babyLOVE: hangin' with friends

Serejane went to her little friend E's birthday party sleepover on Saturday night, and when we went to pick her up today, we got to hang out with these two uber-cute kidlets.  Thanks for a wonderful visit, S & P - whenever you need to ditch your kids, you know where to send them, right???

iLOVE: hammy kids

As I was working on pictures for the Week 12 DLS exercises, I had two very willing accomplices in demonstrating how simple choosing a location made for an adventure to unfold, simple by inviting people to be in that location and let their guard down.

Above is my loveseat.  It came with the chaise long.  The wall that it sits along is always beautifully lit.  It's one place in my home that I know, year round, I will have some kind of gorgeous diffused light, with the occasional sunbeam cutting across the floor during late summer and early autumn.

This is a door in a loading bay at a school nearby.  I love the texture on the door, the contrast between the light orange brick and the forest green door.  There's a little ledge right in the doorway that is just big enough for a person to get up on.

This tree is in the greenbelt behind our house.  The crotch of the tree is wonderfully low and thick and sturdy, making it a great spot for climbing and seating.  The tricky part is getting the right angle to avoid having traffic from the busy street behind showing up.  During spring and winter it's not much to look at, but summer and fall it is positively splendid.

Here's what happens when you stick people in places and get them to just play and have fun:

Week 12 DLS exercises: location, location, location!

First we learned some technical skills.  Then we transitioned into some creative skills.  Weeks 12 and 13 are going to prepare you for the Portraiture Workshop on April 11th.  Week 12 marks the last week we're going to be focussing on honing your critical/creative eye before moving towards the 3rd skill set we'll be looking at: people.  Our models are all lined up and ready for you.  We need to make sure you're ready for them!  

Last week you went looking for details within a location, clues that could intimate a deeper and more personal message about the person or persons being photographed.  We're going to pan out from the macro to the wide angle this week to consider instead of the details, the big picture.  Specifically, you're going to start looking at locations with the idea of how a person would look there.  I want you to go scouting for 2 or 3 locations - at least one in your home, one anywhere outdoors, where you could see yourself placing a person to take a picture.

Maybe the lighting is beautiful by that one window, maybe the scenery is gorgeous out your back door, maybe there's a funky frame going on at the corner church, maybe there's a great tree begging for someone to sit in it.  I want you to take 2 or 3 pictures at each location, composing the image in your head as you would with a person in it.  Pay special attention to your composition and lighting.  If you need to use a model, you can.  You may even want to make a game of doing before and after pictures!

I'll post the 'after' pictures with people in them in a few days...

Week 11 DLS exercises: getting warmer now

With spring in the air, it's hard not to feel the urge to get out there and shoot everything that moves.  (Or doesn't.)  Sometimes as photographers we get so wrapped up in the work side of things that we forget to PLAY and honour ourselves.  So this week's dual purpose exercise is specially designed to get you out and about, AND get you geared up for the portraiture workshop.

You've probably heard the term 'lifestyle photography' tossed around a bit.  But what IS lifestyle photography?  Well, it's the new way of saying 'photojournalism' and a hipper way of offering a 'documentary' or the like.  What it is, though, is essentially storytelling through pictures.  Studio portraits offer a plethora of options in terms of controlling the setting, lighting, and space, but the story you tell against a backdrop is, by virtue, created as opposed to discovered.

When you venture out to take pictures on location, however, you ultimately have the leisure of watching people interact with their surroundings.  Depending on the location, you have a non-static environment.  Whether you are in a person's home, at a spot they find particularly beautiful, or a park you've suggested, there is intrinsically a very different dynamic.  They often provide clues to the person's "lifestyle" hence why the term is so popular.

This week, I'm going to prohibit the use of people, and ask you to concentrate on making a picture story about YOU using the places and objects around you to show a bit of who you are.  Are you a scrap booker?  Are you married?  Do you have children?  Pets?  Are you a gardener?  Do you go for a daily walk?  Read the paper every day?  Do you have a favourite coffee shop?  I want you to show 5 pictures that reveal a bit about yourself, your family, and your interests without actually showing a single human being.

