The crescent moon on my daughter’s birthday in January was beautiful. Here I framed it between the silhouettes of the trees along the forest in Redwood Meadows. During the exposure (0.8 seconds) I moved the camera slightly to play with the elements and see what would trace across the image. This one had an interesting look of motion in it.
It has come too soon but I am enjoying the beautiful colors that fall has brought. Snow is falling this weekend so autumn may be cut short this year – we’ll see.
I’ve had fun playing with longer shutter speeds and moving through the focal length during some of those. Some of the images have an abstract, painterly quality which I love. I still like photographing the changing landscape in more straightforward ways too. Most scenes I end up shooting in a few different ways to see which works in that moment. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks in and around Bragg Creek.
On a side note, it has been a long time since my last post. I have kept shooting but haven’t made time to publish anything for a little over two months. A lot went on through the summer. The biggest change has been falling in love with a wonderful woman. Aside from my children and how they continually amaze me, that has been the highlight of a summer that has absolutely flown by.
I have a lot of fun photographing just about anything in motion. Thinking about how a picture could look, using different techniques to realize that and then the element of luck throwing in a wildcard or two. Here are a few car shots from last year which came together pretty well.
Night suits this type of photography as the darkness allows for slower shutter speeds. I set a longer exposure, often between 1/10th and 1/50th of a second, and then pan with the vehicle as it passes by. The background blurs and, hopefully, the vehicle remains in sharp focus.
And then, sometimes, you find a car just sitting patiently in an empty parking lot in Montréal under a light rain in the early morning that simply looks amazing.
Almost exactly a month later, I found myself landing in Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport again. This time with my family. We are in Mont-Tremblant this week for my daughter’s dance competition. We will get back to the city for a bit of a visit during our stay in Québec – I’m looking forward to wandering around the old town with them soon. It’s fun to have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful city on two separate occasions this summer after not visiting for about 28 years.
Last week one of the snowstorms that came through Calgary picked up intensity after dark. I was staying downtown near the Bow River and watched as the increasing snowfall was illuminated by the city lights above one of the bridges crossing the water. A silhouette sped in front of a light at one moment and then a dozen more did the same the next.
A colony of gulls threw waves of their silhouettes into the storm circling low over the water and then above the lights for several minutes before they appeared to settle down.
I don’t know if it was the weather, disturbance by a someone or something or members returning to congregate for the night but they were excited for a short while. I loved the grainy sky created by the snow and the shape of these dark blurs as they flew into and out of the light.
I like photographing birds – no surprise to those who follow this blog. I’m not a birder with a long list of life birds but I really enjoy watching almost every bird I see, particularly when they are in motion. Several days ago at Carburn Park the sky was overcast, snow fell and wind out of the north had a bit of a bite to it. A great day to watch and photograph along the Bow River.
At one bend there was a small colony of California gulls. A few flew off in the time I watched them. Although these gulls are common around Calgary’s rivers through the winter, and can be easily found at any time, I had fun watching these ones fly by.
Coach Hill, a rise in west Calgary, affords a great view of city’s downtown. I found a place there where vehicles traveling along Sarcee Trail pass in front of the knot of skyscrapers. The play of perspective, especially the relative size of the cars to the buildings, was very interesting to me.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked with a friend down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Canada geese were massed along the Bow River in and around the cold water. Flights of these birds came in and out all morning.
I dragged the shutter and panned with the birds as they flew past to create blur and lend motion to the images.
A very enjoyable couple of hours went by and then my friend had to leave. I elected to stay and walked down the iced over path that parallels the Bow along the eastern edge of the bird sanctuary.
A young stag trotted along the rocky beach right in front of me at one point. He stopped for a few seconds out of mild curiosity before skipping around the corner and quickly going out of sight.
An immature bald eagle alighted in a tree across the water a few hundred meters away. It was watching the geese that congregated near the water intently. After half an hour it launched into the air, crossed the river and flew directly overhead. I love eagles so this was a highlight of the morning for me despite the somewhat harsh lighting.
