space for him. So the first thing we did was hang out in the workshop.

Find That Light
I don't mean that "inner" light either... that's later. I mean now that we were out in the workshop to photograph the father and son moment I wanted, I took a real hard look at this familiar space and had to decide where the good light was. Workshops are notoriously dusty, or have industrial type lighting everywhere. We tried opening up the big door, with all the lights on but in the end the only good light, very soft and full, was coming in a window from the south west. The windows are covered in an opaque white film for privacy and were the perfect foil for the late afternoon sun. So I backed up into the corner and had them stay in front of the window to work on their project together. If you look closely you can see the back of my husbands head still has definition in the shadows... that's from the big door we kept open for added light. That's using the ol' noodle eh???

Use The Best Gear
I could have fooled around with my flash, my reflector or additional lights, and my different lenses. However, all of those things are time consuming, and start to make your subject feel more self conscious as time goes on. And you can loose momentum. So after looking at the small area they'd start working in, I decided the best lens would be my wide angle for such a small tight space, and I'd use my tripod in case the exposure wouldn't work out for handholding the camera. I spot metered my subjects, okay with the corners or background having some shadow and that was that. After a minute they forgot I was there.

Don't Just Stand There... Do Something.
Because they were in a comfortable place, doing something they're familiar with, the last thing I wanted to do was then say "now both of you look at me!" and press the shutter. If they love the camera, not a problem. But in this instance I needed them to just interact the way they always do. So they started DOING something. They were measuring to make a cut for some trim, a simple action but enough that their focus didn't drift to me right away and I got some shots off before they realized. The fact that they got chuckling about something my hubby was trying to teach my son says that they were still comfortable and had forgotten about me for a second. And I love the expressions. I got a great "guys" moment that really represents them.

These are just my own tips, but they seem crucial to every "stolen moment" photo I take, no matter what the variables are. I'm sure you could add to the list. And I hope this helps someone longing for better family photos that go beyond the family portrait of pasted fake smiles, dress clothes you only wear at Easter or weddings, and odd poses.

Thanks for the ramble! Have a great Monday and let's get some fabulous family photos!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Exploration Thursday ~ Small Ways To Overcome!

Sweetness by C.Duncan's Photography
Sweetness, a photo by C.Duncan's Photography on Flickr.
We have a special guest blogger today on Exploration Thursday! Art in any shape or form, photography included, is very therapeutic and inspiring, certainly to the many out there struggling with a disease or disability. So today's post comes to you from Melanie Bowen, who writes for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog and has seen how photography, music, art, or any hobby or pursuit can change some one's outlook and improve their health in big ways. Today she addresses some simple steps anyone can use to move past whatever your obstacles may be and start finding inspiration and confidence. I know that when I've done the following with my photography, the process moves more smoothly. Here's Melanie....

Inner Dreams: Outer Accomplishments

Sometimes the best place to look for outer inspiration is to look within. Having a chronic or life threatening illness like diabetes, mesothelioma or lupus can create times when you just want to sit down and give up. However, no matter what your prognosis is, you can still take the appropriate steps to create the future you want for yourself despite your current situation.

Write Down Your Goals
Writing something down is a very powerful experience because it can give you a sense of accountability and drive to actually accomplish things when you put them in black and white. This is the reason that we write down contracts or agreements we make with others. This is also true when you write down goals for yourself; you create a written agreement with yourself that you will actually meet the goals that you write down for yourself.

Goal setting for yourself can be as fanciful or as concrete as you want to make it. For example, you might decide that you want to write out daily goals for yourself like walking for 30 minutes daily, sweep the kitchen floor, or going grocery shopping. You can keep this list of goals posted some place where you will see it every day and work your way down the list throughout the day.

Go One Step Further
However, you might take personal goal setting a step further and really have some fun with it. If you could imagine yourself doing whatever you want, without being concerned about how much it cost, what your health is or anything else, what would those things be? Would you climb Mount Everest? Would you write an amazing book? Would you create your own fashion line? Let your imagination soar and write down whatever fantasies come to mind that you really could see yourself doing.

Turning Dreams into Reality
The great thing about personal goal setting is that usually those things we fantasize about actually accomplishing are things that we can actually do if we set our minds to it. If something is really important to us, we will find a way to make it a priority and set events into motion that will bring it about and make it happen. It is an unconscious process and often it takes a long period of time, but it also gives us something to look forward to and something to be working toward in the future.

