It’s Halloween — and time to party! How do photographers celebrate this wacky season? With wickedly good images, of course. We’ve rented a spooky hall in the countryside and planned a full afternoon of light painting, flash effects and a costume party! All the grisly details are here. Can’t make it out? Don’t worry – the October Newsletter will be coming out soon with your monthly challenge – be afraid…be very afraid.
Hot off the press! Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta, has asked us to teach a photography course at their gallery. We are flattered they approached us since we think Bluerock Gallery is one of the best venues showcasing amazing art – many from talented locals. For our topic, Samantha and I decided on one of our most popular and requested topics: camera controls. All too often, photographers vastly under utilize the power of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the impact these humble settings have on the look and feel of your image. Camera controls are commonly taught by people who love jargon and math…we don’t really care for either, so we teach you how to get creative with camera controls in a simple, intuitive way.
So, want to go from confused to creative in just four hours? Even advanced shooters have told us they see the world in a fresh way after we explain the magic of camera controls! There are two dates to choose from, April 12 or May 9. See this link for more. These are our only local workshops scheduled so far for this year, so locals, grab your camera, and a tripod if you have one, and come out to our hands-on, informative and fun workshop!
Below are a few photos illustrating the creative power of camera controls!
Many of you know Michael Orton for the Orton Effect which he originated in the film days by sandwiching an overexposed sharp slide with an overexposed blurry slide of the same subject to create a painterly looking image. This can easily be replicated in digital during post-processing or by using the multiple exposure capabilities of many of the newer digital cameras. We use the Orton Effect regularly in many of our images (see recent example here) and we have instructions on how to do it in Photoshop here. Users of Photoshop Elements have the Orton Effect built right into the software!
But Michael has moved on from his popular effect and now is using Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) to create amazing ‘e-motional’ photographic art. Check out the article, images and videos below from Michael!
The Magic of Intentional Camera Movement
Imagine yourself walking in the pre-dawn, up a winding trail to an elevated overlook. You weave your way through the forest, and as you near your destination, an ethereal glowing light begins to filter through the trees. Stepping into the clearing you witness one of the most incredible sunrise skies you have ever or may ever see again. Crimson, gold, magenta, orange, for as far as the eye can see, and for a moment you just stand, awestruck, speechless. These moments are what photography is about, but as we all know they don’t happen every day, that is until now. Working with ICM, this same sense of wonder is what I can experience nearly every time I step out with my camera. The difference is that instead of waiting and searching for these moments I can now create them. ICM photography is like a continuous voyage of discovery, that allows you to travel in one direction today, and then a completely different direction tomorrow.
If you sense that your photo life could use some element of creative discovery, and you are open to wherever this might take you, here are some beginning pointers to get started. While the actual process is moving the camera, “seeing” like all photography is really the key. ICM is only as successful as the photographers ability to recognize lines, forms, and tonal differences within the subject. Some situations , like a stand of parallel trees, are easy to attach a compatible camera movement to. Start with these obvious subjects to begin with and mimic the apparent line with a movement. I shoot at my lowest ISO setting with a polarizer and 2 stop ND filter on my 18-70 99% of the time. I use handheld only because I move the camera as if it where a movie camera on a track and not pivoting from a fixed point. Use manual focus to prevent the camera from focus searching during the exposures. Cradle the camera with one hand with your arm into your chest as support for smooth long lines. I use shutter speeds of 1/60 to 4 seconds and numerous actual camera movement speeds for example, slow, medium or fast. Rehearse your chosen action or movement while looking through the viewfinder, then begin making exposures while the camera is moving and continue moving after the exposure is complete.You can move your camera any way you wish. Lines, arcs, circles, ovals, the decision is yours based on what you choose as subject matter. In the past years I have developed what I describe as compound movements which are two combined and then to add a twist I will alter focal length (zoom) or change focus during the exposure. These take practice, but yield diverging lines when the subject matter is appropriate. ICM is not unlike solving a puzzle that when you do, you have an “Aha” moment, followed by “So that is how it works.”
