Trumpeting life…

I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”

 From the movie, Calendar Girls


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Hold it in your hands…

I’m running out of ways to creatively say some version of “print yer damn work!” But seriously, print yer damn work. Live with it. Study it. Hold it in your hands. Give it away. Experience the joy of seeing it matted and framed and hung on walls.

David Duchemin

I often find that David Duchemin has something to say in his blog posts and writings that serves as a friendly kick in the pants.

Like Duchemin, I think there’s great merit in getting our images off our hard drives and into some kind of tangible form. I’ve been making photobooks for a few years now and experimenting with many different brands and formats.

For me, this is a great way to print my work and see how various images look together. I find grouping the images in books keeps them more organized than making small individual prints. I now have an interesting collection of books that records my progress in photography and helps me follow my interests and obsessions over time.

I just finished my latest photo book and this time I included some favourite quotes as well. The software I used allows you to print proofs of the pages, so I put them together in a bit of a digital slide show.

But there’s nothing like holding the actual book in your hands. I look forward to receiving it in a few weeks.

Recently, I also started having my images printed, matted and framed. It took me forever to figure out which ones to select and how to display them. Finally, I settled on a set of black and whites from my New York series. I’m such a big fan of black and white prints and these complement some of the other prints I own that have been done by other photographers. I also thought long and hard about which ones would “spark joy” and maintain my interest over time. I found a wonderful printer in Toronto and had them printed on white rag paper.

I was so pleased with these that I’ve since printed a few more.  I’m on my way to creating a gallery wall.

What about you? How do you enjoy your photography in tangible form?

my images framed on wall

Light, lines and moments…

girl in the lightlr

I tell my students that photographs can be reduced to light, lines, and moments. Everything else is derivative.The more I study photographs from the past century — the incredibly short lifespan of our art so far — the more convinced I am that everything’s been photographed, that our challenge now is to manipulate light, lines, and moments in the frame in a way that expresses our unique view of those so oft-photographed subjects.

David Duchemin

I often find myself resonating with the writings of photographer David Duchemin in his books and on his blog, but this quote in particular really hit home.

Don’t you find yourself thinking sometimes that everything has been photographed — and way better than you can do it — so what’s the point exactly?

Well, as Duchemin says, it has. So I find it incredibly helpful to think in terms of light, lines and moments when I have my camera with me and we’re meditating together on what we see.

It is a rare, rare thing when they all come together — light, lines and the moment — but once in a blue moon they might — and you have yourself an image that speaks louder than any words.

This image is one of those for me. When I was photographing at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, a young woman busker in a medieval-type dress with a tousle-haired toddler pulling at her skirts moved into the archway facing the staircase to start singing.

She had the voice of an angel. I think she was singing Gregorian chant because the words were not intelligible to me, but that didn’t matter. It was a moment when time stopped. I raised my camera to my eye and clicked.

This image, which is now framed on my wall, brings it all back every time I raise my eyes to look at it.

My visual CV…

I’ve now seen several Visual Q&As and each one has been hugely inspiring. Kim Manley Ort published a post recently in which she answered the same questions as did Nathan Wirth with a series of images rather than words. She calls it a “Visual CV.”

I immediately thought it would be a wonderful exercise in self-awareness. And that is a key ingredient in moving our photography forward — more so than new gear or more courses or new techniques.

But I was concerned that the questions would be hard to answer.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it came together. Once I tapped into my intuitive sense and honoured the feeling of what was the best answer, it just flowed.

It’s the kind of thing that is really beyond thought…the answers just present themselves when you look through your own images. Thought and trying too hard just gets in the way, as it does in life.

Of course our pictures are as much about ourselves as they are about the subject matter —  more so, actually…so a little excavation yields great riches. Why not give it a try yourself?

Who are you?

astor hall

Why photography?

st lucie 2LR

What is your trademark photographic style?
What truly inspires you?

New York

Where do you go when you close your eyes?
abstract water2
Where is home for you?
rollei2013-low res
How would you describe your lifestyle?
What makes a great shot?

New York

How do you view the world?


What is an important lesson you’ve learned?
sparkof grace light FB

Summer in the vineyard…

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There’s nothing quite like a wine and food festival as a place to savour the tastes of summer. And one held among the vines right in a vineyard on a warm summer solstice eve is sure to be an extra special treat.

So when my sister asked if I would be interested in going along with her to help shoot such an event, I jumped at the chance. She had been asked by one of her clients to photograph the annual TD Tailgate Party that wraps up the Niagara New Vintage Festival.

