detailed itinerary - 2010 DLS workshop series

For registered participants, here is the information you need:

January 10, 2010 - it's NOT about the camera
Location: in your email
We'll learn a bit of photography history and by the end of the day you'll know what all the beeps, bells, and whistles on your camera are for, and have a basic understanding of photography lingo. You will understand how every camera on the planet is built on precisely the same technology, then learn what separates SLR cameras from P&S cameras. We'll also go over a comprehensive list of the basic types of lenses on the market, what their benefits and drawbacks are, and what their common applications are. You'll probably go home with the urge to shoot everything that moves, and a rather pricey shopping list. Which is why it's good that you just learned that it's NOT about the camera... and will survive and thrive just fine without the $2700 IS f2.8 70mm-200mm lens...

February 7, 2010 - composition, understanding light
Location: in your email
This is the one that makes your brain ache, folks. While the composition portion is a relative breeze and one of the building blocks of taking great pictures, understanding light is the key to unlocking all the great secrets of photography. Whether you plan to use studio, natural or available light, or a combination of all three, you need to know how your camera's internal meter works. You'll walk away with a headache, and a burning desire to move all the furniture away from your windows.

March 7, 2010 - technical critiquing, photoshop
Location: in your email
I know - it sounds SO dry and boring... BUT - technical critiquing is a huge part of photography. We'll spend the first part of the day going through the process of deconstructing images using proper terminology do that you can develop the diagnostic tools that will be instrumental not only in looking at other photographer's work and being able to draw technical instead of just aesthetic inspiration, but in how YOU will master your OWN style and technique. Following this, we'll begin exploring some of the basics of Photoshop. I will do a brief demonstration of: skin smoothing, using unsharp mask, creating and using layers, tinting (vintage, antique), and more. This portion of the workshop is meant to give you enough basics that you have the confidence to explore and discover more on your own.

April 11, 2010 - portraiture and making the connection
Location: in your email
Get ready for LIVE MODELS! Once we've gone through the fundamentals of how and why portraits are done (the easy part) we're going to hone our skills on making the connections that are so important to separating cold and heartless snapshots from gorgeous, engaging portraits that have as much meaning to you as they do to your client. We will then have a group of models at our disposal for you to work individually and in teams with doing a variety of individual and group portraits. Always a fun workshop, be prepared to be surprised! If you have a flash for your camera, this is a great workshop to bring it to as we'll have a bit of time to play around with them!

May 2, 2010 - breaking the rules, the business end of things
Location: TBD
While we spent the first 4 sessions learning shooting skills, there comes a time when we get to break all the rules and just HAVE FUN! If we decide as a group we'd like to do a final project together, this will also be our opportunity to plan and discuss those details. The last portion of the day will be spent going over the Business End of Things - taxes, copyright, business licenses, professional printing, model releases, contracts, blogs, websites, advertising and promotion, and all other manner of things you need to consider if you intend to charge money for your services, whether as a portrait photographer, stock photographer, or art photographer. Even if you do not intend to shoot for full-time or supplemental income, there is a lot of valuable information to be taken away from this workshop that can help protect your interests even as a straight-up hobby photographer.

May 29, 2010 - all-night field trip with Team Clickin' Cancer's Butt at the Relay for Life
Location: University of Alberta's Foote Field
This has become a highlight of the workshops, where participants are given the opportunity to contribute their skills to an amazing event in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. Their largest single fundraising effort, which spans across Canada in countless cities, the Relay for Life is a powerful experience. If you are able to come and if you are interested in learning what photographilanthropy is from the ground up, slap on some comfy shoes and your camera, and let's go!

June 13, 2010 - controlled lighting, wedding photography
Start time: 10am
Finish time: 4pm
Location: the beautiful Suffolk House Bed & Breakfast
This workshop is great for anyone wishing to set up a collapsible small home and/or portable studio. The lovely and talented Reanna from Blackbird Photography will be the hostess with the mostest, sharing with us her knowledge of lighting styles, her own set-up, and an opportunity to try it out on live models... who may be dressed up in full bridal gear for the mock-wedding! Immediately following the lighting workshop, we'll be going over the finer points of shooting a wedding. From your initial consultation and contract to the 'money shots' to the classic pitfalls of working with weddingpartyzillas and obnoxious guests, you'll have the insider's look at the grit and the glory of shooting weddings. Once we've had an in-class presentation, we'll waste no time in having you shoot a mock wedding during which not only will you have to deal with the other guests (who ALL happen to be photographers) but maybe some personality quirks, too. And of course while we're hoping for good weather, if it decides to rain... you'll be getting your feet wet for real... Registration and payment deadline for this workshop is April 18, 2010.

can of worms: wonderful or wasteful?

I don't know how many of you visit the Legislative Grounds as an annual thing, but it was never very high on my list of great places to go. Besides it being what I feel is a ginormous waste of taxpayer dollars and an unnecessary addition to our carbon footprint, it looks, quite frankly, tacky.

My sister is in town and wanted to go - she hasn't been in about 16 years - and was as underwhelmed as we were when we thought we should check it out a few years ago, and scratched it off our annual 'must-see-and-do' list. Now, I can understand having a designated area being lit up (like the ice sculpture one above) or even a magical trail of lights leading from the parking lot to the skating rink or something, but mostly it looks like WalMart threw up all over the trees.

I admit, they make for some funky background effects, but honestly, it's overkill. And Tacky. I suppose if they had done the entire place up in white lights instead of the abrasive multicoloured LED strings they upgraded to a few years back it might not be so offensive, even if it's still wasteful. (I tried to find the budget, but I believe the annual cost is a couple hundred thousand dollars.) At least Bright Nights collects food for the Food Bank and gets their event sponsored, while Candycane Lane I'm kind of torn on - they get a break on their power bill to run that perversion of Christmas spirit, but again, at least they accept donations for charity.

