Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow – How Many Ways Can I Describe You

While growing up here in Canada I always understood that the Inuit or Eskimo cultures, (which is really an aggregate name for many northern tribes) had a thousand names or more to describe snow. These native people whose very life depends upon understanding just how the snow will behave would definitely need an arsenal of names to describe their life force for survival.

It turns out, with some web research, that maybe there is not really that many words they use and that within the English language we may have a large abundance of phrases to describe our snow experience.

If there are so some many ways to describe snow, can we not as photographers capture images that in some ways also describe our contact with snow in divergent lights and moods?

When we think of snow we tend to think in terms of white and then whiter. But snow when shot at lower light setting can display some brilliant and vibrant colours that you would not normally associate with snow.

These images below are my first start with a list.

Black Golden Snow

f11,ISO 200. 1/500s

This was captured as the sun was nearing the horizon. With the faster shutter speed I am able to reduce the whiteness and find the subtle golden and copper colours on the river snowcap.

Multicoloured snow

f16, ISO 200, 1/125s

Ice of the Ottawa River had slightly meted and re-frozen and became windswept with new snow.

Blue Snow

f16,ISO 200. 1/100s

On winter days deep in the shadow can be found some beautiful deep blues.


f5.3, ISO200, 1/600s

Newly fallen provides snowcaps for the red berries in the tree branches.

Clear hard melted snow (Ice)

The snow-plastered sign had slightly melted in the sun and then froze overnight to form the hanging icicle.

Snow Man

My wife and I lean against our freshly built Snowman. We did get help from others to roll the second ball on top.

sand-Snow with Tracks

f10, ISO200, 1/400s - increased ‘vibrance +78’ in ACR RAW

The snow in the image almost has the appearance of sand along a beach. The soft wind blown snow lines are broken up with the tracks of birds.

I hadn’t really thought of making a project out of exploring snow until I decided to select this as my topic.

Here are a few more words that might describe snow to some of us.

Dirty road snow
Falling snow
First snow
Corn snow
Angel Snow (where you make an angel in the snow)

Our description of common items provides many opportunities to capture and explore the many facets of how we see things and afford much material for great projects.

For those of you who are now enjoying summer, like those of you in Australia, New Zealand or warm climates, consider Sand as a project. We have sand storms, sand dunes, sandy beach, sandstone, sand sculptures, blowing sand, white, red and black sand and in-your-sandals sand. Since sand is not really as prevalent around here, maybe you have other terms that would reveal something about sand.

In follow-up to the the thousand words for snow I have provided a couple of links.

The Eskimos' Hundred Words for Snow (read preamble)

I can’t confirm if accurate but interesting article on words for snow

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

Remember... light is your crayon, and there's always another color in the box. - Tedric A. Garrison - This Quote taken from the Photo Class called: "Your Creative Edge", taught by Tedric A. Garrison

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Visit to an Old Friend

This blog is about re-visiting an old friend or should I say like looking at my old high-school photos and they can seem strange today. This was one of the first images were I spent considerable time enhancing it in Photoshop to make a print of it.

I thought I would compare the approach I took then with a new version today. The first assumption even before looking at the editing processes is that I surely could do better then I did before.

This image was submitted to a B&W print competition for the theme of ‘Massive’, if I remember correctly my first print competition. Ah the innocence or is it ignorance of youth (not age but in beginning a journey to improve my photographic skills).

Updated version

When I first looked at this image, what I saw were these ‘massive’ brick walls and rock outcroppings that were, to me, made even bigger by the inclusion of the small seagull. The coarse texture of the brick walls balanced nicely with the smoother yet still jagged texture of the rock wall. The tortuous water just complemented the hardness of the walls.

The only comment I received by the judge on a well-printed B&W image (see “Orig” below) on semi gloss paper was that the seagull, which is where his eyes kept going, did not seem massive to him. Judges can be cruel. Most judges are good photographers but not all good photographers make good judges, as it’s difficult to find the right balance with regards to critiques.

I have learnt a fair amount from these types of judges, at least with interacting with the participants and in my own judging I am always careful to point out some positives about the image as well as the areas of possible improvement.

The first process was to analyse the basic Camera RAW image and identify the stronger compositional elements and use the photo-editing process to support these.

The image has many supporting horizontal curvy lines that help to create and support the perception of movement. The major lines are in yellow below.

When an image is meant to stand alone on its own merit, it is important that there are visual gaze patterns or points of interest that keep our eyes moving through the image and returning to those emotive parts.

