Monday, December 22, 2008

River Valley Middle School Photography Enrichment Photos!

I finished a photography enrichment program with students at River Valley Middle School, and wanted to share some of the photos and talk about the experience. This is the third year I have done this, and each year the photos keep getting better and better!

First off, you can view a selection of some of the best shots here:

For this year, we were able to get a grant from the Artists in Schools program. This meant we could teach 35 students, plus 7 helpers from previous years!

The first two days were spent going over the basics. The various genres of photography, the different styles of portraits, and some technical basics of photography. The students took portraits of each other using different lenses and shutter speeds to see how they affect the photograph.
We also had fun playing around with perspective!

The second week was spent using studio lights and doing portraits.
The students learned all the various types of equipment and styles, then photographed each other. We used a variety of backgrounds(black, white, patterned) and lighting set-ups(two light, single light, monster light, crystal ball) I was really impressed with the students as they began moving the light around, trying different angles and posing, and changing the look and feel of the portraits.

Again, to see some more of their great work, head here:

If you'd like to see work from previous years, check them out here:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to take this time to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holidays!

I hope Santa brings you lots of photographic goodies!


Ps-in case you were wondering, the photo attached was done by creating a duplicate layer of the original photo, then applying a GRAPHIC PEN filter(FILTER->SKETCH-GRAPHIC PEN)
This made the image black and white, but then I lowered the opacity of the top layer to 25% which brought the color back.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have You Been Good This Year? Santa should bring you....

Thought I'd put together a photography equipment Christmas wish list for you all.

You've spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on camera equipment, so it's not a good idea to go cheap with what you're going to use to support it.
So you want a MANFROTTO. They are well built, sturdy, and easy to use. They are not the cheapest, but are worth the extra money. These are the models I recommend:


The 055 is sturdier, heavy, and taller than the 190PRO. Both models allow you to remove the middle pole and mount it upside down or horizontally.

You will also need to buy a tripod head.

Manfrotto 484RC2 Quick Release Ball Head
Manfrotto 222 Joystick(with quick release)
Manfrotto 322 Grip Action head

For the extra $15, buy the 484RC2, which has a plate that stays on your
camera and allows you to quickly attach and detach it from the tripod.
The joystick is the coolest head available. To move it, you grip the
joystick and let it go when it's positioned where you want. The 322 is similar but is a bit more compact.

If you've been a really good photographer, you get the Manfrotto CARBON(055CX or
the 190CX).
They are twice as expensive but since they are made from carbon they are lighter weight and just as sturdy. Manfrotto 222 Joystick(with quick release)
or the Manfrotto 322 Grip Action head.

If you've been keep the same plastic tripod.

You want to have a 70-300 lens for portraits, candids, action, and landscape and nature shots. You could buy the canon or nikon models, but they don't have a macro(close focus)

Here are the lenses that have the 1:2 macro. Comes in canon/nikon mounts,
links are for the canon mount. Applebys in Saint John usually has them in stock, if they don't Henrys in Toronto is a good option.

Tamron 70-300 $229
Sigma 70-300 $199.99
Sigma 70-300 APO glass(better quality) $319.99

If you've been really get the Nikon 80-200mm 2.8 or Canon 70-300mm 2.8.

If you've been get a Vivitar 70-300 4.5-5.6 manual focus lens from 1970.


If you like doing close ups of bugs, flowers, etc, you want a macro lens!
Nikon and Canon both make macro lenses. These lenses have quieter autofocus than the sigma or tamron, but they do cost a bit more. Personally, I use manual focus most of the time with macro, so I don't care about the sound.

Recommended models:
Sigma 105mm 2.8 macro
Ramron 90mm 2.8 macro

If you've been really good....a Nikon 105mm 2.8 or the Canon 100mm 2.8
If you've been get a set of close up filters secondhand from 1970.


For those who do serious nature or sports photography, you will want to buy a bigger lens.

Canon 100-400mm 4.5/5.6 IS $2000
Nikon VR 80-400 F4.5-5.6

Other brands:
Sigma 170-500mm F5.6-6.3
Sigma 135-400mm F4.5-5.6
Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3
Tamron 200-500mm F5-6.3

If you've been really good...
A 300 or 400mm 2.8 lens.

If you've been bad....a Vivitar 2x Tele-Converter from 1970.

When the pop-up flash won't do (and it won't) you may want to put a flash on your Christmas list!

Nikon SB-600 or Canon 430EX does the job.

If you've been really good,
Nikon SB-900 /B-800, or Canon 580EX, with a set of Pocketwzards!

If you've been bad...a Vivitar 283 from 1970
Happy holidays, hope Santa brings you what you deserve!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tis the Season for Christmas Concerts!

With Christmas concert season upon us, I thought I'd give some tips on getting the best shots!

1. GET CLOSE!!!!
If you stand and take pictures from the back of the crowd, your image will look like the one above. Dark and underexposed, because the light from the flash can't reach that distance.
If you are lucky enough to arrive early to get a front row seat or in the first few rows, you are fine. If you didn't, you still want to get a close as you can. Most places have a center aisle, just make your way down to the front, staying as low as possible so you don't block anyone's view. Pop up to take a shot, then pop back down. Once you've got a few good shots, feel free to go back to your seat.

