Photographing my winter garden.   

I hadn’t photographed my garden yet this winter. So when my yard got a good dump of snow this past week I decided it was time to grab my camera and see what there was of interest in the five-inch deep snow.

I have three Nikon macro lenses. Yes, I know readers are immediately thinking, “Why the heck does anyone need three lenses that all do the same thing?”

Well, I have a 60mm macro that is short, light weight and easy to use on a sunny day. But when the snow is deep it means getting knees, elbows, and even my face wet trying to get close enough.

I have a 70-180mm. It is very versatile because unlike other zoom lenses, it’s a true macro at all focal lengths. Sometimes it’s the perfect lens to take on a short trip when I expect a variety of subjects.

However, my favourite is an old 200mm manual focus macro lens from the 1970s that I have been using for about 30 years. It’s great as a 200mm telephoto and also as a close-up focusing macro lens.

It’s always fun to set all three on the table and try each out as I decide which will be the one to use.

Actually the 60mm and the 70-180 lenses get used more for portraits than close-up photos. Both are very sharp and the 70-180mm is light to carry around for outdoor portraiture, while the 60mm is a great lens when in limited space.

I mounted the 200mm on my camera, attached my ring flash to the lens and headed out into the afternoon light.

It was cold enough that the snow still clung to the plants and the sunny sky had clouded over so I didn’t have to struggle with the contrast between reflective snow and deep shadows. My timing was perfect.

It was trying to snow. I hoped for more, but all I got was scattered flakes.

I never know what to photograph as I wander around and around intrigued by everything. I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention to the background. A busy background runs the simplicity I prefer when shooting close-up.

I want my subjects to be “graphic” and to stand out with nothing interfering. The ring light flash helps.

I under expose the ambient light a bit so the flash becomes the most important light on my subject. A ring light is on the same axis as my lens and very directional. Someone that has never used one might think it would be overpowering. But placing a light close to my lens and being aware of its output power at different distances is more flattering for close subjects than a TTL flash sitting on top of the camera.

I could have used a couple flashes mounted on stands for even more creativity, but the deep snow would have been a struggle to move the stands through so I decided on the versatility of the ring flash so I could easily change camera position. (Winter work coveralls are also helpful when lying in the snow)

I like the garden in the winter. It forces creativity. Even a dull, lifeless subject becomes interesting in the snow.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Photographing an Intimate Snowy Landscape

snow & light Old fire resting under the snow Snowcovered beast

The sun was out in a clear, light blue sky, the snow was deep, and the temperature was moderate at -8C. When the snow gets deep I’ll usually wear snowshoes, however, on this excursion I wanted to isolate and create from the intimate parts of the landscape. The usual large open scenics were not what I was looking to photograph, so that meant I would be kneeling, sitting, and lying in the snow. This would be that rare winter occasion when snowshoes and a tripod would just get in the way.

I crossed the unplowed road in front to my home and stepped into the familiar woods.  I began by kneeling deep in the snow to photograph a branch poking out of the snow, hoping that some future viewer would enjoy the same surrealistic elements of clashing shadows, and white highlights on the frosty branch that I was photographing.

The landscape was covered with deep, powdery snow and I had to be careful not to get a cold surprise down my neck as I trundled along, camera in hand, searching out intimate possibilities the snow, shadow, and light.

As I surveyed the scene I thought about a book I had just started reading, “Sketching Light,” by photographer, and author, Joe McNally. In it he writes, “As it always has been, light remains the language of all photographers, everywhere.”  What I was searching for really depended on the light. Too harsh and directional, or too soft and flat, or too dark, and everything would be lost. McNally is right. I needed just the right amount of light for my visual discussion.

I chose low angles, and had to be careful of the background influencing my subject. My lens choice was a short focal length 24-70mm and because allowing the camera to select the exposure with an automated mode would have taken the control away, I choose the manual exposure mode. Manual exposure meant I could determine how the bright high lights and how dark the shadows were.

I wanted graphic depictions that depended on the tonal elements more that the actual subjects. I will comment that getting back up after lying in the deep snow is easier said than done. Remember that the camera doesn’t like to be covered with wet snow, so with only one hand for support in the soft and shifting mass the word support doesn’t really apply.

I do like walking through a quiet, snow-covered forest because all sound is muffled. I couldn’t hear the distant highway, other people or even neighbour’s dogs. My boots made the only noise, although every now and then I would mutter some off-colour word as I struggled to regain an upright position after another prone camera angle. I expect some silent listener would have wondered at the sound of grunting, and then an exclamation that usually was followed by laughing, coming from the snow covered forest.

Photographers, except those macro enthusiasts, aren’t really interested in what I’ll call the intimate aspects of a landscape. They position their tripods for wide scenics or choose larger subjects like river valleys, waterfalls, meadows, and mountainscapes. After all, those are the scenes from the natural world that capture our imagination.

The vast and unending spaces shown in photographs by the greats like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell are inspiring and I’ll admit to the lure of a mountain ridge or waves crashing along some sweeping ocean beach. However, every now and then I find myself seeking out shapes created by shadows and light that are easily passed by in the quest to artistically document open spaces and convey our appreciation of some expansive environment.

