Thursday, November 29, 2012

Do you think in images?

Let's start this blog post with saying 'I do!' I can definitely say, I think in pictures.

Most of the time it goes something like this.

I'm driving around and I see something interesting and even before I get out of the car, I instinctively know what I'd like to see in the viewfinder. I do not often 'work' a scene. When I do occasionally, I can become consumed for hours.

Take this image for example. Taken over the weekend. I – O crap I'm gonna say this – 'played' with these trees for the best part of an hour. Waiting for light to change, making different compositions, using different filters and different focal lengths. I shot about 14 frames. And in the end, I kept about 3 of them. This scene was too gorgeous to just drive by.
The funny part was, I said to my friend and fellow photographer Kris Schofield that 'this wouldn't take long'.... yeah. I was wrong.

Anyway I am digressing. Back on topic.

I often think in pictures, in squares and rectangles. It's weird. Sometimes concepts just pop up in my head. I can't help it. Two days ago I was reading about moon eclipses (there was a penumbra eclipse yesterday) when images started popping up in my minds eye.

Here's a few rough sketches of what I was thinking about doing. I usually don't make sketches so this is just for illustrational purposes. So don't judge! Usually I store my images in my head.

I am thinking of doing a long exposure photograph of the moon. Either a moonset (left) or moonrise (right). Maybe over the mountains, prairies, maybe even a lake...

When I was thinking of these, my mind wandered off, already worrying about potential problems. Well let's not call them problems per se. Let's call them 'technicalities'. Before I even attempt to photograph this I will need to know a couple of things.

[nerd alert]

What is the field of view of my lenses? 
"Why is that important to know?" you might ask. Well there's a few things. Most importantly because it will tell me how long I will need to expose for. You see photographing on film is not the easiest thing. Let me explain.
Earth does a 360 spin every 24 hours. So by doing very simple math (and for illustration purposes the moon is stationary) we know that the moon (or the sun for that fact) crosses the sky at a rate of 15 degrees per hour (360 divided by 24, you see math is simple!). That is 15 degrees on the path it is traveling on (not 15 degrees horizontally). That horizontal distance can be calculated by doing trigonometry if you know the 'angle of attack' of moons orbit and the height of the moon above the horizon. But that's not important (there's an app for that and it's called Sun Surveyor) and it is FAR simpler and faster.

So let's say, one of my lenses has a 15 degree FOV. To have the moon cross the frame completely I'd have to expose for at least 1 hour.

[enter reciprocity law failure]

What exposure time am I shooting for?
I use Ilford Delta 100 for most of my work. Ilford film though has a very 'steep' reciprocity curve. Actually I found out (by working with it) that the curve Ilford posts in their pdfs is not really accurate. It's is not even close! Lucky for me, some guy, did tests years ago on the actual reciprocity law failure rates of Delta 100. And lucky again for me, the internet is an awesome resource when it comes to finding data about the most random subjects.

The formula I found to correctly calculate reciprocity on Delta 100 is:

CET = 0.0569814253867811 x (MET ^ 1.57549715077228) + MET

CET = Corrected Exposure Time
MET = Measured Exposure Time

(I know right?)

So to make things easier I made this little list and glued that on some cardboard and put that in my camera bag for future reference.

BUT how do you know what your measured exposure time is? I mean after all it's pretty dark right? And spot metering in the dark is not possible (unless you know how bright the moon is and go from there).

You can do two things. Either make a digital test shot. And transfer everything over to your film camera. OR rely on a second list... (I did the list thing just because I don't like to drag my digital camera around anymore).

Here's the second list (it's on the backside of the first list). This basically shows me the average brightness of a night scene. I told ya I was a nerd... Alright now the magic happens. Now we need to find a setting that gives me a 'corrected time' close to an hour and the ƒ stop I need to use.

Let's first look at the first list. For a corrected exposure time of about an hour I need a measured time of 15 minutes (second column, it actually is 57 minutes but 60 minutes is close enough). Now let's say we do this project under a half moon. By glancing at the second list, and looking for 'Night, subject under half moon' and then looking for 15 minutes, I now KNOW if I leave the camera open for an hour (with Delta 100) and using an ƒ stop of ƒ8, I will get a neutral exposure (like a zone 5).

Isn't this awesome?

Now here's comes the pre-visualizing part. How dark do you want to make your photograph? Darker? Turn to a smaller aperture (like ƒ11 (1 stop) or ƒ16 (2 stops). I would not advise to go lighter because after all we are looking for a night scene and the night is supposed to be dark.

Now comes the tricky part
Now I need to find out when the moon rises and sets and where it does on the horizon. Again there's numerous lists and apps for calculating that. So I won't go into that. Importantly is the fact that you want complete darkness during your photograph. Can you imagine photographing the moon while the sun is rising. Say goodbye to your one frame. And keep in mind, you only get 2 chances per night!

Ideally you will need a quarter moon. SO it rises or sets somewhere in the middle of the night when the sun has long gone under the horizon. Also I think the time around the solstices will be best to do this project. The sun really dips low under the horizon and nights can be crystal clear (cold air is more stable than rising hot air and there's less clouds too). The angle of the moonrise or moonset will be steeper in wintertime too than it will be in summertime. The moon kind of does the opposite that the sun. The sun is high in summer and low in winter, the moon does the opposite. Anyway, I can go on and on about astronomy but I'm afraid I'll bore you to death.

O and you need fair weather too...

In the end pre-visualizing a photograph is a very interesting exercise. You should try it sometimes.
I believe it can teach you to see, far beyond the photograph. Second of all, it teaches you to think in abstract ways, in concepts. And thirdly it can teach you to do research and to plan to end up with an end result that is awe-inspiring.

'Winging it' is usually not my style. Research is the way to go. But then again I am a geek.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Insecurity and letting go of your work

Well, the issue of Lenswork where some of my work is being featured in, is finally in the open. At least the pdf of it is now downloadable. The printed issue is probably going to be available starting next week or so with the extended issue, where even more of my work will be featured in (including an audio interview) following a couple of weeks later.

If you are interested in picking up this issue or downloading the pdf or get a subscription to Lenswork, follow this link.

You know, last night was funny. A fellow photographer Ivan Makarov (who's work I absolutely love) posted a congratulatory message on his Google+ wall. Immediately two things happened.
First I got flooded by felicitations from people and friends that follow my work. Something that made me very humble. Secondly, I became very, VERY nervous! I felt like a 12 year old going on a field trip for the first time. I had butterflies, the shakes even.

Sounds pretty dumb right?

Since approving the short text for the printed and pdf version of Lenswork I haven't heard anything back nor did I see any pre-production pdf's. I was very anxious to see the selection of photographs that they decided upon, before this thing got to print.

And that's when it struck me.


I suffer from something I call I.A.S.


Something many artist suffer from I think. I mean, I hope.

Bad thoughts immediately filled my mind:
  • Was the selection going to be good enough, I worried. 
  • How did the images technically reproduce? 
  • What if this is the only time I'll ever be featured in Lenswork, will this be 'my legacy'? 
  • Will this open some new doors and even jumpstart my career
  • What if the feature sucked?
  • What if I make crap
  • What if I just suck but nobody has the guts to tell me? 
Insecurity can rapidly push logic aside. It can quickly make you doubt absolutely EVERYTHING. And make your mind spin out of control. It can even convince you to just quit everything and sell your gear and pick up knitting. In the worst case scenario, it can make you believe you are just NOT good enough to play this game.

