Monday, December 29, 2008

Quinn Nathaniel Galbraith

On Christmas Day, my nephew Quinn was born at the Foothills Hospital here in Calgary. He got home last night with his mom and dad.  His auntie and I finally got to visit today. Here are some pictures of him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Previsualization to Reality

Again, I am reading a bit of TWIP tonight. This post was about how Scott got his picture he had previsualized:

Its a great story and its well told. This brings to mind a shot I have in my mind that I want to shoot. Unfortunately, its a shot I would have had if my batteries in my camera hadn't died. My folks live on the top of a valley that's full of trees. One winter the temperature dropped rapidly resulting in hoarfrost. It was the night of a full moon and as it rose in the sky I saw that it was a bright neon pink and it cast its glow on the white trees below. Breath taking. Phenomenal. But how often do you see a neon pink moon? If I ever see it again I will photograph it.

One Tip. The one to remember

I had a quick look at TWIP tonight. One question that Scott Bourne received recently is "I am just getting my first camera. What’s the one thing I should try to remember to get the best photos I can possibly get?"

His response was to shoot with the light behind you. Its astounding but I remember my Aunt providing me with this tip when I was really young. (Like 5 or 6???? I also recall her saying not to try to shoot through glass because of the reflections.) Its such a simple thing and yet, with digital cameras we have somehow forgotten this tip. Or at least it hasn't been drilled into us like it used to be.

Imagine in your mind a building. You are on the north side of that building at noon on a day with a few clouds but mostly blue sky. Are you going to get a reasonably exposed image? Probably not. (Unless you use HDR which is a whole other topic). If you move to the south side of the building, you can then expose the building and the sky correctly. Simple. Important.

A lot of beginners see their subject, and fire. Armed with this rule in mind, even if you have your camera on auto it will be able to handle the scene. The other nice thing about this rule is, once its in your head, you start seeing light differently. You see that hard light from the front kills shadows and makes your subject lose depth making it look flat. You'll see that those last rays of sunlight when cast from the side or at an angle are absolutely beautiful.

While I call it a rule, its a fun one to break now and then. The thing about photography rules is that 95% of the shots you do should follow most of them. When you break a rule, though, make sure its obvious and deliberate. Backlit subjects turn into silhouettes quite nicely. If your subject is backlit you can let it go completely black. The other option is to use some fill flash.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why black and white?

A lot of my more effective images are ones that I've converted to black and white. Part of this comes from my own fondness for monochrome. Part of it too is in what I shoot. Some subjects work well in black and white. Obviously some don't.

So what is it about black and white that is appealing? One way to think about this is to think about what's left in an image once you've stripped away the color. A red square for instance is even more uninteresting when converted to monochrome. This tank however seems to work well in black and white.
When we take away color, we are left with lines, shapes and textures. In black and white, lines are more apparent. Shapes are easier to see. And textures come alive in monochrome.
In this image you can see the form of the gun barrel. You can see the texture in the treads. Even the sky has a defined shape.
By removing color, we shift the emphasis to these basic elements. That's not to say that these elements aren't important in color photography. Far from it. In color photography these elements complement the image and a well crafted image utilizes all of these to convey a central message or theme to the viewer.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A trip down memory lane - Mom's Olympus Trip 35

The very first camera I ever used was my mom's Olympus Trip 35. Olympus made over 10 million of these handy little camera's between 1968 and 1988. She got it back in the 60's or early 70's so its older than I am. My first shots, if I am not mistaken were taken at my cousin's wedding when I was a ring bearer. I'd estimate that I was 3 or 5. Based on that fact, I have been taking pictures for around 30 years. Crazy!

When I got my Nikon D50 my mom gave me the camera as she is using a digital point and shoot now. (Prior to that she had a "modern" film point and shoot). I brought it home and took a few pictures with it. Unfortunately, when Renae and I moved into our new house I wasn't able to locate it. At least until tonight.
Renae and I were cleaning up our basement this evening. I've been looking for the old camera at least once every month or so. In the one container I was sure it was in I found it. I swear I had tore that Rubbermaid container apart at least 8 times in the last year without finding the camera.
So besides being significant in that it was the first camera I ever held in my hands, it also gives me another way to experiment with film. I enjoy my Holga but this allows me to use 35 mm film and, if I use a flash, I can even adjust the aperture.

