Category Archives: Planning

August 2014 – if at first you don’t succeed

There are too many details for me to share. I know the point of this whole monthly project was to document the process in its entirety but you will have to bear with me as I try to find a good work life hobby hobby hobby family balance.
Yes I too have found myself in the ranks of the over-committed and starting Wednesday get to add a return to university to my already intense schedule. If only I was studying film or something…

I digress – I wanted to take a couple of minutes and probably 2 or 3 posts to fill in the blanks since my last post. No I didn’t give up. I’m not really like that when it comes to things I think I should be good at.
I set out to take a picture with vivid colors involving fractals and I think the creative process is in full swing.

I realized after the last round that I needed a few things – and I probably should have spent more time trying to come up with a storyboard and exactly what I wanted to do with this picture, but over the past 2 days I thought about it and decided I would make a second attempt with more paint and with more mirrors.

I wanted to get reflections of reflections like in a Kaleidoscope and allow the fractal to be created in 2 dimensions.

I bought some crayola washable paints and 5 mirrors from the dollar store…and new batteries for my flash. Always always always have spare batteries for your flash.

Anyway. I played around with mirrors on top of mirrors and tealights and even had a pretty good setup with 5 mirrors and 10 tealights making this super cool pattern (what happened to the paint you ask – I was playing ok, just to see what I could do) and it seemed to work out with fractals in 3 dimensions, maybe not quite as much depth as I had originally hoped, but fractals none the less. Long story short a mirror fell down and spilled candles hot wax and flames all over my backdrop. Yes I am determined to burn down my house.

That aside I was really excited a decided to keep going rearranging a reconfiguring the mirrors and a single tea light.

The result is posted above. I like it.

There were still a few things I knew I needed to fix for the fractal picture.

So ultimately I moved mirrors angles and repositioned back drops and speedlights to get the real high key effect I was going for.

Here is what the setup looked like.


Notice that I had to surround every angle in white sheets to allows for maximum light to reflect and wash out ever part of the image. I even had to cover my camera to prevent it from being a bold black blob in the picture.

The reverse angle might tell the story a bit better.

You can see I am using a fairly simple 2 flash setup. The flash behind the mirrors is actually a bounce flash off of my thankfully white ceiling. The speedlight is diffused as wide as it will go with a white reflector to give as much of a soft wrapping light as possible to blow out as much of the white highlights as possible.

In my post processing post (coming up in about 5 minutes). You will see the difference the shallow angle can make in a setup with a mirror like this.

Please feel free to comment below.

August 2014 – Fractals

Wow do I have a lot of process to document here.
I was having such a hard time coming up with something for this month. I decided to save my awesome portrait idea for September (autumn light should be even better for shooting). So I was completely at a loss for what to shoot this month. Feeling completely uninspired I turned to an old standby for coming up with good ideas….Brainstorming!

My wife and my sister happened to be around so I recruited them and between the 3 of us we came up with a page full of strong visual images themes and ideas. It was actually pretty cool and may have inadvertently inspired some future photo shoots. Still lacking ideas and the time to execute any other plans I decided to try and do something I always said I wanted to do.

Admittedly this should be a photo series, but I have always said you don’t need more lenses you just need mirrors – different shapes sizes and curves and you can create pretty much any angle you need.
I also have a deep seated fascination with fractals. So I thought I would put the two together and try to make a fractal reflected in mirror.

I wanted bold colors so I decided I would try a high key shot (exposed to the right) using acrylic paints to create really bright vivid colors……..

As you can see from the picture above my first attempt turned out ok, but I really was shooting for somethign with an even stronger fractal. So the plan now is to get several more mirrors and using even larger painted surfaces try to capture multiple reflections in one shot.

Don’t stop at your first effort
Keep going and try to create something even more engaging.

If you care you can also check out my youtube video of a timelapse I shot on vacation. It’s short, so you won’t have to spend hours getting through it.

July 2014 – open spaces scouting


I haven’t had a pile of time this month for shooting pictures.  Between work and illness and a million summer activities photography has taken a backseat. 

I did have an opportunity to scout out a location for my open spaces panorama and it might be the perfect time of year for it.  The canola fields are in full bloom.  All I need now is an evening with good lighting conditions and cloud cover. 

I found a location with an old barn and a fully yellow field.  I also found a secondary location about 3 miles away with a solitary tree on the top of a hill.  If the shoot goes right I should be able to get good shots of both subjects. 