But the thing is. Being insecure can be a huge stimulus as well.
Think about this for a second.

Being insecure about your work is ok. It's something that comes with the territory. I would even say, it's a must. I believe good artists are insecure. That insecurity keeps them scared, it keeps them on their toes and sharpens their senses and sometimes their imagination too. Insecurity can push you towards new heights and when used positively, it can help push you over that 'plateau' or 'dip' you have been struggling with for the longest time. It can even increase your creativity again.

My photography is often a reflection of my state of mind of that particular day, week or month. And showing work is often a very personal experience. It's like letting people look into your soul. But in the end, it's my art, my work. I don't have to explain it, tailor it or apologize for it. And I'm certainly not refining it to anybodies tastes or whatever. My art is honest. It is me. And that is one of the reasons why insecurity sometimes overwhelms me.

I personally think, if you aren't scared about showing your work in public, I believe you're not doing it right.

Here's a few tips if you are insecure about showing your work:
  • Try publishing your work online first. It's fairly easy to do (hence Flickr and other photo sharing sites are so popular) and the internet allows you to do that fairly anonymously. It can help you, little by little, build your confidence up. 
  • If you have no problems doing that, and feel confident your work is unique enough, try and put your work in a small, local group show. You will see, it's far less easy to cope with that. Now you are dealing with full on stress until your work is 'on' the wall.  
  • If this has become second nature to you, why don't you try and get your work into a magazine. Now the masses will be able to see (and sometimes judge) what you are doing. WHat your art is all about. It's something else, let me tell you. For me personally, letting go of everything and trusting third parties in doing their job correctly was a nerve-racking experience! But in the end it was a very valuable and necessary lesson for me to learn. 

To conclude this post, and with the Presidential elections in the United States today, I'd like to leave you with this very famous quote:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”– Robert F. Kennedy.

In the end, the Lenswork feature is awesome and it makes me extremely proud. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A few thoughts on social media and rejections

In the world we live in today, social media has become a valid tool for us photographers. No, let me broaden it. To us people in general. And the sooner you agree with this, the more information you will be able to gather quickly.

Take for instance, superstorm Sandy. The social media attention this thing got was and is unprecedented. From millions of tweets and live updates by diverse distaster teams and weather forecast centers, to people uploading their millions of pics to Instagram (now we have a whole collection of blurry, yellowish and square images of the storm's effect to drape the pages in our future history books, yeaaah! uuuh).

As many of you know I am on Google Plus. And over there, I curate a nice little 'niche' theme that I 'invented' (invented is a big word but I started it). The #minimalmonday theme. It is all about minimalistic landscape photography. Something that I enjoy doing myself.

Yesterday a fellow photographer approached me with a personal message. It went something like this:

"This week I contributed a picture – for a second time – for your minimalmonday. I commented a couple of times on your posts too. I wonder if there´s any particular reason that you didn´t spend the time to even notice. If my pictures are not good enough to be mentioned in your wrap up (note, that's what I do the day after the theme is active. I curated all the shots that I liked and call it a 'wrap up') ... is one thing... but not even take the time to +1 or thank people spending time to comment on your posts (not only me) annoys me massively. Maybe you could take 5 seconds of your time to think about it."

When I first read that, I was NOT very happy. But the message got me thinking. This is what I concluded.

Social media does go a long way. And it goes both ways. Tooting your own horn all the time is something that is frowned upon. But then again, if you want to play the social media game correctly, it will absorb a lot of you and consume a lot of your time. Be prepared and anticipate this. It is easy to keep track of 5 people. It's another thing to sift trough 50,000 posts. But sometimes, when we lack the time to do it right, it boils down to just putting our own content online. And that's ok too... Social media is a tool that everyone uses in their own personal way.

Social media can (and eventually will) become a catch 22. My life is NOT based on an online presence  nor am I glued to a computer 24/7. Ultimately I'd like to be out more, enjoying life, do photography every single day. And that's where the catch 22 comes in. Do I want to promote myself and other artists on social media (playing it out to the max so to speak) or do I want to be out there and photograph (doing the bare minimum) ...
In the end that is something for you to decide. Don't jump into social media without a battle plan. I see it all the time in my business. Companies open a Twitter and Facebook account hoping this will put their product out there. Social media is not a shop window. Social media is interactive. You need to approach it differently than your website (that's the shop window). Have a plan. And execute it. 

When somebody tells you 'you are doing it wrong', listen. It shows you your battle plan can be tweaked. Apparently this person thought 'I was doing it wrong'. I respectfully disagreed. I comment, +1 and share as much as I personally can with my circles. But I was unaware of that person's work, which happens. You don't expect me to know every photographer's work now do you? I share, without ignoring my main goal. Which is, I am there to promote myself. My own work. That sounds selfish but it is the truth. But with the theme I am trying to do something else. To change the landscape a bit. With the theme I am trying to promote other people's work. Photographers that I really like. A lot of photographers who I have struck a friendship with too by the way.
Telling me 'I don't take the time to look at all the submissions', is wrong (because I do). But it is very naive of that artist to tell me I should ad his/her work to the wrap up. That's just NOT how it works.

The other thing that I started thinking about was the underlying message this person was trying to tell me. The person though I did not see the photograph in question, I did. But there's an interesting lesson that photographer needs to learn. That lesson is called:


Rejection will happen. And it will happen a lot. If you send your work out to galleries, magazines etc you need to be prepared to get rejected. It is NOT something that has to be taken personally.
Every gallery or magazine or whatever has their own vision of what they want to show in the end. If a curator is asked to prepare an exposition they will try and tell a story. Or have a common theme or genre in the exposition. They are not 'just gonna hang Joe Schmo on the walls because it's the second time he has sent something in'. Joe Schmo his work could be very good. But maybe it is not compatible with any other work or the vision the curator had for this expo. Knowing this, rejection does NOT mean your work is bad. That's why you should not take it personal.

Sometimes (if you are lucky) they will sent you a rejection letter. Most of the time, they do not.
When you get rejected, take a minute to think about WHY you submitted any of your work to this magazine or gallery in the first place. What was your reason? Do you want people to – in this case +1 – everything you produce? And if they don't, you feel like a bad photographer? Or was it something else...

It's funny right? When I look at my own work, I don't give anything about 'other people's opinions'. Those opinions should not dictate the way you feel about your own work. Nor should YOU force your opinions onto someone else's art. Here's the thing though. I enjoy when people like my work, but I don't NEED the compliments to feel good about what I do. My work comes from a more personal level (read the previous blog post about 'why I photograph').

Also rejection can learn you something else far more valuable. When you are entering your work into competitions or for magazines and art shows, keep the following in mind.

Curators love artists with a unique vision. 

It sounds logical right? But it is not. And when I go back to the theme, I see it every single week. There's maybe 3-5 artists that have their own vision. I will recognize their work from a far. Other – less experienced – artists will copy particular looks and feels. There's nothing wrong with that of course because that is a natural step in someones career, right? But think about it when you enter your work into competitions. Is your work that unique? Do you have your own vision. Step back and be honest about that...