The blue line shows a visual course through he image, which I will need to enhance with contrast separation.

In analyzing the image I found that the brick wall did not provide enough contrast separation with the rock wall, which was to provide a visual guidance downward. I worked separately on each of the blue-circled areas within the photo below. I would also try and introduce the appearance of a shaft of light striking downward towards the bird.

This is the unedited RAW image

The original image has the bird more in the center, which is not a traditional power point and in the revised version I moved it to the lower left third.

In my vision, one of the key elements is the icicles on the edge of the rock face and this is one item that I wanted to enhance the contrast to make them jump out more and help the gaze downward.

I did like the white writing on the wall and unfortunately these are on the top edge of the image and have the potential to take your visual gaze out of the image. I therefore decided to darken the top edge, to not make it such a powerful exit point.

When I looked at the approach I took to create the final image, it is easy to see that I have learned and developed my skills over the years, at least with Photoshop editing and workflow processes, but I was surprised at how close the analysis remained today.

The comparison of the original raw version and the 2 final versions are shown below.

To give you a better idea of just how wonderful this area along the Ottawa River at Deschene’s Rapids is, I have included a photo from a little further up the river and you can see the Ottawa skyline in the background.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

A good photograph, like a good painting, speaks with a loud voice and demands time and attention if it is to be fully perceived. An art lover is perfectly willing to hang a painting on a wall for years on end, but ask him to study a single photograph for ten unbroken minutes and he’ll think it’s a waste of time. Staying power is difficult to build into a photograph. Mostly, it takes content. A good photograph can penetrate the subconscious – but only if it is allowed to speak for however much time it needs to get there. - Ralph Gibson - [cited in: Creative Camera December 1972, p. 401]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Camera Shake – I really meant for it to happen

Last week I discussed several methods that might help you to explore new challenges and thereby open up your creativity to new ideas. The thought is, that if you are having so much fun at what you are doing then the learning and growing possibilities might seem endless.

In some ways the Holy Grail of photography, by many, is perceived as the pin-sharpness of an image. If you’re like me, even with the almost never-fail capabilities of the modern camera, some of my images when I examine them, do not always have the sharpness exactly within the range I need.

So what about a technique that forgets sharpness and focuses on capturing images that gives great abstractness and at the same time for certain scenes still yields clarity about the subject and most importantly that does not require real sharpness. What could be more fun than this? Well a few things, but this is about photography.

All the images below have the their saturation on a per channel basis increased.

f4.5, 1/60s

While I like this image with its appearance of motion, even though it might be a little hard on the eyes, this was a failed attempt as I was moving a bit sideward than what I had planned to achieve but sometimes through mistakes an interesting image may appear.

This is the same technique (panning) also used to capture moving objects with slower shutter speeds where we still want the appearance of motion, but in this scenario we do not need any elements to be sharp and in focus. The impression left by the blurred motion is what excites us.

f22 1/5s

In photography, light or the absence of it is what defines our images. Sure there are a few images where it is all about the colours but for most images it’s the tones and shadows that gives depth and a 3 dimensional quality to the otherwise flat print.

f22 1/8s

These are extremely fun to do and since we all have different levels of fondness for abstract images I leave it to you to decide if any are worthy of merit.

I have seen several images that where taken this way with the tall fall aspen or birch trees, with almost white barks and golden colour of leaves. These scenes are difficult to find in my area, as you want open areas in front of you and these trees at the edge of clearings. While at a friends place he did have some poplars at the edge of the woods that I though would be fun to experiment with.

All images where taken within 10-25 ft from this spot.

As you can see, the normal view is not that stunning and there were only a few trees with long light trunks that lend themselves well to this technique.

This is a perfect time to experiment, as there is no right or wrong composition, just those that make you smile and maybe other people as well.

f4.5 1/60s

Some of the best effects I have seen are with dark woods set against some lighter tree trunks up front. When I see the right woods I will try again.

This is definitely a trial and error approach to finding out what lighting will work for different types of scenes.

Some suggested panning approaches
· Slower shutter speeds in the range of 1/10 to 1/60 work well. You may need to increase f-stop higher to get these shutter ranges.
· Start panning before you press the shutter.
· For tree effects try and keep camera movement in vertical (same axis as tree trunks) movement
· It’s the light areas that overwrite the dark in image as you pan.
· If shutter is long enough in duration try and vary the panning motion speed while shutter is open.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

I’m always amused by the idea that certain people have about technique, which translate into an immoderate taste for the sharpness of the image. It is a passion for detail, for perfection, or do they hope to get closer to reality with this trompe I’oeil? They are, by the way, as far away from the real issues as other generations of photographers were when they obscured their subject in soft-focus effects. - Henri Cartier-Bresson - on technique. "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Are you Creative enough?

