Black & White

Walkway on the Bog, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

My parents introduced me to photography at the impressionable age of 12 with my first camera and a basic darkroom kit. It became and still is a significant part of my life. Last year I had the chance to share what I’ve learned, and to give back some of the magic that comes with translating how you see the world into something that’s uniquely yours.

Mom has always been a creative person with hobbies ranging from blending coloured pencils to give depth and life to sketches of English country scenes, to decorating cut glass bottles with lead, and gluing dried flowers in tiny arrangements on notepaper, to the more traditional knitting and quilt-making. In recent years, though, I hadn’t heard talk of any new hobbies. When she mentioned last spring that she’d like to get a better camera, the glimmer of an idea formed. I talked with her about camera features and the differences between point and shoot, bridge and SLR cameras and was pleased when she decided to get a very nice bridge camera for their pending trip to NL. Before the trip, she asked if I’d give her a few tips. There was my opening.

Over the following months we talked about taking pictures and digital workflows and post processing. I gave her a couple of essential but not too technical books and was thrilled to learn she was reading them and trying the exercises. I have to admit too that I was surprised to see that not only had she been listening to what I said a week or more earlier, but was actively putting what I said to use. A milestone was reached recently when she told me she was bracketing her shots but didn’t find there was much difference with the results and that she was getting used to using the exposure compensation option. It struck me that she knew more about her camera and exposure than my brothers did at the same point in learning the craft.

We invited her to participate in our weekly photo challenges where we’ve seen her pictures get progressively better. A long forgotten energy was developing with this new creative outlet and I think it’s been fantastic for her. I don’t want to give away her age, but I’ll be 52 this month and I think it’s wonderful that she’s been able to adapt so quickly to digital photography and computers (a Mac of course).

Unbeknownst to her, Saturday past was like a final exam for year one of the course. We headed out to the Mer Bleue (a protected bog near Ottawa) just as the sun was coming up. There I watched a bit then left her to her own devices photographing reflections, landscapes (in tricky lighting mind you) and frost on the plants. Later over tea at Tim Hortons, we talked about compositions and depth of field. When I saw her pictures I could tell she was light years away from where she was last year. My picture above of the boardwalk isn’t as nicely composed as hers. I wrote to her that night to tell her she had passed year one with flying colours and was being promoted to year two where she’ll learn about shooting RAW and hopefully will be introduced to a DSLR.

The message for parents and their children – it’s never too late to learn, nor is it ever too late to give something back. In my case it was simply time, conversation and encouragement. Easy Peasy.

in motion, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Sunday was overcast, the sky so full more than a few drops spilled over as we drove downtown.

My photo-partner and I were headed to the 2011 edition of Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. Not being hard-core photographers, we were feeling more than a little doubtful about the day and wee prepared to leave at any moment. The rain held off, at least until we parked. With 40 mins. before the scheduled start, we decided the only proper thing to do was stop at Bridgehead’s for a coffee and a cookie. We’ll give her 30 mins was the agreement.

Coffee and cookies gone, and there not being a stain of rain on the road, we headed on and met our group just before 3PM. Introductions had just finished when a late arrival bumped my shoulder with a flirty “hi Charlie”. This was Sue whom I quickly learned worked with Dad in St. John’s many years ago. “Wrong Udle, I’m Ken. But I do have Mom with me. Shirley, meet Sue, she knows Dad.”

Leader Henry interrupted the reminiscences with words of safety and a map. Mom and I knew we would not be able to complete the circuit in 2 hours. In fact we had to stop just over an hour in – on account of rain and tired feet.

This was my second WWPW and I have to admit it was more successful for me. We took our time, avoided including the drab sky and looked instead for patterns, reflections and texture.

We’d see Sue from time to time, once when she was balanced precariously on a bench, I stood quietly next to her just in case. Mom was so absorbed in shooting one building that she hardly noticed the street person approach with suggestions on how to enlarge the picture. A quick intervention and deflection and he was on his way.

We didn’t see much of the rest of the group, and that was the case last year too. My suggestion for anyone considering the 2012 edition is to bring a friend and some water. Carry just a camera and one or two lenses. Get lost in the possibilities, but don’t wander too far off the route.

My shots are on Flickr. You can get there with the link on the bottom left.

Gentle flows, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Scott and I took two of the kids out with us on Friday night. They’re just beginning in photography and felt special to get the chance to come out with us. We went to Strathcona park in Ottawa. Both kids have good Bridge cameras and a tripod. I asked what kind of pictures they like to take, “anything, everything” was the quick answer.

On site i was the ducks in the river that first caught their attention. unfortunately the light was very low and even using high ISOs, they still couldn’t get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the birds. They did try hard, though, and it will be interesting to see what they post.

The second most popular subject was the “love bench” with themselves on or behind it. The tripods and self timers really helped with this. The name comes from the big heart painted on the wooden bench.

Scott and I got a few pictures, I only have two that I like. The one at the top of this blog and one of some reeds posted to the Project 52 site. We’ll go back with Dave when the lighting is better. The kids had a good time and that’s the main thing.

Current, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

This weekend my brother and I participated in an Effects of Winter Landscape workshop at the School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa (SPAO). It started Friday after work, continued 9 to 5 on Saturday, and finished at 4pm this afternoon. I enjoyed the company (Scott the other students, and the teacher). One goal was to see if I liked the atmosphere at SPAO and I did.

The course outline was ambitious with a mix of composition theory and photography outings to put the theory to use. There were good discussions but ultimately we didn’t cover all the theory and took longer on the outings. Sunday was a bit it was mostly about creating panoramic shots from multiple shots using PS CS4. I have never worked with PS so that part was a bit of a challenge for me. In the end, I cropped a larger shot to a section I liked. It still qualifies as a pano shot because the height is less than half the width.

