April 20, 2009

Magical Waters

Sometimes it helps to step back and look at what others around you are up to. Did some photography business planning this evening and then just toodled around the net listening to things and looking at stuff that I'd been meaning to get to. I was struck by a funny thought. I know a lot of very talented and VERY creative people.

I always knew I was surrounded by creative types, but as I look at it more closely there's a real explosion of creative types lately.

There's a specific group of people that I grew up with that I'm really noticing this with, and that's my church youth group.

Here's the tally:
1 Graphic Designer
3 Photographers
1 Actor
2 Bands ... at least (successful ones thus far...not just the "yeah we play in a garage" type bands)
1 Aspiring Filmmaker
2 Painters/Artists

The interesting part about these people is that all of them (except the graphic designer) do these activities in their spare time, on the side, and in supplement to their main source of income. I'm sure there are more that I haven't mentioned who belonged to this group from about 1995 to 2000, but I just can't think of more of them right now. I wonder why this is though.

Is it something to do with the water we were all raised on? Or is it the social justice theology we all had healthy doses of? Are we all tortured souls looking for a way to explain/justify our existence on this planet? Or are we just reacting to the negatives of this world by sowing our own beautiful positives. Hard to really know...I just find it odd, fascinating and really cool.

Here's some wicked tunes for ya'll:

Stringer Lake:

The Change

More soon...

Bible Quizzing

Shot some pictures for the youth group I work with at my church. It was the Bible Quizzing competition for the conference and our group's two teams historically do really well. I'll let the pictures do the talking. They're an awesome bunch of kids and it was a fantastic day of keen competition and some good laughs!

April 19, 2009

April Shoot - Ben

Ben is a friend from back in my teenage days going to music camp (NOoooo NOT American Pie "Band Camp"...yeah definitely not) and about a month ago he sent me a note saying he'd been thinking about asking me to take pictures of himself but he was kinda nervous about the whole picture taking deal.

So I asked what his ideas were and what he wanted them for and I think the response was something along the lines of "I have many geeky passions and I want to document me enjoying them." From there the conversation turned to where we'd shoot them and the idea of shooting in a comicbook store that he used to work at came up. Loved it instantly and had just finished reading McNally's Hot Shoe Diaries and noticed a lot of use of coloured gels...I wanted to try adding that in to my mix. Bought some coloured acetate about a year ago and so trimmed some of these down and velcroed them up.... I'll share more about those in another post though.

Ben's comicbook store pictures worked JUST as I had envisioned:

I surprised myself! I got the shots I wanted in about 10 frames! It was a little unnerving. I would've stayed longer to push things and test out different lighting scenarios, but I already had what I wanted and what Ben loved. So off to the beaches to take some more pics:

I asked Ben after these if there was a specific place or activity that meant a great deal to him and was really important for him to be caught on camera. He thought about it and after a few minutes said "I have a key to my church! Lets head over there and do some of me playing piano!" Sure thing I said!:

April 14, 2009

Get Your Juices Flowing

Found a link to this very cool site with copyright free, open source, public domain content all taken From Old Books

I'm especially loving the section on old borders and initials. I can think of so many cool applications for this both in photography, and promo materials, notes to clients and what not....

Thought I would just pass that cool tidbit forward. Enjoy!

More soon...

April 13, 2009


Been chatting with a new friend about photography a lot in the last 24 hours. I apparently have a philosophy about photography now!

Strange, but I guess I do. So lets see if I can figure that out based on that conversation and some public ruminating.

1. Photos are an important way to catch reflections of ourselves at various times and places. Ourselves as an individual, community, nation, world. There are iconic images that will last, some that come to my mind immediately are: 9/11 Falling Man, National Geographic's Afghani Girl, a pregnant Demi Moore, the Buddhist monk on fire. Photos help build a collective conscious and for this reason the act of taking pictures won't die out. There is always a place for my pictures.

2. Everybody looks better lit. A light source is needed to make any image at all (sunlight, flashlight, fire light, star light) but there is nothing wrong with helping out an image with some strategically placed strobes. I try to light my photos in this way as much as possible.

3. People are important. If you take a picture of someone, making them the dominant part of the picture is key. I prefer having my people front and centre. If I'm gonna take a picture of a couple I want most of the attention on them as a couple... put them front and centre, that's why they're there.

4. Be a geek. Geeking out about something = passion. If you're passionate enough about something to think and talk about it all the time, you're living the life. Too many people walk through life without passion, energy or excitement. Find that passion, be passionate, live passionately. I'm passionate about photography.

5. Learn much and learn often. I fail and make mistakes all the time. Sometimes I repeat those mistakes but it just means I haven't learnt my lesson yet. Study, read, try, fail, try and fail again. I shoot better pictures now then I did last year at this time. I know next year at this time I'll shoot better pictures then I do now. This can only happen by learning much and frequently.

6. Be driven. If you want it, go get it. I passed the "I wish I had..." stage of photography last year. "I wish I had a camera," "I wish I shot pictures of people," "I wish I was better at...." Do it, make it, create it, think it, build it, realize it, become it. Also, dismantle it and restart.

7. Deliver for your customers. If someone wants photos from you, take wonderful passionate photos for them but follow that up with the best darn customer service you can friggin possibly offer. Deliver and then over deliver on customer service.

8. Promote the pants off yourself. Talk about it everywhere and to everyone who will and won't listen. Take pictures of and for everyone and everything. Spread the word, hand out your card. You could take the best pictures in the world, but if no one knows about you, how are you going to be successful at it.

9. Know your history. Learn where photography has come from. Everyone knows the saying, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." What's photography's history. What are the failures, successes, struggles and triumphs of the well and little known photographers who bring us to where we are today? Learn about Alfred Steiglitz, learn about Man Ray, learn about Robert Capa. Know who Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is. Understand what a photograveur is, or what rayographs are. Learn what has influenced photography. Once you see the influences of the past, you can predict and determine the future.

