Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Lightside Session

High Key (1)This post covers off my foray into high key lighting and is a sequel to my Darkside Session post. I have dabbled in high-key before, but never approached it as a stock-in-trade shot. I wanted to get Max, Mary Ellen, and Jon to get back in the studio for this, but they were all tied up with pre-Christmas holiday business. Fortunately, I was able to hook up with September Sui from Model Mayhem.

We started off with some simple poses with her in a bright red dress. I was looking for something that would really grab a viewer's attention, but I think the red is too much. I'm more partial to the second round where she switched into darker (albeit colder) blue tones.

High Key (3)

The set up was pretty straight forward. I used a roll of white seamless background
and put down some white tile board on the floor.

For the lighting, I used
a couple of Vivitar 285HV's on the background. For a cheap $80 flash, these babies can really pump out the light! I stood a couple of sheets of cheap corrugated plastic to prevent light from the Viv's from hitting Sui. I put my Nikon flashes, an SB26 and an SB800, into umbrellas for the front lighting.

After a few shots I turned off one flash when I noticed I was a bit over exposed on Sui's face. Later, when I was got the shots up on the computer, I realized I had lighting coming through the corrugated plastic. I went cheapo here and bought it instead of foam core. I'll have to fix that the next time. I also noticed that there is a ton of light bouncing around from all the flashes.

High Key Setp-up (1)

High Key Set-up (2)

The set-up shots are taken at 1/750, so there is little-to-no ambient at all! I now realize that a set up shot not only records the set-up, but can show you where the light is spilling!! You may want to click on these shots, as the Flickr versions have many, many comments in them with my notes.

I really, really like how high key plays in Photoshop. I had no where near the fiddling that I did with the Darkside Session shots and all that white space is useful for commercial work as it should allow an art director to lay out lots of text or other fun stuff.

Many thanks to September Sui who was awesome to work with and for anyone looking
for an excellent tutorial on high-key shooting, go see Zack Arias' kick-ass lesson.

A slide show with more shots from this session is below in small format and a larger one is here.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Darkside Session

A Calvin Klein Kind of Girl Maxine, Jon, and Mary Ellen are fitness buffs who asked if I would take some photographs of them. They wanted to document their current fitness level and perhaps get published in a fitness magazine. We went back and forth for a few weeks sharing ideas about what kind of shots we should take and what poses would be good to use. I boiled the ideas down into 4 groups and suggested we have a session for each group.

The first session would emphasize their bodies’ structure and tone. To do that, I would create mostly dark images that used splashes of light to highlight areas such as backs, abs, and arms. These folks are ‘ripped’ by any definition of the word and I thought I could use strong side lighting to document how well defined their muscles are.

I didn’t have a black background (Edit: no black background, but I did have a brown background that I used) and we ended up turning off all of the lights on many of the shots. This was both a challenge and time consuming: with the lights on, they would pose and I would compose and focus; Trish would flip off the lights and I would fire off a few frames in the dark. So it is no surprise that I called this ‘The Darkside Session” and the next day I bought a roll of black seamless paper. In hindsight, I was shooting at too high power (f8 to f11) and should have dropped down to maybe f4 to f5.6 and lived with a little less sharpness and depth of field.

The session was as hard as – or harder- for them than a regular workout. Even I felt a little worse for wear at the end. After a grueling 9 hours, they retired to sooth aching muscles and I started to whittle down the 1,000 frames we took to something more manageable.

I was quite pleased with the results, especially considering the fact that I shot these in my garage using regular camera flashes (a Nikon SB800, a Nikon SB26, and two Vivitar 285HV’s). The above opening shot of Mary Ellen is a nice, moody shot that I could see in a Calvin Kelin ad. My favourite shot is this one of Maxine. I love the way she is able to drape her body back over the ball. I find the result very graceful.

