Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taking Stock of Stock

I've been looking into stock photography a bit more lately and while the idea of shooting what I want and making money at it is exciting it is also pretty scary and intimidating to be honest. Right now I have two images on iStockphoto.com. No sales and just 400 or so views together. Those kind of numbers aren't exactly inspiring. 

I think the biggest obstacle is me right now though. I want learn how to do the research into what sells so I can produce marketable images and maybe raid my existing shots for potential candidates too.  I have shots that could make me a bit of money and maybe once I make that first sale I'll be confident enough to try to sell some more. In that vein, I am going to try to submit ten image to iStock by the end of the month. Its an attainable goal and it will be a step in the right direction.

I think stock photography will fit in with my overall game plan. (I have one of those???)  One of the things I've read and heard from pro photographers is to diversify. I think selling stock, doing some weddings and family shots, and selling the occasional fine art print would be a great start. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photography? What photography?

Its almost been a month since I posted anything here. I think its been almost a month since I uploaded any pictures to my computer. Aside from a few snaps from my iPhone I don't recall actually taking any pictures since November 10th.

I attended a workshop done by Joe McNally in the middle of November. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Joe as he went through setting up his lights and creating great images but I also learned a lot even when he failed. It made me realize that I just have to get out there and try things. Take some risks. Sometimes things blow up. A lot of times they don't. And that's OK.  I was motivated and I was inspired.

And I did nothing.

Back in June I posted a link to a video that Zack Arias did called Transform. Its powerful and I'll load it up once in awhile to inspire me. But its not a lack of inspiration that's struck me. Check that. Its not only a lack of inspiration that's struck me.  I've also been busy with work, with hockey, with catching up on editing on previous photo projects...heck with just life in general. I've been run down and run around and I just don't have the energy. Its been cold and dreary. My desk is a mess and my shooting space down in the basement is a disaster area.  I haven't even really looked at pictures done by other people.

Just looking at that paragraph you can see what I've been doing. I've sabotaged myself. I've come up with all these reasons why I shouldn't or can't or won't shoot. Throw in some thing that aren't in that list.
"I'm not good enough."
"Its too much work to get a good image."
"I don't have ____ so its not worth trying."

Just excuses. And just more reasons not to shoot.

Today I got off my ass and went out shooting. Maybe 15 minutes of photographing the ducks near Prince's Island Park here in Calgary. I've probably shot between 500 and a 1000 snaps of ducks and geese since I got my first dSLR so its not like I was covering new territory here but it was something simple and uncomplicated. I put my telephoto lens on my camera and started shooting. I just took the images as they were presented to me. Nothing fancy but it felt good.

Once I am done writing this post, I am going to watch Zack's video again and remind myself that it is a privilege to be lucky enough to enjoy photography.  I will remind myself that I should, I can, and I will shoot.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

A friend of mine from work and I went today to the crosses that line Memorial Drive here in Calgary. The 1500+ crosses were placed in recognition of the sacrifices Canadian soldiers have made in the wars.  Each year more names are added partially because more soldiers are laid to rest but also because people come forth with information about friends and relatives they want to commemorate. 

Each of the crosses has a name on them along with the person's unit and what year they passed away.  I was surprised at how many crosses were from World War I.  I was also surprised that I remembered one man's name amongst all of the ones that I saw. 

On August 3rd, 2006 Pte. Kevin Dallaire was killed by a rocket propelled grenade while fighting with Taliban forces west of Kandahar in Afghanistan. Pte Dallaire served with the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

While my grandfather fought in World War II, I always think of the sacrifice that our soldiers have made in a very broad and faceless sense. But seeing Pte. Dallaire's cross today reminded me that it isn't some faceless soldier who died in a land far away from his home but a person with a family. A family who still feels his loss and feels that their son may have died in vain.

The crosses are just that. These aren't graves. They're pieces of plastic covering steel stakes. But they still remind us of how a few set aside everything they held dear and everything they loved to put themselves in harm's way. So to those who serve and those who made the ultimate sacrifice I thank you. I won't forget you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some Chuckwagon shots

My dad has been racing chuckwagons for over 40 years so he's been doing it longer than I can remember. I've seen a lot of photos of him and to be honest they all kinda look alike.  I did up one shot of him for the "This is Alberta" Presidents challenge last year and I really liked the processing. It was edgy and more importantly it was different. The Digital Sports competition came up and I thought that while I can't submit that shot (I technically could but I wouldn't) I could apply that processing to some other shots I took that day. I love the results:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wagons East!

Well, a Westjet plane east anyways. My wife and I are flying out to Ottawa to begin our well deserved vacation in Eastern Canada which will include stops in Montreal and Quebec City.  Lots of photo opportunities in the cities and we hope to catch some of the fall leaves. (You can't see but I am crossing my fingers.)

Interestingly enough, I had a goal of getting Jessica and Garrett's pictures done before I left and I am happy to say that not only did I get them done last night I also didn't feel especially rushed. I just kept on working on them and got through. I am quite pleased with how they turned out too! Jessica and Garrett were great models and were a lot of fun to shoot. Heck they even humored me for some of my more unusual ideas.

