Try something different from the usual vacation photos.  

 

I hadn’t picked up my infrared camera since spring, and it was a last minute addition when I was loading the car for my trip to the Washington coast.

Now as I sort through the pictures I took on my short four-day junket I am glad I did.

The low, late afternoon coastal light is great for infrared. The trees become an iridescent white, the sky a deep black and anything painted a light colour glows.

I suppose most of the pictures one takes on vacation are little more than documents of the places visited and end up filed away in hopes that future generations will eventually find the volumes of unmarked computer files and excitedly relive the experience.

Somehow I doubt that actually happens very much.

Just as the closet full of boxed slides from the film generation will likely be discarded when age forces them to downsize, I expect the terabytes of image files stored on memory cards, cell phones and the illusive cloud will follow a similar fate.

I don’t have an answer to that, I guess what will be will be. However, modern digital technology at least allows us to be a bit more creative with the images that come out of our cameras. I don’t know if the memories they retain will last any longer than I will when I am just dusty ashes in some old jar, but what the heck, if anyone does take the time to look through the volumes of photographs I leave I am sure they won’t be bored because very few of my vacation photos fit easily under the heading, “document”.

My vacations, for many years have centered around my interest in photography. My wife used to call them “photo vacations” because everywhere we visited and everything we did when traveling revolved around taking the time to get creative with our cameras.

Now with modern digital technology that creative photography is not only “during the excursion” but goes on for many enjoyable hours at the computer when all the gear has been put away at home and the trip is only memories.

Enter infrared.

Infrared files are waiting to be manipulated. In my opinion the need to preserve or enhance the beauty of what was experienced on one’s latest adventure doesn’t apply. Infrared is a different light and different statement about the world we experience.

Infrared creates a completely different feeling for me. When I discussed my infrared photos last May I wrote that when I see a black and white photograph it makes me think about how a subject looks in a particular light and the mood it creates.

Infrared makes me think about the light first and then includes the subject.

The pictures one makes with an IR camera are always an exploration, a discovery, and are very different from the usual vacation photos.

Film Cameras     

Film Photography

I was a bit surprised this past week when a couple loudly told me they preferred using film and doubted they would ever bother with digital. They smiled knowingly while pronouncing digital as an in inferior way of doing photography, and that those that used digital cameras couldn’t make good pictures without a computer. Of course, I told them I disagreed, but I also had to say that they should use whatever makes them comfortable. I like black and white film and mentioned that also.

I find that many photographers who use film cameras instead of digital constantly make sure others know their choice, and like to offer a rationale for using film with statements as they did, and saying, “This camera has always taken very good pictures why would I change”. I can’t argue with what seems to me a reasonable statement, however, in my opinion, the difference between digital and film is like driving a 1970’s car and the latest 2015 model car across Canada.

As with film, I really liked those old fuel-guzzling, muscle cars, but the smooth, inexpensive performance, the stylish comfort and the myriad of options available for the operator of the 2015 model car will make the experience safer and more relaxing and than the 1970 version, just like using a digital camera does.

This couple were so emphatic about how great the pictures were that their film cameras produced pictures that I naturally assumed they do their own darkroom work. But no, they take their film into a lab that processes it, then scans it to a computer, then with predetermined settings determined by a computer set up by some technician they get their prints. Hmmm…., not much photographer input there, and a lot more “digital technology” then I cared to mention. Oh well, at least they are taking pictures.

Later I as I contemplated about when I used to shoot film I thought, there was something to be said about the permanence, and how it demanded we get it right the first time. There were no second chances, and if more than 36 exposures of some subject were needed there was that “dead in the water” moment while changing film unless I had a second camera hanging around my neck. Forethought was a required option; and with regard to multiple cameras I can remember packing a bag with one body loaded with black and white film, another with colour film, and a third with slide film.

