Troy More Photography - Victoria BC: Blog en-us (C)2003-2018 Troy More Photography (Troy More Photography - Victoria BC) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 GMT Troy More Photography - Victoria BC: Blog 120 86 Don't let your family history die on a hard drive!  

Remember how we used to archive our photos? Those albums with the sticky pages that you pasted your prints into before putting them on a bookshelf, to be retrieved in those moments of nostalgia when you realize just how fast the kids are growing up. But that was the days before digital media gave us so many options. DVDs, thumbdrives, the cloud, social networking sites. The options seem endless so your photos will always be there, right?


Well..... let's take a look at how reliable all these options are.


Computer hard drive (Including backup drives)

Pros: Easy access, simple to share by email or social media if drive is installed in a computer. Fast access for editing.

Cons: Hard drives will die. About 25% will fail within four years. Data recovery is expensive if possible at all.

Average Lifetime: 4-5 years


Optical Media (CD/DVD/BR)

Pros: Cheap, easy to store.

Cons: Fragile. Not handy to access. Impending obsolescence.

Average lifetime: 1-5 years.


USB Thumb drive/SD Card

Pros: Solid state, reasonably durable, will stand up to being used better than optical media. Format likely to have a long lifespan.

Cons: Small size is easy to misplace. Less easy to label. More expensive than optical drives.

Average lifetime: If used only as an archive the lifespan can be decades but if data on it is constantly being written and erased, 10 years.


Cloud storage or gallery service. (Dropbox/Flickr/zenfolio/etc)

Pros: Immune to physical dangers such as flood, fire, or vandalism. Can be accessed world wide. Can backup multiple devices.

Cons: "The cloud" is just someone else's computers, and these companies go bankrupt all the time. Images can vanish without warning.

Average lifetime: Depends on the financial health of the company hosting them.


Social Media

Pros: Simple uploading and sharing. Free. Easy to access from anywhere.

Cons: Images stored are a degraded image that doesn't print well. Arbitrary account decisions can lead to locked/deleted profiles.

Average lifetime: Facebook will probably be around for awhile, but what will they become in ten years? How are the pics you put on MySpace doing?



Retail Print from photo lab

Pros: Paying for prints forces you to sort out which photos are really worth keeping. Prints never go obsolete. 

Cons: Degrade quickly when stored or displayed improperly. For backup they need to be scanned if no digital copy exists.

Average lifetime: When stored properly in an album - 50-60 years.  Hung in a frame out of direct sun - 15-30 years.



Archival print from print shop

Pros: Long life. When taken care of will outlast any subject. Pigments last much longer than photo lab ink and produce a better image.

Cons: Can cost 5-10 times what a standard retail print costs. 

Average lifetime: Colour - 100-150 years. Black & White - up to 300 years.

Your old black and white prints could be hanging next to the transporter room!


My Recommendation:

- Print anything that is important to you and put it in an album.

- Have a backup copy of important photos on good quality thumb drives that you only use for this. Store them in labelled envelopes.

- Have a cloud storage backup. Flickr is fine for this.

- Really important images that you want archived for future generations should be turned into archival prints.


Not to get melancholy, but our own mortality plays into this too. If preserving your family history is important then you need to make prints. In the days after you pass away your family is going to go through your stuff (I'll wait while you clear your browser history). People are going to make sure your photo albums go to someone in the family that takes care of this sort of thing, but they're unlikely to check for an online storage account or spend days going through your DVDs.

People will try to tell you that the photographic print is a fragile thing that can be wiped out by fire, floods, or any variety of disaster, but you know what? These kinds of things will also mess up any of the other options to a degree. Hard drives don't do well in floods or lightning strikes. Heck, a poorly thought out vacuuming of your desk (Never let a vacuum touch a computer. They're giant static machines.) can wipe a hard drive. None of these options handle file successfully. Distributed cloud storage saves you here, but as I said above, it's a poor bet as your only backup.


The bottom line is that there's no easy answer to preserving your photographic memories, but if you aren't printing them, your life's record will probably vanish one day. That would be a tragedy.


Thanks very much to The Print Lab for info on archival prints. Other info came via Storage Craft, BlackBlaze, and PC World Magazine.


Image credits:

"Hard Drive" / Computer Problem" - Open Clipart Vectors (Public Domain)

"Japan Camera" - G. Aquitaine (Creative Commons)

"Enterprise" - Paramount Pictures (Fair Use)




archives family history photos printing Sat, 08 Jul 2017 03:33:06 GMT
Why you shouldn't buy photography gear for photographers at Christmas (or anytime).


Christmas shopping is well into it's peak mayhem of retail carnage and there are lots of people with photographers on their shopping list. What are the best gifts you can give the photographer in your family? I'll skip the formalities and cut to the chase below:


- Wine.

- Single malt Scotch.

- Gift cards.

- Anything but photography equipment.


Why would I say this you ask? Simple. You probably don't have any idea what they need or want. The chances of buying something completely inappropriate is incredibly high. What gear is appropriate to their specific needs and any one particular time can be mind boggling enough for the photographers themselves, but an outsider guessing the right thing is almost impossible. Even if they drop 1001 hints about really wishing they had a new 70-200 2.8 lens with image stabilization just like the one in the second shelf of the third case from the left at the local camera store, don't risk it. Find out how much it costs and get a gift card for that amount. Incidents of photographers thinking they need one thing but being corrected by a more knowledgeable salesperson is also rather high.

