Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Found It!

This is the photo that rekindled my interest in photography, specifically digital photography, and put me on the road I'm traveling today!

I've been wondering for months, if I'd ever find it.

I took it at Marcoola, Queensland, Australia, when we lived there about five years ago.

A tropical storm had brushed by the coast (we lived less than a block from the beach) and I went to the lookout up on the dunes to see some of the surf action.

That's when I saw this rather absurd scene: A child riding a bike along the hard sand ... I remember wondering if his parents knew where he was and what he was doing!

This photo is one of three that I submitted to Dreamstime as a stock image. It's the only one that was accepted. Unfortunately, it got no traffic at DT so they emailed me to let me know that I should either donate, re-keyword, or delete the image. They were kind enough to email me a copy of the original file.

The photo was taken with a point-and-shoot camera, and is un-retouched. I thought I'd lost it in our many moves and computer changes ...

I'm SO happy to have it home again!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wedding Photography

Here's a shot from the venue of yesterday's wedding at a private residence in Timber Ridge, overlooking Lake Windermere:

Wedding photography is not something that I ever envisioned doing ... the stress, the long hours, the lack of control ... and yet, I have just completed the third wedding that I've assisted and/or second shot at!

I think that, once I develop my own workflow, it's something I could do on a regular basis.

To my surprise, I have found that I love being in a position to capture the raw emotion, when even the most self-conscious people forget that there's a stranger pointing a large camera at them, and give themselves up to the special moments of the day!

I have one more assisting job scheduled for this season, in October, and I think I'll be helping with one in mid-April, too.

My first job as primary photog at a wedding will be for a friend, while we're on holiday on Maui, in early May! At the rate I'm going, I am comfortable that the experience I'm getting assisting with other pro's jobs will stand me in good stead to do my own thing by next spring!

Even though I don't have a great deal of experience in this discipline of photography yet, here are a few thoughts for prospective wedding photography clients to consider, that will help make a wedding day extra-special (and less stressful). If you have any thoughts either for or against my observations, I'd love to hear them - this is all a learning process!

- Photog's take LOTS of photo's ... we don't do this because you're doing anything wrong ... we're just making sure that everyone's expression is right, everyone's eyes are open, etc. We always take several shots of the same scene to ensure that we have the shot "right". We try to get a variety of angles of the same scene, too. There are no do-overs at weddings so it's best to cover all the bases, the first time around!

- Elevate photography from being one of the "miscellaneous" services at your event, to being one of the most important considerations - and allow plenty of time for it. Just think: "Do I have anything tangible to remember my wedding day?" Yes, you have the photo's! Of course, you have the rings. You might have the dress, you might have copies of invitations and a few other nicknacks. Just don't say "I have the memories" because, with the stress and the exhaustion of a very long day, you probably won't remember much of your day without the help of great photographs!

- Consider timing your day so that photo's can be taken during the golden hour - as the sun's coming up, or as the sun's setting. It's the most flattering light for you and your partner, and your guests. Usually, depending on the location, the environment and the season, this lovely quality of light lasts for an hour or so after sunrise, and for a couple of hours before the sun sets.

- Consider scheduling 15 minutes for a "first look". This is a session, usually arranged just prior to entering the venue to exchange vows, where it'll be just you, your partner, and your photographer/s: No parents/bridesmaids or groomsmen/guests/other onlookers. We'll set the scene so that the groom sees the bride for the first time in a quiet location, where you'll have the time to really take in how wonderful you both look, and share some exquisite private moments that we'll capture for you: The delight (and joyful tears) when you first see each other, those whispered endearments. These moments rarely happen, and cannot be captured photographically, at the head of the aisle with hundreds of eyes watching you!

- Ahead of time, give us a list of the photo's you want us to capture for you, so that we can be aware of them, watch for them, and be ready when they happen. This includes a list of the specific formal arrangements you want captured. No matter how casual your event is, or the style of photography you want at your wedding, there's going to be a list of photo's that you will find is a "must have". It's always best to go through your guest list and think about these photo's in advance, plan for them, and allow plenty of time for them - they always take longer than expected. Your day will go much smoother if you don't spring unexpected demands on your photographer, who will have to not only find the time for the extra shooting, but also scramble to find a suitable location for an unexpected group shot, etc.

