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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Peonies…

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…

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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.

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

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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!

Central Park in Black and White and in Colour

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Last fall, I did a 7-part series in this blog featuring images of New York. It’s such a visually rich city and I had such a good time shooting it that I was thrilled to have the chance to make another trip this fall.

Last year I signed up for a photo safari called “Iconic New York.” It was a great fun to discover key spots in Midtown Manhattan with fellow photographers and get tips to improve my photo skills. You can read more about it here.

Me and my sister on the Bow Bridge. Photo by Rob, Photo Safari leader.

As I was going to be travelling with my sister Elena this time, who enjoys photography as much as I do, I suggested we sign up for another safari — this time in Central Park, a place we both love.

Ever since my very first trip to New York back in the early 80s, I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Central Park. I appreciate its enormity, its diversity, its intelligent and beautiful design and the way it is open and accessible to everyone.

Public green spaces are vital to liveable city life — and Central is one of the most exceptional examples in the world of how that works. New Yorkers love it — and so do visitors from all over the world.

Our group met at the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and concentrated our first shots around that area. Leader Rob, a professional photographer, offered useful pointers and suggestions before and after we made our images. I particularly enjoyed discussing composition with him. He gave us demos and also gave us plenty of time to wander on our own.

There were four of us in the group, which turned out to be very congenial — two Canadians (my sister and I) and a man from Australia and a woman from New Zealand.

We then gathered under the arches and practised shooting in low light and high dynamic range situations.

After that we moseyed on to the Bow Bridge, which proved to be a great vantage point for shooting the boaters on the Lake and the Loeb Boathouse. The day had been forecast to be rainy, but we did not get one drop. It turned out to be gorgeous with lovely light.

Before we parted 2 1/2 hours later, we also spent some time in the famous tree-lined Mall.

Elena and I spent the rest of the day continuing to explore areas of the park we hadn’t been before (such as the Ramble) as well as returning to spend more time around the Bethesda Fountain.

This is where I made some of my favorite images — and happened to look up just at the right time to catch a young couple ready to kiss. It was a “decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson would say.

The whole area was packed with people taking pictures and enjoying themselves and the excellent free entertainment. It was obviously a magnet for romantic wedding pictures as everywhere we went we saw brides and grooms posing together. To get my images with fewer people in them, I had to be patient and wait for just the right time.

The colours in stone and tile work under the Terrace are beautifully soft and subtle, which makes for lovely colour pictures, but the stone arches and interesting architecture and light also suits black and white photography perfectly.

So I did both.

It was a still a bit early in the season for the really vibrant fall foliage (not to self: go a bit later in the fall next time), but there was enough of a change to make the background scenery pop a bit.

I found that alternating between my wide angle zoom (24 to 85 mm) and my telephoto zoom (70 to 200 mm) gave me a good variety of focal lengths to capture the images I was drawn to.

These are only a small group of my images of Central Park, as you can imagine. I just may have to do another post on this very special place!

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I surprised myself by being fast enough to capture this “decisive moment”.

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The Terrace arches in black and white.

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With their beautiful light, couples flock to the Bethesda Arches for wedding pictures.

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These giant bubbles must have looked magical to the little ones. Hey, they looked magical to me!

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The Loeb Boathouse reflected in the waters of the still Lake.

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My sister focusses her camera on some of the beautiful details of the Arches.

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Elena took this one of me and Rob discussing a shot.