Power of 10

I don’t shoot as much as I used to when I was teaching photography and shooting special events for commercial clients but ever since I picked up a camera I’ve always shot as much as I could for non-profits and charitable groups.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I’ve done everything from the mayor’s all-day baseball marathon to the Toronto Zombie Walk to years and years of shooting Toastmaster events for my local club.

If you’re a commercial photographer or an amateur photographer who wants to improve their images then I recommend volunteering as a way of helping out while helping yourself.

(In photo: That’s Rachel Williams one of the organizers for Power of 10 and a very good road cyclist encouraging the crowd at a fund-raiser at Lighthouse to get involved.)

The secret ABCs to special event photography are (a) shoot lots. Don’t get caught up in the event and end up talking with the participants but keep shooting all the time. Edit your images in your digital darkroom and not in your camera.Lighthouse Picture.png.opt338x246o0,0s338x246

Next (b) don’t hesitate to step in when you see something you want to shoot and when you do don’t hesitate to organize the shot the way you want it. Be quick, be friendly and be gone is my motto. If there are a bunch of participants shooting with their cellphone cameras help them get their shots first then organize the shot the way you want it.

If it’s a group shot I will yell “eyes to me” so as to avoid those group shots where everyone is looking in a different direction and nobody is looking into your camera.

Finally, (c) edit the heck out of your images once you get back home. While it’s not uncommon for me to shoot 1500 plus separate images at a day-long event I pick the best 250 or so for my client to use to promote future events. Even then, I usually provide the organizers with an executive portfolio of just 15 to 20 of the very best for them to show around immediately. Too many photos can be confusing for some clients.

BTW I never watermark my images that I give away as I do give away all rights to the client as my personal gift to them. If they don’t have their own online gallery, with their permission, I’ll post the images (full resolution and downloadable) on my SmugMug gallery and send them the link.

So again I’m grateful to have been asked to help an organization of fellow cyclists who have created this fund-raising event called the Power of 10.

Take a moment to read the story of this wonderful group of athletes and then go over to the page for LightHouse and see what these great folks do for grieving children, youth and their families.

This year the event will be held at Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton on Saturday, October 13. Why not get a team together and join in the fun?

This is why I donate my time and service. it might not be much but it’s something I can do to help out.




Not All Who Wander Are Lost

So what does $75 a tire buy you? It buys you comfort and speed!

My friends a Racer Sportif in Oakville replaced my hard to re-tube but essentially bulletproof Gator hard shells (I’ll use them this winter) with Specialized S-Works turbo in 700 X 26 (I was using 23 before) and the difference is amazing.

Super smooth riding the Specialized tires really tame the skiddish nature of the super light carbon-fibre Scott CR1 Pro. Now it feels more like a high-speed train on perfect tracks. 

And they’re fast. I caught up to a young guy on Lakeshore. My bike computer shows I hit 40 km on the flats. I never hit 40 excepted when pointed down a hill. 

Wonderful to go out and chase the fast crowd just for sport. 

Junkyard HDR Outing

_DSC9984_HDRThe Oakville Camera Club is heading to Maclean’s Auto Wreaking Yard on Saturday, May 28. The yard is in Rockwood, Ont. a short drive from Oakville. Don’t forget to wear good footwear (hiking boots if you have them or bring a change of running shoes for driving home in dry shoes) and bring water and maybe a sandwich. Bug spray is a good idea but watch where you’re spraying it around your cameras and lenses. Also bring sun screen.

Auto wreaking yards are great places to try out HDR photography. I took international photographer Rick Sammon’s HDR course at the wreaking yard a few years ago and we came back with some great images._DSC0967

Thanks to HDR software post processing is almost as simple as pushing a button.

You can shoot cars and wreckage but you can also shoot HDR portraits as well.

For the best results bring a tripod as you’re going to be shooting a series of time exposures ranging from as long as a couple of seconds (especially if it’s a cloudy day or your shooting under the cover of trees) to 1/50. You can use your camera’s self-timer or a remote cable.

With your camera on a tripod and set to manual, use your light meter to dlm3_thumb.jpgetermine what shutter speeds you want to adjust. I’ll often start with my first exposure at as long as 30 seconds with my aperture fixed at f/11 or f/16 and my ISO at 50 or 100. Then I’ll shoot a series of exposures of shorter and shorter times again not changing the aperture setting.

You can also use your camera’s auto-bracketing mode but I find shooting in manual mode and manual focus is just as easy.

Your standard kit lens or a wide angle lens will work best. If you’ve got a macro lens bring it for shooting smaller items.