Let's turn the table for a minute and put you on the receiving end. You have a beautiful Mercedes Benz Cabriolet that you pamper and detail with no expense or effort spared. Then it's Christmas time and someone you love and don't wish to offend presents you with a gift that they bought because they know how much you love your car. Now you drive around town in the only Mercedes equipped with Yosemite Sam seat covers and a furry steering wheel.

It's the same thing when you buy that Polaroid lens for someone's high end camera. Sure it will work, but the photographer has no use for it. It's not your fault, you didn't know any better, but you made the mistake of venturing into a territory that takes years to understand.

"Thanks Grandma! Yes, I'll be sure to use it to shoot cousin Julie's wedding next month."



So thank you for your generosity, and now that you've been forewarned and are ready to go out and buy that gift card, make sure it's from a local camera shop with expert staff, not a big box store staffed by overworked twenty year olds being managed by inept twenty five year olds. The recipient will be far better off for it.


Merry Christmas!





"Japan Camera" - G. Aquitaine (Creative Commons)

"Polaroid ProCam" - Andrew Butitta (Creative Commons)

Text - © 2016 Troy More - All rights reserved.







2016 art christmas photography Tue, 13 Dec 2016 02:47:28 GMT
Fear and Loathing and Photographers There were some ancient cultures who feared that photographers were able to capture their souls in a photograph and refused to be photographed or acted with anger and violence if someone attempted to photograph them. You can laugh now about such backward thinking, but it's not entirely gone from society, in fact it's seemingly on the rise.

Image by: Eric Gross / Creative CommonsA couple in New York recycling their souls.

A couple in New York City recycling their souls. Image by: Eric Gross / Creative Commons


Now I totally get the modesty and shyness thing. I hate being photographed. I don't have self-image issues, but I just happen to look like a giant lumbering dork with a big dopey look on my face when photographed. I'm fine with how I look in a mirror, but on film I just don't cut it. So I'm not completely insensitive to those averse to having their photo taken.

Definitely a part of western culture, photo aversion is virtually unknown in Asia, where it's indeed difficult to shoot a crowd scene without half the people smiling and making a V sign with their fingers. In Canada an entirely different sign is the norm, though not using quite so many fingers.

The bird is the word.

Even with a group of photographers. - Image by: Troy More / All rights reserved


Nothing magnifies this worse than when children are involved. It's difficult to document the world around you and at the same time edit out all the children, but this is exactly what some busybodies would want. Interestingly, I never get this complaint from actual parents of any who's appeared in my photograph. In fact I've gotten the most flak from people riding in on their high horses after seeing me display photos of children that I was specifically asked to shoot. In fact there have been occasions where I was looked at suspiciously for taking shots of my own kid.

Let me make this perfectly clear. A photographer has every right to photograph someone in public, and a child in a playground scene, marching in a parade, or playing soccer is in no danger whatsoever due to their being photographed. Not in any logical person's mind anyway. The self righteous who like to make a big scene about how they are protecting the children have their own agenda.

The simple joys of playing in a giant sprinkler. Nothing else. Image by: Troy More / All rights reserved


The reactions to someone carrying an SLR is just ridiculous "security theatre" sometimes. I once took my daughter to a public pool and with a Canon SLR took some photos of her practising her swimming. All around me other parents were doing the same with phones and small point and shoots. Funny enough though, I was the one jumped on by staff asking what the heck I thought I was doing. I was doing exactly what most of the other parents were doing, though at a slightly better resolution. Pro tip to swimming pool personnel, the person with the big bulky, impossible to conceal SLR who is chatting with his kid is not your biggest worry. Your biggest worry is lurking in the change rooms with a camera phone, but you seemed to ignore that.


Probably the most laughable incident was when a friend of mine was photographing a marching band in a major parade, and the mother of one of the participants kept moving along to block him from taking a photo of that band.


The world creates about two billion photos per day. You, your friends, and your family are needles in an enormous haystack. Stop worrying about having a lens pointed at you. The chances that it will actually wind up even making it to the photographer's Facebook page, let alone somewhere that will attract more than a handful of viewers are slim.


Photographers have been documenting the world since the early 1800s. Our views of the world around us are shaped in great part due to the images they create. Much as we sometimes feel uncomfortable being pushed to the front of the page, we cannot opt out of that world. We are part of it, and it would be a shame to erase those tiny moments of ourselves from history. God help us if a century from now all that was left of us was a few selfies and a Walmart portrait session. Unlike taking photos of people in public, that would a crime.




]]> Sat, 16 Jul 2016 21:09:18 GMT
I Have a problem With Plus Size Models. Why is this even a thing? We don't have medium sized models, skinny models, black models, or any other designation, so why "plus size"? Plus sized people are the norm, so why do we have a special term for them when their photo is taken?

They're just f&%king models okay?

Beautiful people are beautiful people, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Despite the idealized image of a fashion model, we all know people who if they were skinny, just wouldn't look right. They would look strange if they were taller or shorter, lighter or darker. Whatever lucky combination of factors combined to make them a compelling figure to record has less to do with size than personality. 

I'm not here to knock people who fit the typical mould of of a photographic model, it just bothers me that we think there needs to be a special term for someone who doesn't fit that narrow definition. Plus size should not be an exception to the rule. 