Looking forward to seeing what you all come up with!!!!

youLOVE: $5 portrait sessions!!!

Yup, that's right - you read it correctly.  $5 portrait sessions!

On April 11th we are in need of models for the DLS Portraiture workshop.  In exchange for showing up and looking fabulous, you will receive a set of watermarked images to use on social networking sites, your blog, and to email to friends and family, and print orders at actual cost plus $5 handling per order.  I need a variety of newborns, toddlers, grown-ups, girls, boys, preggo mommas, saucy singles, betrothed couples, women, men, teens, tweens, and everything in between...

If you would like to book in for some $5 portraits please send an email letting me know what kind of pictures you are looking for (glamour, family, newborn, you name it!) to h dot walls at shaw dot ca and I will fill you in on all the gory details.  Spaces are limited and I will  be filling spaces on a first-come first-served basis.  Hurry now and don't miss out on this opportunity to help some up and coming talent get their feet wet, and walk away with some great family pictures!!!

A proviso:  please note that the style and quantity of pictures is not guaranteed.  This is intended as a learning experience and while we will make every effort possible to accommodate your wishes, we cannot promise anything except a) a lot of fun and b) free coffee, juice, and cookies.

iLOVE: springtime!!!

Let me introduce you to my friend Helena.  We've been plotting this for a couple of weeks, and decided that the whole concept of her approach to photography is perfectly aligned with spring and everything spring gives rise to: creativity, warmth, renewed energy, and growth.

Helena is both curious and observant as a photographer, giving her a unique ability to see each moment as new and charged with future things to come, and this is reflected in her body of work, whether it's babies, bellies, bugs, or bosom buddies.  It also ties in beautifully with her business concept, which follows the growth of the apple tree, from the seed, to the blossoms, to the fruits, to the deep roots we establish as friends and family.  Not only does this lend a beautiful metaphor to the milestones we reach as individuals and families, but it is also a beautiful illustration of the journey of continuous growth and change each and every one of us takes as a photographer.

Without further adieu, I'm really excited to officially announce the launch of my dear friend and new apprentice's photography business Apple Fresh!  (If you book your session for 2010 in the next 20 days you can get some sweet deals!)

Helena got her first DSLR almost 4 years ago, and has since been on a mission to master the beast.  She took the DLS workshops in 2009 and continues to grow and develop as a photographer.  What I love about Helena is her sincerity - she's a dedicated Mom, loyal friend, and all around terribly sweet and endearing person.  She likes to take care of her own garden (ask her about her vegetables AND her pet ladybug...) and makes a point of living green.  (YAY living green!)  But the BEST thing about Helena is that she's about as unpretentious as they come.  She's so utterly human its impossible not to feel like you've always known her or knew she was supposed to come into your life.  Slap in her mad photography skills, and we have in our midst a force to be reckoned with.

One of the things photographers love doing is seeing how other photographers work.  Unfortunately, when we're actually working, it's difficult to make time and space on the fly.  Often, if I'm approached or asked questions in the middle of a session, I may seem abrupt or disinterested in providing any feedback, but usually it's because I'm on the clock and can't afford to break the connection or lose an opportunity.  As a nice way of circumnavigating this, what I started doing a couple of years ago was partnering photographers starting out in the business with mentors, present company included, to share in empowering one another in this incredible industry.

Both mentors and the apprentices have the opportunity to attend and participate in sessions, ask questions, and give and get feedback in a way that would be difficult to do without some kind of semi-formal arrangement.  This is not a paid opportunity - it is a partnership, because we both become pupil and teacher at points along the journey.  (If you are looking to be or take on an apprentice, contact me at h dot walls at shaw dot ca and I will find you someone to team up with!)

Following in the footsteps of Laura, Tasha, and Heather, Helena will be spending the next year or so tagging along on the occasional session, picking my brain, and reminding me why I love sharing my love of photography with others.  We will be shooting many things together this year, which gives YOU the client the opportunity to a) have two shooters (bonus!) and b) promote the growth of a new and talented photographer.