10. Technological proficiency is a must. Natural skill, talent and luck will only carry you so far. I firmly believe that my natural skill and talent is very slim. Luck has and always will play a big part in my picture making abilities...it has to, there are too many variables. To make up for that lack of natural abilities, knowing my apertures and shutters and ISOs and how to light and even how to efficiently use technology to post-process images is massively important to my photography becoming better.

11. Shut up and take the picture already. After all that's what I love. Pick up the camera, adjust the settings, push that button, expose the film to the scene you've created and just shoot it now.

More soon...

April 7, 2009

Hadn't Noticed

Looked through some Flickr pics this evening and watched the last year unfold. It was an interesting reminiscence. Some pictures I remember being there for, others I know I was away. There's a narrative that goes with some, and others, the picture stands alone. At certain times the tone is alone, perhaps even lonely. I can tell you why, but I'm not going to say. The constant is who they're taken by. The inconsistency is me. More recently I was there for many. One thing I will reveal, is now the tide has turned. The inconsistency is me, and my tone is more alone. Silly me for assuming a month would trump two years. Shame on me for thinking I'd mastered all my fears.

***Although this is more deep than I'd like to go with posts on here, writing has always let me master what I can never say in person. Sometimes other people's writings help too.

"Cause everybody knows that nobody really knows
How to make it work or how to ease the hurt
We've heard it all before everybody just knows how to make it right...
I don't care what the people say, they're probably lonely anyways...
Cause everybody knows that nobody really knows."

Everybody Knows - by John Legend


April 3, 2009

Redesigning the Way We Read

Many of you know that my main bread and butter comes from the magazine publishing industry. In the last few months this industry has been hit really hard.

Whether it's because publishers and magazines became fat, lazy and overindulgent or because readers are just not seeing the value in the products they offer any more, one thing that is indisputable is that design plays a major role in why someone picks up something to read, and why they continue to read what they've picked up.

Many people predict the convergence and growth of technology to be the death knell of the traditional print medium in all its forms: newspaper, magazine, book, and that soon we'll all be reading from our iPhones, BlackBerrys or something like Amazon's Kindle.

I'd like to think not. I'd like to think that there will always be a need for the traditional printed word and that economic hardships are only forcing publishers everywhere to re-examine how magazines, and for that matter newspapers, present themselves.

Okay, so what's the connection to photography?

This. A Ted Talk by Polish newspaper designer, Jacek Utko, whose redesigns for Eastern European newspapers have garnered those publications numerous accolades and increased subscriptions by as much as 100%. WOW! Those are circulation increases most publishers would commit manslaughter for.

The first thing I notice is that Utko's designs are graphically intensive. Double trucks of bold graphically intriguing photos, graphic representations of statistics, visual communication that replaces hundreds and thousands of words.

It's not that writing, magazines, publishing, design or photography for that matter is dead or dying it is that we are not adapting to what our world has become. A world of visual consumers.

The age of Life and Time magazines may have passed, but I firmly believe that their spirit has not. This, as you can clearly see from Utko's work and impressive results, are what people are craving: a way to tangibly connect with what is going on in the world around them, and a visual connection is much stronger than a written connection.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it is time that a picture took the place of a thousand words in our mass printed publications.

More soon...

Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School

For a few months now I've been following Syl Arena's blog PixSylated and in particular his ongoing series "Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School".

It originally started when Syl was asked by the omnipresent Scott Kelby to guest blog on his weekly "Guest Blog Wednesday" series.

The first twelve of that series include:

3. Powerful photographs touch people at a depth they don’t anticipate.
4. You have to let your images go out into the world without you.
10. Your photographs have value. Don’t give them away.

11. Your photographs have value. Give them away.
12. Resist the temptation to become a pro photographer.

For each of these points Syl shares valuable wisdom and insight on photography and what it means to be a "photographer." And they're not just some cheesy points. A lot of them, if not all of them, make me sit up, think and go "hmmmm," and a lot of them, although photography centric, have great application to the rest of the world and our daily lives.

A few more of Syl's "Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School:"

13. Learning photography is just like becoming fluent in a foreign language.
14. Invest more in your education than you do in photo gear.
18. Make tons of mistakes and fail frequently.
Don’t worry about “having a defined look”.
27. Ultimately your career as a photographer, amateur or professional, will be defined by the lives you touch through the images you make.
28. You can seldom pay your mentors back.
35. Look at other photographer’s work more than you look at your own.

Obviously there are a bunch of other lessons in there that I'm encouraging you to also check out, and the ones that I did mention have explanations that go so much deeper than what I have shared here.

In an industry that looks so closed, elitist and foreign to the bystander (cuz photography is like being fluent in anohter language), I'm continually amazed at how giving many photographers are. With amazing cameras being more easily owned and billions of pictures being constantly snapped, it's encouraging to see wealths of knowledge paid backwards to people who really want to learn this craft.

I already owe a debt to numerous photographers out there who are known both on the international stage, more closely in the Toronto area, and within my group of friends and family. I can't imagine ever being able to give back to any of them what they've so freely given to me, but no one who shares like that ever really expects something in return.

I guess one way I try to return the favour to photographers who have helped me is to share with you what they helped me with or how they inspired me. It's a constant circle of give and take.

So thanks Syl! I'm paying forward your gift of knowledge:

Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 13-17
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 18-21
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 22-27
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 28-31
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 32-35

More soon...

April 1, 2009

Cool New Camera

Now THIS is a nifty sounding camera. Looks like Kodak's jumped on the social networking/media bandwagon ;)

Can't wait to get my hands on one of these!

More soon...