Friday, November 30, 2012

Time for a little Ukulele

Looking for something to photograph tonight I spotted a Ukulele we had bought a few years ago in Hawaii.  I took it to the bathroom where I held it to the mirror in order to photograph it and its reflection. These two images were the results that I achieved with my iPhone.

Now there was some background that had also been reflected in the mirror but I was able to eliminate them in the top photo using the Grunge filter in Snapseed. It also gave a nice softening effect that I liked.  This was the one I choose to be my Photo of the Day.
For the second image the reflections were a lot less and using the Dark 1 filter in the Drama section of Snapseed.  Now there were a few spots on the ukulele so I then brought the file into iPhoto where I was able to eliminate them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 700

Today was day 700 of taking at least one photo a day.  I started on Dec. 31, 2010 and have managed to stay on task and keep shooting every day.  It was also the night for my last lecture for the Calgary Public Library for this year.  My topic tonight was Phone Camera Artistry and I had a nice group attend to hear me speak.  I have tried to take my Photo of the Day at the venues which I was speaking of and it was a bit more of a challenge tonight as the Thornhill Library is very simple.

As I looked around my eyes kept coming back to this lone pencil sharpener on the wall.   It almost seemed out of place with the computers near by.  I used my iPad to take the photo as I wanted to demonstrate how Snapseed worked at the end of my presentation.  I used the grunge filter after cropping then added the frame to finish the photo.
I wanted to include this photo of myself taken by Aaron Acevedo in my basic lighting class a few weeks back.  I had brought my 8x10 camera in to take a couple of photo's and Aaron asked if he could take my photo with it.  He sent me the files today and I did a little work on it using Photo Suite 6 to add the frame.  My wife really liked this photo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's a small world.

In the summer of 1999 I was contacted by the WCW to photograph one of their wrestlers, Calgary's Brett "The Hitman" Hart.  It was an honour to get the opportunity one of Calgary's Icon's as well as his parents Stu and Helen.  The photo's appeared in the November 1999 Issue of the WCW magazine and is one of the highlights of my career.

Tonight, 13 years later I had the opportunity to meet Brett's niece, Jenni Neidhart, who was invited to our class by one of my students to be a subject for them to photograph.  She did a wonderful job and has a lovely look about her.  She also has incredible eyes and I decided to make her my subject for my Instagram 366 Photo of the Day.  One of the students had brought in a feather mask and I decided to use it as a prop and moved in tight with my iPhone for the photo below.  Other then the crop and brightness adjustment no other post processing was done on the image.
When I returned I decided to pull out one of my copies of the WCW magazine and scanned these two photo's.  The first is a portion of the two page spread that opened the article.  The second was taken in the Hart mansion of Brett and his parents.  I have two memories from the shoot.  The first was just having the opportunity to spend a full day with one of Calgary's best known citizens.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him and grateful that I had that opportunity.
The second memory was spending about an hour listening to Stu tell his stories and demonstrate some holds down in the infamous dungeon.  I was down there with the WCW reporter, Ross Forman, a decided it was better that I did not put my camera down lest Stu grab me.  That was a good choice as he grabbed hold of a young man who was one of the many young wrestlers who came to train and promptly demonstrated a number of holds that had the fellow screaming in pain.  I don't know how old Stu was at the time but he was still an imposing figure, especially in this environment.
I added the last image here as we had another lovely lady come in as well to model.  I took this image of Rubaa as a demonstration of lighting the background with colour gels.  This was shot with my Canon 7D with an Alien Bee 800 with a Larson strip softbox as the main light and an Alien Bee 1600 withthe red gel on the background.  The border was added after I down loaded the file using OnOne's Perfect Photo Suite 6.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Movember challenge.

At the beginning of the month I decided to take up the Movember challenge to raise money for men's issues. I have never really tried to grow any serious facial hair and in the past when I had gone with out shaving for enough days to get some growth I always found it to be irritating. So now as we hit day 27 I have probably the best mustache and beard I have ever grown and the itch has been tolerable.

