My First Paid Gig

July 10th, 2012

Well, it finally happened – someone gave me money to take pictures of them! My friend Tammy needed new headshots and I needed a first client. Perfect.

Tammy was looking for something to use on her various online profiles, especially her professional profile on LinkedIN. For that reason, she wanted something appropriate as a business portrait but a little more interesting than your standard charcoal-background studio portrait. We decided that an outdoor shoot in business attire would be an interesting combination that would suit her needs.

Here are the best five photos:

For those of you who read this blog who are “real” professional portrait photographers, I’d love to get your honest feedback on these.

An Impromptu Photodrive

July 7th, 2012

Driving home from St. Catharines this afternoon, I decided to make an effort to stop several time when something caught my eye. It was like a photowalk – but in my car. These are the result.

Cruise Night – a love affair with curves

July 7th, 2012

20120704_CRC338120120704_CRC337820120704_CRC3439I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I like about photographing the cruise nights in Galt on Wednesday nights. You can see previous posts here and here. On previous occasions it has been the colours I’ve noticed most, but this week it was all about the curves. There were several Corvettes from the mid-sixties present this week and if ever there was a car with great curves, it’s a pre-1980 Vette!

I was surprised at the number of folks who showed up because it was very hot and sweaty that night – even at 8pm. Lots of people milling about makes it difficult to get wide shots and even the closeups are sometimes ruined by a reflection of bystanders. I have found, though, that you can only really appreciate the curves when you get really close. From ten feet away a ’68 Vette is just a beautiful car but at ten inches it’s a beautiful curve contained within another curve.

The wednesday night cruise nights have rekindled my love affair with cars. Twenty years ago, though, it was about horsepower and cubic inches. I have now discovered the art of automotive – and you have to get up close to see it.

You can see the full set of cruise night photos, including the 18 from this week, in this set on Flickr:

Save The Dam? Really?

July 4th, 2012

I really don’t want to get dragged into this particular debate but last weekend provided an opportunity to, at the very least, provide another perspective. Any idea what this is?

Well, it’s gross, is what it is. It’s the what the water looks like from above in the area that the Save The Dam (STD) people want to “preserve”. Here’s a wider shot to show what I’m talking about:

The STD acronym is fitting, I think, because it looks like you could actually catch an STD in that stuff. This is NOT what rivers are supposed to look like. Here’s another view closer to the dam:

Now, I’m no expert… but I’ve never seen an obstructed river do that.

For my part, I will leave the decisions to the experts and bureaucrats. I simply want to illustrate that it’s just not as simple as saving a dam.

If you’d like an alternative opinion, I suggest you look through local photographer John Mitchell’s blog. I’ll admit he makes a pretty strong photographic argument for keeping the dam but I just don’t think it’s as simple as that.

Canada Day 2012 — Fireworks!

July 3rd, 2012

20120701_CRC325220120701_CRC3254This past Sunday was Canada Day which, of course, means fireworks. My mom lives on the 12th floor of a building that just happens to overlook Riverside Park where the fireworks are set off. It has, naturally, become a tradition to gather the family there to watch the fireworks.

I was determined to get some proper photos the fireworks this year since, for the first time, I had all the equipment I should need: camera+lens, tripod, remote. Rather than just “spray and pray” at flickering lights in the sky, I did some research. I didn’t want to screw this up and have to wait a year to try again! This article from DPS was the most help with 10 distinct tips plus a bunch more from readers. There are several other good articles on the subject as well. Google is your friend.

To say that I’m pleased with the results would be an understatement. Throwing all modesty aside, I got some really great shots. Even better, though, I learned a ton and will be better prepared next year.

20120701_CRC3265The photos are most interesting to me because they don’t represent at all what we actually saw. Take the photo on the left for example. We didn’t see all of the red, white, and blue elements all together. (My American wife loves that it’s red, white, & blue). We saw a white flash at the bottom, red streaks upwards, and then blue sparks at the top. We saw a sequence of colour and light. The camera captured the entire sequence in a single image with a 3-second exposure. I don’t think any of the three elements would have been particularly interesting on their own. Put together, however, they make for a striking image.

For the photo-geeks among us, this was shot at 28mm, f/20, 2.9 second exposure. I should also note, for those who drool over pricey lenses, that all of these images were shot through my fifteen-year-old 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G lens that I paid $25 for at a used camera shop. EXIF info for every shot is available on Flickr.

Here’s a slideshow of the full set of fireworks photos:

A Reflection on Malawi

June 16th, 2012

This is a reflection I wrote for the quarterly newsletter of the Blantyre Synod Health & Development Commission (BSHDC)

Our group of eleven Canadians landed at Chileka airport at noon on a Saturday and our whirlwind tour of Blantyre Synod began. For the next fourteen days, as we visited the various BSHDC programs, we would experience many things, meet many people, and have many of our assumptions, about Malawi and ourselves, challenged in abrupt and unexpected ways.

