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Nov 30, 2013

Exhausted But Worth It

After months of planning and a few nights of scarce sleep, we had our first Help-Portrait event in Saskatoon today. I'm exhausted, and it was a very full day but the results below speak for themselves.

We set the bar pretty darn high today and I have more to share in the future that are right up to the standard, as well.

  Lawrence - Help-Portrait 2013 by Jay Scott on

The thing is, it's amazing what you can accomplish as a disabled photographer when you've got an army of assistants to hold lights, adjust this, tweak that or make what would take me two hours take five minutes. Without them this photo would not have happened.

Thank you, Lawrence, for being such an amazing piece of talent for me to photograph today!

He knows how to play and if you're interested in hearing his work you can find him on YouTube here.

Nov 29, 2013

Time Lapse Crazy

I'm not saying that these time lapses are amazing, unique or terribly interesting, but they have been good practice in fully understanding the functioning of the camera they were created with so that we are not wasting time trying to figure it out on the day of Help-Portrait. Time lapse is hardly our first priority but it is something that would be nice to be able to include in our coverage of the day's events.

This time lapses just simply of me making Monday's photo for Challenging Reality regarding the pros and cons of sparkles as a disabled man. The post will be live at the usual time, 7 AM on Monday morning but, until then, here is your sneak peek of the photo being made along with the always amusing change in expression and behaviors of a person sitting at a computer, in this case Angie.

Nov 26, 2013


This is hardly an award winning video. But, I am glad to have had enough time to learn how to use this GoPro, borrowed from one of the volunteers for Help-Portrait Saskatoon for our events. We wanted to have a time lapse of the days but also make certain that I knew what I was doing if I was responsible for setting up.

The rumors I heard about the GoPro 3 freezing up were true! I thought it was only when the highest resolution at high strain rate were used but even on a simple time lapse it would freeze up and not respond. Since it's not my camera I don't feel it is my place to upgrade the firmware to stop this behavior but I will let the owner know about it when it is returned.

We don't have the desired mounting hardware that I would like for this so at the end you will see where the gaffers tape I used slowly let's go until the camera points towards the ground over a bout a two-minute period. Must have been the steam from the simmering jambalaya that made the adhesive weaken. I have a bracket that will suffice for our events.

In addition to the drooping camera, I forgot that the Epicure chicken broth powder jar with the "Angela" sticker on it is, in fact, turmeric. As such we received our monthly dose of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in the 3 teaspoons of spice instead of 3 teaspoons of chicken broth powder. The jambalaya still tasted good but it was definitely very yellow and not quite the flavor we were expecting.

Anyway, I had been waiting to make that for a long time and it was really good. Probably won't be much activity here for the next few weeks as Help-Portrait goes on and wraps up so, until then, here's to warm temperatures and little snow.

Nov 20, 2013

From the Lowliest to the Highest

The Lowliest

It's been a little bit quiet around here the last few weeks but let me assure you that behind the scenes big things are cooking. Steady work organizing this year's Help-Portrait events in Saskatoon has been a daily thing. Prompt responses to e-mails and phone calls can mean the difference between supplies being ordered on time or donations being deposited in time. There were a few things that we had to set a deadline for and, unfortunately, there were a few requests beyond the deadline that we could not meet. The last of which is hoping the T-shirts we ordered today will be ready in time for the event. That's still 2 1/2 weeks away, and if we are lucky they will be ready in time for our first event which is one and a half weeks away.

I'm glad to do what I can to help organize the events in the city but it definitely is not where my passion lays. It reminds me of the often tedious-feeling work of processing photos as opposed to shooting them. But, a shot photo seldom looks as good as it should without some appropriate processing and an event as huge as Help-Portrait does not occur without oodles of planning. Honestly, when you get your lists made and find the people you can reliably delegate work to it's not that bad. I've always been told that I make a good leader, but I still never enjoyed it.

Perhaps in a role of a manager or someone with authority I would not mind it, though I'm sure I still would not like the job of delivering consequences for failures or inadequate work when they came. In the past when I have been the leader of a group it has always been in label only. In school, if a group member did not complete their work, it fell to the other group members. If we did not get the one member's work completed we all suffered. It might as well be individual projects. The one time that it was a group assignment where we distributed marks based on each individual's performance it was miserable because it was while in a group with my best friend. He was unable to complete his portion of the work on time because of some unfortunate circumstances out of his control (there may have been a little bit of procrastination in there but it was not the primary reason) and we could not complete our portion of the assignment without his preliminary work. It was for a final grade in marketing. I guess that was a better taste of the real world than anything I had had to that point.

That said, I am looking forward to the events this year, the enjoyment that will come out of all of this planning and all of these meetings to make something awesome happen. What at one point had the phrase "pull the plug" being tossed around turned into something excellent as volunteers began coming out in droves. Our co-organizer was correct, people don't come out until much closer to the event. Stresses a guy like me right out. :-) But it will be a pair of good days providing portraits for those who receive few luxuries in life and I will be absolutely ready to scale back after that. Oh, wait. Christmas will be in a few weeks and I have shopping to do that won't get done until then. Once January hits I can hibernate and catch up on much that needs doing. Hopefully our furnace will continue to decide to function properly during those coldest months and our water heater, installed in January, won't need any more warranty work. I dislike those inconveniences at the best of times but especially when my attention could be focused somewhere so much more positive.