Turning our dreams into reality is also an uplifting and invigorating experience. Suddenly our mood improves. We wake up looking forward to the adventure of a new day and everything just looks brighter. So start making goals for yourself and turning them into your own personal reality. Be as concrete or as fanciful as you want, but create something to look forward to for the future. Your quality of life can improve and your future may become more enjoyable if you simply take the time to put your dreams on paper.

Yours in Health,

Thanks Melanie for providing our guest post this month! I know this will be a helpful tool for anyone trying to overcome an illness, injury, or simply being overwhelmed with starting the pursuit of something that makes them feel more positive and productive. If you wish to see more from the MCA and Melanie's writing please be sure to visit the MCA Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog.

“Melanie Bowen is an awareness advocate for natural health and holistic therapies for cancer patients. You will often find her highlighting the great benefits of different nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those with illness in her efforts to increase attentiveness and responsiveness on like topics. Here, she will be writing about the benefits of tracking your thoughts and goals—because thoughts are merely thoughts but writing is the first step to taking action, organizing oneself and being proactive."

Thanks for tuning in today friends, and let's get out there and apply ourselves and our skills to something inspirational!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Magnolias ~ Floral Friday

Magnolias in Rain by C.Duncan's Photography
Magnolias in Rain, a photo by C.Duncan's Photography on Flickr.

Magnolias. They ooze old world romance and purity. I love trying to capture those things in the lens. I can spend hours photographing magnolias. And feel renewed afterwards. I was thrilled working on this image for today. Thrilled and ..... giddy. I just love magnolias.

The weather cooperated for once. I love photographing flowers after lazy rain showers, the sky still overcast. The colors are cleaner, no high contrast to work around, and a few rain drops still clinging. Add a little, and I mean little, fill flash to erase deep shadow on the subject and you have the makings of a fine photograph. Had my trusty tripod, plus bumped the ISO up to 320 since there was a slight breeze and I needed my shutter speed to freeze the blossom without loosing the exposure I wanted. It's extremely rewarding to see the image in your mind become the final product on the screen without excessive processing.

Now on to other news. You may have noticed that today's image has been posted through another source other than blogger itself. I want to thank Flickr for providing photographers with the option to post images through their site for a very important reason. I've noticed recently in my blog feed that someone is "lurking" about the blog, waiting for me to post images here, then googling the titles and copying my images on the google search site. NOT cool friends. I don't know what this person is using them for, but it's the sneaky way to ignore the copyright of any of my images. For the most part it's not a huge issue as I have been posting small resolution images, and I'm not naive about what happens in Internet land, but still. So posting through Flickr has eliminated a good portion of this problem as far as I know. And we need to spread the word... photographers work just as hard as anyone, the minute you take their images without permission, you devalue every photographer out there. We already struggle with being asked for free photographs every time we turn around. So let's enjoy the images, and if you're super attached to one, contact me, we'll work something out.

Thanks for the ramble today gang! I appreciate each and every one of you who show up to read the blog and let it inspire you somehow. Thanks! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reflections ~ Exploration Thursday

"Reflections" EPPC #3

Was working on the upcoming challenge for the Epic Personal Photo Challenge group's next theme "Friends" when I realised I hadn't posted my last EPPC image for the theme "Reflections".

I had done a similar image years before but hadn't worked with lighting at that point and wanted a new take on it. And the three reflections happening in the image.... were all there before I started processing. In camera.

Now a magician usually doesn't reveal their secrets, but it was just so darn fun to set up and photograph that I'll tell you how to at least get the glass to flip that dual background I set up with white and red seamless.

Water inside anything clear eventually flips whatever is reflected behind it if you pull the glass far enough away from the object behind, in this case the overlapped seamless. In fact, the more objects you have, the better the illusion as seen in my first example done about four years ago.

Give this a try! There's a ton of ways this could be used in a photo... get your creativity on! And by all means, please join us at the EPPC on Facebook if you'd like to follow along with our themes and join in. We've already more than twenty group members and growing steadily.

