A couple of weeks ago I went to Springbank, just west of Calgary, and made a few long exposure photographs from the overpass that leads to Calaway Park to the south and the Springbank Airport to the north. The TransCanada Highway runs west from Calgary, under this bridge and a few more, before heading into the Rocky Mountains. As night faded, the line of the mountains in their snowy blankets stood out.
To the east the sun painted the scattered clouds before it rose above the eastern horizon. The color from the headlights, tail lights and reflections in the shiny pavement patches balanced the sky in a way I liked.
Shortly before the sun rose, the landscape and clouds to the west were illuminated with soft, even light which helped the light trails to really glow.
I stopped under a railway overpass to photograph a small piece of the morning commute in Berlin. It was interesting to see and compare the vehicles on a German roadway with what I’m used to at home in Calgary.
I have a lot of fun photographing things in motion and the half hour I spent on this street just outside of downtown was no exception. Playing with the shutter speed to isolate subjects as they speed by is a good challenge and can make for strong, dynamic images. Here then are a few more from that session beside the road.
Last week I was downtown for the day and before leaving the urban cacophony spent a bit of time dragging my shutter among my fellow commuters. It had been quite a long time since I was downtown during the evening rush hour and I enjoyed panning with the C-trains, shooting in the middle of the cross walk and looking for ways to capture the movements of people and their conveyances.
A member of the ground crew at the Calgary International Airport does the critical work of de-icing the airplane during a cold sunrise well below freezing in Alberta, Canada.
The Plus 15 walkways which are ~5 metres above Calgary’s street level connect the majority of buildings downtown. This allows people to avoid going outside during cold winter days and provides a great vantage point for watching the bright, orderly retreat of workers from their offices to their homes.
Fuji X100s + 23mm lens: 1/4 of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 3200
I played around with longer exposures (wishing I had a way to counter the slight bounce in the skybridge due to my fellow Plus 15 pedestrians) and had a moment to appreciate a benefit of the early sunsets that come with the winter months and daylight savings time.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1/320 of a second at f/1.6 on ISO 50
I love driving along backroads through the farmlands on the prairies and in the foothills of Alberta. The landscape is beautiful, wildlife (when they allow you to see them) abounds and I often have the roads to myself. On these tours, I keep an eye out for interesting farm vehicles and buildings. There are many unusual items designed for a specific agricultural purpose that can be very photogenic. As purposes move forward alongside changes in technology, some of these barns, tractors and other things fall out of use and weather. This tractor is a beautiful example of the worn down equipment that dot the landscape. This old Massey Ferguson seemed to be parked in an idyllic spot to enjoy a hard-earned rest after a long run of service. That’s a rather romantic notion and I could drive by there next week and find it out turning soil in one of the fields on the far side of the pond. Whatever the truth, it was a great subject to photograph on a summer day north of Cochrane.
We met some good friends and their boys in Cochrane for a classic car show just outside of the town. The kids had a great time looking at all of the roadsters, muscle cars, coupes and funny cars. I was drawn to the emblems and lettering used on the cars from the 50’s and 60’s – there was a style that was spread across most makes and models that was very compelling.
Great lettering script on this Mercury Monarch Richelieu
Headlights from a Dodge Challenger
A detail from a Ford Galaxie at the show
Chevrolet’s brilliant chrome past as found on a ’56 pickup
I love this classic Mustang’s grill, particularly the horse itself
Trains in the Rockies raise mixed feelings for me. There is a majesty to travel by rail, especially through the mountains. And, the railway certainly played a role historically in binding this country together that continues today. The wildlife deaths from train collisions on the tracks that wind through the Banff National Park is an issue that has improved but has a long ways to go before the animals are safe. Wildlife photographers like John Marriott and Peter A. Dettling are among those stakeholders who are raising awareness and making positive changes. Hopefully increasing awareness and engagement by the public and those on all sides of the equation will continue to reduce deaths of wolves, bears and other wildlife on the railways in the Rocky Mountains. It will be good when the trains and their rich history can be enjoyed without the dark shadow that currently hangs around them.
The morning’s are still dark when I’m downtown so the lights from the buildings and the vehicles create these illuminated pools. With a longer shutter speed, I sometimes play with stretching these pockets of lights while capturing the motion of vehicles driving around Calgary’s streets.
I went down to the Stampede Grounds yesterday with my kids to tour the World of Wheels on its stop in Calgary. When I told Kian that Bigfoot would be crushing and jumping over cars in a hockey rink he was buzzing with excitement.
I was impressed with the truck’s driver, Kyle Doyle. Driving a huge vehicle inside a hockey rink would be challenge enough. Throw in the jumps, brake stands, racing from end to end and tight cornering and it was a great show to watch.
Bigfoot finished the main act with a park on the crumbled automotive heaps – seemed a fitting end to the last of the four shows over the weekend.
Kezia was a bit ambivalent about the monster truck, the loud engine turned her off a bit, but when the motorcycles came out she got right into it.
As soon as she they started performing stunts, Kezia was mimicking their moves while standing in the seating aisle – with the encouragement of the crowd nearby.
Shaunavon is a town in southern Saskatchewan that continues to be a centre for agriculture and has started to prosper from the mining and petrochemical boom in the province. We were there last weekend and while driving on a range road I noticed this field of weathered and worn out farming equipment on the edge of town.
The tractors were lined up in neat rows and there was a large mechanic shop on the same acreage so I’m guessing that these vehicles were the ones that could not be repaired or it was no longer worthwhile to do so.
I love to show movement in my photographs. One of my favourite techniques to achieve this is to pan with my subject as it moves in front of me. I like the effect of the blurred elements stretching and wrapping around a train, horse or any number of other things in motion. The actual shooting is great fun too and I enjoy interacting with the scene to create the image I have in mind.
Standing on a street corner, a forest’s edge or along the fence at a rodeo, I will slow my shutter speed down either by using a smaller aperture or lowering my camera’s ISO setting. With the camera ready, I then focus on the subject in motion and shoot it as goes. When the panning of the camera matches the speed of the train, animal or athlete, the subject will remain sharp while the static elements and those moving in another direction or at a different speed will blur.
It is this blurring that frames the subject and creates the sense of speed. I like to play with the shutter speed to adjust how much blur there is and to affect how sharp the subject is. An abstract quality can be found in some images where the details are soft allowing patterns and colors to step ahead of the subject in importance.
There are numerous techniques to improve the success rate of sharp subject’s in a motion blur image including keeping the camera parallel to the subject’s path, starting to shoot as the vehicle approaches and following through as it passes, locking arms, shoulders, knees and feet and pivoting at the hips and many more. I try to practice these and incorporate as many as possible when I am panning.
The results can be really interesting and create compelling images. The web is your friend for specific details on these and many other ways to pan effectively. It is worth mentioning that while the slower the longer the shutter speed, the harder it is to keep the subject sharp, the payoff can be more interesting blur and consequently a more dynamic image. I often set my shutter speed as low as 1/10 of a second, which can result in more misses (blurry, unusable pictures) but when everything comes together there is a chance for something magical.
If you have an interest, give it a try and see if you like the photographs you create. It can be a great way to see a common scene in a new way or to pass a few minutes waiting for the bus. I would love to see any results you would like to share.