I'm really excited to see Fresh Apple send out its first shoots (pun entirely intended) and look very forward to sharing Helena as she both blossoms and lays down some deep roots.

P.S. if you REALLY want to make Helena's day, have some Nutella and some spoons by the doorway.... ;)

iLOVE: there are many paths to Kraft Dinner

Today I wanted to share with you a picture story featuring Kraft Dinner.  And my husband.

My husband makes a cheese sauce when he's whipping up KD.  He sets the noodles aside and takes great pains to melt the butter & milk together.

He then adds the powdered cheese and beats the snot out of it so he doesn't get lumps like when you put hot chocolate powder into hot water or hot milk.

(I just took this picture of his sweater because I thought the dangly strings and texture would look wicked in B&W - am I right, or am I right?  The smirk on his face is him mocking me taking pictures of him.  Bah.)

Once there is a nice smooth sauce, he finally adds the noodles and stirs it all together over a low heat.  No, he has not added any special ingredients or used a special tool unless you count my favourite wooden spoon as a special tool.  (I do, but it's my favourite spoon - not relevant here today though...)

While his method looks very impressive and painstaking....

...I swear, my KD that gets drained and put back in the pot still steaming hot, gets a little milk and butter slopped in it, the powdered cheese unceremoniously dumped on top, then the whole shebang stirred up with that same wooden spoon looks and tastes exactly the same.  Must be that magic spoon of mine.  ;)

How do YOU do KD?

iLOVE: looking back

This is me and two little girls, circa lots of years ago.  I was about sixteen-going-on-thirty I guess, which would make Katrina a squirt and Larissa a pipsqueak.  Today, March 16, is Katrina's birthday, and I thought I'd share a little story.  She's the one with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth and the dirt smear on her nose.

Just before my 12th birthday I got my babysitting certificate at the Kinsmen in Sherwood Park.  There was a lady who lived in the apartment downstairs who had the cutest little girl on the planet.  The little girl's name was Katrina and she was three.  Now, it wasn't until I became a parent that I fully understood what it meant to entrust the care of your children to someone else, but Katrina's Mom had faith in me.

For the next year Katrina became my regular charge.  And when I wasn't babysitting her, I would take her to the park anyways.  Back in the days before mandatory helmets and bike seats, I would strap a pillow onto the slanted bar of my bike, hang her legs over the handlebars, and off we'd go.  We'd play in the leaves, I'd push her on the swings, and sometimes we'd stay at the park too long and she'd pee on the way home, sometimes on my pillow.  Other times the pillow would slip off to one side and she'd get a sore butt.  She always came with, every time.  It's what we did, and I was very sad when my sister, my Mom and I moved away.

Luckily for me, Katrina's Mom was nice enough to have a NEW baby for me to play with.  (That would be Larissa, whose birthday isn't until June 9th, so she will have to wait for her story... lol)  When her Mom eventually moved into the city, too, I started babysitting for her again.  

Then things started turning strange in my life.  I turned 13 and Life Was Hard.  I think I've mentioned before how much I hated junior high.  I was probably the most awkward and unhappy person on the planet and how I made it to grade 10 let alone graduation is still a mystery to me.  I kept a handful of friends, but mostly I felt like I didn't quite fit in.  Beyond that, I had a treacherous relationship with my mother, who felt at a loss what to do with me.  She thought I was into drugs and sleeping around.  I was none of those.  I was bulimic, to the point where I would sometimes pass out in class, faint, or just black out for periods of several minutes at a time.  

I can't blame my Mom for being at a loss.  I did a very good job of hiding my disease, which in retrospect probably did look a lot like some kind of drug addiction - I never had any money in spite of all the babysitting I did (spent it on food and laxatives), my voice was always hoarse (puking 5 or 10 times a day will do that to you), I was sneaky and hiding things in my room (empty bags of cookies and ice cream cartons not baggies of dope and rolling papers), and I suspiciously lost a lot of weight (that was kind of the point...)  I developed weird habits, too, like taking extra-long showers (needed the noise to drown out the sound of puking) and an OCD-like obsession with brushing my teeth (didn't want my teeth to get eaten away by all that stomach acid.)  Yeah, glamourous, I know...

