Posted on June 28, 2015
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?
Posted on June 25, 2015
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.
Posted on June 13, 2015
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.
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.
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.
Posted on June 8, 2015
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….
Here’s what she saw with her iPhone 6.
And then I went out just this past weekend with my camera and came back with these…
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!
Posted on June 1, 2015
Sometimes you want to render the colour in your colour photographs exactly the way you saw it. And sometimes you don’t. In truth, often you don’t, if your goal is to create a mood or convey a feeling rather than simply document a scene.
And how many ways are there to change and tweak colour using image editing tools such as Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop or Lightroom? So many it makes my head spin. Plug-ins, presets, actions, not to mention using curves, LAB colour, hue/saturation adjustments and of course combinations of all of these.
But one way that I have become aware of only recently is Colour Lookup. (That’s what I love about Photoshop — I’ve been using it for 6 years and there are still features I’m discovering!)
This technique is fast, easy and can yield some nice results. It can be used for very subtle effects, which I prefer to over-the-top, more extreme changes.
I decided to take my recent iris image and play with it a bit to create a few other options to my original. I think I may even like some of these better! I’m particularly drawn to the slightly warmer tones.
Below is a link to an easy-to-follow tutorial:
And now for an example of how you can use the technique to change the feel of a scene.
Well, here’s to yet another tool in the ol’ image processing toolkit!
Posted on May 28, 2015
Most of the time I try to compose my images so as to eliminate distracting or unsightly elements. But every so often, you end up with a garbage can where you don’t want it, you know what I mean?
That’s when I love using content-aware fill. You simply draw a selection around the offending element, go to the edit menu in Photoshop CC, select “fill” and pick “content aware” in the “use” box. The next thing you know Photoshop has removed the item you don’t want. Somehow it can figure out what should be there instead! That’s the amazing “content-aware” technology.
There’s so much more to this wonderful content-aware technology. If you’re interested, have a look at this great video with Julianne Kost, one of the best Photoshop instructors ever. And have fun getting rid of those garbage cans.
Posted on May 22, 2015
I often find myself deeply moved by the writings of photographers I admire, as well as their photography. I copied this quote from Kim Manley Ort, photographer, teacher, writer and fellow explorer, when I read it, and I wanted to share it with others, who I think will also appreciate it.