Category Archives: photography

First Group Photography Exhibition

Woohoo! I got my first images accepted to a juried group exhibition. In fact, this will be my first exhibition period. I’m pretty excited, as you might guess. The exhibition is at Photo Haus Gallery, 14 W. 7th Ave in Vancouver, if anyone is inclined to attend. The exhibition is entitled The World Around You and opens January 28th. It coincides with talks Jan 29 & 30th from Freeman Patterson, the well known Canadian photographer who is also teaching photography workshops that week.

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Self taught?

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from photography for the last month. I went home for a vacation that turned out rather different and longer than expected. After dealing with a lot of things, I am slowly getting back into planning my business and doing research.

One thing I’ve come across often in my research, and it’s a big peeve of mine, is a number of photographers claiming to be self taught. Self taught? Really…When you read more of their biographies, they mention that they’ve had some workshops, maybe learned from so and so. As far as I’m concerned, the vast majority of these people are full of it. If you’ve taken some night classes, the odd workshop here and there, gotten a little mentoring from other photographers, you can hardly call yourself self taught. Were you asleep when these people were teaching you? Or are they just an inconvenient fact to ignore for your ego?

The only people truly self taught picked up a camera, maybe a few books and never learned anything from a live person. There are a few out there, but not many. I certainly don’t consider not taking a photography program at college to equate to self taught. I, for instance, am working my way through a night program as I can afford it over a significant period of time, take workshops in specific techniques and work with a mentor. I have taught myself some things from books, but that has hardly been the majority of my learning.

Do I have a point to this, besides a little venting? Certainly. I think we need more honesty and self examination in this business and less self aggrandizement and marketing bs. Otherwise you start believing your own hype and end up diminishing yourself overall.

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A walk in the rain

This morning I went for a stroll in the pouring rain. It is Vancouver in the fall after all. Other than wet feet, it was nice. I don’t mind the rain and even though it was dark when I started, it’s much quieter first thing in the morning.

I’m doing this for several reasons. One of them is part of my trying to work on getting a little fitter. Not because I want to do it for my health, but because I know I want to feel better, not tired all the time. I took away several little gems from a short talk by Danielle LaPorte, and one of them was to make your goals based on how achieving them will make you feel, rather than what you can achieve. A novel concept for me, but it makes sense. Rather than making a goal of wanting to lose x pounds, my goal is wanting to feel better, wanting to feel good after a hike rather than like crap because I’m too out of shape. So I’m not going to try and force myself to the gym because it’s good for me. That never works, and I hate being forced to do anything, even by myself. So my solution is just to get moving. I’ll start simple, with a walk in the morning. When that feels good, move on to adding on other exercise.

Another reason is the desire to cultivate a new habit. I’ve been doing a lot of reading as I try and work on my business concept. Photography books, business books, inspirational books. Another great idea, from The Creative Habit by Twyle Tharp, is the idea of starting your day with a routine, or from another point of view, a ritual. Something you start every day with, that is repeatable, easy to do, and creates a habit. Her definition of a ritual is an automatic but decisive pattern of behaviour. This creates an activity that becomes habit, that is done without questioning it and can be the preparation to start your day and get your creativity flowing each morning. I am feeling in need of structure to my day and by starting with a walk, during which I intend to take a photo or three, seems like an ideal way to start my day. Will I be able to continue it on a daily basis? That remains to be seen, but I have started, which can be the hardest part of all.

Getting out and taking photos is fun, but not something I manage to do all that often lately. I have no excuse, since I certainly have the time. Even when working in an office all day, I still had time, but didn’t seem to be able to manage it. I need to find a way to get myself out shooting on ideally a daily basis. Why? Not because I just want to get better at photography, all photographers want that. Because I know I will feel much happier with my photography as it improves. I took a body of work class over the course of a year, three twelve week sessions, once a week. My photography improved exponentially and I love how that made me feel. I was really happy with my results when I went out to shoot with awareness of why I was out there, rather than always just aimlessly pointing my camera at what caught my eye. So again with a goal with the end result of how it feels. I know my photography will get better by simply shooting, and it will get better yet by shooting with a purpose. One week, work on composition, another work on seeing the light, etc. Finding the time? Do it on my walk. This even ties in with the goal of starting my day with a creative boost. How better for a photographer than simply going out and taking a few photos?

And speaking of photos, here’s a few from this morning’s walk.

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Getting laid off isn’t the end of the world

Out of the blue last week, I got laid off. There may be signs of economic recovery out there, but we’re not seeing much on the ground here in BC. I was the sixth person at my company since Feb. this year to get laid off. I know several other people who’ve also been downsized this year, so it’s still pretty common for this recession.

Now when I tell people I got laid off, the first thing they say is “sorry to hear that”. Well, I’m not sorry at all. I didn’t exactly love my last job and rather than looking at this as something terrible, I see an opportunity. It didn’t exactly fit my plans, but I’m nothing if not adaptable.

I’d been looking a lot at how to move my photography to the next level and segue over time into turning it into a profession. I’ve been doing a lot of research and trying to figure out how to focus down on what I really wanted to do with it. The idea was work full time for a few more years, develop my portfolio and get some paid photo jobs over time, get out of debt etc.

Instead, since I qualified for employment insurance, I’ve decided to embrace this chance to go pro now. I plan on applying to the small business entrepreneur program funded by EI and starting my own photography business. It’ll be a lot of hard work but I am relishing the challenge. I am finding myself obsessed at the moment with further research to fine down what I want for my business model and locating resources to help with that.