Twiggy by Sarah C. Stanley (CC)Yes Twiggy, I blame you for starting this shit.

Twiggy, I blame you for starting this crap. (Image by: Sarah C. Stanley / Creative Commons)


People marketing themselves as "plus-sized" aren't helping matters. In fact they are not only reinforcing a stereotype, they're indirectly saying it's okay to say that someone without a visible rib cage is somehow not normal.

Now I know one could say that the idealized ultra-slim fashion model, and their opposite, a severely overweight person both represent an unhealthy standard, but that is not a photographer's problem. It is not our job to idealize anyone or anything. Our job is to record our subjects faithfully, and respectfully, and that begins with not putting unnecessary labels on them.



modeling models photography plus portrait size Sun, 17 Jan 2016 01:25:59 GMT
Don't Worry, I'm Just a Photographer I don't know if photography makes people a bit eccentric or if you need to be a bit off kilter to get into the game in the first place. Either way a photographer has little quirks and oddities to them that non-photographers (and I include the self-obsessed selfie proliferators in that group) find perplexing and even annoying. I'm a firm believer in the adage that knowledge is the antidote to fear, and maybe by explaining myself I can put non-photogs a little more at ease with the rest of us.


First of all, We don't see things like the rest of you do. While you might see a field of beautiful wildflowers on a bright summer's day and experience a feeling of joy, I see blown out highlights, awful shadows, and a lack of clouds in the background that would add much needed depth if they too weren't blown out by that blasted sunlight that I can't even polarize into submission at this angle. Mother Nature is the biggest diva model you'll ever meet. Always demanding things be done her way with scant regard for my needs, but as a non photographer you wouldn't get that. You see a beautiful field of wildflowers. I'm seeing nature's contempt for me. 


That woman I was staring at? Yes! Did you see the bone structure in that face? How sharply defined her eyes were, and those amazing skin tones? The way the late afternoon sun left a radiant auburn halo around her head? No I didn't notice she was in a bikini. Well, I don't expect you to believe me. You just don't get her on as many levels as I do. Besides, that pierced belly button would have been a distraction in the corner of the frame.

Trust me, the way the sun is cascading through her hair is magnificent. (Not pictured: The Sun)

Trust me, the sun is cascading beautifully through her hair. (Not pictured: The Sun)


I've noticed on cold, dreary winter nights that houses using lighting in the 2700-3000K temperature range cast a beautiful warm glow from their windows. I've also noticed that people get cranky when they see you staring at their house on cold, dreary winter nights. Reassurances of "Don't worry, I'm just a photographer!" fall flat on its inhabitants, who for all their lack of artistic vision may as well be surrounded by bluish 5000k bulbs if they are just going to pull down all their blinds like that.


I should offer one apology on behalf of all of us for asking so many questions at the movies after missing major plot points while we were trying to figure out how a scene was lit, and paying more attention to changes in depth of field than the dialogue. So thanks in advance for filling us in on what we missed, though don't worry if it's Vince Vaughn or Russell Brand who was speaking. We've long ago memorized the same character they play in every movie. 


Everything is different to us. You see wrinkles, we see character. You see a door, I see the frame. You see litter, I see a statement about society. You see a sunset, I see a cliche to be avoided.


We're photographers, and we'll always see things in a different way. So if you see us gazing for extended periods at the opposite sex (or even the same one), admiring the neighbourhood architecture, getting down on all fours to shoot a beer can laying in the dirt, or staring contemptuously at the midday sun, just understand that there's nothing nefarious about it. We're just doing what we have to do to better our craft.





Photo credit: Yuliana Orangold (Creative Commons)



art landscapes light photography streetscapes Sat, 18 Apr 2015 20:02:54 GMT
My Sunsets are Worthless In the art world, the value of a work to outsiders is just as much of a currency as a dollar is. Supply and demand works just the same as it does in business. Art is a commodity just as anything else. It is this way of thinking that sets apart many a photographer. The ones that shoot for the moment, and those striving to leave a legacy. That's where I found myself, waiting for that perfect moment at sunset where I would capture a moment never to be repeated.


Except it had been, and will be again a billion times. There was a time when I thought of people as just bothersome things that kept walking into my landscape shots, but now my shots feel empty without them. That man on the Vespa riding by with his hipster beard, and wool hat is unique to this day and age. The sunset, now behind me, will look roughly the same in ten thousand years. How many people will shoot it, I cannot estimate without going into exponents, which really don't belong in a photography blog.


When we think of shooting history, we often think of ruins, battle sites, rusted machinery, and decaying buildings. I like shooting such things, but what I'm really shooting with them is the how they exist in the present. The real paradox is that if I really want to shoot some history, I need to shoot life in the present. Every single historical photograph was shot at that moment in time, as physics demands. Few if any of them were sunsets. I'm certain that many sunsets were photographed throughout history, but as they have changed little since the dawn of photography, there's not an awful lot of demand for them in the history books.


