September 2015

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This weekend I went to Algonquin Provincial Park with a couple of friends/family from our little photography group. Our plan had been to see the spectacular fall colours that, on average, reach their peak on the last weekend of September. Well, unfortunately, Nature has been so good to us over the summer that she’s now taking back when it comes to the Fall, so the peak change is going to be later than average this year. But, we had our hotel reservations which are impossible to change at this time of year, so it was then or never for us. Determined to make the best of it, we set off early on Saturday morning. When we reached the park about 3 hours later we saw that there was a decent amount of colour change, not anywhere near the peak that we’d hoped for, but enough to give us some excitement.

The two girls in the group had never been to the Park before, so this was all new for them. I’ve been a number of times so I’d actually wanted to do something a little different this time, and I’d planned a weekend of long exposures, ICM, multiple exposures and all-round ‘arty-farty’ (as my wife calls them) pictures. I had also just read up on a new technique being pioneered by a couple of photographers, Pep Ventosa and Stephen D’Agostino, called Photography In The Round which consists of circling a stationary object, say a tree, taking shots from all points of the circle and then combining them in PS to produce a very impressionistic single image. I was excited to try this and the other techniques, so the lack of colour didn’t matter that much to me.

Then there was the light. Everyone knows that landscape photographers only go out at dawn and dusk and never shoot anything in between because the light is so bad. Correct? No. At a seminar given by one of my inspirations, the Canadian landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett, he said – and I paraphrase – that there is no such thing as bad light, there’s only what you choose to do with it. So when we found ourselves on top of The Lookout in blazing sunshine in the middle of the afternoon with not a cloud in the sky, well then, we started to practice backlit portraits and fill flash, intentional camera movements and abstract photography. No, we couldn’t get the scenery we wanted, but we certainly could take photographs. We drove a long way to spend the weekend making pictures, and that’s what we did.

Editing is key too. I shot around 300 pictures. Most of them are technically sound; around 10% are what I consider keepers. They are the ones that show me something I haven’t seen before or that I haven’t achieved before. The rest, well they’re part of the journey. They’d make nice snapshots, but they wouldn’t generate a lot of interest. I’d rather have 25 good-to-great (in my not-so-humble opinion) pictures than 200 shots that were simply OK. But heck, it was fun and we made the most of the trip, the landscape, the environment and the opportunity to shoot for ourselves without boring the pants off our poor families.

Same time next year?

Algonquin road trip

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Mention the words ‘still life’ to most, me included, and the first thought that comes to mind is the Renaissance masters, the Dutch school, Veritas and the classical, sidelit, muted tones of those wonderful 16th century masterpieces. Today the likes of Sergei Sogokon can reproduce those with cameras and lights, and for a while I tried to do the same with long exposures and painting with flashlights. I might well go back to that at some point, but today I decided to produce something simpler, something more immediate and which required less setup. It’s surprising what you can do with stuff that’s just lying around at home, and as evidence, I give you a hacksaw, an awl, a wrench and a paintbrush! Not the most inspiring of objects I admit, but I think that it just goes to show that given the right incentive, you can make a shot out of anything. This is something that I’d had in mind for a while and I could see these as prints on a workroom wall.

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