Black and White Photowalks [Street]

Shot this with my Mother-in-law's old Ricoh SLR, Kodak Tri-X film.  I LOVE this grain.

This summer was a lot of fun.  I know that we're winding up the actual "Summer Vacation" for anyone still in school, so I wanted to host a photowalk that would be focused on black and white photography. I created a facebook event, invited some people from the Sackville Photo Club and got a great response.  I had a bunch of people sign up to go!  Then, the rain came.  Several of us trekked out and got soaked, holding our umbrellas, seeking shelter from the downpour under building canopies but ultimately sticking it out.

The photos have a really neat "dark" quality to them, and I processed them to look like Kodak Tri-X.  I had originally intended to shoot film for this walk, but the rain was a big discouragement, since I really wasn't able to change film on the fly.  

This guy doesn't look like he's very happy with me, but I smiled and waved after snapping this shot and he smiled back.  It's amazing how people will react sometimes.

Of course, there were only about six of us shooting that evening, so it was worth rescheduling and shooting again.  Again, there were about 7 of us at a time, with a few coming and going throughout the evening, which, by the way, was beautiful. No rain at all.

Contrary to the previous walk, I was able to shoot a lot more film, and used my Elan 7e as my primary camera for most of the night.  All of these shots were made on Kodak Tri-X.

I think I will probably host a few more of these before the year is out.  They're a fantastic chance to get out, stretch your compositional muscles and really think about light, tones, textures and shapes, all without the distraction of colour!  I will have to find some interesting parts of town to explore as well, hit me with suggestions, and feel free to come along to the next one!


Feature a Photog Friday: Chris Orwig

One of my go-to books for inspiration and practice ideas is Chris Orwig's People Pictures. In it, you'll find a plethora of fantastic imagery, as well as some very insightful advice for taking photos guessed it! People.

I think one of the things that I really like about his works is that they are all very real.  There's substance. The photos are engaging, despite the fact that I don't actually know the person in the image. There's something else too: Chris has style.  His photos look very well balanced, immaculately lit, and have a slightly subdued color palate. 

He gives me something to aspire to.  

I'm also impressed by the variety of mediums that Chris implements in his portraiture.  Looking through his website you'll find photos made with everything from a Canon 5D Mark II to a 4X5 film camera.  

So check out Chris' book for some engaging reading, tips and practice exercises to take your portrait photos to the next level.  In addition, take a look over his work at  You'll find several galleries of photos, some links to courses and even a TedX Talk.  

Have a super fantastic weekend!

More Lighting via Self Portraits

So often I wind up being my own lab rat when it comes to testing lights.  I feel like I've been struggling lately with lighting my shots artificially, (ie using flash) so I wanted to spend a bit more time with my modifiers to see what kind of light I could get out of them.  The twist was that I wanted to use a shallow Depth of Field to make a very simple, yet focused headshot against a plain wall.  Nothing fancy.  A wall, me, a chair, camera on a tripod and my softboxes.  

I really wanted to sort out why I would use one modifier over the other.  Why bust out a huge 45" octabox when I can use my 24" softbox that sets up in seconds?  Another question would be: How close can I get the box to the subject?  How does the light look when I feather it out?

Well, here are the results.

I started out with a simple setup: Ezybox camera left, 50mm f/1.8 at f/2.8.  Nice and shallow.  I turned the power down to 1/64, as low as it would go on the flash.  Not only does this extend battery life, but it will also allow me to push the softbox in really close.  The initial shots weren't great.  I felt like I was warping my features a bit too much, and I wound up switching to an 85mm f/1.8 instead.  Same aperture, and just a little bit less distorted looking.

The only other problem I had was a pretty deep shadow on the right side.  I popped up a piece of white card-stock up off camera right and used that to reflect some light back into my face.  

What I liked about the Ezybox in this configuration is the rapid falloff of light and very nice, and focused catch-lights.  Due to its size, the Ezybox creates somewhat of a defined shadow on the wall, but not so much that it's a distraction.   

The next set of images were done with the octagonal Apollo Orb by Westcott.  I have my reservations about this modifier, including the size and apparent flimsyness.  There's another issue as well: when you set it up, you can't access the flash once the front baffle is in place.  This sucks, unless you're using wireless TTL triggering.

The light though, especially for this application, is fantastic.  Really really nice light.  The big source gives you a wonderful softness, as well as nice round catchlights.  When you feather this light out, it gets exceptionally pretty.

Not that I'm exceptionally pretty...

Shot with the Ezybox, once I felt I had a "nice" smiling picture and the lighting was right.

I love the definition that comes out in Black and White.  This is a fantastic way to light!

Deep in thought... The Apollo Orb.  Notice how smooth the light is, especially on the background.  It's like there's a natural vignette (I didn't add a vignette to this!!)

Can you guess which light was used on these photos?

Not too bad for one light!

I'm out, I will be shooting some star trails on the weekend, or maybe later this summer with the way the weather has been going!


Fashion/Portrait Session: Marsalie MacKenzie

Lawrencetown is a beautiful photo location, especially when you've got someone as stunning as Marsalie to work with.  

I had Jenn Gregory help me on this shoot, and she took a few photos of her own as well!  The light at the beach was a little bit flat and boring, but luckily I had a few light-shapers and flashes with me.  For the most part, we used natural light and a reflector, but for the walking shot you'll see below, I popped a flash up in the McNally Softbox to add a little direction to the light.  Not so much that it became overbearing, but just to help get Marsalie to really pop against the backdrop.

By the way, a photo of Marsalie can be found in British Vogue this month!  She modelled for Veronica MacIsaac with photographer Brent McCombs.  Go check it out!!

Cheers, more coming soon!

Setting up a Self Portrait

A few weeks back I decided that it was time to update my social media presence with a new profile picture. I always struggle with these as I want to do something that grabs your eye, but in a flattering way.  The added challenge is including props like a camera, and choosing the right wardrobe to go with the shot.  

By no means am I a model.  It is, however, very important to get in front of the camera from time to time to remind myself of the kind of things that I put models through, and what they need to do to help make the shot work.

For the technical stuff, this was  3 light setup.  I used a pair of Canon 430EXII's mounted on stands on either side and slightly behind me.  The important thing with these lights is that they must be equidistant from the subject otherwise the lighting will look funny.  They must also be set to the same power output and usually use the same modifier.

The front light was one of the SPC's Bowens Gemini strobes with a medium size softbox.   I dialed in the power for this one to be fairly low, as I didn't want my flashes to be overpowered by the larger strobe.

For the backdrop, I used a black bedsheet that I bought some time ago.  The strobe lighting allows me to get the camera aperture and shutterspeed to a point where there's no detail in the backdrop.  What little light actually does fall on the background can be quickly removed in post-production.

Have a look below for the lighting diagram for these.  The softbox placement is fairly crude in the diagram, it was in fact a bit more centered.  The question is, which photo do you like the best?