Light is Everything!

Family Photos

Pro Neg Std.


Another one of Fuji’s film simulations is the Pro Neg Std. This setting is described as being for portraits with soft gradations and skin tones. The Hi version of my last blog post has a bit more of a contrasty look. This article on Fuji vs. Fuji does a great job of comparing all the simulation modes. But suffice it to say, the skin tone rendering is really, really pleasing in both the Hi and Std. modes. Just look at these kids. They look at least 17% better shot with Fuji. LOL. I do want to do a side by side comparison to my Nikons and see how the JPEGs compare. I never shoot Nikon JPEGs so I really don’t know if there is much difference. I’ll check it out in a future blog post.


I shot these Black & White images in the Monochrome setting with a yellow filter. It gives little extra to the skin tonality I think.




Mine baby is 8 years old today! That’s insane & unbelievable. It seems like just yesterday we were going to the hospital to have her. She’s the sweetest, most caring and compassionate person I have ever met. And she’s ridiculously cute!

I busted out the ol’ photo mill (Nikon Df, 50mm & 85mm 1.8G) for some birthday pics. We used 1 light (Nikon SB-900 flash triggered by a SU-800 commander) with 3 different modifiers used in 4 different ways.

The first setup was the good old shoot through umbrella. It produces winning light all the time. It’s soft. It’s directional. It’s fool proof, quick goto lighting. It’s also pretty boring. Good thing Phoebe is cute. I said that already though. 😎

Next, was a small soft box. The LumiQuest Softbox III to be specific. It introduces more shadow tonality. A bit more depth and interest to the shots. It’s pretty cool light, especially when used in close to the subject.

Then it was a Honl grid. Deep shadows. Much more intrigue and edginess, almost teenaged light. But she’s only 8 so we had to back it off and bring the shadows up a notch.

So viola! We went back to the umbrella but this time I bounced the light off the white ceiling and back down through the umbrella that she was holding as a prop. It gives a double defused ultra soft giant look to the light. Shadows are very, very soft and silky smooth.


Merry Christmas!


We took our 2015 Christmas Card photo at Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan at a really cool destination called Conglomerate Cliffs. You can’t tell from the photo but there was a 500 billion mph wind the day we took this. The way the cliffs are we were able to get some wind protection. I had along with me my Alien Bee 1600, Vagabond Mini pack and a medium Photoflex litedome for the modifier. We lucked out and still caught some of the glorious fall colour that was still around in October. So from my family to you & yours, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!


Cypress Hills


Hello blogosphere! Contrary to popular belief, I’m not dead! I’m alive. Busy but alive. The days are just packed! (That’s an old Calvin & Hobbes comic book that I still have on my shelf). Between church life, family life, Estate executor life and professional photography life, I haven’t had time to have a blog life! Better late than never!

We took an amazing family get away in the first part of October to Cypress Hills and stayed at the Resort. We rented cabins which were perfect for us, two bedrooms, kitchenette, beautiful setting. We had the run of the place as there weren’t any other people booked in. The temperatures were crisp in the evening and a bit windy but the days were glorious. Sunny & warm! We had such a blast. Grandma & Grandpa got to hang out with the grandkids, we all got to go on some beautiful hikes and of course, take pictures!

For this trip I brought my full Nikon setup. Usually I’ve replaced the whole kit with my Fuji X100s for family trips because of the versatility, small size and awesome image quality. But for this trip, I wanted to shoot the forest in full frame with my D800. Also I knew I’d be doing some family portraits that showed the glorious fall colour that was still there (Thank the Lord!). So I brought out the dynamic range duo of the D800 & the Df. It’s the best of both worlds for low light performance and resolution.

We went to Conglomerate Cliffs the first day there. It was incredibly windy but still breathtakingly beautiful. I shot some family photos there with flash. I brought along my Alien Bee 1600 and battery pack. It’s such a great light. Super value for the money and I love the volume of light it produces. Quick Photoflex soft box and there you go. Instant Christmas Card photo magic.



We also had some fun doing light painting with the kids and their glow sticks. They had fun whirling them around and seeing the cool streams of colour.


Cypress Hills also has a dark sky preserve with an observatory. We had a decent night but the clouds were rolling in. Were able to nab some northern lights though, and I think I caught a falling star too.


All in all it was a fantastic trip. I cannot recommend Cypress Hills enough. If you’ve never been, you’ve gotta go check it out. It’s provincial treasure! 😎

Crooked Bush


What a whirlwind tour this last little bit of time has been for us. We were up to Edmonton for a friend’s wedding that I also ended up doing some pictures for. Then on the way back we had to stop at one of Saskatchewan’s craziest spots: The Crooked Bush.  We had heard about it in a tourism book and we decided that it was worth the stop. So we detoured at North Battleford on our return journey and navigated to this crazy little plot of trees. It’s literally just that. A strange little aspen wood plot in the middle of nowhere. The bluff of trees right beside it are straight and normal. But these trees are totally gnarly and wild looking! Such a cool place to stop and check out.  Nobody knows for sure why this little grove of trees are so crooked. Some have speculated a genetic defect in the trees, other say a UFO crashed there. Others still say that a lawyer is buried there. Ha! 😀

20150519-CrookedBush-007 20150519-CrookedBush-008 20150519-CrookedBush-006Now because we had been shooting the wedding, I had all my big lighting gear with me. So we took a few shots of the kids. It was very dramatic light that day so we played with it a bit and turned out some pretty cool keepsake images in a really cool place! If you are ever up there near Hafford, SK, be sure to check out the crooked bush!

Wringing out the last bit o’ fall colour…

Family Sessions are pretty much finished off now, especially since winter has set in with a mighty wallop of cold temperatures & wind! It’s already been quite nasty other than not having a metric pile of snow which is great! And also, on the positive note, there has been none of that freezing rain malarky either. Two whoop whoops and a boo ya for -20ºC right off the hop of winter! LOL 😎

Fall on the prairies is hellfire fast. But this year it was somewhat delayed which is a such a sweet bonus. It was rather rainy though which limited the shooting opportunities. But you have to be fast when it comes to hammering out all the best colour as it is usually here one day and gone the next. Here are two images I shot at the end of my crescent where there was this amazing red hedge. These photos were shot only 3 days apart. Crazy difference! I shot the same photo/pose with the families to illustrate this reality of fall photography in Saskatchewan: HURRY! 😀

20141020-TayTay-001 20141023-Grandolf-001A little bit of wind can ruin your photo background in no time! That said, while we missed the red colour on the latter shoot, we also picked up some incredible yellow that wasn’t ready just 3 days before.

20141023-Grandolf-002So you never know what kind of palette you will be given to work with from shoot to shoot. A couple of days is an enormous difference! But you can still wring it out even when the colour gets scarce. The photographer’s two best friends are Bokeh & Compression. Or, long focal lengths and wide apertures. This shot of Lexi was with my 85mm at f/2.5. A bit of telephoto compression and pretty wide aperture. Similar results could have been nabbed at 200mm and f/4. Charlea’s photo was similar, with my favorite 85mm at 2.8. She had much more colour at the red hedge while the bush behind lexi was really on it’s way out. But the bokeh goodness smooshes it into a pleasant blur of colour.


20141020-TayTay-007And lastly, when the landscape dies and gets ugly, it has a great quality of isolating your subjects. There is nothing else in the image to distract or pull the eye from the image! 🙂







Fall: A Pictorial Guide.

Catching Up


I haven’t been posting very much stuff lately on the ol’ blogosphere as I’ve been busy with 50 billion other things. But I will catch up a bit with some posts over the next little while of some client stuff and maybe a post about a possible switch to a fully mirrorless equipment setup! Maybe. 😎

Here’s some family shots I did a while back for my Buchanan friends. This is one of my favourite shots of all time by far! This is a real photo. No fakey-fakey instagram-perfecto-family. I love the emotion and the looks on the faces of all the kids! It’s just super! eheheheh…… 😀


Nice Photos



Family photos, in my opinion, should fall into the category of “nice photos.”  They are simply lit with one light or a reflector. They don’t look lit. They don’t look edgy. They have a very simple elegance about them. That’s been my aim, at least, for the majority of family shoots I do. I have experimented with ring flash but I find that it must be relegated into the realm of fill flash only in this context. As a main light, it’s just too much for this look.  The look and feel of lighting is definitely worth paying heed too – especially for “nice photos.” Of the photos in this post, can you guess how they are lit? It’s tough to tell which was flash, reflector or just ambient? Watch the catchlights of course… 😎

Also, when shooting siblings, I almost always try to shoot sets of images – similar photos for each member of the family so they look like a cohesive whole on a photo wall. It’s a nice technique for nice photos. 😀



I’m fairly behind in these photos & post. Like 2 months behind. LOL Oh well, the time truly does fly. But our little FlowerPot Baby is 2. So I was told to get some updated pictures of the little gaffer. So here they are. Just to warn you, she’s ridiculously cute. 😀

Here’s the BTS photo geek information about how I made these photos.

First of all, these were all shot in harsh, direct sunlight. Very bright conditions. So the name of the game with harsh light is control followed by redirection. This is where your secret weapon, a collapsible scrim saves the day. I set mine up on  c-stand because it’s basically a huge sail on the windy prairies. This provides a very nice softbox-esque light quality to the subject. The next thing is to make sure you have a contrasting background that won’t blow out as you increase your exposure. No sky. Find some trees or shrubs for better results. So using the scrim, the light is controlled & soft. But if you want more volume of light, you can easily do that by firing a flash through the same panel. It gives your images more pop if you want that look. Although, if you’re shooting at shallow depth of field, you’ll need to use high-speed sync with your flash. I used the scrim alone for some of the shots then additionally redirected some light back in via a flash & umbrella. The light panel scrim gives mucho nice catchlights in the eyes all by itself though. This setup really gives a light and airy look to the photos.  So there you go. Quick and easy portraits in full sun. 😎