Taking a “Break” from Job Hunting

In creating this entry, I was torn between posting this on my photo blog or my technology blog.  This entry sort of straddles that line Smile  Because it’s more photography driven, here we are in my photo blog.

As the coaches from our various networking sessions have told us, job hunting is a job in itself. It’s also mentioned that job hunting can also be a “lonely” thing and job hunting as a group makes things much less tedious as well as a bit more accountable Smile  They’ve also told us about the importance of taking breaks.  The “breaks” that have been mentioned tend to be short ones and one of the drawbacks I’ve found, is that they don’t always clear your head as they should.  Anyway, that’s what I’ve found.  Of course, in today’s economy where jobs are scarce and networking is a very key component of the job search, I’ve also found that those breaks tend to be few and far between.  Because I have several “streams” of options away from the world of IT, early last year, we took a break for literally a whole day and went into Kananaskis Country for our break.  Oddly enough, we didn’t do that again until recently.

The one thing I’ve found as part of that “head clearing” process, is that for my head to clear, I need to do”something” that steers my mind totally away from the job seeking thing completely.  More important, something that diverts me from my PC as well as my phoneSmile  For me, one diversion happens to be photography.  Now – in saying that, photography is not only a passion, it’s also a potential career path so taking photos on a constant basis is critical to getting more skilled. 

How many times have you heard of a location that you one day SHOULD go visit, but life gets in the way and you really never get there?  More important, when one is NOT working, there’s never really a better chance to do that, so perhaps this “guilt” comes into play and you don’t go because you SHOULD be job hunting.  One of our coaches, recently suggested we visit the Saskatoon Farm near Okotoks as a place that might be fun to visit.  I’ve been in Calgary since 1969 and wanted to go there more than a few times and never did go, so this “memory twig” was the perfect incentive to simply go.  Yes, there was a little planning to ensure I could get away for the day, but the day was picked and away we went.  Because, it’s quite late in the year, coming into mid October, we knew that flowers wouldn’t be in bloom – we wouldn’t be able to pick Saskatoons, BUT we were told there was an awesome restaurant (good food is always an incentive Smile) and most important, it was out of the city.  For those who don’t get out much – there’s nothing like a drive in the country side AND especially near Calgary, where is less than an hour from the Rockies to help clear your head.  More important – the weather cooperated and we had a nice sunny day!

Soooo….. the Saskatoon Farm is located near Okotoks just off the #2 south of Calgary.  About 20 minutes from the city limits.  There is a sign for the turnoff, so one does have to watch for it.


On entering the farm, one is greeted by the main gate.


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As one gets past the gate, there are ponds on either side.



In getting into the parking lot, one of the ladies in the networking group, Farah, noticed some rather interesting ice formations in frozen puddles.


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As one gets to the main part of the farm, we see this:



It was suggested that we go right to the end and backtrack and so we did that.  The “farm” itself, straddles the edge of a valley and the Saskatoon growing area is situated in the valley.  The view (even in the fall) is quite stunning in it’s own right.





One can actually go and pick your own when they can be harvested!!  This would be earlier in the year.  Definitely something to keep in mind for next year.

By the time we started backtracking, we decided that lunch would be in order so in we went.  The restaurant/general store is quite neat if you are into antiques.  The restaurant is modeled accordingly.



The food was amazing plus, of course, being a Saskatoon farm, desert simply HAD to be Saskatoon Pie, with whipped cream and Saskatoon Ice Cream Smile

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With food out of the way, it was determined that we definitely needed to take a walk Smile  Notice that Farah & I shared the pie……  We meandered a bit through the store and looked at various things.


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If one is into antiques, knick knacks, whatever…. this is definitely an interesting place.

Of course, a little something for home….


Once we were done at the General Store, we did a little exploring outside.  Despite we were there very late in the year, there was still a lot to see.






We arranged to meet at about 10:30 a.m. and by the time we finished, it was close to 3:00 p.m.  I can’t imagine how much longer we would have been there had this been mid-summer!!

But WAIT!!  It doesn’t end there Smile  Farah has always said that it was always an “adventure” whenever we went exploring and I really wanted to get closer to the mountains, so rather than head back to the city, I decided on a slight “detour”.  We looped back to Okotoks and then headed west.  Of course, we were also due for a Tim’s so that became a priority once we got into Okotoks Smile  As we headed west, I totally had forgot about the “rock” and Farah had never seen it, so we stopped to take a closer look.


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We decided to take a walk around the rock and if one is into seeing patterns in the sandstone:




The sun was starting to get lower and there’s this one “effect” I had seen and wanted to see if I could reproduce it.  It’s shooting into the sun, but creating a “starburst” effect.  To be a little technical, it involves putting the camera into Aperture Priority mode and using a smaller aperture (like f22 or f16) and the blades of the aperture create the light dispersion.



Because we are in the foothills AND it was a sunny clear day, the Rockies were quite prominent.



Rather than fight rush hour, we continued on to Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Millarville and took 22x back to Calgary. 

What a wonderful way to end the day!  In one sense, it was tough coming back to real life Smile


So Start Already…..

So on my other notebook, I was doing a review on my recently acquired Nikon P520 and one of the topics I briefly mentioned was this thing about not “seeing” things to take photos of.  I thought I might expand on this a bit.  One of the things I find, is that quite often, we caught in what I call the “rut of life”.  You know – get up – head to work – work – head to home – eat – sleep – repeat.  Weekend – toss in stuff you couldn’t get done during the week and repeat.  One may be fortunate enough to have a hobby they can pursue and actually be able to have time to enjoy it :-)  For me, up until a couple or 3 years ago, that was me – in a bit of a rut.  Photography for me (going back to the 35mm days) was a passion that I turned into a career for a while – actually not so much the picture taking side, but photo retail.  When I came out of that one, it was the recession of the 80’s and once I got out of that, the camera was used for casual “stuff.  Chasing the “art” – learning, advancing, whatever just went away.  A combination of both time and money just didn’t allow for a lot of photo stuff.  When you are scrambling to pay the bills, photo drops to the bottom along with anything that isn’t required.  I was actively starting everything else but a hobby I once loved.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago – a long deserved, short vacation started to get my interest in photography back up.  This time around it wasn’t the money so much as the time – I was doing more than I ever did between work (I’m an IT Business Analyst), I have revenue properties, do renovation work, and somewhere in there, I needed to find time to get “back in”.  To say this was an interesting journey is only putting it mildly :-)  With the experience I had from 35mm to applying that to Digital, plus a very methodical path, I’m starting to be in what I would call a good place.

Notice I said “starting” :-)  I’ve talked about this before.  This time around the path was very different – I had very limited time and that time was limited to noon hours.  That meant commuting life which meant keeping things small and light.  With my other daypack things, the camera also had to be small.  There was no doubt in the long term I would end up with DSLR’s and that has happened, but in the beginning that was how it started.  One of the things that I’ve noticed in being entrenched in technology, is that with the people I do know, and I do know more than few, our lives tend to run along the same lines.  Ours, for the most part is what I would call a “thinking” career path.  We use are heads and the tools provided for us help us think faster and more efficiently.  Have you noticed that i many cases, the hobbies tend to be a little more physical?  Biking, working out, hiking/walking – things that pull the mind in a different direction?  For me, I used to shoot pool, golf and take photos as a few hobbies – something that required a “head shift” away from technology.  You know – smartphones, to me are both good and bad.  They are good from the standpoint of keeping us “connected” but bad because we stay connected to the point where we forget to do anything else :-)  AND something many forget – we tend to stay connected to work longer than we should.  Being a consultant, I only get paid when I work, and my contracts restrict me to an 8 hour day, so a bit of a saving grace.  I remember the days of being an employee and cranking upwards of 1100 a year overtime.  I’m sure that was appreciated when I got “re-structured” :-)  Probably the best thing that happened to me 🙂

One thing that I do find, though, is that as much as I enjoy photography and the passion is there, I still hit those “voids” and I sometimes wonder if its because I’m thinking of other things and forgetting to look.  You know that old saying “Stop and smell the roses” ?  Well – it applies to photography, and if you lead a high paced life, who has time to stop?  That kinds dawned on me over a discussion on filters – polarizing filters, actually.  For me, I tend to underexpose a bit on a bright sunlit day.  I have used polarizing filters in my 35mm days, but in today’s world, the majority of shots I take, don’t always require one.  When I was doing scenics and landscapes, that filter was a must – in what I do today, I very rarely use one because there aren’t filters to fit the majority of them.  For my DSLR’s though – different story.  I guess the bigger question here – when I REALLY REALLY look at what surrounds my photo ops, a BIG chunk of it has been around while I am in the middle of something else.  In fact the majority of my cameras were purchased with mobility in mind. I very took out a slice of time to just take photos.

