Leading a Photography Lighting Workshop   







American photographer David Hobby, author of the lighting blog Strobist that promotes lighting techniques, wrote about learning to use flash, “You may not realize it yet, but you have just stepped through a door that may change your photography forever…Photography is literally writing with light.” And he continues, “…you’ll learn how to take control of your electronic flash. If you can imagine it, you’ll be able to create it.”

I like using flash, and in my many years as a working photographer I rarely photographed people indoors or out without using a flash; and last Sunday with Hobby’s words in mind I led yet another interactive lighting workshop.

Actually I wonder if “study group” might be a better description of what happens when several photographers get together to experiment with flash. Nevertheless, these sessions are always an enjoyable whirlwind session for me as I try to present as much information as I can without reaching information-overload for the participants.

As photographers in the workshop begin to realize how much better, and more creative, their portraits are when they begin taking control of electronic flash they get excited. That excitement is contagious. So much so that I have to remind myself to slow down and explain what I am doing and why I am doing it when I add lights to a portrait setup.

Sunday’s group of photographers were quick learners and were demanding as they pushed limits and exhausted the model, then without skipping a beat, when our ever-so-patient model needed a break, one of the photographers took her place and the group kept on going.

I remember reading a book entitled, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, about student-centered learning over teacher-centered teaching. Sometimes one has to step back from being the center of attention and let people learn by themselves.

When I realized those photographers had reached the point where they were beginning to understand where I was leading them, I just got out of their way and let them be, besides that gave me some time to wander a bit and take some pictures of what was happening.

This first of two sessions, Modeling with Lighting in the Studio is now over.

Next Sunday we’ll be braving British Columbia’s cool October weather as we take our model outdoors to pose in several different locations with different lighting conditions in each. I entitled that, Balancing Lighting Out-Of-Doors.

In the studio we used large and powerful studio lights that recycled instantly. Next Sunday we will use much less powerful, small wireless speedlights that require waiting for batteries to recycle. The quick recycling studio lights are grand, but I like the slower speedlights because they force photographers to think about and plan their next shot.

Last weekend was a lot a fun. It is great being with other photographers and watching them get excited about learning something new. Saying that, I will add a quote by French photographerJacques-Henri Lartigue that I have used several times before, “It’s marvellous, marvellous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I’m going to photograph everything, everything!”



The Final Photographic Performance   


This week I wrote to photographer and blogger David Lockwood (https://davidalockwoodphotography.com) about why he seemed to be returning to film. His replied, “The whole process of using film, gives me a feeling of accomplishment; probably like the painter putting on the last brush stroke. Film gives me a feeling of control over the final image.” And regarding film vs. digital he wrote, “The question of film or digital shouldn’t really be asked, it’s a bit like asking why does one paint with oils, and the other watercolours. Both can produce an image, but both give a totally different sensation to the mind eye.”

During the time I taught photography in the 1980s and 1990s for the University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson River University) my students used film. In my initial lectures I would tell them that as well as learning to acquire skills using a camera, they would need to learn how to become proficient in negative development and printing. I would emphasize that those serious enough to strive for a perfect final photograph would come to realize that what they did with the camera was only the beginning, and that their final print would set them apart as photographers. I would quote famous photographer Ansel Adams who said, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance…”

Film has now been set aside by many of those serious about photography, although I expect artists will use film creatively for years, nevertheless, even with advancing photographic digital technology Adams’ words from the past are still significant.

I intend to spend time discussing Mr. Lockwood’s insightful thoughts about film photography later, but first I want to say a few words about digital image making.

The digital camera doesn’t make a picture in the sense of light permanently imprinting itself with different intensities on a chemically sensitized surface like film. Instead there are sensors and in-camera computers processing light from thousands of photosites that we transfer to our computers as data files for conversion into countless pictorial possibilities.

I once attended a photography workshop during which one of the speakers said in the past he would get up early and drive to some scenic location hoping to capture an exotic sunrise, after which he would package up his film and send it to the lab and leave all decisions to some technician’s personal vision. However, now he transfers his image files to his computer and he alone controls how his photograph will be processed for viewing and finally printing.

As in the days when I processed negatives in special chemicals and manipulated prints by adding and subtracting light, I now use computer programs to process my RAW images in my quest to perfect my vision.

I say the same thing to modern photographers as I did to my students, that what they do with the camera is only the beginning,

The image on exposed on film, although now a RAW image file, is only the “score” to the “final performance” – the photographic print.

