Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween.

So far in 2012 we have had a number of holidays or celebrations but I think today is the first one where I actually photographed something related to the day.  Here is our Jack O' Lantern grunged up a bit in Snapseed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

670 consecutive days.

As I reach 670 consecutive days of taking at least one photo a day I look back at the challenges presented by such a venture.  So what has been the biggest difficulty in this project? Believe it or not it is nothing to do with the photography portion.  I have found writing my blog to be as much of a challenge as in finding a subject to photograph.  This accounts for why there has been gaps in my blogs, sometimes more then a week apart.  While I feel that I am an good photographer, I don't always have the same confidence in my writing.

I also wonder if I have any thing to truly add as I know there are many other more talented and knowledgeable individuals in our industry.  I guess there is always some self doubt that I have and a question of am I really adding anything of substance.  I'm just a humble photographer who loves this art form in all its genres.  I would like to leave some sort of legacy and make a difference on the lives of others who enjoy it as much as I.

So now with 62 days left in the year I do plan on continuing to shoot an image a day well past the end of the year.  I will be switching it up as I will be back to shooting other cameras as well as the iPhone.  I plan to expand my repertoire and share my discoveries.  I also want to strengthen my writing skills and thus will express other thoughts I have on photography in general.  I will start doing this soon and thus may not talk as much about the photo of the day, although that will be attached to the blog. 

So in saying that here are two photo's I took tonight.  The top photo is my Instagram 366 photo and the original had a green wall and some distracting elements in the background.  Using Snapseed I converted the photo to Black & White and then used iPhoto to remove the bright distraction in the upper right corner.  I felt this made the image more graphic befitting the musical notes.
This image intrigued me first by the grate over the fluorescent tubes but also because of the oscillating lines that I had seen before when I had tried to photograph lighting.  I believe this is a result of the way the iPhone captures images and certain types of light sources enhance and show this.  However I liked the effect it gave and after a little extra post work in Snapseed I obtained a result I liked.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's about observation.

Tonight was the first night of my advanced lighting class at SAIT.  Once I give the lecture and I shoot a few frames I then let the students have their opportunity to work with our subject.  While they do this I answer questions, solve camera problems and in general observe and make suggestions.  In my talks with the students this evening the theme of observation came up a number of times.  I always instruct my students to observe the light and how does it fall on the subject.  I tell them to observe the pose, the framing and the expression of the person they are photographing.

In a conversation with one of my students I started to discuss my photo a day project and how it has helped me with my awareness of my surroundings.  I have said it before but I will say it again, there are many opportunities to create images all around us as long as we look for them.  Today's Instagram 366 photo is a good example of that.  I regularly buy ham and turkey from the deli at Safeway to make sandwhichs for my boy's.  Today as I was waiting to be served I observed this wonderful pattern in the way this fresh cut Black Forest Ham had piled on the tray.  It almost had a look of a flower and so I snapped a photo through the plexiglass cover before the server arrived.  Very little post processing was done here other then cropping and slight vignetting in Snapseed.

So I invite you to explore and observe your everyday environment and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, even in the most simple of things. 
This photo is of the lovely Breanna from tonight's class.  This was shot with the Canon 7D and the 24-70 f2.8 lens,  100 ISO, 1/125 sec at f5.6.  Three Alienbee 1600 lights were used.  Main was to the left with a small Chimera strip box, fill was a silver reflector on the right.  Hair light was a small Chimera soft box and an accent light was behind right with an 18x46 Larson soft box.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Back to the familiar.

Ones life is usually a set of daily routines inter-spaced with a little variety. As such today was a typical Sunday heading to church in the morning and then across to the Northland Mall food court for breakfast with the family.  Doing so you see the same things every time you visit and tend to over look many things.  However over the last two years I have learned to make mental notes of possibilities and when the conditions are right to then take the photo. Today's Instagram 366 photo of the day is of the sky light in the food court.  Normally it has to high a contrast ratio as the sun comes through very brightly.  Today the sky was overcast and allowed me to get the shot I was after with the iPhone.  I then used the grunge in Snapseed to give it a frosted effect.
This photo was taken earlier at the church. I have photographed the cross a couple of times from behind the alter but today thought the shadows were interesting.  I did some adjustments in Snapseed with the contrast and brightness to give a more dramatic look.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Braving the cold.