Thanks for the ramble gang! See you here tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Main Character ~ Wide Angle Wednesday

"Cherry Hill Gate in Winter"

Was asked a question not that long ago that I had never considered in regards to my landscape photography. I had to really think before I could answer. The question was as follows, "Christine, why is there rarely any people in your images? Is it on purpose or what?"

"Sunset on Dundurn"

I thought back over the past year's landscape and cityscape images. In fact I came home after that conversation and looked back through dozens of my files to see just how true their observation was over the last few years. And it's a good question. Because I usually don't have people included in my landscape compositions. And the reason why is quite simple. The landscape itself is a character all it's own. Period. When I head out with the intent to photograph great light or something scenic, it's the characteristics of that location that speak to me. When that happens, my gut says that to add anything else would cause the image to compete against itself, in what it says to the viewer about what moved me. I wind up with landscapes that speak of it's most visually appealing characteristics and have no need to embellish it further.

"Spring Rains in Wine Country"

I will not deny that there are times I wished later that I had included a human element. That I had missed out on the best way to connect with the scene after all. This is something I have promised to begin working on now in my portfolio. To make sure I'm not just avoiding using people because it's easier, less complicated, and what I'm used to. But see what a simple question did? It made me conscious of every landscape I take and how my approach might have room for improvement!

Here in Ontario and across Canada, the landscape is very much it's own character in the scene regardless. I will never run out of subject matter, road trips are overflowing with possibility, and in the five years I've been pursuing this full time I've never lacked something to photograph that hasn't spoken to me. It's the main character in my lens.

Thanks for the ramble gang! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crazy Days ~ Telephoto Tuesday

"Dandie & Penny Forever"

Things around here have been nuts. Between tax season, approaching weddings, kids getting ready for secondary and post secondary education, working on our house, trying to lose weight, starting a new photography portfolio and attempting to maintain my stats in scrabble (vitally important I know), you can start losing perspective on what's important. Every day feels crazy, or busy, or both.

That is, until you wander through the local cemetery one day with the camera. Suddenly what seemed important and what IS important becomes super clear as you stand surrounded by nothing but graves. Dandie and Penny don't get a second chance to switch perspectives. But we do.

Now I'm not going to go all morbid or mushy on you. But sometimes I'll be honest, I get caught up in the wrong things that vie for my attention either work related or day to day. I'll be keeping this image somewhere close to my work area from now on. It's going to be my reminder to strive for what's most important in my family and my work, and to remember that the fluff, the extras, and the frills are okay but should never hinder the journey.

As we like to say in the photography world (and in all cheesiness), "Let's stay focused!"

I think Dandie and Penny would heartily agree don't you?

Monday, April 16, 2012

In The Corners of Your City ~Mono Monday

"Ornate Mausoleum"

I was actually on the hunt for magnolias in the rain. That was the goal. Can I help it that some of the biggest and oldest magnolias are in the massive Hamilton Cemetery? Can I help it that beside some of these ancient trees stood equally ancient columns decorating family grave sites? Can I help that I had to point my camera up at all the details, and instead of mauves and rich pinks of flowering trees, I saw things in B&W?

Can I stop posing everything in the form of a question now? Never mind.

It was funny though. I kept my eye on another person walking through the cemetery with their own camera. I love observing others when they're photographing a location. What makes them stop at certain things, while I keep moving and notice something else, and vice versa. They were only there for the spring flowers popping out here and there on the grounds. Never once pausing to look at the ornate or decaying graves, stones, moss, statues. Where as I couldn't get my fill of all of that. It always amazes me how individual our perspectives can be.

That's why I'm forever telling my fellow photographers, no matter how often a location has been photographed before, only YOU have your perspective, only YOU have your timing, only YOU have your vision for the final edits. I could go on and on. You will always find me roaming my own city. Frequenting the historical AND the mundane And the beautiful AND the busy locations. It's all there to be explored the way only you know how.

What'cha waiting for?

Thanks for the ramble, and have a super Monday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Life Vs. Photography

"Pretty in Pink"

Things have been sporadic here at the blog this year. As a mom and wife who is trying to build a portfolio and career in photography, sometimes life wins out and photography takes the backseat. Not for long mind you, but it happens. And it's not a bad thing. My family has to know I'm there for them no matter what. So I'm in a season where I work on my photography in and around my other aspects of life. If you're a parent and a spouse, you totally know what I mean.

