Project 52

Meeting place, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Time was my brothers and I would spend one morning or evening each week photographing the same place at the same time. The fun was in the banter, the common interests, and yes the sense of competition. The reality was more than the bonding but also the sense of learning together.

I shouldn’t speak fro them but I know I picked up on their different perspectives the exploration of darker tones and the need to slow things down – in process and in exposure times.

Having drifted apart for about a year, last weekend we got together again to explore Dick Bell park just off Carling Avenue in Ottawa.

It was funny though not surprising, how we picked up right where we left off. We arrived just before dawn, got our gear ready and started shooting from the same spot – really though we were getting a sense for the place, possible subjects and the lighting. Eventually we drifted off in our own directions exploring subjects at a slow pace.

No one watches the clock but eventually we all end up in the same place at about the same time an hour to 90 mins later. This time we didn’t discuss our results over a breakfast sandwich and Tea, Perhaps that will come later. The great thing is how we produced three different shots from the one place. Scott chose B&W reflections.

Dave has a flare for the dramatic.

As for me, I’m tending more towards the minimalist side of things. My best shot is at the top of this post. The lesson for groups is to go your own way, explore what appeals to you and in the end everyone wins.

Ripples, copyright Shirley Udle

It’s a warm, sunny April day. The cul-de-sac is filled with kids who last fall seemed half the size and half as loud as they are today. My morning chores completed, I head out for a walk with my dog charlie and my camera – this week’s Project 52 theme is “breaking the rule of thirds”.

Charlie’s an understanding photo companion, for the most part anyway. Generally he sits beside me patiently while I frame up my subject. It’s when people walk by that we sometimes have a problem. Charlie is fond of the sneak rear attack which means he pretends not to notice or care about the approaching human. At the moment she passes, he enters stealth mode making a swift approach from behind so as to get a good sniff. If I’m not paying attention, which can be often, someone gets startled, I have to apologize and of course I lose the shot.

Charlie’s other trick is to verbally challenge other dogs no matter the number or size. I think his intent to to warn them to keep their distance. Mostly they look at him in mild amusement because Charlie happens to be a cute but small Shih Tzu . Today he tried to intimidate a pair of German Shepherds, happily for him and me they were very well trained.

Some 45 mins later we’ve returned to our street. Ahead of me are two boys on bikes. They’re peddling like mad in obvious danger. The boy in the rear shouts something about Zombies, he’ll shoot them while his friend races off to safety. I’m smiling, I played this game as a kid although in my case rather than zombies I was fighting off a band of outlaws. The first boy breezes by on the far side of the street, charlie looks confused. The rear guard approaches, his gun blazing at me as he slips by. I’m the zombie! Mom will be so proud.

The feeling by the way is mutual. Mom’s birthday was on April 1st. I won’t give away her age, but I’m 52 the oldest of 4 children all of whom were born before Mom’s 38th birthday. Last year she decided to buy a new camera, on our advice she got a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera – a nice compromise between point and shoot and DSLR. I’ve been working with her for a number of months now offering some basic and intermediate picture taking advice.

I’ve been so thrilled to see her really working hard at learning this new hobby In January or February she joined our Project 52 photo group with predetermined themes for the pictures. It’s fair to say that her creativity and natural eye for detail has surprised the rest of us in the group. It’s not that we didn’t think she was capable, rather I think we’re surprised both at how hard she’s working at it. All her work is paying off in some great pictures, like the one at the top of this post. This wonderful shot was taken on a nature walk near Orleans. She found this reflection in a pool of water at the base of a picnic table. I probably would have walked right on by.

Good for you Mom and a very happy birthday. You’re solid proof there’s no reason to avoid starting something new.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Orleans, ON, Canada

Decorleans, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

David DuChemin is a photographer, blogger and author I admire. I have a number of his books, both print and eBooks, and I follow his blog religiously. Not too long ago he set off on a one year photographic journey across North America in a 1993 Land Rover Defender – his home for the next 12 months.

There are lots of details and pictures on his blog:

I know that I’m not alone in thinking, wishing I could embark on such an adventure. Just pack it all up and hit the road for months on end. Besides the obvious financial roadblock, I’ve discovered there are physical limitations to consider as well – well, truth be told I wouldn’t want to take the trip solo as David is doing. I’d want my sweetie with me of course.

