Sunday night, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

I’ve been waiting longer than I wanted to post this one. My blog will be moving to a new location very soon. In fact I transferred the files today but managed to mess up the data base in the process. It isn’t the end of the world though, I’m sure it’ll be sorted out soon enough.

In the meantime, I needed a photo for this weeks P52 theme, Skylines. I figured everyone else in the group would be doing daytime shots, so I elected for an evening shot. For this one, I found a very dark spot on a bridge over the highway with Ottawa in the distance. A few clouds would have been nice but star was a nice compromise.

I anticipated a 30 sec exposure and so went prepared, at least I thought I was. Once I was set up, I realized I’d left my remote cable release at home so longer than 30 seconds was not going to be possible. Instead I increased the ISO and and opened the aperture one stop to bring me closer to where I wanted to be using 30 sec.

I didn’t have a lot of time for this one, and only took two other shots. Something you’ll want to consider if you’re going out on a cold night for a long exposure shot. Remember to keep safe. Bring a flash light, park off the road but leave your flashers on. Dress for the cold (a hat would have been nice tonight) but also pre-visualize the kind of shot you want, including what exposure settings you’ll need. setting those while in the warm car will reduce your time in the cold.



after the game, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Like many, I’m in at least one photo group. We challenge ourselves each week with a theme meant to inspire and get us out and actually taking pictures. Three of us were out at the end of week searching for a bench, in the process though I was reminded how easy it is to get caught up in the “hunt” and not notice what’s really there.

We made our way to a frozen river next to a park in a residential part of town and as usual each went our separate ways looking for our subject. As it turns out, there was only one, and I had my shot within 5 mins of arriving. Nevertheless, I did spend the next hour trudging through the snow, eyes peeled for distant benches. On the return trip I moved out onto the ice thinking a different perspective would help and it did but not in the way I expected.

The temperature was around -15 C, much colder in the wind, but I was dressed for the occasion. Having given up on benches, I began to look around at the light and new subjects. Turning the corner, I found what I wanted. The kids had already gone home, Mom was just picking up the shovel and heading back home too leaving me with a typical Canadian winter scene, a hockey rink on a river. The sun was dropping fast so I had to act quickly. Things may have been better with people or their tools but the consolation prize wasn’t too shabby either.

The easy thing is to get lost in one idea, our challenge is to keep at least one eye on the watch for the better situations. It’s up to us to make the best of them when they turn up. I’m happy I did.

By the way here’s a tip, to avoid condensation and possible damage to your gear during the winter, keep a large zip lock bag with some absorbent silica gel in your camera bag (those little packets you find in your purchases will work). When you’re done shooting, put your camera in the bag, squeeze out the air and seal it up and leave it that way until you’re inside and your camera has adjusted to the warmer air (at least an hour). The silica will take care of the moisture, and your camera will be dry and free from condensation. Oh and you might also want to keep the camera out of the wind when walking; my brother didn’t and ended up freezing his camera bits. He wasn’t happy.

Originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Lately I’ve been thinking about a number of things, I suppose that’s what we do at the start of a new year. I noticed this year, things feel different although I can’t quite put my finger on it, I think it has to do with a coming period of change.

Have you ever had the feeling that you no longer belong in the place you’ve occupied for a long time? Has it ever felt like a once familiar place has moved on in a different direction and your only noticing it now? I have and it’s little disconcerting. This blog is about photography so don’t expect any in depth analysis or explanation on the root cause for the sensation. What I think is worth noting is that when you find yourself in that place, there seems to be only two options. Either adapt and catch up by working harder to get back in sync with the others; or continue on your own path, in which case you best have an exit plan. Time will tell how quickly the transition will take but I’m comforted in knowing I have a plan.