When I did start to take that time, that was when the equipment up scaling started.  Dedicated photo shoots brought me back into the world of DSLR’s and here I am.  Does that mean I don’t use my other cameras?  Absolutely not – they get used a lot more than my DSLR’s.  Still.  The DSLR’s or eve the more sophisticated equipment is only used for the dedicated stuff.  I have been taking some of this out but not near as much as I should.  My travel cams, for instance, have more functionality for what I do.   Recently, I acquired a Nikon P520 – a bridge camera with a whopping 42x zoom. Neat camera in it’s own way, but surprisingly inflexible for certain types of shots.  BUT – I decided to carry this every day to see how I would use it and see what it could do.  I also used my CADEN triangular sling along with my daypack to see how this combo works.  It does surprisingly well well, but more important – it keeps a camera handy.  It’s much more useful than I ever imagined.  If I really wanted, it would easily fit my D3200 – I originally got it for that anyway:-) 

Caden Bag

This wild acquisition spree of mine over the last couple of years (maybe a little longer… :-)) has allowed me to look at quite a range of cameras and to understand digital in quite a big way.  I know I still have a lot learn, but if you put the technology piece a little away from the art, the art itself  hasn’t really changed to me.  You still need to see.  You still need to study to get better.  You need to keep taking pictures that you can study so you can get better :-)  The camera is merely the tool to get you there :-)  To me, I enjoy the high quality of photo that a DSLR delivers.  BUT, in saying that, I also don’t believe that it’s the be all end all either.  I hear this so much from the DSLR perspective – the Compact System Cameras are starting to reach a point where they can compete with DSLRs  – in a few years they’ll catch up.   Functionality maybe.  Maybe from the perspective of the very serious amateur or pro, but from my side of the fence, if the “tool” can catch your “vision”, how much does it matter?  You know, to me, we serious amateurs tend to be a cynical bunch – we scoff at the quality of photos on Facebook, but I think we miss a very vital piece in doing that – it caught the moment for that person.  Sure they maybe shouldn’t have posted it, but that’s not the point.  They caught that moment.  A little deep maybe but still.  I tend to have a camera with me all the time – I don’t always see that with the DSLR folk and I also hear a lot of regret about not having a camera when a photo op is there.  And then there’s this matter of “perception” 🙂

For me, I tend to be quite reclusive about my photos.  By that, I mean I shoot mostly for ME.  Yes, I shoot events for other people, etc. but when I take photos for my own pleasure, I have my own perception of what constitutes a good shot.  I am open to others looking and criticizing my work, and that’s fine, but in more than a few instances, I DON’T want that sky to be more blue or those clouds to be more distinct, thank you very much.  If I got the shot that I envisioned, is making that sky more blue or making those clouds more distinct gong to make that shot better?  For me, no.  It wasn’t what I saw at the time.  Now, if that shot was going to be published or leant itself well for a great landscape, that’s different.  Would I take additional shots with that in mind?   Absolutely!!!!  Why wouldn’t I?  Even in the world of digital, there’s no reason not to take the extra shots.  It’s cheap so why not? 

One statement I see all the time is about making your shots better.  To me, that’s very much a “it depends” type statement.  We are talking about someone else’s opinion.  Learning about composition, etc. is one thing.  Altering colors is another.  To me that’s a very subjective issue.  Let’s take a quick look at a couple of things.

Colors – I prefer my colors to be slightly richer so I tend to use the vivid setting or something close.  For skies, I do like the bluer blues, but not always what a polarizer does.  I tend to underexpose slightly to enhance blues.  Reflections?  I’ll use the filter to knock out reflections, but not all the time :-)  Sometimes I want them there.  The flips side of things – what happens if you can’t get a polarizing filter for my camera?  Ahhhh… something to think about… if this is the type of thing we are intending to do a lot of, it that enough justification to move up to a different camera?  What are the sacrifices for the increase in size?’’ 

Composition – for me, I enjoy “conversations” around composition.  There’s always a different way to look at things and those “things” or topics are the things that lead you into thinking about different directions.  Looking at things differently……  The super zoom cameras got me heading in a very different direction and a fun one to boot :-)  My perspective on being able to fill frames with shots I couldn’t have achieved before even back in the 35mm days.  Macro work at 40 ft :-)  Landscapes and scenery for instance took on a whole new perspective from the more technical aspect.  I could use a smaller camera but still end up with a good quality pic.  Less cropping.  The thing to remember here, is that despite the fact  the sensor may not be as large, if you can fill the frame, the image quality is going to be pretty good :-)  Might not be good enough for some, but in keeping a bit of perspective – more than enough for what I do. 

Genres or Specializing – Depending on how far you want to take this or to put it another way, perhaps taking photos as a career path, one may want to start about being better in one area than another.  There are a lot of other factors in this, but unless one takes a lot of photos across a lot of different areas, to me, getting a strong interest there becomes important.  For me, over the last couple of years, buying all this gear was to discover or re-discover what my interests might be.  This time around, I’m approaching it very methodically.  Before, I didn’t have the business knowledge – now I do and I look at photography as an “option” going forward.  For now, I’m taking photos of anything that catches my eye and seeing what flushes out :-) 

What I’ve discovered in doing this is a couple of key areas have emerged and some have not gone away :-)  I still like close up work, but light boxes are fascinating to me.  I still love doing landscapes and having the big zooms available to me have changed my perspective on landscapes.  My grandkids brought back my interest in candid photography.  A couple of events I shot for my wife (I got volunteered – free in other words), got me thinking REALLY hard about free-lancing AGAIN…., My interest in real estate (I own a few properties)  prompted me to study  architecture and learn more about reference shots.  Having the cash to acquire the gear to exploit along the way brought back the passion.  Reaching the point where I felt a DSLR would be a step up was a landmark for me. 

The DSLR’s – One of the key things for me in moving to this class was battery power and, of course, image quality.  Even here though, I stepped carefully and added as the need arose.  Event shoots that were fast paced and required me to use flash was one reason.  My other cameras just didn’t cut it here.  Battery power – on the big shoots where several hundred photos were going to be shot – didn’t want to be swapping batteries.  It started with the D3200 and a kit lens.  That led to the addition of the 55-200 and SB400 flash.  A BIG shoot prompted the D5100 and the SB710 flash.  I needed a high speed prime for portraits – 50mm f1,8.  Close ups with plants prompted the Micro Nikkor 40mm f2,8.  An awesome deal on a Tamron 70-200 manual macro lens allowed me to get closer farther away.  The Nikon D5100 was an interesting choice and required a lot of research.  I wanted a second body but was stuck on direction.  My first inclination was to go to the D7100 with the 18-140.  Research showed that the D5100 was a better low light unit and that was another area of interest.  More important – would 16mp against the 24mp of the D3200 be a factor.  No, in the end.  Because It was last years model, I got a clearance price and that second body got me back into the equivalent of “free lance” mode.  At this stage of the game, I can do pretty well anything.  Do I use these a lot?  Actually, more than one would think but at the same time, not as often as I should.  A lot of my photos still revolve around mobility so unless it’s something where I need that “extra” they don’t come out.  In the big picture – it brought some new things into the art – AGAIN. 

When I get those times (and they are rare for me), where I actually get a moment in time coupled with the urge to take photos – I try to find things that would be fun to take photos of.  OR I take a take a photo of something or look at something that might seemingly look boring and see if I can turn it into something interesting.  In many cases I don’t get extra gear, just camera in hand and start to “see”.  I look up/down, close in, back away and zoom in, whatever.  For me, this is an exercise in looking and seeing.  AND sometimes, a whole new area opens up that becomes fascinating for you.  For me, an area of intense interest was the travel cameras with their crazy 20x zoom.  I can’t even get close to what these cameras do with even my more sophisticated gear, but all of sudden – wildlife, buildings, etc. took on a whole new look.  My latest foray into this space was the P520 with its 42x zoom – fun took on a whole new meaning :-)  All things considered good image quality for hand holding at 1000mm 🙂

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What was a little stupid about these shots, is that I’ve been at this bus stop for a few weeks and have owned the P520 for about the same amount of time, and it was only in the last few days I actually “saw the shot”.  I have looked at this for a couple of years now and it was only now I saw this?  Sad in it’s own way, but then again……. I walk by much more as well.  Downtown Calgary is a photographer’s paradise for buildings, sculptures and people and I probably walk by more photo ops than I will ever find :-) 

The one big thing that the P520 acquisition did for me, though, and coupled to the Caden bag, was it got me shooting more than normal if there’s such a thing as normal :-)  The last few months, my photo taking has sort of come in surges.  There are days when I’ll take 20 or 30 of one area and then nothing for a few days.  Then, something catches my eye and away I go.  Right now, this has been a low time for me and if anything with the fall colors, I should be taking hundreds of photos of the outdoors, but you know, for some reason it’s only been a few.  This used to be one of the times where I took thousands of photos in the 35mm days.  AND this was over and above the free lancing things.  This time around, its been different….very different..maybe it’s age and maybe I’m just being more methodical than before.  I’m being a little more critical than perhaps I should.  Interestingly, its been with the Nikon P520.  I think a lot has to do with trying to find out the limits of the camera.  I do know that if I take out any of my other cameras, I’m not like that.  The P520 tends to be slower to autofocus and maybe..just maybe.. I’m thinking through the shot more. 