Lovely sunset, but without the girls, and the tractor it's nothing. It's only 1/125th of a second of their lives, but one that will be remembered. ©2014 Troy More


Cameras have been ubiquitous for nearly a century now, but in hindsight I think we may have misused them by wasting so much film on smiles, and uncomfortable dress clothes. My own family is a perfect example. How many photos do I have of us standing around birthday cakes with forced smiles? Boxes full, and I treasure every one of them. How many do I have of us all covered in dust and grease while we ate dinner on a fold out table in the wheat stubble while taking a break from a 16hr work day? None. Did I capture the lineup of trucks waiting at the grain elevator in Regent Mb (Pop. 3) while my Dad and the rest sat in the grass chatting, having a coffee, and a smoke? Nope. These aren't just moments gone from my life, they are moments lost to history, because these little rural grain elevators are long gone.


Photos of historic events rarely tell us very much about actual history. Not of the everyday lives of the people who lived there. Real history are the shots of people eating in a restaurant, where everyone is smoking. The police call boxes that remind us of life before 911 brought instant help. The fashions, the ethnicity, and the habits of a crowd of everyday people on a sidewalk going about their business. That is real history, and in time it will be what people yearn for when they explore the past, not my sunsets.


Those whimsical moments that you think nothing of may be gone before you know it. The cafes and cinemas of today may be tomorrow's drive-in restaurants and movies, and they'll be gone so gradually that you won't notice until it's too late.


Sunsets come every 24hrs. New flowers bloom every spring. The Great Wall will likely still be there in two thousand years, and you will have a lifetime of opportunities to shoot them all, unlike the time your kid decided to try really hard and wound up falling asleep at the table studying. Those moments don't come around again, and they are the ones you will truly treasure.


Don't take this as a dig on landscape photography. It's not. Just don't let the sunsets distract you from history. Shoot real life as it happens, because it only happens once. That 1/125th of a second of the past is what people in the future will want to see.


Old Victoria BC Facebook Group





Victoria BC history light photography streetscapes Sun, 05 Oct 2014 21:50:08 GMT
The Other Photographers You Meet at Weddings There is nothing quite so stress-free as photographing a wedding. No pressure, no deadlines, and all the time in the world to get it right.

If only the above were true.

Now, in the real world, there is nothing outside of Combat Camera that is more high pressure than a wedding. You are surrounded by people wound tighter than coil springs and you only have one shot to get everything perfect, or at least a reasonable facsimile of perfect. The last thing you need when dealing with an excited bride, nervous groom, high-strung bride's mother, or any other wedding stereotype, are these people who seem to be at every wedding or event.


Instagram Sam


Poor Samantha never got over not being in the wedding party. It could be because the bride has a lot of sisters, or her mother insisted that cousin Ethel be in there. In all likelihood though, it's probably because Sam has a real talent for trying to make every situation all about her.


The problem: Sam will want to get her iPhone shots in on every pose you set up with the wedding party, throwing everything into confusion.

The Solution: Nip this one in the bud. Explain firmly to her that you are shooting photos for the bride and groom, and there will be time for others to take photos afterwards. Once you let one person in, they all want in, and you've lost control. Be firm. If you've ever seen a wedding photo where the wedding party are not all looking in the same direction, it's probably because there's more than one photographer vying for attention.


Uncle Nikon

Make no bones about it, Uncle Nikon is pissed. Not just because of the rye and cokes, but because even though he dropped a thousand and one hints, he wasn't asked to shoot the wedding, even though he's a pro. Yes, Uncle Nikon is a pro at buying photography gear. He has the best cameras, the best lenses, and tons of accessories, all stored in a gargantuan photo vest with seventeen pockets that he wears all the time so that everyone knows that he is a photographer. Camera stores love him. He has the extended warranty on everything, including his lens caps. And of course he shoots everything with his settings on full auto because if you spend five grand on a camera it goddamn well better do the thinking.

The Problem: Uncle Nikon is hell bent on showing everyone that they were wrong not to let him shoot the event. While he lacks the talent to show you up professionally, he will become a general nuisance. Like Instagram Sam, he will try to steal your poses, but he will also try to pull people aside and set up his own, and those gigantic flashes of his will be overexposing your carefully lit portraits as he lines up beside you to shoot. He will also talk to you incessantly and point out every bit of equipment he has that has better specs than yours.

The Solution: If you were smart you arranged to have a trusted friend or family member of the bride act as a liaison between you and the family. This person needs to be forceful enough to herd all the right people over to you when it's their time to pose with the bride and the groom. They should also be confident enough to shove another rye into Uncle Nikon's hand and tell him to bugger off. If all else fails, appeal to Uncle Nikon's ego. Tell him how glad you are to have another professional around to help out. Shove a reflector into his hand with a "I'm sure you know what to do" and work around the result.


Everybody with a F***ing iPad!


It was the moment the whole occasion was building up to. The vows had been taken, the rings exchanged, and all eyes were transfixed as you shot the screen of Bob and Mildred Nobody's iPad as they stuck it up in the air to get a low resolution shot of the first kiss. Normal church protocol frowns upon you cursing up a storm as you grab the iPad from their hands and send it flying up into the baptismal font. Even whispering vague threats into their ears while maintaining a fake smile is considered poor form in these days of political correctness. Besides, you'd be overwhelmed in no time. These people are everywhere now.


The Problem: Everyone wants to stick their electronic devices in the air to capture the big moment. They not only get in the way, but they can mess up your readings. Also, they show up like flashlights.