The thing that has appealed to me about this camera since my mom gave it to me is the fact that it doesn't require batteries. It has selenium cells around the lens to power the light meter.
The manual can be found here:
There's even a site dedicated entirely to the Trip.
The image I've uploaded isn't quite the same as the one I have. Apparently the ones with the black shutter release are a little newer. Mine is chrome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A fine day for photography!

I had a great day for photography yesterday. Renae has baby shower for a friend. Naturally, baby was there and of course I had to take some pictures. He seemed quite fascinated with me for some reason, even when I was talking about photography. Ethan was a great little model.

So while the baby shower was on I banished myself. I had promised to help my brother-in-law stack his new dryer on his washer. After that we went outside and I took some pictures of Finnigan: Wonderdog Extraordinaire!©

So after playing Frisbee with Finnie, I ventured forth to Banff. I had never been on the Lake Minnewanka loop so I thought this would be a great little trip. With all the snow and ice it was marvelous.

Of course, being Christmas time my wife and I need to find great gifts for that special someone. (In our case, like most people, someone is pluralized many times over). On the way into the Banff town site I saw a cow elk grazing by the highway. There are signs all over the park cautioning motorists about them but this was the first time I had actually seen one.

It was getting late in the day (late for photography anyways) so I decided to give Vermillion Lakes a try. This is probably the most photographed bit of scenery in Banff and maybe even the entire Canadian Rockies but I still love to go out there to shoot. This time was also great.

So with the sun pretty much gone I headed for home. In retrospect, I wish I could have gone home a bit earlier. Just outside the Banff townsite there was probably 100-200 elk. Like I said before, I had never scene one elk. Here was an enormous herd. It was too dark to capture them and I was concerned about the weather. Maybe next time. After all, with this bounty of picture opportunities I guess I can't get too greedy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Woodies! Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter...

So DP Challenge has a new challenge called Where In The World Is Art Roflmao? Art has a peculiar photographic style that incorporates humor and um...lots of woodies. Woodies being those little wooden posable figures used for art. He also uses a lot of rubber ducks and stick on "googly eyes". Yes. Its strange. Ecletic might be a better term. Maybe strange. I dunno. You can check out his DP Challenge profile here:

It was for this reason I went outside to a nearby playground with my two woodies. My initial idea was to pose them either "pointing" to where Art might be found or shrugging indicating they didn't know where he was. When I got there I found that there was some convenient rocks around the edge of the sandbox. I also found out that shrugging doesn't work with my particular woodies.

The rocks almost looked like caves so I considered putting Art with Osama Bin Laden. We'll see. There's time for retakes I guess.

The rocks also presented a different opportunity. I removed the base and stand from one and hung him from the edge of the rocks making him (hopefully) look like he is rock climbing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Remembrance Day Ceremony

This Remembrance Day I attended the wreath laying ceremony at the Central Memorial cenotaph in downtown Calgary. It was a tough decision but I did bring my camera. On the one hand, it is a very solemn ceremony and my focus was to remember the sacrifice the men and women of our country have made in name of freedom. On the other hand, it is also a celebration of that same sacrifice and the victory they helped the Allies achieve in the wars.

Unfortunately, I, like most people , remember the sacrifices made during the World Wars and seem to forget that Canadians have laid down their lives in other conflicts. We forget that those who fell in Korea and Afghanistan made no small sacrifice and deserve to be remembered no less. That message hit home when, during the wreath laying, family members of soldiers who died in Afghanistan layed theirs wreathes.

In attendance were members of the Calgary Highlanders, as well as members of the Calgary Police Service, Calgary EMS, the RCMP, and the Calgary Fire Department.

Lightroom 2 fun

As mentioned in an earlier post, I've started using Lightroom 2 for my editing. I am really enjoying using it as it is quite powerful yet simple to use. Strangely, the biggest feature for me is something that's available in pretty much every editing program: dodging and burning. Lightroom, all edits are non-destructive including this one. Since you are also dealing with the RAW file you also have a lot more data available making it easy to pull out the detail in the shadows and highlights. As an example I took this picture of an old house and worked the image a fair bit and converted it to black and white. I burned the sky and dodged the house itself.

South of Cochrane, Alberta. Nikon D50. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ED lens at 18 mm. ISO 200, f/8, 1/50 second.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And...the winner is...

