Interesting and Unconventional Photography

Unorthadox refection

Building behnd the shadow LIght in the shadows

Looking Up Town

About the time of World War I the common attitude regarding art and photography was shattered by innovations of modern painters like Picasso and Matisse. However, the fundamentally realistic medium of photography did not acknowledge that photographers could or even should produce abstractions or distortions to the extent that painters could.

Nevertheless, there were a growing number of artist-photographers like Alfred Stiegletz and Edward Steichen that worked at bringing photography in line with modern painting by creating abstract images and processes.

They, and others, worked to popularize the “sharp focus realism” or “Modernist” movement that was at that time deemed unartistic by traditionalists that called themselves “Pictorialists”. (The Pictorializm style is where a photograph lacks sharp focus and sometimes even had brush strokes muting the surface of the final print.) The pioneers of the “Modernist” movement in North America was Alfred Stiegletz, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand

The current age of digital photography seems to have vitalized photography more than any one could have guessed as recently at the 1990s. Although there are still those clamouring loudly from the sidelines calling themselves “traditionalists” and insist they will never move beyond their beloved film.

Attend any event and there will be lots of cameras ranging from cell phones, little point-and-shoot cameras, to impressive DSLR’s documenting everything from every angle. The internet is packed with images, with all kinds of sites available for people to stack their documents of everyday life.

In a moment of late night boredom I decided to do a search for a past friend who lives in the US. I not only found his company advertisement, but also several pages of family Christmas photos he and his wife took. My thoughts were that this is a reasonable and typical document of people having fun, nothing creative, just a real nice family documentary; and not unusual, as photographic documentation is more prolific than it has ever been, however, I began to wonder about another creative part of photography, the abstract and the unusual.

There are lots of instances of PhotoShop manipulation that anyone can find without looking very hard, yet I wonder at the style of abstract photography practiced by the greats like Stiegletz, Steichen, and Strand. They were very much involved in looking at everyday subjects from different angles or perspectives. They photographed the usual in unique ways and photographed the unique in unusual ways. They searched out things that many would ignore because they were ugly or boring, and chose diverse photographic views and visually discussed them in interesting and unconventional ways.

In my work I get to see peoples’ photos all the time, landscapes, portraits of people and animals, and a few close-up flower shots. Usually they are very nice and some are downright beautiful, but it is rare for someone to show me an abstract created by using their camera to photograph something using a unique view.

Abstract art and abstract photography may not be to everyone’s liking and I know when we show our photographs to other people we want them to comment favourably about our pictures. When a photographer takes a chance and tries to visualize and photograph something differently, he or she cannot worry about whether or not they will receive praise or criticism of the visual creation of the unusual, the ugly, the boring, or the unique. To do so means they must contemplate photographing the subject in their own personal way.

If readers have the interest, my suggestion is to take some time and find out about those pioneer photographers Stiegletz, Steichen, and Strand. We can always learn from history and their photography is very interesting and just might be inspiring to those wanting to step away from the crowd.

I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John

A Photo Trip to Margaret Falls

Linda at Margaret Falls

First bridge

Along the path

Reinecker Creek

Fallen Cedars

Crooked tree



Bridge to Margaret Falls

Margaret Falls, British Columbia (B)

I have spent the last few days slowly dismantling an old shed I built over 20 years ago. I will say that I enjoyed building that ramshackle structure that has served as a goat barn, a chicken coup, and lastly for storing stuff I didn’t know what to do with. The process of destruction hasn’t been going all that quickly because I have been finding any excuse to delay my work taking it apart and I suppose that’s why when my wife mentioned it would be pleasant to go to Margaret Falls I didn’t hesitate to put our cameras in the car and head out for an easy drive.

Margaret Falls is a 200 feet high cascade that drops into Reinecker Creek on the edge of Shuswap Lake’s Herald Provincial Park. Local lore says the falls gets its name from the first white woman to see them. I also have been told it was called Reinecker Falls. But I wonder what that place was called by those that went there long before the white settlers.