You can get away with as few as three shots but five or six different exposures should give you a wide enough series of exposures to create really amazing HDR images.  You can shoo_DSC9612_HDRt more shots extending the exposure range but too many images will result in longer and longer processing times.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet we change the shutter speed since changing the aperture on each exposure will affect the focus point.

It’s best to take your camera off auto focus and switch to manual to ensure the focus doesn’t change during your sequence of shots as well.

As for software I use NIK’s HDR EFEX (which is now free) but Photomatrix ($99) is also very popular.

I have posted quite a bit about HDR in previous posts so please use the search feature on this blog for more information on shooting HDR.

BTW I am planning on attending this event in Milton so if you need some help don’t hesitate to ask any questions.

HDR Video

How To Shoot HDR


The Wonders of The Heavens

The Oakville Camera Club hosted a talk by Wesley Liikane (Cowboy With A Camera) whose night skies and wildlife shots from Algonquin Park and parts north wowed the audience.Milky Way Marsh

This young man has figured out how to shoot esoteric shots like the Northern Lights and the Milky Way using single shot, multiple shot, HDR and star shots like nothing you’ve ever seen. (Photo by Wesley Liikane – Cowboy with a Camera)

Wesley lives up in the Severn Bridge area of Northern Ontario and all the wonders of the firmament rotate above his head on a nightly basis.

Wesley does workshops up north and frankly I can’t think of a more personable and professional teacher. This young man is the real thing.

Go visit his site and be prepared to be amazed.

Smart Phone Workshop

As promised here’s a link to a PDF of the Smart Phone workshop that I am giving to a private client group in Toronto this afternoon._DSC7943

Smart Phone photography has some severe limits when it comes to flexibility and image quality but it has several overriding advantages. The big one is, of course, everybody these days are carrying a smart phone and every smart phone has a pretty decent camera built-in.

So what am I going to tell the group of smart phone photographers this afternoon?

First: Shoot more often. We get better by making mistakes and learning how to get better with the equipment we’re using. Whenever I bought a new camera I looked for opportunities to use it right away so I could figure out how it worked. It’s the same for smart phone photography. There’s more to it than just snapping selfies.

Second: Shoot closer by moving forward and don’t use the camera’s zoom control. Watch for messy backgrounds. Don’t be shy. Get so close you fill the frame._DSC0730

Third: Pay attention to the light that’s available. Whether natural or artificial there’s a lot a smart phone photographer can do with the light that lights the scene. Don’t use the built-in light in the cell phone. It’s too harsh a light.

Four: Consider adding external lenses if you’re getting serious and learn how to use simple photo editing software. They run from $75 for a set of three to $100 each for some really good ones that can provide super-wide, wide, telephone and macro effects.

Fifth: You don’t need to PhotoShop (at $800 or so) to edit your images (which are in standard JPG format) but you do need something (SnapSeed is pretty good and free) to crop, brighten, reduce noise and print your images.

Sixth, and most importantly, I am telling these folks that they absolutely must save their images somewhere else than just on their phones. External hard drive storage is relatively cheap ($75) as is online storage (ICloud, DropBox and bunch of others) which will keep your images safe. I have five levels of backup (computer hard drive, two mirrored external hard drives, two separate online gallery sites plus I’ll burn a DVD if the images are family treasures or commercial shots I want to protect.marion-3-thumb.jpg

Here’s more good news:

Everybody is developing new apps for smart phone photography. Every smart phone manufacturer is dedicated to improving their built-in cameras.

The future of smart phone photography is very bright indeed and I can see the day coming soon when for most photographers a smart phone will be all they need.

(BTW my images used here weren’t shot with a smart phone but they could have been and online you’d never know the difference. Print the images past 11″X17″ and the difference would be obvious.)


Smart Phone Photography

I’ve been working this week on a workshop I’m giving next week on Smart Phone Photography.

All of us have shot with our cell phones and sometimes the results are pretty good and every once in awhile they’re spectacular.FullSizeRender

With cell phones becoming better and better cameras as well, there’s a shrinking distance between them and most pocket digital cameras.

But there are some differences. Most cell phones don’t have manual controls (although there are some software programs that can go manual) and that means photographers need to focus on other aspects of photography.

For example, there’s no better camera than a smart phone camera for learning things like composition and how to shoot for maximum impact.

The good news is there are lots of photo editing software packages that really work well on cell phone images. Along with that there are a bunch of different lens kits you can add.

I’ll be posting a PDF of the workshop and I’m available to give it at your photo club or business group in the Greater Toronto Area.