What do you think? Is the Legislature's lighting design a wonderful part of our city's winterscape (if you aren't from Edmonton, feel free to comment on your municipality or your own provincial capital...) or it is just an excessively flashy display that wastes taxpayer dollars?

(I just put this last picture in because I was farting around with long exposures in the car and thought this one was particularly fun...)

meLOVE: winter holiday and cabin happiness

I've been playing it real low and real slow this holiday season. I thought I'd share some of the high points, like our fancy dancing modeling figure Santas, our annual collection of chocolate shortbread (which should come with a seizure warning), and a few pics from our visit to prepare the cabin for our New Year's celebration (and 6th wedding anniversary!)

I'm dismantling the Christmas ladder today - I'm ready for 2010 to come any time!!!

youLOVE: on the twelfth day of Christmas

my youLOVE gave to me...

So? What'd ya get?

I got a trademark, a new set of measuring spoons, and a 16GB HD memory card.

youLOVE: on the eleventh day of Christmas...

...eleven pipers piping – post a picture of a decorated cookie (does not have to be one of your own)...

I'm baking mine up right now... will post pictures later!

youLOVE: on the 10th day of Christmas... youLOVE gave to me:

tens pounds a-gainin'...

Did you know that the average person gains 10 pounds over the holiday season? I think I've gained as much as 15, actually, but it usually comes off pretty easily because frankly, after 2 weeks of eating crap all I really want is salad and coffee.

So the question is, do you have a plan for eating over Christmas, or do you let it all hang out and deal with it in the New year?

youLOVE: on the ninth day of Christmas... youLOVE gave to me: nine cats a-meowing...

So, I've never understood the idea of giving anyone but your own kids a pet for a gift, but I've heard some pretty weird stories about people purchasing companions for their loved ones. Would you ever give someone a dog for Christmas? Would you flinch if you heard the gift from your husband tweet? Or would it freak you out to give or receive an unexpected pet for Christmas?

Merry Christmas, all!!!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!! I'm very excited about teh new SuperBlog coming in January... watch for it!

youLOVE: Happy Birthday to ME!!!

For my birthday this year, which is the darkest day of the year (check your calendar - I'm not making that up - the days literally get longer after December 21st...) I am giving away an Erica Viegas CD!!!

I suppose a few of you are wondering by now what the Big Deal is about Erica Viegas. Well, here's a top three about why Edmonton's own Ms. Viegas is totally a Big Deal.

1.) She is incredibly talented - two of the songs from her debut CD "Where My Heart goes" are featured on the website at
2.) She is incredibly sweet and down to earth - I've worked in the Arts industry for a number of years with a number of actors, dancers, and singers and have come across my fair share of divas, and Erica is ANYTHING but.
3.) She is incredibly beautiful, both inside and out - how many people donate a portion of the sales from their first recording ever to charity?

Since Erica is done for the year and off celebrating the season with her family, this may be one of the only ways you can get your hands on a copy of her CD in time for Christmas.

Here's what you have to do to enter the contest. Since I was in the studio shooting while she was recording the backing vocals for the title song of her CD, it holds a special place in my heart. Send an email to h dot walls at shaw dot ca and tell me where she hopes the twists and turns in her road leads. Winner will be selected by random draw at 9pm MST on December 21, 2009, so HURRY AND ENTER NOW! Good Luck!!! (*hint - the lyrics are on her website...)

(If you are unable to pick your CD up or require that it be mailed out, I cannot guarantee Christmas delivery...)

youLOVE: on the eighth day of Christmas...

... my youLOVE gave to me...

Eight deeds for doing.

Here’s a quick list of last-minute things you could do to lift someone’s spirit this Christmas (and lift your own at the same time...)

1. Shovel someone’s walk. If you have enough brooms and shovels, this is actually fun with the entire family. Especially if you dress up like clowns or bunnies or something. It’s like caroling, only different.
2. Clean the change from the console of your car and give it to the first Salvation Army bell-ringer or homeless person you come across.
3. Bring a stack of cups and one of those Tim Horton’s boxes of coffee downtown and warm up a few homeless people. (Having some extra mitts and a pack of smokes to share is always good, too.)
4. Volunteer to serve breakfast at a shelter, deliver gifts for Santas Anonymous, or pack parcels for the Christmas Bureau.
5. Bring a box of chocolates to share with your co-workers; if you don’t work with co-workers, bring the box with you and give it to someone who works in an office or place where you receive great service.
6. If you don’t send out Christmas cards in the mail, you can still send out an eCard. Write up an email briefly updating people, wishing them the best of the season, and include a cheesy picture of your family or a link to a youtube video of them singing we wish you a merry Christmas. (I LOVE getting these, even if it isn’t addressed to me and me alone.) Plus, you save postage AND a few trees – yay!
7. Make a Thermos of hot chocolate, grab some cups, and show up at a neighbour’s or a nearby friend’s place with that and some cookies warm from the oven, stay for ONLY 5 minutes, then go home so they can return to being as busy as you are.
8. Make eye contact with everyone you see, SMILE, and wish them a happy holiday.

Anyone else got some easy ways to spread some holiday cheer?

youLOVE: on the seventh day of Christmas

... my youLOVE gave to me....

Seven films for watching – post your favourite holiday movie; I’ll compile the results and post the top 7 list!

