Monday, December 31, 2007



It's been a good 2007 - I started out wanting to take more pictures of people and really got on top of that this year. I still have a bundle of fears and apprehnsions about approaching strangers but I now understand at least that most of it is in my head. That's been a huge, fun lesson for me. It has made me more out-going, in general, and also let me meet plenty of interesting and fun people that I would never have spoken with before. The big resolution from last year, other than more pictures of people, was to finish the Ironman and that was a big part of my life at the start of the year. Exercise has taken a bit of a back seat through the rest of the year, initially from post race mental fatigue - I just couldn't be bothered - and now in the last 3 months as I've hurt my ankle. So looking forward, I'm going to get back into the training, try to do some more exercise, swim a bit and generally keep Amanda company while she gets ready to do Ironman Lake Placid in the summer of 2008. Photographically, I'm going to write and publish a book. At least one. Maybe two, now that I've started thinking about doing it. It looks so innocuous written down in a single sentence like that. 'Write a book' - that can't be too hard now, can it ? I've got the ideas ready to go for two, all I have to do is follow through... Also, take more pictures, spend more time catching up with friends and blog more. I think that's enough for one year.
I wasn't going to post any resolutions but MK asked.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

International Solo Photography Book Month

jackson pollock

Paul Butzi has come up with a really interesting idea over on his Musings on Photography blog. It is early days yet, but the concept of shooting and putting together a book in one month is fascinating. There are plenty of print on demand companies such as Blurb or Lulu that could be an ideal outlet for this kind of project.
In particular, what I like about this challenge is that the time frame is constrained enough that you have a chance of finishing it. Getting to the point of having a published, finished book, with the breathing space of it not having to be 'perfect' means that you might be able to break through the creative block of procrastination and perfectionism that kills ideas. Starting writing a book is a daunting task that can stretch out into the future, so far that it can stop you even before you start. Books are hard. They can consume your life, never quite being good enough or needing tweaked a bit more. The last time I tried this, it took me 10 years to get to 'the end'. So this idea of capping it at a month seems a great introduction to the fun of creating books. There is achievement in the completion, along with all the things you can learn along the way, that you don't ever find out until you actually say 'done'.
From what I've seen, blurb looks like it might be a good place to host or sponsor a project like this - they have the concept of a bookstore that the books could be sold together, perhaps even with them promoting the final results. The goal really isn't to sell a bundle of books, but to commit to actually finishing the project and then achieving that first completed draft, either as a PDF, website or physical book. I'm already brainstorming ideas for mine!

Monday, December 24, 2007


treeLensbaby, with star aperture. Felt the star was appropriate to jazz up the tree lights and put a star on the top of the tree. Focused set on the presents and locked on tripod, using a lensbaby 3G. 8 second exposure, painting with light to fill in the presents a bit as well. This sort of shot wouldn't be possible with the earlier lensbabies - probably the first time I've really used the locking features of the 3G.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! on, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

amanda, tim & kate

Amanda, tim & kateLensbaby, star aperture ring and some Christmas lights

christmas cactus

christmas cactus

Merry Christmas from Texas! Took the lensbaby out this evening, with the star aperture and shot some Texan Christmas lights.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the westway method

A couple of readers have mentions the ads that have recently appeared on this blog. I'm not getting in to advertising in a big way, but I am helping to sell a product that I was involved in developing, over a period of five years. There's an instructional DVD available now and an e-book coming in the next few weeks. The Westway Method of Photography is a DVD created by a good friend of mine, Randy Kerr. Randy is a very successful wedding and portrait photographer, working at the highest levels in Austin, Texas. I met Randy about 5 years ago through a shared acquaintance and we've hit it off ever since. I have never met anyone with such an innate understanding of light and photography. Nearly everything I've learned about natural lighting for portraiture, I've learned at classes taught by Randy and that I now help him teach. He's also a bit of an unusual character, developing his portrait business in a field in Bastrop, Texas - about 30 miles outside of Austin. Living in a tent and working the land, he carved out a portrait studio, cutting back trees to suit the light in particular seasons, building features to use as backgrounds and planting wildflowers to provide foreground elements throughout the year.
The Westway DVD presents Randy's 10 step approach to photography, describing it in a very down to earth and non-technical way. There's a clear description and demonstration of camera basics along with some rarely documented fundamentals on finding and using natural light for portraiture. The subject matter ranges through landscapes, portraiture and wildflowers, with an ecological bent. The 1 hour DVD also touches on using lighting modifiers and teaching you how to work within the limits of your camera equipment, to get the best from your photography. I have to admit I also make a brief appearance in the DVD, working through the effect of depth of field and aperture on final images. I think this is a great instructional DVD to introduce the fundamentals of photography and light and really presents some hard to find information on natural light portraiture, in an understandable way. It would also make a great Christmas present! You can see an example chapter from the DVD in the video link below, at slightly reduced quality for web display. I particularly like the visual way it teaches how to identify mid-tones in a scene, to help evaluate exposure.
The DVD also recently won a Telly award for an educational product and was very well shot and produced by Bradley Helgerson. If you are interested, you can order the DVD here. There are also reviews of the DVD available from other owners, here.

me, myself & I

me, myself & I

A quick self portrait. Haven't had much time in the last few weeks to take pictures but I did manage to make this shot. It probably looks more complicated than it really was to shoot - I had the basic idea of wanting the larger, straight-on self-portrait far down in the frame and then with that image made, it was just a case of printing and reframing/ reshooting until I had enough levels. Lighting was just a 580EX flash in a shoot through umbrella quite close to the camera and subject. Took about 20 minutes to shoot the whole series. I think it helps that my Epson R800 is such a fast printer! Fun to shoot and yet another use of the red nose. I still haven't quite got to using it for the portrait series that I originally planned to use it for, but still getting some mileage from it!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

kate & tim

kate & tim

Another shot from the Big Bend adventure. Kate & Tim were looking for something festive and I happened to have the becoming ubiquitous red nose in my bag, along with a santa hat that we'd planned to use for our own Christmas card pictures. We were in Ernst Tinaja, a long, thin river cut canyon with amazing red-orange walls. The sun was high over head but the light was bouncing around the canyon walls. The last time I was in there I'd noticed that the light was beautiful for portraits and I wanted to try it out on this trip. I'd borrowed Sam's 10D for these shots and was just about familiar enough with the controls to get the shots I wanted. I like this particular one because I'd asked them to balance the nose between them and they just look so happy while playing around with it. The diagonal composition and the gaze works for me, along with the two bright red areas to keep the eye moving - even with the nose so centered in the frame and such a dominant colour - I think the splash of red in the hat offsets it a touch, balanced with the complimentary dark green patch in Tim's top. Similarly his dark hair balances the white trim on the hat - shapes are about the same size and shape, so an interesting colour and tone symmetry around the ball.