The Moment Before the Storm

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An evening photoshoot during golden hour taken as a large storm approached. An example of making the most out of the window of opportunity available in unpredictable weather conditions.

Golden hour prairie portrait
In frame: saramcfadzean

When shooting outdoors you are at the mercy of mother nature. One can plan all they want, obsess over the weather forecast, or delay until the last possible moment to shoot. Even all those precautions are sometimes not enough during summer on the prairies. The weather is so dynamic and large storms can appear out of nowhere. Although, if you are willing to take the risk the results can be massive.

Golden hour prairie portrait

This shoot was planned for a summer evening in July, on a clear but hot day. The weather was looking favorable right up to the shoot itself. The shoot began and everything was quite uneventful. Making use of the natural scenery we wander further and further from where we parked our vehicles. It was then, without warning, that the skies began to change. A storm cell was developing, very quickly.

Golden hour prairie portrait looking back

Pushing our luck we tried for a few more shots as the rain started to fall from the sky. The light was so nice it was just too tempting to not make the best use of it. As we worked our way back to the parking lot the weather was worsening quickly. It was that moment that I really started to dream about owning more weather-sealed photography gear. Being able to get those last few shots as the rain turned from a light drizzle into a full out downpour was risky with the photography gear I had on me.

Golden light nature portrait

We decided to call it quits and the thunder and lighting crashed close by. We rushed to the vehicles as the skies unloaded on us, completely drenching us from head to toe. It was a real lesson in how quickly things can change and we were fortunate enough to be working so close to our vehicles. The photos turned out but was the risk worth the reward?

Wet umbrella portrait

Shot with the Canon 6D and Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM 

Feeling Yellow

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Yellow is psychologically the happiest colour in the spectrum and therefore is more appealing to the human brain.

In frame: emmyos42

The colour yellow has always been my favorite colour to work with when it comes to photography. Personal response to colour varies from person to person, but experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, and context often influence each person’s reaction. Research has shown the colour yellow can invoke a response of optimism, clarity, and warmth. Many believe it to be the happiest color in the spectrum. It may just be that yellow is somewhat rare in nature and the sight of it triggers a response of uniqueness and demands attention. Whatever the reason might be, the colour yellow is my favorite to work with and continues to make an appearance in many of my projects.

Shot with the Canon 6D and Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM 

Arcade Lights

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Finding a balance between ambient light and off camera strobes

Neon portrait by claw game

Once commonplace, arcades are soon becoming scarcer every passing day. I’m fortunate enough to have a few small arcades left in my area which I did not hesitate to take advantage of. There is something about the abundance of different light sources in an arcade that makes for interesting and dynamic photos that no other place can replicate. The challenge can be finding the right balance of strobe lighting to get a proper exposure without killing the interesting ambient light that is critical for the overall mood of the photo. With the help of laineyamaris we were able to capture the colourful but moody look we were shooting for.

Colourful portrait with sunglasses

The entire shoot was lit with the various ambient light sources throughout the location and a single 24″ softbox and a CTO gel to balance the colour temperature more closely with the available ambient light.

Ms Pacman machine portrait

You aren’t always fortunate enough to have a clean environment without distractions. Having control over the lighting can help mask or hide the surrounding area keeping everything less “busy” and the focus on what is important. While you don’t always have control over the environmental lighting, simply adding a strobe of your own allows much more flexibility lighting your subject and bringing a great balance to the final photo.

Ms Pacman machine portrait

Another consideration to be made is how to include interesting components from the environment into the photo whether it be lighting or physical objects. You often have no control of where these components are placed so you must find ways to incorporate them into the shot. I like to take the approach of layering the environment wherever possible. This means incorporating parts of the environment into the foreground, midground, and background to help add depth to the photo and sell the location to the viewer.

Neon lights arcade portrait
Arcade machine portrait
Racing arcade portrait

Shot with the Canon 6D and Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM 

Laundry Day

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Photos inspired by laundry fresh from the wash

Holding a laundry basket

A throwback to a shoot with @haleynicolevb with a very simple concept, to replicate the feeling of fresh laundry. There really is no better feeling than the smell and feel of something fresh out of the laundry. To try and replicate that feeling the photos needed to be clean, fresh, and airy.

Airy laundromat portrait

We shot on a Saturday afternoon in a somewhat busy laundromat with some nice large windows letting in the natural night. The location was clean and well maintained, definitely not your typical run-down place, but still had a lot of character.

Sitting in a laundry basket

The natural light entering through the window was used as a key light and a single speedlight in a 24″ softbox was used as a fill light. By adjusting the amount of fill light it was possible to change the mood of the photos from contrasty and dramatic to bright and airy.

Doing our best to make use of the space without disrupting the other patrons we were able to capture a variety of looks and poses. Finding some different props laying around to use helped add another layer of realism and authenticity to the shoot. Sometimes a prop can make the posing more natural or open more creative posing ideas.

Archie comic at the laundromat
Dramatic lighting at the laundromat

The final edits were largely untouched and straight from the camera. The shawdows were bumped up slightly and the saturation dropped a touch. A weak grain was added back to the photos to complement the airy and vintage look we were going for.

Washing machine portrait
Soft light laundromat portrait

Shot with the Canon 6D and Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM 

Cruel Intentions

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Finding inspiration for your photography from great films and television

Dramatic light pool portrait

One of the most difficult things a photographer can face is finding new and interesting ways to photograph what you have already done so many times before. There is truth to the advice often given to photographers to find their niche then perfect it from a commercial standpoint, however, from a creative standpoint there is value to breaking outside your established patterns.

When I am feeling in a rut and needing inspiration I look towards what has already been done and done well. Creativity isn’t limited to things that have never existed but can be anything you have never personally done yourself. Inspiration can come from all types of media but my favorite source is from film and television. Great cinematography translates directly to great photography.

It had been many years since I last watched the 1999 film Cruel Intentions but the pool scene with Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe always stuck with me. When I finally went back and rewatched it I knew it was something I wanted to try and replicate.      

Screenshot from film Cruel Intentions

The green and teal tones make for a somewhat ominous atmosphere which is further amplified by the dark areas. The patches of natural night add areas of high contrast that direct the eye. The tone is very moody and reflects the scene in the film perfectly. I thought it was great cinematography and wanted to take a stab at doing something similar.

In addition to the contrast provided by the varying light levels and exposure in the photos, the contrast was further amplified by the red tones from the model’s (@payton2029) hair and skin against the green of the water.  Colours that are opposite such as green and red have a higher contrast meaning they more easily stand out against each other. This is the same reason that the orange highlights and teal shadows colour grading look is so popular in film and photography.

Shot with the Canon RP and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Moody pool portrait
Teal water pool portrait
Dramatic light pool portrait
Moody bikini portrait
Redhead with freckles pool portrait