My favourites are the original Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Scrooged, and A Christmas Story. (Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra raaaaaaaa!) HAHA!

youLOVE: for my dear friend

Thank you for a wonderful visit. I'm thinking of you often.

youLOVE: on the sixth day of Christmas... youLOVE gave to me:

6 birds a-roasting....

The truth of the matter is simply this: I only cook a turkey for the stuffing, and I make some seriously tasty stuffing. While it varies from year to year a little bit here or there, my stuffing is the first thing gone. Usually right around the time the parmesan mushroom gravy goes. I usually make a 20lb or bigger bird, so while the quantities may sound like a lot, it's a HUGE bird to feed my huge family.

Aside of using 1" chunks of a whole loaf of nice multigrain bread that is dried/toasted in the oven the night before, my stuffing starts with LOTS of melted butter. LOTS of sage and garlic. Melt the butter in a big huge pot and sautee up the garlic and sage with a big fat juicy onion and a whole crapload of mushrooms. Add lots of rosemary, and some poultry seasoning. Fry up the liver and heart if you like and throw them in, too - I've heard tell that if you cut them small enough most people don't notice them. I usually throw in some Italian sausage for good measure. Try and not taste-test too much of this, though - it's really really uber bad for your arteries...

Take your chunks of bread and throw them in a big bowl. Drizzle the butter-sausage mixture over the bread crumbs, tossing to get the liquid evenly distributed. Get this mixture as evenly moist as possible (big wooden spoons work well) and while continuing to stir pour just enough boiling hot water over the mixture to give it a slightly-dry crumble consistency. Peel a couple of mandarin oranges and throw them in. Throw in some sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, or pecans, too. Mix that all up and stuff the birdie's butt and the birdie's neck flap with as much of it as you can.

Have you got a secret ingredient, helpful tip, or traditional family recipe to share?

youLOVE: on the fifth day of Christmas youLOVE gave to me:

five tasty chocolates – mmm – chocolate...

We all know Hope loves chocolate. My top five for Christmas (in no particular order) are:

Lady Godiva milk chocolate covered strawberries
Chocolate covered almonds
Sweet Georgia Browns from Purdy's
Quality Street chewy caramels

What’s your favourite brand or flavour of chocolates for the Holiday Season?

meLOVE: the social retard in its natural habitat...

I was 13, and had just gotten a new bag of hand-me-downs from the uber-cool rockstar I babysat for. (Anyone who had enough of a social life to warrant a babysitter was a rockstar, in my mind.) Anyways. It included a strapless sundress. Teal, with mullet construction - boned (business) in front, schirred (party) in the back - featuring large blooms of some undefined flower exploding like fireworks over the ill green hue in shades of peacock blue and fuschia with as much late-80s glory as you can muster. I think there was a drop-waist and some large bows involved too.

I've always been into sewing. Modifying clothes was a hobby from a very early age, so getting a bag of hand-me-downs was the equivalent of the fat kid getting a bag of Mars Bars.. (In my younger 'golden' days I always fancied myself as being billed alongside my heroes Adrienne Vitadini and Thierry Mugler...) So, picture a socially retarded teenaged girl in her room with a half-length The Brick Warehouse dresser mirror. She is PRAYING her Mom doesn't get home early and that her sister isn't interested in paying her any mind. She's outfitted with her Mom's sewing machine set up on an Ikea folding table, happily modifying the aforementioned sundress while dancing around her room to to George Michael, Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys, and Vicious Pink, and being a rockstar about it, ultimately knowing she will never ever have the courage to wear her Masterpiece in public. (My husband, who was Uber Cool and a total Rock Star swears he never did this. Guess that's why they say opposites attract.)

This is a good starting point to understanding what it was to be the social retard:

youLOVE: on the fourth day of Christmas... youLOVE gave to me: four stockingfulls.

I've had the same stocking since I was a baby. Green felt, crocheted hot pink daisy chain, black wool stitching, chain detail over a chunky leather boot... I think it's actually the source of my shoe fetish. I can at least say I came by it honestly. It was always filled with an orange, chocolates, nuts, and some small gifts.

There used to be 3 pastel pink bows down the side, but one year when I went to hang the stockings by the cardboard facsimile of a chimney with care, one was mysteriously missing, never to be seen again. An elf (I'm not sure who) carefully snipped the two original bows off and tucked them in the toes for safe keeping and put fresh white bows in their place. So, my stocking is never empty now - it's always filled with love in the shape of two pastel pink satin bows.

Now we have four stockings to hang by the potbelly stove with care. I never have made stockings for my kids - the girls stole two really cool felt stockings that I bought as props for Christmas photos one year while Kaelan got stuck with the third, Wil borrows one of Bill's two stockings, and whomever else happens to join us usually gets one of Bill's socks with a hastily embroidered name. (Which is always funny in March, when he puts on a sock that says, "Nanook" or "Guest" lol)

What's the story behind YOUR stockings?

youLOVE: on the third day of Christmas... youLOVE gave to me...

Three tasty drinks! My seasonal faves:

Hot chocolate with Hiram Walker's Swiss Chocolate Almond Liqueur, hot apple cider with cinnamon Schnapps, and champagne, though since Republica Dominicana, I think I'm really going to start enjoying Santo Libres a la Republicana Dominicana... it'll be my new "January" drink.

What’s your favourite holiday beverage (with or without alcohol...?)

tubeLOVE: mood music, courtesy of Mika

If this doesn't get you into the spirit of the season, I don't know what will...

can of worms: print suppliers

One of the things we, as photographers, need to deal with is finding effective and convenient ways of providing our clients with print services. Of course, the easiest way to keep the time you spend dealing with print orders to a minimum is to just provide the full-res CD. But, if you don't do that, then you need to hook up with a lab and an ordering system. You wouldn't think this would be such a tricky thing to do, but it does in fact become a very complex decision. Let's consider a few factors.

