Finding My Unique Photography Voice

Been reading lots of posts and books about finding your voice something that is still at times befuddles me. I have not been shooting all that long so it is still something I am exploring. I know it is very slowly emerging by what makes me pick up my camera.

It is clear to me that I am just not that comfortable with street photography. For some reason pointing my camera at complete strangers on city streets just gives me heart palpitations. I have tried but when something makes me start to sweat I have a tendency to avoid it! Not had a chance to do this with a group which may make it a little easier.

I love shooting events. I love the chaos, the noise and the fact I can comfortably fade into the background. I enjoy being able to just quietly observe and capture the special, fun and crazy moments that happen. You have to stay alert because some moments are fleeting. I typically shoot well over 500 photos at an event. I much prefer to edit afterwards in order to select the photos that tell the best story. Most current event Reds Meets Pink posted on Flickr here http://flic.kr/s/aHsjv5R16D.

I have always enjoyed the challenge of nature photography but not so much the part of capturing the creatures. I realize I like finding the patterns in nature. I have a large collection of photos on just tree roots. I find it fascinating how these grow in various environments. I even have a beautiful pen & ink print in my house centred around a tree and its roots. Thinking if I get ambitious I should create my first Camera Club photo essay on tree roots. That should be a first in my club. The only other obsession my sister has noted is clouds, I love clouds. I remember my first film photos in elementary school was on cloud formations. Sounds like a great idea for a second photo essay.

I have had a lot of firsts, first wedding,  first baby bump shoot, first newborn shoot and up next first engagement shoot. I love the challenge and the chance to continue learning. I still get frustrated but I am crossing my fingers over time I will work out all the kinks.

Not sure if I will ever try to take my photography outside of friends, family and work. For now I am just enjoying being able to have an outlet for some of my creative drive. As mom astutely pointed out she never thought her daughter would ever find something that could get her to sit still for hours. Photography seems to quiet my mind and allow me to just focus on one thing.

I will post when I get a moment about Sunday’s engagement shoot. Will be fun it is on a beach, with beautiful blue water and two really great people.

Through the Eyes of a Child

It is an interesting fact of life as you get older you forget about how it felt to have that new found sense of wonderment that a young child gets when learning a new task or just exploring their world.

On July 9th I decided the little girl we have been taking care of since she was a baby was mature enough to handle my entry level Sony a300. Kaede has over the past few years shown an interest in taking photographs with us. We even bought her one of those kid proof cameras, the ones that can be dropped, drowned or tossed without breaking. Not the greatest camera but it served its purpose.

More recently Kaede has been trying out my Dad’s Canon camera, a little heavy for a six year old but she still managed to take some pretty good photos. As expected there are still a few framing issues and the horizon is a bit skewed. I thought she would have better luck with a lighter camera.

On the Saturday at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, I set her up with the Sony and the 28mm prime. Thought a prime would be a bit easier than a telephoto. Plus one less thing to worry about getting accidently misused. I also had the camera on aperture, set at F-8 and one stop underexposed. With a 8gb card Kaede had the ability to take 1800 photos. Dad got quite the chuckle since it would be him sorting through whatever she happened to take.

I started with some pretty simple instructions, like if you want to get closer you will have to move your feet. We then had to amend instructions to include what was too close. Incredibly this photo worked for Kaede:

The only other rule was camera strap had to stay on her neck and if not in use to turn the camera off.  Kaede got the hang of it pretty quick although a faster shutter button in the hands of a six years old means a lot of photos. Still need a few extra lessons on framing I noticed a lot of heads getting chopped off!

After watching the fun she was having, Dad took the camera back to Fort Erie. Chloe and Kaede spent  nine very fun and busy days with them.

Post has been updated since photos have mysteriously reappeared from Dad’s black hole. Note the two photos posted here by Kaede are unedited except I did remove lens dirt from sunset photo. I didn’t have any expectations of the lens staying completely fingerprint or smudge free!

Next up camping in the Allegheny National Forest for five days which will be a great break from the outside word. There is no cell or wifi signal in the area (partially picked to keep Dad from working!). Biggest issue is keeping electronics charged, Dad’s new car does not have an electric plug like his old car.

Refining a Vision in Lightroom

This is a short post on my neglected blog. It has been so far a crazy summer! I have several posts brewing but for now thought I would post about the fun I am having in Lightroom 3.

Lightroom 3 is by far the biggest purchase I have made to date in regards to my photography. It has been well worth the short term pain to my budget. I had thought I was doing pretty good with the program until I started reading David DuChemin’s Vision and Voice. Suddenly I had a whole new perspective on the develop tools in Lightroom and quickly realized that I wasn’t using them all that well.

I took the photo below from my recent trip to Bon Echo (longer post coming!) and shows the fun I had in finding my vision for the photo:

(30mm 100ISO f10)

(adjusted crop, gradient, tone, tone curve (light & dark), contrast, clarity, saturation and temp)

Now I have a big itch to go through the photos I took over the past year or so and see if I how much I can improve them although I have to confess most are in jPegs. I only started shooting Raw in the past six months. Plus my newest toys are in the form of filters which improved my photos immensely.

Till next time which I hope will be much sooner than later!