For me, in learning digital and in learning what these cameras can do, the one big thing that I’ve enjoyed is learning the limits of what these things are capable of.  It’s sort of odd reading about this from today’s photographers as they keep saying about learning the camera and what it can do as that’s a basic I learned a long time ago.  In 35mm or film, this was an essential – there was not automatic.  A built in light meter was a luxury and even then, one didn’t really “trust” them.  You used a handheld one just to be sure.  OR you simply knew the manual settings.  Today’s meters, I’ve found are pretty good for the most part and understanding how the meter works, to me is also important if you are going to use that auto or programmed auto mode.  For me, I tend to stay in Programmed Auto for most of my units and in the area of ISO 100-200 wherever possible.  This gives me the highest quality if photo and rest is up to me :-)  The other function with today’s units is that Scene mode – they work surprisingly well and should not be overlooked, IMHO.  They can be handy for certain shots.  Again – “seeing” the shot and getting the camera to reproduce like YOU saw it.  One area where I find that the smaller cameras come in handy, is when I’m looking for real estate.  Nothing like a travel cam or smaller with a wide angle lens to get those reference shots 🙂

For me, also, is the fact that I don’t post process all that much if I can help it.  I’m not a believer of fixing it in post.  My goal is to “get the shot the first time”, or as close to it as I can get.  Post for me, is perhaps a bit of cropping and maybe a bit of brightness/contrast control but not so much in color correction.  There are certain shoots where post can’t be helped, but getting it close the first time sure reduces that time :-)  To me, there are other things in life other than post processing.  Like taking photos :-)   Even with the shots my wife does for her volunteer things – she’s surprisingly good and I do a bit of cropping and a bit of color correction at times, but not all that much.  AND, most of her stuff gets published. 

And then there’s blogging 🙂 If there’s one thing that gotten me going in taking photos, its shooting to enhance a topic I think of.  AND, I’m behind on a few entries :-(   The photos are sitting on my camera and over the last few weeks, work has taken precedence (again….) and matching photos to blogs has fallen by the wayside.  However, in saying that, the main thing here, is that I am taking pics :-)  The downside of blogging, is that it does suck up a huge amount of time and in many instances, my thoughts for blogging come in surges.  “They” say one should be posting consistently, but in my case, I don’t expect to have followers – mine is more towards “brain dumping” :-)  I even journal, though that’s a bit sparse as well, but for me, it’s therapy in one sense. It helps me put some sort of order where there’s chaos :-) 

The blogging started a long time ago, actually and I now have two blogs – one on technology and one on photography.  I’m finding that I’m actually quite motivated to take photos for the blogs :-)  What can be a killer, though, is not having the time to work on any given entry.  Wow – it can get a little scary.  I could be writing on any of 3 notebooks at any one given time on any topic. It’s one thing on weekends, but sometimes, I want to capture a thought while I’m at work, and get on a roll in that first half hour before I turn on the clock or it’ll be while I’m doing something else….  I’m coming off contract in the next few weeks, so maybe ….. 

Unlike many people who are trying to learn the craft, I haven’t really been in that position where I could literally “plan” for a day of shooting, or even for a window of time – that’s one of the big changes for me from before.  Indirectly, that was also the reason I ended up with so many cameras too.  I was fitting a camera to a given situation. Went a little overboard perhaps, but now, in the end, I quite well equipped too :-)  My windows of time are typically while I’m on a jaunt or between tasks or something like that.  See – stop – shoot.  Onward.  There are some times, however, where I do have to stop, setup and shoot.  These tend to be around my light box stuff.  I do a lot of reference photo work.  By that I mean, shots of real estate interiors/exteriors, technology items.  These are photos that require fairly controlled lighting and in many cases, like the light box stuff, staged.  Neat stuff if you have the time.  Sometimes, I do have to make the time.  Weekends don’t even give me that much free time.

So far, it’s been a hoot.  With more time……. 🙂


Maybe a Handy Tool or Two…Other Thoughts….

Yesterday, I was doing a little instruction thing for my wife and needed to point out some buttons and things on our TV/DVD controllers.  I decided to use my Panasonic GX1 and create the instructions in Word.  Once I took the photos, though, the question of  “which tool” to do the annotations.  Most photo applications use apps that are designed to manipulate the photo, not necessarily be able to annotate a photo from what I’ve been able to see. It’s not that it can’t be done, just a bit of a pain the butt to me.  I like things to be simple 🙂

In my other life (:-)), I’m an IT Consultant – Business Analyst, to be precise, and depending on the assignment, I’m using some diagramming tool or another.  Business Process, Enterprise Architecture, Project Management, and on and on…..  The occasional assignment, though, involves software development and with that comes GUI (Graphical User Interface) design or User Interface Design.  In this space, there are several tools that are designed to shorten the design process.   The are called screen annotation tools.  Generally speaking, as the name implies, these tools are used to annotate screen shots during the design process.  There are more advanced tools that actually can animate the screen navigation (such as Balsamiq) as well – all in the quest to shorten the interface design time.  I won’t go into anymore details here. 

There are a few tools that I’ve used – one called Skitch and the other one is Screenpresso.  Both of them, of course, do slightly different things :-)  One of the things I like with these tools is that they are fast and easy to learn and use.  Though they are designed to be used for screenshots, for the most part, they work surprisingly well for photos.  Skitch is free for Windows 8.1.  There are some neat apps that can do this as well via my iPad, but I”m not going to go there :-)  That’s too much work moving stuff around.  As much as I like my iPad and my Apple products, they don’t talk nice w/Windows for what I do so Apple is out of my world in photo.  Many people swear by them, but I tend to swear at them.  My world as a consultant is Windows.  I may try Apple one day, but not in the foreseeable future for me.  Here’s a quickie example:


For me personally, I’m one that constantly looks for various things that can make my  life easier :-)  I’m not too scared to try new technology and at the same time, I try to use certain things across as many areas as possible.  In the world of photography and coupled in the IT space and being a consultant ( I do have my own company), skill transfer has been an invaluable “skill”.  My photography, for instance, covers not only the hobby aspect of things, because I have my cameras with me all the time, I have them available for any photos that might be required for me for my work.  Last week, I was developing a tutorial on how to hook up live equipment for the test lab and took photos of the backs of the various video devices so I could incorporate them into my tutorial.  Because I have a camera with me most times, I also take photos of houses as a future purchase or perhaps a future renovation idea.  For my blogs, I always have a camera within reach ( do have a few ….), so for the shot above, I took the shot, pulled it into Skitch, saved it out and put into this entry.  Simple and easy 🙂

For most people, tools like this probably wouldn’t matter.  In fact, I would venture a guess that most in the photo game are more in Adobe PhotoShop or LightRoom space to deal with exposure, etc.  For me, at this stage anyway, I simply don’t have that kind of time.  It’s easier for me to get the shot right the first time, and not bother with too much software.  I do a bit in software, but in reality, I’m quite happy with the photos that I’m getting.  I might get pickier as I get into paid gigs, but you know – even then, the plan is to have the knowledge and the correct equipment so I don’t need to spend the time.  Tools just don’t just stop at software though.  Let’s talk about other tools to make life a little easier.