We all want to provide our clients with superior customer service, which ideally includes simple and easy ways of ordering prints, receiving those prints in a timely manner, and of course having those prints adhere to high professional print standards. Whether you sit beside your clients to pick prints in person or have an online ordering system that is not linked to a print company, if you do what is called self-fulfillment orders it means you are personally responsible for making sure the prints are accurately selected, uploaded, tweaked, printed to the right sizes, and delivered. Not only is this time consuming and frustrating, when we hit busy patches or have (heaven forbid) family or personal commitments to tend to, it becomes more and more difficult to ensure we are getting our client orders dealt with in a timely fashion.

There are several print labs who host online albums where clients can direct order, but the photographer does not have the ability to set their own prices. This means that you are giving up 100% of your potential income, and while this provides convenience for your client, is kind of not the point if selling prints. Furthermore, most of the labs that will allow you to upload an album for printing do not allow you to block the general public from downloading or printing the images. There are virtually no administrative options whatsoever.

Now, there ARE companies who specialize in providing professional print services for professional photographers. Their ordering systems, website hosting, etc. are all very slick in design, easy for togs and clients alike to access and order. In addition to regular prints, there are options for everything from printing mugs and magnets to canvasses and flushmount albums, set and directed by the photographer, managed by the company, and chosen by the client. Several companies have even upped the ante by providing nice touches like tissue-wrapped prints in shiny little boxes. Sounds perfect, right?

Well, it is, but there are some things to consider before jumping on the whole print service bandwagon. For starters, these companies are pretty much ALL in the US, and while I have nothing against our southern friends, I *do* have an issue sending my clients to an ordering album when the prices are shown in US dollars. Thus far, none of the US companies providing this type of service offer display of prices in foreign currencies, which drives me bonkers.

The established companies like PicPick, Pictage, MPix, etc. have one major advantage over the Canadian versions like ShowMyphotos and ZoomPhoto, that being, experience. This has allowed them to specialize like nobody's business, providing a client experience replete with little extras like fancy packaging and client-selected images automatically put into slideshows, albums, etc. while our Canadian equivalents are apparently not quite there yet.

Now it gets SUPER tricky, because you have to decide if you want to pay the premium and farm our your print side of things through a US company or a Canadian company, at which point you have to examine some less-tangible points than whether things come in fancy-wrapped boxes or not, like whether you want to support a Canadian business that offers similar quality products but a lower level of service/perks, and whether or not the US-based perks that you feel elevate your perceived value as a photographer to your current and potential clients are more important than having your business 100% Canadian-based. Generally speaking I think many Americans and Canadians genuinely value the ability to spend money on goods and services that are locally or regionally manufactured or provided, and I'm the first to admit that often a 'made in Canada' sticker or tag becomes the final deciding factor when I am investing in something, though I know lots of people don't care.

There are money matters that come into play as well, such as collecting and remitting taxes. Canadian orders coming through US companies get dinged for taxes and duty at the border, whereas GST/PST is collected on your behalf through both Canadian companies. While you do not have to pay US taxes on your US orders, you still have to pay Canadian taxes on the mark-up payouts you receive, which means your GST in is going to be higher than your GST out (read: you will pay more GST.) If you are making the bulk of your income off print or album sales out of the US, this is something you might want to keep in mind.

The other way money matters come into play is that for all the little value-added perks intended to increase your perceived value to clients, you do add a hard cost which invariably gets passed along by your host company to you first in your membership, per-use, or upload fee, which then invariably you need to pass along to your client. Typically this is buried or rolled into the cost of goods so you can't see the breakdown, though I have seen certain services (ie) gift wrapping) and product upgrades (ie) custom album boxes) offered as a paid-for service. Either way, when you are putting your pricing strategy together, you will need to consider these things and work them into your pricing structure.

One thing to consider is using larger, cheaper print companies (I won't mention any names) which you may wonder isn't a good idea. The answer is simply that while the risk is there for potentially inferior products, where they save you pennies is in providing minimal customer service; namely, you are self-fulfilling your orders without the guidance and expertise of people who know about colour and file management, website issues, etc. much less get to know you on a first-name basis. The discount you receive in using open-source services like this is directly reflected in your access to personal support and service.

Shipping across the border often means longer delivery times for Canadian clients, not only because of physical distance, but usually because their order is delayed in customs. This alone is a HUGE detractor for me personally. Few things are more frustrating than waiting for something to clear customs, and while normally it only takes a day or two, that's an extra day or two I could have spent having the order shipped directly to me from a Canadian company, wrapping the prints myself in a scrap of recycled vintage fabric, and meeting with the clients to hand-deliver their finished print products along with a batch of homemade cookies for that all-important final personal touch that to me would mean more than massed-produced generic picture boxes and sheets of tissue paper that'll end up in a landfill anyways.

Being sensitive to what your clients value becomes paramount so that if you make the decision to forego the expertise of an established company that puts your prints in pretty boxes for you in favour of a company that is more interested in being green than providing packaging you aren't inadvertently alienating your client base who has come to expect the pretty box.

Hopefully this is some food for thought. There is no 'wrong' answer. Whatever works best for you is the 'right' choice.

Holiday Cheer

Go ahead - give some free hugs!

youLOVE: on the second day of Christmas...

On the second day of Christmas my youLOVE gave to me: two freaky gifts.