Yup...I still have Lake O'Hara shots to go through but those can wait until I get back since they're for me anyways. Of course I'll have another boat load of images from this trip too....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I read an article by Joe McNally on his blog  and it made me realize that I have been playing around with flash photography a lot lately. During Jessica and Garrett's wedding I had to use flash if only because the venue was so dark. But I also had a lot of fun and got some pretty cool results even when there was plenty of ambient to work with. I found it gave the shots an edgy look and feel to them.  I have to say that I absolutely loved this shot when I saw it on my LCD and I was ecstatic when I saw it on my monitor.

I still think there are a couple of areas I need to improve upon. One is that, while I can do edgy, sometimes I want soft. Sometimes you want that light to wrap around your subject like a warm blanket. While the image above isn't the harshest I have ever seen, its definitely not soft.

The other problem I have is using flash so it doesn't look like flash. One of the comments on my self-portrait back in the spring was that it looked like I had been photoshopped in. So again, a softer more subtle touch with the light goes a long way. I need to work with the ambient and not against it.

Am I lot better with flash now? Absolutely. But I also recognize that I have a lot to learn. Maybe when I take Joe's two day workshop in November I'll learn even more. Did I forget to mention I was attending that workshop? Silly me! I am definitely looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Congratulations Jessica and Garrett!

Its been a long day but a lot of fun. I had the privilege of shooting Jessica and Garrett Blakely's Casino themed wedding and they were a lot of fun to work with. I also have to give a shout out to my wife. She takes care of a lot of the little details and keeps me focused not to mention how much help she was with lighting and doing a lot of the little things that go a long way to making a shoot successful.

So Jessica and Garrett...congratulations! I know you are leaving later today but if you happen to check out the blog before or during your travels here is a really quick sample (click on the image for a larger version):

(No editing or anything. Just a quick export and upload)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fortune favors the prepared.

I was checking out a post on Flickr where someone was asking about doing his second wedding shoot with a Canon PowerShot SX110 - a decent point and shoot but a point and shoot nonetheless. There were some posts gently and not so gently suggesting that he not even attempt a wedding with the camera.

Switch over to yours truly. I am doing my second wedding shoot this Saturday and I booked a D700, a 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8 about 6 weeks ago for the event.  I checked out the venue last weekend and it is dark but the ambient light is really cool. I am still playing around with the idea of using some flash but the nice thing about the D700 - crank that ISO up and the pics will still look nice. I have my D90 as a second body and my 50 mm f/1.8 just in case. It might not be my first choice but it'll definitely do the job if I have problems with either the body or the lens I am renting.

Now we know that it isn't the gear that makes the photograph. The person posting didn't have a lot of shots in his portfolio so I can't comment on his ability. There is however a point where gear can either help you achieve your creative vision or prevent you from realizing it.  There is a reason why high end professional spend thousands on their gear. Every lens, camera or piece of equipment has its limitations and the better photographer you are the more you can push those limits.

And the big reason to get higher end gear? Fortune favors the prepared.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Few Fall Photos

Last autumn I felt gypped by the leaves. We had a couple of cold nights that froze the leaves on the trees and they turned black and brown. This fall, however, has been incredible for color. Bright yellows, reds, oranges with subtle hints of green dispersed throughout really make it easy to enjoy this season. The fact that we're hitting temperatures in the twenties doesn't hurt either! (Celsius not Fahrenheit you crazy imperial folk!)
Click on an image to see a larger version.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A bit of lighting fun

Well, I haven't posted any of my own images for awhile and I think I'm over due. No, its not the Lake O'Hara shots thought that is definitely on my agenda for the next few days.

I haven't shot anything just for fun for awhile and I think I've submitted to DP Challenge just once or twice in the last month not to mention I haven't played with my lights for awhile. Alright...I actually got a little stir crazy and/or narcissistic and set up my lights to photograph myself. The challenge topic over at DPC was "Portrait with Chair" so I sat down and cranked out a few frames.

Sigma 530 Super Flash gelled with a full cut CTO and bounced off an umbrella camera left. SB600 with a Stofen diffuser behind me and to camera right. I flagged it with a Honl snoot just half wrapped on to keep the light off the background.

I used the Nikon wireless TTL to trigger. The Sigma was set to -1.3 EV and the SB600 was set to -3 EV

Processing might seem like a lot but it wasn't really. I have a "300" preset in Lightroom 2 to create the basic dark moody look and then I dodged and burned to bring back the details.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've been stupidly busy the last few days. I've been up to my eyeballs in photoediting and work leaving me little time to work on the images I took at Lake O'Hara and even less time to shoot anything new.  I hate to say it but for the last few days, working on images has been a chore.

Like I previously wrote, if you can do things in camera to reduce the amount of editing you need to do it will save you a lot of time. Unfortunately, the scavenger hunt for the Foothills Camera Club necessitated a lot of editing. Typically I think 5 minutes an image is a lot. These images were more like one hour per image....on average.  And to be honest there was no way around it. One of the images we needed was to have our main character "Chris" jumping across the railroad tracks just in front of a train. While we could have done that in camera we may have ended up with one less group member as a result. And since I was the one doing the jumping...