Give yourself enough time to honestly get some results, not just one outing, take a few weeks. It takes patience, this isn’t another “App”. Stay with it and you will know what I am talking about. Marko Kulik has experienced this and now has a wonderful gallery of Montreal streets at night. I use landscape, but any source of lines, form, colour and light can be a starting point. When you have had some successful results you will begin to realize how many combinations of choices of movements and camera speeds there are. Add to this the ability to actually blend and mix colours at the same time, and ICM becomes a process where the given subject matter and your response to it are constantly changing. Unlike going to a favorite landscape I have no preconceptions as to what the outcome will be when I walk into the world armed with ICM. It almost feels like my first few years when everything surprised and excited me, which after 35 years of carrying a camera , is exactly what I needed at this time.
If you are travelling or photographing on Vancouver Island, contact us to view our prints.These new images make impressive prints, especially in larger sizes and are available in very limited edition (10) prints, on canvas or watercolour paper. The video ” The Liquid Landscape ” features some recent work, while the video “A Walk in the Palm Grove” demonstrates the use of ICM in just one location.
We’re just putting the finishing touches on the new web redesign here, tying some bows and dotting some code. A big, giant, wet kiss to Stephen for all his work so far (I bet he’s happy he’s on the other side of the continent right now!). We’re pretty excited…and apparently it’s time since oopoomoo is approaching the terrible twos! Yikes! So Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all you Canucks and remember to eat lots of turkey — you’re going to need your strength for the BIG REVEAL.
We gonna be STYLIN’.
The beauty of the Canadian Rockies is legendary among nature photographers. Not only is the scenery stunning and the wildlife abundant, it’s all easily accessible by highway. To whet your appetite, and for those just passing through, we offer you three scenic drives that we consider the best of the Canadian Rockies. And if you’re looking for more than a quick scout, we have many ‘where to’ guides on these parks for those of you wishing to experience the area in more depth. Watch for the next installment in this topic, Three Amazing Secret Drives in the Canadian Rockies.
The Canadian Rockies form a jagged spine along the western border of the province of Alberta and the eastern border of the province of British Columbia in Canada. For fastest access to the roads described in this article fly into Calgary International Airport in Calgary, Alberta, rent a car and drive west from Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway (highway 1). In just over an hour you’ll be swinging left onto highway 40 which leads you into Kananaskis Country where you’ll find a memory card full of photos.
Please note: the organizer, Dave Pattinson has suffered a stroke. Please send him your well wishes for a speedy recovery! In the spirit of Dave’s ‘passion for photography’ the show will go on!
Samantha and I will be giving a two hour presentation on The Advanced Grand Landscape this Thursday April 11 at 7:30 PM in Calgary for the Passion for Photography group. Cost is only $20 for members and $30 for non members. To register go here or contact naveedshariat
Grand landscapes can be beautiful to view, but tough to compose well. We’ll be discussing lighting considerations, construction of panoramas and stitches and processing to enhance story among a whole swack of other timely tips. To see a detailed outline simply click on this link! We hope to see you there!
After reading your first few entries for this series, it made me think of the car wash images I’ve taken over the years with P&S and DSLRs, and more recently, an iPhone. I have an active imagination, so when I find myself too lazy to wash the car and I head to the local drive-thru wash, as soon as the sprayers kick in and the foam starts to fly, I no longer see these large tools surrounding me, cleaning my car, but rather debris swirling around and then a storm starts to build and before we know it, there’s a tornado in front of me! Once it dissipates, I’m left with cloudy skies and not much else. (stop laughing) I’m a meteorology junkie, so I suppose this helps with the imagination!
You mentioned in your original post shooting the hotel bathroom was a good exercise for keeping your eye trained, but for me, this train of thinking keeps my mind sharp and imaginative. It’s also a good reminder that at any given time, there can be a story unfolding right in front us of, imaginary like my stormy car wash, or better yet, real life events. If we’re lucky enough, we will have a camera with us to capture the story and make it our very own. Attached are the images which show my story how I saw it one night in an Esso car wash in Spruce Grove. To see the order in how I saw the storm appear in front of me as I snapped away, please check out my blog post. Cheers for the fun, y’all! Keep up the photo goodness, oopoomoo!
