Photography is Marvellous


Victoria harbor


Brick doorway 1


Canadian Flag


Storage Tanks


After the Rain

Toad in Pond

I must admit that I have never really thought of identifying myself with a particular photography specialty. When I was earning my living photographing people, weddings, family portraits, and such, I might have said that I was a portraitist, but not so much anymore. Nevertheless, when I was talking with a woman that had recently become a member of a local photography club, she mentioned that someone had told her she should always have a specialty and wondered about mine. I couldn’t be specific in a response.

I suppose that might be a good way to learn photography and that could be why other members are suggesting that to her. Choosing a particular course of study and getting real good at it is a great plan.

This woman told me she was having a great time learning photography and enjoyed her interaction with the new friends she was making at the photo club. But, she was worried some members would be critical that she hadn’t chosen a specialty because she likes to photograph lots of things and asked me what my specialty was.

Although I have a shop where I sell used camera equipment and I regularly teach classes, after 40+ years I have retired from client work. Nowadays I am just enjoying photography and can be very selective if I want to, but mostly I choose anything that finds it’s way in front of my camera. Everything is an exciting opportunity. I told her that, and suggested there are a whole bunch of really good photographers wandering around that are like me; opportunists when in comes to their subjects and who don’t specialize.

I have positioned a couple monitors in my shop so that people don’t have to crowd around my computer when I want to show them a particular picture. And for classes I set up a screen and turn on my digital projector. So I selected a file that I sometimes use and scrolled through it for her to show her how much fun I have photographing everything.

As readers can see from the posted images, I just enjoy photography.

French painter & photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue said about photography, “It’s marvellous, marvellous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I’m going to photograph everything, everything!”

Planning a Photography Excursion to the tulip festival.


Now that the February blahs are over, and March has come and gone bringing warmer days (regular readers know how I feel about March, “Ides of March. 15 March 2012”), I am thinking about planning a spring photography excursion.  I am hoping the weather will be cooperative as I don’t enjoy photography in the rain, and don’t want to get my camera equipment wet.  I think I should include some protective rain gear in the event of bad weather.

I would like to go on spring excursion heading west and south and that should give me the best opportunity for photography that will not include snow or cold temperatures.  I want to go somewhere along the coast I think, as spring comes earlier along the west coast and I should have my choice of flowers, landscapes, or any possible wildlife.  A friend phoned last night from Vancouver saying there was green grass, and flowers, and the temperature was 12 degrees, and expected to get warmer.

I just received an email reminding me of the spectacular blooming events along Washington State’s northern coast.  I could attend the 29th Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival from the 1st to 30th of April.  I know I could link up with other photographers going there from BC, or I could just head to LaConner or some other town on the coast of Washington, find a place to sleep, and join the festivities.  I am not so much a flower person, but like so many other subjects I photograph, I think multicolored fields of tulips would be an interesting photographic challenge. Choices ranging from extreme close-ups to landscapes would be just plain fun.

I don’t tent or RV so I will start browsing the internet for reasonable lodging. I have found fun places to stay in the past by checking out lodging websites, however, I have also ended up by chance in neat places just by going where I want to be and looking around.

If this brings up the question, “Have you ever had bad luck finding a place without advance reservations?”  Oh, yes!  I remember pulling our tiny Suzuki Sidekick off the highway at a roadside rest stop late at night because every hotel and motel was full.  My wife, Linda, and I tried unsuccessfully to spend the night sleeping in that cramped car. Morning came early (4am) and because nothing in the nearby small town was open we drove off tired and hungry. We finally ended up gobbling donuts and coffee hours later at a Tim Horton’s, then later collapsed on a sandy beach beside a lake and slept much of the day away.  Oh well, we will never forget that excursion!

I like to plan and organize such events to include preparing the vehicle, so when the time comes I will ensure the car is tuned up, and the winter tires are changed.  I like lists because I always forget stuff, and so I’ll begin making several brightly colored checklists of the items I will bring, and then I will start looking forward to the photography excursion, and have fun just thinking about the pictures I want to take.

That brings up the best part of planning.  What camera equipment do I bring?  I could bring every lens and camera I have, but that’s just silly as I wouldn’t have any room for a change of clothes.  Too much of the time I over pack my camera gear and end up stashing equipment in the car because it isn’t being used, so I will make an effort to minimize this year.

I don’t like to venture very far with only one camera, so I always carry a backup camera.  Cameras can malfunction and I don’t want to take the chance of reaching my distant destination and not being able to do the photography I went there to do.

Next on the list are the lenses I think I’ll need.  If I attend the tulip festival I’ll need a macro lens for close-up photography and a wide-angle lens for those colourful, flowered landscapes. There will be other opportunities and I’ll bring my 70-200mm and for wide low light opportunities will include a 24-70mm f2.8.  And very important, I will pack lots of memory cards.  By now the camera pack is getting full. That’s three lenses, two camera bodies, and I haven’t yet included my infrared camera that I think I’ll also bring. Oops, there is also my wife’s camera gear. Add her camera, macro lens, and favorite zoom lens, a 70-300mm.

Of course we will take our tripods, that’s a given.  Ahh, the decisions we must make. I just think it is so much fun.  The planning and anticipation of any photographic excursion is as much fun as the actual trip.  Whether I make it to the Washington coast or have to pull back my plans and stay closer to home, I will soon be venturing out camera in hand.


Photography on a Frosty Morning

 Daybreak was foggy within a white, crystallized wonderland of hoarfrost-decorated trees and vegetation.  That scene is what I have been waking up to every day this past week. The damp cold has been bothersome, but what photographer could pass up such a creative opportunity to wander through frosty woods and fields trying out different lenses and locations. I like the search and the discovery.