One of the banes of photographers is how cameras and batteries brave the cold. With wind chills of -14 Celsius today I ventured out into our front yard to photograph the frost on the leaves.  I wanted to see how the iPhone would stand up in cold conditions so I stayed out side for 20 minutes or so with the camera exposed to the elements.  All in all it handled the temperature fairly well, but I did notice the lag between pressing the shutter and when the image was taken.  Another difficulty was the wind which was keeping the branches in motion making the focus a little more problematic.  Still I managed to get four decent images that I processed in Snapseed.  The top was my favorite and is my Instagram 366 photo for today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Working by candle light.

Other then the sun the only other natural source of light is fire.  Looking around the house for today's subject for the Instagram 366 project, I saw these three candles in the basement that had never been lit before.  I liked the colours of them and decided to light them to provide light and ambiance to the photo.  After taking the shot I cropped in Snapseed and once again used the app Jazz for additional post processing.  Considering that we are moving into the colder months I like the feel that the photo has of a time when simple flames were the source of light.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Post Processing with the iPhone.

Unlike yesterday I had the chance to get out for a short while as I took my wife to an appointment   While waiting in the lobby of the building I looked up and was intrigued by the architecture.  I did not have a lot of time so I shot the first image shown here.  This is how it was on the file from the native camera.
When I returned home I was looking at the photo and decided to rotate and then crop as shown below.
I next brought the photo into Jazz where I started by allowing it to randomly give me some samples until I found one that I liked.  Then using the various sliders on that sample I made adjustments until one appealed to me. This is the sample below.
After I looked at it some more I found a few more items that I thought distracted from the photo, these being lights in the windows between the two lower floors.  In the past I would have relied on Photoshop after I had downloaded the file to my computer.  However I now have iPhoto on my iPhone and decided to test it here to see if I could get rid of the lights.  It wasn't a straight forward procedure as I had to do it in steps and save a copy in between four times before getting the final result.  The reason for this was I have found that when you make a mistake and try and correct that on the iPhone version it erases all your work. The iPad version allows you to take incremental steps back, but if you don't make saves on the iPhone you lose everything. To get rid of the lights I had to use both the repair and darken brushes till eventually I was able to do so.  I think the results are pretty good and does give you another option to enhance your images before posting them to the various photo sharing sites.  The final result below is my Instagram 366 photo of the day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding the little things.

Some days are easier than others when trying to create a photo a day.  It always easier when one is traveling around and have a lot of new things to take photo's of.  When one works from home it makes it a bit more of a challenge.  I remember when I was in high school my photography teacher gave me the assignment of creating a unique photo taken in my backyard.  At the time I found it to be one of the biggest challenges I had faced.  It was not as interesting as sporting events, fires, accidents that I was use to shooting at the time as a freelancer for the local papers.  I did it but quickly went back to the more exciting photo's.

However over the years and in particular with the photo a day challenge I have become more aware of what I can create in and around my home.  Sometimes the opportunities jump out or I see the light happening and take a photo. Others take a little more thought, especially when the goal is to still create an interesting image.  

A lot of the time I find that I like to work with the small things, the items one might take for granted and not really think about.  Yet they can make for some of the most interesting shots.  Today I noticed this little hand drum that we picked up in Hawaii sitting in a basket with other musical instruments the boys have.  I took it out and looked at it, played with it, observed it. As the little beads bounced back and forth I knew the challenge would be how to show that motion in a still image.  So I positioned the drum in such a way as to see both beads and give some shape to the instrument.  I cropped the photo in Snapseed and then brought the file into the Jazz app knowing that it had some interesting effects.  I found this one in the light leaks filter and chose it as the lines of light helped to give the impression of movement. I felt it achieved what I was looking for.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Winter time is a great time for Black and White.

We had our first real heavy snowfall last night and for most of the day it was miserable.  However it cleared up in the late afternoon and I made a quick stop at Heritage Park on the way to the boy's choir practice to take few photo's at the slough there.

After taking a few photo's with the camera native to the iPhone I decided to switch over to Hipstamatic and shot the rest of my images using the BlacKeys film.  I am very familiar with this particular setting and knew it would give me the results I would like.  

At the end of the post I have added a colour image from the day so you can see what I was looking at.  In my recent lectures on Black and White photography I talk about how colour can distract from the scene and takes our eye away from elements of composition.  In the case of winter we are looking at scenes that are in large part mono-chromatic although not the most attractive.  Thus you can see how by choosing to shot as B&W (or converting to B&W later) can really help to enhance the scene.  The first image of the Cat Tails is my Instagram 366 photo for today.

