Feeling lucky today?

Does luck play a role in capturing that “perfect” moment in a photograph? You know the kind of moment I mean… when the shadow of a cloud is just right… or perhaps when a ray of sunshine breaks through the overcast and hits the subject of your photo? For me, the answer is yes – sometimes.
Generally, I feel that I make my own luck by continually practicing my craft. This improves my ability to anticipate those “perfect” moments and if I take enough pictures, I improve the odds of having camera in-hand when one of those moments comes along.
A couple of years ago I had one of those moments that led to one of my favourite photos. I was traveling a rural road through Eastern Ontario and had stopped to take some shots of an abandoned farmhouse.

Farmhouse, from the gate.

I changed to a long telephoto lens to pick out some of the interesting details of the building. It had a sheet-metal roof that had rusted into most interesting patterns of colour.

Red roof

Moving in closer, I started to take a look at the doors and windows. (Looking at my portfolio, you can see I have a thing about windows and doors.)

Front door
Side windows

Taking one more shot of the side windows was when good luck struck in the form of a startled bird. Look in the upper left of the photo below to see it.

Good luck shows up.

In a perfect world, I would have caught the bird in the centre of my frame with my telephoto at max zoom. But the world I live in isn’t like that, so I had to work with what I had. With a heavy crop I was able to simulate the zoom in post-processing. This left me with the essence I wanted: a splash of bright colour and a powerful diagonal line with the diagonal reinforced by the gesture of the bird and the shadow on the side of the house.

Black Bird

The art of seeing creatively.

A friend quoted some Thoreau to me the other day that seems particularly applicable to photographers: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Seeing things differently, or seeing things that others overlook – then capturing it in a way that allows others to experience it is kind of what we do as photographers, isn’t it? But how do you go about seeing things differently? For me, it is often a matter of changing my viewpoint… looking up… looking down… trying a close-up.

I was out in an old Art Deco building on Toronto’s waterfront one evening last summer and used this approach to find a new way to “see” the stacked columns that grace one end of the building. I started with a wide shot looking down from the second floor:

Wide view from 2nd floor

I liked the look of the columns against the cool blue of the evening showing through the windows, but the composition didn’t have enough energy. So I tried a tighter view looking up at an angle from the ground floor:

From the ground floor

I was pretty happy with the composition of this photo. But while looking up, I noticed some interesting shadows on the ceiling caused by the lights on the columns. Seeing something new! Going back up to the second floor got me a better view of these shadows:

Getting closer...

Maybe if I got closer to the column?

Closer yet...

I was really liking the interplay of shadow and light here, but I wasn’t happy with the composition… so I sat on the floor beside the column and shot nearly straight up. That was the one!

Art Deco After Dark (Found in my Colour Portfolio)

Found at an abandoned farm.

I am attracted to places and things long ago abandoned. The more weathered the wood, more rusted the iron and more peeled the paint – the more attractive I find it. Earlier this fall I visited an abandoned farm that met all these requirements.
In a woodshed outside, I found what looks to be an old icebox. I liked the ornate scroll work and the way the blue hues in the weathered wood worked with the brighter greens of the encroaching moss. I did some dodging and burning to enhance the scroll work, blurred the background a bit more and increased the saturation slightly.

Blue Cool

On the other side of the house was a rather unique peaked-roof outhouse. It had a wonderful array of it’s past colours on display.

Lavender 'Loo

Behind the house was a collection of debris… poking through it turned up a few treasures like this jar…

Fused jar.

The barn on this property is mostly collapsed. A window in the barn basement framed a photogenic (but unappetizing) jug of brown goo. I combined two exposures of the same raw file to balance the outside light with the available light inside the barn basement.

Little brown jug.

Also in the basement was an old harrow leaning against the stone wall. Taken out of the context of the barn, it could look like some ancient device of torture. I use a cool blue tint to add to the ominous feel of this shot.

Chained.

Welcome!

Welcome to my re-designed web site! One of the key reasons for the change was to add a blog page so I can discuss my recent photos and show my experiments with photo-taking and post-processing techniques.

My work-flow is totally digital. I use raw files from a Canon 20D, using Adobe Lightroom 2.0 for raw file conversion, photo file management and printing. I use Adobe Photoshop CS3  for any post-processing work done on a photo beyond the raw conversion. (Edit: As of 2010, I now shoot with a Canon 5DMII and use LR 2.7 & CS4)I do my own printing for shows and clients using mainly a Canon Pixma Pro 9500 with a variety of Fine Art Papers.