Of course I fantasize about being a traveling photographer. My compromises include a Cooper Mini instead of a Land Rover, staying in B&Bs or Inns instead of sleeping in a tent. Rather than deserts, mountains and rivers, I imagine visiting small towns, talking with some older residents and hopefully capturing in print something of the spirit of each place. I have even gone so far as to consider weekend excursions to places within 2 hours dive of Ottawa. It all sounds feasible especially since Sandi says she’d like to go with me.

Then there’s the physical aspect. You may or may not know that 2007 and 2008 were challenging years for me with a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, major surgery, and chemotherapy. This May marks 3 years cancer free (insert happy face here), but there is something all the doctors don’t tell you about during the treatment. After the healing, after gaining back the weight, after returning to work and long after feeling normal again, other issues begin to appear and more often than not they can be traced back to the surgery and the Lymphoma. I don’t think anyone wants to read a list of personal grievances – suffice it to say the doctors should have prescribed physiotherapy, I’m paying the price for that today.

This past weekend we drove to Peterborough, 4 hour trips each way. It shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well it kind of was, and sleeping in a different bed was an issue too. So big surprise, I need to do some serious conditioning if I want to realize my dream of travel photography. I figure it is still feasible and in fact we’re thinking of giving it a try during April or early May just to see how things go. First stop? Perth is high on the list of possibilities.


Fallowfield station, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

“I’m heading out to a bead store south of town, want to join me?”

This was Sandi’s invitation on Saturday morning. If you haven’t been to one, a bead store is four walls lined with various beads, wires, hooks and everything one might need to craft wonderfully creative pieces of jewellery. Turn around and in the centre you find a rectangle of cabinets with even more gems, probably the more precious ones. I’m always amazed at how anyone can find inspiration in the midst of what seems to be chaos. Sandi is particularly good at it.

“I’d love to go, let’s take the van this time.” I reply. My motives are different and she knows that. I too am in search of inspiration; in place of trays and strands, I’m searching the city for a Franchised Landscape.

I borrowed this idea from Jeff Brouws’ book “Approaching Nowhere”. My take on it was a typical landscape style picture that includes some element of enterprise. In some sense, the buildings replace the trees or mountains that I’d normally shoot, the pavement substitutes for the rivers and lakes. The Franchised Landscape was our Project 52 theme for the week and my earlier ideas on the subject had not produced results. So off I went with Sandi, both of us in search of inspiration.

We head out during the middle of the day. I knew the light was too harsh, so for me this was very much a scouting expedition. Sandi doesn’t normally travel in the van and I only mention that because it was that change in routine that got us lost. The maps were in her car. She knew the general area but as we later discovered, after buying a new map for the van, that we were one main street West of where we needed to be. Our mapless search, however, took us along several roads I’d not been on before including Fallowfield Road and the Via Rail station that I didn’t realize even existed. Looking at it from the distance, I figured this would be ideal for this week’s photo, open, likely to have lights on at night with an expanse of field in the distance. A quick check of the weather confirmed there would be a clear night, and that sunset would be around 7 PM.

We did find the bead store and Sandi found inspiration there, although I believe she went in with a rough concept in mind. I headed back to the station some hours later arriving just as the sunset colours were fading. I found a spot near the tracks, got lower to the ground than I usually do, framed the scene and took one shot before another photographer approached asking if a train was coming, was I there to photograph the moon, and so on. Soon the light was gone.

I did take a few shots of the moon but nothing really that good. I’m pleased with this one though. It is close to what I’d pre-visualized. The framing came more naturally this time, as did the exposure settings. There was some post-work in LR3 but not too much. Hey, maybe those courses at SPAO are beginning to pay off.

Boot for sale, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

I started a new job this week. After more than 33 years with the Revenue department, I decided to accept a 1 year assignment with another government department, which one exactly isn’t important. What is significant, though, is the change of location. I’m back downtown again. My old job was in a beautiful building located where not very much is happening, especially from a photography perspective.