The Solution: If you can arrange a "No Photography" rule ahead of time, that's the best solution, because it gives you the greatest freedom of movement. Keep in mind that there may be an unexpected intrusion on your shot from someone who doesn't know, or care about the rule. Barring that, you just have to plan out your shots expecting these sort of obstructions and shoot around them. If that means getting in Bob and Mildred's way, so be it. Remember who you are there for.


Oh, and if you are using an iPad for a camera, you look like a dork. Just a public service message from me.


Being polite and well mannered is essential whenever you are in a social situation, and is always good business. However, don't let it get in the way of getting the job done for your client. They will brush off Uncle Nikon's bruised ego, Sam's hurt feelings, and Bob Nobody's missed shot long before they forget that you missed their first kiss.



Instagram Sam** - World of Payne

Uncle Nikon* - Kris Krug

Woman with iPad* - Wesley Fryer


*Used under Creative Commons share alike license.

**Used under Creative Commons Attribition-Non-commercial-No Derivatives 2.0


Text ©Troy More - all rights reserved




event photography wedding Sun, 29 Jun 2014 09:02:05 GMT
My inspirations #1: John Bulmer - Making the mundane extraordinary

A man walks through a demolished neighbourhood. Only the local pub has been spared. From Bulmer's Manchester collection. © John Bulmer


I'm not good at stark reality. Probably one of the reasons I never tried going back into news photography. News photos are very blunt instruments. Their job is to grab the attention of someone casually leafing through a newspaper, and tell enough of the story to get him hooked, before he gets sidetracked by a $3 off pizza coupon. Too much pressure for me. My favourite photos are when I'm able to capture a mood, and draw the reader away from their own reality and into the world that exists in my photo.


Not a lot of subtlety here. The photo won Eddie Adams a Pulitzer prize, but it didn't actually tell the real story. © Associated Press


Facebook, and Instagram, and above all, search engine image searches have pretty much put the nail in the coffin of regular photographers being instruments of discovery for the masses reading travel supplements in the weekend newspapers. We now know through the cellphones of millions, what all the most famous places in the world look like with people sporting goofy smiles at arms length from the camera.


So what need is there for documentary photographers nowadays? Plenty. Photography is awash in the rubbish of selfies, ugly Instagrams, and forgetable moments. More than ever there is a need for those who can rise to the top of this sea of mediocrity and tell a story beyond "Look at me. I'm here, and I have a camera". These are the photographers who hopefully will inspire some of those people to turn their cameras away from their faces and realize that a photograph can be so much more than another insignificant moment to store on Facebook.


Long before cellphones or the internet itself became an issue, newspapers and magazines spent enormous amounts of money sending photographers around the world to bring back images to their readers that most of them would only ever see in the weekend supplements. Now, most of these articles use stock images, largely devoid of life, as a replacement. But if you go back to the 1960s, when photojournalism was being revolutionized by colour, you would find John Bulmer leading the way. Not only was he travelling the world to bring images of exotic locales, he was wandering the streets and industrial estates of northern England, a place that was as foreign to many readers in London, and the south, as were many of the foreign destinations he photographed.


Moonrise in Yemen (1965) from Bulmer's World Assignments collection. ©John Bulmer

Yemen (1965) from Bulmer's World Assignments collection. ©John Bulmer


None of his subjects are doing anything extraordinary so far as they are concerned, yet within these images of people going about the rituals of ordinary life are subtle clues that tell you much more about the way these people lived. The photos stripped away much of the superficial differences of language (Those of you who haven't been duped by Microsoft into thinking "UK English" was a universal thing in Britain will understand this), and looked into the homes, shops, and workplaces of the Midlands, and northern England. Reactions probably depended much on the demographic of the reader. Many in London's east end, not the target market for The Times, had roots going back to the north, or to Wales, or Ireland, and would likely have felt a kinship with the subjects, or perhaps a bit of nostalgia for "home". To the bulk of the readership of The Times however, the lives of these foreigners probably seemed as alien as that of the Romainian farmers photographed by Bulmer on one of his world assignments.


Sun silhouettes mining town. From Bulmer's North UK collection © John Bulmer


What I love about Bulmer's work, is his ability to make visually striking images of ordinary people, in ordinary places, and make the viewer want to learn more. From many of the images in his northern collection I've seen skies darkened by fog and soot, and buildings still showing clean red brick. This speaks of a resilient population unwilling to surrender their pride of place to a less than hospitable environment. A man walking through a demolished neighbourhood in Manchester with the local pub still standing in the background spoke of the power of the state over people's lives at the time, with the pub being the last vestige of a community stuck in limbo between destruction and renewal. A teenage girl in a tattered home working to get her make-up perfect shows a much different outlook on life from the tired looking woman behind her.


Regardless of where he was, be it the north of England, France, the Middle East, or elsewhere, he revealed the simple beauty of normal life, and normal people. One of the reasons why, when I need to inspire myself to move my work in the direction I feel is the right one, I find myself studying his work over and over again.


It's also a reminder to all photographers, that in years to come it won't be your spectacular sunset, or harbour images that people will be seeking out. It will be ones that tell stories of life as it is now, because aside from being artists, we are documenting the past for people of the future, and they will want to look back at our lives, not our sunsets.


Mai Zetterling (1971), from Bulmer's People collection. © John Bulmer


Images shown here are low resolution images used in accordance with fair trade guidelines for critique and review. To review full resolution images we strongly encourage you to visit John Bulmer's website.




