Light the Portrait workshop        

 

 

This past weekend I lead the first day of a workshop titled “Light the Portrait”. My goal during the two sessions was to help photographers understand how to use light, indoors or out, when they photograph people.

Fear-of-Flash has always been a topic of discussion for photographers photographing weddings, and portraits both indoors and out.

American photographer and author of the Strobist.com blog David Hobby said,  “…You hear a photographer say, “I’m a strictly available light photographer, I’m a purist.”  He continues, ” What I hear is, I’m scared of using light so I’m going to do this instead. Well, for me lighting was a way to start to create interesting pictures in a way that I could do it.”

It’s with those words that I began the workshop that would discuss using both studio lights and speed lights. Adding that personally, I always use a flash when I make a portrait of someone inside or outside. I don’t care if the ambient light is bright or dim.

My goal is to not only help photographers gain an understanding of off-camera lighting, but to also convince them that using flash will separate their photography from those that rely on natural or as I prefer calling it, “ambient light”.

The first session was about the big studio lights and accompanying light modifiers like, umbrellas, softboxes and reflectors, to name a few we employed during the day.

Those of us in Kamloops British Columbia are fortunate to have a local portrait studio that is not only large enough for a class, but also is packed with all sorts of lighting equipment, backdrops and change rooms for models. The portrait studio, Versatile Studio, also comes complete with a kitchen and dining area. And there are all sorts of props for posing.  All I needed to do was write up my lesson plan, print some handouts, book the studio, hire a model and show up in time to start leading participants into the exciting world of off-camera lighting.

I enjoy leading; I like that word better than “teaching”. I know to teach “is to show or explain to people how to do something”, but most of those that attend know a lot about photography and have already been shooting portraits for some time. All I need to do is build a bridge for them between what they already know and what I am presenting.  And as I stand with them in the studio/classroom I get watch that quick tightening of shoulders, widening of eyes and smiles when they suddenly get it. When that happens I can’t help but smile too.

Well, the first day is over and, as usual, they tired me out. However, I am already looking forward to next week with those enthusiastic photographers (and our energetic model). I wonder if I should begin next week’s session with the words of legendary filmmaker from the 1920s, D.W. Griffith. “Lights camera action”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Camera Show and Swap Meet     

 

 

There wasn’t a better way to end this year’s dry, hot, smoke filled summer than hanging out in a large air-conditioned hall filled with cameras and other camera enthusiasts.

The year-end Vancouver Camera show and Swap meet was on the first Sunday in October and, of course, I was there!

I had convinced my friend Laurie Patmore to join me for the big camera sale. Actually it didn’t really take much convincing. If I remember right all I said was, “Do you want to go with me to the October 1st Camera sale?” And without hesitation he replied “yes”. Then I slide in, “If we take you all-wheel drive I won’t have to change to my snow tires.” I was glad he said yes to both, because I was too lazy to change my tires.

We didn’t need snow tires for the beautiful dry 4-hour drive through the mountains, even though they were required by October 1st.   With that notethe next morning we woke to a cool, clear, coastal, (also dry) autumn day, and by 8AM we were at our table setting out everything we had to sell.

I always wonder what will be popular with photographers I meet there. Last spring the trend was for vintage equipment and although I could see lots of older photographers walking through the door, the majority were a younger crowd. However, as usual, I’ll use the word “diversity” here to describe the mixed bag of photographer types with different interests, specialties in photography, some preferring film, others digital. There were collectors of both past technology, and some that were looking for the latest digital had to offer. Nevertheless when the doors opened they all rushed in to find sweet deals that I am certain they got.

I spent an exhilarating day talking non-stop with other photographers about, hmm…just about everything photography. They readily showed me their cameras and told me stories about places and subjects they photographed. There were long time friends that stopped by to say hello, new friends to keep in touch with, and to my delight, local Vancouver blogger Michael Hoffmann (michaelhoffmannphotography.com) took time out of his busy day to show up and say hello. Gosh, in spite of a great day of selling the cameras and lenses I had on my table I even got time to wander around to check out all the neat photography equipment at other tables.

I know my main goal at the Vancouver Camera Swap and Sale is to “swap and sell”, but I must admit meeting people from all over the province, and finding out about their different interests means just as much to me.

I guess I finish with some words as I do every time to describe my day at Vancouver Camera Swap meet. It was, as always, invigorating, energizing, stimulating, entertaining, exhilarating and educational. Or maybe I could shorten that to just good fun.

The Vancouver Camera Swap Meet is an excellent way to meet and exchange information with other photographers, and to look at, check out, and buy an impressive selection of used photographic equipment that would not be so accessible anywhere else in Canada.

Photographing a late summer garden.   

 

I woke up to a wet day.