When referring to the time when we both earned a living as photographers using film, my friend Alex commented, “Oh, the days of click and pray.” As I wrote, there are no second chances. Especially for a photographer that relies on a lab for processing and printing that roll of film.

I will say that shooting film certainly slows one down. Shooting a roll of film every now and then might be a good idea. One can easily pick up an old film camera and put a roll of film in it for less than a $100. Relying on a lab for colour processing might lift the cost much, but I have no doubt with a bit of searching we all could find someone with a home dark room to process a roll of black and white film. I don’t know if that is getting back to basics, as a photographer that I met called shooting film, nevertheless, it would be fun to use one of those heavy, old, shiny, metal cameras again. And who knows, using film might become a regular way to, hmmm….get back to the basics of a time gone by.

Photographing the Winter Garden

Outdoor lighting kit  Clematis

Erigron  Erigron b

Winter blown bullrush

Step Ladder

 

Sunday was one of those “let’s see how many small jobs I can do” days. One would think there is no chance of being bored on a day like that, but I finally decided it was time to relax and sat down with a glass of wine, and enjoyed lunch with my wife and listened to some jazz.

As I made my way from one chore to another I kept looking at the snow in the garden and wondering if there was an opportunity waiting to make a photo or two, but I pushed along thinking “maybe later”.   However, as I started on my second glass of wine I complained that the outside light was gray and flat and that maybe I should just forget it. Could that have been the wine talking, or that I am just lazy?

Ever one to keep me on my toes, my wife, Linda, reminded me of a lecture we once attended by Canadian photographer, and author, Sherman Hines. (I recommend readers check him out) As she remembered Hines had said something like; “there is always something to photograph when the weather is poor, look for the small stuff”. There was the challenge. I left the room to get my camera.

The snow was getting wet on the plus 1 degree C afternoon so I decide to leave my tripod behind and mounted my wife’s 70-180mm AF macro on my camera. That unique, fun to use lens is the only true zoom Micro (macro) lens ever made by Nikon. And I get to borrow it anytime, well, almost anytime.

I got my camera and put together my lighting for what would be an excursion to search out the intimate features poking through the snow in my wife’s garden.

I attached a flash on a stand and chose a shoot-through umbrella. I could have connected a wireless sender and receiver, but I decided to use a TTL camera-to-flash cord that would allow the camera’s computer to direct the flash to provide the correct exposure for the close-up kind of subjects I would be photographing.

Although I had complained about the limited light on the heavy overcast day, I knew it would be perfect for my sojourn through the garden. I could easily meter the ambient light, then under expose slightly so the flash would become the main light instead of the hazy sun. The modified light from a shoot-through umbrella is even across the image with a gradual transition from highlights to midtones to shadows, or a soft light.

I stuck the stand through the snow and easily positioned the flash. And unlike a snowless landscape, the snow kept the stand steady no matter the angle. All I had to do was choose an angle and release the shutter. That particular zoom lens allows for a constant macro at every focal length. It was pretty neat and easy.

I choose to photograph that garden in every season. I know there are many photographers that only take pictures of plants when they are in bloom and prefer colourful representations. However, spring, summer, fall, winter, snow, rain, sunny, or overcast, I find that our garden is filled with ever changing subjects that always offer something new and I expect that Sherman Hines surely would approve. My advise to photographers that think they must wait for inspiring weather before their next garden safari, is to take Mr. Hines’ advice, because there is always something to photograph when the weather is poor, just get up close and look for the small stuff.

I enjoy everyone’s comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Fun Day Photographing the Pritchard Rodeo.

 

 

 

A family event

Ride 'em

 

Doesn't look safe

 

Excellent riding

 

Horse 1 cowboy ?

 

JRE_6489 copy

 

Trick rider

 

Take-off

 

Bronco

 

Barrel horse & Rider

 

Barrel Rider

 

Leaving the shute

Every year I look forward to spending a dusty, fun-filled day pointing my camera lens thru the arena rails at the Pritchard Rodeo in Pritchard, British Columbia Canada.