Spare Batteries – I guess this is a bit of a “depends” thing.  There are two areas where batteries come into play.  The first is for your camera.  If you find yourself in situations where you are constantly running out of battery power, it’ might not be a bad idea to have a spare one.  In saying that, I have spare batteries for my DSLR’s, Compact System Cameras and Advanced Cameras like my Fuji X10 and LX7.  They are my work horse cameras.  For my Fuji XF1 and others, I normally don’t. I find that when I have my travel cameras, I very rarely find myself in situations where I need over 100 flash shots, give or take.  I tend to always have a couple of cameras with me and for most things I do on a casual basis, say landscapes, etc., I don’t take more than that.  If I’m at an event where I know I’m going to taking a lot of shots, I’ll have one of my other cameras with me.  For flash – I’ll always have some spares. 

SD Cards – This is basically your film :-)  A lot will depend on your camera as to what size one should have, but then again, they are cheap, so having several never hurts.  I have a bunch of hem and I have good ones.  SanDisk is one of my favourites but I also have Sony & Lexar.  I have something like 12 cameras, give or take, so to say I have a lot of cards is an understatement :-)  I also use Class 10 cards to ensure I have the highest write speeds.  Size?  Depends on the shoot.  My smaller cameras have either 4 or 8 GB.  The rest use 8 GB or larger.  If I’m going to shoot a lot, 16 GB or 32 GB.  There’s nothing worse than having a card blow out on you.  One thing I have learned – always format your cards in the camera. 

A lot, for me, depends  on time available but I don’t always have time to off load my cards, though it’s always a good idea to do that at every chance.  For my wife’s volunteer work, I make the time to unload her cards as soon as possible.  Her work gets published, so it’s critical.  For me, it depends :-)  If it’s a volunteer shoot, yes, they are off loaded right away.  Other stuff – not so much.  Another thing, if you are shooting a lot of various things, and taking a fair number of photos, it’s easy to just swap out a card.

Cameras and Lenses – This is always a dicey area :-)  I’m an equipment junky and do have a lot of gear.  My approach is a little different than most as I decided to have cameras instead of say a camera and a pile of lenses.  A lot of this, I attribute to the path I took getting to DSLR’s.  I like to have a camera or two with me at all times but want to stay mobile and light.  That basically means my travel cameras.  If I’m doing a paid shoot, or a volunteer event for my wife, then the big stuff comes out.  Mobility goes out the window here – equipment, and good equipment is the order of the day.  I do about 5 events per year where my photos are going to be used for publication.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to get back to where I was in the 35mm days.  Not to where I’m paid, so much, but where the shoots are starting to become very much like what I used to do. Over the last few events, I’ve been steadily adding to my DSLR arsenal.  I’m now at a point, where I feel I have the equipment to handle most shoots with confidence.  I used to have two bodies and pile of lenses.  This time around, I have fewer lenses, but I now have two bodies.  With two zooms I don’t have to worry about swapping out any more. 

I think each person getting involved in this craft has to make a decision on just how much gear one needs.  For me, I decided to invest over the long haul knowing it was going to not only going to cost a bit of money, but I had to re-I earn a few things.  Acquiring the 2nd body has gotten me to a “comfortable place” so to speak.  I’ve still got a bit to learn, but at the same time, I don’t have a lot learn :-)  The craft itself hasn’t changed, the tools have.   When I started to dive back in, one of the things that came up consistently was about learning your camera before upgrading.  What didn’t get addressed at the time, was “What if I already had a good handle on the craft and just wanted to get gear to meet my objectives?” 

Bags – OK – this can become a bit of a challenge to me.  I’ve been acquiring more than a few bags over the last little while to address certain things I want to carry on any one given day.  I’ve been focusing on the DSLR’s but still always carry something smaller.  Now, with an extra body, the world has changed again :-)  I doubt I’ll get another bag at this stage, though.  I’ll stay with what I have for now.  I’ve got a bit of thinking to do:-) 

Flash Units – Up until recently, say in the last 6 months or so, I’ve relied on the in-built flashes.  For what I was doing at the time, this was ore than adequate.  Once I started to go beyond the “casual” stuff, the need for an external flash started to become more and more of a requirement.  .  When I first got the D3200, the flash was the last thing on my mind, but then so was the larger zoom:-)  What started the chain of events was a fashion show I shot last year.  I had gotten the Panasonic GX1 and felt that it would be adequate for the event.  I did a lot more scrambling than i thought – I had to swap batteries and ended up using my Fuji X10 towards the end.  The biggie here was battery power.  This year, for this event, I had the D3200 and decided on getting the SB400 for the event.  It actually worked fine, but it would have been nice to have a longer zoom.  I got the SB700 shortly after and then the 55-200mm.  I hadn’t worked with TTL and had balked at what the units cost, but in the end, it was worth the money.  The SB400 is a nice unit but the extra power and control of the SB700 takes me to a whole new level.  Having the new units is now an essential.  For others, it depends on where you take it 🙂

Tripods – Whew!! Almost forgot.   Depending on the type of work or just for having around, a tripod, for most of my things is almost a non-essential.  Note – I said almost.  BUT, for certain things, they become very necessary – big zoom stuff, product photography, etc.  When I went looking for a tripod, my thoughts tended toward mobility.  The problem with getting a good tripod that’s mobile AND being able to hold up a DSLR reasonably well, meant a bit of compromise.  The one I got was the ProMaster Carbon Fibre 5 section.  Not cheap and still had to add a decent ball head, but so far works a treat.  If I needed to take it on trip, I could easily do that.  For most things I’ve done so far – more than adequate.  If I get more serious, there’s no doubt I’ll need a better one, but we’ll see.

The other one that I’ve gotten and it’s been super handy at times, is the mid range GorrilaPod.  I got this one specifically for our Hawaii trip and soooooo… glad I got it.  At the time, the heaviest unit on it would be the Fuji X10 – and it probably will like that the next trip as well.  For me, I looked at the clone ones – not nearly as well built.  My general thoughts are to deal with things as I foresee them.  Do I use this one a lot?  Not as much as you would think, but enough that its paid for itself.  It actually paid for itself on our vacation – use it for some street shots and sunsets from our balcony :-)  I miss Hawaii……….

Computing Power  and Software – Because I am an IT Business Analyst as well as having revenue properties, I have a fair amount of computing power at home.  Storage is always an issue and I use servers on my home network.  I’ve had a system board and drives go out in my time, and the “data” has always been key, of course.  I have one machine that is typically used for my photography.  Separate machine for our accounting.  A notebook that I use primarily for traveling, journaling and blogging, For software, I opted for Corel Paint Shop Pro X6 on my main system and Corel Photo Impact X3 for my notebook.  What, you say – No Light Room or PhotoShop?  No.  Quite simply, I was dead against it.  I might end up having to go there, but for now, not essential.  I’m a firm believer in getting the correct shot the first time. 

This is one of the big things I’ve noticed between the people coming from 35mm and the ones coming in from digital.  The Digital ones, to me, tend to rely on post processing to finalize their images.  The ones form the world of 35mm tend to keep post processing to a minimum.  I’m in that space.  If you get the shot right the first time, there’s not need for post processing :-)  To get better, to me, one needs to be taking photos, not playing in software.  To me, one learns by taking photos and studying those photos to learn about exposure, color, composition.  Also, instead of studying software, looking at other’s work to see what you can do to “see” better.  The other side of this, of course, is to understand your gear to know what it can and can’t do or how to “work around” certain situations.  Understanding how that combination of ISO, Shutter Speed, and aperture is critical. Understanding depth of field, composition all come into play on the quest for those good shots.  Lots and lots of shots – different settings to see and ultimately know what those settings need to be for a given situation. 

Other Accessories – depending on what I’m shooting, I have other accessories.  Remote control, a light box for stills, a reflector.

Putting It All Together -  As I’ve probably alluded to, if you start to take this craft in a more serious light, there’s a lot to learn, and depending on WHAT you plan to do, there’s can be a lot gear (read  – expense).  I’m perhaps a little luckier than many as I have a lot of experience from my days in 35mm, so it’s more fitting gear to what I want to do than learning the craft, but then again, I learn something each time I’m out with my gear about my gear :-)  This craft is something that evolves over time. I lot of my friends are surprised at what I do with my travel cameras, for instance.  For that matter, even what my wife shoots with them.  To me, this is not rocket science :-)  For what they are designed to do, they do a pretty darn good job.  Pixel peepers will poo-poo  these cameras, and they are right in the fact that won’t hold up under commercial use, but you know, my wife uses one virtually all the time, and her stuff is published constantly :-)  The reality of this is – one needs to assess their own circumstances.  I personally wouldn’t rely on someone’s opinion unless they have the experience to back up their comments :-)  I have a lot of my friends come to me BECAUSE I have the experience with the cameras they are thinking about.  Not just something I read out of a review. 