A young photographer came into my shop announcing, with some kind of misplaced pride, that he would never use PhotoShop on any of his pictures because he was only into true reality. Although I didn’t comment, I thought about the manufacturer presets that were applied in-camera to his image files and the limited colour spaces his inadequate JPG files gave him, and his confused notion of photographic reality.

If he really wanted to step away from the unreality of computerized image making he should talk to David Lockwood who wrote, “The camera, light meter, film, paper and chemicals all go towards producing a single and unique image. That does not happen with digital; from the moment the shutter is pressed, the whole thing becomes a cloning process from which endless exact copies can be produced.” However, as Lockwood also says, “The question of film or digital shouldn’t really be asked… Both can produce an image…that give a totally different sensation to the mind eye.”



Shooting Infrared on a Colourful October Day      








Fisheye is so much fun




Fall snuck up on me this year. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe that sharp and very quick transition from season to season will become the norm.

I had an appointment that meant a drive down and along the river valley to the village of Chase.  As I walked out the door not thinking about anything but the 20 minute drive that would probably turn into 30+ minutes if I got caught in the extensive road construction going on between my home in Pritchard and my appointment in Chase, Linda called “take your camera”.

Oh, right. Taking my camera is always a good idea.

As I drove along looking at the changing colours I thought about the constant submissions of fall pictures I have been seeing on the local photographer’s facebook group, however, I had decided I would have more fun being different and instead chose my infrared converted camera and added a 10.5mm fisheye lens I had just got into my shop.

I pulled onto the Trans Canada and turned into Chase 20 minutes later. The traffic was fast and I had driven through the construction without a stop. I made my appointment in plenty of time, but the receptionist informed me they had decided to close early and I would have to come back another time.

In frustration I walked back to my car, but fortunately I had my camera. So instead of returning home I decided to wander around Chase.

The fisheye was fun. I could take pictures of people on the sidewalk without pointing the camera at them. Admittedly the pictures were pretty weird with everything on the edges bending inward and I got bored with the town’s limitations. Fortunately Chase has a neat waterfall on one side and a big lake on the other. I left downtown and began with Chase Falls.

I photograph Chase Falls quite often, but this was the first time I was shooting in infrared and the first time I used a fisheye.   One can set up a tripod and capture the wonderful October colours that surround that inviting waterfall anytime, but capturing Chase Falls in infrared and with a fisheye is great fun, and a long ways off from what most photographers would every think of doing.

After an interesting time manipulating that environment I headed over to the lake for a complete change of scenery. Instead of large rocks, overhanging trees and falling water, there is a long pier jutting out into Shuswap Lake, large trees on the edges of a small park, and a wide sandy beach.

Infrared turned the trees to white, the sky a strange shade of blue and everything else a slight magenta. And what about the fisheye lens? Well, the fisheye lens just added to the already unreal quality of the image.

Trying Street Photography   








Last week I wrote about my short adventure wandering Denman Street and the Stanley Park area of Vancouver, BC, with my camera.

Each morning I got up early so I could stroll Denman Street before the sidewalks filled with too many people. I wanted to try to find the kind of people some street photographers do find, but I’ll admit that I am not very comfortable with that invasive type of photography.

I am sure there are some street photographers that might laugh at my reticence at photographing people going about their life in any area, be it city street or a back alley, with their various paraphernalia of shopping carts, back packs, box houses, or bicycles. I really like the genre of street photography; I mean to say I really enjoy looking at photographs made by photographers that are good at street photography.

I think that successful street photography captures a moment from the society around us. It’s a moment in time that is an important for the present and future.

I am sure some photographers shoot for the challenge, and there are some that wander the city with their cameras as a release of stress from everyday existence, while others have a need to make some statement about the world in which they live.

I try to do a bit but I expect it will take me more preparation than a few early morning walks to get my head in the correct creative space it takes to do street photography.

I searched for some street photography tips and here are a few I found.

  1. Use a wide-angle lens.
  2. Get close.
  3. Look for juxtaposition.
  4. Focus on the essential.
  5. Look for the light and shadows
  6. Look at the foreground and the background.
  7. Tell a story.

I read that in a good street photograph it is possible for a viewer to see and maybe imagine more than the original photographer intended. Practicing street photographers capture fleeting moments, interpreting life around them, and challenging our perceptions of the world.

I have had some limited success at country fairs and city festivals in the past. This time I intended to get pictures of people going about their daily life on Denman. There is so much happening on a city street, or even within a small neighborhood, that it takes a good eye, and a fast camera, to capture it all.

