A Word on the Lytro: Technology Vs Creativity

Last week saw the release of yet another technical marvel in the world of photography, possibly one of the most important photographic inventions since the digital sensor. Behold the Lytro, the worlds first commercial camera capable of recording depth in a photo, allowing you to change the plane of focus after the shot. I’m not going to go into details on how this little gadget works, there’s a ton online already for those that are interested. It doesn’t really matter, let’s call it Wizards and forget about that for now.

At the moment the technology is too knew to be even considered for professional work. It hasn’t been confirmed yet as the Lytro company has been pretty dodgey about releasing actual technical specs for the camera, saying only that it has an “11 Mega-Ray” sensor, which is exactly what it sounds like… techno-babble to confuse the masses into buying into a big number in front of an “M”, because no self-respecting consumer would buy a digital camera with less than 10 M’s… M’s are good right? That’s where the Jiga-Pixels come from right? One of the pro-photogs that was given a pre-release sample said the actual resolution is somewhere between 1-2MP, so good enough for the web or a 4X6 print.  I knew something smelled fishy when actual resolution numbers where nowhere to be found in any of the press material. Continue reading “A Word on the Lytro: Technology Vs Creativity”

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Street Photography Tutorial #3: Visualizing The Shot

Whether you shoot from the hip or bring your camera up to eye level, being able to pre-visualize a shot is one of the most important skill every photographer should learn. Unless you’re shooting in a studio with all the time in the world to play around with lighting and focal lengths, being able to know, even roughly, what your camera’s going to see ahead of time is a must. Even in the studio, time is usually money, and being able to create a shot in your mind before you even touch a camera will save you both; if you can switch focal lengths or lighting in your head you only have to do it once physically. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #3: Visualizing The Shot”

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Nightlife Photography – How To Survive Shooting After Dark

Working in the nightlife industry as a photographer can be a lot of fun, but it can also be unnecessarily stressful and difficult dealing with the business side of things. I’ve talked about the technical difficulties of shooting bars and nightclubs before but I’ve never really touched on the logistic side of things. Of all the different types of photography gigs I’ve had, dealing with bars and clubs has been my biggest challenge as a business.

A lot of this applies to any kind of event photography, but shooting clubs and bars has it’s own subset of quirks and problems. It’s chaotic, fast paced and extremely unorganized. The turnover rate on of employees from bouncers right up to management is so fast that the people you dealt with last week may not be there this week. As soon as you develop a relationship with someone it seems they’re out the door and you have to start all over.

There’s always one person you officially work for; this could be yourself as a freelancer, a 3rd party promotions magazine or website, the venue owner, the venue manager, the promoter for that nights event and possibly the manager of some performer or celebrity if there’s one attending. The easiest situation is for you to shoot as a freelancer and then sell the shots to one or all of these people. By shooting for yourself you retain the commercial rights to the shots and can sell them to whoever you want. Sounds easy enough but this could mean a lot of leg work getting invites, press-passes, photo permissions etc. and freelancers are usually on the bottom of the list when it comes to getting any of these things done. It can take a lot of time and effort to build up the reputation and connections to grease the wheels and get yourself into an event worth shooting by yourself, and afterwards you still have to worry about turning those photos into a paycheck. If an event is big enough that people want pictures they’re probably going to send their own photog instead of hoping a freelancer shows up and gets the shots they want.  Continue reading “Nightlife Photography – How To Survive Shooting After Dark”

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Street Photography Tutorial #2: Tools of the Trade

Last tutorial I talked about the two main types of street photographer: Hunter or Gatherer. This time I’m going to go into the tools of the trade. My street photography kit is very different from my working kit in many ways; my usual working kit contains everything I think I’m going to need for a job, a lot of things I’ll probably need and many things I’ll never need but feel better for bringing. My street photography kit however is usually only about half of what I would like to bring on a given day. The reason for this is simple, on a job I have to be ready for any possibility I can think of and be prepared for the fact I didn’t think of everything. Less is more however when it comes to street photography; I could be walking around for hours so the less I’m carrying the better, and the fewer lenses I bring the less I’ll be inclined to focus on lens selection instead of watching what’s going on around me. There’s many reasons to keep your street photography kit small, which I’ll get into as I go, but first things first, lets talk about the foundation of any kit: your camera and lens(es). Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #2: Tools of the Trade”

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Hello, My Name is Jesse and I have a problem…

Hello, my name is Jesse, I suffer from GAS but it’s been over 6 months since my last purchase. It’s been a hard road, but I’m fighting, one day at a time. I know I’ll never be free of GAS, but I’m finally controlling it, instead of letting it control me.

