Thursday, May 31, 2012

And Then There Was This....

"Solitary Elements"

First there was the lost sunglasses for the third time that day. Then I got chatting with a neighbour and missed the first bus. The driver was heavy on the brakes in short spurts and the man sitting beside me reeked of pot. When I finally arrived at my destination to photograph the sunset in one of my favorite locations, the park was closed off for a water festival (in the middle of the week people?) and I had to hoof it all the way around to the other side, taking up nearly another half hour of my time while the light began to wane....

And then there was this.

My first action in the midst of all my frustration was to launch myself at a bench and have a gripe-fest in my head or out loud to the many Canada Geese lounging nearby. I hadn't decided which yet, when I realized the soothing scene before me. All my frustration leaked away and I got the camera out as I marveled at the serenity and colors the Creator had waiting for anyone who chose to see it. This is why I love what I do.

The first in nearly two hours worth of sunset photographs gleefully taken last night (which I will post in the coming days), I gave it some basic tweaking and posted it for today. A reminder that past the daily obstacles, there's so much waiting for us.

With that in mind, have a fabulous day and thanks for the Ramble...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why I'll Always Love My Kit Lens

"Where Beauty Grows"

There are some things you'll always love no matter who you are or how you change. Some of my favorite things without question, that I have always loved are old Danny Kaye movies, Anne of Green Gables, the color green, Scrabble, Cortland apples, Patti Lupone, pizza, fresh bread, Spike Jones, the smell of anything drenched in Sweet Pea....and Peonies. Hence today's image, taken over at the Sam Lawrence Park perennial rock gardens.

In regards to photography I have a list of favorite things too. I love towering architecture. I love old architecture. I love sunset light, unique perspective, negative space, the challenge of composing around chaos, and B&W processing. I love Nikons, prime lenses, soft depth of field, lines, contrast, tripods, remote shutter releases and... my 18-55mm kit lens. Hence today's image taken with the most moderate wide angle lens Nikon ever created to accompany a DSLR. But it will always be at the top of my list of favorite gear. Why? Cause it allows me to get photographs like the one above.

Normally I would use a telephoto for a near macro-ish close-up like this, but it doesn't allow me to get the breadth of the massive blossoms while getting up close. Maxed out at 18mm's means I got close and inclusive, the barrel distortion you get slightly at 18mm's means an added depth to this deeply petaled beauty. Every petal stays fairly sharp, this lens doesn't make me struggle with what DOF I can get away with depending on the rest of my exposure like the finicky tele or 50mm fixed lens. And I can handhold this lens in a wide variety of lighting conditions and subjects no problem. That allowed me to get right up next to each peony I photographed and to move around freely, composing on a whim if desired as I framed flowers up in the camera. Tripods are also on my list of favorite things, but sometimes you just don't feel like being held up as your creative flow kicks into gear.

As new and marvelous lenses emerge on the market, don't forget your foundational gear. It's where you are most skilled, where you naturally respond the fastest when shooting, and where your comfort level and creativity feed off each other for consistent results. When it comes down to it... every piece should feel like the equivalent of wearing your favorite pair of jeans, that's when you know each photograph was about what you saw, and not about what gear you used first.

That's why I'll always love my kit lens. It does exactly that every time it's in my hands. What will you always love about your gear? Think about it, and how it adds your photographic process. And have a good one folks! Thanks for the ramble!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Raw is Just Too Important ~ Telephoto Tuesday

"Flamenco Dancer"

Today's image was brought to you by... shooting in RAW. By shooting in Raw I mean that nothing of this original file was compressed or eliminated by the camera as it recorded each shot, and all the digital information was there when I opened this image in Corel's PSPx3 and proceeded to make some adjustments and fine tuning. Yes it means it was a rather large file, yes it means it took up a lot of space on my computer, yes it means I have to have a program capable of opening it but I couldn't have made this shot without it. So for everyone who has banned shooting in RAW for good because jpegs just seem easier, I have some concerns on that way of thinking. I'll use today's image of this regal Poppy to expound further.

The first reason this image was successful being shot in a Raw format was (drum roll please....) "reds" are difficult. You heard me. Intense reds are extremely reflective in nature. They cause your meters to react in wild and woolly ways. Hard sun and you have blowout galore, losing whatever rich color was present. On overcast days like the one I was out in when I took this shot, the blue cast from the clouds overhead did strange things to the color as well. To get a very accurate poppy red in this image, I needed to be able to tweak color temperature, adjust select areas of exposure where the red became too hot no matter what I adjusted in camera, and I needed to use almost a high def processing to keep the layers of petals from bleeding into each other. Bring in some curves adjustment, some clarify, and some high pass sharpen and I had far more control over this in Raw processing than if I had a limited jpeg to work with, no matter how big that jpeg file might be. All without compromising the digital integrity of the file. Here's the unprocessed version with the best exposure possible that day....

