Sunday, March 16, 2014

Photography, A truly democratic medium.

There are many opinions about what is good and what is bad photography.  This is an argument that I believe is almost impossible for anyone side to win.  Photography as a medium of expression is probably one of the truly democratic forms out there.  Through it individuals are able to express themselves however they want.  Now not everyone will agree with the images they view and whether they are good or bad, art or not.
Now I think we can safely agree that there are certain types of imagery that is offensive to a vast amount of the world population and some of it is illegal.  These photo's are where the freedom of rights and expression are not applicable.  So these types of images I take from the mix and push them a side.  What is left though is part of the greater subjectivity of the medium and thus the viewer of the photo's.
Photographers have pushed boundaries, expressed ideas and brought information to the world since it's start.  Editors, publishers and curators had great control over what was seen and distributed to the masses.  Thus they could control the agenda in any arena around the world.  This is no longer the case and with the internet and the proliferation of photographs by millions of people the lines have disappeared.  We share with the world and thus images are judged by more people then ever.
So what are the criteria in viewing such work and how and whom makes these choices.  We have the purists who believe that an image should be straight, as is and untouched after the pushing of the shutter.  At the other end we have those who use and combine multiple images through a variety of means to create works of imagination and wonder.  Each side will argue their merits and discount the other.
Having been a viewer of millions of photographs myself over the years (yes I spend many hours looking at photographs a day), I have found myself to be more open to all styles. I can appreciate the selfie as an expression for an individual, the beauty of nature and landscape, the wonderment of achievement of the journalistic genre and the imagination of the composite.  In each one the creator of the work is expressing themselves and there moment.
I also follow a lot of photographers from around the world, of different culture and religions. Some use their photographs to express their beliefs yet I see most of them sharing what would be considered common human experiences.  Family, births, deaths, vacations, work and every day life.  Seeing this shows me that it does not matter where a person is from we all are generally the same.  Thus for me photography has taken on a different meaning and a way of viewing it.  I look at it in the broader scope.
One does not necessarily have to agree with or even like every photo shared by individuals the world over.  We can critique the composition, the technical and even the importance of the image.  These are based by our own personal criteria.  The democracy of the photograph though is that everyone can express themselves and share as they see fit and thus open the doors for communication and discussion. Our photo's are our own and should be viewed as our expression of the world around us.
Here are my photo's from the last week or so.
March 7.  The boy's got some figurines from the theatre this evening.  Still have to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman but they made for an interesting image.
March 8.  A walk through the Safeway flower section yielded some fun photo's
It was also Cool and Luke's Cantare Children's Choir concert and I was able to get a couple of shots while they were on stage.
March 9.  #10 in my Sunday Self-portrait series.  New sunglasses.
After weeks of bitter cold the weather has changes and I found a ladybug and tulips in front of the house.  Canon 7D, 70-200 with a 36mm extension tube.
March 10.  A souvenir from a trip to Holland.  A wooden shoe boat.
March 11.  The lovely Breanna graced my advanced lighting class this evening.
March 12.  Going for a walk in the neighbourhood to enjoy the spring like conditions produced a few nice images.
March 13.  Took my class from the Greater Forest Lawn 55+ society to the zoo to work on camera techniques.  I had a number of good photo's.
These two were inside the penguin plunge exhibit.  Very dim lighting so shot at 3200 and the 70-200 lens.

A little demonstration on shutter speed.  The first of the fountain and rainbow was taken at 1/500 sec. and the second at 1/15 sec.
 March 14.  A fennel bulb at Safeway converted to Black and White.
March 15.  My wife planted seeds last week and the beans are already sprouting.  7D, 24-70 with 20mm extension tube.
March 16.  #11 in the Sunday Self-portrait series.  In a bit of a contemplative mood today.
A lone squirrel made it's way on to the rock in front of our house.  I quickly grabbed the 7D with the 70-200 and shot an image from the window.

Friday, March 7, 2014

My wrap up on WPPI. Putting the Social back into Social media.

