Photographing Falkland in the afternoon

Falkland afternoon

Falkland, British Columbia


Ranch cafe

afternoon pub

street shadow

Falkland is one of the many small towns nestled along winding highway 97 that drivers almost miss if there weren’t signs posted at both ends of the village requiring them to slow down. Although I pass through there regularly, the only time I stop is when locals hold their roadside market during the summer. Usually I just reduce my speed to 50 km, watch for pedestrians and approaching vehicles from covered side streets, then resume speed without even thinking.   Falkland has about 600 residents, and is notable because each year on Victoria Day they host the Falkland Stampede (one of Canada’s oldest rodeos); and they also claim to have the biggest Canadian flag in western Canada.

My wife recently purchased a 24mm wide-angle lens and we were looking forward to checking it out. We had spent the day in Kelowna, about an hour south of Falkland and I thought that with the drive there would be lots of opportunity to see how her new lens would perform. I had read mixed reviews online, and I was anxious for my own results. I had made a few shots of the fence in front of our home, and allowed some side-lighted images to catch sunlight to check lens flare, but I hadn’t made any practical images.

I know reviewers can be very strict with their lens testing and even go so far to include charts and exaggerated enlargements when they evaluate a lens. However, in my opinion, all that most users care about is if a new lens is reasonably sharp and consistent in how it reproduces a subject; and regarding wide angles, if there is any unflattering distortion.

The day had been long and I wasn’t thinking about much of anything except getting home and out of that car before we lost daylight. I don’t mind winter very much, but I do mind driving that narrow, slippery, winding road after dark. However, traffic had been light and we hadn’t got stuck behind any big trucks. So we were making good time when we approached Falkland.

Photographers talk about that “Golden Hour” just before sunset when the light is warmer and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. I doubt there is much of a golden “hour” in canyon towns like Falkland, but the light certainly was inviting at the moment and we had my wife’s camera and 24mm lens waiting for testing.

Linda was tired from our long day and was only willing to make a couple of shots of an old shop before handing me her camera. She said, “You walk around”. So I did. In Falkland it doesn’t take much time to see everything on the main street.

I like buildings, shop signs and afternoon deep shadows and the narrow street was perfect for testing that lens and anyway, I was happy to finally make a few pictures while the light was exciting in that interesting little town.

I only walked around for about ten minutes and had so much fun that I forgot I was supposed to be testing that lens. I have lived in this part of British Columbia for over 30 years, and as I walked around I wondered why the only pictures I have ever seen of Falkland were a few of cowboys being bucked off at the rodeo. I guess it is hard to stop and look. And some photographers might feel locals would be uncomfortable with outsiders intruding. I doubt that unless someone stuck a lens in a local’s face they wouldn’t even notice a person standing along the street, like I was, taking a few pictures in that neat little town.

Oh, and that Nikon 24mm was just fine. For those that wanted a review, I think my aperture was mostly at f8, f11 and f16 because I was interested in getting as much depth of field as I could get. So I can’t comment on how well it performs wide open.

I always appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at


Studio Portraiture Workshop

Class Portrait 1  Class 2

This past Sunday I lead the first day of a two-day workshop discussing posing and lighting. I hadn’t planned on undertaking any workshops this early in the year, but I had been getting requests from several excited photographers who are out there getting ready for spring and summer portrait sessions.

I finally made the decision to proceed when my friend Dave Monsees, owner of the Versatile Photography Studio near Kamloops, mentioned that photographers renting his studio told him they needed help in lighting couples. They lamented that most tutorials available were only about photographing one person.

I am sure if they browsed the internet they would have found what they were looking for, but working with live models is a lot more fun than reading articles and looking at pictures, so I hired two up-and-coming local models that fit that request perfectly.

In previous posts I have stated how I enjoy the enlivened interaction that happens when students of photography participate in active learning. So when I started getting requests that I offer  another session I crossed my fingers and hoped for an early spring, booked that large local studio, and hired two models.

During a workshop my job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and I rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead, unless it is to take a snapshot or two of photographers in action. And besides, when I finally let the workshop participants apply what we had discussed, there wasn’t room for me anyway.

The workshop dealt with modifying and placing light. We employed one, then two, and then three lights; and modified the light first with umbrellas, then changed to a softbox and reflector to create shadow, and, of course, that classic and compelling “Rembrandt lighting” effect.

This was an advanced workshop and I limited participation to seven photographers. As with all my workshops, my main goal is to help participants gain an understanding of how to use light. I want them to consider the “quality” of light instead of the “quantity” of light. I lecture to them that they should use light to “flatter” their subjects as opposed to only “illuminating” them.

I think that studying the mechanics of lighting includes two additional aspects, which are (1) experience, and (2) the willingness to step beyond lazily pointing a camera in a light filled room or out in the sunshine. Posing a model, or in our case, two models, seems to me to be more about engaging with the subject and being comfortable with telling someone how you want them to look. I once heard a photographer say that he never posed people because he thought is was rude to tell adults what to do. I can’t comment on that fellow’s work, maybe he was really lucky, but I expect there were lots of missed shots. I suppose he would disagree, or just plain ignore the words of award winning Dallas, Texas photographer, Caroline Mueller when she says, “What I look for in pictures (that) I take: eyes, hands, head tilt, body language, background, and use of space.”