I have been given 'joke' gifts before - the year my one friend bought everyone she knew a pair of yellow chicken-foot slippers with red toenails was all kinds of awesome - but the ones I find hilarious are the ones that I think I would LOVE to buy for someone but just don't, because they aren't 'practical.' That's my biggest drawback when shopping for gifts - if they aren't practical, I have a hard time buying them. For example:

You know those tacky blankets that you usually see sold in parking lots from a snub-nosed van with naked ladies and a sunset painted on it that could easily double as a means to transport the dead bodies? They're that heavy fuzzy stuff that is dreamy to lie under but has this sort of indelible bow-chicka-bow-wow feeling to them? I'm referring to the ones with designs that include furry wolves, the Dukes of Hazzard flag, Metallica, zebras, and bushels of roses.

So - I saw thee best one EVER. I've walked past it in the mall several times over the past few weeks and WISH I had someone I could give it to who would appreciate it like I do. Imagine, if you will, the original subject: puffy lips that look like she spent quality time seeing what would happen if she used the manual breast pump on her mouth, the chicklet-teeth that look like she should spend less on bleaching and more on getting the vampire fangs filed, the over-applied mascara and eye-liner that has a tarantula-like effect, and whatever is wrong with her underdeveloped blobby nose and plump Cailliou-shaped head. Now imagine, if you will, this caricature of a human being rendered in synthetic fur, using the most offensive shades of pink and yellow known to man. While there are many little girls out there who would innocently squeal with delight to find this cozy blanket under the tree wrapped in gaudy bows with a cheerful tag, "from Santa" I'd frankly start having nightmares. If it was electric and king-sized, I could justify buying at least two. I would go ahead and buy the cuddly Miley Cyrus blanket for my boss, the squash-playing, manly engineer and my sister, the biologist whose min pin has a bigger wardrobe than I do.

The other wish-I-had-someone-to-appreciate-it gift I saw this year while walking through the mall are these vintage-style car photos and reproductions of such classics as the dogs playing poker and the cafe serving up late-night coffees to all the celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean who died tragically young. What someone has done is turn these otherwise boring and useless gifts from the 80s into something wonderfully and horrendously tacky by strategically poking holes out and embedding LED lights all over them. The headlights of the cars, the wall sconces in the cafe, and the ends of dogs' cigars are all lit up, then framed in acrylic and lightweight plastic softbox splendor. Sure, you could opt for the festive outdoor trees scene with the multi-coloured strings of LED lights glowing in festive beauty, but really, wouldn't the poker dogs be a better choice? Again, though, where i falter is that these are not practical to give as gifts, even as lovely decorations. If only they were clocks, too, then I could easily pick out a few for my dear friends to hang with pride over the beer fridge in the garage...

I'm sure you've all seen these kinds of gifts. The kiosks that magically appear in mall hallways during this festive season are a treasure trove of things for the person who has everything... do share... please, do...

youLOVE: on the First Day of Christmas...

Some people celebrate, others don't. I'm not going to get into a debate about the season, but to celebrate the countdown to Christmas I thought I'd start a sharing circle sort of thing for those who DO celebrate. I'm curious what your holiday traditions/oddities are?

On the first day of Christmas my youLOVE gave to me: a festive recount of tradition.

  • Sometime around the middle of November, Bill starts shopping for himself, effectively screwing up any chance I might have getting him a decent Christmas gift.
  • My birthday is on the 21st so the tree goes up after my birthday cake has been eaten.
  • My husband is allergic to real trees and unless we want to buy a new synthetic tree every year, I'm allergic to the dust that builds up on the fake ones. Our 'tree' is actually a green wooden ladder.
  • On Christmas eve we make umpteen bazillion colours of icing, put it into pipers, and decorate the snot out of about a gazillion chocolate shortbread cookies. My little sister usually buries her cookies in so much icing you can't find them on her plate. She's always very proud of herself; we always insist her cookies are too beautiful for us to eat, so she should just go ahead and eat her own.
  • After the kids are in bed, the grown-ups sit around drinking boozy hot chocolate or sparkly cocktails and playing board games.
  • We don't put anything out for Santa.
  • We hold down the fort at our place on Christmas Day. We have far too many people with far too many conflicting schedules, so it's just easiest to open our home to whomever cares to join us. Mostly it's family, but we often end up with a misfit or two in the mix.
  • Christmas morning usually starts at some insane hour of the morning (before 7... ~sigh~) with us sending the kids back into their rooms so we have time to put out the stockings, which were forgotten the night before after the haze of cocktails and (what boardgame did we play?) forced us to crawl into bed at 3am. After we've held them off for 10 minutes, the kids frantically tear through their gifts as children are wont to do while we grown-ups nod off in our chairs.
  • Bill makes pancakes and sausages and sometimes there are fresh warm cinnamon buns, too. And a LOT of oranges.
  • My Mom buys these sinfully delicious pecan caramel thingers from Purdy's each year, which are about 2500 calories EACH, which we end up eating instead of the oranges.
  • As soon as the fury of unwrapping has finished and we're all sufficiently stuffed on oranges, chocolates, and pancakes, we all sneak off to our own corners to nap, curl up with whatever book we got for Christmas, play with new toys, or watch cheesy Christmas movies (Muppet Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story are favourites.)
  • We have an open-door policy on Christmas day - friends and neighbours drop by throughout the day, and everyone is always welcome to stay for a while or the whole day.
  • While everyone is napping, I LOVE cooking dinner. Seriously, LOVE it. I used to make Christmas dinner to be on the table by about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, but have discovered how much I absolutely adore the mood (and added digestion time for pancake breakfast) of eating later, around 7:30-ish, when the lights are all dimmed and the windows are a bit frosted, twinkling lights... sweet!
  • I bust out the bone china and the fancy flatware to serve up a huge turkey with stuffing (spicy sausage, Mandarin orange wedges, lots of rosemary, and sunflower seeds) served up with potatoes, veggies, buns, homemade spiced cranberries, and my infamous parmesan mushroom gravy, which I've caught my husband and brother-in-law eating from the pot with the wooden spoon.
  • Dessert is served MUCH later (if at all) and is often warm brownies with ice cream and chocolate syrup. (Who wants pie when you can have a fresh homemade warm brownie sundae? Pie is for Thanksgiving...)
  • After supper, and when the kids are finally in bed and the relatives have all left, Bill & I usually curl up on the couch and watch a movie or have a game of backgammon before wishing merry christmas to all and to all a good night.
  • Boxing Day, I NEVER go out shopping. NEVER. I'd rather put fiberglass in my undies and scoop the veins from my arm with a plastic spoon. But Bill has convinced me that we need a new tradition of just going to Southgate with a coffee, finding a spot in the middle, and watching the insanity as it swirls around us. As long as I don't actually have to set foot in any shops, I think I could totally get into that tradition.
  • Boxing Day at our house means Turkey Stewp, too. All the leftovers get thrown in a pot with a broth-y version of the aforementioned parmesan mushroom gravy. We rarely have any signs of turkey left by the 27th.
  • Bill usually buys himself something between Boxing Day and New Year's Day which effectively screws up any chance I have of getting him a decent anniversary gift.
  • New Year's Eve is celebrated with friends, either at our house or out and about, depending how many kids we have. This year we're going to try and make it out to the cabin for New Year's festivities - likely a whole lotta hot dogs, tobogganing, hot chocolate, and sparklers.
  • New Year's Day is my and Bill's wedding anniversary. We have tried to sneak off for a quiet dinner together but usually end up spending most of it with the kids. I'm personally hoping it's warm enough to try 4L milk jug curling on the lake...

