Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh Canada!

"Canadian Pride"

Well it's been busy days around here lately, and I've neglected the blog in the midst of the chaos. But here we are approaching the Canadian long weekend, prepping for Canada Day on July 1st and I wanted to post an old favorite out of my files to celebrate.

Can I share a dream with you? One day, it's my hope to travel across the country in one giant back roads road trip. And take my time, finding small details like this one above, to photograph. Hidden gems in the rural and the urban.... without ever taking a short cut on the highways and freeways. I don't know if it will ever happen but our country was built on the dreams of people who had a heart to explore. And I know I'd get the chance to meet photographers from one end of this beautiful land to the other as well. I think that would be extremely exciting.

It'll be something to plan for when the kids are grown, and the hubby has less responsibilities... for I now I keep dreaming.

To my fellow Canadian photogs and beyond... Happy Canada Day weekend and keep your dreams alive!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where You Live ~ Exploration Thursday

"The Departure" Panorama

When life permits, I'll one day be able to really travel. I spent some time yesterday looking at travel photography and I know it's a challenge I want to face one day. But for now the timing is wrong, and I'm okay with that. I need to be here for my kids, both starting new journeys in school this fall, and for my hubby as he takes on extra work, and you'll see a new section soon to the blog for portraits.... something I need to work desperately for the next while.

But when I DO have that hankering (sometimes daily, let's be real here!) to shoot interesting vistas, wonderful scenery, or curious subjects, I have everything right here. Where I live. If I time it right, if I look hard enough, if I'm patient and open to possibilities, I can fill that need and get images that still test my skills.

The panoramic shot above was taken at a local marina, one of my go-to places for landscape hankerings. To see it enlarged just click on the image above. I have never tried pano's before, and thought I'd give this scene a try. The last golden light of the day was quickly departing (hence the title) and I liked the cloud cover over the entrance to the boat launch, with equipment standing at attention, ready for the next day's boats to launch out of dry dock. I badly wanted all that sky contoured in the last light. And suddenly I heard the voice of a good friend and mentor, saying, "For heaven's sake CD, make a multiple image panoramic already".... so I did. He's been trying to get me to do this for the last year or so, so Bob - this is for you! This scene has four images stitched together and processed to tweak the light in the photo, allowing me to get from one end of the launch to the other within a single frame. And get all the sky over the whole scene. I was so excited to see this done, that it felt just like coming back from an adventure elsewhere. Now four shots combined isn't genius or anything, but I feel good for my first attempt. That's one for the bucket list!

My point? I will never stop photographing where I live. It is training me now for the places and sights I'll photograph later... that's just too invaluable to ignore, or to sit around wishing I was somewhere else all the time. I hope the scenes I post through the blog inspire my readers to explore where they live, with or without a camera.
Drop me a line and let me know where you live! My stats say that some of you are away across the pond, some away across the world... would love to actually hear from you!

Thanks for the ramble... hope you're rambling about where you live too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

That Quiet Moment ~ Wide Angle Wednesday

"She Can Reach For The Sun"

Today's image came from needing a quiet moment. My days have been packed with new plans to put in motion, old plans I never followed through on, editing, business matters, family matters, and everything else that comes with family life while working from home.

Of course, my need to pause during my busy day quickly turned into an opportunity to photograph the Clematis overflowing it's trellis for the first time this year. But it was still the act of photographing for myself, no tricks, no special lighting, leaning over the railing of the deck with my 50mm prime, seeing if I could freeze in the frame what seemed so restful to me.

It was rejuvenating to me, and after only a couple shots, I was ready to go back to the desk and the phone, and work with focus again.

Many of my most quiet moments are with my camera in my hand....

Have a great Wednesday, and thanks for the ramble!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Less About Gear, More About The Moment

Sealed With A Kiss by C.Duncan's Photography
Sealed With A Kiss, a photo by C.Duncan's Photography on Flickr.

Someone made a comment a while back that made me cringe. If you take photography seriously, you've probably heard it at some point as well, and it's made you even second guess your skills at times. The comment went like this, "Oh, you should see Christine's photography, it's wonderful. Of course, that's because she has such a nice camera.....!"

Comments like this make it to blogs as a topic of debate all the time, because there's nothing further from the truth and yet, the public seems to think that if we spend enough money, or buy big enough gear, we'll take better photographs than most. I'm not going to rehash this old myth in regards to how camera choice is or isn't a huge factor but I will say I don't have the latest, biggest gear... all I have is continual practice with the gear I have, and the ability to anticipate a worthwhile moment like in the photo above. I have worked tirelessly to hone the ability to compose in an instant and expose for the scene while watching for the sweetest moment possible to press the shutter... all at the same time. And I started out doing it with a point and shoot. It's so over-said by now, but we never say of an artist who creates a great body of work... "wow, he obviously uses the best brushes on the market because nobody paints like that!" Or after being at a restaurant... "hey, anybody would be able to cook like that if we all had a stove that fancy...!" Cause, no matter how nice a stove you give me, I'll never be able to make dinner like Gordon Ramsay... it's the person, not the gear.

