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Dec 24, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Brown Christmas

 I like the beauty of snow when I am able to hunker down and watch it. What I enjoy more is the freedom of independent movement at the end of December! From the ease of getting to doctor appointments to shopping to checking out the sunrise on the shortest day of the year, this dry start to winter has made my life so much easier.

I used to be so excited about a cold, dry start to winter which brought the possibility of ice fishing on Boxing Day. Due to too much snow on the ice for a lowered floor minivan in the past few years, ice fishing was not going to happen. Now with a shiny new van I do not care to risk damage to it. You may not believe my concern about it as dirty as it is, but with the melt and road spray it seems pointless to wash it. We will see what January brings and how the snow accumulation is on the ice at that time and maybe there will be a few fish caught by us this year.

I was pleased to have the freedom to venture out in a comfortable -12, with camera and tripod on my lap, and get to where I wanted in relative ease. It surprised me how cold it felt for the first few minutes until my brain and autonomic responses managed to signal my body to send forth some blood to my extremities. Once I passed that point and began shooting I was fine, much like when the fish are biting the cold is irrelevant. However, due to limited lower extremity coverings I was cautious to be aware of the temperature of my legs.

I was surprised how slow the sunrise was compared to the opposite time of year. I feared I may miss the optimum light as I travelled to the university but once set up I realized the slower changing of light. Unfortunately, some signals from my body indicating pain made me shut down sooner than I wanted. Turns out I didn't need to warm up, but find a washroom. Much better than frostbite, but I did miss the best light. I went out on Wednesday without expectation aside from the appreciation of the beauty of God's creation and thankfulness of the conditions that I could enjoy it outside of a warm building or vehicle.

A hot coffee with a close friend, right after shooting, warmed up more than my body.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Be safe and enjoy the holidays.


Dec 18, 2011

Christmas Favourite

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a bad sweet tooth. A few days without something like a cookie, granola bar or similar treat and I notice myself getting a bit cranky. An addiction to be sure. Certainly I do enjoy good fruit, and like to start my day with a banana, but except for the absolute best it is not a replacement for a sweet treat. The exception to this is the one thing at Christmas I like better than any other. Nuts and bolts.

I've had many recipes with many different ingredients and variety of seasonings, most made by family or friends of family which serves to make me even fonder of the snack. This year I think we got it just right except for the lack of Chex cereal in Canada. That was easily forgotten as Bugles were back in Canadian stores for this season, hopefully for good.

We used pretzels, Bugles, mixed nuts, Cheerios, and Shreddies. The seasoning included margarine, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire and chipotle powder. There may be more that I'm missing. The main objective was to reduce sodium where we could. The flavour is there, but your tongue doesn't burn from sodium for two hours after eating them. Have any recipe suggestions? Leave a comment.

This week will be full for us as it likely will be for you so let me take this opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas. I hope it is safe, filled with excitement, love, peace and time to reflect, appreciate the birth of Jesus and the hope it brings for mankind. I'm looking forward to giving gifts to those I love, but feel a few steps further away from the commercialization of Christmas than usual. It is a nice weight to not have on my shoulders.

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate!


Dec 14, 2011

Joel, Lindsay and Corban, Christmas 2011

Last autumn we had the pleasure of going for a photo stroll with Joel, Lindsay and Corban at the university. It was an very nice day and made for some solid photos. It is times like this that I miss the old website and its content which I could refer you to for a look at those past photos. I have yet to add them to 500px as what has been uploaded there is either saleable or very current work. I will try to remember to update this post once my favourites from that autumn session are uploaded.

For now, my favourites from Monday evening of last week.

Corban was so cooperative, even with it getting close to his bed time. When he did have a brief moment his parents would talk so calmly to him and really listen to what he had to say to help him feel better. I truly respect and admire their parenting.

The flashes were a bit intimidating to him at first and when he had had enough we agreed to two more. When those were finished he insisted on a few more, yet. What a great little guy.

Their family will be growing in a few months and this was also an opportunity to make a few photos of the little one growing inside mommy. I hope we have the opportunity to make photos of their family again.