When my Mom called up Katrina's Mom asking if she had some babysitting for me so I wouldn't be hanging out with my bad friends, instead she offered me my first real job.  She had faith in me that I would do a good job.  So I began working in a telemarketing office doing manual database updates for the address files.  It wasn't the most interesting work, but it did keep me busy, and made me enough money that I saved up enough for a damage deposit and first month's rent in a few weeks, and promptly moved out of my mother's house.  I was 15.

Now, while most of my friends actually were partying and sleeping around and trying drugs, I was working my butt off.  When things weren't working out with my roomie, Katrina's Mom took me in.  I lived in her basement, paying room and board and nannying the girls.  In spite of it all, Katrina's Mom STILL had faith in me.  She trusted me to work for her, to go to school and get good grades, and be responsible with her children.  And I did.  I worked HARD, and a lot of it was borne from the idea that there were two little girls living in the house and I needed to be a Positive Role Model.  I worked, I went to school I worked, I went to school, I worked... that was my life as a teenager.

Whether Katrina and Larissa and her Mom know it, they saved my life in more ways than one.  They allowed me to be who I was (to this day the girls think I'm weird and it's just a Hopey thing) and trusted that when it came time to step up to the plate, I would always be there.  It was a struggle to make it through - there were many times I wanted to just give up.  I was a teenager who was trying to make rent, while the rest of my friends were trying to be cool.  On the cusp of making some pretty monumental mistakes, I always had a homing signal.  I loved those two little girls like they were my own flesh and blood.  They always made me feel like I was cool, even if it was just because I'd microwave half a brick of cheddar to eat with Melba toast or build an entire snow train pulled by a snow dinosaur instead of a dorky little snowman.  They had the Coolest Teenager On The Block living with them.  It was way easier to handle the social pressure of hanging out with little kids than my peers, so it was all good.  My mission was simply to never do anything they couldn't or shouldn't or wouldn't forgive me for.

Now that I have children of my own, I believe in conducting myself the same way.  I try and say and do things my children won't be ashamed of.  I live my life to the best of my abilities in a manner that shows through example how to gain self-worth and respect through hard work and to value the simple things.  Like a three year old who wants nothing more than to come to the park with you, even if it means she gets a sore butt and pees her pants.

As I've grown older, I've come to know that you don't always pick your family.  Sometimes they pick you.  When we reconnected through that wonderful awful place called Facebook many many years later, Katrina and I hadn't lost any space, only a bit of time.  She's all grown up now, married, two kids... and at least as weird as I was ;) for sure.  And, if I had to do it all over again, Katrina would still be part of my family.

Happy one-year-closer-to-thirtieth birthday, my little Treen Bean.

Can of Worms: I like Scrabble

I recently had a colleague share that someone had disclosed to her what she felt was a seriously dirty little secret about photography. But before I share it with you, let's talk about the advertising industry. (I promise this post is about Scrabble. Bear with me.)

When you watch a commercial for McDonald's you are not shown an overweight disheveled Mom with three screaming kids in tow still wanting to play on the urine-streaked slide. When you see a magazine ad for men's cologne you are not shown a short middle-aged man with a receding hairline and skin that is fish-belly white. When you find an internet dating site, you do not see sample profiles of pizza-fed gamers sporting mullets and underweight girls with thick glasses and overbites so big they could pick apples through a picket fence. In fact, you don't even see average folks with average figures and average lives being used to promote much of anything. This is because the fantasy is what sells. Right or wrong, it is what it is.