John Bulmer art colour people photographers photography portraits Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:59:15 GMT
Everything is "Photoshopped"! Read any newspaper or other media outlet's social media page and look for posts where they show off a great photo. Then count on one hand the number of replies before some loudmouth blurts out "Photoshop!".  (He thinks everything is Photoshop. He doesn't know any alternatives.)


Of course it's "photoshopped" dumbass. Everything is. A digital camera converts light to digital data, and then into it's interpretation of what it saw. An artist paints a scene based on what her eyes, which are slightly different than everybody else's eyes saw. Even the negatives from that $4.99 throwaway plastic camera that loudmouth used at Universal Studios last year was fixed in the lab in order to avoid it becoming a complete plastic lens with fat, sticky fingerprints catastrophe.


Canon .raw code snippet

Part of a photo of a horse before it was "photoshopped".


Those wanting "pure" photos have to understand that there is no such thing as the exact interpretation of a scene. That's why there has never been a single "true" film, or digital setting on a camera. The chemical composition of film reacts differently depending on the conditions at the time the shutter clicked. Digital camera settings attempt to do the same thing chemical formulations in film did. Photo editing software can now change these settings after the fact, often making the image more true to what the photographer saw than what the camera rendered. In this case, which is the true image.... the one the camera took, or the one made to look like the the original scene by photo editing software?


Few if any photographers make any bones about digitally editing their photos. All they are doing is creating art, just like the masters that inspired them did. In fact there are few people in history who were better manipulators of negatives than the oft cited Ansel Adams. Nobody screams "Photoshop!" when they look at one of his images, yet he manipulated negatives in a darkroom much the same way today's photographers do on a computer.


Of course there are photographers out there that overdo it. They load a photo into Lightroom, push all the sliders to the right and produce images dripping with ugly, oversaturated colour. Not my cup of tea, as I find it ruins a lot of otherwise good images, but it works for them. I'm the same way with garlic when I'm cooking.


The one legitimate time that someone can be called out for editing an image is if they alter a news photo's composition. It's one thing to adjust exposure or to correct colour temperatures to show a more accurate rendering of the scene, but adding or removing anything is completely off limits, as some well known press photographers have learned the hard way recently.


Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Fired by AP


So don't expect too many plaudits for your "pure" images. As much as I think it's important to get the image as right as possible in the camera, the act of developing and editing is just as much a part of the process, and no less legitimate than act of composing, and clicking the shutter.


And for the loudmouths out there who use the term "Photoshop" derisively, we know exactly what you mean when you say it in an accusing tone.....


"Why can't I take photos like that?"



Victoria BC art image manipulation lightroom photography photoshop Mon, 27 Jan 2014 21:53:48 GMT
It's Good. It sucks. Everyone's a critic, but few are good at it. We've hit a point where feedback is too easy. We see our work judged by likes and retweets, and are inclined to accept it because it doesn't challenge us to look at our work with the kind of critical eye it needs.


I don't like my work being savaged. Nobody does, but we can't let that dissuade us from seeking out real critics. That's why I'll never go to Facebook expecting any useful feedback on my work. Your friends and family want to encourage and support you, which is their job. Others like to honour the old adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!". Strangers on the internet love to vent all their frustrations about their own inadequacies by telling others that they suck. Neither of these groups, one well intentioned, the other just sad, are actually very helpful to any artist.


Enthusiastic as some feedback can be, it can lull you into a sense of complacency. Keep in mind that there are people out there who are enthusiastic about Lucky Lager, Kraft Dinner, and paintings of dogs playing poker. Is that really the standard we want to set for our work?


If you are worried about your work being savaged, it's probably your inner critic telling you there's something wrong. In most cases you will have a hunch about what's wrong, and more often than not, it's correct. Yes, the composition is superb, and the subject compelling, but is the fact that it took you hours to get the right light dissuading you from accepting that it just isn't very sharp and accepting that you should have weighted the tripod? At the same time, is it worth it to spend days of planning, hours of preparation, and several attempts to get the shot you want, only to get "It's good." for your efforts?


Sunset over the OlympicsOlympic Sunset

I love this photo, but I should have removed those two blades of grass, or better yet, moved them before shooting.


We owe it to ourselves to face both our own criticism, and that of others if we ever want to grow as artists. Criticism has to be viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve our work. As hard as it is to hear sometimes, we need to seek it out and engage it. In the process we not only grow a thicker skin, but we gradually learn to avoid the mistakes that have been holding us back, and allow ourselves to reach a new level of mistakes that only we would never have discovered previously if our work had remained stagnant.


The other side of criticism is that receiving positive feedback from those who you trust to give negative feedback when it's warranted is far more satisfying than a bunch of "likes" under a Facebook post. Criticism can give you the encouragement you need when you realize you have met the challenge of impressing those whose opinion you value.


How do you find a good critic? You probably know a few at least. They are the ones you have always thought about showing your work to, but found excuses to avoid doing so. Your online options are vast, but require a little research. If the feedback you see in online groups consists of little more than verbal pats on the back, then it's just going to be a waste of time. Same goes for places where a lot of derogatory and snide remarks are allowed. Flippancy is not your friend. Look for places with detailed, and straightforward commentary are the norm. Join clubs, and/or photo walks where you can meet other photographers. You'll soon be able to sort out the gearheads, and the ego-strokers, and those whom you can develop an honest and respectful working relationship with.