Also keep in mind that curators do like 'emotion and feeling' far better than 'technical excellence'. They look at the big picture of an exposition for example. If your 'crappy' image is a better fit in the overal picture than that 'technically perfect' picture by one of your peers, then you'll get a show. Curators don't care about how you photographed a scene using an 8x10 camera and film or a little point and shoot. The thing about being an artist is that you have to be able to tell a story with your work. Not produce lifeless work without a soul after lifeless work without a soul. The faster you see this, the better your work will become.

I can go on and on and give you reason after reason to why work is selected or not but that would make it a really really long post but I won't. The only thing I can say is – and I've said it before – believe in what you do, continue to work hard, try to improve and fine tune your vision, your skills and persevere.  That's what I've been doing year after year. Everyone gets rejected. But the ones that keep going at it and look at 'rejection' as not something personal, will eventually make it.

Rejection is part of what we do. Just embrace it. There is so much you can learn from it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why DO I photograph?

Yesterday, I asked a – seemingly – simple question on my Facebook page.

"Why do you consider yourself a photographer?"

Or in other words. Why do you photograph? I got a few replies and that got me thinking. I've never asked or answered that question myself. So here is why I photograph.

Years ago, when I was still in school, I somehow found myself choosing a direction I thought I was going to love. It was called 'Industrial Sciences'. It involved a good a chunk of math, sciences (chemistry and physics) and a large amount of hands-on trade classes (like metalworking and an electricity class).

I liked the science and math part of the schooling. I absolutely disliked the hands on construction stuff part (I'm just clumsy, ask Sarah). My dad is awesome at building things though (I guess I never got that part of his DNA). But there was one class that I aced. That class was 'Technical Drawing'. No CAD, just hands-on drawing. Man I was good at this. I always ended up top of the class. Always! You needed a meticulous approach to not F these drawings up. And you needed patience. Things – once I set my mind to it – I had.

That class was the reason why in the next year I switched schools and ended up doing 'Architectural Drawing'. Instead of going to a technical school, I was now finding myself in an 'art school'. It was weird. It was a school that promoted 'personal development'. Like it was ok for you to wear a full on mohawk, ripped jeans and rockband shirts. It was a real eye opener personally. That year, I really explored and searched for who I was or what 'group' I belonged to.

The education we got was an interesting mix of architectural technology stuff, math, physics and of course a huge chunk of 'art'.
We had an 'Art History' class. In that class, we dissected, week after week, paintings, buildings and cathedrals by the old masters. Talking about compositions, proportions and for instance reasons behind why things where pointed at some sort of focal point on paintings. At that time, I thought it was a complete waste of time. Looking back at it, I wasn't mature enough to fully understand and appreciate those masters. And I certainly didn't understand why I had to learn all this old stuff for things I would create today. It turned out, that was foolish for me to say. To this day, those classes turned out to be shaping my way in every single way.

I flunked that second year because I was done with those 'artsy fartsy people'. I wanted something real. That's when I found my love for 'Graphic Design'. Completely by chance. It fused my drawing talent with composition (something, by now, I started to understand the importance off). That's when everything fell into place on a personal level for me. This was something I was really good at. This was something that I loved.

I pretty much coasted through three years of Graphic Design education. Never really had to put a lot of effort into it because everything came naturally. Sure, I had my ups and downs. Sure I struggled with some trivial stuff (like French, gawd I hated French). Especially the very last year, was easy. Just because I loved it so much, everything 'came' naturally.

So after starting my first real job, I quickly lacked a creative outlet. I could only do so much at that job. And as a noob in the business, I didn't have the credibility or confidence in what I did, like I do now.

The next year, I decided to start a 2 year vocational course in 'B&W photography: darkroom printing and archival techniques'.

Have you ever experienced something where you knew 'I'm meant to do this'? Well for me, that was this course. I was meant to do this. Photography combined my understanding of composition, my technical skills I had from being a graphic designer, my meticulousness and my approach to create stuff from the heart. Needless to say, I aced that course too. And did an extra year, just for the fun of it.

That brings me to the end of my story. Why photography? Why do I photograph? Why do I consider myself a photographer? An artist even?

Practicing photography teaches me in the first place who I am, what I want to become and how to be a better man. It keeps my mind in check and I am able to share with you things nobody else – but me – notices, in a way, nobody else can reveal them to you. In other words, I'm unfolding my mind to you through my work, right in front of you. For me, the images I make, come naturally, straight from my heart or my mind. Sometimes I don't photograph for a long stretch of time just because I don't have to. Because I don't feel like I need to. Those are the good times. Other times (the bad ones) I feel the need to be out there on my own. Photographing. Translating my thoughts and fears in images.

O, and I can't paint for shit. ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And we have a winner!

Remember my little competition I launched a few weeks ago?

Well I am happy to announce we have a winner!
I declare the winner to be Kevin Knockaert.

Kevin named my little Ikonta, Yvonne.
Now, without him knowing it, he happened to choose the name of my grandmother on my mother's side as his entry.

She was my favourite grandmother and I loved spending time with her as a little boy. She lived in this big appartement block where you could see trains pass by. Now as a kid I wanted to grow up to be 3 things. A pilot (what boy doesn't), a train engineer and a – I kid you not – a garbage man.

So my grand parents home was the perfect spot for me to watch trains go by day after day. Sitting in the kitchen with the time tables in front of me and a pair of binoculars I would write down the numbers of the trains and see how long it took them to return home. Yes back then, I was a weird little kid. ;)

Yvonne, or like we used to call her 'MoeMoe' passed away a few years ago. She had led a long and full life.

Kevin struck a chord with me and brought back a lot of great memories. So it was only logic, that the print of his choosing is going to him. He choose the photograph 'Brothers' as the one he wanted to get and as we speak, it is off to the printing company.

Thank you Kevin. From now on, every time I  am going to use the Ikonta, I will associate that with my grand mother. Thank you for bringing back those memories. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm not always photographing landscapes

When I was living in Belgium I did everything BUT photographing landscapes. Most of the time I was into flash photography, doing studio portraits, a little bit of fashion, and I did work for some local rock and punk rock bands.

I've always enjoyed doing flash photography. Instead of waiting for the light or conditions to be right for a landscape shot, you just make the light work your way instead. It truly gives you a far better understanding of the differences light can make on a subject once you start playing around with it.

Quite some time ago, my friend and ex-colleague Tim Morrison, singer of Canadian Rock band Age of Days talked me into doing a band shoot for them. I knew Tim loved my work and after a little creative meeting, we came up with this epic idea of doing a black and white shoot in Drumheller.

A few weeks later, I took him out on a scouting trip and showed him some of my favourite places around Drumheller. Showing him, the classics locations everyone visits and some back country stuff too while bouncing some more ideas of each other. Man we had an awesome time. Talk about being on the same page with somebody. At one point we scouted out a beautiful pasture with some gorgeous views on the valley below (more on that later). We knew this had to be one of our main locations we could work with.

A few weeks later, I've met the complete band. Age of Days was on a little Canadian tour and were enjoying a day off (on Canada Day) in Airdrie. We went for breakfast in a local establishment and went on our way to Drumheller (a 90 minute drive). After some van troubles (a sticky automatic transmission) we finally arrived at our destination.

