Sunday, 26 July 2009

Smokey Postcards

Smoke Abtract02"The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance." - Ansel Adams

Ansel made this comment in the days of film photography and his point is that both parts of the process, the taking the picture onto a negative and then printing the negative onto a print, are equally important.

Most photographers handed the second half of this process over to someone else when they gave their film to a commercial lab to be developed and printed. The film and paper producers had standards for processing their products based on assumptions about the intent of the photograph and the limits of the process. Of course the strangers who finsihed making the photograph had no idea as to the photographer's intent for the picture. Ansel's comment was a reminder that a photographer had to know and understand these standards, when to follow them and when to break them.

The negative has been replaced by a sensor and the 'wet' process of developing and printing has been replaced by computer manipulation of a digital file. The whole process of moving the file from the camera and making a print can be done automatically following established guidelines by equipment manufacturers. Like the 'wet' process in the days of film, this 'dry' process is based upon assumptions about what the intent of the photograph is. Ansel's comment is still applicable today and photographers need to understand the 'standard process' and when to break it.

I didn't have any shots from any recent shoots, so I dug into my archives for some smoke shots to practice my "post-processing" skills. My smoke shots came from an earlier shoot and this time I decided to explore composite images and adding colour overlays onto an image. I experimented with individual colour overlays:

Smoke Abtract08

I also experimented with graduated colour overlays:

Smoke Abtract09

Next up was creating kaleidoscope-type abstraction:

Smoke Abtract04

All of my shots are in this slide show:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Sunday, 19 July 2009

Postcards for Expecting Moms

Holding On (2)By way of happy circumstance, I was recently privileged to shoot three expecting moms. Having a child is a pretty big deal and I really wanted to ensure that the Moms and Dads would get Postcards that would appropriately record some of the emotion associated with the nine month build-up to the big event.

I had in mind three scenes. The first was a low key (dark) environment, which would allow me to explore the ‘mystery’ and ‘drama’ of pregnancy, especially by highlighting the wonderful shape that pregnant bellies have. The second was a high key (light) environment, which would allow me to explore the ‘lighter’ side of pregnancy (literally and figuratively) and to capture more of the whole person. The third was a ‘contextual’ environment, which would use the nursery as a backdrop.

The first family shoot was with Stephane Lagrange and his wife Maia. Stephane is also a photographer and to be asked to shoot his wife and him at this Life Moment was a huge honour.

Maia led off the session with a request to use a wonderful exposed concrete column as part of the composition. Unfortunately, the column was across the room from the background, which meant we would normally see all the bits and pieces of the studio in the background. However with a bit of work (and lots of help from Stephane), we darkened up the background by draping a black cloth over a painter’s pole clamped to two light stands. It was very hard to pre-visualize this series when we were shooting, so I was very pleasantly surprised when they turned out with what I had in mind.

Stephane & Maia (3)

After this series, we moved over to the black seamless background and ran through a series where I focused on different lighting to highlight Maia’s pregnancy. Maia must have felt her baby boy, Maximilien, move because this incredible look came over her face. This one expression sums up "motherhood" for me. I felt incredibly blessed to be there and make the capture.


The second shoot was with the Melos. Andre, Natalia, and little Andre. I flipped the order around and shot high-key first. High key shooting is much easier to pre-visualize so we were able to shoot a lot of frames quite quickly.


Since I quickly burned through the high key shots, I had lots of time to shot some low-key shots. For this series, I was able to include some of the studio props for variety.


The third shoot was more of a challenge because the Mom didn’t really want to have her picture taken. I spent weeks trying to get Angie into the studio. I finally convinced her to take a few minutes at her house and we shot in the nursery with Andy.

The small nursery limited my options for composition, meaning I couldn't avoid the window. I chose to blow the window out in many of the shots to prevent it from being a distraction.


I’m sure the baby will love the bright colours of the nursery, but they required careful exposure and post-processing on my part in order to keep the dynamic range.

Angie and Andy (3

To be able to provide a Postcard for Stephane, Maia, Andre, Natalia, Andy and Angela was a thrill and I hope I captured the moment appropriately for them.

A slide show of all the pics from the three shoots is below.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.