2. Light and Exposure

Unless the concert is at a real theatre with proper stage lighting, there most likely there will not be enough light to get a handholdable shutter speed. One option is to turn the ISO up to 1600, but that is going to make the images very noisy and soft. You could try putting the camera on a tripod, but if the subject moves at all, they will be blurred.
So most likely to get any sharp pictures, you will have to use flash.

Again, you want to GET CLOSE. Standing from the back and using the flash will not get you good shots. The problem with flash of course is that it is very harsh. If you have a ceiling that is low enough, try to bounce the flash. This is what I did in the picture below, and you can see how nice a soft the light is!


1. Use MANUAL(M) mode. Chances are the automatic modes like shutter/aperture priority are not going to give you proper exposure or they will use too slow shutter speeds giving lots of blur. That's not what you want!
2. Choose ISO 400
3. Set the shutter speed to 1/60th of a second or 1/125th of a second.
4. Set the aperture to F8. Yes, by doing this your camera meter isn't zeroed, it's in the minus. That's fine.
5. Pop up or turn on your flash and set it to TTL mode.
6. Take a test shot.

If the image is too bright, use your FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION( LIGHTNING BOLT SYMBOL+/- , found on the camera or under the functions menu) to turn the flash power down. Take another shot, and if the image is still too bright, turn it down more. If you are already at the lowest setting, turn your aperture to a higher number(ex-F8 to F11)

If the image is too dark, use the FEC to turn the flash power up. Take another shot, and if the image is still too dark, turn it up more. If you are already at the highest power setting, turn your aperture to a smaller number(ex-F8 to F5.6) to let in more light. If it's still too dark, turn up the ISO...or GET CLOSER!

By using these settings, you should get sharp images of your loved ones as they bring on the holiday cheer!

Any questions, send me an email!

Happy shooting!


Photographing a Luthier....What's A Luthier? Click to find out!

What's A Luthier? Click to find out!

So a Luthier is a maker of stringed instruments. I had the pleasure of photographing local Luthier Gwyneth Wilbur at her home just outside St. Andrews for Salon. The neat thing about her is that she has started to use local wood to build her violins instead of using imported wood from Italy. So my idea was to get shots of her alongside some of the local trees that she uses for materials.
The photo above was my absolute favourite shot and it was the one they ran huge on the salon front. Lighting wise, I used a flash fired into an umbrella on a stand at a 45 degree angle on the left of her. This provided a really nice soft light that spread out to cover her and some of the background. I also slightly underexposed the ambient light exposure to make it go a bit darker and make her stand out.

I also had to take shots in her workshop. Again, I used a flash shot into an umbrella to create the look of soft window light coming into the workshop(which there was, but it just wasn't bright enough)

I then wanted to get some shots of the violin itself. I had to do some detail shots, and we pinned up a red cloth to use as a background. A more contrasting background might have been better, but I didn't mind the color.

She had this really nice window, and I thought the woods behind would supply a nice background. So I put a snoot on my flash and put it on a stand to shine down from above to create a spot light effect.

Then I wanted to accentuate the warm colors of the violin. So I changed the white balance to TUNGSTEN, which then made the outdoor light very blue. Then I placed a CTO gel on my flash, which changes the light from the flash to tungsten, resulting in proper color on the violin.

After doing the shots of Gwyneth outside, I decided to try some shots of just the violin in the natural setting.

For this shot, I used a snoot on the flash to create a spotlight effect, and then had Gwyneth hold the flash directly above the violin. This was one of my favourites, but unfortunately didn't run in the Telegraph. :(

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Awesome Video Made From 5000 Still Photos!

Sorry that it's been a while since my last update. I've got some good stuff coming up, just give me some time! I do however want to feature a great video created by a colleague of mine, Dan Culberson. It's a really cool vid made from over 5000 still images! It also has an important and timely message with the holidays coming up.

While You May Be Busy from Dan Culberson on Vimeo.

If you can't see the movie, click here.

Was that awesome or what!!!

Here is how Dan Culberson made the video:

I photographed everything on Small Fine JPEG, high burst drive. That way I could fire off well over 100 continuous shots before it buffered. Also, it made editing later easier.

I basically just kept the camera close by during my shopping trip and fired off bursts of frames much like you would with a video camera.

Some people have asked--no one hassled me at all about shooting inside Superstore, but I sure got a lot of weird looks.

All totaled I took over 5000 individual frames and edited them down using Pinnacle's home video software. The actual frames render about 250% the speed they were shot at.

The soundtrack was purchased from

For you Mac users, you could probably do this in iMovie. Just a suggestion on my part, if you wanted to try this, I'd pull out that original Canon Rebel or Nikon digital that is sitting in the closet. 5000 shutter clicks is a lot of wear on the shutter!

You can view more of Dan's great work at