Beauty and Grace

I have three more sessions in mind, one of which I will call ‘ The Lightside Session’. If Max, Mary Ellen, and Jon are up for it, I hope to have more shots to post soon. In the meantime, a slideshow of the session is below, or, click here for a larger version. In either slide show, you will want to turn on 'information' so as to get the captions.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Sunday, 9 November 2008


Blue HutI came across one shot in the Denmark file that was taken in Apeldoorn just before I left for Leeds. I'm not sure how it ended up there, but computers are funny things. Maybe it felt lonely and decided to cozy up to some other files. I was out for a dawn shoot in the woods next to Het Loo and I came across a small pond. It was quite calm and the leaves were a wonderful colour. As I walked around the pond, I saw a blue shed at the other end. It is not often you see red and blue out in nature so I stopped and made this composition.

Copenhagen is an interesting city. It is a lot like Amsterdam, but still quite different. The Danes have a style all of their own. In fact, the thing that impresses me about Copenhagen is how carefully they consider design issues in everything. The designs of the buildings and the furniture are usually very clean, simple, and ergonomic. Take a look at the products from the Danish company Bang and Olufesen to see what I mean.

I was thinking I would try and emulate this style in my shots,but it takes a LOT of work to shoot clean and simple. Also, I noticed on an earlier walk around town that not everything is clean and simple in Copenhagen. Like any big city, it has a gritty side to it.

Colour Version

EDIT: Flemming Gade lives in Denmark and commented about shots of the buildings, like the one above. It was very interesting and he gave me permission to repost it here:

"This area is called Nyboder.

Nyboder a set of houses situated close to the train station Østerport in the Østerbro district of Copenhagen, Denmark. The buildings were built under order of king Christian the 4th in 1631.

The main reason for this step was the increasing need of housing for enlisted men of the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy and their families. The first of a total of 20 houses were finished in 1631 on plots of land outside Copenhagen purchased by the king. In total more than 200 apartments were fitted within the 20 buildings. The buildings have changed colour a number of times since the completion in 1641, ranging from the national colours of Denmark (red and white) to the reddish yellow colour that ordane the walls today.

To this day, the buildings still house enlisted personnel of the army, air force and navy. Priority of enlisted personnel was stopped in 2006 and the apartments are now not only a tourist attraction but also seen as upscale accommodation among people living in Copenhagen."

I decided to shoot gritty black and white photos. This took me back to my days of shooting Tri-X. Fortunately, I didn't have to spend a week in the darkroom coaxing latent images out for all to see. Instead, with a few clicks of the mouse, a slide show is here. After you view it the first time, click on "Info On" to see the comments I put with each shot.

This post marks the end of my frantic blogging over the last couple of days. If you have been following as I post, you can click here to load my full blog and then scroll down to see if you missed any posts. Also, you can click here for a slide show of all my shots from this trip.

EDIT: click on the links above for a large version of the slide show. A smaller version of the complete slide package is embedded below. You can click on a photo to see my comments (if any).

All shots from this trip:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Saturday, 8 November 2008


Peter (1)Angie and I attend the Dutch ambulance trade show held in Apeldoorn as guests of Frans, Fred, and Saskia of FACE. It was a wonderful show where we made many new contacts. Frans has some interesting ideas about running a booth. On the first two days, he had Edo Draaijer come in and do caricatures for booth visitors. This really “drew them in”, as it were!


During a lull in booth activity, I sat down and had Edo draw me. Aside from the camera and the iPhone, I don't see any resemblance at all.

Scott by Edo

I returned the favour with two shots of Edo. The first was a play on the ‘artist as a subject’ theme, where Peter, Saskia, and Angie put Edo in the hot seat and pretended to draw him. The second was a more ‘normal’ portrait of Edo, who was as good at posing as he was and drawing.

Edo Drawn (1)

Edo by Scott

I had a whole series of photographs of visitors to the booth as well as some of those who helped out on the first day. Unfortunately, all of those shots were grossly out of focus and I didn’t discover this until I returned back to Halifax. That’s really unfortunate because Frans was a wonderful host and the guys from RAVU were spectacular helping explain our product to their compatriots. The only shot of team RAVU is the opening shot of Peter, at the top of this post.

For a slide show of these and a couple of other shots, click here.


