Category: Fine Art Photography

Summer Morning

On Tuesday, I set aside the early part of the morning specifically for photographing a field of summer wildflowers between Water Street and Municipal Street here in Guelph. My wife Laura and I walk by here regularly as we (mostly she!) completes our 6km loop from home to the Boathouse on Gordon Street (no, we don’t stop for ice cream!) and back again, along the Speed River for most of the way. It’s been interesting to watch how this field has evolved since, amidst much controversy, this forested area was razed by the Hydro One crews two years ago. They seeded it with a wildflower mix which, at this point anyway, seems to be successful. Right now it is ablaze with flowers: Queen Anne’s Lace, Rudbeckia, Evening Primrose, Mullen, various thistles, daisies, and grasses.

When I walked along the trail early Saturday morning, I was struck by the colour, the light and simply how “full” the field was with wildflowers. As I walked, I got thinking about returning with my 100mm macro lens on the D800E first thing in the morning, hand-held, just to see what I could capture, ideally at ƒ2.8 only. I specifically chose my full-frame camera because I wanted to minimize my depth of field, so ƒ2.8 was also my goal. This is a complete departure from my regular shooting style of using a wideangle lens, getting close and using a small aperture to maximize depth-of-field; this allows me to create the environmental portraits I love so much – putting the main subject in its natural context. When I began shooting, though, I quickly realized how shallow the DoF is at ƒ2.8; I just couldn’t come to grips with the limited depth-of-field, so I “slipped up” to 5.6 and even 7.1 for a few shots.

Here are six of the photos I made.

These photos represent another goal of the morning, which was to capture light. I was fortunate that it was cool enough overnight for dew to settle on the flowers, so at 7am they were sparkling, adding another dimension to the morning. However, I can tell I’m a bit out of practice. Some of the parts I wanted in focus are not and despite using shutter speeds over 1/250, my hand-holding is not quite steady enough with high magnification shots like these. The problem is, I’ve become too used to the excellent image stabilization of the Sony RX10iii. Next time, I’ll consider using a monopod, although, to be honest, for these more spontaneous shots, even a monopod would be a hindrance.

Please add your comments, questions and critique using the “Comments” below and be sure to share this post on Facebook. And get out photographing!

HCC – a great evening!

Last night I presented “Creating Compelling Landscapes” to a wonderful crowd of close to 100 photographers at the Hamilton Camera Club. It was also great to see a number of former students from my days at Mohawk College, as well.

Bucking what is often seen as a trend, the HCC is an active and growing club with members of all ages. With photography having become so ubiquitous, now that everyone has a phone in their pocket, it’s encouraging to see so many people dedicated to creating more than just snapshots.

I look forward to working with the Hamilton Camera Club in the future and, perhaps, seeing the results of my presentation in some great landscape work.

Hamilton Camera Club – Monday

Wild Ginger covers the ground in a foggy deciduous woodland in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada along the Bruce Trial on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve

If you’re in the Hamilton area on Monday evening join me at the Hamilton Camera Club meeting for my talk on Creating Compelling Landscapes.

The evening starts at 7:30pm and ends at 9:30.

Landscapes always seem simple enough; take one outstanding view, raise the camera to your eye or point the cellphone and “click” – done. That will certainly get you a snapshot, but what can you be doing to capture more than just the scene? How do capture the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling of being there in the stifling heat or the bitter cold?

That’s where you start thinking about the Photographer’s Toolbox: the Ambient Conditions, Visual Design Elements, Technical Controls and Post-capture Processing techniques to answer the question:

How can I creatively use the elements in the landscape and my equipment & skills as a photographer to recreate the compelling scene before me as well as the experience of being there?

Intrigued? See you Monday at 7:30pm at

Mount Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, 1411 Upper Wellington Street, Hamilton.