About those reviews – For the most part, reviews are helpful in the fact that they can provide a bit of guidance if you are heading in a particular direction.  Those “Best of” reviews, I feel provide some of that guidance.  Understanding what YOU do or want to do, to me is VERY important.  The reviews will then provide the information to match.  I take the image quality piece very tongue in cheek as most probably don’t have the knowledge to  take advantage of that anyway :-)  Also pay attention to feature explanations.  Then, go find someone who either owns one or get to a camera place and “touch and feel” before making a decision.  You may or may not decide to buy online too, though, for a new camera, I want to take it home and shoot.  Personal.  If one is new to the craft, just about any digital camera will produce a reasonable quality image.  It’s not the quality of the image, BTW – it’s what you see and most cameras will deliver that very well.  We have digitals that are 6 or 7 years old and they are still chugging along and still get used.  One thing to remember, and this is something that seems catch a lot of folk – when you take photos for publications and in today’s world, that will be the web, you need a good quality image, image yes, but it’s going to be small.  Let’s chat about this from a more technical standpoint.

What I do for stuff like this – the original shot will always be shot at the maximum resolution that the camera provides.  If there is a JPEG Fine setting, it’ll get used.  If there is a vivid setting, that’ll be enabled if needed as well. I default my cameras to vivid, BTW :-)   What this does, is guarantee the best quality and best color.  At lets say 10 megapixel, you will likely get an image in the 2 to 3 mb range. For the most part, to have an image load quickly, one needs to get the image size down – in fact, most publications will probably re-size anyway :-)  What I do, once my wife finishes editing, is re-size the image down to 640×480 so they can be emailed.  That shrinks the image down to somewhere close to 100K in size.  Easy to email, easy to push on the web and very high quality.  I use Fastone Resizer for this. 

Other publications or events that I do, though, do require pretty high quality and that’s where my Fuji X10 and bigger gear come in.  To me, getting the correct shot the first time is absolutely critical on these events.  Do I shoot a lot of frames – absolutely.  For the most part – there’s no time to fiddle with settings – you need to nail it right away.  If you need to change settings, you better know what they are.  If you have experience here, getting those settings early is a no brainer.  If you watch how the pros do it, there’s a HUGE lesson to learned there for prepping for a shoot. I watch them to this day, to see if they do anything different. to what I do.  I’m usually the backup so I also chat with them to see where they will be so I don’t get in their way – they get paid, I usually don’t. Those photos also  don’t get emailed – they are pressed to CD/DVD or on a USB drive depending on who is going to receive it. 

Post Processing – Just how much do I do?  As I’ve implied before, as little as I can :-)  This depends, actually, on the shoot.  Most of  the things I do for these types of events does require a bit of cropping as there are a lot of candid shots.  Sometimes a bit of color correction, lightening or darkening.  For formal group type shots, where I have to set up – typically almost nothing aside from maybe a little cropping.  Even with my wife’s work, she’s knowledgeable enough that  I don’t really need to do much with them either.  For me, I have too many other things to do, to spend very much time in post, so I don’t :-)  I try to get that shot right.  From last years fashion shoot to this year – my post time was probably half because I had better gear.  Next year, it’ll half that again as I have even more better gear 🙂

You know, if one set their mind to it, you COULD spend a lot of time in the post processing space.  For most people, they probably won’t as the interest isn’t at that level, but as one gets more serious and you gain knowledge, I feel that post processing may or may not be a necessary evil, but I prefer to minimize it as much as possible.  I might if I had the time, but I have too many other things on the go, so I personally try to get right the first time.  Much easier.

When There’s Time…..

Wow!  This last couple of weeks has gone by fast!!!  We have even MORE snow on the ground AGAIN!!!  I’ve been off work again and hoping to be working soon (I’m a consultant), and one l of the things about being in this space, is that when you reach the end of a contract or even before, you are looking for the next one.  In reality, you are looking for that next one constantly.  Once you come off of one, you pretty well replace your regular job with another job – looking for work.  The work has been just sparse enough out there, that I’ve been spending pretty well a full day looking for work.  Couple that with the other “regular” tasks that need to be taken care of, a day goes by in a heartbeat.  From the photography standpoint, it’s been very quiet for me but today, we had to prep for a family dinner and get the house cleaned up, but I decided to simply take a break and make some time for me.  Not a lot, but just enough that I could dig out a couple of cameras and take a couple of pics of some flowers that my wife has that were blooming. 

Usually, when I do something like this, it’s kind of an ad hoc thing – and of course, timing is everything Smile  Today was one of those days when, during the course of house cleaning, I happened to catch some interesting lighting on some plants.  Over the last little while, I’ve been really tending toward my Fuji XF1 and trying to use as much as I can.  It’s quite new, and despite the fact that works pretty the same as my Fuji X10, it’s a little “different” in it’s own little way.  One area that I have trouble with it, is in the area of close ups.  My Panasonic GX1 is like this as well.  I think it’s me as well as I’m hitting that cusp where I’m literally at the minimum focal range of the sensor and it simply has trouble focusing.  I’ve switched to manual focus of offset, and I did get some good shots, but it was a little harder than I anticipated.  If I had used one of my travel cams – like the Nikon S9400, it would be have been much easier Smile  Due the lighting, I simply grabbed whatever was closest and got my shots while I could. 

When it comes to close-up work, and I really am starting to do more and more here, I find that one really does need to set up a little more carefully than normal.  In reality, I shouldn’t have tried to hand hold, but the space I was in was cramped so no place for a tripod.  Nonetheless, they still came out not so bad Smile  My wife’s plants provide an endless number of opportunities and I simply don’t get tired of taking photos of them.  She has these XMAS cactuses that bloom this time of year, and with the lighting coming in thru the windows at certain times of day, they always seem to have every so slight different shapes.  Plus, there are few other ones that she has.  Lots of fun for me. 

Red Xmas CactusRed Xmas Cactus_1jpgOtherWhite Xmas Cactus_1White Xmas Cactus_2White Xmas Cactus_3White Xmas Cacuts

BUT, one has to take the time and it’s so rare that I can actually stop and take my time to get these shots.  Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been trying to make time to do this.  Other things too – mostly to give my head a rest and push it in a different direction to work related things.  Diversions are always nice, but for me it’s been rare. Looking for work has always been rattlin’ around up there, so forcing myself to stop, I think, is therapeutic. 

When I look back at things, I sometimes wonder why I don’t do this more often.  Is it maybe that technology has us so engaged that we think we need to be connected all the time and as a result, we miss out on many pleasurable things because technology got in they way?  Maybe – I’ve been reading a fair amount  in this area, and this isn’t really discussed in the stuff I read, but it does surface every once in a while.


And So I Thought…..

So here I am between consulting gigs.  I rolled off Mid July and knew I would be idle over Aug for sure, and possibly part of Sept.  I have an offer pending, so October it is, it looks like.  I THOUGHT that while I had this time off, there would be times when I could actually go out and take some planned shoots.  You know places to go, pics to take Smile 

Well…. it’s not working out like that at all – I’ve mostly been doing renovation work and the pics I’m taking are progress pics of the various projects I’ve had, but none of this “planned shoot” thing I was counting on.  I still have plans in place for doing various photo things, it’s just that it hasn’t happened – yet.  I realize now just how valuable those noon hours were Smile

One of the things with me, is that I am quite focused and maybe this has been sort of the background issue with me and photography.  Sure, I carry some of gear with me all the time, but to literally stop and take a photo that catches my eye – well – that hasn’t happened quite how I envisioned it would.  In reflecting on this, a couple of life things, I’m thinking has kinda gotten in the way Smile

1.  Looking for work.  One thing with being a consultant, is that typically, you take your breaks when you take your breaks – usually between gigs.  This is a little different to being an employee in that IF you are going to take time off during a consulting contract, you actually have to get it written into the contract. Sometimes you can, many times you don’t.  One has to work completely thru and ensure your stuff gets done within the project timeline.  A consultant simply doesn’t leave for a day or two out of the blue.  In this area, one does tend to make a bit ore money than being a salaried employee, so it also stands to reason that IF you get a break between gigs, you have money to take a REAL holiday.  This year, we used our money to do a major renovation on our garage, BUT I also was looking for work at the same time.  What I THOUGHT I could do, was to, if anything, keep up on my blogs and journal entries.  Ha!!!!!