A week prior to the shoot, I was looking at the weather forecasts. They were predicting some epic weather for us to photograph in. The predictions stayed constant during the week. And I knew, we would get lucky with some crazy skies later in the day. July around here is pretty much the beginning of peak storm season. So I was happy. No dull blue skies for my shoots.

The shoot started out with harsh light and blue skies. I knew we had to look for a nice shadow spot. When we were scouting some weeks before, Tim and I found some abandoned rusty grain silos. I knew we had to go there to start off the day.
Here are some of my favourites from that portion of the shoot.

After about 2 hours of shooting (including setting up the lights, styling, etc) we called lunchtime. Afterwards we went straight to our lovely pasture I talked about earlier. Clouds were starting to form and the sky and light were slowly becoming more favourable to what both Tim and I had in mind for the next scene.

What we did not foresee was the fact that this pasture near Dorothy, in those two or three weeks after we had scouted it, had transformed itself into 'mosquito heaven'. Thousand of mosquitos were swarming around us. It was insanity. Photographing in conditions like these were ... euh ... tough, to say the least. The guys pushed through it like real rock stars (pun intended). But in between shots, everybody was slaying mosquitos by the hundreds. I kid you not! After my first 20 bites, I gave up. I just let them eat me. There was absolutely no point in using mosquito repellant, or killing them in any other way. They were just too many. Just to give you an idea, I had 125 bites on both arms and upper body. IN-SANE. The guys had a show the next day. I bet it was an itchy stage performance. :D

Anyway. This is the photograph we ended up with. Absolutely one of my favourites of the day. It is a 4 frame stitch to get the panoramic shot I've envisioned. 

And here's one from Tim. I like this portrait a lot. I has some sort of fashion allure to it. It reminds me of a Chanel ad I've once saw. Anyway, he'll kill me for posting this. ;) Tough luck buddy, this is my blog.

As the afternoon progressed I had 2 more compositions I wanted to try out. Real thunder clouds were starting to form now. Just as I expected the light that was coming with it, was EPIC. We drove back from Dorothy past these beautiful coulee hills. I had to stop and try something with the guys. I wanted to show the grandeur of the landscape. I promised them, there were no mosquitos this time. 

For the final composition, we scouted out a nice little, more intimate, coulee. Storm clouds were ABSOLUTELY EPIC now. We didn't stay too long because at one point, we were right underneath a rotating vortex. As a storm chaser, I pulled the plug right there. We were in a spot that was a little too dangerous for us to be in. The picture though is one that we will ALL remember. 

As you can imagine. The day was a long one and we were all very VERY tired. But I knew I had some really good footage. 

I like photographing something different once in a while. And photographing Age of Days was definitely something I've enjoyed. Something I would love to do more of in the future. These guys are passionate about what they do. And they were a pleasure to work with. Their first single 'Bombs Away' has just broke into the top 30 on the Active Rock charts in Canada. It's such a great little tune.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BIG announcement!

If you follow me on those social media websites you might remember this Facebook status update from a while back...
"OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG I have some EXCITING news I want to share with you!!!! But it's not 100% concrete yet. When it is, I will definitely SHARE that with you. OMG OMG OMG doing some more cartwheels!!!!"
Yeah that was me being all super excited about something but I could not say what it was about yet.
I never followed up on it on Facebook but now I am ready to tell you all a little story.

On July 24 I got an email through my website and it went something like this.
"Greetings, Olivier... I'm an editor with LensWork Publishing in Washington State. For nearly 20 years we have produced LensWork (a fine art publication featuring black-and-white photography)
immediately stopped reading. What was this... a joke?! I read that first sentence over and over again. After reading the whole email I was sitting at my desk completely IN SHOCK, pinching myself. This was NOT happening. This was a dream. Lenswork.... THE Lenswork?!"

I shared the news with some close colleagues and friends while in this ecstatic frenzy. I was probably not making a lot of sense to them at all and I think some of them might even thought 'oh boy, he is losing it'.

Now for all of you that don't know Lenswork. First of all shame on you! Second of all, I consider it one of the finest Black and White coffee table magazines available today. It is printed on a beautiful stock and the printing itself is of an amazingly high standard. It is available in more than sixty (yes 60!) countries around the world and has an amazing amount of followers.

Check out the Lenswork website here

Anyway. I always considered Lenswork to be THE magazine I wanted to be published in somewhere in my life, not career, I said life. Something that would happen when I would be 60 or something. Something that would happen when I was a 'well  established artist'.

If you see what the type of photographer is that gets featured in this beautiful publication, I feel unbelievable lucky, proud, honoured and a little bit scared too, they chose me. I am looking forward to the future too, to see what this might bring with it for me.

I feel unbelievable blessed that I will be in a magazine where all our contemporary 'greats' have been in. Photographers I love like Cole Thompson, Mitch Dobrowner, Chuck Kimmerle and of course Brooks Jensen himself, just to name a few.

Lenswork will feature a 'Canadian Prairie' portfolio in issue 103. That is the November–December 2012 issue. So the one that is coming up shortly. I am doing an audio interview with them as well and more of my work is going to be featured in the online extended edition as well.

There. It's out in the open now.
I feel relieved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You want a free print?

I got your attention now didn't I?

Here's the scoop.
Recently I purchased a new camera.

It's a Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 523/16 folding camera, made in 1954. Yes 1954!
That was the era where they built camera's that last forever. This Zeiss camera is a full metal bodied design and takes 120 film. Which makes it still very usable today. O and it takes square 6x6 photographs. Move over Instagram.

After some needed TLC I have to say, this thing is pristine. As far as I can see it, this camera is still working perfectly. At first, the shutter was a bit sluggish but think about it for a second, how do YOU feel when you just woke up from a good nights sleep? You wouldn't be to active either. Right?
After about 50 actuations all is well though.

So after the TLC and fondling session yesterday I've put some film in there and did my first snaps with this 57 year old camera. All is working very well and I am super pleased. A good $70 spent I'd say.

The camera came in it's own leather case and leather accessories case that attaches to the strap and holds a sun cap (o yeah this is metal too, you know German over-engineering) and 2 glass filters (red and yellow).

The viewfinder is a funky one. You are basically looking through a glass tunnel not a rangefinder (the 533 has a rangefinder) and you guess the framing.  I still have to find out how precise it is too.
Focussing happens or ... not happens by rotating the front element. It is a zone focussing system so there's a bit of guesswork involved too. But after you dialed in the ƒ stop you can read the 'zone' on a scale and that should be accurate enough. Then you cock the shutter by pulling this little leaver on the lens (it has a leaf shutter) and actuate it on the usual spot on the camera.
Then you forward the film by rotating the big knob on the side while watching the numbers go by in that little red window on the back. All very straight forward. All very oldskool too.

Now here's hope on no light leaks in the bellows or in the back.

OK let's get back on track here. You came here for a free print now did you?
Here's the deal. I need a nickname for this camera. Preferably something that rhymes with Ikon or Ikonta or even Zeiss. Or some old style funky name like 'Gladys' or 'Shirley' or something. Think 50's! Think women's names too! No need for an 'Alfred' or something.

Leave your submission in the comments below and make sure you register with the proper details (so I CAN contact you in case I pick your entry and YOU win). 