Shooting in the rain on a cold Sunday afternoon

Sunday was a great day. For the first time this year managed to get out to an informal camera club get together that included a workshop on getting know your camera then some time to shoot at Edwards Gardens in Toronto. Lived in the city most of my life and I am quickly realizing I need to learn to explore more. Even on a cold wet Sunday in late winter Edwards Gardens is a fascinating place to have some fun taking photographs. I look forward to going back to Edwards Gardens when the spring flowers have begun to bloom and during the warm months of summer.

I was even more excited about the fact I managed to hand hold my Sigma 55mm to 200mm f4-5.6 telephoto lens and got photos in focus. Something I failed at the first time I tried. Have no clue why this time I was a lot more successful. Maybe it was because I was tired and not over thinking what I was doing for a change. Even better I got a few creative shots with the help of our fearless leader of our little gathering. I am looking forward to refining my skills with the telephoto lens so I can use it while camping this summer.

Here are some of the photos I took on Sunday:

(my attempt at a lens blur)

(reflection on glass tweaked in Lightroom 3 Beta)

Surprise! I managed to write two blogs in one month, not sure when the next one will be but it probably won’t be in two days! Hope I get more chances to  have a little fun with my photography but it has been really really busy.

Before and After fun with Lightroom 3

It has been a busy time since my last post. It has been crazy at work and crazy at home.  My obsession with photography is still growing and I am really falling in love with Lightroom. My most recent discovery has been the fun of downloading presets for use in Lightroom 3. I have tried various presets from various sites but my favourites have been hands down from www.Lightroomkillertips.com (Matt Kloskowski).

I thought I would have a little fun and show the before and after.  This fun experiment actually earned me an Honourable Mention in projected novice with the camera club I am part of. I have to admit though a cute little girl always helps!

This is the before:

This is the after:

I used three presets and adjusted them to allow for some compensation for my photo having some blown highlights and a not so great background. I actually used a sheet that was ironed but the wrinkles showed a little more than expected. The presets I used was Matt’s soft focus level 1, Matt’s warm and fuzzy look and Matt’s noise removal (3 – color high). I had to adjust a few sliders to get the exact look, crop tighter to take out some of the background and fix a few things with the healing brush. I am pretty pleased with the results. Still need to work on getting better shots to start with so I have to less fixing in Lightroom. As a side not I post on the blog with jpegs but my original file was in raw.

I have some upcoming plans like a workshop this weekend (depends on weather) and a planned camping trip in July to Bon Echo. With the nice weather hoping I can get out more to practice using my camera and lenses. Definitely need to have a few skills mastered by the time I go camping like using a tripod and my telephoto lens. Ideally I would love to be able to hand hold my telephoto but that might be a bit tricky but I am going to try to learn.  For equipment would like to purchase a wide angle or macro lens. Going to depend what I can find used which I have had a bit of luck with.

Hopefully my next post will be sooner than later!

Speeding towards 2010, blink and you will miss it!

I haven’t had a whole lot of time lately to post. It is an insanely busy time of year both personally and at work. In honor of my new French friend though, thought I would try to come up at least one last post before we speed into 2010. I can not believe it is only seven days till Christmas Eve.

I haven’t had a lot of time for photography although I have managed to buy two used lenses, a bigger memory card and an extra battery. I got spoiled for my birthday in November and got some gift certificates to Henry’s. Still have one gift certificate to use but haven’t decided what I want to spend it on. It might eventually go towards a flash.

I did recently get a chance to try out my new 50 MM F1.4 Minolta lens at a casual portrait shoot. Neighbors of Mom asked whether Dad or I could possible take a few photos of herself, her husband and her infant daughter. Due to timing issues I have only managed to have a shoot with Mom and daughter. It was a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit. I was going to try and use a beanie bag chair but was unable to locate one in time. Instead we used a small side chair which turned out to be okay for positioning but I kept getting a chair arm in the pictures and cutting off extremities. Need a little more practice with the lens and remember my position in relation to my subject. I am hoping when we schedule the family portrait I can do a try two with the daughter. I am going to try and find a bean bag chair for the next time. I have been following a photographer named Amanda Kern and I love her stunning infant photos. I have trying to pick up a few tricks and tips from her blog postings, hope Amanda doesn’t mind. At the moment I am holding back on posting photos, haven’t had a moment to ask permission or been able to process any of them from the first shoot.

The other lens I bought is going to be a test of all my skills. It is a Sigma 50 MM – 200 MM F4 – F5.7. I tried to use it on an outing and managed to get every shot out of focus. I have quickly realized I need to use a tripod, not my favorite piece of equipment. I also need to know how to change the speed on my camera, so I can minimize the blur when using the lens fully extended. Practice with this lens will need to wait till next year when it is a lot quieter and I get some time to focus on honing some more advanced photography techniques. Just hope I don’t regret buying it, thankfully it was also from the used store so I didn’t pay a fortune for it.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Experiment with photos instead of words.

In honor of the photographers of having been absorbing ever tip and trick I can from, I am going to try to do a blog with less words and more pictures. I am hoping they make people stop and pause. I took these all on my last trip to the cottage and was trying to just experiment with shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Any feedback you wish to pass on is greatly appreciated.

Fluffy Clouds

Touch of Orange

Touch of Sunshine

Moment of Calm

Fishing with the Clouds

Abandoned in the Shadows

Model Behaviour

Jewel in the Nook

I look forward to the next experiment and learning as much as I can about my new hobby. Till the next post!