A mid-week event shoot

July 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This week I was invited by the Country Hills Running Room to shoot their 20 Minute challenge. Getting to shoot the event was fun as the 20 Minute Challenge bring out a lot of people and is very motivating for some who just need a little encouragement to get out and get active.  


Event shoots can be chaotic at times and often run without a script. As a former new photographer covering developing events is somewhat second nature. Trying to be in the right location at the right time and to have the right gear at the ready can make the difference for a successful shoot. 


The 20 Minute Challenge consisted of a gathering inside of the Running Room store, a group shot (of the massive group) and run or walk around the lake. Everybody who came out for the event was given a bright blue hat, which is a good deal as the hat is worth a few bucks. 


Everybody had a great time and it was a lot of fun to photograph.



Congratulations to everybody for getting out and getting active. 

Backing up as you go forward

July 09, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Recently when I upgraded my version of Adobe software and the thoughts of back-ups came to mind. We have all heard many people tell stories about loosing all the photos because their storage drive crashed. Eventually everything will end up failing, for some that occurs more often than for others. As a photographer, backing up ones photos should be as natural as brushing your teeth - it's just something that you do without question.

Not that long ago photographers' only choice of media was film.  With film you only had a single copy of your image so photographers went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety of their film. Foreign correspondents would use safety deposit boxes at hotels to store their unprocessed exposed film while out on assignment, photographers in hot climates would pack their film in picnic coolers to prevent damage. When I traveled by air it was the norm to have your film hand searched to prevent it being damaged by the carry-on baggage x-ray machines. Studios would have special cabinets to store their negatives in case of fire. Negatives were considered very fragile but in reality as compared to today's digital image world the negative is actually pretty tough. Digital image files are very fragile, even though most of us don't think that they are, the apparent reliability of digital images gives us a false sense of security. So with that in mind here are a few suggestions on how to protect your digital image files.

When importing files from the CF or XQD card into my editing software I always make a second copy. Thanks to one of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom features making a second copy while importing the images files is super simple. About the only drawback is that making a second copy does slow the import process a bit but its time is well spent. The principal applies whether at home or on the road, make a second copy...always. Using external drives while on the road will allow you to have plenty of storage, a master and a back up plus you can take one of them drives with you which might prevent all of your hard work disappearing should you find your hotel room cleaned of its valuables 

Dual drive i,port setupAdobe Lightroom after importing some images from a shoot. Showing the two external drives, one the master, the other the backup and the compact flash card reader.

A few years ago a personal experience proved the worth of backups. After returning from a trip to Paris there was a few images that were taken on the way home and I wanted to add them to the library. So I set up the laptop and proceeded to import them to rest of the images. I'm going to blame the next part on being really tired and jet-lagged but for some reason I decided to format the CF card while it was still in the computer (no,no! don't do that!). Instead of selecting the CF card I choose the external drive and formatted it. Yes, the external drive with all the photos from the shoot. I tried a file recovery program was unable recover all the images, thankfully my backup drive was just fine and saved the day. Phew!! That was close.

It is important not to forget backing up you catalog file.  The easiest way to accomplish this is by setting Lightroom up to ask about making a backup copy upon exit and then get into the habit of quitting Lightroom when you are finished for the day.

Some people might think this to be a bit over the top making multiple copies of the images and the catalogs, but just think for a moment of how many hours you have invested in taking the photos and how much you have put into editing your work. A backup takes only a minute to setup and can save you many hours and loads of embarrassment and lost revenue.

A better way to safeguard your images. It is not enough to simply to just have a second copy. Photographers today are using redundant drive array storage devices and the newest thing on the block is online companies that offer protected storage for photographers images. While some of this is out of the average consumers reach it is an option for the professional.

Remember, backing up is time well spent and if you want to keep it, back it up.


These wheels mean business

April 23, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Last weekend I had the pleasure of shooting some wheelchair basketball. It has been a good number of years since my last outing photographing wheelchair b-ball. My original plan for the day was to spend it at the comic expo - just me and ten thousand geeks, nerds, fans and fanatics all jammed into one building. But as things often go my plans changed which left me looking for something to do. After a quick search on the web I found the Wheelchair Basketball Canada was holding a tournament. This sounded like a lot of fun to watch and to shoot.

As always is the way with available light photography you are somewhat at the mercy of the environment. The first thing that you need to do when arriving on the scene is to access the situation. My main concern was of course the lighting. The gym was lite with white sodium vapor lights. These are no where close to daylight for colour temperature and don't really match any of the preset colour temperatures settings available in the camera. So a custom colour balance was required. Nikon has the ability to set a specific colour temperature in degrees kelvin. With a couple of test shots taken I found the temperature to be around 3900K - not perfect but at least the whites were white and the skin tons were somewhat normal. Think the actual white balance turned out to be a touch warmer than 3900K.