There was a light shower overnight, not the strong rain everything is dying for here in the southern part of British Columbia, but it did dampen things down the most since those rainy weeks last June. However, any rain is good and if I had better hearing I surely would have heard happy sounds coming from the garden outside my door.

The drizzle ended and as I lazily finished my morning coffee, like any serious photographer, I knew there was an opportunity waiting.

Many photographers that are excited with all the brilliant colours of spring ignore the dry plants at the end of summer. Sure the reds, blues, purples, bright yellows and greens have mostly gone, but there is still an abundance of colours if one just takes a moment to look.

I like photographing the garden. As that well-worn quote attributed to Mark Twain goes, “ I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like”, I admit that I have no memory for plant names, but I like all the flowers, trees and bushes one finds in a garden.

With me, it’s not really the colour as much as it is the shapes. My approach to a spring, summer, fall and winter garden is much the same. I search for the shapes, differing tones and, of course, the light.

My favourite accessory for rainy days is my ring-flash. As I would with any portrait, person or plant, I always use flash. I usually operate my flash off-camera using light stands and light modifiers. Sometimes just holding my flash at arms length works at the end of the day. But after a rain I like the sparkling direct light a ring flash produces.

The ring flash is a flash that fits around the front of a lens instead of on the camera. I prefer keeping the flash at some distance by employing longer focal length macro lenses. My macro lens, a true macro, is a 200mm. That lens keeps me out of the garden ensuring that I don’t step on other plants.

I photographing the garden, spring, summer, fall and winter, calming. Maybe that’s because I am looking into and at the small details of a landscape ignoring the world around me

When my wife and I photographed the garden together her final images were about space, design and how all the bushes and flowers fit together and how the colours interacted. Linda’s visuals discussed the landscape rather than individual flowers. Mine are more intimate. As I wrote, I am always, “looking into…at the details” when I wander our garden.

As with any portrait, I am rarely satisfied with natural light and almost always add light from a flash. And during those hours of low light as the storm slowly drifts away adding a bit of light to makes a normally flat subject come to life.

That garden just outside my door is always waiting. I never ignore it and am always looking to see what it offers.

I found this quote by the famous Canadian nature photographer and writer Freeman Patterson, “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, you intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

Infrared photography is always a fun change.      

 

The wind came and the choking smoke from the fires in British Columbia and Washington State has disappeared. Gosh, it seems strange to see the hills across the valley again. I opened all the windows and doors to let the breeze reduce the smell of smoke in my home.

Well there it was waiting, a sunny day with only a few clouds in the otherwise clear blue sky, for any photographer with the time and energy to walk out for a few pictures of the golden fields and green forests that weren’t being burned by the wildfires.

I grabbed my camera, hopped in the car, and drove up the dirt road across the river from my home. I wanted a wide shot with lots of sky, but as I walked along the dusty road to make the photograph I began thinking how easy and boring my photo was. So with that thought in mind I got back in my car, drove home, dropped off that camera, and got our my infrared camera to start over again.

Black and white makes me think about the subject first and then the light, or how a subject looks in a particular light. Infrared, on the other hand, makes me think about the light first and then includes the subject. Of course the subject, and how it is composed and framed is important, but some things don’t look any different with a camera converted to infrared than a colour image converted to black and white. Those of us using infrared always must be thinking about the light first and then choose subjects that we think will look like they are photographed with infrared.

I stopped to photograph a landscape around a neighbour’s barn, and then hiked up the road a ways for a shot of an old car that has been rusting on a hill for a lot longer than I have lived in British Columbia. Then drove down to the river. The far bank was lined with campers and boats for the annual Salmon run and Pritchard is a favourite fishing location.

I drove across the bridge, got out and walked along the beach then back over the bridge. I won’t begin to count the number of times in the last 40 years that I have stood on that bridge and pointed my camera at the scenery along the Thompson River. I always find something worth photographing.

Using infrared gives me images that are a fun change from sharp colourful pictures I get with my DSLR. The glowing white foliage and black sky create an otherworldly mood.

I’ll finish this with what I wrote about infrared last May. “Shooting infrared is always an exploration, a discovery and moves a photographer far from the usual.”

 

 

Anacortes Shipwreck Festival         

After an easy six or so hour highway drive from my home in Pritchard British Columbia and I pulled into the picturesque town of Anacortes, referred to as the homeport of the Pacific Northwest’s San Juan Islands, for an annual event called the Shipwreck Festival. Gosh, it had been two years since my return to the enjoyment of what is certainly one of my favourite places and events. The last time was when my wife, Linda, and I made two trips to that area in 2014, the first in July to Anacortes and a second the week before Halloween for a short stay in the neighbouring small town of La Connor.