Snow & Light Sculpture

Those that don’t mind kneeling, sitting, or laying on the ground (or in my case deep snow) might enjoy looking closely into the landscape to photograph sculptures created by how the shadows and light changes an otherwise unremarkable subject.

I do appreciate your comments, Thanks

My website is at

Learning Photography with Digital

Since people first started walking around with their daguerreotype cameras back in the 1840’s photography has been an evolving medium. Photography is a technological medium that constantly changes, both in the way it allows photographers to capture a subject’s image, and how those photographers then can produce that subject’s image for viewing.

Unlike many of the other creative mediums, camera technology has certainly evolved since the first amateur photographers were taking pictures of life around them, and is now at a place where anyone interested enough to take time with the today’s high powered cameras can produce very good photographs.

I have been involved with photography both as a working photographer and as a photography teacher for many years. I taught college level photography for 19 years, and I will say that I believe photographers are getting much better at their craft faster than when I was teaching students in what was then a film environment.

Film was less forgiving and learners had to wait to find out if they were successful. Students of photography had to do their assignments and sometimes wait lengthy delays for access to the school photo laboratory. Those that were very serious set up cramped little photo labs in bathrooms in order to make prints the same day.  As I think back I am not surprised at how slow progress was from the basics to a reasonable understanding of the craft and art of photography.

Today it is easy to examine the composition and exposure just by looking at the camera’s LCD and checking the histogram. Educating oneself is just that easy. Select the subject, think about the light and shadow, compose, and release the shutter. Review the LCD and if it’s wrong then try again until the image looks good.  Also, there is always the period of postproduction for balancing the overall tonal range if the image is lacking, or has too much contrast. That instant reinforcement is proof that digital is much better for the learning process of photography than ever before.

All someone who is serious about this medium needs to do is to take the time to learn the basics of photography, and how their camera works. All so very easy compared to when I was teaching so many years ago in what a friend described once described as “the days of click and pray”.

The immediate review we now have with the LCD is excellent for the learning process and I think it is mainly that feature, rather than a modern camera’s programmed ability to make a pretty good exposure, that allows beginner photographers to achieve good photographs these days.  It also allows me to regularly come in contact with excellent photographers that have become proficient without years of experience.

Photography has become so accessible and, in my opinion, a perfect creative medium for those that are comfortable with an artistic technology that is continually transforming itself. I recall when those of us that wanted to look at inspiring photographs were limited to purchasing or borrowing expensive books published by a few professional photographers. Now it is so easy to find images equal to anything ever produced by just browsing the internet. There are photographer forums, online magazines, websites, blogs and even Facebook, where spectacular photography can be viewed and used as inspiration by photographers.

I have been practicing photography and following photographic trends for well over thirty years and have never been happier to be involved in photography than right now.  A week doesn’t go by without some photographer stopping by my shop to show me their photographs and most are excellent and worth taking the time to view.

I’ll finish this with a motivational quote by fashion and fine art photographer Richard Avedon who said, “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.

I appreciate your comments.

My website is at

Photography on the Ferry



My wife and I boarded the BC ferry Coastal Celebration to Victoria, BC. We parked our car, picked up our cameras, and proceeded up to the sundeck. The day was clear blue and the ferry’s sundeck was packed with people with their cameras, all searching for joyful memories of the one-and-a-half hour ocean crossing from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay.  The weather was pleasant and encouraging for those travelers who wanted to stay outdoors.  When the wind became too gusty the passengers would step behind glass partitions designed to provide protection yet allow for an unobstructed view.

I think, with maybe the rare exception, the photographs being taken were of friends or family posing against the rail. Another favourite photo was the group shot around a table, (arm extended style with camera pointing back at the shooter), and then another favourite, of course, was of other boats passing by. And finally, there were lots of shaky pictures of the luxury homes that were perched on the shores of small rocky islands.

One has to admit, after taking that picture of a spouse or friend standing in front of some scenic location, all the rest are just repetition. I took my wife, Linda’s picture holding her camera, a little tired with all the traveling, hair blowing in all directions, standing next to a white rail with blue water behind her. I’ll treasure that picture because it’s her, but she just smiled when I showed her that not so flattering image.

I had made the obligatory portrait and was about to be off when a guy and his family walked up and handed me his little digicam and asked me to take a group picture. I posed them, made one fellow remove his sunglasses and changed my angle a couple times as I took their family-on-the-ferry portrait. My wife later mentioned that the fellow had been watching and she was sure was waiting for a moment when he could ask me to take their picture.  I am sure he had just looked around for the guy with the biggest camera. I guess I won.

Although, unfamiliar with the large white, ocean going vessel vibrating under my feet, I was fascinated with all the unique doors and windows, wall mounted things like pipes, speakers, all the odd railings, long walkways and so much more. However, most interesting; it had people, lots of people from all types of places.  We heard many languages being spoken.