I’ve been in the public service for than 34 years; I’m now at the point where most of the people I worked with are either retired, about to retire or are being promoted. Mostly I’m surrounded by Gen. Xer’s just coming into their own and beginning move things in new directions rather than following the lead of the Baby Boomers. In 2008, I had a glimpse at my own mortality and realized how quickly things can change. I also realized I had to accept certain realities, such as woodworking was not going to be as big a part of my life as I thought. I needed an alternative and decided that photography would be the basis of my next career; and following the advice of a retirement advisor, I started right away to make it a significant part of my life.

I figured there would be three phases to my plan. Discovery, Learning, and Growing. The first part came easy especially with my younger brothers along for the ride. It was focused on gear and software, discovering all the tools, experimenting with styles, and making lots of mistakes. The second year, at least for me, was centered around formal learning with workshops and courses at a local photography school. It was through immersing myself in the craft that I began to let technical decisions become second nature leaving me to explore what I wanted to create and why.

The last phase will last the longest, at least I hope it does. Growing as a photographer includes discovering new aspects of the craft and learning the skills to continue to improve on the results and keeping things fresh. I feel I’m at the beginning of my growth as a photographer. In recent months I have moved beyond the confines of where I live by establishing productive relationships with Ray Ketcham, my mentor on the West Coast of the US, and Sabrina Henry a blogger and photographer friend based in Vancouver. I have a detailed plan for what I want to achieve this year. Some of it I’ve been thinking about for a couple years, other parts are both scary and exciting at the same time. Most of the goals are achievable within the year and achieving them will help move me towards the longer term goals.

And that is really the point of this long post. Our day-jobs pay the bill and hopefully will end at a time when we don’t need to go to an office building every day or convince someone with money or credit burning a hole in their pocket to buy something they don’t really need. That day may come sooner than you expect and those who think ahead and decide what they’ll do next will be better prepared for that day. Those who begin now to work towards that thing, whatever it is, will have less of an adjustment to make. If Photography is your thing, make a plan, set some goals and work towards them. You’ll be surprised how great you feel when you pass those milestones.

So, which option will I choose, catch up or go my own way? I haven’t decided yet but I can see that the time to make a choice is getting short. Maybe I’ll take the fast approaching exit, or maybe I’ll wait and take the next one a little further down the highway. Either way I know I have a plan ready for the next place.

Hurdman Station, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

I had an idea recently that I’d start posting iPhone pictures on a mini blog (ken’s other place). These would represent things I see while in transit to work or anywhere else. As its turned out, I’m not taking near as many shots as I thought I would. Why is that you’re wondering.

Accessibility. I have learned that keeping the phone in my pants pocket, especially when wearing a winter coat, makes it difficult to retrieve when I see a moment that I like. Add to that having to remove tight-fitting gloves, and navigate through the steps to get to the camera option. Solution? Keep the phone closer at hand, turn off the pass-code, and either don’t wear gloves or get looser ones.

Sameness. Not surprisingly, after thirty four years of commuting to an office each and every weekday I’ve developed some very well established habits to combat the dreariness. My head is either down as I walk or looking towards the people at the bus stop for signs the bus is approaching. At the stop I watch the traffic, the sky, the newspaper box anything but the people – that way I don’t end up stuck with a “talker” sitting next to me on the bus. During the ride, I’m reading books, email, news articles. Looking out the window seems pointless, not because they are dirty, which they are, but because most of the ride is on a bus-only road with concrete walls on either side. At the transfer points, sometimes one, other days two, I watch for buses and crazies. The latter I avoid if I can. The the former arrives, I have limited time to avoid having to stand for the next leg of the trip. Mostly though, I’m looking at the same scenes in almost the same lighting conditions every day and that hasn’t been too inspiring. Solution? Lift the head, don’t worry about missing the bus or meeting the talkers. Maybe I can change my transfer points or my route from time to time. That would introduce variety.

I suppose I could make other trips too. The point of all this is that for every excuse, there’s probably 2 or more solutions.

Look for more photos soon.