The day was close to noon by then and I headed towards the ponds. A couple of magpies were making a terrific racket which drew my attention. Looking in the dense stand of trees I spied a great horned owl calmly perched a couple of meters off the ground. She stayed mostly oblivious to the angry birds and they soon moved on. I returned to check on the owl a couple of times in the afternoon but she was napping for the most part so I didn’t photograph much. It was unseasonably warm so I enjoyed spending time with the owl with no expectation for more.
This image is from 2011 and was taken along the Elbow River. Kezia was 2 1/2 years old and running with Kian who was 4 1/2. I used a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second for a relatively long shutter and panned with the kids as they raced by. I love playing with motion and creating, or capturing, movement in these types of images. The blurred lines that layer to create the scene remind me of an Impressionist painting.
I spent an evening on the Bow River at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on the weekend. It was a beautiful day, warmly lit in golden light, and I had a great time photographing the birds well into dusk. Among the birds nearby were a few Double-crested cormorants fishing and flying around. I photographed as they flew or swam by. They are exceptionally fast birds and they often fly just above the water at speed which is exciting to watch. After the sunlight had left the river, I caught sight of one of these cormorants moving upriver. Darkness was starting to settle in so I dragged my shutter in order to use the lack of light to pan with the bird as it passed me. I used a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second and it worked out pretty well.
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.
Canon 5DIII camera and 300mm f/4 lens: 1/15th of a second at f/16 on ISO 200
I drove along the Grand Valley Road in search of raptors and was fortunate to come across a small group of fellow photographers who had spied a Northern hawk owl in a roadside stand of trees. I will share a couple of photographs of that fine bird soon but wanted to first show the abstract images I made earlier in the day. Before finding any wildlife, I was spending time looking for them among the trees and meadows along the road. Early on, I found this stand of Aspens and I loved the vertical pattern and the stark contrast between dark and light within and between the tree trunks.
Canon 5DIII camera and 300mm f/4 lens: 1/500th of a second at f/9 on ISO 1250
I loved the straight image and once I dialled that in the way I liked, I wanted to drag my shutter and play with the blurred images that I traced out.
Canon 5DIII camera and 300mm f/4 lens: 1/30th of a second at f/16 on ISO 200
After a great evening with another family who came over for dinner, we enjoyed having some time playing around before bed. Kian and Kezia had a bunch of glow sticks that they connected together and swung around in the dark. We had a lot of fun tracing out crazy patterns during a series of long exposures.
Canon 5DIII with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1/10th of a second at f/4.5 on ISO 640
Cars, motorcycles, buses and rickshaws swung by me one evening while I was in the heart of Cabo San Lucas. With the neon signs hanging above many of the shops and the sky still deep blue, I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to drag my shutter and play with what images I could create.
When practicing motion photography, I like to try different techniques. I switch between keeping the subject sharp by panning in sync with its movement and panning out of sync so that only a small part is sharp or the whole thing has a large or small amount of blur that pushes the image into an abstract shot.
For the better part of an hour, the traffic kept me happily occupied while I waited for my bus to arrive.
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.
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.
I photographed a pair of Pacific Golden Plover, called Kolea in Hawaiian, in the grasses near our hotel this morning. They scuttled about the grass in the same fashion as I had observed them skip over rocks along the shoreline last year on a beach further north here in Kaua’i. In the photograph above, I panned the camera while one of the birds ran nearby.
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 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.
This photograph was from yesterday on my walk through downtown. The last one for a week as I’m heading up for a photography tour along the Rockies between Jasper and Banff. I’ve been invited by Art Wolfe to join him and a small group for the week as a photo guide. The first destination is the Tonquin Valley – we horseback ride in tomorrow morning – today is the travel day up to Jasper. Can’t wait to meet everyone and get the trip rolling.
I’ll be offline for most of the trip but it will be fun sharing the photographs I come back.
A big thanks to Bobbi and my kids for supporting my photography and holding down the fort while I’m away.
I panned with this train as it slid through downtown Calgary, working to keep the front sharp. When I reviewed the photograph, I liked the driver’s wave to his counterpart on the just passed train. A detail I didn’t see in the moment.