This morning I talked my wife, Linda, into venturing out into the cold to photograph the hoarfrost in her garden. For that we each mounted macro lenses on our cameras and I included a flash mounted on a light stand for both of us. There was a time when we would have been burdened with wires running from the flash to camera, but those days have passed now that wireless flash technology has become the standard.

The morning was overcast and foggy, so the addition of flash was a must in the dim light.  I have a ring flash that I like to use when I photograph plants, but the white crystalline hoarfrost would have been easily over exposed with the direct light from a flash mounted around my lens and I wanted to preserve as much of the delicate details as possible. All we had to do was position our flashes for the best light angle.

Our cameras allowed us to sync the shutterspeed above 1/250th of a second. Many modern cameras have a feature in their menus called “Hi-Sync” or something close to it and I recommend readers check their manuals on how to select and use a high flash synchronizing speed so they won’t be limited to 1/250th of a second shutterspeed.

Handholding at 1/500th of a second (or greater) reduces camera shake and with the addition of flash it is easy to stop any plant movement. Whenever I use a flash outside I like to reduce the ambient light by a stop or two so that if I didn’t use a flash the scene and subject would have been under exposed, consequently, I add the flash to illuminate the main subject, and those elements that the flash doesn’t affect are under exposed, and that flash is off camera sending light from the side or the rear, not limiting us to the on camera flash directly in front of the subject, or forcing us to position ourselves dependent on the sun.

We had a lazy morning and got out late, so although we both prefer to use tripods for close-up photography, we needed to working fast as the temperature rose. We could hear and see the crystals falling with the morning breeze. I suppose if we had a warm outside couch and been bundled up, just sitting on the porch would have been nice. Nevertheless, we got right into photographing our frosty subjects only stopping when we had to reposition our flash.

I approach and light a plant the same way I would a person. I begin by checking the exposure with my camera meter. I always use manual mode so in today’s foggy low light and because I was using hi-sync I could keep my shutterspeed at 1/650th and sometimes higher. Next I chose the best angle of view for my subject, and as always pay attention to what’s in the background. Lastly, I move the light around making exposures until I am satisfied with the highlights and shadows on my subject just as I would if I were doing portraiture of an individual.

I like foggy, frosty mornings and the last few days have been a great time to wander around with my camera. Soon everything is going to change. The frosty vegetation will be replaced with green buds and the cold, foggy, overcast days will be filled with sunny days and blue sky. Yes, I am looking forward to that, but for now winter is a creative challenge and I wouldn’t change it.

And thanks to 96arley ( for the nomination.



Do I Need Another Lens?

In my experience, any image can be altered (sometimes dramatically) when one changes lenses.  A subject can be isolated and the perspective in front of, and behind, the subject flattened with a telephoto lens; while landscapes in many cases look better with a wide-angle lens as the field of focus increases and the view around the subject widens.

I select my lenses depending on what I want to photograph and say about the subject. Because control over my image is important to me I question two items.  What am I photographing? And what result do I want?

For close up photography, one will be more successful with a macro lens that is designed to move in close to a subject than a mid range zoom that only focuses ‘sort of’ close, but is really designed for distance work.  For those wide expanse landscapes in the interior of British Columbia one may want a lens with wide-angle capabilities. For example, I might select my 18-70mm or 16-85mm as I search for a focal length that helps me include important features.

Last week I discussed lenses with a photographer who wants to get serious about photographing the abundance of wildlife here in the interior of British Columbia.  I suggested starting with a 70-300mm and then a longer telephoto in the future. Those lenses have a narrow angle of view, but plenty of magnification for wildlife photography.  Most of the 70-300mm lenses available today are lightweight and easily hand held. One can dig into their piggy bank and purchase some of the super telephotos like a 500 or 600mm, but until then moderately priced lenses like the 70-300mm should do.

There are interesting lenses like the 18-200mm that are just great. These multifocal length lenses are lightweight, and excellent for vacations or just walking around.   However, for serious enthusiasts there are wide aperture lenses with maximum apertures like f/2.8 that allow much more light in than lenses with f/3.5 or f/4 that are most common. These large aperture lenses give the user lots of light gathering capability and the ability to use higher shutter speeds for reducing camera shake, and help stop fast moving subjects.

To explain that, there is an optimum amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor for a correct exposure. When the aperture is closed down it lets in less light and one must slow the shutter speed.  With large aperture lenses the shutter opening can be increased and let in a lot more light, therefore one has the ability to increase the shutter speed and still get a proper exposure.

All this also affects “depth of field”.  Depth of field is best defined as that area around the main subject, in front of and behind, that is acceptably sharp.  Photographers like to blur non-essential elements in the background by reducing the depth of field, and do that by increasing the size of the lens aperture.  In addition, letting in more light makes shooting in low light conditions less difficult.

So we get back to my earlier question:  Do I need another lens?  Even though I like the wide range focal length lenses like the 18-200mm for everyday use there are lots of other choices that will better help me visually say what I want when I make a picture.  A brief summary might be as follows; a macro for close-ups, a wide angle for landscapes, a telephoto for wildlife and, of course, some lenses with wide aperture for low light and for more control of depth of field.

Each year manufacturers introduce more lenses with different technology, which improves imaging capabilities, and naturally, increases the price.  Now you understand why one of the favourite sayings in photography is “it’s all about the glass” as I’ve explained to readers in this short discussion.  So, go ahead, check out the many offerings and ask yourself “Do I need another lens?”.