I wandered that windy deck photographing anything that caught my eye, and that included photographing the people. I had my 18-200mm lens on the camera, so it was easy to be inconspicuous. Those in front of my camera either thought I was, like them, interested in some feature beside or behind them in the ocean, or like a guitar-playing fellow I photographed, just didn’t care. Anyway, I wanted to photograph how they were standing, the play of light on them, the ship, and what was around them, I tried for unusual angles through stairs and made silhouettes. Almost all my images were side or back shots, after all I didn’t know them and wasn’t interested in their faces, just how they fit in with everything else on the ferry, or maybe I should be calling it a ship.

The hour-and-a-half trip gave me plenty of time to search the ferry for things to photograph, but I was enjoying myself so much that before I knew it the fun was over with the sound of the ship’s horn and an announcement to return to our cars.

I do like comments.

My website is at

Photography on a snowy day

After days of overcast weather, British Columbia’s February skies dropped lots and lots of snow of light, fluffy, wet snow. Who would have guessed?  Certainly not the celebrities that read the news to us.  Nevertheless, there were several inches of fresh snow in the morning that wasn’t there the day before and the white landscape was a grand opportunity for photography. The foggy, white, crystallized, hoarfrost-decorated vegetation I wrote about two weeks ago was gone and replaced with soft billowy snow.  Everything was white, and with the increase in temperature I didn’t even need to wear gloves. It’s hard to turn the dials on my camera with padded fingers, and not fogging up my LCD was nice also.

 I wrote about the previous week’s damp, bothersome cold, however, this day it was comfortable wandering through the snow covered woods and fields. I was quickly reminded that I had to be careful not to get covered with that snow while I trudged through that landscape, I didn’t even get past our garden path before both my camera and I was covered with snow. However, I had a hat, and my camera was easily wiped off with the old dishrag I stuck in my pocket. As always, I also had a lens hood and clear filter on the lens.  A lens hood is good under any condition. Not only will a lens hood shade the front lens element from image softening cross light, and protect the lens from front impact, it shelters the lens from snow. And a filter can always be removed after bumping a lens into a snow-covered branch.

 Unlike my last cold day session when I used a flash and saw no need for a tripod, this time I opted to use a tripod. In my excitement I tried some handheld photographs, but the close, low-lit macro images weren’t very sharp. I expect photographers with image stabilizing lenses might have been more successful, but the combination of a long, manual-focusing lens, and my not so sharp eyesight left much to be desired. So I lugged along my tripod. I’m not complaining, as I like using a tripod and those that know me have surely heard me say, “If you don’t like using a tripod, it’s because you have never used a good one.”

 I was in no hurry and didn’t know what to expect, so I took two lenses with me. I hoped for some good landscape shots and stuck a 20mm in my pocket and mounted my 200mm macro on the camera. As it was I quickly exchanged lenses and took pictures of our house, the view down the street and photographed the somewhat bushy wooded area across the road from my place. 

 Although I initially began with landscapes, it was the intimate snow covered vegetation that demanded my photographer’s attention and having a telephoto lens designed for very close photography helped with that. Put a wide angle lens on a camera and we tend to miss what is happening up close, but a telephoto narrows our view and the 200mmm macro kept me looking closer and closer as I isolated parts of plants or drops of water on a wire fence.

 I wandered around for quite a while and took lots of pictures as the light changed. But, when I got back and loaded the image files into my computer I quickly realized those I liked best were from my wife’s garden, but I had enjoyed the long walk in the deep snow anyway. It’s always fun taking pictures even if all you do is delete them in the end.

 I know that snowy overcast days, or cold foggy mornings, like we have had recently put many photographers off going out and taking pictures, and they wait for the sun thinking there can’t possibly be anything worth photographing in flat light. Obviously, I don’t agree.

My wife reminded me about a lecture we once attended given by internationally renowned Canadian photographer Sherman Hines. Hines said, “ I don’t force myself on the environment, I let it manipulate me. There’s no confrontation with nature because I give in to it. I let myself be seduced completely.”

 I am embarrassed to write that I did not fill my obligation with regards to a previous Versatile Blogger nomination. I do have lots of excuses, but I hope readers accept my apology.

 I have again been nominated and will begin with thanks for the nomination by

 I understand that I now should make 10 nominations, so here are bloggers I have began to read and enjoy –  the following are my nominations:

RL Photography                          


Shutter bug                                  

Clumsily Kathy                   

I Go My Way                                

Indian Wedding Photographer  

Claire Atkinson                   

Mike Moruzi                        

Tim Cash                             



I also read that being nominated I must say seven things about myself……..Hmmm….Ok:

 1. I have been an active photographer since the 1970’s.

2. I taught college photography credit courses for about 20 years.

3. Writing isn’t so much a struggle – the struggle is choosing and placing the words in a   coherent fashion.

4. I am one of those that having learned photography using film – will never ever return to using it.

5. I earn my living photographing people. However, in spite of being very good making pictures of people, given the choice, I would photograph plants and buildings.

6. I have a small shop that on most Thursdays is filled with other photographers drinking coffee and talking photography. I don’t get much done on Thursdays.

7. My wife says I pay rent on my small shop so I can have a place to talk to other photographers.