Week 4 Exercise: FAS[T]

The "T" in FAST is for Time, which refers to the amount of Time your shutter remains open. This is commonly known as Shutter Speed (SS). There are some really fun things you can do with shutter speeds, which we will be playing with after next weekend's workshop, but for this week we'll keep it pretty simple and straightforward. And super fun. You get to play in the snow AND shoot moving objects this week - how fun is THAT?

Cameras in M, manual focus again, and you will need to use a tripod or surface area with your 2 second delay for some parts of this exercise.  No need for daylight, though you may want to try this one both during the day with natural light and in the evening with available light just for fun, though I suggest that an evening indoors will illustrate results better.

Pick a nice spot indoors to place your camera so that you (or your husband or your children or your dogs) are able to walk in front of it. (Please, no throwing cats through the frame, though stuffed animals are fair game.) Put your camera to f11.0, ISO 200. Guesstimate what your shutter speed needs to be at to get a clear picture of whatever room you're shooting in - how close were you? Once you have an exposure you are satisfied with, use the 2-second delay and get someone to walk through the frame while it's shooting. You should have a rather ghostly-looking picture, no?

BONUS ... requires an accomplice... Pick your camera up (still set to f11.0, ISO200 but turn off the 2-second delay) and while your subject walks through the frame try following them with the camera in a nice smooth motion. (We'll be doing this technique called 'panning' in the workshops anyways, but if you're bored or just having fun, go for it!)

See you all next Sunday!!!

2011 Week 3 DLS exercise: FA(sensitivity)T

My bad - I thought I had posted this, but I didn't!  Sorry to pack on the homework late - "T" will be coming out on Saturday... and I promise I'll get examples of last week's and this exercise up as well.  What else would I do on a Saturday afternoon?!

Anyhow.  Now that we've covered the F(ocus) and A(perture), we're going to try our hand at playing with our ISO [S]ensitivity. This one is super simple, and you get to play with your 2-second delay timer, to boot! Yay!  You do not need nice daylight for this exercise - you can set up next to any light source you like.

Set your camera on a counter surface, and make a mark so you know where to set your camera down for each shot. Next, pick a single object to photograph - might be an apple, a doll's face, a set of keys - whatever you like. Get fancy or keep it simple - the choice is yours - and focus your image so you know you are not inside your minimum focusing distance. Once you have your camera focused and your spot marked, you will need to pick your camera up and set it on the 2-second timer. (If your camera only has a 10-second timer, it's just going to take you a bit longer to do this exercise...) Next, set your aperture to f4.0 and your ISO to 3200.

From doing Week 2, this is a good opportunity for you to take an educated guess at what your shutter speed will need to be. When you have your shutter speed guesstimated, fire a test shot and see what your exposure looks like. If you think you got it, great - you can move on to doing a shot at ISO 1600, 800, 400, and then 200. If not, try again until you get an exposure you think you like. You will have to adjust your shutter speed each time to get an exposure you are happy with - listen to and take note of your shutter speed (good practice for next week.) Do you understand why I suggested using the 2-second timer?

Once you have completed a set of 5 images (one at each ISO) that you think have the same/similar exposure, using either your camera or your computer scroll in and examine the difference in the texture and/or clarity of the image. What do you see? Do you like or dislike the effect? Do you notice it more or less in the bokeh?  If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you may consider shooting some at f8.0 and 11.0 or converting some to B&W - does that change how you feel about the texture? And if you're feeling curious you may consider making actual 4x6 prints at WalMart or someplace else inexpensive just to see what the printed images look like - it's $1 that's well worth spending. (Feel free to bring yours in to class to share on February 6th!) Be sure and post your pics to your blog and send me the link so I can see them!!!

Happy shootin'!

myLOVE: Serejane makin' brownies in I'm Sew Cute

As some of you know, I'm a sucker for hand made clothes and costumes, which means that in all my abundance of spare time I like to dabble in sewing.  But, since my spare time gets less and less abundant these days, I'm happy supporting other local home based businesses, and one that makes adorable stuff is great, and is even better when the people sewing happen to be folks I know!

It gives me great pleasure to help introduce Stacey & Carol, a mother-and-daughter-in-law duo who have started their own very appropriately named Etsy Boutique, "I'm Sew Cute."  Featuring sweet and unique booties, receiving blankets, burp pads, plush cuddle blankies, and kids' play apron/mitts with plans to expand their line in the coming months, their line stands apart from the rest because frankly, they are SUPER stylish!  They've travelled as far and wide as New York hand-picking cool and unusual fabrics for parents who wants their kids to stand apart from the rest.