This photo of the leaf had some additional post work done by adding an extra filter in Instagram.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quite day at home.

Finally had the house to myself for the first time in a while.  This gave me a chance to clean up my office as well as the rest of the house.  As I was cleaning I came across Luke's new crayon's he got from Grandma.  Boy they sure have changed since I was a kid. No wrapper, just a plastic tube that you rotate at the top to have the crayon slide out the bottom.

Luke had left them in the living room arranged in a circle and I thought it might make a good subject.  SO I shot an image, brought it in to Snapseed where I cropped and then used a bit of grunge to get this result for my Instagram 366 photo for the day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday is rest day.

So after a busy week where I taught five classes, did four lectures and had my boy's first concert of the year.   Thus Sunday's tends to be the one day I can really rest.  As such I relaxed for most of the day.  Today's photo of the day for my Instagram 366 challenge is of a stack of out grown runners my wife had piled up.  I took a quick shot and then used the smoosh app to give a little interest to the background.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Spent the day downtown.

Today I had a very full day and for the first time in months I spent most of my day in the downtown core.  I had two lectures for the Calgary Public Library.  Both were on Camera Phone Artistry and the first was to the camera club that meets at the Central Branch.  The second was an open lecture at the Memorial Park Library.  Both went well and I had good comments from all the attendees.  While downtown I shot a number of photo's.

The first two were done with the iPhone and processed in Snapseed.  We had some snow coming down and as I walked in front of city hall I saw the new Bow Building and a thought struck me.  I found some trees and framed the building with them.  Then after cropping in Snapseed I went to the vintage filter to give it the tone you see below.  What I was trying to go for was a look similar to Alfred Stieglitz's 1903 photo of the Flatiron Building as a tribute to this master photographer.  I was happy with the result and made it my Instagram 366 Photo of the day.

As I walked a little further I found a pumpkin decoration covered in the freshly fallen snow.  Again using Snapseed I enhanced it giving the following result.
At the Memorial Park Library Ihad a bit of extra time so I took a walk around the building and used the iPad to take a few images that I could use in the afternoon presentation.  I found this great light fixture on the ground and snapped a shot of it.  Other then cropping the shot is close to as shot.
Here I noticed the Calgary Tower reflected in the one of the buildings windows and grabbed a shot.  Using Snapseed I cropped and then used the drama 1 filter and then I used iPhoto to remove a couple of lights that were inside the building that were distracting.
Finally the night ended at Knox United Church where both of my boy's were singing with the Cantare Children's Choir.  Cool is a veteran of the performances but tonight was Luke's first time.  I was proud of both of them as they sang so well and looked very cute.  The first image was shot with the iPhone and the last four where done with the Canon 7D.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Exploration is the key.

As photographer with over 40 years experience and an instructor for the last 12 years I am often asked how to create great photographs.  Now this is a loaded question and I know that I am a good photographer but far from great.  So I am constantly looking at photographs and reading articles to try an improve myself as well.  Through the years I have heard and read many things and I have finally come to what I think is the key to improving and creating great photographs.  I believe it is exploration.

What I mean here is that one has to explore the medium in all aspects.  This starts with pre-production which varies with different types of photography but is generally the same, one must research what one intends to photograph.  Here you are exploring all the factors that you need to create your photo. Locations, times, story, technical aspects, lighting, equipment and so on are key components that I have noticed that the best photographers utilize more then the rest of us.  By researching and exploring the endless possibilities they create the photo's that make other's stop and go WOW.

For me major exploration has been a few and far between this last few years as I have focused my efforts on my family.  So I now spent my time pursuing my own personal photography and sharing what I learn and discover with others.  Lately I have spent time exploring the capabilities of the iPhone and the apps available for it. This has given me new possibilities with my own photographic art.

I also have taken to exploring the city which I grew up when the family is busy with school and other activities.  Although I have lived here for 49 years, there are many areas that I have never visited.  Today I parked at the end of 14th street and walked across the Glenmore Dam for the first time.  As I walked I was looking for interesting photographic opportunities.  I walked down the stairs at the far end and found myself at the base of the dam.