When I started out I did not know how I would feel and if I'll keep it past the end of the month.  For a while I thought I might keep it at least until I get to India at the start of January.  My wife and oldest son like the way I look with it but Luke does not like when I give him a hug.  However over the last few days both Lysa and I have started to reconsider if I should keep it after December 1st.  The biggest thought is that it really shows a lot of grey and thus makes me look much older, not that this is a bad thing.  At the time of this writing I have not decided and most likely will make that decision on Saturday morning.  I will let you know my decision then.

Until then I wanted to share this self-portrait as my Instagram 366 Photo of the Day.  With only a few days left I have had one donation of $20 and would like to just request that if you are so inclined to please help me with this total.  You can do so by going to my Movember page at  I thank you for your consideration.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking a look up.

During my 366 day challenge I have photographed many small items or subjects at eye level or lower.  Today I took the time to notice something that was above me.  As I was walking to the Market Mall Professional Building I noticed that they were working on the roof and there was a garbage chute coming from the top.  The bright yellow stood out against the crisp clear blue sky and the lines of the building gave a nice element to the shot.  I took one photo and then while I waited inside the building I worked on the file in Snapseed.  A little enhancement and achieved an interesting photo for today's Photo of the Day.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple item's.

Once again I was just watching for opportunities as I was out to day.  We went to my brother's house and as we were chatting in the kitchen I noticed the blinds and the light and shadows they were creating.  Still I felt it  needed another element to add a little more interest.  So I framed it up to include the ropes and wooden ends. I finished it up like I usually do by again using Snapseed and the drama filter.  I finished up the edging in RealCamera+.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another trip to the flower department.

One of my favorite places to snap a few photo's of flowers is the floral section at my local Safeway.  This is even more so in winter time.  While I was there today I snapped a few images of the lilies and roses.  When I returned home I brought them into Snapseed and converted them to Black and White.  The first photo of the Lily I had to then bring into first iPhoto and then Smoosh to eliminate some white flowers in the background as I found they took away from the main flower.  I felt the tonal range on this was very nice and picked it as the Photo of the Day.
For this Rose I did all the post in Snapseed with the biggest difference was using the center focus filter to blur  and darken the edges so the focus remained on the Rose.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Experimenting with apps.

Looking for a subject to photograph this evening for my Photo of the Day I picked out a little figurine of the sax player of the California Raisins.  I set him on top of my little red fridge and snapped an image.  I then looked at it for a while when I brought it in to Snapseed for the crop first.  I saw a small spot on the file and then cleaned it up with iPhoto.

After this I started trying a few things.  First I converted it to Black & White in Snapseed (2nd photo) and achieved this effect by using a Red Filter which created a fairly dramatic photo.  I then brought the file into Jazz which gave me the results seen in images 3 and 4.  For the final image I brought the file into Big Lens which had a flare filter that I really liked and felt it gave a bit of a theatrical look.  I finished that photo up in RealCamera+ where I added the frame.

Since I liked all four images I brought them together using Frametastic allowing me to show all of them.  This became my Instagram 366 photo for today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I admire those who are persistent.

Photography has changed dramatically over the last 35 years and thus many who have been in the business for that long have either had to adapt or close their business.  It is always a struggle even at this best of times and can be even more trying when you are doing a certain style of photography.  This is why I have great admiration for those who are persistent and preserver especially over a long period of time.

I had the good fortune of meeting two such photographers who are doing just that while following their own unique style of photography.  They have forged a lifestyle that has given them many wonderful experiences since they started their business in October of 1977 and have traveled across Canada extensively while creating 1000's of unique portraits for people of all ages.

Mr. Bill and Miss Emi hail from Pictou, Nova Scotia but live most of the year on the road carrying with them one of the largest collections of props and costumes to create those wonderful old style photographs. They have traveled to fairs and exhibitions and are currently set up in Northland Village Mall in Calgary until the end of the year.  They have seen changes to the craft having started out shooting with 8x10 cameras and processing sheet film to turn around these portraits in quick order.  Now they work with digital cameras and Epson printers that they have mastered to give clients that old time look.  They have won awards from Antique and Amusement Photographers International ( ) and are a couple of the most friendly people you could hope to meet.  You can find them on Facebook under Costumeportraits if you would like to follow them.