On Taking Pictures photo community on Google+


We can't be slaves to our critics. We all have (or should have) some sort of artistic vision of our own to stay true to. But just like a light metre, a flash, or a tripod, we need to recognize our critics as helpful tools (sorry) that are necessary to our work.



Google+ art criticism facebook photography twitter Tue, 26 Feb 2013 22:33:17 GMT
Red Skies at Night One persistent issue with night photography in Victoria is the red light cast on the sky when doing long exposures along our eastern shore. Head out to Cattle Point or Cadboro Bay on any given cloudy night and try an exposure of five seconds or more. The result is always a reddish sky.


Cattle point facing northeast

Shooting north from Cattle Point in Oak Bay during a thunderstorm


As usual, I first blamed Oak Bay for the problem, assuming that street lights in that gross red spectrum must be at fault. It made sense at the time as I'd seen many a prairie city glowing sickly orange from far off when on late night road trips. Despite this, I still needed to apply some critical thought to my theory, as using Oak Bay council as a catch all for assigning blame doesn't always stand up to scientific scrutiny. My theory quickly fell apart when examining some shots taken nearby Esquimalt's ugly orange lights. The cobalt blue skies of my long exposures taken there convinced me that my early assumptions had to be way off, so I looked around for a better explanation. The red navigation lights on the large towers off to the north were considered, but despite the prominence that height gives them, the total lumen output would be small compared to other red light sources in the area.



Saxe point facing south

Shooting south from Saxe Point, Esquimalt. Note the total lack of red glow.



So what else does our eastern shore have that the west doesn't? Higher property tax assessments, more Volvos, and way less pickup trucks, but none of those have much affect on visible light. It had to be something else. The biggest clue though, came from the west. 


Sunsets are red for one reason. When a light source disappears over the horizon, the longer wavelengths of the red light can travel furthest, remaining visible long after the other colours fade. While there isn't any sunset in the east, there are two large light sources over the eastern horizon at night, Vancouver and Bellingham. Neither are visible from our eastern shore, but both are just over the horizon, and both put out huge amounts of light. It makes sense to me that all the red light cast by them is more than enough to be adding that annoying red tinge to our long exposures.


How does one get rid of this light pollution? Asking Vancouver to turn out the lights after 9pm is impractical. They drive bad enough over there without getting rid of the street lights. A cyan filter absorbs red light and may be useful. Desaturating reds in post processing is easy, although I find that this just makes for a grey photo. In other words, we are just stuck with it.


Australian photographer Gary Ayton explains all this in great detail on his website, which is one of the most informative I've found on a subject that really isn't covered enough. Light pollution is just a fact of life in night photography, but we can take some solace in the fact that we are pretty lucky in Victoria, one of the few capital cities where you can look up and see the stars at night. We also get to blame most of our light pollution on someone else (Vancouver). One more thing for us to feel superior about besides better beer, lower crime, cleaner air, less traffic, better WHL team, and so on, and so on.



Victoria BC colour landscapes light light pollution night photography photography Sun, 03 Feb 2013 02:51:26 GMT
Don't Shoot me! Privacy rights & Model Releases in BC "You don't have my permission to publish that!" she yelled as I snapped off a few shots with my old T-70. It was the mid-90s, and she was being led out of a house packed full of pot plants by police officers. As a news photographer covering a story I had every right to submit the photo for publication, but it's rarely so simple. Fortunately for her, grow op busts in the area were so common that only the slowest news day would result in the photo being published.


There is nothing more confusing to a photographer as privacy laws, releases, and what rights the photographers and their subjects actually have.  Things like focal length, shutter speed, and colour saturation are the same no matter where you are, or what language you speak. Who you can take a photo of, and where, can vary from country to country, province to province, and even from one town to another. Now, if you are a Canadian photographer taking pictures in another country and uploading them to your website hosted in the US, it gets even more complicated. It's enough to turn any photographer into a dedicated libertarian anarchist, purely as a result of too many rules.


Don't lose hope though. First of all, the laws are so vague and confusing that many are practically unenforcable, except in the most flagrant cases. Secondly, few of your subjects have the slightest clue what their actual rights are. This doesn't mean you can intentionally misuse their images, but it does buy you a bit of slack when you don't get it right 100% of the time.


I know legal talk gets people's minds wandering, so to keep you focused here's a photo of some pretty people on the beach at Tribune Bay, Hornby Island. Note how their faces are hidden so that no release is required.


Before I go too far, I need to point out that I'm not a lawyer, and this is just an opinion piece, not legal advice. When that person you've been following around taking pictures of has you arrested, do not bring me into it.


Speaking of following people around, let's address privacy. Before you worry about what rights you and your subject have concerning the image you shoot, you need to first consider if it's legal to take the shot in the first place. In Canada the law affords all citizens a reasonable right to privacy, and freedom from undue harassment. This comes down to manners basically. Regardless of what the law says, it's rude to intrude on anyone's personal space, and doing so with our cameras just contributes to mistrust of all photographers.

Criminal Code of Canada, 162. (1): (“Criminal Voyeurism”)
Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes – including by mechanical or electronic means – or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy


You may notice a lack of paparazzi in Canada. That's because their tactics are illegal here. You cannot chase or stalk people to get their photograph, and the subject being a public figure does not change that. News reporters can knock on someone's front door, but they can't camp out outside a home like they do in the US.