For decades our society has been successfully brainwashed into setting an unobtainable bar for the average person. By keeping this fantasy of experiencing the elite world of beauty, youth, wealth, sex appeal, and happiness alive, companies perpetuate business for their products and services. If we always feel a little bit inadequate, there's always something we're willing to buy to feel a little less inadequate, or at least make us feel that what we are buying isn't going to make us more inadequate. Honesty has never been the best policy for advertising, and integrity is something they often can't afford to have without cutting into their profit margin. They need to keep selling a dream, right? They need you to believe that hot skinny chicks eat at McDonald's, that cologne will make you as appealing as that burly tall muscular athlete, and that every person who is single happens to be drop-dead gorgeous and simply hasn't found Mr. or Mrs. right yet.

Knowing this, should it be surprising to discover that there are photographers who screen "ugly" clients, or at the very least accept their money but conveniently fail to blog or otherwise acknowledge them? Well, the dirty little secret is, this is a fairly common practice. There is a marketing theory that by limiting your blog photos to the 'pretty' people you will therefore attract more pretty people, and keep your blog looking pretty. The other part of that theory is if you feature average or fat or ugly people, you will attract a clientele that consists of average or fat or ugly people.

Of course on some level this flies in the face of everything common sense and human decency should tell us. Of course it should. But all those millions of dollars the advertising industry spends on market research reinforces that we as a society are repelled if not reviled by anything that falls outside the parameters we've set for ourselves. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why tropical resorts don't use obese women in bikinis and shriveled old men with hairy backs standing in the rain eating fistfuls of cake at 24-hour buffet while scratching mosquito bites and peeling sheets of sunburnt skin off each other as the hotel maid scrubs toilets for 10 dollars a day in their ads. That would be too harsh a dose of reality for most of us to stomach.

My favourite part of my colleague expressing surprise at this was the fact she does not perceive the world in those terms and this is reflected in her work. When you don't buy in to that philosophy, it makes it very easy to ignore it. It doesn't make it any less controversial, especially when a photographer who wants the pretty clients is someone whose work you genuinely admire or enjoy. For whatever it's worth, I personally know some people who enjoy or even place a lot of value on some really superficial things, who actually happen to be very nice people. Some of them are even very close friends of mine - I laugh at their fancy clothes and they laugh at my Zellers couture. Whatever - after all, variety is the spice of life, right? But I don't tend to attract that clientele because I don't think to showcase their Louboutins and actually advise against bringing kids to me wearing the equivalent of an advertisement for some hip baby store. If that was my target market, then my blog and website would (fittingly) show my best pictures of people in their Louboutins and baby pictures that looked like billboards for baby clothing.

The nice thing is this: there are so many photographers out there that you really do have your pick of the crop. If you fancy yourself to be fashionable, attractive and slim and want someone who specializes in showcasing that as well as perfecting your skin and figure in post-processing, then you will need to hunt for the a photographer who works that way. If you happen to be not your typical cover model, chances are good you are going to look for someone who has some examples on their website or blog of work that exhibits their ability to make even the most ordinary person look extraordinary. A skilled and talented photographer translates their ability to interpret and capture the beauty they see regardless of size, age, weight, colour, or gender, and at some point we divide into very different camps, mostly because of what we LIKE to shoot.

I believe in grow old gracefully, embrace the wrinkles and rolls and grey hair you've earned, don't sweat the small stuff. This is part and parcel of why the photographer is in every picture. Read: I'm not going remove your wrinkles or the skinflakes on your baby. But I also I believe that having integrity as a photographer encompasses being honest and unapologetic about your shooting preferences and your own value system. Therefore, if you prefer photographing people who are hip and trendy and stylishly dressed, knock yourself out. Implying by omission is dishonest - state it. Your people will find you, I promise. I take pictures because I like taking pictures, and I especially like taking pictures of people. If you're human, you fascinate me and I want to shoot you. This kind of makes me a whore when it comes to clients, and is part of the reason I think some photographers perceive me as a threat. But honestly, I'm not. I assure you that generally speaking the clientele wanting to look like GQ or Vogue or Gap Ads is NOT attracted to my work, my style, or my pricing.