I do have to admit that the results were pretty cool and I learned a lot during the process. That being said however,  I will be happy to get caught up on all my editing projects so I can refocus on new images and maybe sharing some of my stuff from my getaway to Lake O'Hara.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beyond Craft (initial thoughts)

Yes...I am still up and should be sleeping in preparation for my trip to Lake O'hara tomorrow.  Just going through e-mails, checking blog posts and just wrapping stuff up before going to bed. After all, its not like I am going to have access to a computer for the next three days.

One of the articles that really spoke to me is David duChemin's article titled ("Beyond Craft"). The article speaks about the difference between the craft of photography vs the Art and vision of photography. Its a really powerful article and definitely worth a read. Its actually funny but Carol Blakey from the Foothills Camera Club and I were talking about a few things related to this very topic. 

More to come...(i.e. when I return!)

Lake O'hara! Here I come!

I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Lake O'hara in Yoho National Park. Lake O'hara is roughly half way between Lake Louise and  Field, BC. Everyone tells me how beautiful it is and I know its going to be a lot of fun. So yes, I should be in bed instead of posting but I am so excited! For the next three days I am going to be away from it all and I'm gonna love it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Busy? Yes. Yes I am.

So it looks like I haven't posted for a while. That isn't for a lack of postable material but rather the time to post it. I am in the midst of wrapping up a number of photo editing projects to clear my plate for new projects.

I made a post on DP Challenge awhile back and while the numbers I used were arbitrary I think the notion itself is sound. It was something like this. If I have 100 pictures after sorting etc to edit and it takes an average of 5 minutes per image that's 500 minutes or  over 8 hours.  If I can spend 30 minutes longer shooting to get the images right maybe I can get that average down to 2 minutes? Even if I include the half hour extra time I'm still well under 4 hours.

So what sorts of things can I do to "get it right"?

Exposing correctly. Getting close is "good enough" but I don't want to have to fix my exposure in post. Read that histogram during shooting and get it closer.

Get the lighting right. I tend to do a lot of dodging and burning in post. If I light my subject correctly I don't have to dodge and burn because I'll use my lighting to get the effect I want.  Any modifications will be minor and relatively quick. This one's a little tougher because I am still learning about lighting and there's only so much I can do with two flashes and an umbrella.

Pay attention to the background. It absolutely sucks having to mask the subject so I can blur the background because its too distracting. It takes time to load the image into an external editor (since most of my editing is in Lightroom) and it take 15-20 minutes to get it right. BIG consumer of timer. (Like I said, the numbers above were totally arbitrary and while I haven't actually calculated my average time on an image its probably more than 5 minutes)

Look for distracting elements in the scene. Bad shadows are killer to remove.  That branch over someone's head is terrible to remove. Even those blades of grass that don't fit in the scene. All of these things can be removed before I look through the view finder.

Get the settings right. Oh my god. How many times have I gone on a shoot and come back and realized afterward that I had my ISO cranked to 3200 in broad daylight. Then I would have to run noise reduction on an image that shouldn't need it at all.

Get different images. My numbers above are assuming that I have already run through my images and selected the keepers.  A lot of times though I need to pick one of six images that are nearly identical. True, you want to have that extra shot to prevent missing an important moment but six? And they all look pretty much the same? Work the image and move around and explore. I'll get better images and actually be able to make an intelligent decision on what to use.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sometimes its just for you

As I mentioned in a previous post, sometime you shoot for a purpose or a reason. You have a project or a client to shoot for and that's why you take on a shoot. Other times, you shoot for the sake of shooting and just play around with making an image.

Then there are those special times you make images just for yourself. There are moments that you capture just for you. Apertures, and shutter speeds and all of that becomes very, very secondary to just recording the moment.

This was a particularly emotional day for me. My dad was knocked out of his wagon last fall and broke his hip and was expected to never race again.  Well, at 71 he is a tough old fart and he's in remarkably good shape and he climbed back into the wagon box again this spring. Its hard to get out and see him run though so this might very well be the last time I get to photograph him racing.  This is something he has done since before I was born so if he isn't racing I don't know what he'll do.

I have to admit I played around with these images a fair bit when I got home but at that moment all I could do is hang on and go along for the ride.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zena Holloway Shoots Underwater

I've always wanted to shoot high quality images underwater.  Naturally, underwater photography conjures up mental images of fish, sharks, scuba divers, and sunken ships. Zena Holloway does more with the underwater environment. She actually uses it to shoot high fashion and artistic imagery.  Check out this beyond the scenes video here at fstoppers and Zena Holloway's website for her amazing underwater photography.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sometimes you just gotta try things

A lot of times I will go out and either look for a shot or have something in mind.  That is to say I have a purpose or a reason. This shot was one of those cases. I shot this for a DP Challenge entry and I had the whole setup in mind pretty much end to end and the result was close to what I had envisioned.

But sometimes you just want to try things out, experiment and play a little. Its not always about getting the next gallery image or ribbon winner. Sometimes its fun just to pull the camera out and shoot for the sake of shooting. This is is one of those shots that I made just for me. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tired little cowpoke!

Its Stampede time here in Calgary and my wife thought Hudson should get some Stampede spirit. I'm not sure if he enjoyed being dressed up but he sure does look cute!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day from the Provincial Capital of Alberta!