Can everyone say "BLECHHHHH"....? Exactly. Dull, with no oomph.
Here's another reason why after all that editing, shooting in Raw won out. The image quality was never compromised after mucking about in all that processing. I could have done the same to a jpeg, but unless you're working with a killer pro camera who's jpegs are bigger than Atlantic City, you're going to notice the image quality begin to compromise. Excessive noise, edges and once sharp details show degradation, and gone is the possibility of a massive gallery print with impact. (All because of an unruly color.) This is just one more reason I work in Raw. But there's more...

At some point, someone is going to want to use your images! You may not think you're heading in that direction right now, but don't purposely eliminate the possibilities folks. This is where I regretted listening to so many people early on in my photographic journey who said I'd never need large files from Raw images, and didn't look into the major benefit of shooting in Raw. I missed my first huge breakout into the world of professional photography when an image caught the eye of another artist/magazine editor and wanted the image in their personal collection and on their magazine cover... and I couldn't give it to them. The file size and resolution was too small because I thought a fine jpeg setting in my camera was enough. Had I used my Raw menu option in my camera, I could have printed the giant canvas he requested, and also could have had a final tiff file that would have more than adequately met his cover page requirements for size and resolution. I can't stress enough that unless you have a monster camera to begin with... you need all the digital info you can get packed into your images. Shooting in Raw does that. Shooting your career in the foot? Not so fun. Trust me.

My advice to the few of you I've had conversations about this with, is don't let the word RAW intimidate you. Do your homework, work out the differences for yourself as you extend your knowledge of shooting with a DSLR, and big, large, slow files or not, Raw doesn't have to hamper your enjoyment of photography. All you need is to find a Raw program in Adobe, or Corel that suits your budget and your needs and the frustration can disappear as you go smoothly from one workflow to the next. The quality of your photography will know no bounds. And that's just too important to ignore shooting in Raw.

Thanks for the ramble... and have a good one!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Take A Little Time

"Have A Little Tea"

Today's image is from a Mother Daughter formal Tea Party I helped host last week for a terrific group of teens I help mentor through the year... and it was so much fun. Everyone went home with the gift you see here, a tiny bag with herbal teas and chocolates. Of course, I had to get a photograph.

I've been off the blog all week. I needed a rest and a chance to regroup. Sometimes we just put too much on our plates. And sometimes we don't put the right things on our plates. Either way, we end up needing to take a little time out. To regroup, recharge, or redirect our efforts. I'll be honest. I'm struggling with staying with finding an outlet for what I love, and branching into the more obvious photography channels for making a living with my skills behind the camera...  so I've taken a little "me" time to help me refocus on what's ultimately important to me and my photography. And make some decisions. And I'm not even certain yet... but I've decided what will be important. And that's important. Ha.

So have a fabulous weekend, and we'll be back to more punctual blogging next week. While you're at it, have a nice cup of tea on me. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No More "Stealth" Candids! ~Wide Angle Wednesday

"Waiting Game"

Another image of my crazy and beautiful dog Rally. And they really can be few and far between because she avoids the camera like the plague. Actually slinks away if she thinks I'm going to aim it at her. She's really tested my skill at "stealth" candids. You know, when you have to pretend you're innocently taking pictures of something like your laundry instead, from the other side of the room, whilst and at the same time, humming the Mission Impossible theme song, then suddenly swinging the camera over at her and shouting "got you!!!" Meanwhile all you get is a blur of one ear and a tail while she runs from the room. And a very detailed study of your wrinkled laundry.

I'm not fond of "stealth" candids. You might get good light. You might not. You might get a great expression. But you might not. You might have a decent composition.... well, you get the picture. So it's time to photograph smarter. The one thing Rally cannot be distracted from is activity outside the house. She will sit at a window and watch for her despised enemy the squirrel, for ages without blinking. Or birds. Or ants. Or microscopic dust particles on the wind. Tiny atoms floating by. Just look at that concentration, people!

The approach became so easy. Sit with my camera by the window, wait for her to take up her post (which wasn't long because the border collie in her wants to go where you go) and then take my time composing the shot. The window light (what am I always saying about getting window light?) was perfect, no flash needed, it gave some slight rim light around her profile, made her eyes pop and wham! One portrait of her beautiful face while she sat absolutely still. And the whole composition tells you a story of sorts. She's watching for something, she's longing to go outside, she thinking deep thoughts about those floating molecules mentioned earlier... well, again, you get the picture.

So, having trouble photographing your best furry friend? Find the one thing they do well, or stay put for. Find a way to do it near some great light as well. Use your most flexible lens in that situation. And you'll be able to avoid those "stealth" candids once and for all.

Thanks for the ramble, have an awesome day friends!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Change It Up!!! ~Floral Friday

Rainy Day Magnolias by C.Duncan's Photography
Rainy Day Magnolias, a photo by C.Duncan's Photography on Flickr.

Every creative person I know gets stuck. Moments where you're in a rut. You have artist block. Nothing seems new. Or interesting. You'd rather bury yourself in a carton of Super Chocolate Caramel Explosion ice cream and watch reruns of Wonder Woman... well... some of us anyways.