While I don’t make New Year’s resolutions as an official event Jan 1st, I do like to explore new endeavors and ways of doing things. I like to find challenges that will push me further ahead in my passion.

For most of us the road to better photography tends to follow a standard path, unless you woke up one morning and decided to become a great photographer and pursued this like a university degree or with relentless artistic passion.

Self Directed Outing to shoot early spring flowers

We get a camera, learn how to operate it, start taking some good tourist type images. We then explore basic compositional elements and creative technical modes with our camera and we now produce ‘good’ pictures. We place them on web sites and for the most part get nice comments, not really meaningful but they make us feel good. We sell a few prints. Life now seems great, but is there something missing? It could be the need for peer recognition, or to create a lasting monument with collection of photos that will stand the test of time.

Local Camera Club B&W Print competition ‘Bridge’

How to constantly renew and expand our artistic skills cannot be found through a formula but must be different for each person.

I definitely don’t have all the answers but here are some methods that have worked well for me and I am sure there are many more, which I haven’t thought of, that will help you to kick up your creative juices. The underlying thread in most of these suggestions is that there is someone else directing or pushing you.

Monthly web photo club theme ‘Windows’

This would apply to any artistic medium.

Support and Learning

Join a local Photography Club
A camera club provides communicable settings where you can have face-to-face discussions about almost anything related to photography. Through the interests of others you can share in new experiences. Most clubs, as one of their main activities, hold photo-judging nights, where members enter Themed and sometimes Open categories and winners accumulate points for future advancement and awards.

Join a photography class or school
There are many types of photography evening classes available in local high schools, colleges and sometimes weekends with photography schools.

Join an online photo critiquing community
There are many web based photography communities and forums that range from free to a marginal yearly fee. I haven’t used many as comments are hit and miss but occasionally there are some good suggestions.

Fred Miranda

Free to join, fee for monthly storage. There are weekly and monthly themes where winners receive either free storage or an FM Photoshop action. There are several critiquing forums and the comments are useful.


Free to join. Fee for uploading and storage privileges. The critiquing system used by PhotoSig, gives extra points to the first 3 people commenting. This tends to cause novices to use minimal critiquing to get their comments in first. Occasionally there are some in-depth critiques by well-established members.

Photo Outing with a photo group on Facebook

Enter online photo competitions
There are many sites that have on-line photo competitions either for free or prizes.
If you are concerned about where your images may wind up, do read the fine print in the agreement. You don’t have to read it all as the agreements have standard sections and one will deal with where they can use your image.


This site runs weekly competitions in several categories. Some almost no editing from original digital picture to entries with photo editing allowed. There is a voting system to rate each image. Each member gets a different set of images to vote on. Free membership but limited number of challenges you are able to enter.

Have a fellow photographer give you a project with a theme, no. of final images and a completion date. There may even be the possibility of them critiquing your images.

Use a different type of camera. Borrow or rent a different type of camera and lens.

Take up painting, drawing or any other artistic medium, as this will help you see composition ideas from a different perspective.

Find a great photographer and learn their style by trying to duplicate their techniques or approaches to composition. Do copy to learn, not to imitate.

Photo Blogging
Post your photos and the story on many of the free blogging sites.

From Photoblog shoot. The processing gives a coppery sheen (WB 6,OOO) which may look blue if you monitor is set too high.

Some Photo Projects

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
For every letter of the alphabet a word is created for a photo subject. Find an area or location to shoot and complete within 2-5 hours. This is one of my favourite and my camera club has this as an annual event.

30 sec shoot, then move to another spot
This tends to work well in downtown areas. Walk to a new area and within 30 seconds or any time that works for you (should be short) take a photo. Move to another location and repeat. This works well for 15 min to 1-hour walk-abouts.

Photo Idea Jar
Fill a jar with themes or shooting ideas created by yourself and others. Reach in and grab an item and see where it takes you.

Personal outing
Give yourself a personal outing. Pick a date, some sort of theme, location and get out and take images.

If you are like me, we sometimes need to find new avenues for creativity and most importantly increase the fun.

Please share any ideas or comments you have, as it’s always good to learn new ways.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

Photography requires growth; you learn, you grow. You stop learning, you stop growing. Those who say they know it all... are either liars, or extremely naïve. The more you know, the more you grow. - Tedric A. Garrison


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