I celebrated Canada Day by driving three hours to Edmonton with my wife and her friend Jessica the night before. My wife and I got up on Canada Day at 6 am after which she ran 15 kilometers. If I am going to be up that early on a national holiday I may as well get some shots out of the deal. The run started and ended at the Alberta Legislature buildings and went down into the Edmonton river valley. So of course, I had to take some pictures of the buildings.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Insane weekend!

This weekend is hectic to say the least. I did a shoot with Paul Hughes who is running for mayor in the Calgary civic election this fall. I completed an engagement shoot today with Jessica and Garett which was a lot of fun. Tomorrow I am photographing my nephew Quinn at the zoo.  Of course pictures are forthcoming and yes I am little tired.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A brief rest along the path

I have had a lot of success with my photography over the past six weeks or so. I shot my first wedding and I got some good results. I won two trophies at the Foothills Camera Club's annual banquet. One was for top points overall in the Division Two digital competitions. The other one was the Anne Pikering trophy for Human Portraiture.  Last week I also won my first ribbon at DPchallenge.com in the "Churches" challenge.  (It only took me about 205 entries.)

DPchallenge is something of a yardstick for me. There are some amazing photographers from all over the world and while anyone can join the site I feel privileged to be part of such fine company.  If I can make an image that's successful there it can be considered good pretty much anywhere.

When I first got my Nikon D50 roughly four years ago I looked for free online competitions and came across DPC. I paid my $25 dollars and bought a woody from Ikea for the woody challenge. Good thing a bruised ego heals quickly or else I may have quit shooting. This image was my first and while it was pretty bad / down right terrible it got me started. I learned from the experience and I have been learning ever since.

I've learned about aperture, shutter speed, ISO. I've learned about different lens lengths and filters. I've learned the controls of my camera inside and out.  If I include my point and shoot days, I've taken my camera to New York, Scotland, San Francisco, Kauai, Banff, Jasper and my own backdoor.

I've taken pictures of buildings, animals, flowers, landscapes, apples, ice cream, cars, trucks, and people. Yes I've photographed a few people. I've posed them and lit them. After the shooting was done I've processed them. I've shoved around more pixels than I care to remember with dodging, burning, blurring, sharpening, saturation, desaturation.

I've been using a DSLR for almost four years and I continue to learn and grow and develop my own style. I can't say that I am a portrait photographer, or a landscape photographer or an architectural photographer.  I love to shoot. My image catalog has hundreds of shots of things that most people wouldn't think of photographing. Bottle caps, fence posts and bears oh my!

The journey is still continuing and at this point I am merely pausing briefly to look back at the path that got me to where I am before heading up the trail some more.  I won't and can't rest on my laurels. The journey will only end when I stop traveling up this path.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zack Arias: Transform

Somewhere in the handful of blogs I follow, I read about a video made by Zack Arias called Transform. I have to say that it is a powerful, thought provoking soliloquy about photography.

Photographers, and artists in general all have those time when things are rough. You don't think what you are doing is good enough. You think that what you're doing isn't original or worth looking at. Sometimes it's just a rut and sometimes that rut seems to be as deep as the Grand Canyon. Through that hardship you find a way through it and you learn and grow as an artist. Or else you pack up shop and call it quits. Its that simple.

Zack's message is mult-faceted but one thing is clear. At the end of the day we can't complain about this art we do. We aren't curing cancer. "The only job that cures cancer is the job that cures cancer." There are far more important things to worry about in this world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sigma 530 Super Flash in Wireless TTL? Check!

After playing around with my Sigma 530 Super Flash I wanted to use it and my Nikon SB600 and use them both in TTL mode.  Using both flashes in TTL means I can put the flashes where I want them and not worry about adjusting their outputs or anything of that nature. The camera will take care of the mental gymnastics and I can just take pretty pictures.  Initially I thought there was no way this was going to work and I'd be stuck with my cheaper than dirt Cactus trigger. Thankfully I was wrong. The unfortunate thing is the steps are rather convoluted and tricky to perform.

  1. Put your left foot in
  2. Take your left foot out
  3. Shake left foot all about
  4. Now do the "hokey-pokey" and turn yourself about (no one can do this but you!)

Alright, so its not the hokey-pokey but the steps do require some manual dexterity. The camera needs to be metering while you are adjusting the settings. If its not then you can't get the flash into TTL mode. Basically it means just periodically pressing the shutter half-way to "wake-up" the camera. I suppose one could go into the menu and adjust the "Auto meter-off delay" to a higher value than the 6 second default but that would also suppose one would have thought of that while one was trying this out the first time. That aside, with the flash mounted on the camera and the metering on follow these steps (described on this Flickr post):
  1. Press the MODE button to select the TTL / flash symbol / SL icon. 
  2. Press the SEL button to make the channel indicator blink and press the + or – button to set the channel
    number (either C1- C4).
  3. Press the SEL button to make the group number blink and press the + or – button to set the group number. Press the SEL button to confirm. 
  4. Detach the slave unit from camera body and place it in the desired position. 
One thing I had to grump about when I performed step three was that I bumped open the battery cover on the flash. Of course the flash turned off and then I had to start all over again.  I might be tempted to put a couple of wraps of hockey tape around that sucker to prevent that. At the very least it would help keep my quarters in my pockets and out of the swear jar.