The winner will receive a free signed and matted 8x10 B&W print of anything in my catalog. How does that sound? I will pay for everything. It will take up to 4 weeks to deliver the print though, so be patient.

The competition closes on Saturday October 20 11.59pm MST*.

That's it really. O and before I forget.

* Only entries on this blog count. So if you see this on any other social network, do comment and share, but make sure you put your entry here in the comments below.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Some international recognition

Last Friday I was preparing myself to hang out at my first gallery opening reception EVER, when I got a very pleasant email.

I entered 2 series and some loose images to this years 2012 IPA's. IPA stands for International Photo Awards and is one of the better photo competitions on this globe. This year IPA received over 10,000 entries during this very special 10-Year Anniversary Edition of the competition, and they are proud to announce that the jury panel (comprised of over 80 international photography professionals) was their largest yet!

The email said that one (or more) images had received honorable mentions. I was like 'Cool, let's see what photograph got noticed'. So I loged into my account and stared at the screen a bit. It wasn't sinking in. Next to every single one of my photographs was a note. Honorable mention. All of them?! That should be a mistake. So I checked and double checked before it hit me. Yeah they did. YEAH I DID!

So here is the list of the images and the categories that got mentioned. Really happy about this. First time I dare to enter my stuff in a major competition. Pretty proud my stuff got noticed.

Lone Tree
Honorable Mention in IPA 2012 Professional (oopsie my bad)
Fine Art: Landscape and in Nature: Trees

Honorable Mention in IPA 2012 Non-Professional
Fine Art: Landscape and in Nature: Trees

Honorable Mention in IPA 2012 Non-Professional
Fine Art: Landscape and in Architecture: Buildings

Prairie Rhythms
Honorable Mention in IPA 2012 Non-Professional
Fine Art: Landscape and in Architecture: Industrial

Big Skies
Honorable Mention in IPA 2012 Non-Professional
Fine Art: Landscape and in Nature: Landscapes

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Very busy month and a half

A little over a month and a half ago I got an email from The Camera Store asking me if I was interested in showcasing my work in an upcoming group show celebrating The Camera Store's 16th year in business.
Without even blinking, I replied 'Hell Yeah! I would be honored'. That is where my stressful journey to get a high quality print out the door started. This is the story of what happened.

As I said I got an email saying that I could hang 1 or 2 pieces at Resolution Gallery in Kensington in Calgary. Deadline for delivery, August 25th. We were July 27th so I thought, I still have some time. Not a worry in the world. Boy would I be wrong!

It took me about 2 weeks to decide which image to print. I finally landed on this one.

I thought showing the mountains would be a very strong commercial thing to do. Especially around Calgary. People almost go to the mountains on a weekly basis. And having a great emotional picture of them in there living room, would make sense (at least to me).

I've always wanted to show my work large. 20x30" is definitely the smallest I want to go. But for this show I wanted to go even bigger. 40x60" was the size of the print I wanted to do.

Of course this image had to be up-resed. This was a file straight out of the 5DmkII. There was no cropping. So I started with the RAW file and up-resed from there to a 25mpix image. From there I let Perfect Resize 7 do its thing. Then I opened my original file and copied all adjustment layers onto the new file (of course I had to adjust the masks but that's no biggie).
In the end it looked ok-ish. At 100% it didn't look the sharpest. But that was OK (I thought). Since people won't look at a 40x60" print from 2 inches away.

Cool. Done deal. I sent an email to Costas at Resolve Photo here in Calgary. Resolve is in my opinion THE best large format photo printer in Calgary. Especially when it comes to black and white prints. Nobody comes even close here in town.
I asked Costas if he could do me a few test strips before I would give him the go ahead on doing a print this size. A few weeks before I was at an art gallery opening of a photo friend of mine, Jeremy Fokkens, and looking at his work (also printed by Costas) I wanted to try out the same K7 print Jeremy had done. 'No problem' Costas replied. We'll get her done.
A day later I got a call that the test strips were done and ready for me to take a look. I swung by that night (Costas stayed open especially for me) and looked at the test strips. Man, I wasn't happy at all. The K7 sucked the life out of this print (or was it the matte photo rag). But Costas already anticipated this and did the same test strips on the K3 machine with Ilford Smooth Pearl (I love pearl papers). Yes that was the look I was after. But the image sucked on that scale. Looking at a monitor at 100% or looking at a printed photo are 2 different things. What might look good on screen, might suck on paper (and vise versa). I turned to Costas and asked him his professional opinion. Without even thinking he said 'I think you are very ambitious with this image'.

There. That's what I needed to hear. I told him I was so very happy he just told me the truth. He could have just printed this and I would have been unhappy (and lotsa dollars poorer).

The day after we did the dance again. I sent Costas a new photograph (this time I knew it was going to be perfect). This was the photograph and was a stitch of 10 images. In fact the original stitch was larger than 60x40" at 240dpi.

That evening Costas called me that the strip were ready for me to review. I swung by and man o man did they ever look good. So I gave him the go ahead to get this printed and hard mounted. He said "I'll print it tomorrow and I'll mount it on Saturday morning'. Sweet. So I could pick it up in the afternoon and bring it over to the framer.

That Saturday, Costas called me. The mounted print as ready for me to pick up, but he ran into a snag. During the heating cycle of the dry mounting of the photo, some ink came loose. But I had to take a look at it myself.

Well ok then. I headed over and at first I was blown away by how MASSIVE this print looked. Like seriously! Was this mine? I asked Costas to hold the print so I could take a quick snap with the iPhone to show the wife.
Back to the issue. There was a 15cm line in the upper left corner (in the blacks) where heating caused the ink to separate a bit. Costas had to point it out cause I didn't see it at first. But once I knew that it was there, it was pretty obvious. Costas immediately said that he would do the print again that Sunday (!!!) but he had to leave for a 3 day hiking trip. So there was no way for me to pick it up earlier than Wednesday the next week. The deadline was coming very close now (1 week to go) and I was really hoping that I would get her done on time. I was wrong.

So I went back to the car, put the rear seats down and I was ready to load this print in the car to get her to the framer so she could get started on it, in advance of receiving the real print the next week.
No luck there. The print wouldn't fit in my car. Sigh. At this point I was ready to just give up on this and call it quits. Everything that could go wrong with it, was going wrong.

Costas immediately said he would print me of a small 11x17" section of the photo so I could at least make arrangements with the frame on what matte and frame to choose, etc. And that I didn't have to worry about moving the mounted print. He was going to drop it off at the framer once it was dry mounted the next week. He gave me the 11x17" print and I rushed over to the framer.

(Are you starting to believe me now when I say Resolve Photo is the best in Calgary? Not only on the technical side of things, but service is amazing AND Costas is there to make his clients happy!).

I met Hannah and Patricia from Framed on Fifth on that same opening weeks prior. The show that Jeremy was putting on was impeccable. Prints were fantastic and the framing was top notch quality too. Jeremy had already told me that everything he does get's framed by Hannah and I thought 'if it is good enough for him, it is certainly good enough for me'. So on Jeremy's opening I chatted with Hannah and 'fist pound'–Patricia (yeah we fist pound, that's how Patricia and I roll) and kinda decided on what combo I was going to go with.
So when I rushed in that Saturday afternoon, the already were up to date with the whole story of where this print was going. We chose the matte colour and everything was ready to go once Costas dropped the print off the next Wednesday.