Dec 12, 2011

CSC Concluded

Sorry for the delay in this post. We were without our left leg for a few days when our Internet went down Thursday morning. Somewhat scary how dependent we become on this thing. But it is my preferred method of communication, entertainment and business. Processing family photos for clients, preparing 1,000 number cards for Help-Portrait on Saturday and other daily chores certainly consumed my time. And those weren't even busyness related to Christmas. But enough of that. On to fencing.

It didn't take me long to appreciate the sport and start to want to be a part of it. Then I had a brief conversation with some parents about the cost of membership fees, tournament entry costs, travel and accommodations. For me, it might be an interesting hobby, but quick math had me thinking of the photography gear that could be in lieu of fencing costs.

I understand that a person doesn't need to get that involved but it might be one of those things that you enjoy so much that you commit fully. What cinched not trying fencing for me was watching a wheelchair fencing video. It just didn't have the excitement I had hoped. Add to that that I am not even sure if there are a pair of fencers in chairs in the city to practice with and it would seem limited, with a low ceiling, for what one could do on a hobbist level.

That doesn't mean that it lessened my enjoyment of the tournament and how much I appreciated being given the opportunity to photograph this event. The competitors were fine people, as passionate about their sport as any athlete I've met. Many of their shouts, yells and even screams of frustration and victory were startling at first but certainly a testament to the passion.

Of course, photos like the one below just make the event. Both of this little guy's parents are skilled fencers and the comment was made that he and Sharianne Schlam's daughter, of a similar age, might produce a world champion fencer with a legacy like theirs... twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe this photo will really matter at someone's wedding decades from now.

I will end this series letting the final photo, and the impressive maneuvers of the competitors, speak for themselves.

Dec 5, 2011

The Action Continues

There were undoubtedly some seriously skilled competitors but it was this match between to world class competitors that wowed me.

Sharianne Schlam. It must have seemed like her body was unreachable, or if they did manage a touch, they were always a slow second (longer than 40 milliseconds after the first touch), which, in epee, means no point for you. Every photo I captured had her legs and hips so far back from her torso that you cannot help but wonder how she did not fall over forward after her attack.

It was a great match to watch.

The sabre matches may not have had as many fancy moves, but the energy with which competitors charged at each other was almost frightening.

One of the men responsible for keeping the competitors going.

Finally, perhaps my favourite action photo of tournament. Thank Heaven this is a sport. Imagining if that were a real blade actually makes me shutter.

The last post to come in a few days.

Dec 1, 2011

En garde. PrĂȘt. Allez!

November has come and gone faster than I thought possible. A significant portion of it was due to my preoccupation of our work at the Canadian Fencing Federation Canadian Selection Circuit here in Saskatoon on November 18-20. The preparation, scouting and planning had us busy, the shoot filled a good portion of the weekend and preparing the photos for delivery was a lengthier task than usual.

I won't get into too much detail, but enough that a few of the photographers who visit here will hopefully learn something, if they don't already know how to best these barriers. The challenges were threefold. First, overall lighting. Dark for action to say the least. 1/500", f/2.8 at ISO 3200. I could've gone for a higher ISO and had noise under control but I wanted to maintain detail as best I could.

Parried the attack with a spin, got his blade down and scored with his back turned.

The second obstacle was the quality of the lighting. Awful orange cast of steady sodium/mercury vapour lights mixed with the unreliable green flicker of florescent tubes, depending where in the Fieldhouse I was shooting from. Florescent lights flicker 60 times per second, the same speed as alternating current, which means they are off 60 times per second. Shooting at a shutter speed faster than 1/60" (I was at 1/500" most of the time) means I am not getting the full on & off cycle that happens once every second. Think of video of old CRT TVs and monitors with the flickering, rolling screens of black horizontal bands.So, half of the photos near florescent lighting were affected by the florescent and half were not. The half that were had the green cast caused by florescent, mixed with the orange of sodium/mercury vapour. The, other half were darker with only the orange cast. Add to that the position of each strip used by the fencers, in relation to the proportion of florescent light as well as my shooting position, and maintaining colour consistency was difficult. The final colour slap in the face was the reflection off the ground. Either green from the court sections of the area or a deep red-maroon from the trackj lanes. Very unforgiving.