(By the way, if you're a bride-to-be, planning a special party, or just want some help with developing your corporate identity, I'm Sew Cute's adorable logo and business cards were designed by Shara of .i do. invitations.  Shara is a master at creating beautifully themed, elegant place cards, thank you notes, and much much more.  She has impeccable taste and is the stickiest stickler for perfection I know, in the best possible way - check out the details from her own wedding this past fall which was so wicked it got featured on weddingobsession.com)

Please take a minute to check out Stacey & Carol's Etsy shop, become a Facebook groupie to upload fan pics of your little ones wearing these fabu goodies, and get some amazing stuff while supporting local businesses.  (Pssst - photography peeps - how awesome would a set of the apron and oven mitts look in your photos? Check out Serejane in her new duds/my new props...)

The brownies were awesome, by the way.  And no, there aren't any left ;)  Here's the recipe in case you want to make your own:

Brownie Sundaes a la Walls

Preheat oven to 350F. Mixing well after each adddition, stir together in a bowl:

1 cup white sugar
6 heaping tsp cocoa
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour

n.b. this recipe doesn't require baking soda. That's why it's not listed in the ingredients. I didn't forget. Just trust me.

Spread batter into 9" square pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until edges are crispy-crunchy and a fork comes out clean from the centre. While it's still piping hot, put a brownie into the bottom of a bowl and cover with a scoop of vanilla ice cream the drizzle the whole sh'bang with chocolate syrup or fudge sauce. You can add other crap to make your sundaes more decorative (like nuts or whipping cream or sprinkles) but really, THESE brownies with ice cream and chocolate sauce are all you need. P. S. If eaten on a long weekend, these brownies have no calories*. P.S.S. You can make and cool these brownies for eating anytime - even without the ice cream and sauce they are to die for. If packed in your childrens' lunches, they will get better grades** and love you more***.

*not based on a scientific understanding of calories
**if you use extortion: "You better study or no brownies in your lunch tomorrow!"
***based on personal expereince, there are increased hugs, compliments, and PDAs

Best wishes to Stacey & Carol on their exciting new venture!  Be sure and tell them who sent you!!!



nowLOVE: feeling a little voyeuristic...

I have the good fortune of being able to say that most of my clients come to me on referral.  Generally speaking, I don't advertise, and meet most of my clients via word of mouth or because they met me at someone else's wedding or whatever, and so when someone stumbles upon my site randomly and chooses to contact me, there's a courting period.  According to D, who found me via Google and pored over my entire website with religious fervour, I had her at, "I love shoes..." but I made them go home and sleep on it after we met and went over plans for their wedding... and have since discovered it's entirely possible we were twins separated at birth.  This of course means that her fiance was a shoe-in on my "approved" list.

After exchanging witty barbs, love stories, and shoe fantasies (and something about bee allergies, needle phobias, and the use of rocks as a take-down method) we decided we ought to go ahead and make a real picture date.

R&D have a great story about how they met, how their families meshed, and how they spend their time, which involves a lot of time at Chapters.  The pictures above were clearly staged, but after that it was kind of like being a voyeur.  The picture below is about as authentic as it gets for these two - stocked up on books, chillin' by the fireplace, and reading interesting, funny, or juicy excerpts to each other.  

It was at the point that I started feeling like a 3rd wheel that the two of them got serious about their usual business of holding hands, goofing around, and looking at each other with goo goo eyes.  R stares lovingly at D while she stands there holding her nose up in a piggy face saying triumphantly, "He doesn't even pretend he doesn't know me when we're in public!"

Below, I see a book title that seems like a good prop, open it up, and hand it to them without looking.  The expressions on their faces are COMPLETELY unrehearsed - much to my embarrassment what I have unwittingly handed them is a fully illustrated pictorial guide to...  ahem... sorry guys...

(So sorry guys... apparently, you're OK with how making out works... lol)

After a little stroll down Whyte Ave to get in their car, I hop in the back seat and sit on the hump in the middle to prevent (or at least minimize) the likelihood of my puking in the car, which opens a whole conversation about car sickness and weak stomachs, and it's re-affirmed that yes, D & I are indeed twins separated at birth.

R&D both went to Grant MacEwan at different times for the same program (they met at work) and so they wanted to go hit the area around the old haunt before calling it a day.  As they take off jaywalking, holding hands, I again feel like I'm not really a part of the equation, just some creepy perverted chick chasing people around with a camera in the downtown area...