Thursday came and I got a call from Hannah that the matte was ready for me to sign. I swung by on Saturday the 25th (deadline day. Luckily The Camera Store gave me an extra week to get her done). Cool beans I thought. I will get this done by Wednesday the next week (3 days before the show opens).

I was wrong again...
(You believe me now when I tell you this print is jinx'ed)

I got a call from Hannah that Wednesday (the 29th) saying that the museum glass was in but they noticed that one edge got chipped in transport. I was like 'well that figures, what are my options?'. Hannah told me that it would be almost impossible to get a new piece of museum glass that size in, in time for the opening. BUT we could put in regular glass in for now, and then after the show reframe it with the correct configuration'. Well I was ok with that because I didn't have another choice. There was nothing I could do. At this point we just had to get her done.

I came by the store that night together with my friend Tim (he drives a Hummer and I was sure the print would fit his vehicle) when Hannah told me they special order me a piece of museum glass and that it should come in on Thursday afternoon. Just in time for them to frame it and for me to pick it up and drop it off at the gallery the next day.

That Friday during lunch, Tim was there again to help me move this huge framed print. Until that day, I had not seen the final result. We dropped it off at the gallery and started to unwrap it.

Once all the covers were off, my jaw dropped to the ground. This was absolutely GORGEOUS! Was this piece mine?
That evening I got a few spy pics in my email from Evelyn from The Camera Store. My piece had it's own wall. And was right at the entrance. People would get into the gallery, turn around and WHAMOOOO there she was. My print.

This was a very stressful month for me but in the end, it all worked out. The fact of the matter is that I was lucky enough to deal with 2 small companies in Calgary that were very personal, passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Hannah handled this piece at it was her own. And Costas has an enormous amount of proud in what he does. That's what I love about small companies. They go out of their way to make the customer happy in the first place. It was refreshing to know that these people still exist. And I would not hesitate to refer anybody to them in the future because I know FIRST HAND how they treated me and my work.

All in all, this piece makes me very proud. And the reactions on the opening reception of this group show were very very positive.

Nothing is more fun to setup shop in the vicinity of your work and hear 'holy f*@$' reactions from the crowd. Those made me smile.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm done with digital!

For the last 2 maybe 3 months now, I am (was) struggling with my photography. I hit a so called dry spell. A plateau. A place where I did not see any photographs anymore. Everything looked plain. Everything I did looked plain. Seen it all before. I was producing work that did not excite me anymore. (Except for the work I did in Claresholm. That area just keeps me inspired...)

In my previous post about it (see below) I said I wasn't worrying about it too much. And that I was concentrating on other stuff regarding my 'career'. And so I did for a while (and I still have to tell you the HUGE news but I'm still keeping that buried for a little bit longer).

I was lucky enough to start photographing at the end of the film era. It was 2000. And digital photography was in it's infancy. Heck, digital just sucked back then. In 2005 I got my first DSLR. And since then I've never felt a real connection with photography anymore. Everything was dictated by the limitations of the digital gear.
That was until I got the RB67 about 8 months ago. Together with the smell of the chemicals it got me excited again. It transported me back to my personal happy place. Now the work I produced so far with the camera sucks but that is just the point. It proves that digital has made me a lazy photographer.

Yesterday I made a big decision though. And it felt liberating. Instantly I had a new spring in my step. Instantly I was motivated and excited about making art again. I decided to go full time back to film (except for some commercial work and my aurorae photography of course). A huge leap. I feel like I crawled out of a hole.

The reason WHY, is not easily explained in 2 words.

A lot of people will call me a 'purist' or 'different' and people have even gone so far as calling me an 'elitist' by going back to film. But the thing is. It's NOT about being special or me being the odd one in the group. That has nothing to do with it. The main reason I can give you about the why is because of something called 'inner satisfaction'.

It took me a long time to figure out that making art is not about making money (it's a plus), it's not about the hundreds of like's on sites like Facebook or Flickr, it's not about the +1's or how many people have you in their circles on Google+. It is certainly NOT about being better than anybody else, or to be able to use 'better' or more expensive gear than anybody else. No It's about satisfying your own soul. Something my work only gave me a few times in the past.

Another big thing is this. I don't want to let this darkroom film era die. I believe there will ALWAYS be a place for it. Doing the stuff I do, I feel like I HAVE to do it on film. Photographing the beauty of nature has to be done on something organic. It needs to be an organic process. Something that only YOU can do.
Making a perfect print is technically challenging. And a lot of people have no clue what they are missing and how much FUN that can be. The satisfaction I got in the past from producing a beautiful fiber based silver print is beyond anything I've experienced in the past few years I tell you that.

Even if nobody sees the stuff I will make in the future, I know it will make ME perfectly happy. And that is what making art is about, soul searching. It's complicated sometimes and sometimes it's easy.

When I told a photo-friend about my craziness, she immediately invited me to go out and shoot with the 4x5. We are doing that next weekend and I can not tell you how EXCITED I am about that!

I'll let you know how that outing went. ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some random thoughts

"Comfort kills creativity. Comfort isn’t very motivating. You’ve got to be smart enough to realize once you’re in the comfort zone and make a fucking change" – Chad Gray, Hell Yeah.

If you don't know who Hell Yeah is, don't worry about it.
BUT I couldn't agree more with the quote and that's the important part.

Lately I haven't touched my camera all that much. I took it out for some commercial work over the weekend and I've been doing some aurorae photography. Other than that, nothing. I feel like I was doing work that was looking all the same. Now that's not too bad when it comes to a portfolio or if you are working on a series. But photographing in 'loose images' like I mostly do. It's easy to go back to the solutions you've applied over and over again and implement them again and again. Like a machine.

That's what the quote is about. If you feel like a machine and your doing the same stuff over and over again. STOP. And make a change.

I don't feel like photographing right now. I don't see photographs anymore. It's weird. I'm just not inspired. Not motivated to create pictures. Even post processing them takes a long time now. Creative juices are not flowing anymore...

But that's ok though. As an artist you should know that that stuff happens or will happen overtime and that you should not worry too much about it when it does. Creativity can be sparked ANYWHERE and ANYTIME. And you should be ready to follow up when it does.

Now that doesn't mean that I have been sitting around doing nothing. I've been thinking a lot on where I want my career to go as a photographer. Or what I want to do next as a project. Trying to redefine myself so to speak.

Hopefully I have some exciting news to tell you in the next week or so.... But I don't want to jinx it so you'll have to wait.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Claresholm, one year later

I found my personal photographic voice in a place called Claresholm, Alberta, last year.
If you want to read up on that check this link.

Claresholm is a place about 2 hours driving south of Calgary. It  is a rural town with not a lot of 'stuff' to photograph. At least that is what photographers think.

Personally, I think it is a gorgeous place. And the area shows rural Alberta at it's best. Combining gorgeous foothills to the West with wide open plains to the East. In my opinion there is a TON to photograph! Plus the place has a somewhat special place in my heart. ;)

Over the course of the weekend I ended up exploring mostly the range roads to the East of Claresholm. Man that place has a lot of gravel roads to explore! I found a ton of stuff that I loved photographing. Obviously a whole range of grain bins/silos, abandoned farms and homesteads, etc. Plus I had gorgeous light to play with during both days. On Saturday I had skies ranging from perfectly clear in the morning, to puffy white clouds in the afternoon to storm clouds in the evening. On Sunday, I had a rainy day to play with. The whole weekend I had just fantastic conditions for long exposure and of course my beloved minimal photography.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oli’s 20 step program on how NOT TO SUCK at what you do!