As I go, I’ll be posting these resources here and using my blog to collate information and give myself a visual progress record I can refer back to. The information may even be of use to other photographers since there isn’t much out there that really draws this together.

For this week’s links, here’s a few I’ve found that are very helpful and others that look like they may be.

Professional organizations
CAPIC – The Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications
PPA – The Professional Photographers of America

Business/Photography Consultants

Photo learning sites

And for a little inspiration or a kick in the pants as required

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Why is your style?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on style in photography. I’ve seen images I really like, others I think really suck, and noticed that there are a lot of popular trends that seem to be way more style than substance. This has led me to wonder, rather than what is your style, a better question might be why is your style?

I’ll start with one of the styles I don’t particularly like. HDR. For many people it’s a love it or hate it thing. Beyond the really crappy examples where it’s really overdone, where it has this awful crackly texture, even the well done leaves me wondering what the point is? While our eyes may be able to see 3 or 4 times the dynamic range our medium may be able to capture, do we really see it when we look at a scene? I tend to find pretty much all HDR to look rather unreal. So when you choose this as a style, what do you want people to get from it? If your images look unrealistic, are you saying an attempt at capturing reality is unimportant? Is it just a creative exercise, something artistic? Is it better than reality, the way a picture should be by capturing all it possibly can, in your ideal world? Something to think about. As is the question, why did you choose it?

Another style I am seeing a lot of is desaturated images with a look of old polaroids or old colour snaps. Some of it is really lovely, but isn’t different enough, at least not anymore, to be a very unique style. Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon. At what point does a style become a trend, and then become meaningless as it really isn’t individual anymore? Now, you can argue that how you use it brings that individuality to those images, and yes, that’s completely true, but they still tend to get lost in the sea of images that look so similar in the end. It’s not enough just to tweak a bit here and there, you really need to get into what makes a style unique.

So the popularity of a style or look brings me to ask, why are you choosing that style? What is it you want to say with it? Because in the end, your style says something, whether you consciously choose it or not. Styles evolve, develop not always by plan and have a lot to do with how your view the world, rather than necessarily the equipment you use. There are exceptions, as there are to everything, such as Holga images, where the gear does dictate a lot. In many cases, styles are chosen, directly emulating something seen in image galleries, something popular, something that can even be a fad, outright copying in many cases, and a reason is often a desire to achieve the same success of the person they copy. But in the end, what are you saying when you do that? If you don’t transform what you desire to emulate into something that is uniquely your own, you can’t say much besides you haven’t put the effort into your own creativity. Sure, coming up with something original is hard, but by choosing to have your style show that originality, and being conscious of what else it says, you come up with what is uniquely yours.

My own style is still developing, but even now I can see trends. My fine art images tend to be about nature, beauty, light. They have a stillness to them others remark upon. This relates not so much to something I wished to communicate as it does about how I see things. Nature for me is soothing and peaceful and the images show that, as they show my viewpoint. The images may be disparate in actual subject matter, but processing treatment, framing, composition, shallow depth of field, all impart an indelible stamp on the images that make them identifiable as mine, especially viewed together and in the end that is a style.

When it comes to portraiture, I am still working on what I want for a style, but I am turning to things people don’t necessarily use much anymore, processes, equipment etc to get a look that will be unique and uniquely my own. I may go well out of my way to avoid looking like the masses of photographers out there but as I work things out, I am consciously looking at developing that style and considering what it will say. In the terms of high end and fine art portraiture, presenting a unique look, one off images, hand worked portraits, all these should communicate the unique value of such portraits. In addition, people who choose this for their portraits are also saying something in what they value in an image, in art and about themselves. And in the end, this is what your style says about you.
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Great photography magazines

Well, I just read a post on photography magazines, listing what was considered 5 great magazines you should be reading. I have to say, I was struck immediately by the US centric list, and the fact that it was the big names that aren’t necessarily the most interesting reads.


Now, I admit my tastes tend to be eclectic, as anyone who’s never heard of half the musicians I listen to can attest to, but I think there are lots of fantastic magazines out there that do way more to promote the diversity of photography and quite frankly, are far more interesting.


What do I get on a regular basis? Two great magazines for fine art, black and white and film photographers in particular are Silvershotz and View Camera Great images, lots of inspiration and excellent articles. I also really like Outdoor Photography from the UK. Beautiful colour spreads, great local knowledge (if you live in or are travelling to the UK) and again, plenty of inspiration. I also read two professional magazines, PPA mag from the Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographer from the UK. Excellent articles on the business of photography, great examples and inspiring views of other photographers who are making it in this business.
I like the fact that these aren’t all gear based, that there aren’t as many ads as the mainstream mags tend to run and that you can find a real mix of photography and advice that is really relevant.

If you find these magazines interesting, you should subscribe or pick up a copy at your local bookstore or magazine stand. Some have very reasonable prices for digital subscriptions, especially compared to the cost of importing paper copies.
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Gastown Motorcycle Show n’ Shine

While this northern girl was wilting in the heat today, it was still a fantastic day to wander about downtown. From the Vancouver Chinatown Festival to the Gastown Motorcycle Show n’ Shine, it was full of hordes of people all over the place. While I don’t have a bike myself, and am not a huge fan, it was still pretty cool wandering about the bike show and seeing some of the neatest bikes I’ve seen in person.

Here’s a selection from today. And what the heck, one last one for a little downtown colour.

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Evening walk

Another gorgeous night out tonight. While it was fireworks night, we went the other way, and walked the seawall into Coal Harbour. Here’s a bunch of shots with that lovely evening light. If you can make it into the west end, there’s more than just Stanley Park or the beach to go see.

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