The first image was taken using the Hipstamatic app which I have been exploring lately.  I knew I wanted to use the BlackKeys B&W film and wanted to see what the Salvador 64 lens would give me.  Now no matter how much you research there is something to be said for random chance.  This is what this particular lens does as it gives a double exposure but randomly chooses the positioning of the second exposure.  So in some ways I got lucky for my Instagram 366 photo for today as the randomness gave me an image I really enjoyed.  I love the reflection that was created and the way the reverse image complimented the main.
The following images were taken using the iPhones native camera and then post processed using snapseed getting results that I knew I could achieve.  I wanted to do some more Black and White photo's and found the conversion in snapseed gave the look I wanted for each of them.

I kept the color for the last two images as these were shot on the top of the dam and as the sun had created some wonderful reflections of the building and the pipeline.  I used the drama app to enhance the silver look on both.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The value of "Likes"

We all share photo's with the hope that our peers will "Like" them and perhaps share them.  So if you post to Instagram, Tadaa, Streamzoo or any other site where viewers can rate or "Like" do you get discouraged when your numbers are low?  I have been researching this for the last few days using my various photo sharing sites and have drawn the following conclusions.

First, no mater who you are the average likes to followers is between 2% and 6%.  I checked some of the more well photographers compared to the average person and found that this number was true for each for most sites.  The only difference was that the well known had over 100,000 followers but averaged about 6,000 likes on their posts.  The average person has around 500 followers and averages about 25 likes.  In both cases about 5%.

Between Instagram, Tadaa and Streamzoo, Tadaa seems to buck this trend with the likes running closer to 25% based on the number of followers.  This could be due to the fact that this community is more active in users sharing photo's they liked with their followers and that these photo;s show up in your stream.  With Streamzoo you have to visit a separate section to see photo's that people who you follow gave a shoutout to.  Instagram offers no way to share or shoutout photo's you or those you follow deem worthy.

So are likes important?  In the long run, probably not as these sites do not drive traffic to your personal web-site which is where you want people to go to.  They do give you an idea of who is viewing your work and it is always good for the self-esteem when you do get them.  I know that it always gives me a boost when photographers I respect like one of my photo's.

Below is my Instagram 366 photo for today which I shared on all three of the above sites. True to form I have received 15 likes on Instagram (where I have 509 followers), 18 likes on Tadaa (201 followers) and 8 likes on Streamzoo (355 followers) after posting it 2 hours earlier..  I found this very fascinating and wonder why someone would choose to follow a particular photographer and then never "like" their work.  Just a little food for thought and perhaps another blog entry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The boys love to be part of my photo of the day.

I arrived at the boy's school today and met Luke by the front door.  He asked me if I had taken my photo of the day.  I said I had not and he told me to come to the back of the school as there was a puddle left by yesterday's rain that was beautiful.  I went to the back and he pointed to the puddle and so I asked him what was beautiful and what I should take the photo of.  He said the leaf in the water would make for a nice photo.  So I took a couple of shot's and showed him then we left to go home.

Later when I was looking at the quick snap I made I saw a simple beauty in this leaf.  I worked a little bit on the crop and added some vintage filter to give me this final result.  It is so nice to see that through this project that I have my boy's now interested in photography and observing the world around them more closely.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A night at the library.

Last spring I was approached by the Calgary Public Library to give some lectures about photography.  SO I developed two sessions for them. "Phone Camera Artistry" and "Black and White Photography - from Traditional to Digital".  Tonight I gave the last lecture on B and W photography to a nice sized group at the Alexander Calhoun Library.  It was a lot of fun and I hope they will ask me to offer the presentation again in the new year.

On my way out of the library as I loaded up my equipment I took notice of a variety of lighting around the facility. Now I have not attempted to many night shots with the iPhone but I saw a variety of possibilities around me.  I shot the following series of the lights along the stairwell (today's Instagram 366 photo) as well as the lights along the pathway.
Below is a photo of the room after I set up for my lecture and before anyone arrived. I brought a selection of my B and W photographs I have taken over the years, my 8x10 camera and my sunlight machine so I could demonstrate how a palladium print is done. I thank the Calgary Public Library for giving me this opportunity to speak about one of my passions. I also look forward to my final two lectures on Camera Phone Artistry, the first this Saturday October 20 at the Memorial Park Library at 2:00 pm and the second on November 29 at the Thorn-hill Library at 7:00 pm.
I wrap up today's blog with a photo of Luke and his Rainbow Afro circus wig.  He has always said he wanted curly hair like his brothers, today he got it.  Photo post processed with Snapseed, Smoosh and RealCamera+.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 655 and counting.

