beach bums, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

My dog dreams. Sometimes I see him lying in a comfortable spot and his leg will twitch, or he’ll be making quiet sounds. I imagine he’s dreaming of food, or playing. What ever it is, I’m certain it’s not some long-term goal like eventually making a break out the door and scaring the neighbor’s cat so badly that she’ll never come back on our porch. Nope, I’m sure charlie is dreaming of treats.

I’ve been dreaming too but unlike charlie, food doesn’t figure too prominently in my dreams. In my dreams I’m searching for something or trying to make people understand something important. If there’s a resolution to these dreams, I never remember it when I wake. This isn’t anything particularly deep of course. I’ve been trying to answer some out some important questions and until I do, I’ll keep having these dreams.

Until recently, I had a plan, a set of goals that seemed reasonable,attainable even. My retirement years were to be spent pursuing photographic art. The plan included formal training, an aggressive timeline to purchase the right equipment, and rough ideas for places to document in pictures. We’re told to visualize having attained a major goal. I did that often – I’d see me heading down the road in a Cooper mini towards some small town where I’d stay a few nights in a B&B exploring the area and capturing its spirit in a digital file. Later those great shots would be turned into an ebook or an article in a magazine. I’ll have left my mark by creating something useful.

Life happens and sometimes dreams have to change. (I have to admit that as soon as I typed that, I wondered did I really want it that badly in the first place? I don’t know, I thought I did). I don’t need to lay out the details why, what’s key is that recent events made me realize that particular dream wasn’t as reasonable or attainable as I’d thought. My son says “art requires sacrifice”. He is an artist and so knows from personal experience. I realized I wasn’t as prepared for the struggle as I thought I was. When faced with a choice of Fight or Flight, I followed my dog’s lead and chose Flight (or as I prefer to say avoidance) which of course was the easiest option.

“Easy! Seriously, the easy way?” Well, yes.

However, another way to look at it is that a change of course was necessary, if not essential, and that elements of that earlier dream are still feasible. I simply need to replace the small town B&B with mountain vistas, the Cooper Mini with a 4-wheel drive, and Art with well-made thoughtful pictures that someone may choose to hang in their home or office.

I haven’t figured all this out just yet and I have to admit the transition wasn’t an easy one. I sincerely appreciated the positive feedback to my last blog and in particular the subsequent notes from Sabrina. For now, I think I’ll join charlie in the bedroom. He can dream of tasty treats, I’ll see if I can’t answer those remaining questions.



Sauble Beach, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Recently my work was described as looking too much like postcards – too many sunsets and saturated colours. I found myself at a loss for words.

The portfolio had pictures I was proud of and which represented some of my best work. In truth I’d asked for the feedback, but it turns out I wasn’t quite ready for the truth. My immediate reaction was to step away from photography. Plans to attend other courses were suddenly up in the air, motivation to take new pictures was hard to find. Until I began to wonder who am I trying to please – artists, consumers or me?

I should be trying to please me, but what do I want, art or commercial product? I thought I wanted to create art, I thought that I was creating art. What is art?

I like the picture on this post. Is it another postcard, does it have artistic merit? I can’t tell anymore.

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My photo education continues. I recently started an 11-week course on the Art of Photography at SPAO. Our first assignment was to take 5 out of the ordinary shots of tulips. John, our teacher, wanted something more than a typical snapshot of the flowers. Why Tulips? That Friday was on the last weekend of the Tulip Festival here in Ottawa.

I knew from the start that I wasn’t interested in shooting the flowers on site in one of the many flower beds around town. I thought a lot about what I wanted and drawing on a process I learned in my last course, I sketched out five images that evolved into a bit of a story with commercialism of tulips as the theme. I decided I wanted a series that would show flowers for sale, the purchase, and their display, not in a vase but rather in a colder scientific way. This would be juxtaposed with one or two color shots highlighting the beauty of the flower.

The sketches helped by directing me towards a certain type of picture. In reality, finding tulips for sale was more difficult than I had anticipated, I eventually found the last two bunches available in the By-Ward market area. These two pictures were taken in a more rushed way than was planned but I knew I’d have something to work with.

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Back at home, I set up in the kitchen where I’d have natural light. One shot I hoped to get was a blurred shot of a flower falling, several attempts didn’t work out the way I wanted so I discarded those. Next was the sectional or exploded view, my inspiration was the cover of the book Lucy, the 4 million year old ancestor of humans.

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Next were the macro shots, I added the water drops to create more interest. The better of the two photos is at the top of this post. We looked at everyone’s shots at the next class and I was pleased that mine didn’t seem out of place. Some, I have to say were quite stunning. From my group, John had a preference for the two color shots. I can’t blame him actually.