My sister operates a busy marketing / communications / public relations consulting business (Winestains) in the Niagara area — one of Canada’s preeminent wine regions – and many of her clients are wineries or wine events. She’s always included photography in her social media contracts, but lately, more and more new clients have been asking for her event photography services.

We had travelled to southern Ontario to celebrate my sister’s birthday and her anniversary. But pro that she is, when the request came in, she didn’t want to let her clients down, so we decided to make a day of it — combining work with our passion for photography with spending time in each other’s company.

She knows how much I love photography and last year I had taken some shots at a Chardonnay festival we attended with her that she liked and was able to use. But being promoted to number two shooter at a wine event was an exciting new experience for me — one I relished and really learned from.

It struck me afterward that event photography is a bit of a mix of street photography, lifestyle photography and still life, all of which I have tried over the years.

You have to be fast, anticipate well, and shoot quickly (and a lot) in order to catch candid moments with good compositions, as you do in street photography. But you also want to show people in their best light, as you do in lifestyle and portrait photography. No odd expressions or embarrassing moments wanted here!

And wine and food events certainly require some set ups as does still life to showcase the “heroes” and the ambiance. At the back of your mind, you must always remember what the client is looking to convey to their audience through your images (a list of subjects and moods can be helpful) and continually aim to capture that.

We came home tired but happy that night. We had such a great time photographing the happy participants as they spent the evening socializing with friends and sampling new vintages and local favourites from all the winery partners as well as the yummy food offered by local vendors.

The next night was set aside for celebrating my dear sister. And celebrate we did! That is another story.


I planted peonies in my new garden last year. Peonies were one of my favourite flowers as a kid.  I remember them fondly from our garden in the West Island of Montreal. We had lilac bushes, crabapple trees and plum trees. We had irises too. Oh yes, and tulips and daffodils. Marigolds also, I think.

peony garden portrait

This was shot at F 2.2. I wanted a shallow depth of field in order to focus on the bloom. After doing basic conversion in Camera Raw, I added an adjustment layer of Colour Lookup and added Filmlook for, well, the look of film.

But it was the peonies that won my heart for having both a delicate frilled beauty and an unforgettable fragrance, which heralded early summer and its longer, languid days. And peonies had such a short life too — they were a sweet reminder that many good things in life are fleeting, so paying attention and having appreciation is in order.

When I first saw the peonies unfurl to the sun this year, I ran out with my camera to capture them in situ. I quickly bent to have a sniff. I could not believe the scent — it was even better than I remembered. Not sweet or sickly — just perfect. I inhaled deeply. Then I went to work shooting them in the garden.

I like this one, which was shot from above, just because it’s a bit different. I used the adjustment brush to try to bring out the rain drops on the bloom.

After that, I brought one in and placed it in a clear vase. It was still wet from the rain. I took shots from many angles with different apertures, all against a white background, trying to pay attention to the composition. I was going for something pure and simple. Trying to convey the spirit of the peony.

Then I moved the vase into the kitchen so it was backed by my window to the back yard. I made some images in the golden morning light, again with different apertures, but mostly large because I didn’t really want the peonies to have to fight for attention with the back yard!

Once I was finished shooting, I began to process the raw images. I  use Adobe Camera Raw to start with and then for some of the images I played with my new favourite tool in Photoshop, Colour Lookup.


This was shot at F 3.2 so it’s crisper and more of the flower is in focus than at larger apertures. Here I wanted to emphasize the golden light in the background.

I don’t very often convert my flower images to black and white unless they are very contrasty. I thought I would see how a more dreamy image turned out. I like it — it’s moody — but in general, I think peonies are better in colour!

peony framed

This was shot at F 2 so it’s really quite painterly and dreamy. It evokes memories of summer as a kid, when we spent almost all our time outside — in the fields and playgrounds and backyards.  We’d come in for supper and be greeted with the scent of peonies in a vase on the table.

My little town…

almonte post office2

Almonte’s old post office, designed by the same architect as Canada’s Parliament Buildings in Ottawa

When I was away this winter living on our sailboat Windsong II, I thought about what kinds of photographs I wanted to make when I returned to Canada.

And it occurred to me that there was so much beauty right around me — in my little town of Almonte, Ontario — that I really didn’t need to go far to find delightful subject matter.

And so out I went recently with my friend Sona to show her my little town….

My friend enjoys the falls down at the foot of Mill Street

Here’s what she saw with her iPhone 6.

sona pano

And then I went out just this past weekend with my camera and came back with these…


I love the vines on this house in all seasons.


View from the Riverwalk as night falls

I love Almonte in colour, I love it in black and white, in the light of day, in the golden hour, in the blue hour. So many different moods and sides…I’m hoping to capture many more of them this summer!


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