When I did my last talk on photography a few weeks ago I added a section that I thought was funny BUT very informative. I'm now sharing it with you on the blog. Here you go. My 20 step program on how NOT TO SUCK at what you do!

Jump in that car. Explore your neck of the woods. Don’t go to the mountains but maybe take that range road that always triggered your curiosity. Try and go the opposite way of where common sense would take you. In this time and age of GPS systems, it is hard to get lost. Just go for it.

Be passionate about something. If you don’t know what you like to photograph try to photograph a lot of different subjects. Eventually, you will find your niche. Maybe you like to photograph horses? Maybe you like to photograph nudes. Maybe you like to photograph nudes on horses in majestic landscapes with the most epic light. Try it!

Open any photo magazine. Everything is about gear, gear and more gear. Use this filter for this result etc. Now I do use filters. Don't get me wrong. But vision is more important than gear. A photographic voice is more important than gear. Even learning solid composition is more important than gear and megapixels. Try to do – what you like to do – with the gear you have now first before you acquire more gear. The moment you start to specialize you are choosing a route for your photography. It is difficult to return back to that fork in your 'road' and start all over. It is doable but requires a lot of work.

If you can dream it, you can photograph it! Plus it is YOUR imagination. Nobody knows what you think. What you can create in your mind. Use that to your advantage.

Be proud of the stuff you did where you miserably failed! Just remember the lessons you have learned!

Yeah! Enjoying everything you do to the fullest. Try to avoid too much drama.

Always be thankful for what you can do. This is the best job in the world! And always say 'thank you' when somebody shows interest in your work. They offered up time out of their day to email you. You should be thankful, people care about what YOU do. Don't be a douche.

This is a biggie. What other photographers do is none of your business. How they promote their work might not be the perfect way for you to promote your work. Don't look at their portfolios and mimic their style or even better replicate their compositions. Create your own view on things!

Stop babying your gear. Seriously. My gear gets tossed around a lot. I've used it in 'extremes'. Shooting when it was 35C hot or -40C in winter time. Without ANY problems. I even photographed for 3 solid hours in a torrential downpour last year. The 5DmkII was literally soaked. I did NOT use the 'plastic' bag trick when I returned home (I personally think it's a waste of time). Anyway. I came home and opened up the camera bag. Grabbed the camera and every screen, the whole lens, everything went 'poof'. It was completely fogged up. So without turning it on, it laid it down on one of my heating vents on the floor. Put the heating on. After 5 minutes I was ready to download my card.

Not only in your work, but also when you meet with people. Show them how eager you are to take on the job. Give your clients the idea you work for them and ONLY for them. Be proud if something ticks you off. Care about things.

Share your knowledge and if somebody asks for your help, give it to them. HONESTLY! It's karma baby. It will come back to you in the end.

12. BE SAFE 
Always think two steps ahead. Do yo really need to jump on that slippery rock in the middle of that fast running stream to get the shot or is there another option? Think twice if you go out in winter for instance on where you put your feet. Something might look solid but you might stand on a piece of ice underneath this snow that is ready to crack. Also be bear aware for instance if you head out to the mountains. And obey the speed limits in the national parks. They are there to protect the wildlife not to protect you.

Always look for photographic opportunities. Use your minds eye to create photo’s in your head. Think in squares and rectangles. Look for light. Study light. Always, Anytime of the day. Analyse. When you see an interesting scene, imagine it in winter time. Maybe it can look even better then.

Simple shots are the best shots. Avoid clutter. Check your edges and backgrounds! Nothings worse than come home from the most epic shoot when you notice there is a branch sticking into the frame from the side. Come on. Admit it. It happened to you before. I know I made those mistakes. Now they are pretty easy to clone out but I do shoot film as well. Nothing you can do there...

I know this is kind of a very classic thing to say but there is so much truth in there. Be aware of what you are doing when you are out in nature. Don’t trample plants if you have another option. Keep on pathways is a good start!

Seriously. You can photograph throughout the day in any light or condition. People that say otherwise have not truly opened their eyes yet. Yes there are blogs out there that claim the opposite. Laugh at those guys. And feel sorry for them.

If you love what you do, you will do it better. Not only in photography but in life. Work hard! Set out realistic goals and meet them! The way I do it I set out 3 small goals each year. My goals aren't big giant leaps. Just small little steps. In the end they all add up...

Ask yourself why? Why is this happening? Try to understand something completely. Even if it takes years. Your appreciation for it will only go up. For me personally I'm trying to learn to predict the weather for where I live. It's very hard. And I haven't even scratched the surface yet. But on the other hand 3 years ago I did not understand spaceweather all to well either. Now I can predict if we are going to be able to see auroras pretty well and reliable.

If something feels right, it is! Never second guess yourself. Use your gut feeling in composition for example. Ditch the rule of thirds. Also be intuitive in your processing. Don't go by numbers but rely on your eyes and your feelings. Good photography comes from the heart.

But mostly, be yourself. Nobody sees the world around you like you do. Nobody understands it bette than you. Nobody dreams like you do. And nobody likes stuff better than you. Keep photographing for YOURSELF not to please others. Don't use a certain style of photography because it is popular. Your photography needs to say YOU even if YOU are not there.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Calgary Photo Walk

I am proud to announce that I will co-lead the Google+ one year anniversary world wide photo walk in Calgary on June 30th.

One of the things I will be doing on the walk is photography like this. Minimal architectural photography (maybe even some Long Exposure photography). 

So if you've always wanted to give this a try but were afraid to ask for advice on how to do it, here's your chance! Come join us on this walk. I will be on hand to answer all of your questions.

This is the West tower of the Suncor Energy Center that is on the photo walk route. At 215 m (measured to top of the structure), the west tower is the eighth tallest building in Canada and the second tallest skyscraper outside of Toronto. Pretty impressive...

And this is the TransCanada Tower. It is an office tower located at 450 1st Street SW, it stands at 177 meters (581 ft) or 38 storeys tall and was completed in 2001. It was designed by the architectural firm, Cohos Evamy. The tower overlooks a circular park.

Hey, maybe, if you ask real friendly, I will lend you my Big Stopper so you can play for yourself. Just one thing. DO NOT DROP IT! Those things are hard to find lately. There is a huge waiting list if you want to purchase one.

So if you want to find out more about this event, make sure to check out our Google+ page here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Solar Eclipse How To

This was my view on the partial solar eclipse that happened on Sunday. It was a beauty that I almost missed photographing.
My parents are in town and they wanted me to take them out to Drumheller. I clearly said in advance that I did not wanted to miss the solar eclipse and so I told them we were going to be on a tight schedule once on the road.
Drumheller was great by the way. For the first time in a long time I came back with quite a few photographs I liked. And of course I will be sharing these in the next few weeks.