My wife dropped me off and I walked down the dirt road to the arena. Events had already begun, and as I looked around at lots of familiar faces I spotted Karl Pollak, his Nikon cradled in one arm waving at me. Karl had driven four hours that morning from the large metropolis of Vancouver to attend our small rural community rodeo.

He had brought another photographer, Meko Walker, and this was her first time at a rodeo. As we were introduced, happy as I was to see Karl, meet Meko, and shoot with the two of them, I wondered how these photographers from the moderate humid climate of a coastal city were going to cope with the sunny, cloudless, windless, extremely dry, 40 degree Celsius day.

There was a lull in the action as we talked and the Pritchard fire department’s water truck drove around the arena spraying water. We moved aside continuing our conversation (protecting our cameras from the water), but two young girls ran rail side laughing as they danced around in the wet, cooling spray.

While we waited, sitting on the edge of the hill that ran down from the bandstand, I asked Karl why he would come all the way when there were other rodeos closer to Vancouver. He replied, “I like the wild location. Look at the hills, and trees, and all the open space.” And after snapping a wide angle shot of the arena the added, everyone is so friendly, they say hello even though they don’t know me, and there is a beer garden with people drinking, but no one is getting drunk, being loud, or causing trouble.”

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. The arena is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the view. Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for the Barrel Race, but heck, it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, not some silly person with a camera.

I like that rodeo, and as I wrote, every year I look forward to photographing it. I like capturing things that move fast, it challenges me to think and I enjoy the test of wills between animals and riders. Photographing any action event is fun, and one can be sure there will be action at a rodeo.

This year they added children’s sheep riding. I don’t know who is more bewildered, the poor kids being coaxed along by their parents, or the sheep trying to figure out why there is something on their back and why some big human is trying to persuade them to leave the enclosure they were just herded into. When the sheep finally were cajoled to move, the young rider would usually slide off, and fall to the ground pretty quickly. After all wool is slippery.

Another addition this year was the trick riders. Although I really like the Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Bull Riding competitions and, of course, Barrel Racing, I must admit those trick riders were amazing. I was actually requested to stand center arena so I could photograph them as they performed in a wide circle around me. Gosh, it doesn’t get much better than that.

When they beckoned Meko and I into the riding arena I was briefly worried that my 70-200mm lens would be too long, but as it was I had lots of room to move around and it was just fine.

Rodeos are easy to photograph. One just has to pay attention to where the action is coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera.

Then choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use shutter priority; I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. All I need to do is follow the action as the camera’s computer handles the rest. Yep, it’s all pretty easy.

There should be a note saying, “No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

I appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing Rob’s and Camille’s Farm Wedding

Bride and dogs

Exchanging rings

wedding vows with dog

Groomsmen & Dogs

wedding party

Resting after the wedding

 

When Camille called and said, “Rob and I are getting married. Would you be our photographer?” I didn’t hesitate for a minute and replied, “Yes!” I think I added something like, “Its about time.” I knew it would be fun, relaxed, unusual, and I was absolutely sure they would be as non-traditional as possible.

These days I shy away from taking on the job of wedding photographer, only making myself available for those weddings that seem fun. I figure I have paid my dues when it comes to wedding photographer. It used to be that by spring I anticipated I’d be pointing my camera at excited couples every weekend till Thanksgiving. Those days are behind me and now I just pick and choose to photograph people I know or people that know people I know.

So I packed two camera bodies, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens with a couple of flashes and set out for their rural farm down-the-road-a-piece from here at Monte Lake. I think they would have held the ceremony on the lake, but finding space between the boats, the trailers, and the campers this time of year is hard.

Rob had set up two large seating areas, one under a very large tarp and the other in an open-sided tent of the type the big stores use when they have a sale on furniture or something large. I said their wedding would be a fun, relaxed, unusual, non-traditional and will add that by the time I arrived the partying guests had spread out across much of the property.

