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.

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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!

Spring weekend for the Birds

The first week in April (Easter Weekend) was a very warm weekend and I managed to get up to my cousins cottage. I decided to concentrate honing my camera skills on my telephoto lens. For some reason I have finally managed to master the use of it. I have decided after just a weekend being a wildlife photographer is a lot harder than it looks. I clearly need a higher pain threshold then I currently have. My weekend was mostly concentrated on birds but I did try to get a few other creatures (and the word is try).

I tried several time to capture a pair of Hairy woodpeckers (if I am incorrect feel free to comment correction below) which was nearly impossible even with my telephoto on the 200 mm setting. This was the best photo I had which I did crop and magnify. The woodpecker would land low on the tree then move at lighting speed up the tree!

During our long walk my sister spotted this fuzzy crawler crossing the road. My sister is pretty good at spotting the wildlife thankfully this one was a slow mover and I could take my time getting a shot.

My sister also spotted several hawks flying over head. I had a lot more difficulty getting a decent shot since they were flying fairly high and almost outside the reach of my telephoto. Thought this photo was beautiful for its simplicity even if the bird is not seen up close.

This was the first attempt at capturing a female Robin who was hanging out by the water, hunting for food and just playing in the grass. I decide to observe the Robin’s behaviour and come back later in the afternoon at what photographers call one of the golden hours. I had no idea how long it would take for me to get that perfect moment.

It was clear I had been spotted. I got quite an interesting game of peek a boo with the tree, preening and head bobbing. I wasn’t quite sure if she would even venture closer to me so I get her into the better light. I was at this point laying flat on rocks with my upper body in one really akward position. I am aware you have to take birds from their perspective but it is really painful. I was about to give up since I was hitting the absolute edge of my pain threshold and beginning to get one big kink in my neck. When this shot happened and made it all worth while.

This was the one magic moment and the one I had been praying for. My first really good bird photo and my realization that I not so sure I am all that into wildlife photography. I ended up with sore ribs, sore shoulder, kink in my neck, a lot of mosquitoe bites and a sore hand! Yes I said mosquitoes, think this is going to be a bad season for bugs if it stays warm.

Just before we departed I was surprised to see a group of ducks playing in the water and flying up and down the river at really fast speeds. I only managed to get one okay photo I needed something closer to a 300 mm to capture these birds. I have not yet been able to identify them either and this is the first time I had personally seen them at the cottage.

I had a lovely Easter weekend and there is another blog post coming based on this weekend. Had a mysterious object show up and once I figure out an editing technique will post the story.

Till next time!

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.

Speeding through the Fall

It seems I am down to blogging once a month, not sure if that is as much to do with not enough to say or just being too busy! I am leaning towards too busy, at this time of year everything seems to speed up, time flies and if you blink you miss something.

This month I took the brave step of entering my photographs in my first competition with the camera club I joined. I entered four digital photographers and three prints. The prints were the most work, didn’t realize matting took so long. It took my Dad and I about four hours to matt about nine photos. Think we need to figure out how to speed up the process or stick just submitting digital photos. This Thursday and next Thursday I will find out how my photos are received. Not so sure about being judged but I will be interested to see what comments I get.

This month also marked the first time I took entire weekend of photos in the Raw format. It got a little tricky afterwards due to a bit of a mix up on available software. For now I am using a demo of Photoshop CS4 and I hope to be able to afford Lightroom in December for a more permanent solution. As I twittered I promise to never go back to jPegs. Yes I know everyone told me about RAWs but I had to find out for myself. I love the fact I can adjust every nuance of my photos including white balance. Good thing because I haven’t quite figured out how to white balance in camera yet. One step at a time!

Some of the photos from the weekend were from when Dad invited me on a car ride through the backroads of Campbellford. Found some interesting roads including one that was a apparently a dead end but as a blast to check out. This wild road, had some of the worst hills and blind corners. Sometimes it fun just going for a relaxed drive with lots of photography stops.

Battered Mailbox

Golden Tree

Sunset on the Back Road

If any of the photos in the competition get a mention or a good score I will post them for all to see. Till next time!

Late Spring Blooms

On Sunday we decided to visit my Aunt and Uncle who live on the Niagara Parkway. They have a gorgeous house with a lot of beautiful perennials. I happened to visit just as their bearded Irises were blooming. My Uncle was delighted to see I had brought my camera since the Irises have a short blooming cycle. The Irises range from white, light blue, dark blue and yellow.

My first inclination was to film in the early afternoon which I realized was not the most optimal time to shoot. I kept getting my shadow on the white flowers. I then waited till the time all photographers recommend just as the sun is going down giving a softer light and better sense of the Irises true colours. Since the sun was getting low I also got a nice photo of the sun behind a bunch of pink flowers making them almost glow.

Glowing Pink Flowers

White Iris

Blue Iris

Enjoy the photos, I know I had fun although it was a pretty cold late spring day in June!