Post your family traditions on your blog and send me the link, or feel free to comment here!

Dates for 2010 Workshops

While I am still arranging venues, I ought to at least post the confirmed dates for the 2010 workshops: January 10, February 7, March 7, April 11, and May 2. The Relay for Life Team Clickin' Cancer's Butt opportunity is on May 29th, and the optional wedding/lighting workshop is on June 13.

I will send out venue confirmation ASAP, promise!!!

newLOVE: workin' the camera!

While the weather outside was frightful, and I REALLY wanted to pull over and have some meLOVE with the Pentax and the frosted branches, pale icy blue sky, and nebulous fog hanging in the river valley on the way to this session, today marked the official end of the 2009 shooting season for me, and I can't think of a better way to close of a phenomenal year than with some phenomenal pictures of this phenomenally cute baby (and his big brother, the Ham Tart.)

R & J, I'm serious - you make some wonderfully delicious babies! And thank you for having your heat cranked... brrr! (And tell Molson thanks for scenting me up with Other Dog Smell - Art wouldn't stop licking my pants for like 2 hours after I got home! lol)

Baby in the egg basket. I love my job ;)

youLOVE: my calendar girl J.

There is a very small handful of people I can say have known me for most of my life. Growing up I didn't tend to get close to people because I moved around a lot, and it was hard to cement lasting friendships when you knew you would be gone in a few months anyways.

J. is one exception to the pattern. She and I have been through most of the brightest and darkest times of our teenage and adult lives together, and in the three languages I am proficient in speaking, there aren't enough to describe the respect, love, and sisterhood I share with this woman. She's a beautiful friend and a beautiful woman. (She even tolerates Art jumping into her pictures!)

JT, you are a blessing in my life. Thank you, for being you. (And don't kill me for posting the heel-kick picture - it's one of my faves lol)

youLOVE: my calendar girl N.

This is N. N. and I have known each other since we were both pregnant with our first-born children. You wouldn't know it to look at her, but she has 4 daughters between the ages of 4 and 14. It's taken me 15 years to convince her she needs some pictures done of her. No one was happier than I was to see her all gussied up like the hot mama she is.

Despite a lukewarm start, it wasn't long before N. was the same N. I've come to know and love - unquenchably cheerful, optimistic to a fault, bubbly, and completely lovable. And, I finally - after 15 years of pestering her about it - have some pictures of her super sexy legs! Yay me! (Seriously - does she not have incredible legs? Who has legs like that, really... ugh...)

You're beautiful inside and outside, N. You know I love you better than anyone. MUAH!

babyLOVE: making the transition

Yet once again I've reached that last milestone with a Milestones clients that is so bittersweet. - the first birthday. It's so amazing to watch these amazing little people as they grow and change and change from sleepy little lumps with wobbly necks to people capable of walking, chattering, picking-up-and-putting, and all those other amazing things that happen in the first year. Here he is with his older brother; Mom & Dad are moving to Toronto in a few weeks so not only did we say a photo goodbye, but a real goodbye. ~sniff sniff~

Happy birthday, Mr. C. And Mom - I'm serious about that thing. Let's make it happen, hey?

(I had to include this picture of Big Brother B being a guitar maniac - he's so funny!)

youLOVE: my calendar girl M.

There were literally months of planning behind these pictures of the amazing and gorgeous M. Initially she was a bit shy but after a few minutes she was a pro in front of the camera. Not only was she divine to photograph (her eyes are absolutely stunning) and breathtakingly beautiful, this stunning woman is one of the kindest people a person could ever hope to meet.

As promised to M, I am debuting the new 2010 watermark with M's album. It was hard to pick just a few - so many gorgeous shots! - but I also wanted to respect the fact that these pictures were created for her hubby, who was given a preview so he could pick the images he wanted in his book. (Apparently, after practically fainting, he stated emphatically that he has the best and hottest wife EVER. I think he's entitled...)