There are a lot of attendees at a WPPI conference and this does make it difficult to meet up with people if you have not made prior arrangements to get together.  There were a few friends I had intended to meet, but due to schedules we just never seemed to cross paths.
What was fun though was bumping into people whom I follow on Facebook or Instagram.  These are interesting as I don't follow a lot of people unless I truly enjoy their work. So it was kind of neat when I met two of them totally by random.  The first was Dawn Davis who recognized me first as she was coming to the GraphiStudio booth to do a presentation for them.  She recognized my name from my tag and gave me a hug and said thanks for liking her images on Instagram. We chatted for a bit and then went on with our event.
Later I spotted Walter van Dusen of Mystic Seminars whom I have been following on IG for a while as well.  I went to introduce myself and he spotted me, noticed my name and knew exactly who I was. WE had a nice conversation and his wife took our photo.  I said thank you and I look forward to seeing more of his work on-line.
These two encounters showed me that if you do want to be noticed by others you have to make your presence felt as well.  If you are following someone, let them know through the like button.  Otherwise why are they on your feed.  I don't have many on my social groups compared to others, but I truly want to see their work and endeavours.
On my return trip to Calgary it was nice to have one of my former students on the flight from Denver to Calgary.  Christina had been a student of mine 3 years or so ago and she has been working as a photographer ever since.  She also attended the show so we had a good chat about many issues on the way home.
In the long run I would say I had a good time at this years RFWPPI show and gained more skills both in my photography and my teaching.  I am looking forward to share this as I move forward.  Socially it was nice and it would have been even greater to have seen a few more of my friends there, but those who I did it was wonderful to chat and catch up.  Next time I attend I hope to have a little more time to spend with others and really have a good share of ideas.
The following are the photo's I took during my time in Las Vegas.  I did not go overboard as I am not one to shoot a large number of images.  I also was looking to create images that are a little different from the 100's of thousands of photo's being taken every day on the strip.
March 2.  The flower I took at church in the morning before I left using the iPhone,
I knew I wanted to do my Sunday Self-portrait on the strip and at 11:00 at night outside of the New York New York resort I used the GoPro to capture this shot with the strip behind me.
March 3.  Spent the evening waling 15km up and down the strip. Shoot these with the Canon 7D and the ISO was 1600 with shutterspeeds around 1/160 at f5.  The first is the Bellagio fountain show.
This shot of the Harley Davidson CafĂ© is a combination of two images, one for the bike coming out of the wall and the other for the neon lights.  Combined the two in photoshop.
Framed the Paris Resort Eifel Tower between two palm trees and then used a little fill flash to light the trees.
March 4. Another walk up and down the strip, this time taking daytime sights.
March 5.  Sitting at the airport waiting for my flight and I did a couple of iPhone captures for the images for today.
March 6.  After getting home at 2:00 in the morning and then handling a bunch of things at home and outside I did this shot with the iPhone of some of the items I picked up at WPPI.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WPPI day 2. Taking stock and getting inspiration.

At a large conference such as WPPI you will encounter photographers at every level. From the wide eyed 1st time attendee who has just started their career to the seasoned professional. Even those who don't attend make their thoughts be known about the event. The truth is these types of conferences truly are what you make of them. They can be a source of frustration, about equipment that is unobtainable (the tradeshow can do that to you) or the questioning of the abilities of others and how come they are successful.

For me though I find conferences like this a chance for reflection and inspiration. Yesterday I went and listened to Dane Sanders in the morning and it was one of those talks that makes you take stock. One does not have to agree with every aspect of the speakers talk, but there are always points that can help you if you are willing to listen. At this stage of my life/career I am looking at what direction I want to head and these types of presentations are helpful.

After the presentation I decided that I need some inspiration and some time away from the show. This is one of the good things about Las Vegas, if you are willing to search it out their are some great galleries to visit.  Peter Lik has 4 of them in various casinos and I always like to check them out and be inspired by the large landscape images by this master.  Art Wolfe has a gallery as well though I almost missed it as they changed the name since the last time I was here as well as the other photographers involved. It was interesting to see some work by Art that was very different then what he is known for. Finally it was good to see a new addition of Jeff Mitchum and his gallery in the MGM Grand. Seeing this work takes me back to some of my earliest photography work.