While it's easy to get up on a moral high horse, if you come in contact with a person who only shoots the pretty people, it is unfair to judge them any more than you would judge someone who prefers to shoot babies or landscapes or puppies or bugs. And it's safe to assume that a person who wants to be one of the pretty people blogged will find a photographer whose body of work reflects this. When you reduce it to the point of your job as a photographer being able to connect with your client and produce images they are going to love and cherish because you are passionate about it, it makes perfect sense. Logically, you wouldn't hire an architectural photographer to take pictures of your newborn, right?

But what does this have to do with Scrabble you ask? Well, I love Scrabble. It's my all-time favourite board game. Some of my friends hate it, others prefer cribbage, and some don't play board games at all. It doesn't exclude me from playing the occasional round of rummy if it suits my fancy, or having a backgammon freak join me for a round of wordy. I'm pretty adaptable. I don't cut people out of my circle because they don't love Scrabble. That would be silly, wouldn't it?

So the moral of this story is, as always, how about we all get busy doing a little shut up and shoot...

P.S. I love Scrabble and if you start a match with me on Facebook, GAME ON.

Week 10 DLS exercises: in someone else's shoes

Moving right along, we're going to push the envelope this week. As of last weeks' exercise you took a leap into looking at pictures from a different perspective, one that was kinda cold and unfeeling. This week is about the OTHER side of that, which is identifying in pictures what you DO and DO NOT like. It is about identifying how those elements lend to the effectiveness of the image to convey a message. When you are able to recognize in your own and other people's images what your aesthetic preference is, you can begin understanding your own style.

Unfortunately, you do not really pick your own style. It kind of comes out all by itself. It's been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not everyone can pull off a certain look. If you consider the world of fashion, while you may really admire the way Lady Gaga or a certain skateboarder looks, even if you purchase the exact same clothing and get the same haircut or even take it a step further and invest in plastic surgery to get a new nose, you are still going to essentially look like YOU.

Ansel Adams is credited with pointing out that there are always 2 people in every picture - the viewer and the photographer. The way you hold your camera, the way you interact with or approach your subject, the way you compose an image, the type of lighting you prefer, the lenses you favour, and the way you tweak or transform it in Photoshop all form a part of your overall style. Like developing wrinkles or getting a paint stain on your favourite jeans, over time your body of work may change drastically as you acquire new skills and equipment, but the common thread will always be something that is like an invisible signature.

Part of developing your own style is trying on different ones until you find one that fits, that you feel both confident and at ease with, and are able to do with seemingly little to no effort. Exploring other photography styles is a natural part of development and it's normal to try and shoot like those you admire. With your armoury of vocabulary and ability to look objectively at images, you should be able to identify elements of other photographers' work and recreate similar images. What kind of lighting was used? Are they prone to shallow depth of field? Is there a vignette or a colour wash they frequently employ? Do they use a lot of Photoshop? (Hint - pretty much all images look the same straight out of camera (SOOC) so if they look too perfect, they probably are.) Consider carefully how each of these elements contributes to whatever it is you have identified about the picture.
This week you will be asked to create an image by first finding one you like and identifying in writing the elements you will be incorporating into your own image. Please provide a link to the image from which you are drawing inspiration or get permission from the artists to use it on your own blog.

Below is the detailed description of me taking a walk in the shoes of Brandy Anderson of Fresh Sugar in Calgary, AB, by doing my own take on her 2010 WPPI award winning image in the category of "Fresh Faces." She also shared some of the mistakes she made as a new photographer on her and Danna Bowes's Two Photogs blog, which is well worth a read. The image I used for inspiration is here. Please view it before reading the technical critique. Brandy was kind enough to let me use the image here:

The image is backlit through panes of glass. We know it's a bus because we can see enough to identify it, and the child's face is clearly visible only where she casts her own shadow. You can tell it is either early in the day or later in the evening/afternoon because of the angle at which the light cuts through the bus. We can assume it is the morning because in autumn a child would not be coming home late enough to be in the sunset. We can also assume it is the child's first day of school as parents tend to make a point of photographing that and not just some random day like the third Tuesday in November of 4th grade. There is enough of the schoolbus included to frame the child and imply the context of heading off to school without overpowering the image. The use of subdued colour and addition of more texture (I'm pretty sure the bus window was smeary before she started lol) in Photoshop lends to the feeling of ambiguity, heightening the the underlying apprehension mirrored by both the child's and the photographer's feelings about the first day of school. It doesn't matter if the photographer was conscious of how profound the image would be. Whether these were conscious decisions or simply instinctual during post-processing does not alter the impact of this image.