Most of the street photographers I follow online shoot with small mirrorless cameras and are good at getting up close, but, personally, I would have been more comfortable with a mid-range telephoto. However, attaching a big lens on big DSLRs makes a photographer stand out. When I pointed my camera along the walk people would actually stop and wait for me, or change course to walk around me. Oh well, there will be another time and I can plan on trying again.

Wikipedia defines Street photography as ”Photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places”.

The genre of street photography is an old one and since the early days of photography there are those that have left us with their own styles of street photography that affects each viewer on an emotional level.

I welcome the comments of street photographers.

 On Vacation in Vancouver.     
















“We should go on some kind of trip”.  When my wife said that a month ago she didn’t have to do much to convince me.  So about an hour later we had reserved a top floor room at the hotel on the corner of Davie and Denman Streets in Vancouver.

We chose Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so we would miss the weekend rush.  After a picturesque five-hour drive through British Columbia’s coastal mountains I was carrying suitcases and my bag loaded with our cameras up to our room.

What a great location. Not only were we moments away from the restaurant and bar scene of one of Vancouver’s most exciting areas that divides the city from the magnificent 400-hectare natural rainforest of Stanley Park, but right across the boulevard from our hotel was picturesque English Bay.

I discovered Denman Street when I first moved to Canada in the 1970s. Maybe it was the curiosity I had for a street that sounded and was spelled pretty closely to my name, I don’t know. But in any case the street was just as much fun then as it is all these years later.  One can either join others people watching while sitting at an out door pub, or choose food from almost any country in the world. We chose Greek at the English Bay for our first evening meal of the trip.

The next morning, while my wife slept I put a 24-70mm lens on my camera and headed out. There wasn’t much traffic on the street, or people walking along Denman. It was easy to photograph the buildings and I picked out a funky little coffee shop that we could go to later.  I walked the street and wandered the alley behind our hotel, (I like alleys) then headed for the beach.

My mother always told me to look both ways and be careful of cars when I crossed the street, but she never told me how dangerous it was to cross the bike path along English Bay. I dodged several riders and jumped to the lawn covered with slippery geese droppings when a woman rider zoomed by yelling, “Bikes only!”

I suppose I have become one of those hick tourists gawking at all the sights of the big city, but I reached the safety of the beach where I could meander along pointing my camera where I pleased.  Gosh, I even got to meet local Vancouver photographer Trent Watts, who was kind enough to take time out of his morning to talk with me.

Linda finally got up, and after coffee at the little shop I found earlier, we decided to drive into Stanley Park to take pictures of the harbour and stopped for anything we thought might make a fun picture. We also were looking for a good vantage to take some night pictures of the bright city across the harbour. Gosh, we had so much fun we overlooked having lunch.

Much later we wanted to try our hotel’s fish n’ chips special being offered for supper, however even that had to wait because I stopped to photograph and talk with the two Canadian Mounties who have special dispensation to rest their horses after touring through the park in the cool pleasant entrance of our hotel’s basement parkade.

After supper I went out for night shots of the Granville Street Bridge that crosses both a boat filled water way into English Bay and the shopping district of Granville Island and joined several other photographers on the beach as the sun went down. Then just after 8:30 packed up and drove off for more photos at the location we had chosen in the park.


The next morning I must have been tired after all the previous day’s activities, because after I had photographed a white goose honking loudly at me on the beach I checked my watch and it was a late 7AM.  Oh, well I had a good time and anyway I was on vacation!

Camera Care On Wet Days    


Barriere, British Columbia Star Journal newspaper Editor, Jill Hayward, asked me to discuss the use, care of, and protection of cameras, lenses, and other photographic equipment during wet conditions. She worried about people carrying and using their cameras under the wet conditions at the North Thompson Fall Fair this past weekend. She also mentioned that she meets many local photographers that have scratched lenses.

I rarely let wet days limit my photography. Nevertheless, with the exception of those expensive pro level DSLRs and, of course, a few small waterproof cameras, most of the cameras photographers use don’t have much resistance to water.

Several years ago my wife, Linda, and I took a photography vacation on Vancouver Island. The weather was forecast to be completely rainy, so we prepared with plastic bags to cover our cameras, umbrellas to deflect water off our viewfinders, hairdryers to dry out cameras and tripods every evening, and wet weather attire because we didn’t want wet clothing. The trip was a bit uncomfortable, but the coastal downpour didn’t stop us from doing photography, and we didn’t waste a day of that trip huddled indoors. We were outside, cameras in hand, every day of that excursion and returned with great pictures, and a fun experience of shooting in the rain.