- If you've seen a particular photo set-up that you love, eg: the wedding party jump shot, let us know ahead of time so that we can create the opportunity to shoot the photo for you. Try to think of a way to put your own spin on it, too ... the last thing you want is an album full of photo's that are the same as everyone else's!

- About locations: If there's something or somewhere at the venue that you want included in your photo's, let us know ahead of time so that we can do any advance scouting necessary to determine lighting needs, angles, etc. Without advance notice, photography at a surprise location might not be possible!

- While you're working with the professional photographer, remember to look straight at the lens of the photog's camera - not at other guests and their cameras. This establishes a direct, personal connection between you and the viewer of your photograph. And yes, even in a big group photo, if one person isn't looking at the lens of the camera that's taking the photo, people who view the photo CAN tell that they're not paying attention!

- Don't worry if it's overcast on your wedding day! Anything except bright sunshine and brightly dappled shade is great for photo's!

- Have someone in your wedding party whose sole responsibility it is to wrangle guests for your photo's. Remember that the photog doesn't know everyone in your family and won't have the time, or be able, to delegate searchers to quickly locate the forgetful aunt or uncle who's wandered off at a critical moment in the proceedings.

- If you're having a rehearsal, consider inviting the photographer to watch how you plan the movements of the ceremony. This ensures that the photographer/s will be in the right place at the right time, to capture those special moments!

- Consider having a cell-phone and camera-free event. Or at least ask that your guests refrain from photography during the ceremony and other pivotal moments unless the pro gives them the go-ahead to step in and take pictures. You pay a great deal of money to have a professional photographer (or two or three!) capture the special moments of your day - you don't want to risk missing shots! Too many wedding photo's are ruined by a forest of arms holding up glowing lcd's on phones and small cameras, or lasers from p&s cameras marking a wedding dress with blue or orange or green dots during the first dance, or people stepping in front of the pro's camera to photograph a fleeting moment only to ruin the shot, never to be included in the professional wedding collection you've paid for.

- Most wedding photographers will have you sign a contract for their services. Please be sure to read it before signing it and, if you don't understand something, ask - there's only one stupid question, and that's the one you don't ask! Apart from the obvious sections about dates, times, locations, payment plans, etc, one of the clauses included in many modern agreements is that the professional photographer will not be held responsible for shots ruined by guests' interference in his/her work. How you, as the bride and groom, address this issue (or not) with your guests is up to you.

I hope this helps anyone in the planning stages of a wedding ... no doubt I'll have many more things to add as I expand my knowledge of wedding photography!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get What You're Given

It never ceases to amaze me how the photography gods deal out photo opportunities.

Or not!

I went out this morning with the intention of photographing gophers in our local park, as part of my current course photo project. I have a couple of good ones that I took back in June, but wanted to take one "for the project".

Not today ... got there after 9.30am ... nary a gopher in sight! Usually they're all over the place, shouting the odds as people walk by. Guess they don't get up before 10am ... about the time that the sun shines in the front doors, at the moment! (I thought about hanging around for a while to see if they'd show, but the mosquito population decided that since I was the only warm-blood in sight, that I'd be a good breakfast buffet!)

What I did get, though, are some dragonfly shots, which I've been trying for all summer - with no success at all, until this morning! Here's the best shot of a dragonfly at rest:

And here's one in flight:

At this point, it looks like I'm going to be sending in a June gopher photo ... I really want to get this project wrapped up so that I can start the 6th, and final, unit in my course!

Bonus photo: From the condition of this young tree just outside our unit in Invermere, it looks like fall's just around the corner ...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Through The Parks To Calgary

Mum and I spent most of the day yesterday, on the road between Invermere and Calgary. Mum had an appointment in the city so we decided to combine that trip with a big grocery shop ... and leisurely drives through the Kootenay and Banff National Parks en route!