So I was finishing off some yard clean up since the weather has been so nice in Calgary recently. The yard is just a mat of brown and was rather uninspiring so I was going to get out and find something to photograph. But then from the recesses of my subconscious the words ‘something from nothing’ percolated up. If I started with nothing then it could only get more interesting. Looking around I really started to like the browns and the textures I was finding. After some searching I finally found proof that Spring was here. Thanks for the inspiration!
Winter is the season of hibernation for photographers; the time of year when we hunker down at the computer and process images from the summer and fall; the season when dust collects on our camera gear and trips outdoors mostly involve shoveling the driveway or boosting our car battery. But for photographers willing to brave cold fingers and toes (not to mention dripping noses), winter is the single best season to create one of the highest forms of photographic art – the abstract.
What is an abstract photo? Abstraction is about getting to the essence or details of a subject, telling the truth about the subject in a non-contextual manner, and seeing the subject without definitions. In abstraction we are presenting the subject purely in terms of shape, line, texture, colour, or pattern. In fact, total abstraction bears no trace or reference to anything recognizable. Abstract photography doesn’t strive to portray something realistically but instead uses components of the subject (shapes, lines, textures or colours) to create visual design and emotional impact.
For nature photographers not used to seeing in the abstract, winter does all the heavy lifting for us covering and simplifying the world with a quiet blanket of white. Winter has smoothed nature’s complex, visual palette and presents to us graphic opportunities in the purist form possible. For us, winter is an exciting time to capture artful images. Below are a few tips and techniques to help you create winter abstracts.
Shoot with a telephoto zoom
One of the easiest ways to gather abstracts is to attach a telephoto zoom to your camera (e.g. a 70-300 or 100-400mm lens) and start hunting for shape, line and texture in snow drifts and ice formations. Remember, your goal is to frame up portions of your subject and not show the subject in a documentary manner. Telephoto lenses make isolating graphic sections of the subject easy.
Sunny, winter days with low light skimming across the landscape are perfect for capturing the detailed and crisp lines, shapes and textures in the snow. We like to go out to areas where the snow is not a uniform blanket but instead is undulating where it covers bushes or rocks. Here we hunt for patterns of shadow and light skimming across snowy mounds. We especially like side and back lighting because these qualities really highlight the shape of snow mounds. We use our telephoto zooms to pull in the alternating patterns of blue shadow and white light. Try to fill the frame with shape, line or texture that pleases the eye and creates a rhythmic pattern across the frame.
Use depth-of-field to define your subject
Aperture choice can really affect the final look and feel of your photograph. For example, if you want to focus your viewer’s attention on just a portion of your subject, then use a small number like f2.8 or f4. Small aperture numbers give you a small slice of focus and, when used in conjunction with a telephoto lens, you will get just a sliver of focus. Pick what you want to be sharply focused, get precise focus on that point, and then use a small aperture number to keep that thin slice of focus in your photo. Small aperture numbers often leave you with a dreamy ethereal look that works well with abstracts.
If you want a large slice of focus in your winter abstract, then pick a large aperture number like f22, focus 1/3rd of the way into the image frame and you will get the most depth of field (amount of apparent focus) possible so that your abstract is sharp from foreground to background. If you want to learn more details about how to use aperture for creative expression see our eBook, The Creative Use of Aperture.
Get close for more detail
Another easy way to get more abstract images is simply to get close to your subject. We like to make abstracts of ice patterns and to do this we use a macro lens or a telephoto zoom lens at its closest focus. To get close enough with a macro lens means getting down onto the ice. We wear padded snow pants so we can comfortably get down on the ice to make abstracts. We also use a tripod with legs that splay out so we can get our cameras close to the ground for low level abstraction. The shorter the focal length of the macro lens, the closer you will need to be to the ground to capture your detailed image. We prefer 100mm or longer macro lenses so we can shoot the ice patterns from a more comfortable position (kneeling or standing). With short macro lenses we had to lie on the ice (very cold!)
Turn your abstract into a black & white
You can make your image even more abstract and less representational by eliminating all colour from the scene. Winter scenes are often mostly monochromatic to begin with so why not enhance what you are provided? We always shoot our images in raw format so that after the fact, even though we have a colour image captured, we can easily turn it to black & white in post-production. Our favorite black & white conversion tool is to use Nik Silver Efex in either Lightroom or Photoshop. Silver Efex is an easy to use black & white conversion program that we recommend although there are many methods of converting an image to black & white.