Aside of giving them ideas where to stand or which way to turn, they pretty much did the rest on their own - making out, joking around, cracking jokes, and being all in love and stuff.

And, well - OK, so my instinct is to crack a smart-ass remark about how dirty I felt watching these two together in a dark doorway, but really, I would feel bad cheapening the moment because honestly, how tight and seamlessly these two fit together - it's a beautiful thang.

For all the good humour and cheer, there's absolutely nothing funny or silly about this couple.  They are so in love it's contagious - I fell in love with my husband all over again, watching these two be in love with each other.  Doesn't that picture right above just make you want to go and squeeze your spouse? ~swoon~

So, despite the fun and games, it's pretty safe to say that I think these two make a rock solid duo.

R, you DEFINITELY get brownie points for the hearts in the ring setting...

We finished off with double heel pop...

Some killer pumps I'd steal if D's feet were the same size as mine... dammit...

And some wicked late Sunday afternoon fisheyed sunflare from my perch in the middle of the back seat where I got ignored by the hand-holding lovebirds all the way back to where my car was parked.

R&D, thanks for letting me visit your little planet.  I'm SO very excited about your wedding now, and it's not even just because I *know* there will be cool shoes involved (I think there are even some open-toed ones for you, R...)  See you in April!!!

nowLOVE: Chemistry 101, a Love Story

So, let's be honest here.  Most of us, we are just ordinary folks.  Plain old regular people who get up every day, going to work, getting a coffee, going about our business not really noticing the rest of the world all that much...  Of course, this is a two-way street - while we're busy not noticing other people, they're busy not noticing us.  Then one day, we notice someone, who notices us, and suddenly, the whole world isn't quite as ordinary.  Some chemistry happens and the unimportant thing, like the cup handles being lined up to relative north and the irritating guy at the office who always takes the last cup of coffee and never makes a new pot don't really matter so much, while our happiness makes common things like a new email or phone message or going to West Edmonton Mall special.  When people fall in love, not only do they see their soulmate as amazing, but they become amazing in their loved ones eyes.

Meet M&L.  Two pretty ordinary, average folks, who have stumbled upon one another and have some serious chemistry.  My favourite part about hanging out with them is how the world around them is like a giant playground, laid out before them for the taking.  They bring out in one another the playfulness and joy that we seem to lose when we grow up and stop seeing the world with a sense of wonder.  When they look at each other, the rest of the world recedes, and you just see two plain old regular people who together, are extraordinary, and extraordinarily in love.  

Thanks for re-introducing me to West Ed, M&L.  Looking forward to seeing you make it all official-like in March!!!

bellyLOVE: three is the new two...

I first met this gorgeous Momma when her oldest was just 3 months old.  Since then, I've met up with her for many sessions, including maternity and first year pics of Baby No. 2, and at our last session she told me they were working on #3, citing that "...three is the new two, Hope..."  So, fast forward, and guess what?  Baby No. 3 is due anytime now!  Despite being extremely curious about the sex of the baby, C& her hubby decided to leave it as a surprise this time, too.  I wonder if it's going to be 3 girlies, or a very spoiled baby brother?  Guess we'll see pretty soon - she's already at 38+ weeks.  I'm glad we could make a session work for you, C.  M&M are more beautiful every time I see them, and I'm excited to meet the new 2....

P. S. Tell W that he's not getting out of anything when I come to do the newborn session ;) lol

iLOVE: a warm snowy day :)

A couple of months ago, I noticed some scratches on my beloved 50mm f1.4 and after dragging my heels on replacing it because the scratches hadn't interfered with any images yet, they finally interfered and I was forced to replace it. I found one for a killer deal on eBay and of course, when the camera and one lens comes out, it's all downhill from there... PICTURE PLAY DAY!

Serejane missed out on a birthday party a few weeks ago because of the scary roads, and so we made a playdate today instead with the birthday girl and another guest who had missed out.  I'm all about easy: rainbow cake-mix cupcakes, chocolate icing, and enough sprinkles to induce diabetic comas is always a surefire recipe for a fun afternoon...

(My teeth hurt just looking at the girls' cupcakes... I made some less "festive" ones for the rest of us with the leftovers...)

With the insane snowfall this January, and with the recently warmer temperatures, while most people fought getting stuck in the brown-sugary side roads, we thought we'd be smart and get the snow off the house and the garage - we haven't had any leaks in 8 years, and I didn't want to flirt with the possibility.)  Generally, my eldest son is still sleeping at 2 in the afternoon on weekends, but for whatever reason he got excited about being "allowed" (snicker snicker) to go up on the garage and help out with the shovelling.