A few more from Iceland

For last few days and for two more, we’re staying on a farm about 10 minutes outside of Akureyri, in Iceland’s north. It’s snowing right now and we’ve had snow off and on over the last few days. Not a lot, but road conditions yesterday morning were a bit dicey. However, when the weather cleared, we had beautiful sunshine and more spectacular scenery of dramatic mountains, blue ocean, white snow and puffy clouds.

We drove up the coast of Eyjafjörður from Akureyri through Dalvik and three tunnels (one of which was a single lane for 3km!) to the northern village of Siglufjörður. If you watched “Trapped” – an Icelandic mini-series on Netflix – this was the town the story was based on and partially filmed in – a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and the sea. But the most dramatic scenery yesterday was just outside of Ólafsfjörður. Just off the point a brewing snow squall was lit by the afternoon sun.

We ended the day photographing a farm just south of Dalvik. The problem in Iceland is that the roads have no shoulders (and no guard rails except on a few, very few, choice curves!). In other words, there is no where to stop the car to photograph the great scenery except at farm lanes (they don’t like that!), pull-offs and picnic areas. The picnic areas are scattered along the road, some well-placed or photographers, others less so. A few hundred metres up the road from the farm there was a picnic stop – snowed in at the is time of year, but accessible, thank goodness. It was worth the trek back down the road to capture this beautiful view. It sums up the kind of day we had.

We went aback to Akureyri for dinner. Eating out is expensive in Iceland: fish and chips for two plus a couple of pints totalled about $75. Understandably, most of our meals we make ourselves, easy breakfasts of muesli and skyr (Iceland “yoghurt-like” milk product), sandwiches for lunch and dinners back at our AirBnB.

We ended the day the best way possible – soaking in hot pool. Each village and town has outdoor public pools, heated with geothermal heat. Each complex typically has a gym attached plus at lest one lane-swimming pool and at least two, often three of four, hot pools of varying degrees of warmth. This pool, near our AirBnB, is set in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains, so sitting outside in a not pool at -2°C surrounded by the evening light with these great views was a real treat.

Here are more photos from the day…

 

Iceland in March

Right now, Laura and I are travelling through Iceland, mostly in the north. We rented and are staying at AirBnBs. It’s a great time of year as there is a dusting of fresh snow each night – not enough to obliterate detail, nor enough to make driving hazardous, but just enough to accentuate the detail of the mountains and volcanic rock.

I’m using the Sony RX10iii for all the shots. I’ve brought along my D800E with the 18-35mm lens, specifically to capture the Aurora borealis, when it makes its appearance (higher image quality at the higher ISOs needed). Otherwise, everything you see is using the RX10iii using raw capture and processing through Lightroom.

Vieux Port de Montreal

New folio: Vieux Port De Montréal

A short project, I spent an afternoon working on back in June of 2016, was a series of photographs along Rue de la Commune in Old Montreal. I had a couple of hours “off” from shepherding my Grade 7s through Montreal on a school trip.

As I walked along this area of “Vieux Port de Montréal” I became intrigued by the barely visible signs painted on the brick and stone faces of the buildings – ghostly reminders of the past. It’s not ancient history, nor is it particularly significant to the world at large. What it is, though, is classic, vernacular history; the history of a local population.

I found it creatively intriguing, so I spent the afternoon photographing what little there was left of these painted store/shop signs, directions and directives in these few blocks, trying to find the best way to reveal them without the more modern obstructions and changes. There are also photographs of a few architectural and design details that caught my eye as being complementary to the signs.

Also of interest to me, as a photographer, was the colour palette in this area. Dingy is one way of looking at the dirty-looking grey blocks of stone, but there are also subtle, worn-looking greens, as you can see in the photo above, worn-looking reds. The colours are real, not “photoshopped”, but in their faded appearance, they give this real-life area a natural, faded-image look.