We had a good experience because we were prepared. That’s the secret. I always carry an old towel in my camera bag. And when water (or soon snow) begins to gather on my camera I continually wipe it off. Those areas I worry about are around the pop-up flash, where the lens mounts, the LCD, and the info window, and anywhere else that I think water might find a way into my camera.

I keep a lens cap on my lens. But what about when one is taking pictures? I know there will be those that advise putting a UV filter on every lens.

UV filters are from a time when we had a necessity to colour balance our film and in the spring we would use (U)ltra (V)iolet filters to warm the colours. Using an old UV filter is fine, as are any of the many different clear filters manufactures are selling for lens protection, but digital sensors no longer need colour correction filters and many photographers worry that inexpensive filters placed in front of their expensive lens glass might degrade the image.

Whether you agree with that notion or not, I think that using a lens hood is much better insurance than clear protection lenses. My advice is to get a plastic lens hood for every lens. Plastic lens hoods protect our lenses by bending, bouncing, and sometimes even breaking in the process of absorbing the impact and saving the lens. Personally I feel safer with a lens hood than a tight fitting glass filter. Anyway, we should always be using lens hoods to keep glare off the lens front.

When I return home after a day of photography I remove the lens and check my equipment. I remove the memory card for downloading to my computer, recharge the battery and, especially after rain, wipe my camera and lenses.

As I already wrote, I don’t let rain limit my photography. And there are times when the rain adds something to a picture.

Country singer Roger Miller wrote, “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Those are good word for creative photographers. And for those afraid of taking pictures in the rain, another singer, Cher made me laugh when she said, “Don’t take your toys inside just because it’s raining.”









Two Photographers Are More Fun 

TwoPhotogs 1

It is always fun to do photography with someone else. This past week I have been talking to a friend who would really like his wife to get involved with photography, and I’ve told him how much enjoyment I get from this exciting medium of photography would be missing if my wife, Linda, were not also a photographer.

I have written about this in the past, but I am going to bring back a previous article for those readers that might have missed the original and would like their spouse to take up photography.

When we first got together 40 years ago Linda didn’t do photography, but that quickly changed.

I suppose she didn’t have any other option. Then and in all the years she has known me I have been I am either doing, teaching, talking or writing about photography.

My advice to any photographer that is actually interested in getting their spouse involved is as follows.

Match the equipment. I mean that with regard to cameras, both DSLRs should operate the same way. The models can be a year or so apart, but should be the same brand and the controls should operate similarly and if two of the latest models are affordable, so much the better.

Don’t be cheap with lenses or cameras for your spouse. If it isn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for the most important person in your life. Just as you would select a lens for the subject and the way you like to shoot, your photo partner should select lenses for his or her preferences.

I know your mother told you to share, but my recommendation is don’t share. That just leaves someone behind. If you both like long telephoto lenses, get two.

I can remember the exact moment I thought about the concept of equality. I was in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming waiting for Old Faithful Geyser to erupt. While I waited I noticed a man and woman with their tripods setting up closer than me. I was obvious they were both serious about getting good photos of the geyser, but I could see that his was larger and feature packed, while hers was just a tiny, toy-like, point-and-shoot camera.

In my mind, it didn’t matter who was the better photographer or had the better eye. That point-and-shoot reduced her chances, and I wondered why she would even try, or how long she would keep it up when her equipment kept her behind.

I had a friend who tried getting his wife interested in photography. He bought her a cheap, entry-level camera and while he would make 16×20 prints of his images, hers were rarely over 8×10. She lost interest.

Shop for accessories together. Each photographer has his or her own preferences and should make equipment choices for the subjects they like to shoot.

Education is always a good idea. Attend a photography class or workshop. Search for them online or check local camera shops. Take turns going to photography classes or better yet take part in the same workshop.

One of our most memorable vacations was when we both attended a weeklong wilderness photography workshop on Mt. Rainier.

In my opinion we may have gotten more out of that class than the other participants because we were able to share information and experiences during and after.

Gently critique each other’s photography. Don’t just store pictures away on the computer. Sit in front to the computer display together and decide which photographs work and which that don’t, and then delete all the failures. We make large prints and calendars of our pictures.

One photographer in the family is cool, but two photographers, in my opinion, are much better. If you want your partner to have the same excitement about photography as you do, don’t be stingy with the compliments. And on that occasion when your spouse makes a better picture of the waterfall or the running deer than you, be sure to tell them.

Oh, and I never have the worry or guilt about getting new equipment.