Now the waiting game.  I leave on vacation in 5 days so this is cutting it close, but isn’t that what deadlines are for?



I included a couple of smartphone shots of the area.  Pretty picturesque.  I love it.

June 2014 – summer fun

My kids reminded at supper tonight that bubbles are super fun.  Yeah bubbles have been done a hundred times but hopefully not like this.  
I have decided to reuse an old backdrop and repurpose it as a lighting modifier.   My epic selfy (you can take a tour through the archives)  used a pegboard as backdrop and since I love making my own lighting modifiers I decided to reuse it to make a cover for a speedlight.

See below


With this set up I should be able to freeze bubbles midair.  I hope to capture one popping but with no timing rig I think this is pretty unlikely. 

Wish me luck.  I’ll post a quick shot of the setup as soon as it is ready.  Only 6 hours to go.   This one is going to be tight.

June 2014- the unexpected

Wether it is gear failure bad weather or clients who cancel last minute photographers deal with a ton of unexpected circumstances.  So what do you do when life presents an unfair mix of negativity?  What every other success person in the world does.  Persevere. 
Now, im no protographer, (yes i did spell it like that on purpose) I dont depend on my photographs to pay my mortgage or feed my family but I do take it quite seriously.  So when this week presented one of the wettest weeks on record in the canadian prairies I got pretty down.  Drab grey clouds dont produce the kind of prairie skies that make an open panorama engaging and uplifting.  I thought of all the ways I could make it work but travelling is not recommended due to flooding and the fields would be nearly impossible to traverse in order to get the shot.  Please dont hear me say a good shot isn’t worth it and likely if I was making a living of this I would have been out 2 or 3 times trying to get a good picture.
All that to say my June image is not going according to plan so I have decided to adapt.  To be flexible to try and attain what I think is a crazy goal. 

Plan setup shoot post process and publish an image in 9 hours the whole time capturing and posting the process all while balancing thr demands on 3 kids. 
I make no promises but I think this is going to be fun…


June 2014 – Open Spaces


Please click image above to view full size. I promise it’s worth it.

I had really thought June would be a snap.  All sorts of things were supposed to slow down and a pile of my non work commitments ended.  However june is full of fun things, like birthdays and fathers day and rain and yard-work and on and on…
I can’t say I have been uninspired but lacking the time to properly plan a shoot I have not managed to sit and post anything this month. 
Granted I have shot some photos (see above)

I still wanted to share this months theme…open spaces.

Last year I had set out to shoot a panorama a week, I admit I had a lot of fun with it, but I did eventually peter out. I love large format panos and landscapes, so this month I plan to setup and shoot a beautiful prairie scene with open skies.

I’m a prairie boy what can I say. 

Yes I do know it’s the 23rd already….that’s still 7 days to plan shoot and edit one epic panorama.

I have included a tone mapped pano example below. Let me know what you think. Personally I feel like it’s too much, as with most tone mapping I think it just goes too far. Your comments are always welcome.

sask 2-2

May 2014 – Zoom with your feet???


The great debate over fixed focal length lenses and superzooms has raged for years.  I remember when I first started reading up on photography (in a real life book with pages you actually turn, back in the days when cameras had film in them except for a handful of low resolution starters, like the mavica) I found a suggestion that a good photographer only needed one lens.  A tele if you shot wildlife and a nifty fifty for just about anything else.  Only if it was absolutely necessary should you even consider a wide angle.  I have read this suggestion repeated more or less in the continuing argument on superzooms.  The basic argument your focal length only matters in terms of your proximity.  Composition can be fixed with something as simple as “zooming with the feet” simply put, get closer!  It isn’t terrible advice, but ignores an important factor of the creative process that requires us to think more clearly about how we want objects in a frame to relate to one another.  In short I would suggest using the correct lens is a decision that can only be made when considering a specific frame. 
I have shot almost exclusively with a 50mm (nifty fifty) since back in the days of film but my 18-55mm that came with my d60 almost 6 years ago had become such a staple for me that I forgot how much I made use of the range in focal length until I acquired my d800e this year (50mm f1.8 lens is the only full frame lense I have).
I shot an entire wedding with a 50mm lense (I’d recommend a bit of a longer lense if possible) but as I shot I became more and more aware of the limitations of my lenses “zoom”.  In the end I had confirmed for myself what I had believed all along.  Don’t zoon with anything…first figure out what needs to change in your frame in order to capture what you are trying to convey.   Let that dictate your method of zooming. Let that be the guide in lense selection. Change to a 24mm (if primes are your thing) or zoom to 105mm if you have the option, but only if that is what your shot needs.
Let me give you an example…
I have had a storyboard in my bag for over a year now.  It is one of only 2 portraits that I have any ambition of taking.