Of interest to photographers, at the time I was using a Panasonic FZ1000, a more-than-capable camera for this kind of street work, with its very flexible 25-400mm Leica zoom and high quality 1″ sensor. As you may know, I’ve since transitioned to a Sony RX10iii: a similar, but slightly more capable camera. If interested, you can read about that decision here.

I have purposely kept people to a minimum in these photographs. My point was not to show how the street and buildings have been transformed; rather, the photographs are a record of a rapidly fading past – I wanted the painted signs and the surrounding architecture to speak of that past. Photography has the ability to preserve that history, albeit in 2-dimensions.

The folio is available online on luxBorealis.com and at my Flickr account. The complete folio is also available for purchase as a set of hand-printed, 9½x 13″ fine art photographs made on the beautiful Moab Entrada Natural Rag watercolour paper, printed with pigment inks. They come in an acid-free presentation folder with title page, artist statement and colophon. The folio of 21 photographs is $350 (shipping included) and is limited to the number of orders received.

Most importantly, though, enjoy this vignette of vernacular history.

Another Spectacular Autumn

We have had our share of beautiful weather this autumn here in southern Ontario although lately, it has “normalized”.  At the same time, Laura and I have been out hiking almost every weekend rain, shine or, in the case of last weekend, snow. I’m really working hard at capturing at least one truly worthwhile photograph from each outing. So far, so good, but I also know that won’t always be the case.

Here is a gallery of the best from the last two months. All are made with the Sony RX-10iii which has become my go-to camera as of late, particularly because of its ease of use while hiking. On the last few outings, I’ve taken with me the monopod leg of the MeFOTO tripod. This has been a fantastic addition, allowing me to make photos that would be otherwise impossible late in the afternoon. Yes, I could be hefting a tripod and my D800E kit, but really, these photos will stand up to the needs of cards, photo books and fine art prints. I’m loving this change. Anyone interested in a used D800E and lenses?  🙂

Okay – so I have been trying for an hour to load photos into a gallery as I’ve done countless times before, but I keep getting a WordPress HTTP error – very frustrating!! So I will direct you to my Flickr Photostream to see the most recent photos. Enjoy!

Guelph Photographers Guild – Going strong!

The Boyne River has its headwaters in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario and makes its way, largely undisturbed and wild, to join the Beaver River at the head of the Beaver Valley, along the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County, Ontario
The Boyne River has its headwaters in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario and makes its way, largely undisturbed and wild, to join the Beaver River at the head of the Beaver Valley, along the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County, Ontario

On Wednesday evening of this week I spoke to an enthusiastic and engaging audience at the Guelph Photographers Guild. My two-hour presentation revolved around a series of recent landscapes, all shot here in southern Ontario, mostly within less than an hour of Guelph.

Those of you familiar with my work know of how much I enjoy travel. Having lived in Tanzania, England and Germany, and having travelled to Canada’s east and west coasts, Florida, South Africa, most European countries and the Galápagos, I am most passionate about the photography I do here “in my own backyard”. These are the places I know best, but more importantly, they are the places I can return to when the light and atmosphere are peaking.

The other main ideas I was discussing included:

  • Arrive before the light; stay after the light
  • Shoot into the light
  • Find a different perspective
  • Return to the same places
  • The performance is in the processing.

One can be the finest photographic technician in the world, but if you aren’t putting these ideas in place, you might find your photographs flat and lifeless. The opposite is true, too: no matter what camera you are using, your photographs will always be better earlier in the morning, close to home, in a place you are intimately familiar with, shot from a different perspective.

I also brought with me a number of recent prints, still artist proofs, to help demonstrate the process of working towards a final print. I make my prints on Moab Entrada Rag Natural matte paper with no OBAs witch a slight warmth to it. To me, being able to hold prints in hand gives them a new life, a vibrancy that is not possible behind glass.

If you want to pursue or discuss any of these ideas feel free to comment below or send me an email. I’m presently not organizing workshops, but if you would like to arrange something privately, let me know. Or, if your photography club is looking for a guest speaker, I would be happy to help you out.