What if the person is in public?  This get's a little vague, but it basically boils down to "prominent subjects". If you take a landscape, or streetscape photo, it isn't reasonable or possible for you to obtain a release from every recognizable figure. The scene is the subject, not any particular person. However if you are focusing on a street performer, a person sitting on a bench, or if any person or group of persons are the main subject matter then they are fair game to shoot, but the BC Privacy Act sets out several requirements for how the photo may be used, and what consent is required from the subject. Much of this depends on how you present the image, and what purpose you are using it for.

Privacy Act, 3.:
(1) In this section, “portrait” means a likeness, still or moving, and includes
(a) a likeness of another deliberately disguised to resemble the plaintiff, and
(b) a caricature.

(2) It is a tort, actionable without proof of damage, for a person to use the name or portrait of another for the purpose of advertising or promoting the sale of, or other trading in, property or services, unless that other, or a person entitled to consent on his or her behalf, consents to the use for that purpose.

(4) A person is not liable to another for the use, for the purposes stated in subsection (2), of his or her portrait in a picture of a group or gathering, unless the plaintiff is
(a) identified by name or description, or his or her presence is emphasized, whether by the composition of the picture or otherwise, or
(b) recognizable, and the defendant, by using the picture, intended to exploit the plaintiff’s name or reputation.


So you can take a photo of the crowds in Bastion Square and use it for an advertisement about tourism without getting any releases, but not if any particular subject is emphasized (by depth of field, or selective colouring for example), or if a recognizable person is used, implying their endorsement.


Needless to say, all posed shots require consent of the subjects to use the image commercially. The same goes for anyone who is the focus of an image. Though a release form isn't a legal requirement, it's the best way to prove consent, and no reputable publisher will buy the image without one. If you really want to cover your bases, shoot a quick video clip on your phone of the subject giving you permission to use the photo. That way you have an iron-clad record of both written, and verbal consent from the subject.


One last thing, minors cannot give consent for their image to be used. Only their legal guardians can.


As you can see, I'm not one of those "Get a release for everything!" types. I think that adding too much paperwork discourages people from shooting. In reality, most people will never need a release. BC actually has pretty decent balance in it's privacy act, and affords the photographer a fair amount of latitude.


However there is one thing that getting that release signed does that has nothing to do with legalities. It forces the photographer to engage his subject on a human level, and from an artistic standpoint that greater understanding of the subject is of tremendous benefit.



For a very well written and in-depth guide to Canadian photography laws, the Ambient Light blog is a must-read. Much research for this post came from there, and sources they point to.



Victoria BC model release photography portraits privacy streetscapes Sun, 27 Jan 2013 00:31:55 GMT
5 Reasons to Photograph Victoria in the Winter Grey skies, muted colours, long nights, and near constant rain. Why would anyone want to drag their cameras out these days? Well, if your gear is collecting dust in the closet, you're missing out on one of the best times of the year to shoot. In fact this time of year is almost tailor made for photographers, and here's why;


The Great Diffuser in the Sky - Take a few months to not worry about lens flare, harsh shadows, and every other issue that results from strong sunlight. That near constant veil of grey cloud overhead acts as an excellent diffuser. Try shooting some outdoor portraits in black and white. Notice how smooth the skin tones are compared to a sunny day in June. Overcast days also give you more constant light, with less moving shadows like the kinds resulting from the more typical cumulus clouds we encounter in the summer.


It's always "The Golden Hour" - Even on a clear winter day the sun is at a low angle in the sky for most of the day, casting a warm glow over everything. You can shoot most of the day in the same conditions you would only get during the early mornings, or late afternoons in high summer. You can now sleep in on your days off and still get lots of shooting time in.


In the Bleak Light, Colours Explode - Take a look around next time you are driving around on a cool, drizzly night. Notice something? In the muted light of a winter night, those colours that survive burst out of grey in a way they don't at any other time of the year. Signs, light displays, building windows lit from inside, all seem more vibrant amongst the grey tones that dominate the landscape. If you are a fan of adding a little colour to a black and white photograph, you can shoot colour photos and turn them black and white with only a minor desaturation in post processing, leaving those strong points of colour to emerge out of the grey.


Clearer Stars, Crisper Horizons - On clear nights outside the city you will find the skies in much sharper definition as the heat shimmer that radiates off the ground, making for wobbly light, is not present like it is in the summer. Even within the city it is greatly diminished. The longer, darker nights mean that you don't need to wait until almost midnight to have complete darkness.


No Crowds - Walk around your favourite architectural subjects, or streetscapes without having to deal with crowds of people walking through your shots. It's nice to shoot a vibrant street scene, but sometimes you want the buildings to be the focus, and that can be difficult with a bustling crowd surrounding it.


So get out there and challenge yourself to find the beauty of the city in the winter time. It's there for the inspired shooter. Before you go out though take a few minutes to read some advice from Jim Richardson on protecting your gear in the rain.


Happy Shooting


Edit: Of course as soon as I post this we get 7 days of uninterrupted bright sun.


Victoria BC colour landscapes light photography portraits streetscapes Tue, 15 Jan 2013 21:05:16 GMT