Well...I didn't win per se but I did get a third place ribbon and my second image was considered for a ribbon in the recent Foothills Camera Club "Animal Portaiture" print competition. There was some fantastic images and I think the lowest score I saw was 20 (The scale goes up to 30).
The other remarkable thing was that the image I believed was better was the one that didn't get the ribbon. Both were well received during the viewing at the end of the meeting though so I guess I can't complain.
The gosling I took in early May and I believe he was only three days old at the time. His mom put her head in the water for a drink or a bite so this little guy thought he would try it. He ended up going end over end in a continuous somersault. Eventually he dove under and swam back up to the surface obviously disoriented. In the shot just before this one, a water droplet under his eye looked like a tear-drop and was soooo cute! Unfortunately my depth of field was a little shallow and his beak wasn't as sharp as I would have liked.
The colt I found during an impromptu trip to Spruce Meadows in June. One of the staff told me that the pastures across the road from the complex had a lot of babies to photograph. They were really quite inquisitive which was cool but also problematic. They always came right up the fence so I had to shoot around posts and wire etc. Still it was a fun afternoon of shooting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lightroom 2

So over the past few days, I've been using Lightroom 2. It manages my photos and allows me to edit them non-destructively. Yes I had to say that emphatically and it even bears repeating. The changes you make in Lightroom are non-destructive. All of your changes are stored in a side-car file. (i.e a separate file that's linked to the original). This file contains all of the "instructions" for the edits you've done. If you aren't happy with them? Hit the reset button. Poof. All gone. Back to square one. You can also go through and selectively undo steps if need be.

I wouldn't call myself a guru yet but what I have seen so far has been impressive. The spot remover is probably my favorite gizmo. Select the tool, size your cursor to the size of the dot and click. Lightroom hunts around for an appropriate spot to match and fills in the blank. Its that easy. I was stumped temporarily when I came across a hair or some kind of fibre in some of my shots. In those cases I just used multiple points.

Black and white conversions are done nicely and you can fine tune them easily. There is a preset to do either high-contrast black & white or low-contrast black & white. From there you can go into the grey scale menu and adjust sliders for 7 different hues (Red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, and magenta).

Dodging and burning seem more intuitive for me in this program. I don't think its any harder than other programs but the way the controls are setup just seem to work for photography better. e.g. You adjust the exposure by the amount you want and the value is measured in stops.

There is a myriad of options and features I haven't even scratched the surface on such as keywording and ratings. I imagine you can do selective desaturation but I haven't figured out how yet. I also haven't figured out how to export pictures to JPG with any degree of control. I dumped out about 37 Jpgs in high quality full size. I'd like to be able to control the file size and output size as well however.

Overall however, my experience has been favorable and I am certainly contemplating making Lightroom my tool of choice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am sooooo happy!

Tonight, the Foothills Camera Club showed the results of the Digital Architecture Competition. My image, "Black and White - A Study in Architecture", managed to earn me second place! So not only is it a personal best in DP Challenge it also got me my first blue ribbon. My other image, "Shell Tower" received a score of 21 points. The judges seemed to be pretty tough with a lot of images scoring 15 points and very few above 20.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Calgary Digital Photo Expo 2008

Yesterday I attended the first annual Calgary Digital Photo Expo. I was supposed to volunteer at 3:30 pm at the Foothills Camera Club booth but I came early to look around. As such I was drafted to volunteer early so I didn't quite get to spend as much time at the exhibits that I would have liked. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the whole day.

I managed to talk to Darwin Wiggett briefly during his book signing. We talked a bit about Panther Falls a bit and we agreed that as cool as it is its a dangerous place thats not for everyone. It would certainly not be appropriate for a bus load of tourists.

I was able to take in his first presentation Beyond the Documentary - How to Create Mood and Emotion in Landscape Photography. In the presentation he explains that as hard as we try to document what we see in a landscape we aren't able to. Each photograph we take a snapshot of the reality that we perceive. Using various photographic techniques, we are able to express our vision of what we see in a scene.

I was also able to take in a short presentation on Nikon NX 2.  It was technically supposed to be on workflow but it seemed to me just a plug for the program. Still, it was interesting to hear about other software that I haven't tried out yet.

The rest of the afternoon I helped out, as planned, at the Foothills Camera Club booth. If half the people we talked to show up...well..there will be a lot of new faces in the seats on Tuesday night. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oneexposure -

While I was wandering the forums of DP Challenge, I came across a link to
It sounds like a different photographic community.

From their FAQ

What is Onexposure?

