Sunday, March 28, 2010

I can't get enough icicles!

Photo 1 (above): EOS 5D mark II, EF 14mm/2.8 L lens (from

What do you get when you add a soaked hiking shoe in freezing temps, a wipe out that almost costs you a brand new 24mm tilt-shift lens and a couple of hours laying beneath a ridge of ice that weighs about a ton and could collapse on you at any time? A great morning photo shoot!! 

While hiking yesterday with friends, I found a few lingering ridges of ice that had the best concentration of icicles I've ever seen. The light was dull and the time was ticking - they would melt within a couple of days. I scouted out potential photos and plotted the return trip.

I invited my friend Craig along (he's the mastermind behind the popular website and we hit the trail in predawn darkness this morning. Mostly overcast conditions crushed the dream  photo I had pre-visualized, but even in dull light the icicles were great. Soon the clouds parted to reveal some blue sky. Nothing beats the contrast of sparkling icicles against a blue sky!

Photo 2 (below): Canon EOS 5D mark II; EF 17-40 L lens, Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer
Photo 3 (below): EOS 5D mark II, EF 14mm/2.8 L lens (from
Photo 4 (below): Canon EOS 5D mark II; EF 17-40 L lens, Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer

Photo 5 (below): That's me. The wide-angle distortion stretched out my torso, making me look skinner than I really am. Excellent! Canon EOS 5D mark II; EF 17-40 L lens, Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer; Canon 580EX II for fill flash

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photographing waterfalls & moving water

It's an in-between season right now where I live in central Ontario..... the snow has melted but the lush green vegetation is still a month or so away.  It can be difficult to find inspiring  scenes to shoot so I look for great light or  smaller details to focus on. When my friend and I went out to photograph the other day, I knew this small waterfall would be perfect in the overcast conditions.

These are some of my first photos with the Canon 70-200 f/4 IS L lens that I recently picked up. I finally traded in the f/2.8 version to save considerable weight and space in my camera pack. Since I'm almost always shooting on a tripod, the faster f/2.8 lens isn't really necessary. And the f/4 lens is reputedly sharper. Sounds good to me!

It's a breeze to shoot blurred water scenes like this. Compose your scene, use a tripod and slow the shutter speed down to 1/15s or slower. Really simple, eh! There are many ways to achieve a slow shutter speed: use a small aperture (which I like for the depth-of-field anyway), set your ISO speed lower, shoot in low light or use an ND filter (I have the Singh-Ray Vari- N-Duo). Of course, a tripod is needed to keep everything steady during the slow exposure. And be sure to check the histogram to make sure the white water is not blown out.

For this series of photos, all I had to do was use low ISO, dial in a small aperture... and voila, perfect shutter speeds for blurred water. I shot these with a Canon EOS 5D mark II, EF 70-200 f/4 L lens at ISO 100; Exposure was 1/4s at f/32.

Happy spring!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inspiration... In memory of my sister Karla

Of all the things that have inspired me in life... to pursue photography, to travel, to never leave anything unsaid, to eat oreos instead of salad..... it was the loss of my sister Karla when I was 20 years old that had the greatest impact. She was three years older than I and would have turned 40 this past Saturday. There's nothing like losing someone close to you to give you a kick in the ass to live life fully!

My cousin Tonya writes a family blog and just told the story about Karla in the post linked below. It's a very personal read, but it gives you a sense of who she was and the impact she had on others.

Coincidentally, I'd received my first SLR camera (a hand-me-down) about the same time that Karla was killed. I became hooked on photography and in hindsight realize that it provided the positive outlet to get through those tough times. Even today, many years later, the memory of Karla still inspires me everytime I take a photo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Last of the Icicles on the Georgian Bay shoreline

Unseasonably warm weather put a quick end to the great icicles along the Georgian Bay shoreline that I'd been photographing last week. I made it out for only one more shoot before they had melted away... see photos below (taken with an EOS 5D mark II, EF 70-200/2.8 L IS lens and Singh-Ray LB polarizer). Thanks to my friend Don Wilkes for clicking the shutter on the second one while I smiled! 

Today I finally traded in my trusty 70-200/2.8 IS lens for the lighter and reputedly sharper f/4 version of the lens. I'm looking forward to the significant weight savings (my camera pack is heavy!). I'll be hitting the trails over the next while to test it out. 

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Icicles on cliffs near Tobermory, Ontario

Georgian Bay sunset through icicles, near Tobermory, Ontario.
EOS 1Ds mark III; 17-40mm lens; Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer; ISO 200; 0.4s @ f/22. Mirror lock-up & cable release.

It was a warm & sunny day, so after being stuck inside cleaning the house and working on photo submissions, I was dying to get out for a shoot. There's a scenic, rocky cove about 10 minutes from my place with great access to the shoreline. I trekked out along the waters edge and found incredible icicles hanging from a small, rocky overhang. There was just enough room to scramble under the overhang to get behind the icicles and shoot out towards the bay. The rocks were completely coated in wet ice, making it extremely slick and treacherous (I'd forgotten my ice cleats). I had to brace both myself and the tripod against the rocky crevice to stop from sliding all over the place. It was well-worth it to get this unusual perspective!

Warm days and cold nights are ideal conditions for making icicles... so you can bet I'll be going out there often over the next couple of weeks! Here's a shot of me in behind the icicles - a self-portrat taken with my point & shoot camera.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Darwin Wiggett article on filters for landscape photography

Top landscape photographer, and fellow Canadian Darwin Wiggett, has just contributed a great article about filters for landscape/outdoor photography to the Singh-Ray blog.  Darwin's use of polarizers and ND grads is the same technique I use for virtually every landscape photo I shoot. This article is a must-read if you're an outdoor photographer...  check it out here: