Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Waiting for his Ship to Come In

This past Saturday found me in downtown Halifax trying to enjoy the Scott Kelby World Wide Photowalk. I say "trying" as the rain really put a damper on my spirits. I was so looking forward to being outside and walking around looking for new and interesting things to photograph.

Instead, we ended up inside the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market. Now, the farmer's market is a very interesting place with lots of interesting people but it's a pretty small space for a photowalk.

I did manage a trip to the rooftop where I found this fellow watching the arrival of the Queen Mary 2 and I planned this image out in my head and I was quite happy with the result. I'm glad that I at least got one shot that I liked.

Regardless of the weather it was nice to get out with some other photographers whom with I could share my addiction.

Hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative next year.

UPDATE October 23, 2011: Looks like I made out OK.  This shot ended up winning the contest for my particular photowalk. :)

UPDATE October 24, 2011: Wow!  All I can say is Wow!  Just kind of speechless.  Apparently, this shot also made it to Scott Kelby's personal favourites list - http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2011/archives/22397

Monday, September 05, 2011


Chrysler Prowler by Iguanasan
Chrysler Prowler, a photo by Iguanasan on Flickr.
My daughter and I took a trip down to the south shore the other day to meet up with a couple of friends, Bambe, Grant, and do some photography in and around Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

On the way back, my daughter and I stopped in to Peggy's Cove and while I didn't really photograph the lighthouse as it's one of those subjects that's been photographed to death and the light wasn't very interesting I did stumble into this Chrysler Prowler.

For some reason the owner had parked well away from other cars; maybe fearing careless doors. Whatever the reason, I turned the corner of the Sou' Wester and saw this very cool looking car with a beautiful ocean backdrop.

You just never know when you'll see something beautiful so Chase Jarvis' mantra of "the best camera is the one that's with you" is so true. I try to take my camera with me everywhere so I always have the opportunity to capture wonderful sights like this.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finding Your Way

Wicked Dark wrote a blog post about isolating yourself to one or two types of photography and its relationship to selecting a major in university.  Her thesis, triggered by a Google+ post that I started, was that by limiting yourself to one particular type or style of photography you can learn a lot more about that particular type or style and therefore improve a lot more from lessons learned through practice.  Go read her post for the details as she explains it much better than I.

Now, add to those thoughts, the conversation I've been having with some of the members of one of the Delete Me Uncensored groups on Flickr as a result of my previous blog post.  The general thesis of these group members, and I won't assume it is their only idea for improvement, is that in order to improve your photography you must work hard to take great pictures, put them on Flickr and line them up in front of a firing line for the less than perfect ones to be shot down.  In this way you will learn which ones are good and which ones are not so good.  This, I suspect is expected to help you improve through process of elimination.

Still others will point you to WhatsHisName's training videos, or ThatOne's photography school, online forum, photography club, etc, etc.

Today I was reminded of something my old karate sensei often said, "there are many roads to the top of the mountain but the view from the top is the same."  I'm reasonably sure that he did not originate the quote, however, it's one that has stuck with me over the years and since I associate it with him I'll attribute it to him.

Like photography, there are many ways to teach karate.  You can select a single kata (or form) and practice it over and over until you have mastered it and then move on to the next kata or you can learn a number of different kata and practice all of them until you master all of them.  Learning more than one at a time may make things very confusing but at the same time a move in one may help you understand a similar move in another.

And this brings us back to photography.  While I believe Wicked Dark's thesis has a lot of merit as it will help you get very good at one particular type or style of photography, I also believe that everyone has to find their own photographic path.  In my case, I really enjoy photographing nature such as birds, squirrels, and flowers.  I also love to do street photography, portrait work, and landscapes.  I don't think I could give up any of them to pursue interest in any one specific area.

I'm also not sure that I want to hang my photos on the wall for people to throw darts at them in the DMU groups on Flickr.  I said I'd never be back again but something keeps drawing me in...and it appears as though I'll give it another try.

The path I take up the mountain may be circuitous but it is my photographic path and after all it's not so much about reaching the top as it is about the journey.  I hope this post helps you find your path.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Second Foray Into DMU Groups

A couple of years ago in November 2009 when I first started sharing images on Flickr I joined a Delete Me Uncensored group as I had heard that it was a good way to get better. The "sales pitch" is that the members of the group provide uncensored critique of the photo which helps you get better as long as you have a bit of a thick skin.