My method was to keep the torso of the uniforms as white as possible, even though one side of one fold could be two completely different colours.

A longer exposure (1/3") to capture a bit of motion.

The third challenge was my positioning. Simply put, the officials were mostly excellent. It was immediately obvious to me which of them understood that without coverage there would be little growing interest in their sport. Reduced interest means reduced funding which coincides with a greater challenge to Canadian competitors on the world stage which includes the Olympics. If they need to spend time away from training to fund raise it affects us all in some way as Canadians.

I worked hard to get the shot without interfering or getting run down. Had one close call, but there was no way I could move in time so I trusted the athlete's reflexes. Still have two eyes and and intact camera so we're good.

Quite a few more to come...

Nov 12, 2011

Olive Sourdough

Tonight our just-because-we-want-turkey dinner will be accompanied by an organic field greens, broccoli, red pepper and carrot salad as well as a fresh loaf of olive sourdough bread from Hot Racks Bakery.

Turkey is starting to smell lovely. That's good because I'm getting hungry!

Nov 8, 2011

46 Days Left

Christmas is a little way off, yet. But the snow on the ground brings it so much closer in my mind. Aside from a few small things bought on summer holidays, I haven't begun shopping. However, I have solid ideas for most of the people on my list.

Google+ has just released their Pages. This means that like Facebook we will have a presence on Google+. As always, this site receives priority, but it may be easier for you to follow us on G+ and updates here will make it to G+ shortly after they are posted here, once our G+ Pages is completed.

Finally, I just realized that the link to "All Photos on 500px" was malfunctioning. It has been fixed, but if you find anything not working or looking right, please don't be shy, leave a comment or drop me a line.

I hope the snow and slippery roads aren't too difficult for you to adapt to.

Oct 27, 2011

Saskatchewan Swashbucklers

I could barely wait to post this. Saturday I was given the opportunity once again to make photos for the Saskatchewan Fencing Association. This time not for a calendar, but portraits for the provincial team.

The shoot went off without a hitch largely in part to the superb attitudes and dispositions of those being photographed. It occurred to me just now how having your friends and colleagues there could both help you smile but also add a degree of stress as a person wants to look good around your peers. They did an excellent job.

Rehearsal, our solid communication and Angela knowing what was needed before anything was said made certain the equipment and setup was as it should be so that the focus could be on the athletes and working their expressions and poses.

Once again it was a pleasure to work with such great athletes with such great attitudes. I'm far from the sports fan I used to be, but even greater is the sophistication of fencing than golf or tennis.

I really hope that all comes together for a special event planned shortly (that we're not at liberty to divulge) and for the upcoming national tournaments. I have been more than a little surprised at how much sports have been my subject in the last year. Certainly not my strong point, but practice makes perfect.

I provided a sports drink commercial look version of the team members' more serious poses as well as natural tones. Some may love it, others may not. At least the option is theirs.

This was not all of the team members and it was not my desire to exclude anyone. I simply chose to include a selection of my favourite photos from our session on Saturday.

Working with people like this, helping them to intimidate their opponents, making Saskatchewan look good and building ongoing relationships with great organizations really makes our work rewarding and fulfilling.

Oct 21, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough

The smart person buys a Chevrolet.  That is what we used to say about the old Ford commercial.  I suppose since Chev has let me down I'm down to only caring for Chrysler vehicles as far as domestics go.  So far the Toyota has been great.

But, that is not the reason for the title of this post.  In the last week and a half or so I have experienced some extremely tight muscles in the left side of my neck which had been accompanied by sporadic numbness and periodic weakness in my left arm and shoulder.  Some spasms, some tingling as though waking up from being asleep in places where I do not have any sensation and other symptoms that seem a little bit like a downed power line sparking and jumping around the ground from place to place.  It is my hope that it is nothing serious or if it is something that requires attention that it can be diagnosed easily and treated promptly.  Thankfully, after being told that my family doctor's first appointment was not until December 7, I was able to explain the situation and getting in just over a week.  Though, because of the numbness and weakness it was recommended that I go to emergency or the walk-in clinic.  I'm pretty sure the message that was left for him did not include the duration of the symptoms and that his concern over me having a stroke or heart attack were very likely unfounded.