Once all those steps were performed correctly I was able to trigger my Sigma wirelessly with TTL. I powered up the other flash and proceeded to blind the heck out of my poor dog who was the only model available at that moment. Okay, I must confess that he is a bit of a diva and does like to be in front of the camera and probably didn't mind a bit.

There are a few things I can try next. One is to simply control the output manually from the camera itself.  That should be simple enough but you never know. It would be handy because then I can have greater control over the lighting.  The other thing to try is the Auto FP option. This will allow me to use shutter speeds higher than 1/200 second such as when I want to shoot with wide apertures.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Outdoor Self-portrait

Over the last few days, I've experimented with the commander mode of my D90 with my SB600 flash. Commander mode not only allows you to wirelessly trigger your flash but also allows the D90 to control the output. In essence, you could allow the camera to completely determine the flash output.  The results I got with iTTL (i.e. where the camera completely controls the output of the flash) were okay but not quite what I had in mind. In the end I set it to manual mode.
I had intended to use my Sigma as a second flash for fill but the preflash that the commander mode uses fires the Sigma before its supposed to.  As such, I used the SB600 as the key light and used the on-camera flash for on axis fill.

I have to say I enjoyed the results. They turned out pretty much exactly as I had hoped. Granted I would have liked a more attractive model to work with...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

6,697 Polaroids

6,697 Polaroids.  Jamie Livingston took one Polaroid picture a day from March 31, 1979 until he died on October 25th, 1997. What started out as  a fun project turned into a visual biography of the photographer's life. In fact the last picture is of him on his death bed.  Touching and sad but also encouraging as well.  I think any of us would be proud to have a legacy like this. 

The pics can be found here:

And this blog speaks about the story behind the images:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oh the places you'll go (Little Red Lowe Pro)!

I suggested "Camera Bag" as the challenge topic over at DPChallenge.com. It was chosen but a lot of members really REALLY didn't like it.

When I thought of the challenge I looked at my little red backpack I take with me everyday to work. I've had it for 4 years and I've taken it with me to some pretty cool places. My wife even commented that she had better not see it on our wedding day or she would walk right back down the aisle without me. :)
So 3 replaced snaps, a little salt and dirt, and thousands of miles and that bag is still with me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mountain Majesty Exhibit- Resolution Gallery in Kensington

Its been an exciting week so far with my first wedding shoot and now I am doing my first gallery showing at the Resolution Gallery in Kensington.  The Mountain Majesty exhibition runs from May 5th to May 31st with the opening gala scheduled for Friday May 7th from 5 - 9 pm.  I'll have a couple of images in the show so I am quite excited!

For more information, phone (403) 452-5285, or email resolutionart@hotmail.com. (You can also go to http://www.mountainladdiephoto.com/19.html

Saturday, May 1, 2010

First wedding shoot done!

My first wedding shoot is done and I am currently uploading the pics to my computer so no pics. I did however want to record my impressions of the day while they are still fresh in my mind. (The impressions are fresh however my mind and body are quite pooped).

First of I really really want to thank my wife for her help. She performed admirably as a MILS. (Mobile Intelligent Light Stand). Actually that was the least of her contributions. She gave me confidence in my abilities when I doubted myself. She pointed out things for me to shoot and gave ideas on how to shoot. She thought of things to bring like blankets which turned out to be brilliant. (12 degrees isn't bad but you are wearing a sleeveless dress? Chilly!) She has that remarkable attention to detail that most women seem to have.

I was able to go to the rehearsal which was great. I was able to speak to the gentleman who was handling the music and he was able to get me some more light. I did a few test shots without the lights on and I was shooting wide open (f/1.8 on my 50mm) and 3200 ISO and I still couldn't get a decent shutter speed. With the lights on I was able to shoot at around 1000 ISO with no problems so it made a huge different.

I know photographers don't normally go to the rehearsal but it really helped me out. I was able to know the sequence of events and where everyone was going to be coming in from and where they were going to stand. It also gave me an opportunity to figure where the heck I was supposed to go.

No one ever tells you that sort of thing by the way. Here's how to pose them. Here's how to light them for the formals. But for the actual ceremony? No chance. Its something you have to figure out yourself. The biggest concern I had was getting the shots I wanted without blocking the view of the ceremony.  While I might have buzzed all over the place hopefully it was as a fly on the wall.

The gear? Very nice. I rented an extra body and a 24-70 mm f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8.  An extra body was a must I think. True, I didn't shoot nearly as much with the 70-200 as I did with the 24-70 however there was no way I was going to be able to switch lenses that quickly. For some of the procession shots I would shoot with the telephoto and then drop that body to my side (thank God for the Black Rapid strap!) and grab the other camera and start shooting again with the wide angle.

Speaking of the telephoto. That sucker was heavy. In an attempt to lay back and get my shots from further away I ended up using it a lot for long (or what seemed to be long) stretches. My arm would tire and my hand would start shaking.

There were some tricks I tried out and some I figured out. The first one was one of the cooler ones. My friend Sig is often hard to photograph because he always seems to have his eyes closed or closing. One trick I read about was to have them look down and then after a count of three look at that camera all the while keeping your eyes open. It worked really well. Nice big open eyes without having a crazy surprised look.