M - it was an absolute joy to spend the morning with you. While I know your hubby was the recipient, I think your reaction to the pictures was just as amazing. I concur with your Mr. Thank you for allowing me the pleasure.

OK - all you people out there who have the same issue that I do being a canuck but not having access to a canuck photo processing site like Pictage or SmugMug... the answer to our prayers is here! Go sign up. NOW.

pictureLOVE: learn to love the blur

One of the things I teach in the workshops is that blur isn't a 'bad' thing. Having a bit of blur adds texture, movement, and an element that can often be difficult to detect: the person with the camera.

This is the spirit with which I am approaching 2010. After spending the last few years defining the many aspects of my business, I decided that really what I was doing was tearing myself in too many directions and heading down too many paths. I felt divided and it was a challenge to maintain all these many entities, especially when they all originate from one place: the person with the camera. (That's me - WONDERWOMAN.)

many sessions, one product
many services, one website
many messages, one blog

How will this affect what YOU get? Well, for starters, you'll only have to visit ONE easy-to-navigate, straightforward website to get all the information you need about sessions, workshops, mentorships, events - you name it. When setting up your session, there is only ONE fee to consider, and you can shop for the rest later. There will be only ONE blog with search capacities so you can read the blurryblog, or search for individual components.

So far, in the test environment, I am LOVING it. blurLOVE, oneLOVE, simpleLOVE...

coming soon to

meLOVE: bring it. SO excited!

[pho·tog·ra·phi'lan·thro·py]™ (v) 1.) an act to promote human welfare wherein photographers provide affordable or gratis services to service organizations, events, or individuals in need without any focus on self-promotion. 2.) photographic assistance received by service organizations, events, or individuals in need without any requirement to invest in, promote, or endorse the photographer(s). (photographilanthropic – of or pertaining to acts of photographilanthropy and; photographilanthropist – one who provides photographilanthropic services)

While the main website (and new SUPERblog) is under construction, it's hard for me to contain my excitement over this. I thought I'd give everyone a heads-up on what photographilanthropy™ is and is not.

Photographilanthropy™ IS NOT intended to heighten the commercial profile, elevate a goodwill appearance, endorse, condemn, raise funds, increase traffic, blacklist, or extol the virtues of specific organisations, individuals, or events to the extent where the cause itself becomes secondary to intentional self-promotion. It's not about award-winning photojournalism or portraiture or images of endangered wildlife. It's not about winning a contest, being a feature photographer, or getting a mention in the opening credits. Participation will not lead to fame, fortune, or expansion of your portfolio. In short, photographilanthropy™ is not about YOU.

Photographilanthropy IS intended to alert photographers, individuals and families in need, service organisations, and events planners to the provision free or affordable photography services in support of promoting social welfare in the broadest possible sense. It is people in need of giving being connected to people in need of receiving. Photographilanthropy™ is the difference between handing over a giant foam cheque shaking hands with a dignitary so you can get your picture in the paper vs. snapping a picture of an elderly couple holding hands in the park and giving them a print just because, and never telling a soul you did it. In short, photographilanthropy™ is a grassroots movement equivalent to random acts of photography kindness.

image[in] - get in the picture.


I posted that there were some exciting changes coming in January. One of the projects I have been working on is still in its infancy, but I'm TOO excited to wait another month. I figure if I start putting the word out now, when I do an official launch in January there will be even MORE content than if I went it alone. Without further adieu...


I posted that there were some exciting changes coming in January. One of the projects I have been working on is still in its infancy, but I'm TOO excited to wait another month. I figure if I start putting the word out now, when I do an official launch in January there will be even MORE content than if I went it alone. Without further adieu...

meLOVE: Just. Can't. Wait.

I posted that there were some exciting changes coming in January. One of the projects I have been working on is still in its infancy, but I'm TOO excited to wait another month. I figure if I start putting the word out now, when I do an official launch in January there will be even MORE content than if I went it alone. Without further adieu...

can of worms: sponsorship vs. donation

I've been having one of those, "How can I wrap my head around this?" kind of conversations with myself for the last couple of days, and I'm coming up a) short and b) frustrated; mostly b) frustrated. As a person who prides herself on photographilanthropic pursuits, I prefer the anonymity of giving quietly and providing random acts of kindness to beating my chest and saying, "LOOK AT WHAT A GOOD PERSON I AM!" Yeah, you gotta promote your cause and rally your peeps to participate, but there are ways of doing that without turning it something about YOU.

Coming from a marketing and arts administration background and working with the media in a number of capacities in the not-for-profit sector as well as an educational institution, the one thing that I have learned right through to the core is the fact that at the end of the day, everyone has an agenda. While there are individuals who are genuinely nice people (this is where I came ups short) there is very little integrity between their personal beliefs and what the bigwigs in the backroom want to spin (this is where I come up frustrated.) When it comes to people in need of a cause to support, where the media is concerned I've experienced more vultures than philanthropists. They are first and foremost doing it to make sure the company looks good; the fact that your cause is being supported is secondary.

I once shipped off a rant to the organizers of an event who apparently saw small picture instead of big picture, tying themselves to one particular media outlet for an event that should be, for all intents and purposes, non-denominational so-to-speak. I don't think the organizers were aware of the difference between sponsorships and donations, so I wanted to do my part to educate anyone who isn't clear on the fundamental difference.