For the image above, all I had was my trusty, out-dated but perfectly usable Nikon D80 with it's sturdy little telephoto... and 6 years worth of mistakes and victories, trial and error, till I found my groove, and the perfect moment to press the shutter. And I'm still learning. I'll never stop.

I hope that this is what is more evident to those who look carefully at my body of work. For anyone who works hard at what they love, in fact!

Thanks for the ramble, and have a great week. And tell your local artists this week how much you love how hard they work! They'll truly appreciate it, more than you know.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I Know About Sunsets...

"At Evening's Bay"

Photographing in sunset light will always make you a better photographer. That is not disputed. That magic golden hour will challenge you, motivate you, excite you, and work you hard. Now that my little family is growing up, I'm finding I have more time for sunsets and I thought I'd share what this means in the camera and to a photographer for those of you just getting started working around sunsets or have been struggling with understanding it's rapidly changing light.

  1. You think you know your camera! Photographing at the pace it takes to catch all the different light in the sky from the setting sun means over time you'll be forced to instinctively know where everything is on your camera without checking. Obviously this frees you to concentrate on being creative and frees you to notice the light on your surroundings or subjects instead of fiddling with the camera. And this skill is needed in many types of photography. Just yesterday I photographed some rescued birds... I had to move quickly with them, and never once looked down at my dials and settings. And I believe your manual setting is the way to go. You'll have total control over what the camera records and forcing yourself to use it means you'll understand your camera that much faster, especially if you make a practice of reviewing your results.
  2. Your meter isn't always your best friend. Or at least that's what I always thought when shooting sunsets till I realized I just needed to understand it's function. And again, this really applies across the photography gamut. But the low light and direction you decide to photograph in during sunset can really mess with your meter. Facing the sun's light, no matter how low will mean straying from 0 on the meter... I find I need to bracket my exposures and have some underexposure so there's color in the brightest sections of the sky but loosing detail in shadow, then swinging the exposure the other way and overexposing to keep shadow areas a little brighter and allow the sky to be blown out slightly. I place them all in processing as layers and pull sections from each to blend the exposures. Even when I'm facing away from the sunset to catch light on certain subjects behind me, I may start at zero but have soon strayed from it into slight underexposure/overexposure to get drama in the colors, rich dark tones and highlights that don't disappear. Know whether you need matrix or spot metering too. Your meter probably won't sync up with your vision at this point and you need to understand how to make it work to your advantage. 
  3. You can plan all you want, but be prepared to go with the flow! If you shoot outside for anything then you know this. The sky and the weather will do their own thing. And over extremely short periods of time. You can hop in your car with great bodies of clouds to filter the sun, then get to your destination 5 minutes later and by then the clouds have gone completely and a haze has set in. Or rain has begun. Or the Extreme Kite Flyers Association has taken over the location and the sky is filled with random shapes instead of the setting sun... in which case GET PHOTOGRAPHING. 
  4. Give your sensor enough time to get it all! Have a tripod please. Have a remote shutter release (or use your timer) for zero camera shake. And get comfortable with long exposures. All these things alone or together give you the means to get the beautiful light lingering in the sky... especially the light still there when the sun is gone.
  5. Know that some locations are more logical than others. We have a wonderful beach not far from our house, but I'll never really have the setting sun in those photos ever... simply because the shoreline faces east. What I can get on that shoreline is the glinting waves from the sun opposite, or the trees on the shore with a sunburst through them if I stand in the water a bit. Or sunrises... and sunrises are for another day. The location seen above however is one I frequent because no matter where I stand in it's open spaces I can get great light. Either the actual setting sun, or the light from it cast across the park and marina behind.
This is just skimming the surface, but for those who have been wanting to photograph a sunset it's about trial and error, and becoming familiar with your personal style, and knowing how to begin approaching the rapidly changing and beautiful light that is a sunset. And with anything, the more you do it, the better you become.

Thanks for the ramble! I know how many of you are beginners, and are frustrated with this topic... I hope this will allow you to dig further into this area of landscape photography.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Floral Friday!

"Ready For Anything"

Another peony from my wander around the much loved perennial rock gardens of Sam Lawrence Park, in Hamilton, Ontario. Today is rainy, gloomy, and cold. So I dedicate this image to all of you weathering something you'd rather not. Hang in there. The sun will shine again, that's a guarantee!

Have a great weekend gang! See you Monday!