I met them last Thursday as I walked through the mall and noticed that they had taken over a large bay and had it filled with their artifacts and images.  I started to talk with Bill and learned a little of his and Emi's story and knew that I wanted to come back and create my own portrait of Bill for my Instagram 366 Photo of the day project.  So I came back this morning and asked Bill if I could take his photo's with all his old west guns just off their shooting area.  This was the best light as Bill has made his own lighting units using large compact fluorescent lamps. I took a couple of images before thanking him and wishing him good luck for the day.

When I returned home I opened the photo I liked best in Snapseed and using the selective adjust darkened a few of the brighter areas.  I then added a bit of a Vintage filter which I felt benefited the scene and style and end with a frame.  One of the challenges I have is approaching strangers and asking them if I can take their photo's and sometimes photographers are the worst subject's as they prefer to be on the other side of the camera.  I am glad that I took the time to create this photo of a most gracious gentlemen and I am pleased with the result.  

If you are in Calgary (or if they ever set up shop in your city) take the time to drop by and say "Hi" and perhaps even take the time to have a photo created.
While waiting for the mall to open I did do a couple other photo's on the iPhone as I wandered around.  The first photo is a good candidate for this years Christmas Card which I am working on this weekend.  This was of a display outside and I loved the fresh covering of snow on the ornaments. This was edited with both Snapseed and iPhoto.
I also saw this wonderful orchid as the red pattern in the yellow leaves caught my eye.  I came in tight and made this capture which was post processed with Snapseed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back to snowy weather.

Just a short blog today to share my Instagram 366 photo of the day and one other.  Once again the snow is falling and while I was out to take the boy's school I saw this chain and post with a light coating of snow.  Taking out the iPhone I lined up the angle I wanted to record the shot and took one photo.  Using Snapseed to crop and enhance the photo to achieve the look I wanted.
When I returned home I noticed that the Hibiscus plant had a new bloom and I liked the way it looked with the newly fallen snow through the window.  I used the HDR Photo Camera app to help with the extreme contrast range.  It did give a bit of a funny effect today, but one I thought was interesting.  I used Snapseed to crop and frame the final photo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Exploring the old while working with the new.

As I work with the iPhone to record my Instagram 366 photo project I am still working with traditional methods.  This is somewhat back to my roots as I learned the Palladium printing method back in 1990.  I purchased my Empire State 8x10 camera around that time and worked with it for about 12 years before I put it aside as a show piece.

However in the last nine months I have rediscovered the method and have decided to make a stronger effort to work with the camera and some of the early photography techniques.  I have been particularly inspired by one of the people I consider my newest photographic hero, "Ian Ruhter".  Ian is working with the wet collodian process and has embarked on an ambitious project to take his custom designed truck which acts as a camera across the US.  He intends to tell the stories of Americans he meets during his travels and record the most amazing portraits as well as video of the process.  His first video from this project (he does have a number of other video's on-line as well) can be found at and is called the American Dream.  It is just over 11 minutes in length but is moving on so many levels.  I encourage you to check it out and to follow Ian and his project.

Another photographer I have discovered who is working in a similar method but producing tintypes and ambrotypes is Harry Taylor. I was simply amazed by the beautiful images Harry is producing and is commitment to keeping this style alive is a testament to the power of photography.  You can discover his work at

Now I know I have a lot of work in font of me if I want my photographs to be as beautiful and strong as these two gentlemen.  I have taken out the camera and brought it to my lighting class in order out work with it and to get some new negatives to practice the Palladium printing technique.  I shot the two images below last Wednesday of my son's Luke and Cool and I must say that they sat wonderfully considering that they were allowed to bounce around as my student's photographed them with their DSLR's.  So asking them to sit still as I focused the big camera and then put the negative in place to take two shots of each was a bit of a challenge.

