Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th, Valentine's Day, and the Ballad of Nicole and Marc

With the economy the way it is, how much worse can things get? Today's Friday 13th, historically recognized by the superstitious as a day of bad things! I'm afraid this blog entry has come a little too late in the day to create a literary talisman that will preempt the bad things that are supposed to happen to me. Instead, I'll gladly dwell on good things that are supposed to happen tomorrow (not necessarily to me...). Yup. Chocolates. Flowers. Candlelight dinners.

It's been interesting reacquainting myself with the ritual of Valentine's Day in Canada. Traditionally here, there's a reciprocal exchange of gifts between lovers on the day of. But having lived in Japan, I'd grown accustomed to their approach to Valentine's Day. On February 14th in Japan, it's the female who gives gifts to her paramour, usually in the form of confections that they've baked and decorated themselves. As my buddy Masaya would say, "Yummy!"

It's not until a full month later on March 14th that the male returns the favour. "White Day" began in 1978 as the commercial brainchild of a Japanese confection company. On this day, men give "girichoco" (literally "obligation chocolate") to women in return for their earlier love gift. Japanese culture is highly predicated on the notions of reciprocity and obligation. Dishearteningly a lot of times, I find our culture is not so...

Nicole is my godbrother's daughter. Her boyfriend Marc, was visiting from out of town during the Xmas holidays. If you looked up "cute couple" in some lexicon, you might find their picture beside the definition. While they already have tons of pictures of themselves, they asked me to do a session with them. Our shoot was scheduled during the unusual cold spell during the holidays and while our intention was to shoot outside, we ended up infiltrating the Manitoba Legislative Building. It was almost effortless shooting with them and I was happy with the resultant images. Here are a few from the shoot. I hope you enjoy them...and I hope I was able to distract you from Friday the 13th if just for a little while. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Back From the Deep Freeze: From Babyhood to Toddlerhood

Am I being facetious to say it's been cold? Somehow, global warming hasn't hit my part of the world colding maybe...Even my nephew who's two can tell us with his limited but burgeoning vocabulary that he's freezing!

It's hard to believe he's grown so much, that he's a toddler. He's really beginning to formulate his concept of the world, developing a personality from this world view, and articulating in simple terms his needs and wants. I guess that's a clinical, sanitized version of events. From the other world view, he's also curious to no end and getting into all kinds of mischief. He's at the "Terrible Twos". He needs to touch everything, to feel an object's texture and hear the novel sounds it makes. Bend it. Bang it. Throw it. Crumple it. Invariably it breaks (common)... On one hand, he can be infatuated by something for long periods of time and on the other, he can be easily distracted. Other than his preternatural affinity for the vacuum cleaner, he's typical. I think... :-) This firsthand knowledge sure helped with a recent family photo shoot session.

I was contacted by a co-worker of a friend. Tina commissioned me to do an in-home photo session with her family which included her husband and two-year old daughter. I met with her (I usually meet with clients beforehand) to discuss location, wardrobe, and direction of the shoot. Tina is an accomplished architect and artist in her own right and her husband a former actor, so they were able to clearly articulate the kind of photos they wanted. We agreed that we were not fans of the staid and posed family portrait...We like the black and whites, the muted – capturing life as it happens and not imposing the camera or our wills upon what would happen. My belief is that something like this can only happen in the home or some place where the subject is truly comfortable.

A week later, I went back to their house for the session. As we'd discussed, they wore whites – in the preliminary meeting I advise wearing simple, solid colors. OK, I'll admit we did begin with some traditional black and white family shots to ease two-year old Tara into the shoot. I brought an old bicycle horn to attract Tara's attention to the camera. It worked. For awhile...

But then we let Tara be and went on to shoot in other parts of the house. She became the little director AND star of the shoot. And that's the magic of this kind of photo shoot. Unencumbered and uninhibited. Playing. Being fascinated by the simplest of things, things we adults take for granted. Tara being Tara. Mom and dad parenting. A true document of life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baby Pictures and Pure Love

I had the good fortune of being able to do some baby/family portraiture for my good friends Ralf and Lindsay over the weekend. Baby Neesa is five weeks old and apple of her parents' and grandparents' eyes. As new parents, Ralf and Lindsay are still getting used to the lack of sleep, scheduled bottle feedings, interpreting the meanings of Neesa's different cries, and all the things that the books tell you about but you never really know firsthand until you accidentally get some of that mustard-colored poo on your hand while changing a diaper. Moments like these can be trying and fleeting, BUT mostly amazing! You're holding in your arms this little person whose very being and every breath depends on you. (Ralf joked that Neesa is now running the household – I'm not sure that he knows he's in for at least 18 more years of her being in charge! On second thought, I think he does...) Part of you is resigned to the fact that she's not going to stay like that forever – they grow so fast, sometimes too fast! Without being overly maudlin or sentimental, I hope they're able to look back at these images years from now and remember those unguarded moments where the only thing that mattered was Neesa and nothing else...