And I don't care if you do travel photography (one day, one day), baby portraits, commercial, or fine art... at some point we realise just how big a balancing act it is. In fact anyone who works from home will understand. Heck, anyone who works, period, will understand the juggling skills you need to balance your vocation and your family life. After seeing some remarks and comments on various blogs and sites and emails from frustrated parents/spouses/photographers, I thought I'd post these thoughts on the blog today. When it's life verses photography, sometimes life wins hands down.

So what am I trying to say today....?

I just want to say, hang in there. Find a way to work on your dream while waiting for the laundry to dry and the skunk aroma to work it's way out of your dog again. Set up your day so you have even one hour to be creative, then go back to deciding what's for supper tomorrow and where your youngest might have left his new glasses when he went to the mall. Make sure your family knows that they can even join in on your learning process... make them your models, give them a cool job to help with on your next shoot even if it's a (gasp) school day, or make a day of scouting new locations together, and get their input on what looks exciting.

Hang in there and keep shooting. Keep shooting and keep sharing. Keep sharing, then let life win out for a bit. It's going to happen whether you want it to or not.

Thanks for the ramble gang! And don't give up!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

B&W vs Color!


"Steal & Steam"

I recently posted the color image above on my blog, then was intrigued when a friend of mine asked me to try it out in B&W as well. Then I got busy and totally forgot all about it. I had a fabulous excuse of course. Something about 3 entire seasons of NCIS coming in from the library, spontaneously deciding to prime my kitchen walls, and relearning how to walk down the deck stairs without falling down them.

Well, never mind all that.

This week I decided that I would dig up one of my discarded photo projects, and then this image caught my eye. And I'm glad my friend Dave asked me to rework this in B&W to be frank. It wound up having a completely different feel, and still totally suits the subject matter. And to be honest, I was so caught up in the colors in the original shot that I forgot to explore the possibility that it would perform well as a monochromatic image as well.

There were some very specific things I tweaked in order for it to work for me though in processing. First, I had to play with the channels in B&W. The shadow areas were rather flat at first conversion. Pumping the blue channel was especially helpful in adding some contrast in those shadows. Also, I didn't go with an absolute B&W, I chose a silver effect from a Nik plug-in... suddenly the highlights had some definition which was very important to me. Finally, I played with the unsharp mask in Corel and the overall contrast. And was content with the result.

Now the question is... which one do we like best? Hmmmm.....

Have a great day, get out there and expand your photographic possibilities gang! And thanks for the ramble!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sometimes... ~ Telephoto Tuesday

"Sunset Grass"

Sometimes I like to head out with the family. We hit the trails, or explore a new park. Sometimes it's not my intention to pull out the Nikon at all.

But it's there just in case. Because sometimes something just delights you.

Sometimes the light dances through the marsh grass. Or sometimes it weaves it's way through the trees differently.

Sometimes there's no sunshine to be seen when you start. And sometimes it makes a surprise appearance. I always have my camera. For the "sometimes".

I talk a lot about being learning to be more intentional about what I photograph... but sometimes it's just nice to relax the "roving eye" we photographers never seem to turn off, and just take a photo for the sake of fun. For the sake of easy. For the sake of being care free even when you look through the lens. Sometimes we have to balance out striving for genius with striving for refueling our simple creativity.

Sometimes it means your photograph looks like the one above. And makes you happy. Or content. Or energized.

Sometimes all of the above.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

The EPPC ~ Mono Monday

"Bow Thruster"
Epic Personal Photo Challenge #2

I didn't get a chance last week to blog my last EPPC image from the theme "Machinery". Since it's a B&W I thought I'd do so now. It's the propellers from outside the bow thruster of a tanker. I couldn't believe all the texture and cool lines and raking light I had to play with when I took a closer look.

If you were wondering, the EPPC has a facebook group now, and you can request to join up. So far we're 13 strong and the next theme we're currently getting ready to post this coming weekend is "Reflections". We'd love it if you joined us. It's a chance to push yourself, see how creative or observant you can be with your surroundings. And you'll meet some great people. How can you resist?

Busy day today, so it's just a short little post. But come check out the EPPC and join in the challenge. See you all tomorrow, and thanks for the ramble!