2.  Juggling “Stuff”.  My initial plan was to do what I normally do when I get up.  Usually, once I have my coffee and have everything powered up, do a quick daily journal entry, then look for work and once my job search was done, continue on with my other daily things – I had hoped that one of them would be taking photos.  Well, the garage renovation killed that one right off the bat Sad smile  I don’t know about anyone else, but as a consultant, looking for work is one of those “evil necessities”  Job hunting, or in my case contract hunting, is very serious work.  When I rolled off my last contract, the job market was ramping very quickly, and in one sense, it stayed that way all thru the summer – just not for consulting work.  Sure, I got interviews but nada.  I KNOW I have the skill set, good in interviews, but for some reason, it was a no go.  Perhaps they were “fishing” so to speak.  Companies sometimes do this – they have an internal posting but process says they have to go “outside”, so they do, and see “what’s out there”.  Absolutely no intention of hiring.  OR there is no immediate requirement to go ahead so they doddle.  Anyway …another discussion.  Onward.   We ended up getting in a contractor to work on the garage (this is a flat top garage with the roof being used as a deck). and while they worked on that, I decided that I would rebuild the interior.  I had to do that anyway, as it had been leaking, so it was a good time to be re-insulate, re-wire if necessary, etc. There is an upside to this – I got some great “progress” pics and got to use various pieces of gear to trap this Smile

BUT… what I hadn’t counted on was just how much time this sucked up.  I got up earlier to do my job search, but that was taking an average of 3 to 5 hours per day.  I got up earlier (around 6:30 to 7:00 a.m. and decided that basically, my job search end time would be 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. and then from there, it was on to “daily”.  The garage, for the most part.    Now, if you toss in interviews, it kills the day pretty well depending on the time…..  Not that I had a lot of interviews, but enough to be disruptive.  To make it worse, there was a lot more work there than I had initially thought would be required.  The insulation had been put in wrong, I wanted new lights but we found the wiring was wrong, etc., etc.  Plus, when you are looking for work and you are interviewing, you don’t know when you might be working, so there was pressure to get finished.  One “hope” that I had, was being able to take some photos after interviews, but it seemed like every time, I had to be home, so that went into the weeds.  Ugh…. hate when that happens.  A lot of times, my interviews were around 11 ‘ish so one is in noon hour, which means no place to eat with the noon hour rush, so I simply came home.  Unfortunately, I had to grab a bite when I got home, OR I had another interview so that ended any thoughts of taking photos downtown.  Yes, one of the travel cams fits nicely into my briefcase…..

3.  Actually getting pics.  I normally take photos when I’m doing anything like this, so this was no different.  What changed was the fact that I didn’t take too many pics away from the renovation, which was the initial plan.  I THOUGHT, that as I went out get materials, I could stop and take some other types of photos.  Didn’t quite work that way.  Usually, it was go to Home Depot, get my “stuff”, get back and on with it.  Now, to make it worse, I also had to move a lot of stuff around to do the work.  The upside to this, was that I was able to ultimately make more space by cleaning up stuff that.  Sooo.. what gear did I use for this?  Well – for the “general” shots, I used a couple of my travel cameras.  Mostly, it was the Nikon S9400 (as it was the “new kid on the block”), but I also used my Panasonic ZS25 and Sony HX30V.  For detail type shots, it was my Panasonic GX1.  Detail type shots?  Yes – I wanted some shots of wiring, close ups of where moisture was in the joists, etc.  This was where something like the GX1 showed it’s merit over the travel cams. 

Here’s one where being able to crop like crazy and still get a high resolution photo was nice to haveSmile

P1000780For Web_Drip

What happened here was that we were getting new drains put in and it rained unexpectedly.  Sooo… at about 3:00 a.m., I had to rush into the garage and find something to catch the rain water so it didn’t go everywhere.  On the way down, I grabbed my GX1 and one of my other travel cams and once I got something to catch the water, I noticed the water dripping from the drainSmile  The other camera I had was the Panasonic ZS25 and it did pretty good on these shot sequence, but nothing like this!!!  This shot was actually one I used in my “Accidental Shot” blog entry.  And yes, I slept in a bit later….. Smile 

3.  It looks like….. Well, here we are mid-Sept and I’m waiting on an offer but still looking for work (nothing is for sure until the contract is signed Smile) , but with the exception of a bit of sanding and painting, it looks like I finally have some breathing room coming up. 

Now… about those photos of the Peace Bridge…..

Progression Photos

What the heck to I mean by that?  Smile  Well, these are a series of photos that show something “progressing”.  I guess another term would be something that depicts various stages of something.  In today’s world of hustle and bustle, this is something, that to me, can require a bit of planning and persistence.  Maybe reference photography would be a better term… I dunno….

From the equipment standpoint – I use a lot of cameras as opposed to having one camera.  As I’ve mentioned before, my primary/base objective hinges on portability as a priority.  I’m not opposed to having a DSLR – Just haven’t needed one for what I do.  The things I do require me to do everything from close ups to big zoom stuff.  Yes, I like high quality, but I’ve addressed that slightly differently.  I simply prefer to work with multiple cameras that are easily trundled.  Typically, it will be something like my Panasonic GX1 (two zooms), plus a travel camera, maybe a pointy shooty.  If I’m commuting, it’s something like my Panasonic LX7 plus a travel cam (this fits easily into a daypack Smile).  Social events, depending on the type of event could vary – if it’s one where I’m one of the photographers, I’m not going to require portability, so I’m going to take the ones where I have battery power plus the travel cams for candids.  ….

Bottom line here – use the equipment you have and see what you can get out of it first.  Remember – there’s also software Smile  Also, this is only one small piece in the world of photography.  For me, this small piece, though, is a slightly bigger piece Smile

I’m going to chat about a few that I’ve done and some lessons learned in a few areas that touch this.

Real Estate and Renovation “Stuff”

Whether you are a potential buyer, a landlord, or possibly a renter, knowing about what photos to take for you records can be some handy information to have. Renovation work  and real estate in general can be a couple of areas,  I feel, that is very conducive to this type of photography.  We have several properties that we rent out, and one of the things we always do is take photos of before and after, sometimes even during.  Even during the buying process, we took photos, though in hindsight – not enough Smile For us, it’s a reference point for determining wear and tear/damage, etc.  We also take before and after photos if we underwrite a fairly significant renovation like putting in a new floor, or remodeling an area. From a photo perspective and a landlord’s perspective, this is something that I feel every landlord should be doing Smile  Believe me, experience has shown that you can never have too many pics.  Thank goodness for digital…… But that’s meSmile  If you’ve never done this type of photography here are a couple of hintsSmile

1. Exterior of property.  The simple stuff – front/sides/back.  When you are doing sides, take photos from both directions.  Go across the street if you have to take a street side photo.  The other way to look at it – pretend you are going to sell this property Smile  How would you want it to look?  IDEALLY – spring/summer/fall, but then again, the bottom line – whatever it takes.

The close up stuff – Here, you want to look at things like window frames, siding or corners, doors, sophets, drains, etc.  These are actually nice to have if for some reason you ever need to make an insurance claim.

Roof – This can be a more difficult thing to catch but IF you can, it’s good to be able to capture some photos of the roof, vents etc.

2.  Interiors – Nothing overly complex here, but one should try to capture every room in the house from various angles – usually entrance and back to entrance.  It’s always a good idea to take photos of the insides of closets. Same with the garage, if there is one. If you are looking at buying the property, it’s not such a dumb idea to get a photo of the inside of the attic Smile  For a landlord, getting close ups of additional things come into play.  Like appliances (interior and exterior – close up of the brand even), counter tops, faucets, window coverings (venetian blinds). We have to advertise our rental properties so we take a bit more care Smile

Other “stuff” – The easy stuff – the furnace, water heater and the floor surrounding it.  For the water heater and furnace – try to get photos from several different angles with emphasis on connections, etc.  Now the more complex things. For the furnace – photos of the ducting.  The electrical panel – definitely get photos here!!  In a lot of the basements, especially in the utliity rooms, the flooring and struts are visible.  Not a bad idea to get a picture of how “stuff” runs.  Any visible cracks in the foundations – get photos of those if you can.  How about floor drains?  Sometimes there are support posts – get a photo of how the post is fastened to the joists.  The bottom line here – the more detail you can capture the better. 

Sound like a lot of work?  ABSOLUTELY!!  AND, in the end you still have to catalogue this.  When we were buying properties, one of the things we did, was take a pic of the front of the house with the house number on it as a starting reference before we took photos of anything else Smile  When you look at several properties over a day (one day we looked at 8!!!), it keeps one sort of organized Smile  Never trust anything to memory.