Using live view for black & white abstraction
You can pre-visualize how your subject will look in black & white even before you press the shutter. First, you need to have a camera with live view. Go into the menu on your camera and find ‘picture styles’ (Canon) or ‘picture controls’ (Nikon) and set it to monochrome. Now, when you take a photo and playback the image on your LCD, the displayed image will be black & white. But wait – there’s more!
If you want to see the black & white effect before you take the photo, simply turn on live view and displayed on the LCD will be your scene in black & white! You can see everything you frame as a black & white even before you take the photo. Ansel Adams would love it! While in monochrome live view mode, simply see if the shapes and tones work well as a black & white and, if they do, then take a photo. If you set your camera to JPEG, then the resulting photo collected by your camera will end up being a finished black & white image. But if you shoot raw, the LCD will display a black & white image, but the actual image captured by your camera will be a colour photo (very useful to make creative monochrome conversions). So if you shoot raw you can visualize in black & white but have all the colour information available to you to make any kind of black & white conversion you want. This is a very powerful creative tool.
So get out and go hear the crunch of the snow beneath your winter boots. Snap a few frames and see how easily winter provides photographers with opportunities for abstraction. We are constantly thrilled with nature’s art and in particular with winter’s simple renditions. For us, winter is a time for internal expression and looking at the world with a painter’s eye. We may get frosted ears and rosy cheeks but that’s a small price to pay for the gift of winter abstracts. Happy shooting!
So it’s the New Year and by now you’ve packed up your Christmas loot, put away your plastic Christmas tree and trooped back to work. We’re back at work after some time off this December, but I’m ashamed to report that our Christmas tree is still standing in our living room (we’re getting to that today, I swear!) New this year for us is the big photography seminar this coming March 15-17, 2013. We’ve convinced humanitarian photographer and globetrotting author David duChemin that, yes, it is safe to leave his warm house in Vancouver to visit the mountains in springtime in Alberta…. (cue evil laughter: “mwah ha ha ha!”) So David will be joining us at Persistent Vision: The Pursuit of Story and Inspiration this March held in the lovely little hamlet of Bragg Creek, at the base of the Canadian Rockies.
At the full day seminar on Saturday, March 16, participants will be regaled with David’s exploits and adventures from his travels around the world, and both David and Darwin and I will talk about what it takes to make a living at photography in today’s age. As well, Darwin and I will be teaching how you can ‘see’ the art in the everyday details around you so that, when you do head out on that once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’ll return with unique and personal imagery.
Which brings me to the point of this post. While we are discussing creating art with your camera at the Saturday seminar, we’re not going to be covering how to capture, edit and process your images to keep that storytelling aspect. Make no mistake: strong photographs are created when we ‘see’ the story, capture the story by selecting the correct camera settings and gear and then preserve or enhance that story in the digital darkroom.
Well, we have two special talks associated with Persistent Vision we want you to know about. The first one takes place in Calgary on January 19 from 1 to 4 PM and is called The Art of Storytelling (open to all) and covers techniques we use in the field to capture evocative stories. There will be great prizes at the event including a Sigma Lens and a pass to the Persistent Vision seminar!
The second event to be held here in Cochrane on January 21 is a special oopoomoo Talk, just for those people who have registered for the Persistent Vision seminar. We spill the beans on how we process our images to preserve the heart of a story in your images. And the price is only $5! Wow! As many of you know, we don’t really do talks on how to process your images or how to use Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture etc. (there are lots of great tutorials out there already) but we can share how your processing choices affect the look, feel and story of your final image. This talk is NOT another ‘how to use’ Lightroom or Photoshop talk; we’re going to show you how we use our software and plug-ins to enhance mood and tell stronger stories. Learn more about this talk at Enhancing Story and Mood in the Digital Darkroom
Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.
Interested? You can read more about the talk here. Remember, this talk is only open to participants who have registered for the Persistent Vision seminar by January 21, the date of this talk (so if you’re sitting on the fence, maybe this will tip you over to our side!) Now, on to that Christmas tree….