Unlike most portraits it requires a very wide angle lense around 24mm. As I want to include the floor and the ceiling of a bandstand in the same shot. I also want to include a strong leading line im the form of a piece of fabric to direct the eye into the frame to the subject. It needsnto go from taking a lot of realestate in the frame to being very thin and diminished when it reaches the subject in a very short distance. This can only be accomplished with a wider lense to make the short diatance appear greater.
In other words my ideal zoom is a combination of vantage point and fov to create a final product where the elements relate to each other as intended.

Someday soon I hope I can show you what this looks like.

Landscape photographers run into this all the time. If I want to increase the fov(field of view, if you made it this far without asking google what the heck I meant) ie. the size of the horizon, and decrease the relative size of the sun in the frame I have to use a wider lense. Conversely if I want to focus in on an element and diminish the distance between an animal and the surrounding hills or mountains I need a much heavier zoom lense. Regardless of the other mechanical elements of a good photograph the angle of the lens affects the scene and creates enough depth to make or break a good shot. Dont zoom with your feet. Dont zoom with your lens. Create your photograph and use the fov required.

Like in this little tidbit here:

May 2014 – The wedding shoot


Trust me when I say this.  I am extremely hesitant to do any portrait photography, and I don’t think I have the experience or the proper lighting gear to shoot a good wedding.
That being said my mom’s cousin asked me to shoot her wedding in addition to the photographer they highered.  I said yes to that since I won’t be the professional photog. 
This takes all the pressure off and allows me to gain some experience shooting a wedding.  Should be fun and gives me an opportunity to complete my 2014 photo project may photo. 

I’ll set it up for you later but for now I have to get back to the wedding I’m currently at.  The above photo was taken today and since I was in the wedding party I had to leave my fancy camera at home.   It was shot and edited on my samsung smartphone. 

April 2014 – Sometimes you win…

…and sometimes you win twice.  Yesterday was a phenomenal day in nyc.  I started at 545 am with a slow trudge through morning routine and a brisk hike to the park to set up for the morning.  I will admit I got lost.  I could not find the location I had picked the night before. 
After a 15 wonder through the southern end of central park I found the location.  After watching the early morning light peak over the tops of the buildings I soon realized that the sun was much further north on the horizon than I had anticipated.  I quickly repositioned and shot a number of shots which were better than I had hoped based on the light.  After half an hour I decided to wander.  I was rewarded with more scenic well lit and picturesque scenes than I could have imagined in the dark the night before.  Win 1.

Win 2 came almost 12 hours later when we ascended 68 floors to the top of the rock observation deck.  While disappointed that the view of the chrysler building was skewed from our vantage point the views were still breathtaking.   We arrived at the perfect time.  The sun was going down and the sky was clear.  I could not have asked for a better photo shooting day.  I am posting a sample from my smartphone, but I promise once I get bavk to Canada I will share the edited images from my d800e.
An excellent plan came together and I had the chance to marvel at the work of man and of God simultaneously.   What a rewarding day and I now have the photos to share the experience with family friends and many others who have loved the experience and this city. 




April 2014 – On Location

After less than 24 hours since my plane touched down in NY I visited more than 100 locations for a planned shoot.  Cathedrals grand central, landmarks like the statue of liberty and one world trade center, subways, delis, backstreets and even the library have all been visited in an attempt to find the perfect location.  Tonight I think I found it.  Central park presents a wide open space to lower the angle of the building tops and the ground which is helpful since I have a 50mm prime lense in tow. 
I plan to shoot at sunrise and tomorrow despite the forecast late in the day being for rain and cloud the clear sky tonight should hold long enough to give a spectacular view with the early light casting color in both the sky and surrounding buildings.  I found a pathway at the southern edge of the park with excellent views of both the eastern and western midtown skylines.

If the light cooperates I have some test shots from tonight that suggest I will get some excellent exposures tomorrow. 
I dont want to ruin the suprise but I have a pretty good idea of the composition and know where I will attempt to set up at arount 545 am tomorrow.