Santa’s helper, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Every November for 9 or more years, our family – grandparents, brothers, nieces and nephews, has gathered in the same spot on St. Joseph Blvd in Orleans, at the same time, 5:30pm to watch the Santa Clause parade of lights. This year the weather was kind to us, so those who came prepared stayed warm for the 2.5 hours it takes for the parade to run its course.

Photographing parades like these calls for preparation, good timing and a bit of luck. The lighting is mixed with street lights, assorted coloured lights on the floats, and truck lights both front and back. Shooting RAW is almost essential if you want to have maximum control over the WB later in LR.

As for lens selection, I went with a short telephoto for maximum flexibility. My ISO was at 800 and my f-stop was as wide as I could get it, around f/4. Then it gets interesting.

As the floats move by, you have to pick the right spot for focus and exposure, I usually went with the middle focus point and took a reading off either a face or a tone that would prevent the highlights from blowing out. Panning is usually needed too but in the picture above it looks like I grabbed the shot during a moment when the float paused. That’s the anticipation bit. You need to be aware not only of what’s coming but also what’s happening in the front as well. This way you can adjust your focal length, and decide on what part of the action you want to capture.

Keep your framing in mind as well. Its true that you can shoot wider and crop out some unnecessary details but try to keep that to a minimum so as not to end up with too much noise in the dark areas. This is part of the preparation. Take the time to examine your location, what will you need to exclude (the bright Tims sign perhaps or the nicely decorated sex shop not far from the church. These are all important decisions.

I enjoyed the night very much. I tried shooting into the floats as they went by. When I had the focus and exposure right, luck gave me a moment when a couple kids were clearly enjoying the ride. The best part is that at the parade, I wouldn’t normally be able to see these moments.

November is over and Santa has arrived at the malls. Hum, have I been good enough this year to get that Wacom tablet?



too soon for winter, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Seasons change, people change, our needs change.

On November 5th my brother and I headed out at 6:30am. The air was crisp and the skies were clear. Our destination was Blakeney Rapids located just under an hour’s drive west of Ottawa. This trip represented a return to regular weekend outings for Dave after a difficult year for him on a personal level. I’m glad to have him back as frankly morning outings are not quite the same when you go solo. The gap in active photography had an impact for Dave, in a sense he’s relearning stuff he knew quite well in 2010. I’m going to help fill that gap as a mentor of sorts. We’re still working out the details but I’m already discovering the role of a mentor can be beneficial in two ways. One way is for the recipient and you’ll find lots on that subject on the web, the other is for the mentor him/herself – besides the satisfaction of seeing someone grow in confidence and skill but also I think it helps keep the mentor current on the craft and challenged to be innovative with problem solving.

I am close to deciding that it would be a good idea if I had a mentor. The first step, of course, is knowing what my needs and expectations are. I’ve given some thought to that, and doing some research as well. David DuChemin writes about the concept in his book Vision Mongers and his advice has helped me focus on some personal goals.

I have at times thought of my involvement with photography as being like some one who is late to the game. I’m a couple years from retirement and only a few years into learning this craft. I know if I’d kept at photography over the years and learned more about art and business I’d be in a very different place right now and I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of people my age; office workers and family men who find they have more time and disposable cash available to begin pursuing something new – taking and selling quality pictures, perhaps ones that could be considered art. This part of the baby-boom wave has helped grow a new industry of on-line photography lessons, workshops, weekend retreats, books etc all offered by people with varying levels of skill as writers, photographers and teachers. I suspect the quality or those offerings may have inspired a recent post by Ray Ketcham when he wrote about the Myth of the Muse. I believe his message is inspiration grows from work and not from some divine or other mystic intervention. But what about time, and the lack thereof?

How does the middle aged person make up for decades of missed opportunities to learn the arts, to be observant and creative? I can’t accept that it’s too late. Perhaps a mentor can help fill that gap, can help guide me across the river to that distant shore. That’s what I hope to explore next.

The picture at the top was taken at Blakeney Rapids with a Canon Xsi. ISO 100, f/22 and a 13 second exposure with a focal length of 36mm. I used ND filters to achieve a long exposure.