For Christmas 2 years ago I asked for a specific lens: 200mm f2.8 prime.  I call it my spy lens and I feel creepy but oh-so-cool slapping this puppy on my camera.  For the photography geeks out there, one of the reasons I absolutely LOVE this particular lens is because of this:

(Click on it to see it a little bigger... Isn't that some of the coolest Bokeh you're EVER seen?!?!?!  LOVE my lens!!!)

Bill was on the house, Wil did half the garage...

I did the other half (and took care of the aftermath in the alley so we wouldn't be one of those people who you curse at for piling the snow up in the alley...)

 And Bill did the house by himself.  On the south side of the house, the wind had blown the snow into a giant drift that was 4 feet high in some places.  Insane.

After mountains of snow were shovelled off...

The reward:

Happy Saturday, everyone!


Hopeypoop <3

2011 Week 2 DLS Exercise: Depth of Field

After spending the last 3 days laid up with some kind of mutant virus that rendered me an incoherent slurring lump, it's good to be back in the saddle and feeling like I am human again.  Yay!!!  And of course the first thing I thought of was torturing you with the second set of exercises for this week.  Yay some more!!!

This is essentially the exact same exercise as the Focus exercise, only we're going to explore Depth of Field or "DOF" as it's commonly referred to. This is the "A" in FAST, being of course your "aperture" which in addition to adjusting the amount of light that comes into the camera the same as your pupil, will affect how DEEP your focus is. So, here's how this works.

Your challenge this week is to create images that demonstrate a variation on your Depth of Field. Once again I'm going to ask you to set your camera to M(anual) F(ocus), in M(anual) mode. Select 5 similar or same objects and set them in a row along a flat surface. Make sure you pick someplace that has good natural light. You may want to use the same objects as last week so you can compare and contrast, or you may want to explore your options and create a new scene. Again, as long as you've got good daylight, be as creative as you like.

Once you have your still life setup, set your ISO to 400, your aperture to 3.5, and adjust your shutter speed accordingly to get an exposure you like. Get as close to your still life as you can and position yourself so that you can see all the objects, either slightly above or to one side, and focus on the third (centre) object only. Take your first image, then adjust your aperture to f5.6 and take a second shot. It is going to be underexposed, so you will have no choice but to adjust either your ISO or your shutter speed in order to get a proper exposure. If you were on film I'd feel bad about letting you all figure it out on your own if you've forgotten, but since I know you're all digital... figure it out! ~smirk~

Keeping your focus on the middle object repeat this process at f8.0, f11.0, and f16.0. What do you notice about your ISO? What do you notice about your shutter speed? Is the relationship between aperture, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed starting to make sense as it applies to the Law of Reciprocity? What do you notice about the foreground and the background of your images?

Upload the images to your blog and either post the link in the comments here or send it to me via email to h dot walls at shaw dot ca. If you are having problems, PLEASE do not hesitate to send me your questions. I am happy to walk you through the process so you aren't lost when we get to the next workshop!!!

Examples to follow shortly :)

Happy shooting,


(f)ocus - examples of exercise one

I thought for fun I would do a compare and contrast with this.  The images on the left are with f3.5 while the images on the right are with f1.4 (click to enlarge and note the difference between the focal depths by comparing how much of the tiles in front and behind are in focus.)  I thought it was a nice geeky way to tie in to the next exercises on DOF.  Yay geeky pictures!

2011 Week 2 DLS Exercise: Focus

For those of you not in the workshops and looking to feel inspired, you are welcome to play along. Those of you in the workshops, as promised, here is your challenge for this week. Rest assured, the exercises never take more than 20 or 30 minutes to complete, but most people have so much fun they keep going anyways...

We are going to practice using our camera to understand the Law of Reciprocity as we make our way down the FAST list between now and the next workshop, starting with F - focus. Over the next few weeks if you practice lots, you will be surprised at how good you get at guesstimating your settings. Frustrated? Feeling like cheating by setting your camera to an auto-mode? Remember that the meta data embedded in each file can't be erased or altered. So really, the only person you're cheating is yourself.

Your challenge this week is manual focus. Set your camera to M(anual) F(ocus), in M(anual) mode. Select 5 similar or same objects and set them in a row along a flat surface. Make sure you pick someplace that has good natural light. For example, you may want to make a row of apples on your coffee table, set up some stones on your windowsill, or put a set of Little People on your kitchen counter. As long as you've got good light, be as creative as you like.  Try pennies, buttons, oranges, beer bottles.

