2004 / 2005
This page features one photograph from my portfolio taken each month so far this year
with which I am particularly pleased and for which there is an interesting story.
Contax 645 with 120mm APO-Makro Lens and Phase One P25 back. ISO 50
A shoot in the Everglades late in the month brought us to a state park not far from a friend's house near Venice, FL. There had been heavy rain a few days before our arrival, and much of the park was under water. As we drove the park's loop road just after dawn we spied this flooded natural arbor.
It beautifully captures the mysterious light of the dense forests of Southern Florida and in a large print the depth of detail captured by the medium format back is a real pleasure to view.
Canon 20D with 70-300mm f/5.6 IS lens @ ISO 400
I drove by the Dofasco steel mill on my way to Rochester, NY from Toronto early one morning, and stopped to take a few photographs. I realized that sunset would be a better time to shoot, with the sun setting behind the mill. Later that day my travels brought me back past the mill just at dusk, and once again I pulled off the highway to see what there might develop.
As luck would have it, just as the warm light of sunset was at its peak, they began to pour slag. It only lasted for a few seconds, but I was able to capture this dynamic moment.
Luck? My favourite definition of luck is – preparedness in the face of opportunity.
Canon 1Ds with 70-300mm f/5.5 DO IS Lens at ISO 800
The first two weeks of January were spent on a photographic expedition to Bangladesh, a most remarkable country. I took many thousands of frames, and ended with up a satisfying number of exhibition quality images. But in the end this photograph was the one that tells the story of that country's landscape better than any other.
The Bangladeshi flag is a green field with a red circle, and when you spend some time in-country you understand why.
We had been driving aggressively one evening trying to find a worthwhile sunset shot, but nothing presented itself. Just as I was about to call it quits, I remembered a bridge we had crossed earlier in the day, and when we got there we saw this idyllic scene beneath us. We had just moments before the sun disappeared into the murk, but not before we were able to capture this frame.
Contax 645 with Phase One P25 back and 80mm Zeiss Planar lens @ ISO 100
This photograph is from an ongoing series, documenting the current state and upcoming restoration of the Toronto Brickworks into a multi-use public space. The Brickworks is a historic industrial site close to downtown Toronto. As much of the original site as possible will be respected and retained. I am very pleased to have received a commission by the group responsible for the multi-year transformation to record the process for both a future public exhibit and book project.
The area where this was shot was one that had been abandoned more than 25 years ago. The building's interior is dark and dangerous, due to its abandoned state. Exposures typically run about 15-30 second at f/4, at ISO 200.
While interesting to see on-screen, it requires a large print to really enjoy the incredible range of textures and tonalities found in this image. An ideal subject for medium format digital.
You can see a few other of my photographs taken previously in the Brickworks interior here.
Contax 645 with Phase One P25 back and 35mm f/4 Distagon lens. ISO 50
It was about 30 minutes till dawn and we were set up to photograph a hillside of cactus illuminated by the rising sun. Killing time, I did a few shots of the rather boring eastern sky. As I did we heard a car approaching from behind us, and I quickly reposition the camera to take a shot.
This was an 8 second exposure (just guesswork), and it turned out to be perfect to capture the intensity of the headlights on the road as well as a balance between the taillights and the early morning sky.
Because I was using a wide angle lens, the area of the final crop only represents about 30% of the full frame. But, the P25 records so much clean data that even this amount of cropping produces superb image quality.
Contax 645 with Kodak DCS Proback and 350mm f/4 Zeiss Tele-Aposonnar lens @ ISO 100
October, of course, means Fall colour in my part of the world. Every red-blooded landscape photographer wants to capture the splendor of this seasons, yet doing so without cliche is not always easy.
In this instance I was shooting with a friend along a highway in Northern Ontario. A lovely birch tree framed against some brilliant foliage caught our eye, and we pulled over to take a shot. But once out of the car it was this distant scene of a boat shed nestled in the shade of these softly side-lit trees that immediately captivated me.
I was pleased to have along a new long lens for my Contax 645 system, the 350mm f/4 Zeiss Tele-Aposonnar, and with it was able to pull the subject close enough, while also flattening the perspective in a way that I enjoy doing with distant landscapes.