The Festival’s website says that some thirty years ago commercial fisherman would gather to sell their used gear on Anacortes’ Commercial Avenue. That popular event expanded to what is now called the Shipwreck Festival, a giant community garage sale that on the third weekend of July each year occupies about nine blocks of the town’s main street, offering, unique treasures from over 200 or more businesses, organizations, antique dealers, small vendors and local families.

The Fidalgo Island Rotary Club organizes the Shipwreck Festival and this year I was fortunate to be included with the Rotary Club volunteers as photographer.

I am sure there was a lot of behind the scenes work that went on before I arrived the Friday afternoon before the big event, but I was greeted by a fresh and enthusiastic group that were gearing up to mark street locations for the next day’s deluge of vendors that I was told began happening at 4AM.

I will say that over the many years I have been attending that festival I have never heard or met with a sour word. The people I encountered are always warm and generous and after a short time one gets the feeling they are old friends. And I immediately felt that way as I joined that group decked in their Rotarian vests.

When they were finally all prepped with measuring poles, blue chalk and “street closed” signs, they fanned out onto the town’s main thoroughfare redirecting traffic and marking the street with me running around documenting everything with my camera.

I have been attending the festival for years; I don’t remember when I started. I am pretty sure I first learned about the Shipwreck Festival when joined some friends that were there for the Fidalgo Island crab festival. I also remember stopping in Anacortes with some Army buddies back in 1967. I was stationed at Ft. Lewis Washington and we set off to see as much of the state as we could on our weekend pass. I seem to remember sleeping (jammed uncomfortably) in the car. These days I sleep comfortably in motels and don’t drink as much beer as I did then.

I will say that I don’t get to make the trip every year, although I’d like to. So this year’s opportunity to join the festival’s local volunteers will stand out as one the most memorable.

I had a great time creating images that the festival committee will be able to use for next years advertisements and my fun didn’t end with just taking pictures of their efforts that afternoon. I spent the next day taking photographs and shopping.

This was the kind of vacation that I like – the opportunity participate as an event photographer, to try my hand at “street photography” on the packed avenue and to spend time photographing the coastal landscape. All less than a day’s drive from a completely different environment then the one I live in, and with a chance to meet new people, eat at great seafood restaurants, and, of course, wander the Shipwreck Festival looking for treasures.

Pritchard Rodeo 2017    

A whole year has past and once again I joined my friends and neighbours for a dusty, fun-filled Sunday at the Pritchard Rodeo.

Now that the rodeo has come and gone and I am sitting at my computer looking through the many pictures I took, it is easy to see that I had a great time. Actually I am pretty sure everyone that attended, participants, organizers, spectators and photographers, had a great time.

This year’s event was a little sparse. Not when it came to all the spectators, the stands were full. But the numbers of cowboys and cowgirls participating was way down because of the wildfires across the province. I expect many were either evacuated and were struggling to safeguard their homes and livestock or they couldn’t get to the rodeo with all the road closures.

The days leading up to this weekend have been smoke filled and the sky has been grey. But by 10AM on Sunday blue sky with a few clouds. My friend Dave Monsees stopped by my house and ten minutes later we were ringside with our cameras, Dave with his 100-400mm and me with my 70-200mm.

At 1PM the Rodeo Chairman, Pritchard Rodeo stood center ring and waved his hat, the announcer called out the first event, a bronc rider burst into the arena, and all the photographers along the rails started shooting.

I’ve written before how suitable the Pritchard Rodeo grounds are for photographers. There’s a strong metal arena railing that makes it safe to stand close to the action without restricting the view. And every year I look forward to standing there along side all the other photographers that, like me, enjoy capturing the fast moving test of wills between animals and riders. I think that photographing any action event is fun and there’s always action at a rodeo.

This year I met two well-known British Columbia rodeo photographers, Elaine Taschuk from Vancouver and Tony Roberts from Kelowna. They talked about other rodeos in BC and their favourite lenses for capturing the action, and naturally the Canon vs. Nikon quips were flying.

Pritchard is the only rodeo I attend. Its close by, easy to get to, and easy to photograph. All one has to do is pay attention to where the participants are coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera. Then I select shutter priority, choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use Shutter priority (“TV” on Canon and “S’ on Nikon) so I can select the shutter’s speed and let the camera choose the aperture. Yep, it’s darned easy.

This year’s rodeo (or any rodeo for that matter) was a great way to spend the day. When I got home I downloaded my images and quickly edited out those that didn’t look good, then cropped and balanced the exposure on those I chose to keep.

There will be lots of rodeos over the summer and into the fall that are well worth any photographer’s time. My advice is to grab that camera and mount any zoom lens that, at least, goes to 200mm. Then enjoy a day that will fill your computer with some great action photographs.