Onexposure is an artsproject and a photo community with a difference. Take the most talented photobloggers of the web and other famous photographers as well as many serious amateurs, select their best work and put it all in one place - there you have Onexposure. Everyone is welcome to contribute, but every photo is screened, which means it has to be approved by an editor before being published. Onexposure is like a constantly evolving high class photo gallery with new art every day. We don't judge over good and bad, or over art, we merely decide if a photo fits into our gallery or not. Like in an arts gallery, you can buy many of the photos as prints and hang them on your wall. Onexposure also offers a premium membership, which includes unlimited image hosting and your own professional homepage with complete control over what photos to display.We created Onexposure because we missed an online collection of only high quality photos, we thought the photo critique was too brief on other sites and we wanted a site that was elegant and easy to navigate. Our mission is to be a source of inspiration and ultimately finding the sublime together, but if the latter doesn't succeed we believe that everyone will develop as photographers and make some friends along the journey.

Fall shots

Autumn is upon us. The leaves are turning colors. The ducks and geese are eating as much as they can in preparation for their flight south. The days are shorter and the nights are cooler. All of this leads me to ask: "Why am I not out there taking pictures?". Actually I have been.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Abstract Photographs. Now with more feeling!

One of the current challenges on dpchallenge is "Abstract Emotion". It sounds simple enough however abstracts are hard to create effectively - at least ones that speak to the general public. However, with this topic in mind I played with creating some really funky abstracts and hoped for the emotional appeal.
These images were all created using the same shooting technique but used different subjects and different editing. The technique was basically zoom burst (zooming while shooting) and twisting the camera. I found the effect to be almost whimsical and airy and light in the first image and almost rather dark and ominous in the third one.
In the first shot I was shooting fall leaves with the technique. The third shot was of a flower bed. The second was also fall leaves but with more sky involved.
Personally I really like the pastel colors in the first one. It almost feels like a painting to me. The second and the third one especially, feel darker and as such aren't quite as enjoyable to view. (Kinda like looking at a train wreck. Not nice but you can't take your eyes away).

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Goodness gracious! I submitted a couple of shots to and they were accepted. I tried a couple of shots a few months ago and they were rejected. Not that they were terrible shots, they just had some problems that made them not useful for stock. (One had a trademark on the subject, the other I had some editing artifacts)

To view my iStock profile go here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Selling and Publishing your photos

The extent of my photography sales is pretty limited. I've donated a couple of pictures to the Progressive Alternative Society of Calgary (PASC) for their annual art auction. Certainly its satisfying and helps me put a value on the work that I do. However, it would also be nice to have an opportunity to sell my photos and keep the money.

A podcast on This Week in Photography spoke about the whole subject of selling and publishing your photos. ( A lot of good information and sadly some of it was somewhat disheartening.

The average photographer in the US makes $26K a year.

Professional photographers actually spend only about 15% of there time shooting.

The other 85% is spent "smiling and dialing" (i.e. selling and making contacts).

The expectation for professional photographers is that there work is great. In fact, the ability to sell your work is more important than your ability to shoot to it.

And the five steps to getting published? 1. Show the work. 2. Show the work. 3. Show the work. 4. Show the work. What’s #5? Yep. Show the work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filters - How the heck do you use em?

The concept of using a graduated neutral density filter (i.e a grad filter) seems pretty straight forward or at least why you would use one. Say you have a beautiful landscape scene before you however the sky is quite bright relative to the foreground. If you expose for the sky, the foreground will be dark. If you expose for the foreground, the sky will be blown out. A grad filter allows you to darken the sky thereby allowing you to get the whole scene exposed well.
The problem, however, is that you don't just slap the filter on to the front of the camera and expect to get good results. Here is an article on how to properly use a grad filter (and why with more information than my tidbit contains).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Myth of Talent

The PDF this page links to is great:

The one line I really like is:

Being labeled talented only means we have survived being untalented.

Finnigan - Doggie Model Extraordinaire!

Pets shots are typically looked down upon by photographers. Everyone thinks their dog/cat is the cutest and naturally want to show them. The problem is everyone else thinks their dog/cat is the cutest too. Something has to give.

Despite this, I attempted to take some Finnie shots while we were out and about this weekend.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Honeymoon pics

I am working on a slideshow of my honeymoon however it will be hard to narrow it down to a few shots. Suffice to say that I have one or two that I was really pleased with.

Beijing Olympics: 360 degrees

I have no idea what technology they used for this but this is absolutely insane.

360 degrees and you can look up and down. And

Thursday, July 31, 2008

120 mm developing reels

A quick post (before I forget). A friend of my fiancee's has lent me her developer tank so I can try my hand at developing my own film. Unfortunately, she only had 35 mm reels which really isn't that surprising. I ordered a couple of 120 mm reels and lo! they are now here. We'll have to see how it takes me to actually start developing.