It is the place, and not the waterfall that draws tourists and photographers to make the short trek through that moss covered, old-growth cedar forest nestled in a narrow gorge.

Reinecker Creek falls down a sheer rock face and into the narrow chasm creating a wonderland for those that walk along the beautiful gulley filled with large trees and looming cliffs above.

Before one is even aware of the unique ecosystem, there is the envelopment of a waft cool, damp air that on a hot July day will be a startling difference in temperature. Knowing that we included jackets with our camera gear.

Over the years Linda and I have spent many hours wandering along paths with cameras and tripods, but this time the wind was picking up and we could see large, dark clouds looming. So we just brought our cameras in case we had to make a quick getaway. I do not remember how many times I have taken pictures along that cool walkway up to the falls, or all the different camera formats I have used. I have been there in every season of the year, rain or snow, and I have even photographed a wedding there.

For this visit Linda used a 24mm prime and I used my 24-85mm zoom. Wide angle is a must for that narrow canyon.

The overcast day really wasn’t a bother because our modern full-frame cameras can easily handle 1600 ISO and depending on our subject’s location we could choose either 125th or 250th of a second shutterspeed an still keep our aperture small enough to get reasonable depth-of-field.

One rarely has the trail to Margaret Falls to themselves. To achieve scenic photography photographers have to be patient. However, this outing was petty good. Our only interruption was a guy on his mountain bicycle that turned around and left when he realized there were people on the trail. And we met some people that told us they were celebrating their 70th reunion. They gently ambled up the path to the waterfalls, extended their arms for cell phone snaps and then left, giving us all the time we needed to compose our pictures. I did have a good time, but, as free as I was to wander around with my camera and 24-85mm lens, I missed having my tripod. We have decided to return in a week or two packing tripods and neutral density filters prepared and spend a bit more time.

I always look forward to comments. Thanks, John


I Prefer Using Flash

Bonnie, Monica & Patti

Bonnie, Monica & Patti

Flash & Reflector

Flash & Reflector

Off Camera flash

Off Camera flash

Lighting fun (2)


I like using flash. I know that really isn’t surprising to regular readers. Like most beginning photographers there was once a time that I thought the only circumstance to use a flash on my camera was when it was too dark to take a picture.

When I first began taking pictures for others I dreaded late afternoon events that forced me to shoot in low light. And when Kodak and Ilford introduced their 1600 & 3200 ISO films I joined others in applauding, and ignorantly thought I could forgo ever having to attach a flash on my camera again. However, although those amazing films would let us capture our subject in limited light, the side effect was nasty grain that was almost as bad as push developing film.

For those that don’t know what the term “pushing developing film” means, photographers would, for example, rate their 400ISO at 800ISO and double the development time to achieve a more sensitive emulsion – grainy as the outcome was.

When I looked into what successful portrait photographers were doing with flash I knew I needed to move out of the natural light rut. And I began the struggle to learn how to employ flash any time I photographed people. However, it was noted photographer, Dean Collins’, whose writings and classes opened the doors to using off-camera flash. He was the first that pulled me out of what he called the “artist” mode, and got me thinking about photography as a craft. He wrote, “Anybody who says that photography is 95 percent feeling and five percent technique is a coward.”

Before I learned about wireless flash, I would connect and splice wires together so I could use my flash on a light stand at some distance. To get the proper off-camera light one would go through lots of calculations. (There wasn’t a digital LCD on the back of a film camera) With trial and error I came to know that my old manual flash, with a folded men’s white handkerchief covering it, would give me a nice soft, diffused light at 10 feet.

Olympus introduced the first TTL (through-the-lens) flash metering in the 1970s and other manufacturers followed soon after. I began using Nikon’s early TTL, the SB16, on a Nikon F3 and my world changed – no more clumsy calculations. I have been a fan of TTL since then and with every camera upgrade I also upgraded to the latest technology in TTL flash.