I believe those photographers that are successful at portrait photography don’t hide behind their camera, but they start with a plan and are good at engaging, explaining, and demonstrating what their vision for the session is.

Now I am really looking forward to next Sunday. The few images I have seen so far are great and I am certain spending another day (this time with speedlights out-of-doors in the failing afternoon light) helping and watching each photographer’s progress is going to be a lot of fun.

class 3  class 4


Thanks in advance for your comments, John

My website is at

Judging Photography


Exhibition judges Ben and Dave.


I have written about judging photography previously, and I have also used the following quote by John Loengard, who worked as a photographer for Life, for Time, and for People magazines.                         “It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting”.

I agree with that statement and when I was asked to be part of the jury committee for a local exhibition by members of the Kamloops Photo Arts Club it was Loengard’s words that I first thought of.   I looked forward to a firsthand look at submissions and wasn’t let down by the interesting and creative work.

They entitled the upcoming juried exhibit of photographs taken within British Columbia as “Wild and Wet” and described it as displaying the impact of water on the environment and residents of this region.

To me, the poorest photographs are those that don’t speak to us, it’s those photographs appear boring. I think the viewer should feel something, should feel a level of emotion when they look at the images. A good photograph is one that creates an emotional response.

As I looked at the photographs I asked myself the following five questions that I think are questions any serious photographer should think about, as they are about to press the shutter.

  1. Is there a clear center of interest? In a successful photo, the viewer can immediately identify the subject.
  1. Is the image composed well? There should be a sense of overall organization.
  1. Is the focus tack sharp and is the exposure appropriate? With the exception of photos that intentionally show motion or soft-focus images (both should be obvious), tack-sharp focus is the first thing viewers’ notice about an image.
  1. Does the photo tell a story? The difference between a photograph one remembers and one that is easily forgotten depends on whether the photo tells a story.
  1. Is the approach creative? Creativity in an image involves more than predictable techniques and perspective. The creative photographer handles the subject in extraordinary ways that the viewer normally would not have seen.

I joined photographers Dave Snyder and Ben Verwey in an interesting discussion of the images as we reviewed the photographs. All the show’s photographs are worth taking the time to view and I look forward to the exhibition that will be held from March 12 until April 1, 2015. As this was to be a juried show, we ranked each submission and selected those that, in our opinion, stood out from the rest.

Whether readers attend this exhibition or any other, my suggestion to take along my guidelines and see how they apply. Then think about how the photographs appeal you. Are the photographs interesting and engaging? Do they capture a moment in time and what do they communicate to you the viewer.

I look forward to your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at

Photographing the Winter Garden

Outdoor lighting kit  Clematis

Erigron  Erigron b

Winter blown bullrush

Step Ladder


Sunday was one of those “let’s see how many small jobs I can do” days. One would think there is no chance of being bored on a day like that, but I finally decided it was time to relax and sat down with a glass of wine, and enjoyed lunch with my wife and listened to some jazz.

As I made my way from one chore to another I kept looking at the snow in the garden and wondering if there was an opportunity waiting to make a photo or two, but I pushed along thinking “maybe later”.   However, as I started on my second glass of wine I complained that the outside light was gray and flat and that maybe I should just forget it. Could that have been the wine talking, or that I am just lazy?

Ever one to keep me on my toes, my wife, Linda, reminded me of a lecture we once attended by Canadian photographer, and author, Sherman Hines. (I recommend readers check him out) As she remembered Hines had said something like; “there is always something to photograph when the weather is poor, look for the small stuff”. There was the challenge. I left the room to get my camera.

The snow was getting wet on the plus 1 degree C afternoon so I decide to leave my tripod behind and mounted my wife’s 70-180mm AF macro on my camera. That unique, fun to use lens is the only true zoom Micro (macro) lens ever made by Nikon. And I get to borrow it anytime, well, almost anytime.

I got my camera and put together my lighting for what would be an excursion to search out the intimate features poking through the snow in my wife’s garden.

I attached a flash on a stand and chose a shoot-through umbrella. I could have connected a wireless sender and receiver, but I decided to use a TTL camera-to-flash cord that would allow the camera’s computer to direct the flash to provide the correct exposure for the close-up kind of subjects I would be photographing.

Although I had complained about the limited light on the heavy overcast day, I knew it would be perfect for my sojourn through the garden. I could easily meter the ambient light, then under expose slightly so the flash would become the main light instead of the hazy sun. The modified light from a shoot-through umbrella is even across the image with a gradual transition from highlights to midtones to shadows, or a soft light.

I stuck the stand through the snow and easily positioned the flash. And unlike a snowless landscape, the snow kept the stand steady no matter the angle. All I had to do was choose an angle and release the shutter. That particular zoom lens allows for a constant macro at every focal length. It was pretty neat and easy.

I choose to photograph that garden in every season. I know there are many photographers that only take pictures of plants when they are in bloom and prefer colourful representations. However, spring, summer, fall, winter, snow, rain, sunny, or overcast, I find that our garden is filled with ever changing subjects that always offer something new and I expect that Sherman Hines surely would approve. My advise to photographers that think they must wait for inspiring weather before their next garden safari, is to take Mr. Hines’ advice, because there is always something to photograph when the weather is poor, just get up close and look for the small stuff.

I enjoy everyone’s comments. Thanks, John

My website is at