I liked the way these first two prints turned out but I have discovered that I do have to work on my coating methods as well as my judgement on the chemistry makeup.  You can see the colour difference in the two finished prints below and this is due more to exposure difference then chemical make up.  I'm looking forward to experimenting more to see what different results that I am able to achieve.  I will share my results and work with this method and my experimentation with the collodian method which I plan to explore in the new year.
Even as I worked on developing the negatives and printing the above photos I knew I still had to shoot an image for my Instagram 366 challenge.  Today is day 325 of the project and 691 consecutive days of at least one photo a day.  I some ways this is fitting as I found this old piano at the school where Cool and Luke have their choir practice.  It was beat up but it is in tune and I felt it would make a nice subject.  I shot this with the iPhone and the HDR Photo Camera app.  Now I had not had a lot of success with this particular app in the past but the wood of the piano and the brightness of the keys was beyond the range of the iPhone so I thought I would give HDR Photo Camera another try.  This time I was pleased with the results as it brought out the richness in the wood front panel but kept the details in the black and white keys. A little extra fine tuning in Snapseed and iPhoto gave me a result I am happy with.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Studio Lighting for the iPhone.

One of the draw backs of the iPhone is that it is hard to shoot photo's in a typical studio set up.  This is due to the fact that that there is no way to sync the camera with studio strobes.  Tonight I was able to show my students a lighting set up that not only works well for DSLR's but for the iPhone as well.

The set up here is using a continuous light source to light our subject.  Our lighting equipment where four banks of fluorescent light fixtures with bulbs balanced at 5000K.  This particular formation was creating a window of light from the fixtures with one on top and one on the bottom and another on each side.  This gives a look similar to a ring light but is a lot larger.  You then have the option to shoot through the middle or from the sides.

The lovely Breanna was once again in to model for my class and had a lot of fun with it.  I tried a couple of different things in this series.  All where cropped in Snapseed with the frame added in this app or in RealCamera+.  The only other adjustment was a slight exposure and contrast adjustment.  The first image is my Instagram 366 photo of the day.
For the next photo I had Breana move her arms as I pressed the shutter.  I like the slight movement that was captured.
Again some slight movement on this photo added a softness to the arm and legs.
This was actually the first photo I took and was a simple portrait using this wonderful light set up.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Patience is a virtue.

One of the biggest challenge's in taking photographs is learning to be patient.  This can be even more difficult when one has only a short period of time before having to return to every day life.  Today I had an hour while Cool was at choir rehearsal.  I decided to take a walk on the pathway behind the Rockyview General Hospital.  As I was walking behind the hospital I saw a bird feeder covered with chickadees.  I tried to edge closer but as I did they became spooked and flew of.  Sill I was determined to get a shot so I moved in close with the iPhone, held it up and framed the feeder then remained perfectly still.

It took about 10 minutes and I am sure people walking the path were amused watching me as I stood there. However I was determined and sure enough the birds came back and I was able to snap the following three images.  Afterwards I brought the files in to Snapseed where I cropped it and then used the center focus to darken the edges slightly.  The first of these was my choice for my Instagram 366 photo of the day.

I then walked around the front of the hospital and switched the iPhone in to Hipstamatic mode.  Here I took the time try some more abstract looking photo's of the building.  I liked the way that the sun being low in the sky reflected off the metal surface and the way the BlacKeys film adds to the look.

Wandering to the back I found the following photo's.  It is amazing what you can find if you just have a little patience, even if you only have an hour.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Things that catch your eye.

We all have busy days and sometimes we are in big rush to accomplish what we are doing.  Even though this might be the case one has to keep your eyes open to possibilities for photographic opportunities.  As I was taking Cool to our church for a youth group activity, a bright green object on the ground caught my eye.  I could see it was a leaf embedded in the ice but I had to rush Cool inside so as to be on time.  After checking him in and waiting till they were ready to begin I headed out to the car, iPhone in hand ready to snap a photo of the leaf I had seen earlier.

