Friday, March 25, 2011

More fog!

If you've read my previous post, then you know that we are getting some fog this week. This morning was the 3rd foggy morning in a row. Fog makes me very happy!

All is Quiet


Tree + Fence + Fog = me happy

Fairy Tale Landscape

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Photography is simple

This winter I am (was, hopefully when spring EVER decides to arrive) concentrating on minimalism. I'm trying to keep stuff simple and excluding as much as possible in my shots. It is an interesting exercise for sure!

So this morning it was foggy again. What?! For two days in a row? Foggy conditions are perfect for those minimal shots. Mostly because you don't have to worry about background clutter. It immediately cleans up your frame. All you have left to worry about is what to shoot and your foreground.

I have a lot of lone trees on my way to work. And some of them are only 'available for shooting' when it is foggy. Just because of all the background 'noise'. Take for instance the second picture as an example. This tree grows in a shallow depression just along side highway 8. But in the background there is a forest. And that tree line is cutting right through the middle of this little tree. Sometimes I wished I could grab my ladder or something to shoot this tree from up high but for now this fog will do just fine. Sometimes you just have to wait until the right shooting conditions are in front of you. Landscape photography takes patience.

I also found out that too much foreground detail does not really work all that well, when you are trying to pull off a minimal shot. So excluding as much of it is always an easy solution. And by thinking about your composition as simple as 2 rectangles on top of each other – one for the sky, the other for the ground – it is easy to place that subject into an interesting spot in your frame.

Sometimes photography does not have to take long and is just simple. Remember kids to overexpose when you're shooting in foggy conditions. I had to overexpose 2 stops to get a decent histogram.

If you've been following this blog or my work for a bit then you will have noticed that I love post-processing. Well for a change this has almost no processing at all. Almost straight out of the camera. Yes 'almost'.

Foggy Tree

Foggy morning

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's official!

A few weeks ago I got a tweet from Jim Slobodian – he works at the CameraStore in Calgary – asking me if I would be interested in giving a talk about landscape photography at The Outdoor Adventure Show in Calgary.
I almost fell of my chair! Who (frantically looking around), ME?! Was this a joke? After going back and forth for a bit I realised that this was the real deal. Jim had noticed a tweet of mine, stumbled onto my website and that was it. Talk about the power of social media!
A couple of days later I met Jim at the CameraStore. He's a great guy to say the least. And we worked things out. This can be the start of a fun relationship between me and the CameraStore. But most of all I was very honored they chose me (of all photographers in Calgary) to represent them on this fair.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I've been working very hard on this keynote presentation lately. Because, well, I see this as a huge break, and I want to knock this one out of the ball park. I am going to prove that you don't have to drive to the mountains to do great landscape photography. Talking in front of a crowd will be a first for me. Maybe I'll even like it. Who knows?
By the end of this week I want to have finished the presentation so I can do a test talk on Friday for some friends.

Not bad for an import huh? ;)

By the way, I'll be talking along side of 2 well known professionals and Jim himself. You can download the schedule here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Working the scene"... Really?!

I was reading a photography blog yesterday and the author was telling his readers – when he made a particular shot he was referring to – he was "just working the scene". Therefor he was getting the most out of the scene and therefor good results.

I think that is absolutely bullocks! And that is really the worst advice you can give someone. Let me explain.

First you need to understand what the difference is in shooting snapshots (we all do it) and consciously photographing a scene. Imagine this scenario. You're in your car and your driving around looking for something to photograph. All of the sudden you see something worthy and you stop. You climb out of the car and you shoot the subject (with your camera). "Working the scene". Congrats, you just made a snapshot. Probably a whole bunch of them.

What a lot of photographers don't understand is that when you see something worthy of a picture and you stop, you need to question yourself a few things before you start, like:
- what made me stop?
- where is the light?
- what is the light doing?
- what kind of light is it?
- where is the sun setting?
- what are the clouds doing?
- how can I frame this, what are my options?

By "working the scene" you're skipping all of these steps. You're not making a conscious decision on what you want to photograph. You are, with other words not previsualising. You just take a bunch of snapshots not photographs and you'll see what you've got in front of your computer.

Because I think this is a totally wrong approach to landscape photography, I'll let you into my head. This is how I think.