Anyway. Lets go back to Saturday first. On Saturday I did a photography talk for The Camera Store. I did a presentation on why I like photographing in bad weather. About 25 people came out and in between  the break I started chatting with two people. We chatted about weather forecasts and the coming solar eclipse. They both wanted to know what I was going to do... How I was going to photograph it. I said 'you'll see on Monday what I did with it'. But truth was, I had no idea yet. I just knew I wanted mountains on the bottom and that I was going to do a composite.

Back to Sunday. Coming back from Drumheller, the closer we got to Calgary, the more clouds we were seeing. And in Cochrane I made the call NOT to go out. Seconds later the sun popped into a clear section and it was a mad dash to get to the spot I planned for this opportunity in time.
My dad went with me and we had a great time photographing this event together.

This was how I created the photograph.

  • First I visualised the track of the sun by using an app called GoSkyWatch. When I figured out where the sun would set, I set up my camera with the 24-105 set to 50mm
  • I made a few test exposures and then slapped on the Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND). 
  • I started photographing and making photos every minute. They were dark. The only thing that was visible was the sun. But that was my intention. Exposure times ranged from 1/800 at ƒ22 (50 ISO) to 1/80 at ƒ22 (50 ISO). There was some cloud cover so I had to adjust times a bit.
  • When the sun set, I took another exposure. This time without the 10 stop. This was to record the scenery.
  • Once home, I downloaded all the shots and simply merged them in Photoshop. I placed the scenery shot on the bottom and layered all of the other ones on top. Instead of taking all of the photographs I made the choice of taking shots 5 minutes apart. Once that was done I changed the blending modes of all those layers with the exclusion of the scenery shot of course to screen. Then I converted to black and white and sprinkled some magic overtop.
That is how a photograph like this is done. Pretty simple idea. Semi-complex Photoshop file. All in all I called it a succes.
O and the same technique can be applied for a lunar eclipse for instance (just be sure to leave out the ND filter).

Monday, May 7, 2012

'Super' moon, not so super?

This weekend, there was – what news websites called – a 'SUPER' Moon. The Moon was going to be huge according to main stream media. 

Where you out, hoping to see an 'end of the world and we are all going to die' sized Moon and where you disappointed when you saw that the Moon was actually not all that big?

As an astro-geek, I've seen my fair share of 'Perigee' and 'Apogee' full Moons and realistically (unless you have a telescope) the human eye does NOT see a lot of difference between the two. Sure if you do a side by side analyses of the two you would see a difference. But noticing it with the naked eye is something impossible to do (since there are no tape measures flying around in the sky).

It just shows you how much hype, the media can stir up. I for a fact, wasn't too excited about it. Cause 2 seconds worth of thinking and calculating meant this. The Moon's general apparent size in the sky is 0.5°. They were saying this 'Super' moon was going to be 14% larger than normal. Which meant, 0.5° + 14% = 0.57°. You see where I mean?

What I am excited about (and what the media hasn't picked up on yet) is the partial solar eclipse, North America will witness on May 20 at sunset. Here are 2 screen caps on what the sky should look like around Cochrane, Alberta (or any part of North America) around 7pm MST. About 60% of the sun is going to be eclipsed. So start making plans on how you can photograph this.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Photo Talk, May 19

Thanks to the Camera Store here in Calgary, I'm able to do another talk about photography.
This time around, I'm going to nerd out about the weather patterns here in southern Alberta and how you can use that bad weather to your advantage.

You know, photographing in bad weather is so awesome. Nobody else is out there in the rain next to you. But there is some stuff you need to know how you can succeed in your quests.
I will share a bunch of tips on what I do to, not only track the weather I like to see in my photography but also what you for instance can do to keep your front element dry.
Or how you can safely track spring or summer storms (without getting yourself in a hail storm).

It's gonna be a jam packed session with a ton of examples of my work.

Also I am going to touch on another subject I love to photograph. The aurora. I will explain how you can predict this phenomenon yourself without relying on the – often too general – other prediction websites.
This phenomenon is usually very local. So what we see here in Albera is often not seen by people on the East coast for instance. I will explain everything in very simple terms.

AND as a little extra, I will walk you briefly through my B&W workflow and I will show you the tools I use to get to the results I like.

So there is a couple of weeks left to register if you are in the neighbourhood and you'd like to check it out. One place to go to, to get your tickets for this event is here.

See you all there!

Aurora Borealis 24 April 2012 - Images by Olivier Du Tre

Friday, April 20, 2012

How important is "Style"

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my lack of updates here on my blog. It's been a few hectic weeks to say the least. I'm currently switching jobs. I am starting a new challenge on Monday the 30th of April. Really looking forward to joining a big worldwide graphic design agency.

So let's talk 'style' for a minute here. Or as others call it 'finding your own photographic voice'. How important is it to have your own style? I think it is the most important thing an artist needs to strive for in his whole career. But why, you say? Let me explain.

If you look at landscape photography these days, everybody is after the same thing, the elusive colour of a sunrise or sunset. People make you believe that, if you want to be a landscape photographer, you need to get up early to catch spectacular shots. Well in essence, there is some truth in that but it is by no means a rule we need to obey all the time.

You see, I feel landscape photography these days is a cookie cutter business. Everybody is doing the same thing, taking shots from the same viewpoints, processing them in the same way, ... What is the reason why everybody wants to do the same thing than other photographers I asked myself a few days ago? I mean you can take 100 photographs by 100 different photographers and lay them all side by side. They will all look very similar. The only thing that will be different is location.

Their is a very simple answer to that actually. So here is what I think is going on. There are very few magazines out there that talk about style and technique. Everything is basically gear related. Buy this, use that to get such and so results. As a beginning photographer you will get blinded by adds that make you believe you can't do the job properly without buying expensive gear. Of course that is not true. In addition there are very few photographers that share their 'secrets'. As a graphic designer I laugh about that, because seriously there are no secrets. I can honestly say I can recreate whatever look in Photoshop. But just because of the very few people that are sharing, beginning photographers all fish in the same pool of tips and tricks. And in the end you will all have the same results.

But why does not everyone pursue their own interests I asked myself? As an artist you try to be original right? And I'm not only talking about photography. Take guitar players for a second. Everybody knows how beautiful Eric Clapton can play the guitar, or how BB King can make his guitar sing. Everybody recognizes the pinch harmonics and shredding by Zakk Wylde. Or the sound of a Pantera or a Metallica song (if you are metal head of course).

SO what makes THEM so unique? What makes them so 'special'. One simple answer. They found their musical voice. Once they've found that voice, they perfected it. Sounds simple. Right?

Not really....

It takes dedication and a lot of time to search for that voice. It's an uphill battle really of failures and trying out new things, new techniques that make you grow as an artist. But you need to be aware of that fact that you are playing around to find that voice. And nothing what you do is serious, really. Of the 10 years I was playing around to find that voice, I kept about 5 shots. Five! Everything else is trashed or locked away on the bottom of some closet in a big portfolio folder.

But once you've found that unique voice, something special happens. Chances are that after some time doing what you are doing, other people will start to recognize your work. And even will try to emulate you! At least that is what is happening to me and all I can say it is very flattering. But never forget, emulating is one thing, that is how you learn, creating your own techniques and vision is your own journey and should reflect your personality or your own interests.

I live by the rule of 'Doing one thing, and one thing only, but do it really really well!