Contax 645 with Kodak DCS Proback 645C and 120mm Zeiss f/4
It always surprises me how a shot taken "en-passant", with little thought or planning, can occasionally become a favourite. This was seen and taken as I was hiking a trail with my Algonquin Master Class group. I must have paused for all of 60 seconds, set my tripod down, framed the shot, and then moved on. Later though, as I reviewed my files, this one stood out. It has compositional strength, balance, and contrasts of tonality, texture and colour. Surprisingly, it also required almost no work to turn into a pleasing print. Some of the images that I sweated over that trip ended up being much less interesting.
The lesson here, I suppose, is that if one stops to take a shot , there must have been something there, and it therefore is worth examining each of our frames to try and determine what it was that captured us in the first place.
Sunflowers — Credit Valley, Ontario. August, 2004
Contax 645 with Kodak DCS Proback 645C and 120mm Zeiss f/4
1/10sec @ f/32. ISO 100
Sometimes remarkable photographic opportunities come out of the blue. The phone rang one morning and it was a friend, a photographer who specializes in photographs of flowers. He mentioned that there was the most remarkable field of sunflowers to be seen on a country road about an hour outside the city. The next day I decided to take a country drive. When I got near the described location I saw a huge field of giant sunflowers, but it was mostly hidden, and up a private farm driveway. Fortunately the farmer was working near the barn, so I drove up and asked if he would mind if I explored his property a bit and took some photographs. Fortunately he was gracious and said that he wouldn't mind at all.
The real problem was that the sunflowers were taller than I was, and there was no elevation to be found from which to gain any perspective. I wasn't looking to take just-another-close-up sunflower photograph, so at one point I climbed up on the roof of my SUV to look for a vantage point, and found it, right where I'd stopped. The above photograph was taken from the roof of the vehicle, and was the best shot of the morning, as well as the best of the month. I used a slightly long lens to get a bit of perspective compression, and found that by stopping down to f/32 I was able to hold depth of field from the foreground flowers to the distant trees. The light was perfect for this type of shot — what Kodak used to call on their film boxes "cloudy bright".
Later, I ran into my friend the flower photographer who was shooting about a mile away at another field of flowers that was easily accessible from the road. This was the field that he had intended that I visit. I explored it for an hour or so but couldn't find a decent shot, mainly because the sun and therefore the flowers were facing the wrong direction. My ending up in the wrong field initially, turned out to have lead me to my most interesting image of the month.
Contax 645 with 35mm f/3.5 Zeiss Distagan
and Kodak DCS Proback 645C @ ISO 100
During a three week period in late June and the first half of July, 2004 I lead two photographic workshops in Iceland. Chris Sanderson, the director of The Video Journal was working closely with me, and for a few days in between these intensive sessions our wives joined us from Canada for a little touring and R&R.
One afternoon the four of us visited the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, to my mind one of the most beautiful locations to be found in a country chock-full of remarkable places. The day we were there was highly unusual — sunny and warm. Because this is where Europe's largest glacier meets the North Atlantic ocean the weather is usually rainy, misty, and overcast. After spending some time enjoying the site and fine weather we drove to our hotel which was located about an hour away. After a late dinner Chris and I decided to return to the lake for the midnight sunset, as the skies were still almost completely clear and we wondered what a sunset at Jokulsurlon would be like. On previous trips to Iceland we had tried for it but been rained out each time.
When we got there the sky was still mostly clear, and we saw a couple of small partial halos on either side of the sun. But as the sun continued to set these slowly joined up to form a perfect 180 degree halo around the sun, blending with the cirrostratus clouds and their warm yellow colour. Because the lake was still, the halo was almost perfectly reflected, and formed a seeming 360 degree circle around the sun.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, but difficult to photograph because of the subtly of the tones and extreme brightness range of the shadowed icebergs and glaring sun. Interestingly, my widest lens for the Contax, the 35mm Distagon, was perfect for just capturing the entire circle of the halo. And because the Kodak back shoots a square image it was the perfect format for encompassing this subject. It's not often that the subject dictates that the format must be square.
You can read more about the halo effect in Section 156 of M.G.J. Minnaert's invaluable book Light and Color in the Outdoors.
Minolta A2 @ ISO 64. 1/250sec @ f/5.6
45mm equivalent focal length
This photograph struck a cord with many viewers when it first appeared as the site's front page image. I understand why, because it had a similar effect on me, both when I shot it and when I processed it. Because several people have asked how it was created I've now made it this month's Featured Image.
I saw this field of wildflowers a few days prior, but I drove by in a hurry, and didn't bother to stop because the light wasn't that appealing. But I made a mental note that the next time I drove this particular road I would stop to look at the possibilities. When I did drive by again I was in less of a hurry and the light was much better. I had my little Minolta A2 with me, and though at first I wished I had something bigger, like a medium format digital back or my Canon 1Ds, I have learned over several months of use that this little 8 Megapixel digicam is capable of producing some extreemly nice results as long as the ISO is kept low.
