Monday, February 15, 2016

Best of 2015

This was a really difficult project. I shot over 25,000 images in 2015. Too many by any measure. But of what value are any of these images if they just sit collecting virtual dust in my photo catalogue? They need to be seen. They need to be mulled over. Discussed. Dismissed even. But definitely not ignored.

One cannot display 25,000 pictures easily. Printing them would be prohibitively expensive. There are so many crappy images, junk really, in that batch. And many repeats or series that hardly differ from one to the next. The only option is to select a few that might be representative of the entire collection in some way.

A friend suggested this exercise could help me recognize a style or some common thread in my art, some recurring theme maybe. This alone seemed like a good reason to proceed. But additionally, it might be a chance to delete a lot of images that in the old days of film and prints would have gone in the waste basket.

At a purely mechanical level, the process is simple enough. I created copies of all 25K images and then quickly ran through them all applying a star to any that seemed notable. Even if the image was of dubious value, I gave a star. This left me with about 500 images to consider more carefully. But while this system is straightforward enough, every single decision was fraught with difficulty.

Many images have some emotional value to me. There may be someone in the image who is dear or it may be of an event that brings intense emotions with it. Do I keep these images? Some are of people I hardly know, but they are beautifully shot or framed. Without the emotional value, do I keep these? Then there are the images which tell a story or ask you, the viewer to imagine a story. What if such an image is poorly framed or badly exposed?

And then there is that concept of "Body of Work". An image may stand out or make sense, not by itself, but because of it fitting into a body of work.

In the end, I tried to balance all of these issues while making my selections.

I reviewed these first 500 selections and slowly isolating images by repetitive selection I honed my set down to 24 images.

But now I am filled with angst. Are these really my best? What is "best"? Are these the ones I want to put out here for the world to see and judge? But what about all those other images that I really love? How can you judge the merit of an image without benefit of knowing the entire body of my images?

I have to ignore these fears and just put myself, my images, out in public and accept the feedback I receive. The good feedback (i.e. constructive critiques, suggestions for improvement, questions of motivation, etc.) and the bad (i.e. "oh that's lovely", "I could have done that with my cell phone", "Who are you, you pompous prat", etc).

Now here is an interesting discovery as I pursued this exercise. As to the matter of "style", I seem to favour B&W images over colour images. I have known all along that I have a "thing" for  B&W but I was not aware to what extent. Of my final set of twenty four images, there are NO colour images. I tried and tried to include a few colour images but they simply do not speak to me the way B&W does even though so many of my colour images are really lovely.

I have found that I tend to prefer portraits and images with people over landscapes and still life images. Maybe this is all the analysis I'll offer and instead wait to hear your reactions to my set.

I'm including all the images here in this blog posting and I'll put copies on my Farcebook and Flickr accounts. And I am going to print a book (probably via Blurb) of these for our own personal pleasure.

I really do, honestly, look forward to your comments, whether just a "I like these" or some details of what you like or don't like. Please feel free to speak up.

(a hint to view the images. Click on the first one and then use your arrow keys to cycle through them).

From a series "Chair on Ice"
Beach Party
Early Morning Calm
Alone at 6am
Benches in the Fog
Arowhon Peace
A Light in the Night
Portrait of a Woman
Went for a hike : it snowed
Music to Dance by
Never too old
Only a Mother will do
Just There
Just There II

Sunday, February 14, 2016


I got a call the few weeks ago from an artist friend. At the time, Laura, a painter, was just finishing up a series of large canvases, self portraits. She had been working from photographs her husband took of her.

Laura had been imagining her next project. Her idea was a woman floating (another woman, not herself this time), maybe like she was under water or in space. The background should be black, the woman's hair floating. The initial idea was to use a somewhat more (Laura's word...) "voluptuous" model. But the need for physical prowess outweighed and ruled out the voluptuous idea (at least for now).

By his own admission, the photography requirements were a bit more than Mark, her musician husband, was comfortable attempting. She had seen some of my portraits online, my use of a black background was exactly what she had in mind and was curious how I created the effect. We sat down a few days later over a coffee to talk about her plan, her ideas and how I might be able to help. I quickly realized the easiest (and for me, the most fun) would be to do the photography for her myself.

The first order of business was to find a location to shoot in. Laura's own living room was ample big enough so we settled on that. Then, how to float? Laura had already been thinking a small trampoline might do the trick, so sourced a cheap one on kijiji. We did a test shoot with Laura as model and found everything was working to plan.

