Nothing good happens to a person unless they do something to make it happen. Waiting for good luck to happen is bound to cause a profound sense of disappointment.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few weeks. It started when I was not able to go racing at Mosport. The tow vehicle broke down, leaving me without a car to race. I was already at the track when I found out. I could have stayed at the track, and possibly found another ride, but it was not very likely. Instead I drove all the way back (about 4 hours). It was a waste of my vacation day and an awful lot of gas.
Rosa asked me about the decision to drive back instead of staying at the track. Her point was that if I truly wanted something, I have to actively make it happen. If I want to race, I have to keep pushing, and not give up so easily when things don’t go to plan.
Same with photography. I know what I want, but unless I do something, and take that first step even when it is scary, nothing good will happen.
This evening I went to the RA Photo Club open house. I really wanted to see the studio, but once there I was very intimidated by the models and all the equipment and the dozens of people standing around watching. It was thinking about what Rosa said that I pushed my way to the front of the line, put the flash transmitter on the camera and started my first session with a professional model. It’s the first step.
Yesterday I participated in an exciting (and scary for an amateur like myself) photographic session at work. It was the final site-wide BBQ. The Nortel Photography Club was approached to get some pictures of the event, culminating in a group photo of all the remaining employees. After this, most will be going to different companies, although many are still being laid off (100 received notice yesterday).
I was assigned to take the official group photo. I was given access to the roof of the Service building (about 2-3 stories tall), under a number of work-place safety constraints (no closer than 2 meters from the roof edge). The only direction I was given was to include the iconic Tower of Lab 5.
I was very nervous. I really wanted to get a good shot. And this was the first time working with a large group. I did not want to hold the group there very long, so I thought through what I should do. First, I wanted to try with my 420EX flash with brand new batteries, cranked up to +2EV to push out the most amount of photons as a fill flash. I’m not sure how effective it was in the sunlight from 2 stories away, but I figured I only wanted to highlight all the faces, which are highly reflective anyways. Then, because I knew the flash would take time to recycle, I took other pictures knowing that the flash would not be ready, so they would be available light only. I tried wide and tall images.
The final one was to get everyone to cheer or raised their hands or shout or something. I wanted enthusiasm. I was not sure how I would accomplish that considering that the mood was still very sour because of the layoffs over the last decade. It’s been hard on people. And I didn’t know who in the crowd may have had layoff notices or were part of the company that has not been sold yet.
Then it hit me. A number of people had beers or other drinks from the cash bar. So when the time came for the final shot, I asked everyone with a beer or drink to raised their drinks. And that was the best shot. The group showed remarkable restraint that only one person flipped the bird when the shutter clicked.
The photo I took will be sent out in the ‘thank you’ email to all Ottawa employees this morning.
This evening I attended a presentation of the documentary “Karsh Is History” at the Library and Archives building on Wellington. BTW, I hate that title, as it seems rather inappropriate for a deceased person. It was about an hour long.
Which worked out well for me, as I wanted to go outside to get a picture of the International Space Station fly-over, which occurred tonight between 8:31 and 8:36pm. I wanted to have an arc of the ISS light over a long exposure of the sky (i.e. like star trails). I learned the following valuable lessons.
Choose a location ahead of time. I had to find a good location that was less than 16 minutes from the Archives building. I thought either the Alexandra Bridge near the National Gallery or perhaps somewhere along the Ottawa River Parkway. I choose to find a spot along the river. There really is only one spot with a parking lot (near Tunney’s Pasture), and it was open. But it was also not lit. It was very dark, and a little scary as there were other cars parked there and I could not see the owners in the dark. I ran out to the waterline with my camera and tripod, but the view of the sky was not very good. I found a cornfield in Barrhaven that would have a good view of the sky for the ISS flyover when I try this experiment again. The cornfield is naturally also dark.
Be prepared. I didn’t have a flash light, so I was using my cell phone to provide some light in order to see what I was doing with the camera. I also think a true wide-angle lens would be better. My EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is equivalent to 27mm which is not wide enough.
The weather is critical to capture the sky at night. It was slightly cloudy, especially to the southwest, which was where the ISS flyover would start. The forecast is cloudy or partly cloudy until next Thursday.
Know your camera. It is very difficult to attempt to figure out how to set a bulb exposure by reading camera buttons with the light from a 12-year old cell phone. I should have known how to do that before I got out of my car to take the picture. It is buried under the Tv (shutter priority) button. I basically know all of the camera controls in daylight, but cannot do the same in the dark.
Always have a second battery with you. The camera was almost out of battery power. My second battery was in the car, and not in my pocket where it would have been useful for me.
In the end, I did not get a good shot of the ISS. All I have is a white streak on a nearly black background with little context (the outline of a treetop). The ISS is bright to the human eye, but to the camera, it is moving too fast for the camera to get much exposure against the light glow from downtown.
But on my way back to my car, I saw this scene that I had to capture. I think it looks great. Very moody.
I had planned to have this list ready as well, but with an important milestone at work (design test complete) and a visit from my mother, I was not able to post this until now. This is a (possibly incomplete) list of all the types of photos I would like to create for my portfolio. From the list, I can select each one, obtain/rent any required equipment, set times, book any locations if necessary and start learning how to take each photo. This list is in no particular order.