This photo was taken on the way home in the Kootenay NP, just west of the Marble Canyon complex. There was a major forest fire in the park a few years ago which left many trees scorched and starkly denuded. At this time of year, though, the alpine flowers (fireweed, I think?) brighten up the scene:

We are SO lucky to live on the doorsteps of both of these parks, so we took our time in both directions. We left home just after 6am so the road eastward was very quiet, and we pottered along at about 70, even though the speed limit in the parks is 80-90kph. We saw about 3 cars and 3 trucks on the way to Calgary, but on the way back it was pretty busy, being Friday afternoon, and many people were passing us like we were standing still (many paid for that mistake!).

Anyway, on the way to Calgary through the park we didn't see much besides a handful of deer and crows/ravens ... except for our first sighting of a wolf in the wild! Lesson learned here: Have the camera out and ready, not sitting in the bag! So you'll just have take my word for it that that's what we saw! Awesome!

Once we popped out the far side of Banff NP, we had to go with the traffic flow at 110kph (that's what I did all the way - I swear!) because our time was limited. The scenery, though, between the park boundary and Calgary is really gorgeous rural stuff with rolling green hills, some of the fields with hay bales dotted around, cattle, horses, broken-down barns ... but alas, no time for stopping to take pictures!

On the way home, another big first for me, I saw my first wild grizzly bear! More lessons learned here ... don't get too excited about what you're photographing! I had no trouble with manual settings as I'd preset my camera as much as possible, and just had to make a couple of minor adjustments to shutter speed. However, I had the 70-200 lens loaded, together with the 2x converter. What'd I do? I forgot to extend the lens to it's longest ... so these photo's were shot at about 145mm (instead of 400!!!) and are heavily cropped. Doh!!! So frustrated with myself for that. The pic's aren't as sharp as I'd like, but they'll give you a good idea of the scene:

After we'd been watching for about 10 minutes, a park warden pulled up, every available light on his vehicle flashing ... and he pulled RIGHT up close to the front of our stopped car. We thought we were in for a ticket for stopping, for sure! Instead, he just ambled over, asked us what we'd seen, explained how this particular bear was known for charging and that he (the bear) was being sensitized to humans and that he (the warden) was pleased to hear that the bear had headed across the river away from the people who'd stopped to look at him. Then he (the warden) politely asked us to "move along" - maybe he was kind to us because, unlike many others who'd stopped, we'd stayed in the car.

While the warden was talking, I kept my eye on the bush across the river in case the bear re-appeared ... and he did! By this time, I'd discovered my lens error, so managed to catch this better shot:

I will be going back into the parks before the end of the summer, for sure!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Worldwide Photowalk 2011 in Invermere

UPDATE: Report on the 2011 WWPW to be found here!

I took part in the Worldwide Photowalk 2010 in Whistler last summer, and really enjoyed it - not only did I take a closer look at the village, but I met some great local photog's, too!

Above is my submission for the contest from the 2010 Whistler Photowalk.

I noticed that Invermere didn't have a Walk set for 2011 yet, so I put in my application to lead the local event and, lo and behold, I was accepted!

Now I have the responsibility of getting it all set up! So far, the following details have been nailed down:

Event Date: Sunday, October 2, 2011

Event Time: Check-in 1.45pm, walk starts 2pm, walk ends 4pm.

Start Location: Outside Invermere Fotofirst, in Downtown Invermere.

End Location: Across the street from the start ... location still to be finalized.

We hope to have a local restaurant that we can gather in to enjoy a cool (or hot!) beverage and a snack, while we "chimp" at each other's images on lcd's. (Drinks and snacks for your own account).

If you have any brilliant ideas about an interesting route, I'd love to hear them! It should be pretty easy and accessible to everyone - we need to be out about 2 hours, but we won't be moving fast!

All you photographers out there in the Columbia Valley ... you don't have to be members of a club ... you don't have to be a professional photog ... you don't have to have a fancy camera (a cell phone will do!) ... and it doesn't cost anything to come along ... so if you love photography, please do consider signing up!