Once you have your still life setup, put your ISO to 400, your aperture to f3.5, and adjust your shutter speed accordingly to get an exposure you like. If you are below 1/60, you may have to change something to be more sensitive ~hint hint~ Get as close to your still life as you can. You are going to shoot from the same spot for each picture, so you will need to select an angle you can see all of your objects - either slightly off to one side or from above.  Your first picture should be taken from the minimum focusing distance. (If you forget what that is, remember bringing your hand towards your face until you can't focus anymore and remember the lens works the same as your eyes in that regard...) Position yourself so that you can see all the objects, either slightly above or to one side. (If you have your objects on a glass surface you could even try shooting from below!) Manually focus on your first object and take a picture. Then manually focus on your second object and take a picture. Repeat for your third, fourth, and fifth. Upload these to your blog and either post the link in the comments here or send it to me via email to h dot walls at shaw dot ca.

Get creative, have fun! Looking forward to seeing what you all come up with!!!  Example will be posted tomorrow, and since we're a week behind, an extra exercise will be posted on Thursday. :)

togetherLOVE: I seriously am THIS lucky...

So, I started trying to pick a few pictures of this amazing family to put on the website, and frankly, I gave up trying to pick.  When you visit their album, you'll understand why, but there are words I need to share first.

There are families who spend time together, and that time, while precious, is still strained and awkward.  Even when they put on their best game face, you can often feel trace amounts of tension, old hurts, family quarrels left unsettled or unspoken.  Even when they aren't obvious, you can pick up on the subtle cues.

Now, for whatever reason, this family is one of the few families in my experience who lacked any and all traces of that.  Whether they are like that naturally, or have made a conscious choice to reconcile, if I had to pick a family I could plop myself into and feel loved, blanketed, secure... somehow knowing and sensing that I might screw up but they would always be there - this would be the one.  Pure, unadulterated, unconditional love so potent it was electric.

As a photographer who was lucky enough to have her lifelong dream of a Big Fluffy Snowflake Session in December of 2010, I felt like I had won the bloody lotto on this shoot - not only was I lucky enough to have time to capture these silly, fun, precious memories because I had a couple of extra days off that I didn't know about, but the weather?  Oh, gosh - dream within a dream!!!  As I walked away soaked literally up to my waist, all I can say is, it was worth every ounce of water I had to squeeze from my pants.

So, without further ado, here is the album I'm gushing about.  See why I can't pick just a few?  L & co, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for entrusting me with this session - it was an honour, a joy, and a privilege. :)

Great people, great socks, great kisses, great faces - ahhhh, sweet love!  If this is any indication of what 2011 holds in store for me, it's gonna be a gooder ;)  Woot woot!!!

2011 DLS Exercise: Week One

Thanks to everyone who came out today in the cold and the snow to eat soup and listen to blabber on about what I love best: photography.  For those of you joining me next week, I assure you, this week's exercise will be as much of a challenge without the class as with it, but not in a way that requires the complete content of the stuff you haven't learned yet. Please remember that these exercises should not take you longer than 20 or so minutes, but you are of course welcome to dedicate more time if you like, or quit after 5 minutes if you have what you need.

This weeks' exercise is going to get you navigating those menus.  In particular, you all need to find your timer function and take the following 2 pictures.  Normally I'd make this a little tougher, but since we're not all on the same page yet, I'll keep this pretty straight forward (and fun!)  As a special note to my lovely couple, G&L, you should produce these shots separately, even if you're both in all the pictures.  You could each concoct a completely different scenario with you being the star.

Your first task is to simply set your camera on the table or other flat surface (or a tripod if you own one) and point it at your scene.  I don't care what mode you're in, but for the people willing to challenge themselves, throw it in M mode and see what you can come up with.  For the rest, put it in whatever mode you want...

Next put your mittens on, because your "scene" is your backyard.  You can shoot from inside or outside - whichever you prefer - and with the timer set to 12 or more seconds, take a shot of (and here's the catch) YOU throwing some snow up in the air. It might take a few tries, but I'm sure you can do it.

The second task is to keep your timer set and get a shot of yourself running through the frame.  You can choose your scene (your kitchen, your backyard, a friend's house...) as long as we can tell that there is something (you) going past or through the frame.

Remember to be as creative as you can - you can incorporate costumes, you can include other people, you can shoot from inside or outside, high or low, near or far - as long as you a) used the timer and b) are in the picture.  I will post mine as soon as I have some daylight, which may not be until Tuesday.  I'll be wearing my fancy hat ;)

Have fun!!!