More Postcards from Mokum

Mokum Morning Shot (2)I’m posting fast and furious, it seems. Jet lag when I come west always gets me out of bed at 3:00 in the morning. That’s early even for me, so I fill in time by processing shots and posting. In case you are having trouble keeping track, go to the root of the blog here and scroll down through the posts. I only have a couple of posts left: this post on Amsterdam and one from Copenhagen.

Amsterdam is starting to feel a bit like home and it is becoming a challenge to shoot it, since there are fewer “discoveries” for me. As usual, I went out for my pre-dawn shoot and while I burned off several frames, none were inspiring. Disappointed, I returned to my hotel.

I remembered Freeman Paterson’s advice on avoiding “shooters block”: just pick a spot and shoot 10 or 20 different compositions from that spot before moving to another spot. I was already back in my hotel room and due to check out in 20 minutes. The only option here was to shoot this exercise in my room. I had this lovely view out over one of the canals, so I opened up the window and shot through it as the sun came up. I ended up with the following three very different compositions, all shot within the space of 10 minutes.

The first is an overall view of the scene.

I shot upwards for the second photograph. The tops of the buildings in this light reminded me of the story “Peter Pan”. I could almost see Peter and friends flying off through the sky to Neverland!

Amsterdam Morning Shot (2)

Back to reality and the third composition, which is shot downwards. I focused on the busy rush to work, as contrasted with the calm of the canal and the closed restaurant.

Amsterdam Morning Shot (3)


How to make the best of a foggy, soggy morning shoot.

While I was out wandering one morning near the Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn, I came across an interesting guard shelter. It was lit from high above by a high pressure, sodium vapor lamp. These lamps typically produce an ugly orange glow and are not my light source of choice!

I thought I would try a time-based flash shot to light the interior with a different colour light to see if I could produce something that might be interesting. David Hobby posted about this on his Strobist blog as an assignment called 'Time in a Bottle'. I didn’t have the time to try it when he first posted, but I figured that 5:30 a.m. on a foggy morning with sunrise 2 hours away was as good a time as any.

For reference, here is the 'normal' shot. The exposure was f8, 6 seconds, ISO 200.

Normal Shot

I placed my SB800 in to remote mode, @ 1/16 power and set my camera flash to 1/16 power. This was just enough to trip the SB800 without contaminating the shot with too much fill light. I placed the SB800 on the floor of the hut and fired off a frame using the same exposure for ambient.

I then used the delayed remote trigger setting on my camera and fired the SB800 in through the side windows from various positions around the hut.

Opening all of these shots and layering into Photoshop using "lighten" for blending resulted in this:

I then masked off the flash and me. The colours were still ugly, so I overlaid a red and green photo filter to get some colour contrast (it is almost Christmas and these were the first that came to mind) and tweaked the levels to drown out the tree in the background. It's not much of a composition, but I quite like the idea of a time delayed / composed shot, although you really have to think it through with an end-goal in mind. Here is the final shot one more time.

Christmas Outpost


Friday, 7 November 2008

More Postcards from Norway

Bryggen in the Morning

Bergen reminds me of The Rockies and St. John’s all rolled into one. While the terrain is very similar to Banff, albeit with shorter mountains, the weather is just like St. John’s: windy and wet! Also, the town is much older. The region of Bryggen, above, is UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, the town is so much like St. John’s, I found it hard to shoot because it felt so familiar.

Trish joined me on an early morning ramble and I caught our shadows looking back at us on the steps in front of a church.

Early Morning Shooters

In a challenge to myself, I tried to capture both this church and Trish, with a bit of off camera lighting magic. She is at the bottom just off to the right of center.

Morning Church

I think my best capture of the morning was this shot of white tires on a wharf next to Peppes Pizza.

Mint Lifesavers!

Since we only half a few days, we crammed in as much as possible, taking a “Norway in a Nutshell” excursion. The trip started by train to the town of Voss where we transferred to a bus, which took us to the town of Gudvangen. From there we took a ferry to Flaam. The fjords are steep and narrow so that large ships are able to travel up to the many towns scattered along them.

