Sunday, April 20, 2014

Portrait Workshop at Isle of the Arts Festival

Yesterday was a happy day for me.  In the afternoon I led a Portrait Workshop at the Hope Centre on North Road for a wonderful group of people.  They were a diverse group including teens and seniors.  We had four sets going all afternoon and did some pretty good pictures.  I really love doing portraits, seeing what is best in people and bringing it out with pictures.

Unfortunately, we only had 4 hours.   We had a lot of material to cover and it was pretty rushed.  We had a window light set, two tungsten sets and a flash set and frankly, I think I tried to cover too much ground.   Fortunately, the group was forgiving and fun.   I think they enjoyed the diversity.

Lately I have been using an Olympus 4/3 camera with a standard viewing screen on the back.   The Olympus is a great walking camera but for effective studio portraits it feels like a tiny view camera and requires a tripod.  I confess I found it awkward to work with in studio, particularly shooting jpg, a format that I never shoot.   Having to hold the camera away from my body made it more unstable and I have to say that I found it very difficult to compose with accuracy.

Fortunately, I had occasion to do demonstrations with some of the students' slr cameras, mostly Canons which I know pretty well.  It was a treat to look through a viewfinder again, it felt familiar and I admit, was so much easier to work with.  In previous times, I used Large Format and enjoyed standing next to the camera as I worked, but I had forgotten how comfortable it is to have the flexibility and stability that the slr provides.

The next time I do a workshop like this I'll make it much more focussed though.  I'll create several sets of course but will concentrate on window light, flash fill, studio flash or tungsten.   If we keep it simple, I think we'll get better results and have time for processing the raw files.

My thanks to everyone who participated though, you were a wonderful group and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

When All Else Fails, a Walk at Drumbeg


The idea behind this picture came to me when I realized that I have never openly acknowledged the cleansing and healing power of walking.  Walking has been central to my life over the years, often as a part of my desire to understand something or to give myself the chance to feel the freedom of movement.

As many of you know, until recently I have been a city person, I prefer sidewalks, shops and cafes to trees and nature and the adjustment to island living has been a rather large challenge.   It has also been a source of frustration for my partners as my typical response, often unarticulated, to an invitation to walk one of the many trails that we have on Gabriola, is "what for?"

I do try to appreciate nature and I respect this place very much.  I would fight to protect this island and this way of life but I have to confess that overall, I just don't find nature that interesting.

I am sure that many of you are on the verge of scoffing right now.  How can anyone not be moved by the magnificence and beauty of our surroundings?   How can one not appreciate the wonder and the interconnectedness of living things?     This guy must be quite a bozo.

Please let me hasten to add that I do not litter.  I drive as little as possible and while I was living in the city, I walked or used transit most of the time.  I recycle and I try to reduce my carbon footprint wherever possible.   This also includes my physical footprint.  I try to live small and am learning to let go of my possessions and embrace a life of voluntary simplicity.   I try to embrace minimal living in whatever I do.

So I don't feel that I need to apologize for reticence around being in the great outdoors.  The fact is, I'm a little clumsy, especially on uneven ground.   I trip over roots, rocks, stones or branches.   I tend to look around and don't want to have to look down all the time.   When I am out on a trail,  I want to look ahead, to the side, I want to look at the light and the way it reveals my surroundings.  It's a sure fire way it seems, to end up with my face in the mud.

There are exceptions though, and Drumbeg is one of them.  For Drumbeg, I'll risk a faceplant!   I walk carefully so I don't fall on the trail, on the rocks, off the cliffs and find myself stopping to examine things that I know will be there.   This magnificent park has so much to look at, to be inspired by, to think about and yes, to photograph.

I think of Edward Weston and his continuing love for Point Lobos, his willingness to walk around with his 8x10 view camera.   I feel healed by the light, the water, the grasses and the trees that make this such a great place.   I feel blessed.