The blog posts

I've noticed a couple of patterns lately: I haven't been posting here and I haven't really been out shooting.

The shooting I understand. I have my wedding in 9 days. (NINE!!!!) As such I just simply haven't had time to go out and shoot.

The writing however is a different story. I have had stuff to post here. I was out and about July 1st and somehow those shots didn't get up here. I was out in Wetaskiwn and then out to Fernie one weekend. Something else to post and write about.

So I guess this post is just recommitting to write something about photography.

So to wrap it up I will provide a quote:

"You can never have too much money, too much RAM or too much glass."
- Scott Bourne (Host of This Week in Photography)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I've never heard these acronyms before I heard them on the This Week in Photography podcasts. Basically they are interesting ways of shooting a scene.

The entire scene

Detailed shot

Focal Length
Vary with different focal lengths

Change angle, height

Different times of day
Different shutter speeds

More inform on EDFAT can be found at:

And a couple of other acronyms:

LUDA (Look up, down, all-around)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stock Photo License pricing

I've always kinda wondered what my photography is worth. is site gives you some idea. Its based off of survey information in the U.S. I'm not sure how accurate it is but its better than nothing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

10 terms you should know

One of the podcasts I've started listening to "This Week in Photography" ( had a Q&A section of one of their podcast. One of the questions was: What ten photography terms would you say are "Must knows". They had a few of the ones I would highlight but I thought I would do my own list. Alright its not 10 but here goes:

The aperture is the hole that the light passes through. Usually we talk about the size of the aperture however. A larger aperture lets more light in however it decreases depth of field. Conversely, a smaller aperture lets in less light but increases depth of field. Aperture size is usually described in f-numbers. The larger the number the smaller the aperture. I like to think of the f as 1. So in the case of f/22 I would think of it as 1/22. Obviously 1/22nd is smaller than 1/5 (i.e f/5)

Shutter speed
Shutter speed describes how long the shutter is open for. The longer the shutter is open the more light is let in.

Camera shake
Camera shake is a common problem in photography when telephoto lenses or long shutter speeds are used with a non-stabilized camera. The resulting images will appear blurry and smeared. There are two primary ways of counteracting camera shake. A tripod will stabilize the camera. Additionally a higher shutter speed will help. As a rule thumb the inverse of the focal length is a good speed as a minimum. (e.g. a 50 mm focal length would require a shutter speed of at least 1/50 second).

ISO describes the sensitivity of the film or sensor. A higher number indicates a higher sensitivity. With higher sensitive more grain (in film) or noise (with digital) occurs.

Hyperfocal Distance
Distance of the nearest object in a scene that is acceptably sharp when the lens is focused on infinity.

White balance
White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the "color temperature" of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light. Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, however digital cameras often have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB). An incorrect WB can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts, which are unrealistic and particularly damaging to portraits. (from

Monday, June 23, 2008

Interesting tip I learned this week

When you have the sun in your shot, using a small aperture (like f/18 - f/22) creates a "star burst effect". Basically when your aperture is wide open the hole is more like a circle. However, when it is closed, the blades of the aperture create a polygon. This shape is what what creates the sun burst.

Here is a sample of one I tried this out on today. (shot at f/18)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Phototips - Pioneer Woman Photography

Simple, basic tips for shooting and for Photoshop: Phototips - Pioneer Woman Photography
Her style is quite light and humorous and she approaches it like she is sharing information with a peer which is nice.

Speaking of tuts ("toots"). I watched the curves tutorial last night and it is pretty good. I have some shots I took over the weekend I need to go through so I think I'll play with curves then. Come to think of it. Liam is in those shots so playing around with the information on making eyes pop might be fun to play with too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tooting my own horn...

My fiancée and I attended the Foothills Camera Club banquet last Friday. The food was great and the photography was even better. The top photographers in the club were honored with a variety of different awards. I ended up getting third for the Foothills trophy which surprising since neither of my entries ribboned. (I guess cumulatively they were good enough to get considered for the trophy though). My photo essay, which I spent a lot of time on, managed to get an Honorable mention which is not too shabby considering it was my first attempt at doing a photo essay.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Water Valley Stampede

I decided to head out to the Water Valley Stampede today to get some shots for "The Cowboy" challenge which was announced to allow the DP Challenge communuty to honor JawnyRico (Sean Matos) who passed away last week. I had a lot of fun with this shoot. Here is a small portion of the 200+ shots I got before the rain chased me away.