The night was wrapped up by a fine event hosted by Canon Canada with a nice meal and a chance to chat with photographers from home. It is good to see and hear that there are those who are making it work even in these competitive times. Again one can find inspiration in any situation if you just look.

Today I will be heading home, but I have enough time for another speaker and sometime checking out the competition prints. There will also be time to walk the tradeshow floor one last time.  Tomorrow when I am back in Calgary I will share my final thoughts on WPPI as well as the photo's I have taken these past few days.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Return to Las Vegas -WPPI a lot of change but still the same.

There was a time when I use to  attend events like PhotoPlus in New York and WPPI here in Las Vegas on a regular basis.  However being an active father in my boy's lives means I have had to make sacrifices for them, especially as they get older and have more events to attend. Concerts and lessons have had a way of coinciding with these photo shows. This year things can together as this week was free and open and this allowed me to make the decision to attend.

When you haven't attended a show like WPPI it is easy to see that there are many changes and this holds true as the world of the photographer as the challenges continue to grow. With photography becoming more accessible it is even more important to stay on top of trends and innovations in the industry.  What I have enjoyed the most so far in this area is seeing how companies are trying to help by giving us more options to our clients that would not be available to the general public.

GraphiStudio, whom I use for my albums, introduced a greater variety of product this week. They also have some wonderful innovations in how to show your work and design albums with your clients input.  This type of thinking helps one look even more professional and on the cutting edge . This works with both Bridal and family portraits. There are other album and photo labs at the show as well and they all have new ideas to help the photographer. It is at a show like this where you truly get the information and ideas on how it works.

The other area of change is in technology. Of course the camera manufacturers are here as well and they have the latest products in there lines on display.  I try to stay as up to date as I can so I can help students with their cameras when they encounter problems.  Yet I am not a salesman so I don't hang around the camera stores keeping up with all the brands. This is why a trade show like this is so effective as I can take some time and see what the companies are doing.  One of them is Sony and though I have been aware of the quality of their cameras, I have always had a problem with them and the design of the hot shoe on the cameras. This dates back to the days of Minolta whom Sony purchased to enter the still photography market. The hot shoe was proprietery and thus you could not fit radio triggers on them.  So needless to say I was happy to see this has changed and they have returned to a standard hot shoe on the current generation of cameras.

For all the change though some things stay the same.  For me it was encounter old friends whom I have not seen for the last few years.  Social media has made it possible to stay in touch, but it is always nicer to sit and have a nice conversation face to face. I was fortunate to bump in to a number of them on the tradeshow floor yesterday.

It is also great to hear many speakers talking about what they are doing and sharing how to grow ones business.  For me it is somewhat refreshing to see that the challenges here are the same as they were 20 years ago when I started. Digital really hasn't effected the industry as much as people think as the problems remain relatively the same.  The only difference is that the public has a different understanding of photography and thus some of the expectations have changed. However the business and marketing is still the same and one has to be good at this if one is to be successful.

Finally it was also nice to hear that everything I teach to my students is still relevant and has not changed. When I hear speakers explain their way of lighting, posing, use of equipment and business practices and I can nod my head in the knowledge that I have been saying the same for years just makes me feel relevant.  This is why I came and I am looking forward to Day 2 today.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A little under the weather.

Why does it always seem that just before you take a trip or short vacation you seem to catch a cold or other illness.  That is what I am experiencing as I get set to head to Las Vegas for WPPI.  I have been able to do what I need to in taking care of the boy's activities and getting things prepared for three days away from the family.  It has been a number of years that I have left them on their own and though I know everything will be fine I want to make sure everything is in place so as to make things easier for them.
As I worked at what felt to be half pace I was also looking for something to photograph.  I choose this Tea Pot we have as I like the colours and shape.  Using a mirror and the 7D I was able to record what I feel is a nice representation.
I am traveling light for this trip with only a back-pack and my camera bag on the flight down.  I will be using my iPad to post my blog on my experience's from each day.  I don't know if I will be able to post many photo's but I will share my results upon my return.  In the mean time you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and twitter to see posts from my iPhone.