For those of you new to the group, GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is an epidemic sweeping the photographic community, you’re not alone in this. Although it started in a very small subset of the population, mostly professionals and collectors, it has spread into the general populace at a staggering rate. Besides the fact that cameras are awesome, as electronics have become the de facto status symbols of our generation the urge to have bigger, better, more than our friends and neighbours is increasing. This creates a fertile breeding ground for GAS. GAS is highly infectious, highly contagious, expensive to treat and will lead to many hours of internet browsing. Although not sexually transmitted, it can be repellent to non-sufferers. Continue reading “Hello, My Name is Jesse and I have a problem…”

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Street Photography Tutorial #1: Hunter or Gatherer?

Street photography is probably one of the most miss-understood genres, not every photo taken on a street falls into the category and not all street photography actually happens there. Street photography is just as much photojournalism as it is art, in its simplest form, the goal is to capture people being people. There’s almost as many schools of street photography as there are photographers doing it, everyone has their own methods, preferences and visions but what unites us is our passion for recording the time in which we live. This series of tutorials, tips and essays will hopefully shed some light on what I’ve learned in the years I’ve been practicing. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #1: Hunter or Gatherer?”

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OverKill Launch Party

Last weekend was the private launch party for Ottawas newest hot spot for drinks and debauchery, Overkill (aka OK). Conceptualized by Guy Berube, owner of La Petite Mort gallery, Overkill looks to set itself apart from the usual Irish Pub flavored watering holes that dominate the capital.  The best description I can think of was written over 40 years ago by one of my favorite bands; I give you, Dr. Hook:

Well there’s gonna be a freakers ball
 Tonight at the freakers hall
 And you know, you’re invited one and all

Come on babies grease your lips
 Grab your hats and swing your hips
 Don’t forget to bring your whips
 We’re going to the freakers ball

Blow your whistle and bang your gong
 Roll up something to take along
 It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin at the freakers ball…

– Dr. Hook (1972)

You can check out more pics from the private launch of Overkill on my Flickr.

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Las Vegas 2011: Grand Canyon and Zion National Park

After driving through the Canadian Rockies, I thought I was prepared for the Grand Canyon. Not a chance. Standing on the lookout on the North Rim (the highest lookout in the Canyon) the mind recoils at the sheer size of it all. I was expecting guard rails and tourist funnels that would keep people away from the edge, but where I was at least, you could walk right up to the edge. It was so far down my usual fear of heights didn’t even kick in, I think my brain just wouldn’t accept exactly how far the fall would be. Unfortunately this was just a side trip, a 5 hour drive each way from Las Vegas, which is where I spent most of the vacation. I could have easily spent a week at either Zion or the Grand Canyon, maybe next time. Zion was surprisingly beautiful as well, and who knew, the best Crème Brûlée I’ve ever had was to be found in “middle of nowhere” Utah in a restaurant housed in an old Gas Station. If you ever drive through Zion, make sure to stop at the Whiptail Grill and try their Peanutbutter-Chocolate-Habinero Crème Brûlée, it’s to die for.

I went on this trip fully loaded, two Leica bodies and my Sony Nex, and just like my England trip, I ended up using the Sony exclusively. Could I have gotten better pics with my full Canon setup? Would it have been nice to have three bodies on me at all times for different films speeds and faster lens changing? Did I miss having a tripod? Sure… but the small size and weight of the Sony and 3-4 lenses made the trip far more enjoyable than lugging a full gear compliment in 115F weather and I’m happy enough with the shots I got. I probably could have gotten better, yes, but travelling with a group I had to balance social time and photography time. I wasn’t about to make people wait around for the perfect light or the perfect spot to setup a tripod, and I really enjoyed travelling with a group. You can see more of my Grand Canyon and Zion shots on Flickr. Stay tuned for shots from Vegas and the Hoover Dam.

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More Street Photography From The Capital

As much as I love Ottawa, sometimes I miss the bustle of a bigger city, it’s hard to remain inconspicuous on an empty street. Rideau street and The Byward Market are pretty much the only areas in Ottawa where you can find a decent flow of people; during rush hour a good chunk of the population has to pass through here, everyone intent on getting home as quickly as possible. Continue reading “More Street Photography From The Capital”

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Advice From Behind The Lens: How To Look Good On Stage

I’ve been shooting bands for almost a decade now, and while looking back over thousands of performance shots last week, I realized that all the bands I’ve photographed fall into two categories: “That show was amazing” and “Wow, I don’t even remember taking these pictures”. I know that’s a pretty obvious statement; of course I’m going to remember some bands and forget others. What wasn’t obvious at first, however, was that the more I thought about the bands I had forgotten shooting, the more I realized musical ability had very little to do with whether I remembered the show or not. I had shot some amazingly talented musicians but had completely forgotten their live show, while I could remember in detail some four song sets of the smallest and off-key garage bands. When it comes down to it, the common denominator is that some bands forget that when you put out a CD you’re a musician, but as soon as you go on stage, you’re a performer. If you want to be remembered, you have to put on a show, be larger than life. Occasionally when a band asks me to come shoot their show, they’ll ask if there’s anything special I’d like them to do; well, here it is: my guide to getting the best photos you can out of your performance. Continue reading “Advice From Behind The Lens: How To Look Good On Stage”

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