There were a few particular words we heard often during our stay in Malawi. One was, of course, ‘azungu’, but another, heard even more often, was ‘welcome’. There was a third word, however, that I heard only twice or three times during the whole trip but it is the one word that has had the most impact on me: Chisomo. Grace.
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Cruise Night #2

May 30th, 2012

Since my first cruise night post, I’ve been down a few more times and snapped a few more shots. The cars make great subjects because they tend to sit still for you. ;)





Malawi: Day Twelve

May 29th, 2012

20120502-DSC_6029Ok, be honest. How many of you noticed that I skipped day twelve? I’m sure you were all just too polite to say anything…

20120502-DSC_6043Our only full day in the Zomba area began with a trip to the Domasi Likuni Phala production facility. Likuni phala is a fortified maize flour that has certain nutrients added to make it a more balanced food. The Domasi facility was started by World Vision Canada in 2001 but has been wholly owned and operated by BSHDC since 2008 – which is convenient as it is located on the Domasi CCAP Mission itself.

20120502-DSC_607420120502-DSC_614620120502-DSC_6154After seeing the milling process and learning a bit about small-scale flour production, it was on to our next stop, H. Parker Sharp Medical Centre, also located on the Domasi Mission. This was perhaps the most troubling visit of all. While parts of Ndirande were worse off, there was always an air of hope there. H. Parker Sharp was the first time, twelve whole days in, that we experience a sense of hopelessness. The maternity ward had recently closed due to a lack of resources forcing women to walk or get transport to another hospital many miles away. The clinic still looked after the needs of the children from the schools located on the mission – but it seemed only just barely.

20120502-DSC_6171We returned to Naming’azi for a rather somber lunch after our visit to H. Parker Sharp before heading out again to visit a village that was having an “open house” of sorts to celebrate the livlihood programs that BSHDC was providing. The phrase “Open House” doesn’t quite match what we saw when we arrived. There were over a hundred men, women, and children dancing and laughing and generally having a good old-fashioned block party, Malawian-style! There was a shaded area for the VIPs (evidently there would presentations and speeches) but we were somewhat relieved to discover that we were the second-tier dignitaries. Eight of the local village chiefs would also be attending the event – which is apparently quite a big deal.

20120502-DSC_6198We were treated to presentations outlining each of the BSHDC livelihood programs present in the area – and the senior chief even tried his hand at sewing which brought howls of laughter from everyone – especially the women! When the speeches were done, we, along with two dozen or so villagers, walked a few hundred metres to a small farming plot where we learned about the benefits of growing sweet potatoes versus maize.

20120502-DSC_6236The excitement and energy of this community was just what we needed to see after the morning’s visit. We laughed and danced our way back to the coaster (well, some of us did) and headed “home” to Naming’azi. On the way, we made one more stop to hear a personal story of the “goat program.” Under this system, qualifying families are given a female goat – the only condition is that they must give the first-born female goat to a neighbour – arranged through BSHDC – and that goat starts the process again. We heard how a single goat (and its progeny) would allow a family to send its children to school – or provide enough income and food to simply sustain a family.
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Malawi: Day Thirteen

May 29th, 2012

20120503-DSC_628920120503-DSC_6300The last of our official stops on the study tour was Zomba Theological College (ZTC) – the seminary for the Church of Central Africa – Presbyterian. It was an important stop for our group because one of our own PCC ministers is currently a professor there on assignment through International Ministries. Rev. Dr. Todd Statham has been in Malawi, with his wife Annika and two children, for just over year.

20120503-DSC_631120120503-DSC_6326We began our day at ZTC with the daily morning worship service in the chapel. Rev. Matt Brough, one of the group members, gave a short sermon on a text from Esther and then, after introductions, it was off to class for all the students. We were given a short talk on the challenges facing theological education in Malawi and then headed off to class ourselves! We split ourselves up among four different classes and I chose to attend Todd’s second-year “History of Christianity” class.

After class, we were treated to a tour of the facilities by three senior students. The tour took much longer than it should have because we struck up so many interesting conversations along the way! Following the tour, the group sat down with Todd and Annika to talk about life as missionaries and the challenges they face.

20120503-DSC_6358After a lunch with the ZTC faculty and staff, our last official visit was complete and there was an audible sigh of relief as we boarded the bus. While we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Malawian people and were honoured to have been greeted so warmly so many times, being representatives of an entire denomination for thirteen straight days is exhausting. We headed north to Liwonde where we would spend one night at a safari camp before heading back to Blantyre to prepare for the trip home.

20120503-DSC_6458We arrived at Bushman’s Baobabs just in the late afternoon and witnessed a gorgeous sunset. As we ate dinner and relaxed afterward we could hear the nearby hippos begin their night of grunting and groaning. They sounded as if they were just metres away, but despite our best efforts in the bright moonlight, we didn’t see any. Seeing hippos would have to wait until tomorrow.
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Malawi: Day Eleven

May 24th, 2012

20120501-DSC_5638Today we said goodbye to Likhubula and Mulanje – but not before spending 3+ hours hiking up the mountain to the waterfall. The views were breathtaking and the waterfall itself was beautiful. The members four of our group from Trinity Presbyterian in Winnipeg braved the cold water and went for a dip.

20120501-DSC_6000After lunch it was back on the coaster and onwards to Zomba (north of Blantyre) where we would stay for two nights. We arrived at Naming’azi Farm and Training Centre just as dusk was approaching – but we had time for a tour of the property and a look at the various crops and animals being grown and raised there. There is a local connection to Naming’azi – it was founded by David and Miriam Barrie of Cambridge, Ontario where I live! Dave and Miriam were PCC missionaries to Malawi many years and have maintained a close connection with the country since then.
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