I was very insecure about my photography back then - not that I'm much better now - and so when I got trashed - and trashed hard - I decided that it simply felt too negative and I quit the group and ran away with my tail between my legs.

Fast forward to 2011 and I get an invite to join DMU3, yet another Delete Me Uncensored group. I figure that I've been getting critique for the last couple of years, my images have improved a bit as well, and my skin is a little thicker so in I go for round two.

The group is new and small and it is taking a while for the images to make their way through the pool. A few comments and votes seem a little out of left field and a few seem almost useful so I'm trying to stick with it.

The image above was added to the pool and I started getting comments like "Black frame + loss of details in mist = flush" and "Just the loss of detail for me. Flush."

This shot was taken at minus twenty-six degrees Celsius shortly after dawn causing fog or "sea smoke" on the harbour. How the hell are you going to get landscape detail in the fog? And even if you could, do you want it? I wanted the foggy, misty atmosphere to give it an ethereal feeling which is what it felt like when I saw it live. I immediately pulled the image and myself out of the group.

I'm sure if anyone from the DMU group, who enjoys being part of that group, were to read this blog they would say that I was a wimp and cry-baby. Honestly, life is just too short to put up with people who get their kicks out of insulting people. The reward is not worth the pain of hanging out with that crew. They seem to know and like each other so I'll let them play with themselves. I have many other places to get good honest critique from people who are nice and friendly.

Goodbye, DMU. I won't be back again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Walking To Work in the Rain

Walking To Work in the Rain by Iguanasan
Walking To Work in the Rain, a photo by Iguanasan on Flickr.

Rain, rain, go away! After a literal month of rain with very little sun (maybe 2 days) it's getting hard to stay motivated to do anything let alone photography.

I think, however, that photography in the rain can be wonderful even though it's difficult to embrace. Yes, it's true that lighting is difficult with the heavy cloud cover and yes it's true that you have to be careful not to get your gear wet but it's also true that you can get some wonderful shots.

Even though it's a grey and foggy day you can see that the blue coat, green grass, and yellow forsythia really stand out and give this image a bit of colour. You have to look a little harder but the shots are there you just have to be open for them and not walk with your head down.

I have a number of shots of the flowers in the Public Gardens (behind the fence on the left) too and while they are not spread open and brightly lit by the sun, they do have a muted, drippy goodness about them which makes them very interesting subjects. Just remember your tripod!

So, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't go shooting. Put on the rain gear and protect your equipment and head out for some interesting and wet shots.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

An Open Letter to Ibarionex Perello

Squawking Seagull by Iguanasan
Squawking Seagull a photo by Iguanasan on Flickr.
A couple of month’s back I stumbled into The Candid Frame and specifically your interview with Joe McNally. It was the first podcast that I listened to that was not aimed so much at the gear and techniques of photography as it was the “journey” of photography. It was this interview that drove me to explore your podcast further and start listening to all the previous episodes.

Each and every episode had something to offer when I took the time to listen. The conversations with various photographer’s about their art, their passion, their lives, moved me in ways I had not expected. No longer was I concerned about f-stops and shutter speeds but I was driven by the need to understand what drove these photographers to create their images and it was all thanks to the amazing way you handle the interviews.

I had fallen in love with photography with my first 35mm film SLR in 1984 when my mother had given me my father’s camera after he had passed away. I had just turned 17 and, while I had used other cameras before, this Canon TX-1 gave me the control that I had never had before with a fixed-focus point and shoot. I bought some film and started shooting. I burned through a lot of film over the next few years and read a lot of books on photography. The cost of buying and developing film soon slowed my passion and the camera sat in a closet only coming out on special occasions.

I now have a digital SLR and shooting thousands of frames costs me just about nothing and so I shoot with a passion. A passion that I don’t understand and have no words to express. I am a geek and not an artistic type that appreciates colour, shape, and texture, yet I still feel the need, I’d even say craving, to photograph.

As I continued to listen to your wonderful podcasts I began to understand more and more about my passion to shoot. When I found the episode where you interview Stephan Oberhoff, a jazz musician, I wondered, what the heck were you thinking when you choose to do this interview? What has this got to do with photography? I am very happy to say I was not at all disappointed. In fact, wow! All I can say is WOW! That episode blew me away and put many, many things in perspective for me.