Through the Mist

Steep cliffs along the fjords with lots of rain water run off makes for many water falls.


The weather was miserable. Lots of wind and rain, so we spent most of the ferry ride inside looking out.

Respite from the Rain

At Flaam, we stopped for lunch and wandered around before we took our train to Myrdal. We ran into a bunch of Norwegians. Angie took a shine to the horny one while Trish gave the other a nose job.

Trolling for....??

From Flaam we took a special train up and over the mountains to Myrdal. We ran into two fellow Canadians with whom we shared a lovely antique coach. It had wooden paneling, something you don't see on today's modern coaches.

All Aboard!

Myrdal is at an elevation of 867 m and the rain below fell as wet snow at this altitude.

Norwegian Mountain High

Most of our other travelers were travel agents on an education journey and it looked like most of them had never seen snow before, as impromptu snowball fights broke out everywhere.

Snowball Fight by the Tracks

From Myrdal, we transferred to another train that returned us to Bergen. For a slide show of photos from our stay in Bergen, click here.


Fall 2008

Pimped Pumpkin PeepsThe fall has been lovely here in Nova Scotia this year. There were the usual activities, such as popping down to the Valley to see the pumpkin people, but there were also a few surprises.

Once such surprise was driving past Kearney Lake just as the sunlight was rising through a lovely mist that was hanging about. I spied some paddlers out training and pulled over to capture a couple of frames.

The colours were lovely this year. I didn’t do anything experimental like last years leaf study , but I did try and capture the spectacular contrast between a red bush and our green grass.

Fall Colours 2008

A slide show of the photos is here


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Las Vegas Encore

Excalibur with Full MoonWith lots of entertainment possibilities, over 200,000 hotel rooms, and over 2,000,000 sq. ft . of convention floor space, it is not surprising that a lot of trade shows are held in Las Vegas. What is surprising is that I haven’t been to a show there in 4 years until this fall.

I don’t really like Las Vegas. I am not a fan of gambling so I don’t spend much time in the casinos. The Strip has become ‘ho-hum’ after so many years of walking it, although I did wander out for my usual dawn shoots to try some new type of shots. The worst thing with being up so early is that the only model available is me.

Vegas Self-Portrait

What I do look forward to in Vegas is running up the park road in Red Rock Canyon. The park is outside the city and up in the hills. It is cooler than the city and the air is much cleaner. I love the desolation of the desert.

At dawn, the colour of the sky is incredible and while the run is tough (it’s a steep “up and down” run), the whole experience borders on the spiritual. An hour up there first thing in the morning makes it easier to take the strip for another day.

Full Moon Sets over Red Rock Canyon

This time out I had a super special run. Angie has started running so she came along and we were both treated to a full moon setting as the sun was coming up. While the hour was a bit too early for both of us, we both had a fab time.

Click here for a short slide show from this trip.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

Peggy’s Cove Encore

RockNow that Lisa’s wedding photo book has gone to press, I’m able to get back to blogging and posting photos. I have a bit of a backlog and will have a number of posts over the next couple of weeks.

Peggy’s Cove is a good place to go to shoot when the seas are high. You can shoot from both sides of the point, so it doesn’t really matter which way the winds are blowing. I have a concept in mind that will use a rough sea as a background, so a few weeks ago when the winds and tide were high, I thought it would be a good time to pop out and take some prep shots. Trish, Angie, and Andy decided to tag along with their cameras as well, although I think it was more for the treats at the White Sails Bakery than for the photography.

Angie was kind enough to step in and pose for me as I worked on the lighting and the composition. Now that I have a fair idea of what the environment is like, I will be planning a shoot with some local models.

Angie (2)

For a slide show of the other shots from this session, click here


Monday, 18 August 2008

Postcards for Lisa and Andrew

Lisa DaleA little over a year ago when Lisa told me she was going to get married, I decided to try and capture some wedding "postcards" for her. I was hoping to create a lasting gift of memories for here that would follow her throughout her life's journey.