I’ll begin with all the shiny, big, loud-engined, large-tires with fancy rims kind of trucks with floorboards several feet off the ground that just kept rolling in honking and parking anywhere that wasn’t occupied by seemingly out-of-place cars like my little Honda, while at the same time Harley Davidson motorcycles were arriving and arriving. Add to that several very young drivers, zooming back and forth on quads, and little dirt bikes, greeting those guests as they got out of their trucks and off their motorcycles.

And dogs, I had to get around to the dogs. I knew Rob and Camille had four or five, but there were others running around and more waited for their owners to open their truck tailgates so they could join the festivities.

Several young men filled a horse-watering trough with beer, pop, bottled water, and ice. And as they arrived people would take food to tables in the center of a big truck garage. I would expect nothing different as Rob and Camille do like a party and all I had to do was point my camera any direction and watch the fun and enjoyment

As everyone walked though the meadow to rows of white chairs set up for ceremony, low clouds rolled in warning us all to beware of coming events with a sprinkle or two of rain and with the knowledge it was going to get darker, I selected ISO 800 on my camera. I also had an extra handkerchief ready in my pocket to wipe the rain off my camera and flash to keep it dry to prevent shorting the electronic circuits.

Weddings usually start the same. The guests sit in anticipation, with the groom at the front, waiting for the arrival of the bride. Then the bridesmaids come walking in, and the bride enters arm and arm with her father.

In Rob and Camille’s case, the groom was waiting at the front with his dog and the bride walked up with her father flanked by her two very large mastiffs and in the distance some horses and a calf watched. And folks this was unrehearsed. The dogs did what they did on their own.

Guests were capturing the event with their cell phones. I recalled a time when I had the only single lens reflex camera at a wedding. It seems history was repeating itself and technology has marched on and again I had the only SLR.

The wedding ceremony photographs included dogs. The minister; a “new age religion type” tried to keep everything solemn, speaking of love and commitment, but thanks to those very interested in being part of everything dogs, there was a lot of laughing.

I dialed down my flash (Readers know I always use flash.) to balance the diminishing light and shot the ceremony, dogs and all, did the obligatory family photos, and the bridal party leaning on a rail fence pictures. Then a cool breeze wandered in and the rain gods decided it was time to get things wet and opened the floodgates for the rain and the rest of my day was left to making a documentary of their friends at the party eating and getting wet by the bonfire.

The day at Rob and Camille’s was a perfect way to end the week. A great wedding with friendly and enjoyable people, a fun party, big shiny trucks and flashy motorcycles to look at, lots of animals and of course the kind of event any photographer would enjoy.

As always, I really appreciate all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

Photographing Hoarfrost on Christmas day

Frosty rose  Rosehips  Icycle  Frost sculpture  Frosty leaves  Cattail  Frost hanging  Winter pineneedles  Hoarfrost and snowy fence

Christmas day couldn’t have been better. The sausages and champagne additions to our ordinary breakfast of coffee, yogurt, and bagels was yummy, and my wife, Linda, and I were happy with our presents. Yes, it was a great Christmas morning and to make it even better, when I went outside to feed my chickens, I noticed everything, well, everything but my hungry chickens, was coated with hoarfrost.

The day was overcast and sometime during the evening another inch or so of snow made its way to our yard and the surrounding forest, and I guess that chilled the air around the already freezing surfaces created what this photographer can best describe as a wonderland of frozen, white, crystalline frost.

I attached a ring-flash to my 200mm macro lens and mounted it on my camera. My wife chose an 18-200mm lens for her camera, and then we donned our boots, and warm coats, and headed out.

Linda began trudging through the deep snow in our yard picking out interesting snow and frost covered features. She wasn’t using a flash, but had her camera set at ISO 1600. The high ISO allowed her to choose faster shutterspeeds so she could leave her tripod behind.

Even though there was a light cloud cover, the day was perfect, with just enough light to give the frost a slight illumination on the snowy morning.