One problem I had which I came up with a trick for was getting everyone looking at the camera.  Kids especially seem look every where which of course is what kids do.  I had everyone actually point at me and look where they were pointing. When they put their hands down everyone was looking right at the camera. It was amazing! Not sure if it was fluke or this brilliant idea I came up with is anything new or not but I am going to put it in my bag of tricks for future shoots.

What else? I learned you have to move and shoot very quickly. Everything happens quickly regardless of how slow people try to do things. Kids get impatient as do their parents. Heck I wouldn't want to sit around watching a guy fiddle with the controls on his camera either.  Again, the two camera system for the ceremony was a god send. My wife helped keep things moving quickly and efficiently for the formals.

Some final thoughts. It was a great day and I couldn't have asked for a better couple to work with. Devon and Brenda were so much fun and had so much energy it made my job so much easier. Clearly, the two are in love with other and I hope the images I took today reflect that.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

HDR - Another attempt

I haven't tried HDR since Boxing Day which also means I haven't tried with my new camera.  I gave it a try this weekend and the results were pretty good.  The higher shooting speed means less chance of movement between frames and the bracketing on the D90 can be set two steps higher  than the D50. I also updated my version of Photomatix and that may have contributed to the better outptu.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opteka 500mm f/8 Telephoto Lens ....for 80 bucks???

My current telephoto is a Sigmas 70-300 f/5.6. While not even close to being high end glass I certainly didn't pay 80 bucks for it either. The Opteka 500mm f/8 Telephoto Lens runs for that amount on Amazon. From what I have read 80 bucks might be all its worth.  Optically its terrible and is soft and prone to bad chromatic aberration. Its maximum aperture is f/8 so its slow and its reported to be quite dark when looking through the viewfinder. Sure, a 500 mm lens might be fun especially at $80.  On the other hand, good friends don't let friends use bad glass. At least not that bad....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nick Brandt

I first read about Nick Brandt in an article in Photolife magazine. On DP Challenge, someone posted a link to a web page about an exhibit he is doing at the Young Gallery in Brussels.  In his biography I thought the following snippet to be quite interesting:
Few photographers have ever considered the photography of wild animals, as distinctly opposed to the genre of Wildlife Photography, as an art form. The emphasis has generally been on capturing the drama of wild animals IN ACTION, on capturing that dramatic single moment, as opposed to simply animals in the state of being.

His images wouldn't be found in National Geographic however they are remarkable as fine art images.  The way he shoots he effectively isolates his subject and draws you into the scene. The animals themselves are depicted as noble creatures rather than savage beasts.

You can check out more of Nick's work on his website (http://www.nickbrandt.com)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path"

The field of photography, as a profession, is both expanding and contracting at the same time. More people than ever are creating publishable images. And while most of them will never see a dime some do make a small sum of money doing what they love.  On the other side, choosing photography as a career option and sole means of income is becoming less and less viable as the demand for images shrinks and the number of sources increases.  The pie is getting smaller and more people want a slice. 
This article from the New York Times explains the issue.

My belief is that photographers will need to combine their skills with something else in order to survive. (Now if I could only figure out what the something else is so I can quit my day job!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

How do you use a monopod? (or "Tripod? We don't need no steenkin' tripod!)

We all know that to get maximum sharpness its best to use a tripod. However, lugging around a tripod isn't always an option.  In such cases, a monopod might allow you to stabilize your camera without weighing you down. I've personally found that when using a monopod I am only marginally more stable than hand held. There is apparently a knack to shooting with a them. What's the trick? How do you shoot with a monopod? This links explains:

My monopod is this one for those interested by the way.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hawaii - Day Three - Sunday, January 31th 2010

Day three in Hawaii was the beginning of better weather and more fun than I could ever imagine.  While we putzed about and just were kinda on the island for blah weather for the first two days, day three was really the turning point.

My wife and I, along with my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece started the day by visiting Waimea Canyon. Located on the west side of the island, it has been described as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  Unfortunately, I've never been to the Grand Canyon but even so I can say that this description is probably accurate. The canyon is over 4000 feet deep at its deepest point despite the fact that it is only a few miles long.

My brother took his family to Barking Sands beach while my wife and I carried on the trail to catch a view of the cliffs of the Nepali coast from the top.  (Nepali simply means "the cliffs" so in a way that statement is somewhat redundant).


Day three was also the day I first tried snorkeling. My wife thought that I should at least try swimming in the ocean before I tried scuba diving. The experience was remarkable. Unfortunately, I had problems with my snorkel so I swam without it and just used my fins and mask. Nevertheless, my first view below the waves will remain in memory forever.  There were dozens of different types of fish and many were very colorful. It was almost like swimming in an aquarium. Sadly, my first shots didn't turn out that great as I wasn't used to framing a shot while being moved along up and down and side to side by the waves.

The Flickr set can be found here

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Time for an upgrade

Nikon D90 DX 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom LensI have thought long and hard about upgrading.  My Nikon D50 has served me quite well since I purchased it in the fall of 2006. Unfortunately, she isn't going to cut it for some of the images I want to take. I'm not one to push the megapixel count but 6 MP is holding me back from doing some of the things I want to do. I went to The Camera Store today to reserve rental equipment for the wedding I am doing in May and I thought "Why not?". I wanted to have time to get used to the new body before the wedding and before spring comes because I love to go out take pictures at that time of year.

