A few feet apart, a world apart

Last week, I posted a few images from our favorite snow-covered forest. The image spoke of calm, peace and serenity (and of implied nudity, if you, like me, have a crooked mind). This week, I am posting an image made a few seconds after the ones posted last week, literally two or three feet away from where that last image was taken. Yet…

snow covered tree trunks in a forestA subtle change in light (with wind causing the fresh snow drifts to scatter across the scene) and a change in exposure (I intentionally underexposed here), we have a completely different take on what is essentially the same scene…

There are a few take home messages here:

1- Life is not as it seem: people have this thought engrained into them that photography somehow represents reality. Here, without any photoshop, we have two different feels to the same scene? Which one is real? Is either of them real? Is either of them not real?

2- Always be ready: a big part of photography is the ability to read and react to your environment. Being aware of your surroundings and the changes therein gives you the ability to create more striking and dramatic images.

3- Work your scene: I’ve said this often on this blog and will repeat it again. There are multiple images to be made in a given scene, don’t constrain yourself to one or two. Try something different: look in a different direction, change lenses, change exposure…

Come back next week for more images from the same place and again a whole other world. I promise. In the meantime, if you have some time to spare, go over to our doublespacephoto blog to enjoy some our latest interior design photography.

Dream or Reality – The reveal

Last week I posted the image below and asked you to deconstruct it and tell me how it was done. Among others, I asked you if it was composited or one frame, what you thought was done in terms of lighting choices, post-processing and so on. At the end of, the person who got the closest would get a 12×18″ of their choice.

Click on the image to see it larger

The answers pretty much covered the entire gamut with some really intricate responses and some more straightforward. So how did Amanda and I make this image?

Well believe it or not, this is a single frame. No trees or snow or model were added.

Let’s start: it was snowing very heavily that day, with big, fluffy snowflakes falling at an impressing rate. By choosing a slightly long focal length, we knew that was going to make the background look foggy. The key to this image is two fold. First, Amanda is standing under the shade of the tree, thus creating a strong contrast with the background which is much brighter. Second, the choice of lighting had a strong influence on the final look. Instead of going for the colourless and drab conditions that prevailed at the time, we thought we’d rather go with a cooler atmosphere and convey the cold feeling that reigned at the time. For this we chose a low WB temperature (4700K), to compensate for that and maintaining the warm tones of the came and Amanda’s skin tones, we gelled two flashes with full CTO gels, slapped them on an umbrella at camera left at a 45 degree angle to Amanda. And that was that.

In post-processing, we simply added a tiny bit of contrast, brought in some highlights then cloned out all of the footsteps to keep a clean look.

And tadaa!

Congratulations to Duffy Knox for coming the closest to the actual explanation. You had it down to a tee! I will be in touch shortly.

Slow it down

If you’re familiar with my work, you probably already know I am not much of people’s photographer (some may argue I am not much of a photographer, but that’s a debate for another day). While, I still favour photographing landscapes and architecture mainly, I have developed a keen interest for people photography. One of the main things elements I have focussed on during my latest Moroccan adventure, was the incorporation of human figures into my frames so as to add scale, motion and interest to a given scene. I have quickly come to see that places that may not photograph so well on their own, spring to life, when humans are added to the scene.

As we were walking down the mesmerizing narrow streets of the Old medina of Fes, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the earthly colour of the walls and the wonderful light bouncing off them. However, I often found that my efforts to portray these streets fell somewhat short of conveying the magic surrounding the place. This is where I decided that the addition of some human elements would bring the scene to life.

Walking down the streets of the old Medina of Fes, Morocco. Click on the image to buy a print.

While I do enjoy a good old portrait, there are times where a more subtle approach is desirable. In this case, while I wanted to add a human element to the scene, I didn’t want it to be the main subject, which would have diverted my initial intention of this image. Therefore, I opted here for a more environmental image, where people would merely be passers-by. To do this, I knew I needed to slow down my shutter speed. Enough to render the motion blur from people walking-by, but not as much as to make them completely disappear from the scene. For this I knew that something in the vicinity of a half second would be required. With  my camera on the tripod and the polarizer on, I only needed to close the aperture down to f/8. I then simply fired a few shots away as people moved in and out of the scene, until I got a satisfactory image.

In the final image presented here, I was drawn to the fortuitous “yin and yang” look with the man in dark clothes and the woman in white clothes evenly placed across the frame. I have to admit though that my favourite part of the entire image is the sweet soft light hitting that wooden door in the background…the sort of light dreams are made of :) .

Think inside the box

If you’re reading this post, it means I am…I am…

…enjoying the sun in my native land of Morocco, where I will be putting the finishing touches scouting locations for an upcoming photo tour this fall.  Participants will be enjoying a very unique circuit to sample some of the amazing things Morocco has to offer. Being from Morocco myself, I want to make sure it isn’t one of those run of the mill tours, but something that truly represents the country while providing participants with ample opportunities to photograph. Stay tuned for more info on this in the next few weeks. Some exciting stuff, people.

Anyhow, I had prepared a “gear-head” type of post for today, but as I was thinking on the plane on ways to define or re-define my photo career,  I kept coming back to the idea of “thinking outside the box”. And that’s where I remembered this project I started about a year ago. While it is not quite ready for prime time yet, I thought it would make for a more entertaining and fun post.

While I am not ready to unveil the details of the project just yet, the image below is a great reminder to keep your mind open for new opportunities as surprises (good ones) are bound to happen.

Watcha lookin' at?

Here my thinking was very simple: let’s look for the unusual viewpoint. We usually tend to look *into*our subject, so why not flip that around and have a look at how our subjects or objects look at *us*. The execution here was extremely simple : shove camera inside oven. shove head in bag of coal. add some mascara (yeah, I always carry some with me). press shutter. try again. and again. done.

While I didn’t intend this one to be a photo-sharing feature per se, now that I am at the end of the post, I am thinking that I’d love to see your take on this…get out there, think outside of the box. share it. don’t fear the ridicule. ridicule is the new cool. if this doesn’t make sense it’s cuz I haven’t slept in a while and that I am feeling a bit cramped in this airplane cabin. so please forgive me.

signing off.

Challenge accepted!

One of the suggestions from my recent post on things you’d like to see on the blog, Teresa, challenged me to try something different once in a while, get out of my comfort zone, break a rule, and expose it here (probably for you to laugh at me, but heh).

I am not sure how often I will be able to revisit this feature, but I find it intriguing and am really excited in giving it a go.

To start it off, I am going to go waaay off. Way off from what you have been accustomed to see from me. You see, if I photograph landscapes and buildings it’s because, unlike people, they don’t move and don’t talk back…

In fact I am really self-conscious about photographing people. I am too shy to ask for the permission to photograph, too shy to direct them to get the look I am looking for. So when my dad called me to say that he’d really love to have a few portraits done by his talented son (:D), I jumped at the occasion and went to Montreal to give it a go. The challenge wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t throw in a little wrench in the whole thing: It wasn’t to be a natural light portrait, I wanted to use flash and make it look natural. The only problem, is that flash light and me don’t get along…until then (I think). So not only did I get to force myself to direct my dad during the shoot, but I also finally got over  my fear of the dreaded flash. The best of all was that it gave me the perfect excuse to bond a little more with my dad!

What dya think?

Here I wanted something less straightforward. This was lit with a Nikon SB-800 in a 24" lastolite softbox

A little bonding time. In this one, the SB-800 was bounced off the wall and ceiling behind the camera

Here I was trying to balance natural light coming from the window camera right by adding a bit of fill-flash from camera left.