As I walked out of the church I remember thinking to myself how odd it was that a leaf of such colour would still be around this late in the fall.  I looked for it and when I located it I realized that it was a plastic leaf that had more than likely fallen out of some decoration that was brought over for some function.  Still I liked the look and how the ice crystals formed around it.  I got in close and snapped a couple of shots before driving home.

Once there I opened the image in Snapseed and massaged it a bit with the Drama 1 and a frame.  I rotated the file in the native camera function of the iPhone and then posted it as my Instagram 366 photo of the day.
When I returned home I was spending time with my youngest son Luke.  I made him lunch and when I returned to the computer room he had put on my Baseball cap that was on the table.  He looked so cute and the light from the window was nice across his face that I took a couple of photo's until he gave me the look I wanted.  Now the background was busy and distracting so I decided to use the Smoosh app to take it back a bit.  I think this is another example that even when you are busy around the house watch and be ready for the little things that catch your eye.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Abstract Humor

Humor, like photography, is very subjective.  Each individual brings their own ideas when they listen to comedy or view a photograph.  Now I know I am not the type of person who constantly is full of laughs, but I like to think I can say something funny once in a while.  I also like to think that I can come up with a humorous photo from time to time as well.

Today while I was waiting for my wife at an appointment I started to look at the light fixtures.  As I stared at one it began to look like a spaceship and when I noticed the little pot light in the background look liked a small flying saucer.  I snapped a couple of frames and then worked on the photo in Snapseed, iPhoto and RealCamera+ to get the look I was after.  I entitled today's Instagram 366 Photo of the day as "Returning to the Mother Ship". 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Christmas Cactus's are blooming.

It is that time of year when our Christmas Cactus's start to bloom.  One of them has a lot of buds but only a couple that are in full bloom.  Fortunately this one was on the outer edge and I was able to isolated it against using the wall with the shadows from the other branches as a background.  I tried a couple of different angles, but I found that this one had a more interesting shape.  Post processed using the Drama 1 filter in Snapseed and the centre focus as well.  This is day 320 with just a month and a half left in the this 366 day project. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

At the Car Wash.

The weather has warmed up drastically and thus we have had very wet and slushy streets.  Since the city uses both salt and sand this makes our vehicles very dirty.  Since I needed to get gas today I also decided to take the opportunity to wash the grime from the car.  After I entered the car wash and stopped my car I pulled out my iPhone and waited for the right time to snap an image.  In this case it was at the moment after the first rinse as the water rushed down the windshield.  This gave a wonderful, painterly effect that I really liked.  I did work on the file in Snapseed and the Drama 2 filter helped to enhance the photo as well as clean up some of the mixed color that was coming from the windows and florescent lighting inside the bay. After adding the frame I posted the image as my Instagram 366 photo for today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A little food photography.

One of the least enjoyable assignments I had at the Alberta College of Art and Design was photographing food.  It's not that it was particularly difficult, in fact I was very good at it.  What was difficult for me was that I was taught not to play with my food as a child and in food photography that is what you have to do.  Items are not cooked fully, they are usually blanched to bring out the colour. You use a stand in as you set up the camera angle and lighting before bringing in the "Hero" (the finally prepared dish although it is not something you eat later). We had to do three assignments over three weeks which I did very well on, but over the course of shooting I found that I had lost my appetite and did not eat very much during the time.

Needless to say I never pursued this line of work yet I did gain an appreciation for how food is styled by the finer chefs.  I'll be honest that we are not gourmets and don't go out to high end restaurants very often.  The finest eating establishment that we do go to on a somewhat regular basis is Boston Pizza.  It is a good mid-level chain and the meals are well done as far as our family is concerned.

Tonight on the way to choir I took my boy's to the BP at Chinook Centre.  When the waitress brought my Seafood Fettuccine I noticed that it was nicely styled in the presentation. Now I don't normally take photo's of my meals, but tonight felt it would make an interesting subject for my photo of the day.  Positioning my plate in a way to use the lone light over the table to give a nice even lighting I then looked at how I wanted to photograph it. I decided to bring the iPhone in close and use the muscle as my main element and the lemon slice as a background detail.  I then tilted the phone to make it a bit more dynamic.