This a novel way to present the first day of school to an audience. We are traditionally shown cheerful colourful happy pictures that attempt to reflect what we perceive as the ideal experience for ourselves and our children, but is not the case for every child, and certainly not for most parents who indeed feel a bittersweet mixture of trepidation and pride as they close the door on one chapter and open the next when they send their children off into the public arena of school. In a word, brilliant. This is the essence of her pictures, her style - something indelible in the way she presents what she sees through her lens that clearly illustrates to the viewer how the photographer is always present in their photographs.

While I have a kindergarten-aged child, this feeling of ambiguity is oddly enough most accurately reflected in my oldest son, who has survived elementary and junior high and is on the cusp of entering the adult world. He went to his first live band performance alone last night - this is a whole other ballgame. Or is it?

Recreating the setting and the lighting was the easy part - my son is too old for school busses. He uses the public bus system, and bus shelters are conveniently a) located nearby and b) made of several panes of glass. My son isn't awake early enough in the day on weekends to do this by morning light, so we used afternoon light instead. This was one of the first shots I took. While I easily succeeded in making the setting work for me, the first images were too much like a portrait. He was posing, sticking his tongue out and putting on a show. I needed him to relax.

The second attempt didn't really capture his personality well either, but I did notice the delicious lens flare I was getting and decided to go for a third attempt.

In the image below, by lowering my perspective not only did I get my nice lens flare, but I was able to really capitalize on his edgy look and personality, mostly because by this point he was growing impatient with me, wondering how much longer he was going to have to stand in a bus shelter freezing his butt off (he's wearing pyjama pants and no shirt along with that filthy hoodie) before we could go home and he could have the two extra cookies (I put them in the oven seconds before we walked outside) I had promised him for humouring me.

Once I knew I had my image, I went into photoshop to grab the following textures, which were blended as soft-light layers and adjusted to about 75% opacity. If you need some help working with textures, this is a great link. This first texture is a freebie I downloaded from a freebie site.

Tidbit of interesting information - adding textures used to be accomplished in the days of film by doing a double exposure (taking two pictures on the same frame) and in the darkroom by a technique called 'sandwiching negatives' where a second negative was sub- or super-imposed either at the same time or consecutively as the original image. The first colour photographs were actually shot using three separate film strips, making sandwiching negatives necessary to view the final image. If you have ever seen a Selphy printer at work which lays down the colours in multiple consecutive passes you'll totally get it.

The texture above is a shot of concrete with light coming in through one of our garage windows. I chose this as the finishing touch because not only did it have a nice grain to it, the shadow in the picture is off a bike wheel. When you remember the photographer is in every picture, if you know I am a bicycle commuter, this becomes entirely relevant.

The final image is below. While you can clearly identify many similar technical elements, it is obviously not the same as Brandy's. Mine smells like teen spirit.

Now it's your turn. Go show me what you got!

iLOVE: selfish springtime strolls on sunny Sundays

One of my tasks for today was to GET OUT FOR A WALK. Between work, studying, teaching, and everything else, it felt like I hadn't had much of an opportunity to take some time to enjoy the warmth and sunshine myself. Today I fixed that. Bill & I packed a picnic and took the girls and the dog for a little wander around Millcreek Ravine. As always, the story is in the comments in the album. Enjoy!

newLOVE: the baby made me work

This is one of those families that I habitually have an impossible time picking *just a few images* from the session. Frankly, I could hang out all day being entertained by the boys, chatting with Mom & Dad, and admiring their gorgeous puppy Molson, who sits ever so patiently waiting outside while I get my work done.