When using manual flash, there is no control by the flash or camera; the light is simply a constant amount of light that’s emitted from the flashgun. With TTL flash, the output is controlled by the camera’s metering system, and is not a constant amount of light emitted from the flashgun.

I have used TTL flashes on and off-camera since the late 1970s. Taking nothing for granted I read everything I could find, and took as many classes as I could get to figure out the best way to use TTL flash, and after all these years I am pretty comfortable using TTL in any condition.

I constantly try to convince and help others to stop being lazy and to include flash when they make portraits indoors or out, and for many years I have lead sessions for those photographers that decide to take the step to using off-camera flash.

The included images are of participants in my last one-day workshop on using TTL and manual flash off-camera in daylight. I will steal the words of probably the most famous teacher, lecturer, and author, Joe McNally, and say that the best part of spending the day with those willing photographers that joined me on their adventure into shooting under the sun with flash is realizing, “The moment it clicks” for them.

I do enjoy all comments. Thank you, John

The Vancouver Camera Show and Swap meet 2015

Linda at the SwapMeet

Linda at our table

Camera Swap find

A good find at the Swap meet

Camera Swap Meet

Check out this Leica

Vancouver Swap meet 2

Lets assemble this 4X5 camera 

Ziggy Rhode

The Swap Meet organizer, Ziggy Rhode selling a Hasselblad

Vancouver Swap Meet 1

Wow, a nice twin lens at the Vancouver swap.


The Western Canada Photographic Historic Association hosts Vancouver, British Columbia’s, original camera show and swap meet each year. This long-running show has now reached its 39th year, and makes the claim of being the largest in Canada with I believe approximately 120 tables, and I have no doubt well over 1,000 people walked through the doors this year.

I can’t remember exactly when we (my wife and I) had our first table there, maybe some time late 1990s. Since then each year we join an always-interesting diversity of photographers in a large, photographic equipment packed hall in Burnaby, BC, who are eager to exchange information and ideas, and, of course, are looking for great deals on all kinds of camera equipment.

Each year we make the three and a half hour drive from Kamloops the day before and lodge overnight and eagerly join other vendors the next day at 7:30AM to setup. The early morning scene is so much fun as we interact with others busily arranging equipment on tables before the show even begins. When I arrived I was happy to see people I have known for years. Better put, I was happy to see people I have known for only one day a year for about 20 years.

For me it is always a rush to organize my table quickly so I am ready for the swap meet’s early bird shoppers who pay a premium to begin shopping at 9am. That group of shoppers isn’t so much into browsing as they are searching for specific pieces, and they will walk quickly by a vendor’s table unless they spy that item.

At the 10am regular admission I always am glad to get a chance to sit for a moment (only a moment) after the hour of non-stop showing, demonstrating, explaining, and, of course, bargaining with savvy photographers.

Spending a day surrounded by a huge selection of cameras and other photography equipment is exhilarating, and getting a chance to talk with other photographers about their different interests is invigorating. Even after all these years I always learn something.

As I have mentioned before when I have written about this exciting event, one will find photographers of every age, from experienced elders to young people accompanied by patient parents. This congregation includes all kinds of lifestyles, interests, and photographic specialties. There are those that are dedicated to film, historic cameras, and processes of the past, walking alongside others that carry the latest and brightest in modern technology.

Other than actually pointing a camera at some inspiring subject, a gathering like the Vancouver Swap is a superb way to meet and exchange information with other photographers, and look at and check out the many kinds of photographic equipment that would not be so easily available anywhere else.

I had a great time with the photographers I met this year and the depending on who joined me at my table, the conversations always changed. My day of selling was a success, as it was for most of the dealers I talked to at the end of the day. And I even had some time to purchase another lens for myself, which is always nice.

I always look forward to any comments. Thank you, John