Now to find a model. We searched Model Mayhem and we asked everyone we knew. I posted a query on my Farcebook page, Laura did the same. We got a couple of responses which looked promising.

One of the people who contacted us was Alina. She heard about our project through another model I know. She was very keen to participate. At first, Alina's fine, dancer's physique seemed to be at odds with Laura's "voluptuous" requirements. Laura was not convinced Alina was right for the job but I was so taken by her look that I was eager to try her out. So I suggested an "experiment" with a fit model could be helpful to understanding how the photography was going to work. Then we could proceed to find us other models till we had what Laura was after.

Well, as it turns out, Alina was so good at what we were trying to create, she just simply nailed it. There was no need to continue looking for other models.

As an extra bonus for me, I was able to create some wonderful portraits for my own portfolio after we finished up with Laura's project.

The entire shoot worked out wonderfully. It was fun to work with another artist trying to imagine and then create their ideas. New friendships were forged. New ideas have been hatched.

More to come!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Kimberley Profile #1
Kimberley #1
I have recently started to develop a new series of images. These are of profiles of people I know. People who are a part of my everyday life. Not necessarily models.

I'd like to claim to have had this brilliant idea myself, that I saw it in a dream or that during a stormy evening upon seeing the clouds parting and sun shining on them creating a ring light that then this idea was born. But alas, this is true only in the movies.

This idea has a much simpler and probably a far more common birth. Kim asked one day for an image of her, high contrast, black and white (like some of my recent nudes), of her neck and throat from before her surgery. She wondered if I had something from previous shoots that might be processed into this look.

After some searching and some experimenting with Photoshop, I felt that we'd be better off with new images but shot so the scar from the surgery was not visible.
Kimberley Profile #2
Kimberley #2

We did not have much time on this particular visit to do a proper photoshoot but I wanted to try to create a couple of images that I thought would look like Kim's idea or at least would help me to see and understand what she was imagining. I set up my lights quickly and tried a number of settings and a number of poses. Kimberley #1 (above) is one of the first images we created. I was happy with the look excepting a couple of small details. But it was not what Kim was hoping to see. 

We thought we might have about fifteen minutes available to shoot before her girls would start to go rangy from being ignored. I was able to create about ten to fifteen images in that time.

Kimberley Profile #3
Kimberly #3
Image #2 would have been near perfect, in my mind, if we had thought to tie her hair back out of sight. And I think it might be the closest to what Kim had in mind. As it is, the hair completely draws our attention away from the fine detail of her profile. And I am not happy with the strap of her top in any of these images, it is distracting.

Then a few weeks after Kim and I created these images, another friend asked if I might shoot a portrait of her and maybe a couple of head-shots she could use. Cher has a very lovely profile and I was immediately eager to try this technique on her too. She did not mind my experimenting a little at the end of our shoot. 
Cher Profile #1
Cher #1
I am pleased enough with these images that I want to try to develop the technique further. 

As always, I am looking for people willing to sit for me and let me experiment and practice. In exchange, I'm pleased to offer copies of the better images and even do a more "normal" portrait in exchange. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you are interested. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Princess Hannah
 I recently started shooting a lot of film again. I had to take my DSLR in for some service work leaving me with only a couple of other smaller digital cameras to work with. These little cameras are great, but I really much prefer the controls of an SLR. I never thought of my hands as being all that large, but the smaller cameras are just a little too finicky and frustrating for me. And since I had recently bought a couple of very interesting, older cameras I thought it would be fun to actually use them.

Stylish Shopper
Using film again in this digital era is not actually all that new for me. But using it exclusively for a few weeks is! I started using film again a few years ago when I bought an old Yashica 124 twin lens reflex camera. I have taken it out on a number of photoshoots over the years and it has been a lot of fun. This was an excellent choice for me (both the 124 film size & a TLR camera) because it was enough different from an SLR that I really had to stop and think about what I was doing before pressing the shutter. It was not possible to simply point and shoot and not think.

Dinner Time
But those shoots had always been "one off". I would take the camera out for a photo-walk somewhere and shoot one or two rolls of film, get them developed (somewhere) then oooh and aaaah at the images I got back. And that was it. I would then put the camera away for months or a year or more.

This time I decided I would shoot only film, at least until I got my DSLR back and maybe even longer if I was having a good time. It was also my plan to develop the film myself. This, mostly, so I could turn the process around inside a day or two allowing me to get a much better sense of what the camera (and I) was doing. But also, developing the film myself makes it much easier for me to continue posting images to my favourite "one a day" Blipfoto website. And I'll admit it has been fun going "old school" again, the smell of the chemicals, the satisfaction of doing the entire process myself from clicking the shutter to scanning the film, all of it has been quite satisfying.