I researched wedding photography and quickly discovered that shooting people, on location, under time constraints, is nothing like shooting landscapes or abstracts at all! (see here). I knew nothing of gobos, snoots, grids and I thought umbrellas were supposed to keep you dry in the rain!

I went on a year long, intensive, self-learning program leading up to Lisa's wedding last Saturday. I took almost 1,600 shots during the week and at her wedding, which I have culled down to a little over 500 that need to be further edit down to a manageable number for a wedding album. With any luck, I will have it done before her first wedding anniversary!

Lisa and Andrew: Trish, Blair, Anne, and I wish you a well-traveled life that is full of wonderful postcards. Here are a few to get you started.
Large slide show here.

Small slide show below:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

EDIT: Blurb has a widget that allows me to post the photo book I did for Lisa:

The Wedding of Lisa and Andrew by Photographs by Scott & Anne Campbell


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Postcards from England and Amsterdam

I talked Trish and Angie into going to Beatrix Potter country (The Lake District), following AMBEX 2008. Angie was convinced that it would be cheap, faster, and more convienent if we rented a car and drove up. Ian, helpful fellow that he is, did his best to help her convince us. Against my better judgment, we did just that. I decided that since it was her idea, Angie should drive. Of course the fact that any accident would then go on her record and not mine never entered my mind. Not at all. Fortunately, the car rental agency did not inspect the passenger side arm rests, or they would have found permanent impressions of my fingerprints.

We stayed at the Cedar Manor Hotel, hosted by Jonathan and Caroline. This was my second stay there in two years and their hospitality continues to be top notch. If you want to hike the Lake District fells, then you can kill two birds with a single stone. Not only is the Cedar Manor comfortable and cosy, but Jonathan has first hand experience with most of the trails in the area.

Jonathan recommend a loop starting at Nab Scar and curling around to end on the other side of Rydal Hall. We set out from the Ambleside public car park and walked along the road until we arrived at Rydal Hall. A path from the lane behind Rydal Hall lead us up to the top of Nab Scar. If you want to see the route, click on the link below.

View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

We encountered rain, drizzle, and fog about half way. The fog (which was really the rain clouds that had come in) was quite thick and we couldn't see where we were going. There were steep cliffs on either side of the trail and since we did not have a GPS, we turned around and came back the way we came in. I did not relish the local papers displaying huge headlines like "Stupid Canadian Tourists Fall Off Cliffs in Dense Fog". Despite having to turn back we, hiked 10 miles (16 km), with a climb up of over 2200 ft (over 671 m).

We traveled the next day to Keswick and Penrith, where we did the touristy thing and visited the shops and restaurants. Keswick is a very quaint town and is a must see if you ever go to the Lake District.

We didn't get to see Beatrix Potter's place in the end. The parking lots were full and there was no where else to park. The next time we will take a tour bus!

A slide show from our Lake District travels is here.

Angie and I flew to Amsterdam to meet with our friends at RAVU. We also had some time on the last day before our flight to visit more of Amsterdam. It was Angie's birthday, so we packed in as much as we could. We did an early morning walk through the Jordaan district, took in a wonderful organ and flute concert in the Westerkerk, and hit the fabulous science museum (I can't say enough about this place). While we were wandering around the Jordaan district, we saw one of the strangest sights we have ever seen in Mokum: a Smart Car parked between two trees right next to the canal. I cannot figure out how the driver was able to park it there. I can only guess that he picked it up and placed it.

Smart (1)

An even stranger sight was how beer is delivered in Amsterdam. They use a truck similar to how we deliver heating fuel. The driver rolls out a huge hose and drags the nozzle in to the kegs behind the bar and lets fly. I had a grand chat with this guy who says he loves his job because he gets to go to bars all day long and check their beer!

More photos from this Amsterdam trip are here.

EDIT: August 6,2008

I just came across a neat new widget for Blogger that lets me embed a slide show from Flickr onto my blog. I think it makes it a lot easier to look at related photos rather than clicking on a link that takes you to another page. Also, if you click on a photo, it automatically adjusts to give you my commentary on that photo. Leave me a note in the comments below and let me know what you think. Here is the slide show for the Amsterdam piece of the trip:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Evolution of a Photographer

The LaughJanaka Rodrigue posted an intriguing thread over on Flickr a while ago called "Evolution of your photographic abilities". I read the thread just after the second of two paradigm shifts I have had in my photography. Both of these occurred in the last two years, so the title stuck with me and I have been thinking about it quite a bit. This post is an introspective look at how my shooting has evolved over the years.

I have been taking photographs since I was 12, having picked it up from one of the teachers at my school. Kevin Major (who has since gone on to be a fab author) not only took photographs for the school, he processed the film and made prints in a small darkroom just off from his classroom. I starting shooting with my Mom's Voigtlander rangefinder that used a 126 format cassette. She kept me supplied with film and got me every issue of Petersen's Photographic for the next 3 years. Kevin occasionally let me use his darkroom so I could try the 'magic' myself. The bug took hold and I've been shooting ever since.

The ThinkerI began to take pictures of family get-togethers such as the one above, trying to capture "decisive moments" like Henri Cartier-Bresson. I also started shooting abstracts and landscapes and fell in love with "Tri-X", which let me highlight graphic elements more easily than colour. The result is an archive of of my life and I continue to shoot "postcards" of my life as a primary passion.

I went digital only two years ago and I was not happy with the result. I found I suddenly could not "see". To try and get beyond my mental block, I attended a workshop by Freeman Patterson, who I consider to be right up there with Ansel Adams as one of the greats in nature photography.

Holy ArchesFreeman's week-long session with Andre Gallant in nearby New Brunswick gave me my first paradigm shift. Feedback from Freeman forced me to revisit what I knew about composition and Andre's comments got me to rethink everything I knew about light. Thanks to digital technology, I was able to shoot over 10,000 images in the following year, all the while working on getting my compositional eye back and improving my understanding of light.

As I was researching photographic lighting on the web, I stumbled across a new blog called Strobist that Baltimore Sun shooter David Hobby had started. David was blogging about using off camera flashes and using cheap modifiers to creatively light photographs. I found the most insightful post by David to be this one about "The Lighting Journey". I think the title should really be "The Photography Journey", since light is such a fundamental part of our art.

Besides the zen-like counsel, I've learned a lot about off-camera lighting from David's blog, his new DVDs, and from the advice from fellow 'strobists' on the Flickr group. It was through the Flickr group that I learned Tanya was organizing a lighting workshop in Halifax featuring Don Giannatti.

As good as blogs and DVDs are, nothing beats hands-on experience with a guy who knows his lighting. I picked up lots of tips and continued to be challenged on what I thought I knew about lighting. Don brought Briana along to the workshop (they also attended the strobist meet-up we had the day before his workshop). Briana, along Dominque, Josh, and my friend Tara were very patient posing for us as Don took us through a variety of lighting situations (both with flash and with "found" light).

I was quite happy with the learning and the shots I was able to take during the session and I close off this article with my last shot and an example of my second photographic paradigm shift.

The Shoe On the Other Foot

The photo is a continuation of a theme of "role reversal" that I started the day before. I had suggested that for our group shot we reverse things and the models pose taking a photo of the shooters posing for the models. When we were shooting Dominque and Josh down at the Halifax waterfront, I decided to try the same thing and play up the wonderful colours in Don's shirt and Dominique's dress. I knew I could get some nice contrast with a grey background by dropping the ambient portion of the lighting.

Make no mistake, I had a lot of help in this image. Dominque and Josh caught on right away and posed with very little direction from me and I was able to take advantage of the lighting Don had already set up. But this photograph is a life's journey distant from the first photo above.

The paradigm shift is this: when I take postcard shots, I use timing and composition to interpret what I see. The last image is created from scratch. Instead of being an interpreter, I am a storyteller. Working with models or taking portraits means you have to think about where to put people, how they should pose, and then create the light to illuminate the scene.

Thanks to Mom for encouraging me to start this journey and to Tricia who has encouraged me to continue.

A slide show of my shots from the lighting workshop are here.