I got home and charged the battery that came with the camera plus the extra one I purchased. Unfortunately the D90 takes a battery that is almost identical to the one in the D50 but not quite. They do however both use the exact same charger which is kinda handy.   After the short charging period (alright it was only short because I had a nap while it was charging) I gave it a try.  First impression? Not bad. I haven't uploaded any pictures yet but I like what I see so far. I thought Live View would be a gimmick that I wouldn't use but I can definitely see some practical applications for it.  Video mode? hmmm...the jury is still out on that. I'll have to play with it some more.  The ISO range is from 200-3200 and a "HI" mode. I take this to mean that you get usable images up to 3200 whereas HI you are taking your chances. The D50 went to 1600 and a lot of time those images weren't usable.

It also supports my IR remote that I used on the D50. I'd be pretty disappointed if I didn't have a means of doing long exposures (i.e. like several minutes long).

The weight and feel are nice. A little heavier than the D50 but not a brick like some of the higher end models.

The controls are going to take some getting used to. The D50 has only got one command dial. The D90 has a command dial and sub-command dial on the front. I am used to adjusting everything with the one dial so having two will be a little weird for now. The one control I do like is the depth of field preview button. I have it on my film SLR but the D50 was lacking it.

So why the D90? Well I thought about holding out for a D700 or its replacement thats been rumored to be around the corner. The problem is the D700 is triple what I paid for the D90 and that would be body only. The 18-55 kit lens I have would only work in cropped mode which would put the pixel count around what I have on the D50 which somewhat defeats the purpose of upgrading. The D300 and D300s were also options I looked at however everything I read indicated that the image quality of the D90 is comparable to the D300 and D300s.  True, it doesn't have the metal body or the fast shooting rate (4.5 fps for the D90 vs 7 for the D300) but I couldn't justify that additional cost.  My goal is also to go full-frame so I decided to get a smaller upgrade and start saving for and a full frame body a good lens to go with it.

When I purchased my D50 I read a lot of reviews and went for the most bang for the buck. I spent about the same amount for my D90 as I did for my D50. (Sadly, a quick look on Ebay shows I could get about 130 bucks for it now).  Once again, I think I'm going for the best bang for the buck. Is this upgrade going to make a better photographer? No. Certainly not. Its a tool to allow me to create my images. It is however going to create new opportunities. 

So thank you so much Nikon D50 for really teaching me how to shoot. I've shot over 70,000 images with you. I've been to San Francisco, Banff, Jasper, and Hawaii to name a few places I've been with you.  It was a sad day when I put you on the shelf.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still working on the Hawaii pics but in the meantime...

Unfortunately, I am still wading through the Hawaii pictures. There's only about 1300 to go through so please forgive me while I take my time and enjoy revisiting my images. For DP Challenge, the topic for this week was Shoes. I took this to mean foot wear in general and not shoes specifically. In honor of the Olympics I decided skates were a good choice so I spent 15 minutes or so shooting me in my skates. The image I entered, in retrospect, was ok but the one I did after my submission was better. The focus is better and I think I like the editing more on this one.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hawaii - Day Two - Saturday, January 30th 2010

Day Two was another overcast day at least for the north part of the island where we drove that day.  In Alberta there's a saying: If you don't like the weather wait 5 minutes. In Kauai, if you don't like the weather drive somewhere else but it generally doesn't rain everywhere on the island and this day was no exception. Despite the rain it was still pleasantly warm though and our trip to the community of Hanalei was worth the drive. 

Along the way we stopped at Kilauea and checked out the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Well by checked out I mean we stopped at an outlook along the road and we didn't actually drive right up to the lighthouse. 


There were so many birds along the cliffs it was unreal. At this point I was still thinking the cattle egrets were something cool and unique. By the time we left I would learn that they're as plentiful as gulls are here. 

On our way to Hanalei, we stopped at a farmer's market in  Kilauea. It was quite different from what my wife and I were expecting. Farmer's markets here in Alberta tend to be semi-permanent stands with throngs of people and vendors. The one we stopped at in Kilauea was three vans parked on the edge of field. Nevertheless, we got some great deals and the people displayed the friendliness we were learning to expect on Kauai. Because of the rain, the vendors weren't getting many visitors so got amazing deals on the fruit we purchased and got to sample a lot of different things including rambutans. These red, spiky fruits have a tough skin you simply nick and then peel open. The fruit inside tastes a lot like a lychee nut. (Rambutans are actually part of the lychee family so I guess that makes sense)

 We continued our drive to the Hanalei and checked out the beach. I'll probably kick myself until I got back but we didn't get to the Hanalei pier. Its been featured on so many postcards not just for Kauai but the Hawaiian islands in general I am disappointed I didn't get to see it myself.
(I have a picture to put here but um...the computer is being dumb again)

Once we were done splashing around on the beach (the little bit we did anyways) we decided we need to get some lunch. We made our way to small bar and grill in Hanalei called Kalypso.  To our surprise the second game for Hockey Day in Canada was on the TV.  If you guessed that it was the Leafs playing you would be right. Even in Hawaii we had to watch the Leafs before anything else. 

We decided to have Mai Tais since that seems to be the thing to do when you're in Hawaii. My wife, however, doesn't drink and after having half of hers declared herself unfit to drive. That made me the designated driver which apparently meant my Mai Tai was hers. Funny how that works out.