I probably won’t do another workshop like that one, the time commitment was too much, but I expect I will take one of their other courses.

Reeds 2010, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Just over a year ago I took a picture of some reeds behind my house. I wasn’t shooting RAW at the time, I composed the picture head on with two points of interest just a little below centre. I converted the picture to B&W probably using iPhoto. Here is the picture


I received positive feedback on the shot and in preparing for the February picturerama show chose it as one of the 20 that I submitted. Someone bought it and recently I heard she’d was talking about how much she liked the picture a month after the sale. I was pleased and surprised.

So, on a walk with Sandi and our dog the other day I decided to revisit the same location and take another shot of the same reeds. This time I changed my angle of view, chose only one point of interest, and did the B&W conversion in LR2.

I like this shot better but mostly I’m pleased with my improvement in just 17 months. I’ll include this one in the April picturama, just for fun. Maybe next year I’ll revisit this spot again.

The gate, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

My brothers and I have made it a habit to go out on a Sunday or Saturday to take pictures for our Project 52 (see earlier posts). Since the beginning of January we have gone out perhaps 7 or 8 times. We have a good laugh, learn from each other and enjoy the challenge of creating something unique from the same scene. We’re using very much the same equipment, essentially the same lighting and a similar way of taking pictures. This time we found a waterfall, here’s Dave’s take on it followed by Scott’s:


Waterfall at the Old Mill

My own shot was very much like these and I wanted something different so in Lightroom 2 I converted it to Black & White and cropped it to emphasize the patterns. I like all three but it never ceases to amaze me how the three of us can come away from the same scene with different shots and really that seems to have become the goal in our 52 week project, come up with something different and better than the last week’s shot.

Greens Creek, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

This week’s Project 52 adventure took us to a conservation area just off Innes Road in Ottawa. We had a bit of a hike to get to this spot and if you don’t know, I’m not a small guy. Climbing up and down snow banks, through brush, falling only once, was the most physical effort I’ve put into my pictures in a very long time – like years.

The trip was worth it, I think. I got a few nice shots. Once again I find B&W suits most of the images the best. Scott got the best shots of the day and they were taken near the end of the visit. I’m going to step up my game, that’s for sure.

Snow falling, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

I felt motivated this morning to take the dog and my camera out for a walk in the snow. I also decided to just bring my 50 mm 1.8, a polarizer filter and a lens hood. I had in mind that what ever shots i took, I’d later convert to Black and White. I’ve been converting many of my shots to B&W lately, maybe it’s the winter greys maybe I’m just drawn to texture more these days. I feel like I’m going back to my younger days except that I get to see the end product much faster.

We live on a quiet road with lots of trees around us so I didn’t have to walk very far to find my subject. This was a good thing because our little dog doesn’t do well in the cold. Normally I’m an Av guy but today I decided to experiment with Tv (shutter speed priority) I wanted to capture the snow falling on the scene so I picked 1/250 and ISO 100. The camera selected the widest aperture and this was the result.

There are other shots from the walk on Flickr, some were taken in my back yard. It just goes to show that you don’t have to go far to get those intimate landscapes.

Sunrise on tractor, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

We’re three weeks into our Project 52 challenge, where by brothers and our cousin agree to post one new picture a week for 52 weeks. Three of us are in the same city and for two of the first three weeks we met early on Saturday morning at an agreed upon location. It was interesting to see how each of us came away with a slightly different perspective on the same location, and interesting to see which photo each would post for the challenge. Last week for example I chose not to post my favorite shot, a backlit tree featuring long shadows, thinking my brothers would post their backlit shots which I thought were better (based on the LCD viewing at Tim’s that morning). In the end, they posted macro shots of ice crystals.

This week we didn’t have plans to meet, I was expecting very different pictures. On Friday the moon was unusually large and bright. All three of us featured it in a shot. One a close shot with surface details. Another a timed exposure featuring a star-burst and trailing lights on the highway. Mine features heavy machinery in the foreground. Even when we’re working on our own we think along the same lines.

I didn’t post my moon shot for the the Project – in part because I had seen one brother’s picture on Flickr, but also because I another shot that I took from the same location, 15 hours later. On Saturday I returned the the construction site to see if the sun would rise in about the same location. It did, but maybe 15 degrees to the South. I went for a backlit shot creating a silhouette of the heavy machinery. Looking at my the work my brothers and especially the pictures from our cousin, I’ll have to dig much deeper to match them next Sunday.

The Falls, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Is it too late to write about the new year?

One of my goals for this year was is to expand my circle of photography contacts. The first step towards that goal was to join the Orleans Photography Club. I did that two weeks ago on a very cold Saturday morning. I enjoyed the first meeting and have high hopes that next time I’ll actually speak with one or two people around me. Baby steps are important. The next meeting is next Wednesday.

Although not exactly a goal, I did pose a challenge to my brothers and our cousin, all members of the WDSP Flickr group. We call it Project 52 and the idea is to post one picture per week for each week in 2010. We’re two weeks in and no one has missed a post. The variety of pictures is refreshing and the timing is good because we’re all motivated to get out during the winter months and take pictures.

The one at the head of this post was taken early Saturday morning at Hogs Back Park. I liked how the water crashed over the ice and rocks. The B&W conversion helped create this abstract image. My first attempt was better I think but I lost that one and had to do it over again. This is close but not exactly what I had initially.

Also planned for this year are trips to a provincial park or two and at least one trip to the East Coast. Look for words about Halifax next month.