I've opened a Flickr page where photo's from the walk can be posted. And there's a Facebook event, too.

Prizes! Prizes! Prizes! There's a prize for the winning photo from the Invermere walk. Also, everyone who's an official participant can enter a shot in the worldwide contest and compete for amazing prizes!

You MUST SIGN UP through the official Worldwide Photowalk page.

There's only space for 50 people, so don't delay!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Of Mountain Biking & Wildflowers

Today I had planned to spend an action-packed couple of hours from about noon in the drop park at Panorama Mountain Bike Park.

Little did I know, there were NO bikers in the park! Maybe a Sunday thing?

I'd previously been told that mountain bikers don't get up at dawn, so I didn't bother arriving early ... but I at least thought that those who'd come up for the weekend would have a few runs before heading home this afternoon!


I hiked up, and hung around for an hour without seeing a single rider.

Next time, I'll try a Saturday.

All was not lost, however, as I got the chance to take photo's of some alpine wildflowers, instead. No complaints from me!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

35th Annual Lakeside Event - Invermere 2011

And now for something completely different!

I'm not completely sure how this competition works, but I believe it's something of a test of aerobatics and skill, and impressive accuracy when landing on a target!

Hang gliders and paragliders take off from the summit of Mt Swansea, just outside of town, and make their way down to the Lakeside Pub on the shore of Lake Windermere in Invermere (a mouthful, I know!) where the landing spots are designated.

I thought I'd want to watch some of the launches, then make my way down to the town to watch the landings ... but I found myself captivated by these athletes' skill and courage, hurling themselves off a very unforgiving mountainside!

I've started getting the photo's ready but it may take a while to get them all onto Smugmug, considering I still have a wedding to finish, as well as the run photo's.

Loop The Lake - Invermere 2011

This is a fundraising run/walk that's held every year by the Rotarians of the valley.

Athletes have the choice of several categories, including a 10k and a half marathon.

To be completely honest, I'd forgotten about this event happening this weekend, until I learned earlier this week that my brother would be running the 10k!

So, it turned out to be great practice as I got to shoot runners for over an hour!

My brother passed my vantage point just under an hour after he started, so I got to shoot until he'd gone through the finish and cooled down enough to get into the car and consider the next order of business: Breakfast at Huckleberry's!

I've started going through the photo's and begun uploading to Smugmug. It's going to take a few days to finish all 600+ shots, though, along with the two other projects I'm working on right now!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Canada Cup DH & BC Cup DH Mountain Biking

Yesterday was another day of exciting downhill mountain bike racing with the 2011 Canada Cup DH and BC Cup DH at Panorama Resort! This week's races were held over sections of Insanity and Quadzilla runs, in the Panorama Bike Park.

It was a very hot day and the scattered clouds that gave us occasional respite from the blazing sun didn't bring much in the way to relief later in the day, when most of us were hoping for a cooling and air-clearing thunderstorm!

From a photographer's point of view, it was a real challenge. I had decided that this time I'd find a spot to shoot the riders in bright sunshine, instead of battling with deep shadow and dappled light in the forest, which is where most "features" on the course are. I found a vantage point that let me capture a bit of the action for most of the day - but shortly before the end of the event the sun went behind the trees, so I had to move to another spot where the sun was still shining.

Shortly after starting the shoot, my camera suddenly started flashing "busy" at me. Nothing I did would stop it! Panic stations! I had my manual with me (yes!), but there was nothing in it that helped! I ended up taking a chance and switching the camera off, taking the battery out, then restarting a couple of minutes later. That sorted it out and I didn't have any other problems during the day. (It turns out, I probably bumped the video button, which caused the overload situation. Lesson learned). Unfortunately, I missed shooting a few riders while I was getting this problem fixed ... please accept my apologies if you're one of those I missed!

Anyway, it's now Monday afternoon and I'm about 1/3 of the way through sorting the photo's from the bike races. I've started uploading so that you can take a look ... and keep coming back because it's going to take a couple more days to get all the photo's up!

Meanwhile, here's an appetizer: