Sunday, 20 December 2009

Postcards from Church

The Red DoorI find churches absolutely inspiring. The artistry of the older churches, particularly in Europe is fantastic and affords a lot of subject matter for a photographer. Hit the jump to see my first batch of prints arranged on a "church" theme.

The first image is of an entrance doorway to St. Mary's Basilica in Halifax. The red of the door is unusual: I have not seen too many red doors in a church. The light streaming in from around the frame separated the door from the wall quite nicely.

Across town is St. George's, also known as "The Round Church". St. George's is on a hill so the entrance is below the main level. Standing inside and looking back put me above the central part of the door, allowing me to capture the wonderful, mysterious shadows that framed the upper part of the doorway.

The Entrance

Another doorway caught my eye at St. John's on Bethnal Green, in London. It seemed to beckon to the inner sanctum.

Doorway to the Sanctum

Doorways in churches always seem to be leading somewhere special and always seem to glow. This dark door lead to a small chapel in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. I liked how the darkness added to the weightiness of the steel door.

Doorway Beyond

This is a doorway of a different kind. It's the door to the vault at St. George's. The old weathered door belies its steel strength, much like the strength of the church which survived a nasty fire in 1994. The congregation, with the help of others from across Canada, rebuilt the damaged portions of this wonderful building.

Church Vault

I had finished taking the above shot of the vault door at St. George's and turned to go when I saw these wonderful vases on the shelf next to the vault.

Church Chalices

I guess pews could be considered doorways of another sort. It's not hard to tell what caught my eye here at St. George's.


This may have been a doorway at one time, but is now a cubbyhole for the nightwatchman at the Oude Kerk. I was hoping for a few people to gather around so I could make my own version of "The Night Watch".

Nachtwaker's Stoel

Pews make for lovely patterns, and in the case of Trinity in Kingston, NB, I found that the hymn books added an interesting counterpoint to the rectangular patterns of the pews. Trinity is the first Loyalist church in Canada.

Orderly Pews

I was shooting the above shot when the sun came out from behind a cloud and streamed into the church, giving the scene a very warm feeling. I quickly adjusted my position and shot across to the wall and windows.

The Spirit Outside

The golden ambiance created by the sun didn't last long. The sun went behind a cloud again, darkening the walls. I glanced up and saw these striped arches set off against the wonderful blue of the ceiling. I was amazed to have recorded three very different "keepers" in the space of a few minutes.


Not all pews are rectangular. Some are circular like these at my old church, Wesley United in St. John's. That's my mother waiting for Anne and I to finish taking pictures.

Pew Spotting

One of the photographs I took inside Wesley is this one of Anne and me, which I call "My Father's Hand".

My Father's Hand

I saved my favorite church shot for last. After attending a trade show in Harrogate, Angie and I made a short side visit to York and had a delightful tour inside the York Minster. The old Gothic church, the oldest in northern Europe, had a webbing of white supports I had not seen before. I guess they appeal to my engineer side.

Web of Support

I'm looking forward to matting and framing these prints and getting them up on my walls.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Postcards: Through a Glass, Darkly

Through a Glass, Darkly (2)No doubt about it, our perceptions of the world are affected by the window through which we see. I was processing more of my photographs to print and hang on the wall and decided to group the following three photographs together under this theme.

Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly

The first image is of two people eating in a restaurant in Penrith, U.K. The texture in the image is the texture of the glass in the window, which was used to afford the restaurant patrons some privacy from passers-by on the sidewalk. The second image is rain on my kitchen window with the leaves turning colour in the fall. The third image is of a set of coloured pail tops in Freeman Patterson's barn in Kingston, NB. Like the restaurant, the texture in the image is from the glass.


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Printing Postcards

Truck_02The era of digital photography means a photographer can share his images with everyone connected to the internet. That number is a staggering number of people. In the era of film photography, only a few of the very best photographers could ever hope to achieve that kind of audience. There is a price to this connectivity, however.

As a photographer, I see two issues with looking at photographs on the internet. The first issue is "repeatability". Web browsers are not colour managed, so what I see on my computer screen is not quite what you see on your computer. That is a pretty profound problem for a visual art!

The second issue is "detail". The size and resolution of internet images is such that many images cannot properly convey the richness of the message the photographer intends. Imagine reading Hamlet on your cellphone as a txt msg snt to U by Shkspre, speling errs andf all. You could get the gist of his story, but you may have to work harder than normal to get it and it might be missing some of the subtle points.

The implication, skill-wise, is that I don't have to be as good as if I was printing everything for viewing in a gallery. I have fallen into this trap these past few years: I have never finished my workflow with a print in mind.

To rectify this, I have selected a number of images to print and hang on my wall. I have grouped most of them into themes or studies and the first study I printed was a series on old abandoned trucks. I chose four to print in a black and white grouping and after I mat and frame them, I will hang them something like this:



I chose three to print in colour and intend to hang them in a group like this:




For the record, here is my workflow:

1. "Compose and Expose" in camera.
2. Transfer RAW files to laptop, add copyright and location metadata.
3. Back up transferred images.
4. Preview and select images worth pursuing further in Adobe Bridge.
5. Batch process RAW images for white balance using Adobe Camera Raw.
6. Back up images.
7. Process images in a batch for noise reduction and initial sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
8. Process each image individually, "Composing and Exposing" the basic image, as well as applying further sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
9. Back up images.
10.Choose output medium (web, book, print), resize and sharpen for this medium using Photoshop CS4.
11. Generate output image and post or print.
12. Back up images.
13. Transfer only selected, edited images to hard drive for long term storage.
14. Back up long term storage hard drive.
15 Delete images from laptop and laptop back-up.

I'm currently spending about 2 hours post-processing for every hour of shooting. That's still orders of magnitude less time than in the old days using a wet darkroom.

While the limitations on the internet will hinder your ablity to view these images exactly as I have printed them, I hope enough of their esseance makes it through to your screen to enjoy the grit and mystery of these old beauties. A Flickr slideshow is here.

Jay M asked me to help him with a photo he wanted to print, which made me realize that I was "cheating" in my workflow and on my images, so thanks Jay for the kick in the pants to get back to printing.


Sunday, 4 October 2009

London Postcards

London Tubular I had a business trip to London with a week-end layover. With that kind of time in a location like that, you would think that I would have a ton of postcards to present. Not so. This time around I didn't take as many photographs as I usually do, although perhaps I can claim a case of quality over quantity? The opening photograph is a variation on the London Underground theme of a red circle and blue rectangle. I created it using a roll of red tape, a blue pen, and a piece of white paper.

The Lancaster Gate tube station was close to my hotel and was my main entry point to the Tube. The platform is accessible only by elevator or by a 128 step stairway. Not surprisingly, I noticed that not many people take these steps. Since there would be little interruption, I decided to explore the stairway with my camera. The first thing I noticed was the curve of the stairway: it reminded me a bit of a fan.

Lancaster Gate Tube Steps (3)

About half-way down, I came across this ‘peek-a-boo’ mirror and wondered why it was placed in this particular location. The intent seems obvious. I could see this couple around the curve coming up the stairs, but it is a circular stairway. If the idea is to allow people to see around the corner, shouldn't there be one continuous mirror all the way down?

Lancaster Gate Tube Steps

I had time on this trip to look up a couple of old friends. I met up with Barb and we went out for supper at a Polish restaurant. Any cold-climate country's cuisine is high in comfort food. The Polish seem to have a thing for pancakes, so I had potato pancakes for the main course and super sweet apple pancakes for dessert. Awesome. Barb let me take this photo of her as we strolled along the Embankment afterwards. There were some funky blue and white Christmas lights hanging on some trees and I thought they would make a nice backdrop.


I also met up with Karen and David. They took me on a walking tour of their neighborhood in the East End. In all of my visits to London, I hadn’t spent any time in the East End, so it was a wonderful chance to explore. We came across this wall of graffiti on an old rail station house.

Karen and David

On my way to meet up with Karen, I explored St. John’s Church, which is near the exit from the Bethnal Green Tube stop. Designed by Sir John Soane and consecrated in October 1828, it has nice clean lines and there is a nice shot of the balcony in the slide show, but this open doorway inside the church really caught my eye.

St. John's @ Bethnal Green (3)

Karen took me to Pellicci’s for lunch. The staff were wonderful and the food was great. I highly recommend this place to anyone going to London who wants an inexpensive, traditional style cafĂ© that serves really good food.

Pellicci's (2)

While I just missed the Curry Festival at Brick Lane, the market runs all the time. I think you can find anything at this market. There was everything from regular market stall-type vendors to people sitting on the sidewalk selling out of their backpacks. The protocol seemed to be to put your wares out on the sidewalk, sit behind them, smile, and engage people as they go by.

Brick Lane Market (4)

So what were these guys selling?

Brick Lane Market

Karen worked in the music industry for many years and as we walked around she pointed out places where various rock bands had their photos taken for their album covers. I decided to make a ‘cover’ for Karen and David, should they make their own music someday.

Karen and David's Album Cover

I didn’t take many shots while I was in London, but a slide show of the ones I did take is here.


Sunday, 13 September 2009

Postcards from the Arizona Desert

Trish and I spent some time in the Arizona desert. It was quite beautiful, in a stark way. Except for trailers, campers, and motorhomes, the roads were pretty empty from Flagstaff up to Page. The countryside varied quite a bit, although most of the rocks were sandstone red, which contrasted quite nicely with the blue sky.

When I think of 'desert' I think of 'adobe' houses. Our hotel in Page was adobe style and at sunrise the nice blue sky contrasted with the pale wall.


The desert wasn't full-on sand, but the grass wasn't as lush as the Canadian Prairies. However there was enough on the Navajo Nation rangeland for these horses to munch on.


Another big difference with our prairies are the 'monuments' that crop up in various places. They certainly make for an interesting focus point in a photograph. This one is huge. To give you some idea of scale, those are houses out in front and cars on the road off to the left.


We made it up to Monument Valley is with its famous "Mittens" monuments.


Of course 'desert' means 'little-to-no-water'. Little-to-no-water in turn means hardscrabble hillsides with almost no trees.


Our ultimate destination was Antelope Canyon, one of the most famous slot canyons in the world. We started at the Lower Antelope Canyon. Imagine a broad, flat desert with a huge crack in the desert floor. That's the entrance to the canyon.


To get in, you squeeze through the crack and descend inward and downward to the canyon proper. There you find a bit more room, but not much.


In some cases, it is a very tight squeeze, as you can see in Trish's photo of me taking some shots.


The canyon is formed and reformed by flood waters and the sand that flows with the water. The sand and water combination act like a gigantic piece of sandpaper, carving the walls into wonderful shapes with lovely textures. While the result of this erosion is interesting enough, but what makes the canyon so magical is the play of light on those walls. The light is not just any light, but a light that varies in colour and location second by second. You can stay in the same location and have a variety of different shots in just a few minutes. This is possible because the opening at the top is quite small and the canyon is mostly shaded from the sun. As the sun rises during the day, the light enters the canyon from a constantly changing angle which illuminates different sections of the walls as you watch. The downside it that managing the white balance is incredibly difficult, so I just set it for daylight and fired away.


Trish was shooting with her Canon G7 and made some lovely captures of the colours, such as this one:


I also loved the various hues of reds, and I did make a number of photographs that tried to capture them as best I could, but I was really after abstract black and white images. The shape, textures, and tones really had me pumped, although it can be hard to visualize tones when you are staring at such intense colours. Here are a couple of shots to explain what I mean. This shot is colour and is very plain-Jane:


If you ignore the red hue and visualize what it would look like with the tones only, you might get a capture like the one below, with its much more appealing contrasting planes of rock.


Along the same lines is this shot.


While it is very nice with its flame red hues, it doesn't communicate the hardness of the rock that this monotone does.


There were two other elements to work with as well. The first is the shafts of light streaming down into the canyon and the second is the hordes of people wandering through. If you want to get a 'people free' shot, you need lots of patience and a good guide to help with crowd control. In this case, I decided to use a time lapse shot to not only capture the light beaming down but the people walking past.


Even though I was after wild and freaky shots, my favourite shot is this simple one of sand pouring from a ledge.


A slide show of Trish's photographs is here. As an added bonus, she even has a shot of our new puppy Bobb taken before the trip.

A slide show of my photographs is here.