We headed back to our resort on Lawai Beach where we were greeted by blue skies and no rain. By the time we made it back (we took our time naturally)  it was almost supper time but I finally got to see the sunset I had been waiting for. 

You can view the the set on Flickr or a slideshow of the images.

Lensbaby 2.0 - For 70 bucks???

On DP Challenge, someone posted a link to Amazon for the Lensbaby 2.0 listed for 70 dollars. That is incredibly cheap and give you a chance to try them out. I've always enjoyed the images I've seen. Plus the creative aperture kit is 10 buck. Nice!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hawaii - Day One - Friday , January 29th 2010

My wife and I recently enjoyed a fantastic trip to the island of Kauai. Technically the first day was when we landed however that was right at sunset (sadly it was really overcast) so our task was to get a car, grab something to eat after our long flights and get to bed. We started at 7:50 am Calgary time and arrived in Kauai, about 6:30 pm Hawaii Time (which is 9:30 pm Calgary time). A long day to say the least!

However, we were up pretty early after a good night's sleep at our resort and made our way over to Spouting Horn, about 5 minutes away. Yes, day one did not entail any long expeditions. Spouting Horn is named for the geyser-like stream that shoots up from rocks along the coast at that point.


There is also a few stalls for vendors to sell relatively inexpensive jewelry.   A lot of pearls, and coral was found at the stalls. It was almost like the Farmer's markets here at home.

And of course there were chickens. Chickens are the Official Un-Endangered spcies on the island of Kauai. During hurricane Iniki the chickens got loose and with the all the destruction, rounding up chickens was a low priority. That's of course just one theory. In any event, I don't remember hardly any part of the island that you didn't find the darn chickens!

It was also on this day that we got to view the "Tunnel" coming to our part of the island. This tunnel is made of Eucalyptus trees planted by the Scottish rancher, Walter Duncan McBryde over 150 years ago. The treetops were damaged in the last two hurricanes however, as with most vegetation on the island, they have grown back nicely.

Which brings me to another point: The Flowers. Hibiscus blooms can be seen everywhere. The original flowers were brought by settlers at different times and have evolved over time into different species. (See this Wikipedia article for more info). 

To view all the images I've uploaded so far check out my Flickr photostream.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Amazing but true

As mentioned in my prior post I have been having difficulties with my computer. My hard drive that holds all my photos is going kaput. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before but you shouldn't backup in case of hardware failure but for when it fails. Its just a matter of time before anything with moving parts (i.e. hard drives) will fail. In other words, its not a question of if a drive will but when.

Fortunately, most of my images are backed up. I was in the process of backing up my Hawaii images when the drive started giving me problems yet again. In fact it looked like about 350 or so images were missing. When I uploaded them originally to my PC it took hours. It royally sucked knowing that I had to do the whole process over again. I decided to purchase a card reader. I used to have one but found that it wasn't any faster than transferring from the camera. My printer has a card reader but it only operates on USB 1.0 which is really slow.  However, I wasn't going to spend my whole evening once again transferring the same image so I gave SanDisk's ImageMate a try. Wow! I've already uploaded my 2 - 2GB cards and I just finished transferring a 1 GB card while I wrote half of this paragraph. I'll probably have all of my photos transferred before I am done writing this post.

I really have to wonder why I didn't get a good card reader before. This gizmo is SUCH a time saver. In less than 15 minutes I transferred over all the files that it took me hours to upload before. Amazing...but true!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Aloha from Hawaii!

Alright. I am already back from Hawaii so its not aloha from Hawaii. I'm sad because it was around 24/25 degrees Celsius when I left Kauai and its around -10 here now. Lovely. Good-bye shorts and "slippahs" (sandals). Hello parkas and snow boots.

My computer has been giving me troubles so I haven't been able to go through my images. I do feel I owe this blog at least ONE picture however. This image was taken at about 6 am one morning. Exposure time was about 30 seconds. I packed my tripod in my 60+ liter backpack because it wouldn't fit in my suitcase.

 It was absolutely beautiful. I hope this does the scene justice.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This is Alberta

I have to admit that four images does not even come close to encompassing all there is to see in this province I live in. Heck, the four might not even be categorized as stereotypical at all.  Its not even a taste, perhaps just a half whiff of a fragrance that you can't quite place.  Nevertheless, the president of the Foothills Camera Club gave us this assignment for this month's President's Challenge.   Perhaps with contributions from each member we'll give the viewers of our slide show (a photo club in the UK) a taste of Alberta.

I took this shot last summer on an outing to Banff and Lake Louise. Not your typical postcard image but then again, who wants the typical shot?

 Another Lake Louise image here. It was one of those "Holy Crap! There's something cool happening!" type of shots. i.e. I turned and saw the sled and shot.

Yup. I submitted this and I have posted this on the blog before. I think one of the highlights of Alberta is the Canadian Rockies and this is one of my better shots.

My dad has been racing chuckwagons for around 40 years. This shot was taken at the Red Deer Exhibition last summer. The processing is more than I usually do because I didn't want the same old same old shot. Then again, for people who have never seen the sport it would be new anyways!

The set can be viewed as a slideshow on Flickr.