It was another beautiful day here in Calgary, especially for the middle of October.  As I walked home from the boy's school I was looking at the school zone sign and liked how the yellow looked against the clear blue sky.  I got down low to eliminate some trees in the background an took the shot with the iPhone.

Today though I decided to just use Instagram for the post processing as I knew the Kelvin filter would give a look that I wanted.  I think it worked well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A bloom a day.

I purchased an Hibiscus plant this summer and we have been blessed with a bloom each day.  Even as the weather changes outside this plant flowers and brings a sweet scent to our living room.  Now one of the reasons I do not like to cut or pick flowers to photograph is that once you do they don't live much longer. Even if you stick them in a vase they have a limit lifespan.  However each Hibiscus bloom lasts just one day and then falls away, so I was not to worried when I decided to cut this one of and use it for today's subject.

After clipping it from the plant I took it to the studio where I placed it on a black piece of plexiglass and place a black card behind it.  I then used my Alien Bee with a small Chimera softbox to the side and slightly behind as my light source.  I took a number of photo's (both with the iPhone and the Canon 7D) and chose the top image for my Instagram 366 photo for today.  These two are from the iPhone and post processed with both Snapseed and iPhoto.  I like the graphic design elements of both.

Now I have chosen not to share my favorite taken with my 7D as I had what I think was a terrific capture and I am planning to enter it in the HIPA awards competition ( ). This is the second year of the competition and the synonym is short for the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photo Awards.  My good friend, Martin Graham Dunn, is active with this award and it is open to photographer's from all over the world.  This years main theme is "The Beauty of Light" as well as Black and White, Emirates and General.  The prizes are outstanding and prize money is $389,000.  After seeing the results I had from tonight's shoot I am happy with the results from the 7D and am planning to use one of the shots as a submission for this competition.  I hope you will check it out as well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Down to the wire.

Today was one very busy Saturday.  I had a lecture at the Shaganappi Library on Black & White  photography and then taught my wedding photography class at SAIT in the afternoon.  Both sessions went great and I think all the participants learned and enjoyed.  I then rushed home to get Cool ready for a performance by his Cantare Choir group for an anniversary banquet.  Once I got home for the evening I needed to take a rest and then around 11:30 I realized I still had to create an image for today.

Now I have a collection of cameras and other photographic Knickknacks.  These are two from my collection.  The yellow guy is the Club Penguin photographer and was my Christmas gift from Luke last year.  The other is the Quantas koala which I received on a flight to Australia back in 1989.  I positioned them with one of my vintage cameras behind and shot this photo.  A little post processing in Snapseed and I got what I think is a nice photo.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Making choices.

The photo a day challenge offers many different hurdles and challenges.  Most day's Iam able to take the photo early enough that I know I have it and then can continue on to my daily routine.  Other days can be a struggle with me creating an image in the last hour of the night.  Then there are day's like today when I was able to shoot a number of images that I liked and any one of them could have been the Photo of the Day.

So how do I choose the image to apply that moniker to.  Sometimes one image stands out and is the strongest photo thus making the choice obvious.  Yet for me one of the factors I will use in choosing the photo of the day is what have I posted recently.  I pride myself on being a versatile photographer and one who can create an interesting photo of the simplest of subjects. Thus, variety is important to me.  Even if I have similar subjects, such as flowers, I try and vary the treatment in each photo.

So today I had that dilemma as I shot 5 photo's that I liked.  The first three were shot early in the morning as I noticed that the sunrise was going to be a spectacular one.  These three frames where shot from my front yard but by varying the point of view I was able to get three distinct photo's.  I choose the first one for my Instagram 366 photo for today as I had not posted a sunrise photo yet this year. I also like the colors and the trees silhouetted against the sky. The following two I also liked though for their own merits.

Later in the morning I ended up at Stampede park.  After coming out from my meeting I saw that there were still some plants by the building.  These tall grass stalks caught my eye first and as I moved around them looking for an angle I saw this high rise reflected in the glass and I liked the way I could frame it up with the grass.
I then turned my attention towards some of the flowers and saw this pair.  After taking the photo and post processing it in Snapseed I decided to title it "The Naked and The Dressed" in homage to Helmut Newton's series by the same name.  I liked the way the one flower had all it's petals still where the other was missing them.  Now this could have been my choice for the photo of the day, and some may feel it deserves it.  However I stand by my decision to use the sunrise shot to keep the variety in the project.  This one I can now use as part of another project should I choose.