It's been almost 3 years since I started taking pictures for this photogenic bunch, but Little Mr. C. who was on like a million watt bulb for his 3 month session decided he was going to make me work for it this time. He had an impeccable sense of timing - the millisecond I got my shutter halfway compressed, he'd drop the smile he'd been wearing and gaze at me with his big blue eyes like he was all business. Stinker. Big Brother L. on the other hand was as hammy as ever, showing off his big brown eyes, his infectious smile AND his mad potty skills - way to go, little man!

Thank you for letting me stop by and hang out, Mom. You have some yummy boys there and I look forward to seeing you again in summer for OUTDOOR PICTURES... YAY!!!!

iLOVE: this guy...

Shut. My. Mouth.

tubeLOVE: 32 songs in 8 minutes

WARNING: comes with a few f-bombs but SOOOOO worth the watch...

This guy I my new guitar hero. A shout out to my splendid pink-pantsed son for finding this :)

Week 9 DLS exercises: stylin'

Congratulations! As of today you are experts in deconstructing images. You know what the Law of Reciprocity is, you know several elements you can use to add interest to your composition, you know what grain, DOF, and backlit look like. With this vocabulary and your technical knowledge, you are going to be asked to take your photography to the next level, which involves recognizing the elements in pictures which you LIKE or DISLIKE so that you can begin incorporating them into your shooting. This is the first step in developing your own style, which will be the focus of the next several weeks of exercises.

Below are several pictures. Click on them to view them slightly larger. Where is the light coming from? What kind of textures are present? Symmetry, balance, colour? Using the terminology you now have, I would like each of you to choose one image and write a technical critique of it. This is my written permission for you to copy the watermarked images and post it AS IS on your own blog and break it on down; we will be using them for next week's exercises, too. Remember this isn't about hurting feelings, it's being a detective to see HOW an image was created so you can either recreate the effect, or avoid it.

After, I want you to create a similar image, incorporating your own ideas (subjective-based likes and dislikes) and using your mad (technical objective-based) skills to set up your shot in terms of composition, lighting, etc. Clues to how you will approach making your image one you LIKE (subjective) will be based on your objective analysis. Things like, "I would have done ~this~ differently," or, "I think this is an effective use of DOF" will provide you with your guidelines.


This image above incorporates shallow DOF (objective). There is symmetry (objective) with the oranges, the chairs in the background, and the shadows/reflections (objective) on the table. The colours are muted (objective) and the lighting allows all the texture (objective) on the surface of the orange to be seen. I do not particularly like (subjective) this image as it isn't very interesting.

The image below also shows symmetry and illustrates the texture (objective) of the orange, but the DOF is either too shallow (objective), the focal point was inaccurately selected (objective) or the image was taken inside the minimal focussing distance (objective) as the tops of the oranges are blurred with the focal plane (objective) landing somewhere about halfway down the orange. While the first image is technically a better picture as is because the lighting, DOF, and other elements are more masterful (objective), I prefer the image below (subjective) as I find the blackness of the chairs detract so much from the image above by competing with the oranges, which was eliminated by changing my perspective (objective) in the image below.

If I were to attempt the image below again, I would still use a shallow DOF, but would ensure the tops of the oranges were in crisp focus. I would also have considered moving the oranges to a position where the shadows on the table were as symmetrical as the oranges themselves, and made sure the cropping was even on both sides.

Now that I have given you an example, it's YOUR turn!!!

If you want to start challenging yourself in Photoshop/Elements/Picasa, below are two examples of before and after pictures. This is your written permission to copy these images for the purpose of working on exercises.

The image below illustrates colour correction for combination flourescent/tungsten lighting at a swimming pool. Do the same using either Picasa or PS/Elements

The image below will help you practice making B&W conversions. Make your converted B&W image have good tonal range, preserving all the details in the petals of the flower and creating deep shadows and crisp highlights.

Have a great week, all!!!