When I come to a location – I am usually about an hour early – I scout the scene. At this point I am looking around, I am aware of what is around me. I take the scene in with all of my senses (eg yesterday evening I enjoyed smelling the humidity, so good). I don't care about what the light is doing (yet) but I know where the sun is going to set and what that could be doing to the colours in the sky.
No, at this point I care about composition and only composition. I am crouching down and I search for features that could make up a good foreground (making snapshots in my mind so to speak). Like I said above, I think about options. I question myself what I need to eliminate in these particular compositions. I think about how I want my picture to look like in the end. I start thinking in frames now. Do I want a square shot? 8x10, 3x4, black and white? What could be the hurdles I am going to face? Is a reflection of a mountain going to overlap my foreground? Will I be shooting the scene from a high or low vantage point? And so on.
If I have all the answers, then – and only then – I start to set up and try out the framing I had in my mind. I take a shot and tweak the composition until I like what I see. Then all I have to do is wait for the light. DONE!

See what I did? I did not run around like a chicken without a head, shooting away, "working the scene", hoping for the best. No, I made conscious decisions, I knew what I wanted. And I shot towards that end result. True, sometimes this previsualising process can go really fast, especially when you know your surroundings or you are returning to a spot you've visited a dozen times before. Sometimes it goes a bit slower. It all depends.
Does it take practice? Yes and lot's of it. Do I think this is a more rewarding process? Without a doubt.

You can say 'I work the composition'. Which is closer to the truth.

You should try it next time you go shooting. Compose in your mind first. Slow down and imagine how you want your composition to look like in the end.

Winter Sunset over the Bow

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hyper focal it!

You know, sometimes I feel like a noob. A complete beginner. That makes me feel sad but happy at the same time. It tells me that I can still grow as a photographer. Everybody knows the saying 'You're never too old to learn'.

When you purchase a new camera or a new lens you need to do 2 things:
1. You need to get acquainted with your new purchase. In case of a new camera, learning all the new functions will be overwhelming. But it is necessary. Nothing sucks more then being in the middle of nowhere with a camera that does not do what you want it to do. I'll give you one example I've encountered since working with the 5DmkII.

When shooting in aperture priority mode I often find myself compensating the exposure time. Especially in wintertime. All that snow and ice often demand an overexposure of sometimes 2 stops. Now the 5DmkII has a 'short cut button' on top of the camera that quickly let you set this up (or so I though). Big was my surprise the other day that this thing didn't really do much. BUT when I went into the menu and compensated exposure there, the results where what I expected. Strange. So I came home and had to look it up why this was happening. Turns out that that button is the Flash exposure compensation button! And 'duh' NOW I do see that little lightning icon next to it. How stupid am I? Was I blind? Why did Canon choose to change the EV button (like my Rebel has one) into a flash EV button? I don't see the logic in that. Yes I know when you look through the viewfinder whilst turning the big dial on the back this will change your EV compensation. But if you are like me and shoot from a tripod 90% of the time it is anoying Cabon deleted this small button. I thought it was useful. I guess pro's shoot so much with flash that that button serves it's purpose. But I want to bet money on it that it does not.
My little story shows you that you need to know where everything is inside the menu structure of you r camera and you need to know exactly what everything does. Don't be too proud if you have to look something up in the manual.

2. The other thing you need to check is focus and if you're a landscape photographer, where your hyper focal point lies on your new lens distance scale. Before you do that, there are numerous websites out there that let you calculate these distances. One of them is If you wish you can even download there app but I think that is kind of beside the point. Once you know your hyper focal distances, just write them down and you're golden.
On my 24-105 L my hyper focal distance for the 24mm setting at ƒ11 is 1.73m. Everything from .86m to infinity will be in focus or will have acceptable focus. Finding that 1.73m mark on your distance scale is the tricky part though because the focus distance ring jumps from 1.5m to 3m. So somewhere 'in between' the two should suffice. I did a lot of tests during my lunch break and I found out that that 1.73m mark is right in the middle of those two. Now isn't that helpful!
With the old camera and lens combo I knew EXACTLY where that hyper focal point was. Not that I ever calculated it but I knew out of experience.

I've been planning on doing this test since I got the new camera but I thought 'I will not be that far off.' Turns out I was miles off! And that is why I was very disappointed with the sharpness of my pictures lately. Turns out full frames cameras are more sensitive to focusing errors. Lesson learned!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shooting nothing

We are having quit the winter here in Alberta. From periods with lots of snow to almost spring like temperature. Lately we are back in the deep freeze.

I always here people complain about the weather. Especially photographers. 'too cold', 'flat light', 'boring skies' and so on. Sometimes it is just plain annoying. This is actually a fun time to be out!
Most of the times you are alone, it is quiet and yes everything looks white. But that is just the fun part of it. You can do a lot of cool things with white. The only thing is, you need to open your eyes.

What I've been doing lately are these minimalistic looking shots. They look quit simple to do and to some extent they are easy to 'do'. But it can be a good exercise to train your eyes. Shapes, lines and contrasts (even if they are subtle) begin to play a big role in these compositions.

I just think it is a lot of fun to find these pictures and make them as simple as possible. You should try it!



Little one