Last year, my best friend was going to buy a house here in Calgary, and asked me and my wife to come with him to get our view on things.  At the time, I had my Fuji X10 and Panasonic SZ1.  He also took his camera and got photos.  What caught him off guard, was the sheer number of photos we took Smile  In the end, though, they were instrumental in his decision.  We got photos of everything we though might be of importance.  My wife also had her Pentax with her and she’s no slouch at this either Smile  I tend to take the detail shots, my wife takes the “decor”. type shots

Equipment – For this type of photography and my past experience here, is that something with a fairly wide angle lens is pretty essential.  I’ve found that 24mm (35mm equivalent) is almost ideal.  Anything wider brings in too much distortion.  The equivalent to 28mm is still not bad, but some rooms are just small enough, that 28mm isn’t quite enough to capture a wall in a single frame.  This depends on size of house, mind you, but a 24mm can get a pretty good street view from the sidewalk, but again, it depends Smile  I prefer to shoot at the highest resolution possible in case I have to do any detailed viewing, or possibly printing.  Of course, I’m taking multiple shots/multiple angles.  It depends on the lighting too.  Sometimes you can get away with available light, sometimes you need flash.  This is one environment where seeing the flash in your picture can be unavoidable, but remember – you need to get the detail.  Most cameras have a close up mode and this sometimes comes in handy, but at the same time, you may or may need this. 

To me, it’s critical to get the shot.  AND you are going to moving quite quickly, so setting up a tripod, flash, whatever, to capture that perfect photo isn’t likely to happen.  Different if you are going to sell the house, but from a prospective buyer side, or landlord side, not that important.  What you are after is a good clear shot of what you want to see.  From a resolution standpoint – I can’t emphasize here about having something reasonable to get your photos with.  Yes, a pointy shooty, if you get a reasonable one, is definitely worth the money.  BUT you also have to remember that you may need flash power as well Smile  Not so much distance, but in case you do need to take a lot of flash shots.  My smaller Panasonics can get roughly 60-80 shots if I stay at around ISO 200.  My SZ1 has a 24mm equivalent lens and actually works quiet well.  I’m fortunate that I have several cameras including more advanced ones so for me, I don’t worry too much about battery power Smile  BUT – and this is a big BUT – if you intend to do a lot of this, a spare battery isn’t such a bad idea.  For my smaller pointy shooties, including my travel cams, I only have the one battery – I’ve only had one occasion when I’ve literally killed a battery.  I have used a couple of cameras though.  My average number of photos on my properties has been generally somewhere between 50 and 80 shots.  AND it was progressive – the more I learned about renovation, the more photos I took Smile  On many of my projects, I’ve been using something like the Fuji X10 or Panasonic LX7 plus one of the travel cams depending…. 

While I’m on flash shots – it does depend on what equipment you have and whether or not you are able to get into better equipment, but the less expensive point and shoots, I find, aren’t quite as good when you are trying to catch those “nooks and crannies”.  I’m actually getting ready to tear out a ceiling in my garage to renovate it, and I did some test shots to try out a Nikon S3400 (20 mp, 7x zoom) against an S9400 (18 mp, 18x zoom), and the S9400 did a little better job.  The shots I was trying to get was between floor joists.  One thing that the Nikon S9400 did, was have better adjustments for the autofocus area, so it ended up with a better shot.  I’m going to re-run this again a little later but with a couple other cameras and see if there’s more difference there.  With cameras like the X10, LX7, J1 or GX1 this type of flash shot comes off no problem.  BUT with the travel cams and the smaller pointy shooties, this kinda tends to be hit and miss.  Does this mean you should get better equipment?  Well… not necessarily Smile  For those full room shots, the smaller cameras don’t always have the “hitting” power.  Even my mid-range cameras can sometimes be a bit short, so what I do to get around this, is kick up the ISO to either 400 or 800.  For what I do, there’s isn’t enough image drop off to make a big different.  It’s one of those odd situations and is a personal thing too.  In my quest, I still haven’t found “the one” Smile  Or at least not the one with enough portability.

One to remember here as well.  IF you decide to move up to a better camera, this is just one extra thing that one has to consider in your world of photography.  A better camera is not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, I take pictures of a lot of things, and real estate/renovations is actually a critical piece for me,

Renovations are worth spending a bit of time here, in their own right.  If one is undertaking renovation work, one of the toughest things to do is take photos “along the way”  Usually, once you get going, the last thing one thinks of, is taking a picture Smile  Depending on the type of reno, one could be to be on a quite a tight schedule so you really just have to “get it done”.  Before and after are pretty normal, but it’s the “during” that’s the issue.  If it’s a rental unit – it has to be rented quickly – schedule can be brutal if you are working too Sad smile

A big issue that does come up – dust!!!  When you are doing renovations, you may get dust or even sawdust flying everywhere.  You might even be working in a wet or damp environment – plumbing comes to mind.  You have to make sure you keep your gear in some sort of protective thing.  I’ve found that keeping it in the case isn’t necessarily a good thing either – it takes too long to take it out and get your photo.  Usually, I tuck UNDER something – like a tarp, or even under a dry rag – I also keep it completely covered.  Remember – dust and sawdust don’t seem always fall vertically for some reason – it can “float” Smile  Same goes for tablets or other electronics – Sure it’s nice to have your mp3 player going, but I tend to use a dedicated construction type radio.  If I really wanted to, I can take my mp3 player and stick it in the radio and play from there.  I have the Rigid one.  Usually, though, for me, it’s the radio.  Usually, it’s too noisy for music anyway. 

Interior renovation work like replacing counters, replacing a floor, remodelling a room like a kitchen or bathroom are excellent reference type photos to take. For each of these, I like to take an “uncluttered” before and after shot, plus from various angles.

Building Demolition

On my last consulting contract, I had this opportunity to see a building get demolished over a long period of time.  My contract ended lasting two years.  The sequence of photos I ended up getting, was this building in it’s original state to an empty lot.  This took place over about 6 months give or take.  This was one of the tings that got me really interested in the travel cams tooSmile  Anyway, I thought this was an interesting avenue for photos and one that I had not done too much of, so I decided to do this during my noon hour.  One thing with noon hours, though, is the lighting tends to be very flat.  BUT, in saying that, this type of photography is more along the lines of what I would call reference photography.

1.  Basic Positions – one big thing, towards the end of the demolition, was this fence they put up so my key positions ended up changing a bit.  Because this was in the downtown core AND it was noon hour I knew there would be a lot of people on the streets.  I picked two spots initially that gave me a corner view, basically to see the whole building, and one of the street side views. As they demolished more and more of the building, this last position shifted to accomodate the photos.  Once the outside of the building started to come down, this was where having the big zoom started to come into play Smile  In the beginning I was taking pics about twice a week as there wasn’t that much progress.  Towards the very end, I was taking pics at least twice a day – noon hour AND after work.

2.  Lighting and Zooming – In the beginning, I started with my Fuji X10 and Panasonic SZ1.  Now for the first month or so, there wasn’t too much happening, but then the exterior walls started coming down.  When the exterior walls came down, the need for a big zoom started to come into play.  The SZ1 had a 10x zoom.  Now – one would THINK that this would be more than adequate.  Well, I had to be across the street for starters and at 10x, in the beginning, that was fine.  BUT as more and more of the building came down, I was now getting to the point where a lot of the shots were starting to be 1/2 block away AND up to boot and I wanted to get some detailed shots of things like floors, beams, wiring, etc.  Now, the SZ1 had a digital zoom that could get me to 20x but kicked resolution down to 8 megapixels from 16 AND in a lot of instances, though I liked the zoom part, at ISO400 the pics weren’t that good.

Off I went looking for a better unit.  I didn’t want to spend a lot money, and I found the Panasonic SZ15 with 15X zoom on sale.  Now – this one had a lot more functionality and got me some excellent pics.  For about 6 weeks Smile  I started to look for another one yet AGAIN.  I did some research but this time, I decided to get the Fuji F800.  The BIG BIG difference with this one, was that the menu system was similar to the X10 and so would be a great match to my X10, which is a great combo for travelling by the way Smile  Plus, this was designed to be used more in manual mode than auto, though it does great there.  It turned out to be a great buy and still one of my “go to” cameras despite me acquiring additional units after. 

I’m going to stop here for a sec and chat about a unique feature of the X10 and F800.  There’s this EXR mode that allows for a very distinct feature – you have a choice of high iSO low noise, Dynamic Range and Resolution Priority.  It drops the base resolution down, yes, but we also have larger sensors and hence more data gather which means, in the end, higher resolution, better color, etc.  Depending on the day, I was using either the SZ15 or the F800 a LOT!!