Being downtown places me closer to the action – people that is. My recent street photography assignments have been very challenging especially with the weather here lately. I’ll have many more options at the new location and it doesn’t really matter much that the course is just about over. I hope to continue with the exercise on reflections, and capturing the moment.

The shot at the top was taken on Sunday afternoon during a brief moment when the sun was shining. It was cold, and our assignment was to walk through the market looking for enigmatic shots, or those that demonstrate how our minds can perceive 3D from a flat surface. Here, the mind knows this is a boot even though we only see part of it. The boot in the back is assumed to be the same size so we know the one that’s more in focus must be closer. The laces cross, so we know the one on top is closer than the one behind it.

The benefit from these exercises has been to make me slow down and consider more about why I’m taking the shot other than simply to make a documentary record of something. It makes a difference.

A Church on Cumberland avenue, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

We had a party on Saturday. It was Sandi’s birthday and we were celebrating her 50th; by the way, she won’t be annoyed that I mentioned her age as she doesn’t even look like she’s 40, and besides she says it’s just a number anyway. But that’s really not the point of this blog.

The party ended around 11:30. I was driving 3 people home, two of them live downtown near an interesting church. It’s interesting because our photography theme this week was architecture and the idea that an evening shot would be different from what my brothers were posting. But that’s really not the point either.

After a day with lots of snow, I was happy to see that the evening sky was clear save for a few wispy clouds. I brought my tripod and camera, but of course forgot to tell Sandi what my plans were. Now we’re getting closer to the point.

By 12:30am, the last of our guests were home and I was headed back up Cumberland Avenue towards that church I’d seen earlier. In case you’re not familiar with downtown Ottawa, Cumberland Avenue is on the eastern edge of the By-ward market. It is moderately busy as far as traffic goes. There is a mix of residential and commercial buildings, and has a few shelters for people who aren’t fortunate to have a home to go to at night. Probably by now you can guess what the point is.

So there I am, the introverted photographer in a darker section of the avenue (so as to avoid street lights in the photo) tripod and camera set up for 30 second exposures of the church. I’d taken 3 shots when I heard a group of spirited young men come round the corner. “hey cool camera, want to take our picture, come on man just one picture” I’m thinking this isn’t a good scene but I agree and take a picture as they dance around in a group pose. “you going to post that man?” “Sure” all the while thinking, don’t ask to look at the picture, don’t ask to use the camera. “Hey, if you ever want to take pictures in the Library of Parliament, just ask, cause you know I work there”. “Hey, thanks”

They go on their way, I return to photographing the church but I’m so unnerved by that brief exchange that I decide to pack it in and get back to the suburbs.

At home just after 1am, I’m reminded that I neglected to tell anyone what I was doing. And that’s the point. I’ve often gone out late at night or early in the morning to take pictures but always with at least one partner. This time I forgot. but I won’t do that again.

The picture, by the way, was my last shot and is a 30 second exposure at f/6.3, ISO 100 using my IS 17-40mm L lens. I fixed the WB tweaked the colour and did a little dodging and burning in LR3. The angles are intentional. I like the end result, despite it all.

Mind’s eye, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Friday’s class introduced us to documentary photography. Unlike studio or landscape work with their contemplative processes, this is more immediate, more spontaneous. Here the object is to capture images of life as it happens. You might even be making a statement on an issue that’s important right now. The thought process is very different and as I found not nearly as easy as I thought.

With landscape I can stand there, take in the scene, consider the light and choose the best location for my camera. Once the tripod is set up, and the settings set. Sometimes I just stand and wait for the best light. I don’t care if people see me with my gear. Often an hour or two can pass without notice from the same scene.

With documentary photograph, the advice was keep the camera away from your face, hanging around your neck is good. Aim from the waist, use a remote cable release. Use semi-automatic and allow room for editing. On my first attempt at this type of photography, I took 126 pictures 110 of which were either too blurred or were not framed to capture anything of use. After a while, maybe at the computer, I realized the people around what I thought was the subject are as important if not more important to the image.

I have two weeks before the next class – time to get out and try this again. I have to admit though I enjoyed taking these pictures much more than I expected.