I'm pretty certain that had I gone to one of those locations I would have been told that I would need a referral to a specialist from my GP anyway.  Why spend eight hours in an ER waiting room just to be told to go home, have a nap and talk to my GP.  I don't mean to be cynical but I have had some less than encouraging experiences in those places and cannot give them my full trust.

As with the first big opportunity I ever had to make some photos for a young hockey team, I got sick, really sick, just before it was about to take place.  There I was a week before one of biggest shoots we've ever done and I'm not feeling 100%.  Thankfully Angela's capable massage therapist hands have kept me functioning and I'm sure that we will make photos that will please our client tomorrow but I certainly am praying for enough function to do a top-notch job.  Then, comes the game of patience waiting for appointments and hopefully solutions.

I'm hoping that the timing of these very likely appointments coincide nicely with a number of other events that I really hoping to be able to participate in.  Congregation photos, additional work for the client we will be working with tomorrow, another round of congregation photos, website work for our church, and largest of all, Help-Portrait on December 10.  That was by far the most fulfilling thing I've ever done with my camera and I really hope to feel confident enough to commit to a full day of making portraits for those less fortunate or who would otherwise never be able to afford a professionally made photograph of themselves.

This year the plan is to provide food, educational booths, possibly a health practitioner on site, financial advice to keep people busy after they have had their portrait made while we process and print for them before they leave on the very same day.  This should be an excellent way to make sure everybody gets their photo quickly and not have to come back the following week as they did last year.

You can see why I want to be a part of this.  

More experienced photographers will be pairing up with less experienced photographers so everybody is learning together.  Rotating between shooting, processing and any other duties will make sure everybody gets a nice proportion of opportunity to help in all areas.  All I can say is that this year is not going to be a mild improvement from last year, it is going to be a substantial leap forward in what it is going to do for people, and not just those receiving a portrait.

I will try to keep this space bit more active in the next little while.  It's good to be busy but I also want to make sure to keep those interested informed on things that are going on.

I leave you with a photo that seemed to be pretty popular on Facebook and may just give you a feeling of warmth in these increasingly chilly days.

Oct 9, 2011

Autumn Updates

It has been awhile since I wrote anything so I figured an update was due. The winds here have been cold the last week and a nasty and chilling day of heavy rain on Friday brought to mind a favourite Guns 'N Roses song and reminded me of the coming cold.

I'm not bothered by it this year as I have been in most years past. We have had a very good summer and an above average autumn. More than that, with respect to my disposition, are the blessings of a reliable new van, new wheelchair, places to go with them and a solid photography kit to shoot with at those locations. Regular exercise outings with a good friend of identical physical ability has taken it's toll on me with a bit of mild tendinitis and general achiness but it has replaced the worse achiness of inactivity and been a solid boost in my mental state. Exercise in proper amounts cannot be a bad thing.

Among the places of interest for me to travel to with the new van and wheelchair is the previously mentioned Hot Racks Bakery, focus and direction working with the Fine Arts Team at Ebenezer Baptist, and an unexpected email from the Saskatchewan Fencing Association. Seems the estimate I submitted three months ago to make provincial team photos was indeed accepted, I just never received the confirmation email. In addition to the they want me to shoot a special event for them and two national tournaments. Yeah, I was a little shocked, briefly overwhelmed and just a little scared. These "first times" seem to be coming in waves. I guess I can take a hint and just make photos.

I know it won't guarantee success, but I feel like I've been devouring educational material like a wildfire the last while. Practice makes perfect, but I'm glad that every time I've applied untested theory it has worked well for me. A little bit of gear has been ordered that will enable better, quicker results. I have nothing against second hand items or makeshift solutions if they provide the same results, but when they take twice as long to implement that simply translates into time lost, greater cost to the client and greater stress for us. Cheaper solutions are often not cheaper for very long.