I don’t throw these words around lightly, I feel that particular interview had a profound impact on me and it also drove me to write this letter. I had intended to email you directly but then I felt that I really should share this with everyone. Your podcasts teach me about my photographic path in a way that no other has done and while I still don’t completely understand what drives me to photograph the way I do, thanks to your interviews, I have better tools with which to comprehend my motivation and I believe you have inspired me in ways I still haven’t fully realized.

Thank you for making the time to create this wonderful podcast and sharing it with me and your other listeners.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When is a Photograph Art?

Originally uploaded by Iguanasan
I was recently asked "When is a Photograph Art?" and it really made me think. What is art? Art, in its raw form, is any work which creates an emotional response in the observer. Someone who cuts hair remarkably well can be called an artist with scissors. A chef who puts together a tasty meal can be called an artist in the kitchen. Even a basketball player can be called an artist on the court. These titles are bestowed upon these people because of the emotional response of the observer of the things they do or create.

A photograph becomes art the moment the photographer presses the shutter button and captures a moment in time. One might ask how this can be since a great painter may spend hours and hours at the easel or a sculptor might spend days in front of his or her clay creating their art. How can the press of a simple button be considered art?

Well, first off, it's not about how long it takes to create the art. The tools of the trade for a painter or a sculptor require a lengthy creation process and while the technology afforded by a photographer allow for a fast and simple capture of the moment, the training of the photographer's eye, the study of composition, colour, lighting all took a lot of time.

Some people create very good art and and others create very poor art, however, it does not make the art any less real or less important to the creator. Whether the art becomes popular or successful depends upon the emotional response created in the observer. If the artist has captured a universal feeling that makes an impression on many who see it then their art will be popular and well regarded.

This brings us back to photography. When the photographer has pressed the shutter button he or she has considered the available light and the form and composition of the subject within the frame. If he or she has done this work well then they may create art which elicits a strong emotional response and be considered a good artist. If they have pressed the shutter button without consideration for these things, they are still an artist, however, their results may not allow them to emotionally connect with the observer.

It is always my hope that with every click of the shutter I have captured and can share a moment to which I was emotionally connected. The decision as to whether I was successful will be up to the viewer. For me, I just feel the need create and share the moments.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Planning vs Spontaneity

I Got It!
Originally uploaded by Iguanasan
I've heard a lot of photographers say that in order for them to improve they had to spend a lot of time planning out each and every detail of their photo shoot before they ever picked up the camera to go shooting. I always thought they were wasting valuable time planning when they could be out shooting.

I mean, what's there to plan? Grab your camera and head out for a walk and shoot whatever interests you. The closest I get to planning is deciding in which direction to walk. It was on one of those walks that I was able to catch the "I Got It!" image you see above. There's no way I could have planned on catching that shot.

Back in December I was talking with some people at my photography club and the subject of the January 1st Polar Bear Dip came up. Wouldn't it be awesome to sit next to Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant Park and get people's facial expressions as they hit the icy water? Sounded like fun but then I sort of forgot about it.

Just after Christmas I decided I wanted to go and shoot the Polar Bear Dip. What time did it start? How long would it take? Where could I sit? All of a sudden, planning seemed like a good idea. A quick search on Google helped me find http://herringcovepolarbeardip.com/

By reviewing the information on the site I was able to determine that the dip started at 12:00noon on the first and that people were jumping in the water off of the Government Wharf in Herring Cove. Apparently, my memories of Point Pleasant Park were out of date.

I looked up the location on Google Maps and figured the docks on the other side of the cove would be a great vantage point but just how far from the action would I be? Using Google Maps again, I was able to figure out that it would be about 65 meters distance. I compared this to other shots I had taken at other locations to figure out just how far away that was going to be and I decided I could live with the results I would likely get.

So, I packed up my gear on January 1st and headed down to Herring Cove, found a place to park and rang a doorbell to ask someone if he minded if I sat on his dock to take pictures. He said that as long as I didn't fall in I was welcome to use his dock. I thanked him and headed out back to the dock and ended up sitting next to a fellow from the Canadian Press.

Planning was a good thing! Without it, I would never have gotten the shot below. I'm a little slow but it was then that I realized that like everything else in life, a little moderation is a good thing. Plan some shooting events, go random on others. There's room for both!