Street Artist
Anna the Baker

I had recently picked up an old Nikon F3 on eBay and since I already own a couple of appropriate (i.e. fully manual) lenses, I had the perfect kit for my new project. The lenses I have been using so far are a 28mm f1.8 and an 85mm f1.8. A very sweet pair of lenses, I must say. I have a 50mm f1.2 that I have not used much yet, but I will soon.

As for film, I thought Ilford's FP4 and HP5 B&W films would be a good place to start. So far, I have found these to be a very fine choice. They are fast enough for most of my work and the grain is just noticeable enough to give a satisfying old-school film look (but honestly ;)).

It has been a couple of weeks now that I have been shooting exclusively with this setup. I am having a blast! I am getting faster with the manual controls - with my DSLR I shoot probably 90% or more in aperture priority. It has been fun remembering the old ways of fully manual shooting, things like shutter speed and aperture don't actually change much from one exposure to another. Things like when using 100 asa and it's a bright sunny day, 1/250 and f8 or f11 is probably pretty close to right. Things like - if the exposure is a little wrong, it's not usually all that critical. And pre-focusing and zone focusing are really useful tricks.

And I have loved re-discovering the joys of developing film. It's crazy easy. You do not need a dark room just a changing bag, a developer tank and a kitchen. A very inexpensive setup. I have found I can usually develop a roll (or two) and get everything cleaned up in less than 30 minutes (drying time not included ;) ).

And the results? What do you think? I like what I am seeing. These images are maybe not as sharp as my digital images, but I kind of like that. But the feeling in the images is (to my taste) wonderful. In so many other ways, I think they are at least as beautiful as digital images.

If you have been thinking you'd like to try film again (or for the first time), I can wholeheartedly encourage you. If the idea of developing intimidates or scares you, don't let it. It really is very easy. And the equipment and chemicals are inexpensive. Besides, you are very welcome to give me a call - I'd be happy to offer advice and maybe even a little tutoring if necessary.

More of my Film Project images can be found on my Tumblr account and in my Film Project set on Flickr.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sharp Intake

I have been invited to display a series of my abstract black & white nudes in a new exhibition at Gallery M in Cambridge (Galt), Canada. This exhibition will feature a number of artists (and this photographer ;) ). The theme is mildly erotic and a lot of fun. Opening night is Thursday May 9th and runs through till June 17th.

The set of images I chose for this show can be seen on my website in the Exhibitions gallery. Please have a look and if you are in the area, please stop in to check out the show.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I continue to struggle to find a satisfactory way to bring my art to an audience. I am pretty sure there is no "best" way so I continue to experiment trying to find a way that seems to suit my needs.

My website works well to show a relatively static view of some of my work. But it is awkward to update so I tend to leave it alone for weeks or months at a time. There is much I am creating all the time and I would love to share more of it, more often.

This blog account works well and it is easy to use as a mechanism to get some of my thinking and ideas out. But I also want a venue where I can share images without a lot of (or any) visual distractions. I want something clean and simple.

Flickr is okay, but some people struggle with the navigation and membership issues there.

Recently I have been viewing a couple of artist's image blogs hosted on tumblr and thought maybe that was what I needed or at least it looked like something that could work for me. So I have created an experimental blog there.

If you are curious, please check it out. If you don't mind taking a minute or two, please send me a comment (here or via the Ask me link on tumblr or a direct email, whatever works best for you).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Maternity shoot

So, for the longest time I have wanted to do a maternity photoshoot. In other words, work with a pregnant woman.  I have done a number of shoots with new moms and their babies and I have been very pleased with the images I have been able to create. But I have never had a chance to work with a woman who is about to give birth.

It has been a bit frustrating because I have a lot of ideas, so many images I'd like to try to create using her unique, pregnant form.

Finally, last week, I was able to do just such a shoot. The results are, I think, wonderful. But I know I have just scratched the surface of the possibilities.

It all came about a couple of months ago when I learned an old friend was pregnant with her second. She and I had worked together for a couple of different local arts organizations over the years. And although we have not talked much recently, we never lost touch either (nod to facebook ;)).

When I found out she was pregnant, I wrote her asking if she would be willing to do a photoshoot with me. I laid out some of my plans. She seemed excited.

I am looking forward to working with her once the baby is born!

And I am also keen to work with other women. I have a lot of other ideas and am eager to see them come to be.