The Highest

You may remember this photo from a few years ago when I made the author portraits for Nicole and Lynne for their book, "Erpill the Caterpillar". It can be found in major retailers such as McNally Robinson and online at Amazon.

  Nicole by Jay Scott on

I know that I'm always my own worst critic but I am aware of some of the things I would've done differently for their portraits. I won't go into that detail, I can only look back and say that I am aware that I have become a much better photographer since then and I hope I continue to grow in my ability. I know they are happy with the portraits and if they ever need new ones I will be ready to make them.

  Lynne by Jay Scott on

It's cliché but the Internet has opened up publishing to anyone. You don't have to go through major magazine, newspaper or other publication in order to be seen. Of course, getting publications with them meant a much larger audience but, if you can find the right mix between quality content and community building, you can become a voice in your area of expertise or passion.

Erpill is a self published book. In their available time, Lynne and Nicole have steadily gained ground with their children's story written many years ago. Just today Nicole can be seen below giving a copy of the book to Prince William and Kate. How cool is that!? One of my photos is sitting in Kensington Palace!

As neat is that is I feel more connection with the hard work we have put into Help-Portrait this year. An opportunity to connect with people, give them something special, maybe even make a new friend or two. Spreading the word of Challenging Reality at the first event at the Canadian Paraplegic Association to possibly help others with disabilities is more valuable, in my opinion.

If you should feel inclined to donate to Help-Portrait Saskatoon we would welcome the money. We are looking better now, but there are a few things we would like to be able to provide in the areas of food and small gifts as well as having a bit more left over at the end to donate to other worthy causes. If you feel this is something you'd like to give a little bit to we would appreciate it and I invite you to contact me.

Thanks for reading and I will have more here once life slows down a little bit. Until then, there will still be new material at least once per week on Challenging Reality.

Nov 4, 2013

New Hallway Photos

  Cool Hotdog - 2 by Jay Scott on

I'm ashamed to say that the frame in our hallway with the five spaces for portrait oriented photos had become quite outdated. The photos of Kiwi contained within were still cute but they all included the use of selective colour, which is the reason I was ashamed they were still there. The days of using Photoshop to remove all colours except for one is long gone and when I see that thankfully short-lived cliché being used today I cringe just a little and immediately, on a subconscious level, assume an amateur status of the photographer who made the photo.

Kiwi enjoying a run with Uncle Riley at Riverside Park in Swift Current.

That's one of the problems of the fast pace of the digital age. Everything moves so fast that what was once cool and neat becomes outdated faster than fashion and clothing. Instagram filters, making clean, crisp, vibrant digital photos look like they were made 30 years ago, adding film grain or any of the other currently trendy post processing techniques will likely run their course in short order. This is not to say that they aren't worth using and a lot of people really like those looks, but I do not. I like my images to be as timeless as possible. The value in creating images that have those techniques applied to them is just as high as creating the images I am trying to create. I just know that my personality will not allow me to blur something sharp, wash something out, or desaturate something below what is seen by our eyes. It's no secret that I often increase the saturation in an attempt to brighten the world around us through my photos.

I realize that the following photo does have an imitation of selective colour but it is not a cheap Photoshop trick. The nuances of the red light warming up the white backdrop along with the cool light hitting Kiwi's back and playing into the folds of the blanket make for the natural look that you subconsciously see when you look at a real photo as opposed to a Photoshop mimicking. However, one technique that I use often that I am fully aware is cliché and will be outdated before too long, is the use of extreme cool and extreme warm light as in the very first and very last photo of this post. Video games, movie posters, music album covers, all currently use these colour extremes and get away with it, as I get away with ridiculous bright neon colours when I'm photographing Kiwi. But I do realize how quickly they will become old. One of my favorite photos I made of food used very subtle differences in the colour of the light and I should try to remember that as I work to develop my style.

  Kiwi - Canada Day by Jay Scott on

Often the look of the photos I make is a bit dramatic, and that is mostly in my choice of lighting, but trust me when I say that our dog is seldom as intense as she appears in a lot of the photos I make of her. I have one more in mind that might be tricky to execute but I'm going to make it happen one of these days. It will be a slightly long exposure of her laying with her head between her front paws, like a Pound Puppy, with her little tail wiggling. The long exposure will allow her little stub to be a cute little blur as she lays there watching while I talk to her trying to get her just interested enough to wag her tail but not so interested that her head pops up from between her paws. Ironically, I often find it easier to direct a dog, who only understands a tiny fraction of the words I say to her, than a person. I guess it's all about relationship and knowing your subject.

  Kiwi - One Light by Jay Scott on

The frame in our hallway now has five fresh new photos that will likely keep us smiling as we walk by for at least a few years. In the meantime I will be constantly making new shots of our little Poochy who will be turning six in one short month. By the time we are ready to replace the photos I'm sure I will have five new satisfactory shots to fill the frame with.

  Kiwi - July 2013 by Jay Scott on

This final photo did not make the cut. We decided to opt for the close-up portrait you see at the very top of the post but, despite every recommendation to show only your best work, I wanted to share this final and sixth photo with you.

  Cool Hotdog by Jay Scott on