Most importantly, get out shooting! Thanks for the warm welcome, GPG!

BTW: Their next meeting is Wednesday, June 15 at 7pm at the Guelph Unifor building, 661 Silvercreek Parkway North (north of Woodlawn). They will have a rep from Panasonic, showing the Lumix line of products. As an FZ1000 user, I can heartily recommend Lumix. You can read my recent blog post about it.

Guelph Photography Guild – Wednesday

Relic RhododendronI’m looking forward to speaking this Wednesday 18 May at the Guelph Photography Guild meeting at 7pm.  I will be sharing recent landscapes and discussing the merits of shooting “Into the Light” and shooting locally.

The GPG meets at 611 Silvercreek Parkway North in the UNIFOR Building. Hope to see you there.

Lumix FZ1000 in print

I am thrilled to be shooting with the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 camera. Its features are quite remarkable:

  • 25-400mm (equivalent) Leica ƒ2.8-4 lens
  • 20mp 1″ sensor
  • Hull HD and 4K video
  • lots of customization for shooting both raw and jpegs

Winter SquallI’m impressed, too – impressed enough to have purchased one for travel photography. Lately, I’ve been putting it through its paces, really trying to push it to the limits. Of course, the limits I’m comparing it with are those of my full-frame D800E and associated optics.

So why bother with a “bridge” camera when I’m using a D800E? It all comes down to travel. I wanted something I could take with me “where ever” I go. I know I can do that with the D800E, but if I want anything beyond normal, I’m stuck carrying extra lenses with me, and full-frame zoom lenses aren’t exactly lightweight! What about prime lenses? True, they are lighter, but then I’m changing lenses more frequently than I prefer to. I want something I can pick up and head out shooting with that will give me decent quality raw photos for printing and decent-quality family snapshots for jpegs for sharing. Something I can walk around and hand-hold without compromising too much quality. I would still use my D800E for my fine art work where time allows me to slow down and use a a tripod. But it just seems to be overkill for many of the travel-type grab shots I also enjoy making – photos that will rarely see the inside of a printer, so to speak.

Winter Morning, Bark LakeNeedless to say it’s an unfair comparison, given the D800E’s state-of-the-art 36mp sensor with class-leading dynamic range, but still, I’m impressed by what the FZ1000 can do. So impressed, that it was the only camera I took with me on my annual sojourn into a Canadian winter up at Bark Lake Leadership Centre with our Grade 10s for their 6-day field course.

I made a number of jpeg images of the students skiing, building fires, augering down through the ice to collect lake water samples – those images are nothing short of fantastic. The flash did an amazing job of filling in shadows on sunny days and indoors. Actually the light from the flash is better than I get from the D800E’s pop-up flash – less contrasty and better balanced. ISOs up to 800 were perfectly fine for web and print media (e.g. 300dpi for yearbook).

FZ1000-100%Since returning, I have also taken some basketball photos at ISO3200. Not as clean and crisp as the D800E w/ ƒ2.8 70-200mm zoom, but certainly printable for web and yearbook (just). Even the team photos I took at ISO400 and 800 in the gym with the pop-up flash were plenty good enough once processed through Lightroom.

While up at Bark Lake, I made some fine art photos as well, shooting in raw at the base ISO of 125. They are terrific, indeed – quality enough for printing this past weekend as 10.5 x15″. They would even stand up well as full 13×19″ prints. And, since that’s the title of this post, here they are.

I’be also included a 100% screen capture of part of the upper pholograph. In all fairness, there is a fair amount of snow flying around that appears, in the 100% crop, to be dust, but it isn’t!

_1030085And, lastly, here is a female cardinal shot at ƒ5.6 400mm (equivalent) at ISO125. By the way, this was shot through our kitchen window. It is a 1200×1800 pixel crop from the full 5472×3648 frame. Not bad at all!