Variety makes photography interesting.               


Washington Park’s Leaning Tree


NIght refinery

Pacific Madrone tree

Cormorants and a seagull


Deception Pass kayaks

Dave and Cynthia at sunset


I have never been one of those photographers that proudly declares myself limited to one kind of subject. My visual interests depend a lot on what is happening when I have a camera in my hand, and when on vacation I never restrict myself to one subject. My past two articles were about my photographic experiences on a three-day weekend in Anacortes Washington with my friends Dave and Cynthia Monsees.

If I didn’t have a camera my goal would simply have been to attend the annual Shipwreck Festival, but I do have a camera and photography is always a major part of any vacation for me. When I plan my getaways I look for a variety in the subjects I will photograph. This trip was easy, I began by photographing the festival committee volunteers the first afternoon, then spent most of the second day photographing the festival, and on the third day we photographed the scenic coast from dawn to dusk.

The Rotary volunteers were waiting to meet me and were all looking forward to being photographed. The Festival photography was, well it was a street festival filled with excellent subjects. And finally, photographing a coastal landscape is pretty easy when one is on an island.

I am not sure if Dave and Cynthia were aware that I’d be constantly dragging them from location to location for three days, but there were so many places that after my three years away that I wanted to return to, and I was determined they should see and photograph as much of Washington state’s Fidalgo island as possible.

Someone, a long time ago said, “variety is the spice of life”. I have always liked that old saying that reminds me to try different things, and change my approach, especially in photography. Varity when it came to the subjects I photograph has kept my life with a camera interesting.

My dictionary defines Perspective as; outlook, point of view, attitude, frame of mind and reference, approach and interpretation. Unlike many other creative mediums photography not only allows, but encourages one to change their perspective and interpretation of reality. That change might be as simple as removing the 28mm lens and replacing it with a 105mm. (or changing the focal length on that zoom lens from 28mm to 105mm)

Anyone watching the three of us standing on a rocky beach as we waited for the right light to photograph the famous Washington park leaning tree might notice that although we were all photographing the same subject, our approach, perspective and interpretation was very different. Not only where our tripods were positioned, but also with our selection of lenses. And adding the word “variety” that evening, well that’s easy, as soon as the tide came in and it got too dark for the tree, we drove to the other side of town to photograph Tesoro Refinery’s bright lights shimmering on the dark ocean waters across the bay.

As I wrote in the beginning, “my visual interests depend a lot on what is happening when I have a camera in my hand, and when on vacation I never limit myself to one subject.”

Practicing Street Photography      

I have read that Street photography is the practice of photographing chance encounters and random incidents in public places, Well, like the street.

In an article about my experiences in Vancouver BC some time ago I wrote, “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 fascinated with this kind of candid photography that has been around since people began to carrying cameras in public, and I am always up to any occasion that allows my somewhat reserved and not so confident approach to photographing strangers going about their life on any public street. So when that opportunity presented itself at the giant outdoor flea market in Anacortes Washington I was excited.

Most modern street photographers seem to be recommending small, inconspicuous mirrorless cameras. However, in spite advice posted on many of the forums I have visited I still wondered if I could again try using my big DSLR with a battery grip and 24-70mm attached. I admit that’s a huge and very noticeable combination that the last time I tried at this event had curious by-passers looking right at me.

I remembered a 1969 Algerian-French movie, called “Z”, about some foreign dictatorship and a photojournalist who helped to uncover evidence about a murder. The photographer, wielding a big camera with a loud motor drive, continually shot from his hip. So I thought, what the heck, lets see if I can get away with that. Also, knowing I could easily crop, I moved the lens to its widest 24mm and photographed everything holding my camera at my waist.

I also figured that people at the street sale would be so absorbed with their treasure searching that if I didn’t hold my camera up to my eye, like I did last time, they would be oblivious to my photography.

My results were much better than last time. I wandered releasing the shutter anytime I observed people doing something interesting. There were a few camera conscious people that remarked about how big and nice my camera was, and one guy even asked the model I had. Nevertheless, none of my pictures showed people turning to look at me as I was taking a picture, except for those times when actually I asked someone to pose.

The big street market made things easy, and my new “stealth” photography technique made me more comfortable. And as I said, my results were much better this time. Whether it will work when I am not at an event that distracts people’s attention away from me remains to be seen.

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.

Fifteen Photographers at Open House

fifteen photgraphers & a Model  Creek shooters  Modeling session  Lighting a portrait

Last weekend fifteen dedicated, and I think, pretty excited, photographers attended the Versatile Studio’s photography open house just outside of Kamloops, British Columbia. It is aptly named Versatile Studio because it provides multiple locations for portrait photography inside and out.

The day began with coffee and numerous discussions on portrait photography. At one point I got up to refill my coffee and then stood back, realizing this group of photographers, with their many different styles and approaches was going to make the day interesting, educational, and a lot of fun.

Of course, it immediately began with a hitch, as only one (thank you, Ali) of the four models that promised to appear showed up; nevertheless, these relentless photographers didn’t miss a beat, and decided to split into three informal groups using each other as subjects.

Those that wanted to work with lights in the large studio space chose two of their number with the most experience in studio strobe lighting to lead, and they took turns modeling, moving lights, backgrounds, etc, and making pictures that delved into some interesting experimentation.

Several others picked up reflectors and gathered at the stream with the one model, Ali. The light filtering through the trees was perfect for the large reflectors, and I think wading in the cool running water was also enticing on the hot August day.

A few decided to try out the light-diffusion panels I had set up in the meadow behind the studio, and later made portraits using the portable strobe I had placed in what was once a large farm equipment/hay storage shed.

Small groups interacted, gathering to discuss different techniques and to exchange thoughts on photography, and in my opinion, it was that exchange of personal experience between the photographers that made the day a success.

As I got the chance to peak at the LCD of several photographers’ cameras, I was intrigued at how differently each photographer captured the same subject. As I write I think of some famous quotes, the first by iconic photographer Ansel Adams, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”   His words more than fit what I saw created by those assembled at Versatile Studio that day, and I also like this quote, by author Peter Bunnel, who in his book, “Creative Camera International” writes, “There is no single form or style of portraiture. Portraiture means individualism and as such means diversity, self-expression, private point of view. The most successful images seem to be those which exist on several planes at once and which reflect the fantasy and understanding of many.”

So of course, you can understand why I would include that quote because, indeed, I saw many styles of portraits being made on that day. That’s the interesting and enjoyable thing about getting together with other photographers, especially a collection of photographers as large and diverse in talent and experience as was there; everyone is an individual and creates from their own personal perspective.

Versatile Studio, situated in the small community about fifteen minutes from my shop in Kamloops, hosted this photographer’s event with the help of accomplished photographer, Gary Risdale and myself. Our roles weren’t that of instructors as much as we were there to introduce, demonstrate, and facilitate.

I was so involved with what others were doing that, other than the images I have posted, I didn’t get a chance for anything else.

The studio’s owner, Dave Monsees, commented to me that he liked being around fun people with a true passion for photography and said he enjoyed himself so much that he intends to try to have photographer and model get-togethers like this in his studio on an occasional basis, every month or so.

I enjoyed spending time with those photographers; some were long time friends, and some were new acquaintances; and, I must admit, some of my most favorite times of all, have been either doing photography, or being with people that are doing photography.

It is always great to have your comments, John

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