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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...