The final touch on the photo was to bring it into Snapseed where this time I decided to do no extra post processing work other then the crop to the square format to fit Instagram and the edge frame.  I think to turned out rather well and though I don't think I will not be doing this type of work much in the future, I will watch for future opportunities when I am out at nice dining environments in the future.  I hope the photo below might make you think to try the Seafood Fettuccine at Boston Pizza sometime.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Found objects.

As we go about our busy day's we just have to take a few minutes to see photographic opportunities around us.  Sometimes they jump right out at us and other times they are more subtle. There are times when the simplest found object can make for an interesting and possibly humorous photograph.  Today I spotted one of these little gems as I took some bottles to the garage for recycling.  There under the bench sat an old mouse that had fallen out of the box of electronics that I took in for disposal last summer.  Some how it had sat for all these months, unnoticed and undisturbed as dirt and leaves settled around it.  I founded it funny as winter has settled in and one of the problems we have never had to deal with is mice.  While I had seen the odd one outside we have never had any of the tell tale signs that they were in our garage.  So I found it amusing that here I had a loose mouse.  I took a shot with my iPhone and brought the image in to Snapseed for my normal post processing.  This is my Photo of the day for today.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A quick post.

Sunday's are my one day to really relax and get recharged.  I spent the day watching the CFL semi-final games and spending time with my boy's.  While cooking supper I was looking at the stove and thought it could look interesting as a subject for my camera.  I took the pot of for a few seconds and shot the hot coils.     Bringing the file into Snapseed where I added a bit of grunge and the frame to finish it up for my Photo of the Day.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Photographing a reflective item.

Finding every day items and creating an interesting photo is always a challenge.  I had been thinking about how I can work with our can opener as a subject for a while now.  So tonight I decided it was it's time to be the subject for the Photo of the Day.  I took it out of the drawer and looked at it under a variety of light sources around the house. 

Now one of the challenges in photographing highly reflective items is that you have to pay attention to every item in the reflection. A common way to light such objects is to use a softbox and create a large, bright reflection.  However I didn't like this look to much with the can opener as it became to flat and lost a lot of detail.  I decided on a smaller, more pin point light source, in this case the overhead light in our front entrance.  I made this choice as I also wanted to use the stairs to give an interesting background.

As I lined up the shot I paid close attention to what I could see in the stainless steel.  Sometimes I could see the reflection of the iPhone which caused to things I did not want.  One was the apple logo and other times I could see the black of the phone itself which I did not like.  Once I eliminated this I then watch for the lights and again carefully moved the angles around till the highlight was only on the cutting wheel. I did have to snap a few shots as it was a little tricky but I got the shot I was looking for.

I then brought the file in to Snapseed where I cropped it for Instagram's square format.  I then applied the drama 2 filter and added the frame for this final result and my Photo of the Day.
After doing this I felt it was time to record my progress with the Movember challenge.  So I went into the studio and used the iPhone to make this self-portrait.  I took a couple of takes but I liked the way I looked in this one.  So far it is going well and other then an odd time when it starts to itch I am happy with my progress.  The one thing I noticed is that I will probably have a fair amount of grey in my beard as it grows.  If you are interested in supporting me and making a donation please visit my Movember site at

Friday, November 9, 2012

iPhone macro photography.

One of the advantages of the iPhone is the small lens and tiny body of the phone.  This allows one to bring it into areas where a DSLR and the larger lens would be able to reach.  Although there are some focus issues, I have found it a remarkable tool for macro photography work.  Today I used it to get in close on an old computer circuit board.  With the camera only about an inch of the surface I was able to capture the city like layout of the board.  It was a little touchy to get the sharp focus with the biggest difficulty holding the phone itself steady.

After capturing the photo I opened the file in Snapseed where I used the tilt & shift feature to shorten the depth of field and the grunge filter to add a little more of a gritty look.  This is the photo of the day for today.