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Moments in Time

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burgoynearchThere’s a major municipal construction project underway in my neighbourhood. Lots of traffic delays, and strange noises during the night. A hundred-year-old bridge is being replaced and the new pieces are going up while the old pieces are coming down. It’s a game of dominos to keep the traffic moving while the construction continues.

We’re into the final stages that involve the erection of a massive arch to suspend the bridge over a major highway and a wide creek. Temporary structures are holding the bridge while the arch is built, piece by piece during the night with the roadways temporarily closed.

I wanted a photo of the bridge to convey the grandeur of the project. Finding the correct vantage point was the challenge and I thought about it over several weeks. As a morning runner, I explore the streets of our town as I plod around on my workouts. Finally, I realized where a path I knew might put me and my camera into the correct position.

So here’s the shot. I think the vantage point is perfect, and so was my timing. I was setting up at sunset, just before the road closures as the crane was moving into position to swing another piece of the arch into position.

One of my photographer friends says, “Photography is all about chasing the light.” He’s correct, but the chase often results in the discovery of a unique perspective.



The Best Camera

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What’s the best camera? The one you have with you!

As a photographer, I’m always agonizing about how much camera equipment to carry with me. You want it all, but that’s usually impractical, so there has to be a selection determined by the shoot, the time and the place.

Fortunately the huge improvement in the iPhone over the past five years means that we always have a camera with us. And if you have seen the iPhone commercials, you know that the iPhone can produce some very good photos, and videos, and panoramas. It’s absolutely amazing.

I amazed myself last weekend while riding on the Toronto ferry. There was the skyline of Toronto in all its glory from a vantage point that was perfect. Didn’t have a Nikon with a wide lens, so pulled out the iPhone and voila, an immediate capture of a great image.

It is possible to capture great photos without a bag full of equipment. The place, the lighting and the view are still more important than the equipment you might use to capture the moment.



New Photo Challenges

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When’s the best time to take a photo of a transport truck? On a cloudy, rainy day, with lots of nice reflections and a great opportunity to see the lights and glimmer from the rig itself.

We’ve been in trucks, around trucks and shooting trucks as they pass by putting together a new website for a large trucking company that ships time-sensitive, temperature-controlled food products. If it’s fresh in your supermarket, it was probably shipped on one of these trucks.

Client projects present new challenges, and working with clients on location is an adventure in inventiveness.



Making of a Brand – Celebrity Endorsement

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Jordan Spieth watches his drive from the second tee during the final round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The sales pitch took place in a nearly empty ballroom at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club one sunny afternoon in July 2013. Jordan Spieth, a local PGA Tour rookie, had just finished participating in an RBC Wealth Management “Shot for College” clinic as a last-minute replacement for Hunter Mahan, another PGA golfer from Dallas.

Attending the clinic was a select group of RBC clients who’d come hoping to see Mahan, a multiple World Golf Championship winner and Ryder Cup veteran. As he prepared to leave, Spieth’s eager sports-business agent, Jay Danzi, approached an RBC representative and rattled off his 30-second sales pitch. “Here’s my card,” Danzi concluded. “Let me know if Jordan can do anything for you or your clients. He would be happy to help.”

What a difference three years makes . . . . (read full story)




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DSC_8654We’ve done many portraits. Executive, middle management and family.

The ideal situation would be to bring the subject into a studio, where you have lots of room, appropriate backgrounds, nearby washroom/makeup mirrors, funky music and great lighting. That’s the way I would like it, but that rarely seems to be the way it works out.

With executive portraits, time is always an issue. In the crazy 9-5 business world, no executive worth his seniority could possibly break away from the daily issues to travel to a studio. And when shooting teams, or factory workers or families, inevitably the only way to get the photos done is to take the studio to them. The mountain to Mohammed.

Over the years we’ve tried lots of ways to make this happen. We have portable light stands, portable umbrellas and other light modifiers, and several external flash units. And backdrops large and small. Everything but a wind machine. It works, but it isn’t a studio.

Recently, after years of deliberation, we made the big move and bought a complete outfit of studio strobes. It’s all Bowens products and it fits beautifully into a custom case. It’s portable if you have a vehicle, but not if you’re going farther than you can drag the wheeled cases. However, despite the increase in size and complexity, we’re completely overcome by the quality of the light and the ease of use. If I’d realized how much easier/better this makes portraiture, I’d have done this years ago.