That has been the news from here. Again I will mention that the newest photos are being uploaded regularly and can be see under Latest 500px Uploads on the right side of the page. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Have a filling and safe weekend.

Oct 3, 2011

Autumn Walk at the Forestry Farm

Two weeks ago Jason and I made an early autumn trip to the Forestry Farm. The day was fresh and the colours were mostly just beginning to turn.

What we did discover were these unknown nuts falling from a nearby tree. The foliage was turning a deep orange, even red. The tree's bark is somewhere between a poplar and an Elm. If anyone knows what type of tree this is, please share it with us in the comments.

Sep 28, 2011

Vic St Bridge

If it wasn't photographed in excess before the news of its unsound superstructure, it certainly is being shot now with its days numbered.

I plan to grab more from other angles, but the barriers set up to prevent traffic and pedestrians from going near it may be beyond my Photoshop skills to remove.

Those barriers didn't stop one fence-hopping pedestrian I saw using the boardwalk. Wrong lens on or that might've made a more interesting subject than the above photo.

Sep 23, 2011

14 Years Ago

Wow! That was a long time ago with weather just like today.

However, I'm expecting this evening to be much less eventful.

Sep 22, 2011

Erpill the Caterpillar

Last fall I made some portraits for a friend, Nicole, and her mother, Lynne.  Years ago Lynne had written a children's book called "Erpill the Catteripllar" and Nicole illustrated it. The time had come to seek publishing and they made it!

The process isn't complete, yet. But the advertisement has been posted to YouTube and soon it will be available on, Barnes and Noble and other locations. I will update this post once that information is available.

Well done, you two!

Sep 8, 2011

What's Happening

Why the summer was slow for shooting, I do not know. Now that people have returned from holidays and the normal routine has returned I am finding opportunities.

Much photography is needed for our church, Ebenezer Baptist. Congregation photos, event coverage, website photos. The list is actually quite long so I have no excuse to not be shooting. I suppose post processing and office work are reasons. As well, I'm embarking on a fourteen week exercise, nutrition and wellness program aimed at those with mobility impairment. It looks extensive and well put together. I'm happy to have Paul as an accountability partner in this effort.

Labour Day found us at the John Arvat Pond enjoying the weather and watching Paul and his family kayaking with regular taunts asking me if I am going to try it.

Next year, I think.

Hot Racks Bakery has approved of my work so tomorrow I will drop off the gift I have for them and see about a few Hot Knots to photograph and enjoy next. Top notch quality from that business. They will do well and we are behind them!

As well, I've become aware of a small number of people interested in learning how to use their DSLRs. Their initiative and enthusiasm has me excitedly preparing to teach again. The classes will be during the weekdays which is ideal for me and though it is a splendid coincidence that days work so well for the first three students, there is room for more if any readers are interested in the details.

So, please keep your eyes on the 500px page as I'm trying to add at least on new photo each day. There may not be time or content to write a deep blog post, but new photos can be found there regularly.

Sep 1, 2011

A Person Can Dream

I've often thought that having a well heated studio would be great on cold winter days when getting out and working outside is difficult or even unsafe for me.

After shooting that veggie bread the other day I gleaned a vision of a studio, with a barrier free kitchen and dining room including remote controlled ceiling tracks with multiple winches and riggings to secure lights, reflectors, silks or scrims to.

Cooking and shooting that food. And, of course, eating said food. That's my idea of the good life.

And the food in my photos would be entirely edible. No white glue being poured on my cereal or shoe polish painted on a raw turkey. People aren't stupid. A loaded burger is not 5 inches tall. If it were there would be few mouths large enough to eat it. The only trick I would continue to use is a simple steam producing technique, using clean water, that does not affect the food.

Or, perhaps I would miss the walks and shooting what I come upon. Still, at those less convenient or picturesque times of year. But, then I'd miss opportunities like the simple beauty of morning dew after a rain.

Aug 27, 2011

Hot Racks Bakery Premiere

At long last the new neighbourhood bakery is open.

Friday I stopped in to see their products and buy something for supper. It was fine veggie bread and I look forward to trying a cinnamon bun or other sweet tooth satisfying pastry.