I was shooting close-ups and could have easily selected one of the automated modes in the shadowless, flat light; but using the ring-light on my lens allowed me to underexpose and slightly darken the background to build some dimension and depth in the images I was making of the hoarfrost-covered foliage.

Selecting manual modes for both flash and camera, plus a low ISO of 100, gave me more control over my subjects. I made exposures at 1/250th of a second and adjusted the aperture to control how much depth of field I wanted. I like using flash when I do close-up or macro photography. Whether it’s wandering around in the rain like I wrote about last August or on a frosty Christmas day, adding light from a flash allows a photographer to build the image, not just document it.

I thought about putting a flash on a stand and shooting wirelessly by positioning a flash at different angles, but the mobility of the ring-light mounted around the end of my lens worked pretty well for the type of photographs I was making, and besides I could easily walk everywhere and after our Christmas breakfast I think I needed the exercise.

The frosty morning pictures were a good addition to those Linda and I made of each other earlier. I have closed my shop till after the New Year, so there will be lots of time for more picture taking in the snow-covered landscape.

I hope everyone has a great Year End with best wishes from Linda and I.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing Things That Go Fast.

Lucas racing   Flying Black  Quick turning  At the gate  White bull calfa Fast court      Nascar

I received a call from a photographer asking help with a new camera purchase. He had selected two and was comparing their difference in frames-per-second. I had read about both cameras and have to admit with so many other spectacular and enticing features both offered I hadn’t paid much attention to how many frames each could shoot in one burst.

When I asked him why FPS was important he said, “So I can photograph things that go fast”.  A good point, although a minor one in my opinion, shooting with continuous advance might increase the number of keepers he has, as he learns techniques for photographing fast moving subjects.

I will admit I like photographing things that go fast. Capturing less than of second of a subject’s life that will be gone forever is exciting.  That photographer could hope to stop the action by putting his camera into it’s P, or A mode, and employing his camera like a machine gun, make a burst of the shutter to stop a moving subject.

Some experienced photographers know how to get great results at the 8-frames-per-second or more, but if he is just starting out, he might want to dial it back a little and experiment to find what works best. The belief that faster would be better is not always the case. A DSLR cannot always find focus on a passing subject while the mirror is up and one can’t track the action through a viewfinder blocked while several frames are being made.

When I approach action photography at say, a basketball game, rodeo, or cars at a dragstrip, I don’t bother with the continuous frame feature on my camera. I know that the best way to stop action is with a fast shutterspeed. First I increase the ISO so the sensor is more light sensitive. Modern cameras have no problem with ISO settings of 800 or more and depending on how bright the location is I might move ISO higher or lower. I just make some tests before things get going.

Next I set my camera to a mode where I choose the shutter and the camera chooses the aperture. (S on Nikon and TV on Canon)  I select the fastest shutterspeed that will let me keep some depth of field, then do more test shots, and I am ready to start taking pictures.

I anticipate and choose the best location to catch the action. Gosh, it’s all that easy. I suppose one could do additional testing with a high burst of frames-per-second. I don’t think that is needed, it just eats up memory and might require hours of editing in Photoshop, but what the heck, with today’s exciting technology we need to experiment to find what works best for our shooting style.

My first camera didn’t have auto focus, programmed exposure modes, or eight-frames-a-second capability. I couldn’t even shoot at shutterspeeds over 1/500th of a second. But, I read a lot, took classes and learned about the aperture and shutter, learned how to follow a moving subject, and about how my camera exposed a subject. And practiced a lot in spite of the price attached to each roll of film.

Oh, and my advice to that photographer didn’t discuss the need for fast shutterspeeds. As I wrote, there were so many other spectacular, and enticing things about the cameras we talked about, that I forgot about adding an opinion about frames-per-second.

I really appreciate any and all comments. Thanks, John

My new website is at www.enmanscamera.com