The environment often causes you further problems with colour balance. In this case the gym had a large divider that separated the two courts. The already cool coloured light is hitting the blue divider and produces an even cooler colour cast. Fiddling with the colour balance can improve the overall tone of the image, but each image is somewhat different. For preview images a general white balance setting is fine however for deliverable images some individual tweaking is required. 

The image above looks to be a little too cool but the skin tones and the white jersey  appear to be pretty close. With a basic white balance set it was now decision time on what to set for shutter-speed and aperture. This is a fine balancing act as you want your images to be sharp yet still have enough depth of field that your main interest is in focus. My choice of the 70-200 f/2.8 meant that I would need a slightly faster shutter speed when racked out to 200. The good news was that while the players arms were moving and shifting around as they handled the ball their torsos remained fairly stationary.

Light will take on the colour of whatever surface it is reflected from. The image below is a great example of this happening. The overall image has a slightly yellow tint. The wall in the background is not perfectly white but more of a creamy colour. 

So shooting at longer lens lengths I wasable to use 1/250 at f/4. Although this setup did not provide a lot of depth of field it actually worked pretty good because the backgrounds of the photos was somewhat cluttered. The background of an image is just about as important as the foreground. This gym had lots of noisy distractions in the background so using a larger aperture softened the distractions. 

Oh, and when you are shooting an event don't forget to point your camera at something other than just the action. There is often some really good images to be had.  

Poutine the best thing on a grey day.

March 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

So I'm once again on a business trip, it's my second lap around the country in a week. Thank goodness for technology. It was not too many years ago that we did not have any connectivity. You were either sitting in front of your computer doing work or you were not. Today with the ever expanding mobile office be away does not mean leaving everything behind, more on that subject in a later blog post. 

Since my current road trip involves many, many meetings and there may be little time to grab a camera and get out and shoot I decided to travel light. Not having to drag around a ton of equipment is actually pretty nice although it feels somewhat like leaving the house and forgetting to wear pants. So here is where the little magic device called a cellphone camera comes into play. Now a camera phone will never replace a real DLSR as there is just so much you can do with a device that is about the same size as the eraser on a pencil. None the less it still makes some pretty ok images from a purely editorial or image recording nature. I'm not shooting my next commercial job with an iPhone.

With a little time to spare before the on slot I took to the streets of Montreal to wander around some. Mother nature, the wonderful lady she is decided to confirm the decision to leave the big hardware at home by providing absolutely flat light plus a little wind driven wet snow just for fun. 

​As an old news photographer colleague once said 'as long as you have bread you can make a sandwich' referring of course to the meaning that as long as you have a camera and film you can make photos. Some the photos will be good and some times they will be a little hard to swallow. Editors can't publish excuses. 

A few hours wandering the streets of Montreal's downtown and old town areas produced a few ok shots but the light and camera capabilities (sorry Apple) just were not what I need to make something great.

For lunch I stopped in at restaurant that primarily serves poutine. For those that don't know poutine is a Montreal staple and consists of french fried potatoes, cheese and gravy. The restaurant I stopped at has taken this basic recipe to a whole new level. They have some house favorites or you can go your own way and build a custom poutine by picking the type of potato (smashed are the specialty of the house), cheese (cheese curds are traditional), you can add vegetables, meats and pick the type of sauce or gravy for the top. My build your own was smashed potatoes, cheese curds, bacon (mmm bacon) and traditional gravy. Served in a pasta bowl that was the size of a large dinner plate it looked like an impossible task to consume the entire dish. Once I dug into the poutine it went down extremely well. You can check out the photo below. 

Frozen images turned into video

February 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It was a crisp and partly overcast day, despite the forecast for warmer temperatures the cold was not going to give up its grip. After bruising my toe (long story) running in the race was out of the question. So I grabbed my gear and headed down to the start line as the official photographer for my running group. Standing outside for a while my fingers started to get cold, the wind on my face was definitely not pleasant.  The 2015 edition of the Hypothermic Half Marathon was going to be a long haul for the runners and a test of cold endurance for my camera and I. From past experience I know the route heads west along the river pathways and turns around back to the start/finish line. The goal was to watch the start of the race then quickly move down he course and capture the runners as they headed out and back along the pathway before racing back to get the runners finishing. By the end of the shoot I was frozen, being barely able to feel my fingers it felt like I was using a stick to press the shutter release, and yes I was wearing gloves. On the good news side my trusty Nikon worked perfectly. Remember shooting shooting in extreme cold temperatures with film cameras every once in a while you would get a static spark on the film usually right on top of your best image. Today modern DLSR's are not designed to be frozen.

After the race and while I was warming up I was flipping through the photos on the camera, as the images flipped by it started to look like a movie. So that gave me an idea, why not make it into a movie.  A little work and experimenting to get the frame size and timing just right the finished product was ready for the theaters. The final product looks much like the old style 8mm movies your parents had. Although it might not be the next blockbuster short feature in your local theate it sure is something fun to try. 

Check out the video 



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