In this case the fact that the short focal length lens used on a digicam offers tremendous depth of field was of great benefit, (11mm in this instance), because it allowed me to hand-hold the shot and still have DOF from the foreground flowers to the distant tree line.
Later that day when reviewing the images in Photoshop I liked this particular frame the best, but there were two things wrong with it. Firstly, I had framed it so that there were a great many flowers in the foreground, with the trees visible just at the top of frame. Here is a full frame view of the original image. It seemed to me that what I had seen was an image that was about the trees as much as it was about the wildflowers, and so cropped the frame so that they shared roughly equal emphasis.
What I liked about this composition was that while the trees added a heavy mass to the top of the frame, making it somewhat unbalanced, the brilliant colours of the flowers and green field of grass nicely balanced it out, bringing the eye first to the center and then letting it roam through the frame.
But, it still didn't capture for me how this lovely field of wildflowers felt to me on this early summer's day. Indeed what I wanted was to find a way to make this single image representative of more than just this particular field of wildflowers — but rather a generalized memory image of such a pastoral scene. Hence the eventual title.
I accomplished this to my satisfaction by using an image processing technique called Gaussian Blur Overlay. This is simply another way of producing the effect that photographers have accomplished for more than a century though the use of diffusion screens and soft focus filters. It is an effect that can easily be overdone, but when used appropriately with the right subject matter it can be very effective. In some ways it mimics how a scene appears when you look at it with watery or squinted eyes — evocative, I hope, of a memory of wildflowers.
Canon 10D with Canon 28-300mm f/5.6L IS lens.
Every spring I try and spend a day or two photographing moose and other wildlife in Algonquin Park in northern Ontario. This year the moose were in profusion, but the weather was dreadful — drizzly, with flat light and low contrast. Also, though we saw and photographed at least twenty moose over two days, for the most part they were standing in the boggy ponds near the roads. This is fine for doing head and shoulder portraits, but that's not the type of wildlife photography that I enjoy. I would much rather photograph animals in the wild so as to show them in context, in other words landscapes with wildlife.
On our last morning as we were on our way back to our motel to check-out and then head home we saw this large bull feeding at the edge of a lake. I photographed him with my Canon 1Ds and 500mm f/4 lens, but in the end this medium-telephoto frame (shot at 85mm on a Canon 10D), done with a new zoom lens that I was testing, was the most effective composition. I converted the image to B&W using Channel Mixer in Photoshop, using the green channel at 100%, which caused the foliage to become light (the equivalent of having shot through a green filter on panchromatic film). Bringing up the contrast was all that was needed to complete the image and create the shot that I had hoped for.
Minolta A2 @ ISO 64
Two photographs share the honours this month — both of them taken in Seville, Spain. The man cleaning the sand at the bullring has the graphic simplicity that I always try to achieve in my work. Nothing more than is needed, and nothing less would tell the story properly. The colours are almost surreal, yet are an accurate portrayal of what was there.
Minolta A2 @ ISO 200
The ladies with their hair combs at the spring fair in Seville is in many ways the opposite of the bullring photograph — lacking in simplicity and compositionally "messy". But it has a quiet beauty and grace that is very appealing. A blurred and lightened duplicate layer was used to add the "shine". (This image represents less than 25% of the full frame).
Canon 10D with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens @ ISO 320
I am constantly amazed at how some of my best work exhibits one or both of a couple of characteristics — that is, that I don't think much of the shot at the time that it's taken, and also that I overlook them the first time through my files. That was the case with this photograph, taken on Safari in Tanzania in January.
I called to the driver to stop so I could take this shot — and took about a half dozen frames as this group of giraffes grazed in a small forest. They were quite far from the road, and even with my lens at 200mm only filled about half the frame. I should have reached for my 500mm lens but I didn't want to take the time. We drove on and I didn't give them another thought.
A couple of weeks later it wasn't until my third (and final) review of my shots from the trip that I noticed this frame. I immediately saw that it needed to be significantly cropped and that it also would be best in B&W. It has now turned out to be one of my favourite images from the trip. Often the best photographs don't reveal themselves right away.
Featured images from 2003 are found here.
Featured images from 2002 are found here.
Featured images from 2001 are found here.
Featured images from 2000 are found here.