The quality of images we’ve been achieving is spectacular, and in my view, very professional. The light is infinitely easier to control. And with a flash light-meter and modelling lights, far easier to predict.

The lights are magnificent. We have enough power to light a car-shoot, or to do multiple lights on a large group. It’s so much easier!  And with the camera tethered to a laptop, it’s easier for the clients to review the work in progress. That’s a real plus for everyone.

So portraits? Sure, bring ’em on. We can come to you. Or you can come to us.



Night Light

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Light is a big factor in photography. Waiting for the sunrise or sunset, hoping a cloud will move out of the way, or adding a flash to a scene are all known techniques to photographers. We’ve become quite used to arriving at a scene prior to sunrise to see how the sunrise colours will look. Lately, we’ve been doing the opposite, waiting for that brief period of light between sunset and darkness.

The challenge is photographing the new skyline in St. Catharines. The first concern is vantage point – where to position the camera and on a winter’s night that can be a problem. Climbing around frozen ground in the dark presents challenges. In this case, I wish I could get higher to get above trees and lamp posts. But short of renting a hydraulic lift, I had to make do with scrambling around on hillsides to find the best possible rather than ideal position.

I do like the light in this photo – daylight has definitely disappeared, but total night darkness hasn’t arrived. There’s still a sliver of daylight sliding behind the clouds. The inky blue sky is a nice contrast to the yellow building lights. Now the question is what exposure?

The exposure dilemma is how to expose for the soft light coming from the office windows in contrast to the strong light from the Meridian and Brock signs. And then there’s the strong light from the street lamps. So we took lots of exposure at lots of settings and ended up with this shot being 1/15th @ f/7 and an ISO of 2000. There is some noise visible in the dark blue sky, so next attempt will be to turn down the ISO to see if we can lessen that. What we do like is the light from the office windows and the light on the church spire. The flood of light in the parking lot is mostly contained compared to other exposures we tried.

Shooting in the dark is a challenge, but one that comes with the reward of discovering new colours and new sources of light in our photos. And shooting in the evening in January has the advantages of no mosquitoes!



Winter Wonder

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Golf course photography isn’t nearly as much fun in the winter, but it’s easier to capture sunrise photos because the sun doesn’t appear until so much later. Even then there’s a tranquil beauty in such a special place.

Shooting in the winter, with the cold blue light that comes with sub-zero temperatures and snow, combined with the golden glow at sunrise, presents a whole new palette of colours.



Colour Correction – The Search for the Holy Grail

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Terri Weeks, Brock University Varsity Women’s Curling Team, and enthusiastic curling instructor.

We’ve been struggling with getting colour correct in some pretty ugly shooting environments – arenas that are lit with sodium vapour, or fluorescent or some other synthetic, albeit efficient light source.

Yeah, sure, the camera has colour white balance settings, but even then we find ourselves fiddling with the white balance on every single selected photo in post.  Surely there’s a better way? After reading a lot of on-line resources about white balance, grey cards, and other scary exotica from the world of colour correction, we came upon the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. This lovely little plastic folder and software CD provides a grey-scale and a colour target to shoot on location, and a Lightroom plug-in to read your colour spectrum from the location photo that you capture prior to your shoot.

We tried it on a photo shoot with the Brock curling clinic last weekend and the above photo of Terri is corrected with X-rite. Believe me, everything has gone from overall yellow to something resembling correct skin tone. Shooting in an ice arena is horrible enough with all the light bouncing off the white ice surface. Easy over exposure. And the red everything in the Brock uniforms creates another challenge. But I think this looks good – the whites are white and the skin tone, hair colour and splash of freckles looks pretty good to me.

But then, who knows what monitor you might be viewing this on? The challenge never ends.



Happy New Year

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The Inner Lighthouse at Port Dalhousie on a wonderful winter day when a huge storm brewed on Lake Ontario while the sun shone on the harbour.

We wish sunny days to all our clients, suppliers and friends as we head into a new year.



Team Photos

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BrockFreshmenCurlers 1 of 1 (1)

We photographed all the players and coaches individually and then the team groupings from the Brock Badger curling teams. We were able to create a studio on-site, and with some portable strobes and some great backdrops brought the, “Mountain to Mohammed” by shooting everything at the curling club.

The players were great models, more than willing to try any setup. Cooperative participants sure makes photo shoots a lot more fun. Teams that look this good are natural winners, right?