Thought I'd share my go-to list of things I do to switch things up and gain new inspiration. If you've been doing photography for many years, these will be old hat to you. But if you've never tried these, it can put the excitement back into photographing whatever comes your way. Here we go;

Set An Absurd Boundry ~ We all know the ideal conditions for shooting inside, outside, whatever. So give yourself a specific shooting condition and only shoot that way. Only landscapes in the rain. Only portraits at twilight. Shoot every day for an entire month only from your backyard, or along a specific stretch of road. Force yourself to get creative. And tell others about your
self-inflicted project so you follow up.

Use Your Gear... All of It! ~ Use your lenses in creative ways. Wide Angles for portraits! Yep, you heard me. Figure out how to get creative with your perspective and the POV you shoot from and get some cool portraits. Stop reaching for the obvious lens choice. Use your telephoto first when photographing architecture instead of the wide angle. Force yourself to see within a tighter, less chaotic frame. It's simply thinking outside the box but sometimes we're in a comfortable rhythm and can't see anything else, then wonder why our images seem uninspired.

Face Your Weaknesses ~ If you steer clear of macro nature shots because you can't seem to get what everyone else gets in the lens, start exploring what else you can aim a macro lens at. Over the course of a month, those skills will grow. If you avoid portraiture in general, start with a fun project with your family making crazy faces, or only your dog for a few weeks, in different light, in different locations, and hone those portrait skills you were afraid were non-existent. What you learn about yourself you'll be able to apply to what you do love. Or it may open up a new vocation for you completely. And how exciting would that be.

Invoke The Buddy System ~ Invite others to participate. The more the merrier, and everyone stays motivated, feeding off each others energy and experiences. This is what my friend Dave Pratt and I did with our Epic Personal Photo Challenge... we opened it up to anyone who loved photography and every two weeks a new person picks a theme we have to shoot in. We reveal all our images on the same Sunday and discussion runs rampant on what our individual approaches resulted in, and new ways to see a subject. It's fabulous and very inspiring. The fun is injected back into the act of photography, and you can tell by looking at the images each week. You can click the link above to join us if you'd like....

So have a fabulous Friday gang, and let's inject some inspiration back into our photography. Just change it up!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Do You Suppose... Wide Angle Wednesday

                                         Imperial Cotton Co. II by C.Duncan's Photography
Interesting scene, no? Quite frankly I have fallen in love with the main building of the Imperial Cotton Co. The third floor is one massive space ready to be used for everything from art shows to filming movies, and so full of character. I think I spent more time here during Doors Open Hamilton than anywhere else. This is one of my favorite images from Sunday's ramble through my city. And I think I'll let you decide what's happening in this photo... let your imagination get some exercise.
So, what do you suppose this scene represents?
I'll tell you one thing, photo shoots would be heavenly in a location like this...
Have great day gang, and thanks for the short ramble!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Find Some History ~ Mono Monday

"Old, New, and In Between"
Imperial Cotton Textile Mill Complex

I love architecture. But you knew that. I even love saying, "I love architecture, and you knew that..." so of course today's image is from the 2012 Doors Open Hamilton event that took place this weekend. A fabulous event where buildings of artistic or historical significance, and buildings with innovative design, open their doors to the public and allow you glimpses into places you never knew existed or have always wanted to see.

You can't keep me away.

The image today is an amazing combination of original structures from 1900 and newer additions that today houses studios and spaces for showcasing and supporting local artists. I wasn't able to be choosy about the quality of light, hours of the event across the city are mid day hours and the light yesterday was harsh without much cloud cover. But you use what you're given, and when there are terrific lines, shapes, and textures supplied by such an interesting structure like this scene in the alleyway, you just go for. I particularly like the black pipe framing the Gothic style brick tower in the distance. Elements like this make me a happy photographer.

If you're in the Hamilton area, you need to check out the Imperial Cotton Co. complex and the additional site for artist support through CoBALT Connects who is out there providing innovative ways to educate artists and support local talent.

Take a ramble through YOUR city and see if they have a Doors Open event near you! Thanks gang and have a good one.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Soak Up The Sunset ~Floral Friday

"Awash in Sunset Light"

A quick little post just to say thank you to my readers. It's easy to think I'm just putting random thoughts and ramblings out there into the atmosphere and there might be a slight chance some one's listening. But my stats tools tell me there's so many of you tuning in every week, and I didn't want to go another day without saying how much I appreciate all of you. Thank you for journeying along with me. From the bottom of my heart.

I'm currently working on a survey which will be posted here and on Facebook... I'd love to know what you'd like to see or read more of quite frankly. Where you all are in your pursuit of photography. What topics are important to you. All of that good stuff.
So be on the lookout for it in the next week!

In the meantime, I'm starting off an iffy weather weekend here in The Hammer with this image I took down at Bayfront Park where the tulips are growing strong, tossed with daffodils, and where they seem to be set on fire in the sunset light. This universal approach to great light simply can't be beat. Have you tried it yet? Let's get out there then!

Have a super weekend gang! And thanks for reading along with my rambles...