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I had a basic SLR camera when I was 16. I had saved money from my babysitting jobs and birthday money, I remember going to a department store and choosing the best one that I could afford – Canon Tlb with a 50mm prime lens. I loved that camera and used it all the time. I didn’t take any courses, I was self-taught from books and magazines. I bought a set of Time Life Photography books, one per month for a year and subscribed to both “Modern Photography” and “Popular Photography” magazines. These were my main sources of information on how to use the camera.

A couple years later, Canon introduced the AE1 and along with it a flashing advertising campaign about how this camera was faster and more advanced than other cameras. I’d been setting my exposure settings manually for years, my camera didn’t have a hot-shoe or a self-timer nor the ability to use a motorized film advance option. Mostly, though I felt that having the camera automatically set the exposure was something I really needed. It didn’t take too long before I began not to enjoy my own camera as much. It was inferior and worse limited my own potential – I was 18, what the heck did I know?

Fast-forward almost 45 years. I have a Digital SLR does it all. It’s fast, auto everything if I want to use that but I don’t, and feeds the need for instant gratification with its LCD screen and freedom to shoot as many shots of the same scene as I want. Maybe its nostalgia, maybe its part of being aging I don’t know but recently I felt the need to go back to the basics, get away from the automation and shoot film. I still have my first SLR but finding a battery for the light meter is nigh impossible. At the local camera store, however, I did fine a suitable replacement – an AE1 Program in primo condition, and a 28 mm wide-angle lens in good shape (tick off two long-time goals). This weekend was the first time using the new gear and I had a few surprises.

1. Auto exposure is not the be all to end all. Well, I already knew this from my digital camera, I never shoot fully automatic. Instead I shoot Aperture Priority probably 90% of the time. The AE1 doesn’t have that feature, at least not directly. It’s designed to rely on Shutter Priority instead.

2. I can adjust the ISO for exposure compensation. I always assumed with film you set the ISO once and left it that way for the entire roll. No, the AE1 (and probably the other film cameras) will permit changing the ISO for individual frames effectively allowing you to compensate for backlighting.

3. Shooting the scene once and getting it right that first time is both a challenge and a rush. I had forgotten what that was like. Looking at a scene I’m forced to pay more attention to the composition, what aperture setting I want, and where to focus. I don’t know yet if I got those things right – I have to process the film first, but it was a reminder how back in the day I worked more slowly and in a sense got lost in the moment.

4. The view-finder on the AE1 blows the viewfinder on my XSi away. I had no idea there would be such a difference. Looking through the AE1 the entire scene fills just about all my vision, there’s a minimal black border around the edges. Looking at the same scene with my digital camera is like looking down a black tunnel. Is this a feature of the full-frame cameras? I hope so. Will I get a similar effect by upgrading to the 5D Mark 1? Maybe. I’m going to try and get a look the 5D soon to verify this. If the difference is that significant, my next upgrade will be to that camera body.

I did take both film and digital shots of the same scene. The one above is a digital copy. The version taken on film will be posted later and will be black and white. I’ll write about it then. I haven’t changed my mind about digital; I will try to apply some of what I learned on Sunday to my digital shooting though.

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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: http://www.pixelatedimage.com/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.


wait up, originally uploaded by ken.udle.

Last Saturday night was cold. Very cold. Too cold to be out in the By-ward Market trying to capture that critical moment on my digital sensor. But that’s exactly what I was doing. Session 4 of my Photography class was moved from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell everyone else – there was not much happening that night.

The objective was to position yourself where you’d see people passing by, blend into the background, observe, and capture that exact moment when something significant, moving, or exciting happens.

I was dressed in at least 4 layers of clothing, my camera is set to ISO 1600, cause there’s not much light happening. Aperture is around f4.0 and my focus spot is set to the middle. I check my exposure, everything looks good so I position myself near a corner where I hope to see people moving from the parking garage towards the Rideau Centre, or McDonald’s. So I wait. cars drive by, some slow down like I represent some other kind of street corner action. They drive on, probably confused.

Eventually a group approaches. Dad is skipping along the sidewalk, kids in hand. I figure the children are getting restless. They get a red light, I’m all set, green light they go, Dad and kids are skipping – I fire off 3 shots in that brief moment.

Right behind them comes another group, this time they’re running to catch the light before it changes. Click, click, click. Three more shots. and then nothing. So I move on to a new spot only to discover my camera has decided it’s too cold or something – my card is full. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I have to call it a night – no I didn’t bring a spare card.

Back at home I don’t have much hope for the night’s efforts. In fact I don’t even look at the results on the computer for a couple of days. As it turned out, I had two useable shots. Both are in my Flickr stream, one is at the top of this post.

I still don’t know why my SD card acted the way it did. I did a low-level format this time and it seems to be working again. I’ll see how it handles on Saturday when I try the exercise again. This time I’ll bring a second card.