The reactions have been good. There's more pictures to process, but so far I'm really happy with these images. They're a portrayal of emotion as real as it gets – not anything you can fake with contrived poses or manufacture with any amount of Photoshop trickery. :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I've Got Some Things to Learn – The New(er) Professional Photographer as Student

In September, I attended a wedding photography seminar entitled "Craft Your Success" hosted by Davide Greene and Mike Anderson. The marquee speaker was supposed to be David Jay, one of the contemporary luminaries of the wedding photography world. Unfortunately at the previous stop in Toronto, there was a bit of a dispute between Davide, Mike, and David which let to the ensuing fiasco that resulted in David Jay's departure from the tour. This in turn resulted in some miscommunication and a lot of confusion between the speakers who were continuing the tour and the participants in subsequent cities, Winnipeg included. I was still looking forward to the event in spite of what I had read on the internet the day prior to the seminar. In all honesty, as a relative newbie to the scene I hadn't heard of David Jay anyways...

It turned out to be a true learning experience. Davide and Mike touched on technical aspects of wedding photography, new technology (and the extraneousness of some of it), the business of photography, relations with clients, and growth as a person, photographer, business person and artist...? An artist? Indeed, in some (many) circles, the wedding photographer is not held in high esteem, merely another vendor in the mélange of wedding vendors. But I tend to agree with the artist label – there is most definitely an artistry involved. The underlying grunt work of shooting (fun), post processing (sometimes not fun), and passion lead to art, to great images, the end result. This in turn defines you to your clientele and then dictates the perceived value of your work. I came away from the seminar with a renewed sense of what I was doing, what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do to achieve that end.

Fast forward to last night's photographer soirée. Thanks to Nghia for inviting me and to Trevor for hosting it at his home studio! There were a couple of photographers that I already knew on a personal basis, some I'd heard of by name, some I'd seen at the seminar but never got to know, and some others like me who were beginning on their wedding photography business paths. It was an impressive collection of talented people.

For most of the night, I was awed by Trevor's place. Suffice it to say, I'm sure anybody who enters will be awed not only by the house and sense of design, but by the amazing images lining the walls. Looking through his albums, I was even more impressed. At this point in my business, every time I shoot is a learning experience, so I am aspiring to the quality that he is able to produce.

I lifted my jaw off the carpet long enough to listen to what more experienced photographers had to say. It was interesting to hear their opinions and anecdotes about pricing, contracts, products, dealing with clients, dealing with outside service suppliers, work flow, presentation, and on and on... Speaking with the two I already knew, they told me it was refreshing to meet in a more informal situation like this, and getting to know people they'd met or seen at various venues while shooting.

I heard this may become a monthly affair. I'm definitely happy to have attended and hope to attend more events like this – I learned a lot. But I want to learn more, and I know I have more to learn. Open eyes and an open mind are crucial to my development as a photographer and business person.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Shooting Paper Moon

A couple of Sundays back I had the pleasure of shooting the press photos of local Winnipeg band Paper Moon. We got quite a bit accomplished within the tight confines of the Allison and Chris' living room. In our planning session, they came up with 3 concepts - Pajama Party, Board Game, and Back to School. They wanted to emulate some old school (c. 1970s) Sears/Eatons catalogues. The resulting images after post processing were actually a little more Norman Rockwell(ish), but pleasing nonetheless... I think if I fade the images more, I might further be able to emulate a worn 70s catalogue look. So far the reviews have been good - I'm happy, and the band's happy...Thanks to the band for being so cooperative, to Tannis Legary (a great makeup artist with whom I've had ongoing collaborations), and to Leela. AND before I forget, Paper Moon will be playing a fund raiser show at the Park Theatre (698 Osborne Street) on Thursday, December 4, 2008. Message me here or go to to get tickets.