Self-Portrait. If I want to learn to work with models (whether they be models, family or friends), I should learn to work with myself. Most other portrait photographers also have taken self-portraits –Karsh, Avedon, Leibovitz.
Copyright Annie Leibovitz
Smoke trails. The requirements are very simple, a black or white background with something like incense creating smoke. The light has to come from the side in order to show off the smoke trails.
Copyright Graham Jeffery
Water droplets. The technical issues include the timing and having a light source that brings out the shapes of the water. This may require a macro lens. I can so this in my kitchen sink, although more creative ideas can be used as well.
Copyright Michael Melgar
Coloured water droplets. Unlike the subject above, this is dropping coloured water droplets into a tank of clear water. The abstract patterns created are similar to the smoke trails listed above. I would need to set up a water tank with very clean, clear sides to shoot through.
Copyright jfens (at Albumo Stock Photos)
Star trails. This was something I had planned to do during the meteor shower last month, but work intruded. Looking at the full moon last night, I realized I would need to do this during a new moon. The full moon would be too bright, and would move across the sky causing a long streak. Requires a tripod, which I already have, and a good location without much city light, which I don’t. It might be something for the race track, as the tracks are all very dark at night.
Copyright Dan Heller
Painting with light at night. There are some really neat images atDesign Shed under the Lost America galleries. The technique involves using lights, coloured or white, which are used to paint an image that is otherwise very dark. This requires a tripod for the long exposures, and some sort of light source.
Copyright Troy Paiva
Car taillights. A long exposure at night of a city street. A good location is key, as Ottawa does not have the same amount of traffic as, say, New York. The location should also have height over the street I am using. Perhaps from the top floors of one of the apartment buildings along the Queensway would work out.
Copyright Dan Heller
Ballet. I have been taking photos for the ballet school Les Petits Ballets (Rosa is a student; I am on the Board of Directors, the web maintainer, and provide some of the promo photos). However, I have not been satisfied with the results so far. I’ve only taken one photo that I would keep for my portfolio. I want to be able to show the school in the best light. Some of that is the location (the class rooms are very hard to take a good photo without the background being very distracting.
Additionally, I don’t feel I have captured what Rosa is capable of doing. She is a lovely dancer and I want to show her talent.
Copyright Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Car shot, like the ones in the urban car mags (i.e. Import Tunermagazine instead of Car and Driver). I am more interested in a gritty sort of photo. I like some of the examples from local Ottawa photographer Mani Azeri. Location is key, and perhaps strategic use of flashes.
Copyright Mani Azeri
Boxer. Many wonderful shots have been taken in gyms, training camps or around the ring. This could include kickboxing or wrestling. My cardio kickboxing instructor is Wayne Thompson, who is the Canadian champion and is training to become the world champion in the heavy weight division. I will approach him to see what facilities exist in Ottawa.
These sports are intense physically and mentally, which makes them so appealing as subjects.
Copyright David Benedict
Ottawa downtown at twilight. Sometimes when I am driving past the downtown core of Ottawa on the Queensway at dusk, the way the buildings are lit up from inside with the darkening sky, it just takes my breath away.
No photos available
Airplanes taking off or landing, like the photos on airliners.net. Planes are some of the most complex machines regularly used by the public, and have that wonderful sleekness of flight. My main concern about this topic is not getting into trouble with the airport police. Since 2001, the security around airports has made it occationally difficult. The photo on the right was taken by me out the drivers window of my car as I drove up Riverside Drive. It is Air Force One with George Bush, just after push back. The security was very tight, as you might expect. I was aiming with my camera, as I was driving and shooting at the same time; too bad the camera auto-focused on the fence instead of the plane. The police were not allowing people to stop along the road during the take off.
Showing a huge plane at lift-off would be amazing. Certainly there must be plane-spotters already in the city. I just need to contact them for location ideas.
Copyright Richard Muise
High key portrait, where the subject is brightly lit on a light coloured background. The important part of this technique is learning about the light, and how to obtain the correct exposure.
Copyright Adolfo Valente
Low key portrait, where most of the photo is dark. The example on the right of the cat shows that the light creates a real ambiance and drama. Again, the key is learning about using light (in this case the near absence of light) and correctly exposing the image.
Copyright Petr Novák, Wikipedia
Waterfall. Perhaps at Hog’s Back, but I’m not sure if it has the same ambiance as the photo on the right. A tripod is the only equipment, but the location is critical.
Abandoned Places. There is an entire photographic subculture of people who do urban spelunking. There have been some good examples posted to Abandoned Places and Bldgblog. Ottawa does not have as many examples as larger or older cities. I have a low tolerance for danger, so finding an accessible location is key. A photographer died last year in the Don Valley Brick Works. In New York, for example, there are derelict ships and a submarine along the industrial areas of the water front, which are accessible from boats and do not require safety equipment (beyond life jackets) if you are taking the photos from the boat.
This dovetails into another interest of mine in the operations or human systems of large scale projects, usually large engineering projects. I am fascinated by topics like how airports or dams or the Large Hadron Collider work.
On Thursday I signed my offer letter from Ericsson. Starting in October, I will be working for Ericsson, although my benefits and salary will still say ‘Nortel’, Ericsson will reimburse Nortel for those expenses.
Starting Jan 1, 2010, I will be part of the Ericsson benefits and salary systems. It’s been too long living with the stress of a declining and very troubled company. I am so looking forward to a new work environment.