Sunset in Algonquin – dying moments, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

For the May 24th weekend, Sandi and I decided to meet up with my cousin and fellow photographers Tom and Tara in Algonquin park. I’ve only been to the park once before, Sandi camped there often as a child. Tom and Tara, as members of Friends of Algonquin Park, have been there many times. Tom graciously offered to be our guide.

We arrived Friday afternoon and met our friends at the East Gate Motel, which provides basic but clean and friendly accommodations. After settling in and getting a bite to eat we headed into the park for the first night of shooting – and to experience first hand just how bad the black flies are this year. In a word, Stupid.

Rock lake was our first destination. The view and sunset was really nice but paled compared to what was to come. Saturday morning I met Tom at 5 am when we headed into the park for sunrise, and moose. We were not disappointed. Saturday evening was the big show – I’ll add the name of the lake later as I don’t remember which one it was. We set up around 7:30 and got a few nice shots. We didn’t actually expect much but then the sky exploded with colour. As if on cue, the bugs in the distance increased the intensity of their singing as if synchronized with the drama taking place in the sky. I found it all very exciting. The bugs were at their worst that night but the images we were capturing more than made up for the annoyance.

Sunday was another 5 am start this time we were greeted by cooler temperatures, fewer flies and mist on the water. Sunset that night was nice but not nearly as good as on Saturday. I’m not used to those hours and that much walking so it wasn’t a surprise that I was really quite spent by Sunday evening and not able to greet a third sunrise on Monday. I’m not complaining though, I filled two 4 GB cards. I have lots to work with over the next week.

While we were there, Tom talked about running workshops for people interested in landscape photography but not familiar with Algonquin Park or perhaps the proper techniques. From my own experience, he should definitely carry through on those plans. Anyone signing up is sure not to be disappointed.

Some examples of Tom’s work is here.

Balance, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Our usual practice is to meet at a local park early Saturday or Sunday morning, spend an hour or so photographing the area, then head somewhere for breakfast where we share our photos and talk. With only a few exceptions we’ve done this once each week since mid-January, roughly 15 times in a row and it’s easily one of the highlights of my week.

We have no rules governing what pictures we take – landscapes, macro shots, animals, it doesn’t matter. As you might expect, we’ve developed a bit of a routine. We meet at Scott’s place, pile the gear into his SUV, stop at Tim’s for a large double-double and an earl grey then head off to a predetermined spot. On site we go our separate ways seeking inspiration, wandering back and forth, paths cross from time to time but only briefly. At some point one of us will comment that the light has become too harsh or they’ve got what they need – for me this usually means I have about 60 shots to choose from.

Breakfast is either at Tim’s or Perkins, it all depends on the time and other commitments. It’s there we invariably discover that despite moving in different directions, we’ve managed to capture many of the same subjects – a water scene, birds, rocks, a bridge. The opportunity is obvious though, we learn from one another. The shots often have not so subtle differences and I’ll realize I had not considered that angle or those settings. My personal objective, though, is to come away with something different each time.

Last weekend we were at a park along the Rideau river in Ottawa. We all have shots of the mother duck with her chicks (ducklings) and the larger birds on land or in the water. Scott has a great shot of a blue heron, he was in the right spot at the right time and more importantly with the right camera settings. Dave has a great shot of a bird landing. Mine was a spontaneous shot but especially different since it included a person – we tend not to include people in our shot but that’s a story for a different post.

We were not alone in the park, a lot of people were out enjoying the morning sun. One young woman passed Scott and me as we were watching some ducks. A brief moment later she hopped up on the rock wall and continued her walk along the river, maybe the stone is more comfortable to walk on than the asphalt, I’m not sure but the scene looked different enough to me so I snapped a quick shot. It turned out to be one of the better ones from the day.

For the three of us, the picture that stands out from the others was one that captures a brief moment. Scott and Dave probably expected the birds to take flight or land but still had be ready for the shot. I didn’t expect my shot but realized the curve of the wall, the lighting and the unexpected position of the woman made for interesting contrasts, created mystery and conveyed motion. Wo what made these shots work? I think being there, ready and recognizing potential are the common elements in the shots but more importantly, including action or the unusual is what sets these shots apart from the the others that day.

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.