Sponsorship is where an organization is basically given the exclusive rights to support something. While other media may come out and cover the event itself, the name on the posters will be the name of the company who happened to take ownership and they will be the only ones promoting it beforehand. Now, this in and of itself isn't a bad thing - it can lead to things like cash, free advertising spots, required goods and services like portapotties, snacks, water, etc. At the same time, the downside is that it marries the event to those companies. Sponsorships result in the exchange of goods and services, to the exclusion of all the other companies who provide similar services. As an example, a new library in the children's hospital sponsored by Telus Mobility is highly unlikely to be co-sponsored by Roger's Wireless. If you attend an event sponsored by Starbuck's, you aren't going to see Tim Horton's set up at the next table. When we consider media sponsorship, what you essentially do is make it so that only one media outlet is going to cover your event leading up to it, when it's most important to get the word out. If you are sponsored by rock station A, rock station B isn't going to touch you.

So how do you increase awareness of your event without securing media sponsorship? Enter the Public Service Announcements and Press Releases. Enter the viral internet campaign. Enter the footsoldiers delivering flyers into people's hands. Enter Facebook networks. Enter the phonecalls to the radio stations and the letters to the editors of every newspaper in town. This is how you get coverage without being owned by a corporation who has their own best interests at heart, not your event's. And of course, this is where the remainder of my frustration sets in - because without securing sponsorships, you may not get the turnout for your event or support for your cause that you hoped for. Depending on the season and the reason, your cause may not be deemed 'newsworthy,' wherein newsworthy is understood to mean that when there are only 30 seconds of airtime, it is of sufficient interest that people will want to know about your cause or event more than the car crash on the freeway and some celebrity's new stint in rehab. A sponsorship kind of secures coverage in at least in one place because you're coverage is coming out of the advertising budget, not competing with the news. Nice catch.22, hey?

The other really crappy thing is if you aren't media savvy, you may secure a sponsorship with a media outlet that either partially or completely misses your target market. For example, if you're trying to sell opera tickets, chances are good that the local thrash metal station isn't your best bet. If you are trying to reach youth, putting your ad in the business section of the national newspaper is probably a bad idea. There's a reason why market research is conducted to establish demographics. You know those surveys where they ask your income and which brand of toilet paper is your favourite and how old you are and if you have kids and what TV channel is always on in your house? There's valuable information derived from those surveys. If I want to sell more gum to 25-34 year olds who have kids, market research has the potential of giving me the information I need to target them with an advertising campaign. If they're all buying Brand B of toilet paper, I'm going to hang coupons in the toilet paper aisle, put an advert on Treehouse, and make sure everyone who buys that brand of toilet paper gets a free sample at the cashier. The question then becomes, if you don't have a good understanding of the people you need to market to, how can you ensure that your media sponsorship is a good match? Or what if your demographic falls into two equally important categories of comparable size, and sponsorship in one newspaper will completely and totally miss the other half?

A donation on the other hand is when you give without getting anything of notable or commercial value in exchange. You may receive a tax receipt, some kind of mention in a write-up, or maybe nothing. You stand to gain little if anything of value other than that warm feel-good fuzzy feeling of knowing you did something (gave time, money, supplies, etc.) to ease someone else's hardship. Maybe it's the SPCA, maybe it's your church, maybe it's a fundraising organization like the Canadian Cancer Society or the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Whatever the case may be, you give, and you walk away feeling good. (*I have to make a note here about raffle tickets, too. While I think the raffles are great ideas, they don't count as donations because the person who purchases the ticket is purchasing the ability to gain something of commercial value (cash or prizes.) There is nothing wrong with this - it's just not a donation.)

Speaking from experience, the bigger the company, the more likely they are to want some kind of exclusivity and sponsor recognition. Smaller companies and organizations are happy to settle for a single line in the programme that says, "This evening's dinner generously donated by..." instead of "WE present" on the front cover of the menu, their logo splashed over 10,000 posters, and an 8-foot banner regaling the crowd with the message, "We own this." When it gets down to an individual level, there is usually one person on staff at a major company who decides to take up your cause, who will then have to sell it to their superiors as a valuable alliance that will maintain and increase their corporate profile. When it's a smaller contribution from a smaller organization, it's usually because the individual believes, and more than anything wants that warm fuzzy feeling.

I understand how easy it is to welcome commercial sponsorships (read: something that looks like it's for free - cash, airtime, goods - but isn't) without meaning to, which is why it is SO important for us to be aware of how sponsorships v. donations work. While a huge, established charity event can afford to offer sponsorship exclusivity, it maybe isn't the best route for everyone in need of promotion... especially if the spirit of the event was intended to balk commercialism in favour of altruistic pursuits in the first place.

Such a double-edged sword. ~sigh~

pictureLOVE: photographilanthropy

I've had many conversations with people about my pricing - usually ending in arguments. Help-Portrait is very much in line with my pricing strategy. Being a single parent at one time who could barely afford to get a roll of film developed much less fork over money to have professional portraits done, I have a very deep and personal belief that beautiful pictures need to be accessible to everyone, regardless of race, income, gender, or age. You don't need to be rich or successful or beautiful to pictureLOVE. You just need to LOVE. Some may say that I undervalue my services, but I don't think my clients would agree. I value what I do as much as oxygen, and it's priceless.

I am asking for nominations for 3 families in need. I cannot shoot on December 12th at the Edmonton-wide project, but I can contact the recipients on December 12th and schedule a date that works for them. Please email your nomination to h dot walls at shaw dot ca

I don't need their personal histories - just their email or phone number. Perhaps it's a student, perhaps it's a colleague, perhaps it's a friend, perhaps it's someone who is terminal... pick someone who a) would love professional pictures and b) isn't able at this time to partake of this invaluable service. I will select 3 entries by random draw on December 12th, 2009. If you are a colleague, I urge you to participate as well.

More info.