Sunday, December 29, 2013

A New Year's Resolution I intend to keep

We all make New Year’s Resolutions we can’t keep: stop smoking, lose 50 pounds, but this year I'm making one I'm determined to follow up on. I thought I’d share it with you so I don’t have any excuses, and perhaps to inspire you.

I'm shy. That’s why I shoot rocks and trees, not people. One of the most difficult things for me to do is to walk up to someone and ask, “Can I take your picture?” I've rehearsed it a thousand times: “you have such an interesting face, can I photograph you?”; “I'm with the local press”; “I always wanted a picture of someone eating an extra-large Kawartha Dairy ice cream cone”… and I never do it. And yet every time I screw up my courage to ask, people say yes. On top of that, the shots are fantastic! So why not do it more often?

You can do what I do, hide behind a long telephoto lens and take candid pictures of people who don’t know you’re photographing them, or pretend to be taking a picture of something else (sometimes you get caught: that’s embarrassing!). Or you can walk up to someone and say, “can I take your picture”? What’s the worst thing that can happen? They could say “no”. But if they agree, and you get the chance, why not talk to them a bit and find out their story? People are so interesting and there’s always a story!

Here's a candid I shot in the Byward market in Ottawa a couple of years ago. Long lens, she had no idea I was shooting her. I love how her expression (and even her hairdo) matches her sweatshirt! But wouldn't it have been a better picture without the lady in red? I could have gone up to her and asked. 

Everything I've read says to be successful shooting people, you have to relate to your subject. A couple of years ago, I met a street photographer down at the Toronto Distillery District. He walked right up to me and Linda (the friend I was shooting with), and struck up a conversation. He took dozens of pictures and although I hate having my picture taken, after a while I didn't notice. I want to try that. 

Some time ago, in upstate New York, I met George, the bearded guy in the picture here. Like I said, I screwed up my courage and asked him to pose for me. I took exactly one shot so I wouldn't inconvenience him. This image won portrait of the year in Toronto in 2009. But there’s more to the story: I tried to find him so I could send him a print, only to discover he had died in the meantime. His colleagues asked me for a print for a memorial they were making. Tell me that isn't a great story. 

This is George. It's a digital painting of the original image. 

So that’s my New Year’s Resolution. Now what about you? Are you ready to give it a try? Remember, the worst thing that can happen is someone will say “no”. But more likely, they won’t. If you see me on the street, and I ask you to pose for me, please say “yes”!

Tell me a story!

One thing I have been doing is trying to tell stories with my images. If you've been reading my blog you'd know that. They're more successful images when they communicate something! Here are a couple of my favourite examples:

At the Highland Yard last summer in Minden. Dad raced his son to the finish line. Did he let him win? 

But this is my favourite one at the same event. I think this is mom and son, they were coming in from the 5K run, jogging side by side until the last 100m. Then the boy looked at mom and TOOK OFF, doing everything he could to beat her. You could almost read her mind when she reacted, "oh no you don't!" Did she beat him? Did he win?

Here's another example. This guy got in trouble during the Open Canoe race at the Minden Wildwater Preserve last summer. A second after this shot, he overturned his boat. I actually posted a timelapse video of the incident, but a little creative editing resulted in this shot that tells the story. 

One for the road!

I was driving along Bobcaygeon Road north of Minden when I spotted this scene. Truth be told, the sky was just a dull grey but I saw the fence line and wanted to use it in a composition. I tried it from a few different angles but I actually shot this from the driver's seat of the car without actually getting out!

When I got it up on the computer, I thought there was 'way too much detail in it, but I knew how to reduce that using Topaz Simplify. I cleaned up a couple of things, then thought I would drop in a sunset sky. I used Adobe Paper Texture extension in Photoshop to add it. I liked the grungy textured look and posted the image in the Photoshop and Lightroom group on Facebook for critique. Among others, Gudrun in Calgary thought the contrast between the grungy sky and the smooth foreground was jarring.

So two choices (three: but you ignore Gudrun at your peril! LOL) and I chose to remove the texture but keep the colour in the sky. Suddenly I love this image. I hope you do too!

Contact me for a fine art print of this image.

Quick Link:

I just came across this excellent video by Terry White from Adobe on the ten things a beginner needs to know to use Lightroom. If you are not a Lightroom user (or if you're a new one and want to get started right!), or you haven't decided why people think Lightroom is great (like me for example), watch this video. Here's the link!

By the way, I disagree with a couple of his points, "Convert to DNG" and not making a second copy to another drive on import, but that's what makes the world go 'round!

Best of 2013

On TIF (you guys know that stands for "The Imaging Forum" so it would be repetitiously redundant to say 'The TIF Forum', right? You should join. It's a small and really friendly place), someone started a thread that said, "Post the best image you made in 2013". That started the brain cells churning.

That's really hard! Find the ONE IMAGE you consider your best for the year. What criteria??? The one I worked hardest on? Most technically correct? Most artistic? Best image...

So I cleaned out my Quick Collection in LR, and started selecting images to put in there that I thought might be candidates for this honour. On the first pass, there were about 40 to consider. Then I looked at them together and started eliminating. Two hours later I ended up with 14 images. And today, I added one more. Then I took it down to 4. And finally, I chose one.

Here's the link to the SmugMug gallery I put up with the top 15. And here's my final choice as my best image for 2013.

1965 Shelby Cobra. This car was parked at the Inn across the road for a couple of days last fall. It was actually in the sun so it took a considerable amount of post processing work  to reduce it to what you see here. But this picture speaks to me because it is closest to what I envisioned before I pressed the shutter release. It goes without saying that a fine art print of this image is available.

My current project is a coffee table book featuring these 15 images and some of their siblings. Watch for it...

That's it for 2013. Have a healthy and prosperous 2014, folks! See you next year.


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