Now, one of big things here, is with the big zooms.  One needs to get into higher ISO’s and higher shutter speeds if you are hand holding.  I found that in bright sunlight, hand holding at around ISO200 in auto mode was good.  Away from bright sunlight, one had to be at ISO 400 or higher to keep that high shutter speed.  In the end, the F800 has turned out to a great camera, though it does have it’s quirks, it handles everything pretty well.  It’s big strength, to me, is the EXR mode and it’s a Fuji, so it’s known for it’s blues/greens and yellows.  My findings so far between my various units has been a rather interesting journey.  More on that in another post Smile

Back on topic – this type of photography does require patience and persistence.  I was taking these photos thru the winter as well Smile  This is also the type of photography that takes place over several months, so it does take a concerted effort.

Equipment – Here, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  You regular gear should be fine for most instances.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the better the equipment the ultimately better photo you will have, but again… it depends.  Better equipment tends to have better flash control if you are requiring flash, and larger sensor cameras (Note:  I said larger sensor.  It’s not always about megapixels. So.. a travel cam, for instance, will have a larger/better sensor than a pointy shooty, a Compact System Camera/equivalent will have a larger sensor than the travel cam, a DLSR will have a larger sensor than a CSC.).  It’s in this type of work, where you may need to look at zooming in on photos more often than not.  Something to think about.  Does it mean you should run out and get a new camera? That’s a personal call – photography is a hobby of mine and I don’t mind spending money here.


If you are driven to renovation work, landscaping is one those things that can be a great reference set of photos.  There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing before and after photos here Smile  The big thing to remember here – GET THE ANGLES.  One of the things that I’ve seen a lot of, is that there’s this tendency to take the photos from the same spot.  You definitely want to do this for your before/after but I’ll got that extra and take pics from behind, sides, close ups, and even include people doing the work.  Plants play a big part – don’t forget to take close ups of those Smile If this happens to be your own place, landscaping photos make a great conversation piece Smile  Plus some great (or not so great) memories.

Lighting & Positioning – Again, this depends on what you ultimately want in the shot but lighting can play an important part.  MId days tend to deliver a fairly “flat” shot but then again, the light is very even too Smile  Depending on the camera, you may have a “vivid” mode or something that will deepen colors or brighten them up.  This is handy but may not be necessarily.  More dramatic effects can be had mornings and evenings.  Typical things to watch – power lines, unwanted “things” getting in the way.  Composition, if you are driven this way. Rule of Thirds goes a long waySmile  Remember, these are reference photos, but if you are landscaping with the intent to sell your property, better equipment could be a factor.

Equipment – Again, this depends.  Generally, and very generally speaking, you shouldn’t need anything beyond your regular stuff. Again… having a wide angle lens on your unit is going to be a help.  You won’t have to back up as much Smile 

Hobby Stuff

I do a bit here but BUT I look on a place like Pinterest and HOLY SMOkES!!!!  Generally speaking though, the ones I mostly see are simply end product type shots.  Depending on the hobby, it’s sometimes nice to have that step by step.  One of the larger projects I’ve done was with my son when he wanted my assistance building TARDIS (phone booth from Dr. Who).  No real control on lighting as it was mostly done outside.  We had to create two sides complete with a working door and it had to knock down so we could transport it to his home Smile  Building it was a hoot Smile   This took several weekends to do and so lighting was everywhere, but in the end it worked out great. 

Assembly type projects can sometimes be a bit of a hassle as one should be trying to isolate whatever you are making from the tools, etc.  It simply doesn’t work that way Smile  Personal taste here, but I find that for most things, I can get around the clutter by cropping the shot tightly.

I collect knives – I need to have a catalogue of these for insurance purposes, so I have a portable studio that I’ve made to accommodate this, plus smaller things that I take photos of.  It’s a simple light box with 3 lights.  Tripod – of course.  One of the few places where a tripod is an essential. 

Equipment – Here, it really depends on the hobby.  Your regular camera should be fine.  A tripod may be required – lighting of some sort beyond your flash may be required.  Getting the correct angle can sometimes get rid of that flash bounce but again, for the most part, these are going to be reference photos. I tend to use something like my Fuji X10 or Panasonic LX7 for most assembly type things.  Both of these have very good flash control and produce very high resolution photos.  It depends on the the type of hobby, Recently, since I got the Panasonic GX1, I’ve been using it for some things. 


These are just a few places where, for me, this type of photography touches my life. Yes I do take holidays occasionally, but I’m also work like most of us.  Onward….

The Ones You Meant to Take….

You have the equipment, you have it with you constantly but you don’t take the pic!!! The thought goes thru your head – “ Ugh…. I should have taken that shot”. One has to hate that when it happens.  It’s one thing when you miss a fast moving type shot, those tend to repeat themselves on many occasions or you get a different one but better….. Smile

OR… why is it, when one heads out on a vacation, takes a bunch or a LOT of photos but somehow, you see this “gap” in your photo sequencing.  It might have been that sunset, that candid, that still shot, whatever…. but somehow you remember that there was this shot you missed?

OR even worse…. you either “see” this photo or think about a particular shot and say to yourself “You know… I should take a pic of that someday”…. and someday just never shows up.

Today’s lifestyle (at least in the city I’m in, and the career path that I’ve chosen as an IT Consultant), it seems like it’s go go go all the time.  I don’t know if, because of the life style, that we sometimes deliberately make ourselves busy so we have an out when something doesn’t get done Smile  We don’t allow ourselves to get “bored”, I almost think sometimes, because deep down inside there’s this fear of “now what do I do?”.  I know a lot of people who would simply be lost (maybe they already are… Smile) if this “time gap” suddenly opened.  They don’t have hobbies to pursue OR worse, have no urge to even look for something to do.  For me and my wife, actually, we are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  We really are busy – we both have jobs, we have our real estate, AND we have our hobbies.  And we have the grandkids, of course Smile  For us, taking the time has be a very deliberate scheduled event.  Of course, the other way, is to “shift” stuff around…..  The ripple effect, of course, is that later, you will be busier Smile

Unfortunately, for me, I’m not at that point where I can gain time by not working Sad smile  As much as I dream about it, it’s gonna be a while.  Sort of like winning the lottery – now there’s a dream…..

Continuing on – I live in a city that has a pretty neat downtown area.  It’s not as big a many but, like many cities, it’s got it’s own unique skyline.  What’s interesting about this, is that when I first got on of those Instamatic type cameras back in about 1969-1970’ish, I took a picture of downtown Calgary (I still haven’t found that in my old albums….), but here I am in 2013 and I haven’t really taken another one, per se!!!  Actually up until I started back in a year or so ago.  I’ve taken a lot of photos since then but still….  Even when I was deep into photography, despite the fact that I did a lot of landscape photography, it seems like I didn’t include the Calgary skyline for some reason. Pictures of downtown sure  – events, places, etc.- sure.  Skyline?  Nada….  Did I think about that?  Yeah, of course.  Did I have a camera?  For the most part – yes.  I think that I’ve, for the most part, anyway, had some sort of a camera.  When we had our oil and gas boom back in the 70’s and those high rises started to boogey up – now there was an opportunity (if one could remember to do this…) to get a sequence of photos of Calgary’s growing skyline.  I’m sure someone out there may have done that, but not me….

Yesterday… I decided to change that Smile  Despite the fact that the flood has stopped me from working AND I’m on a serious path of catch-up on a ton of things, I decided to take a break and go get a photo or two of the Calgary skylineSmile  Now, in saying this, I had to stay away from anything close to downtown as it’s still an emergency zone, AND I need to be up fairly high, the location I picked was a park called Nose Hill. I actually live quite close to this park.  It’s an environmental park to boot – no development, in other words.  It actually covers a huge span of space in North Calgary.

Nose Hill Sign

The main thing here, is that it’s literally the highest area in Calgary.  I live in this area, and to say it has it’s ups and downs…. Smile  It’s also high enough that one doesn’t have to walk very far to get a view of the skyline with no power lines or other “things” getting in the way.  It was about a 10 minute walk (all uphill of course…) to get to a place that I was happy with.

A couple of pics of the terrain :

Nose Hill WalkwayNose Hill_north

There are quite a few places to enter the park and it’s surprisingly quiet as one is high enough above the city to get away from the noise of the city.  Quite peaceful, actually.  When I stop to think about this a bit – in this section of the park – it’s been a long time since I’ve been here.  We take the grandkids for walks in this park when we babysit, but from a different spot.  Our home literally backs onto one of the walkways Smile

Anyway… I wanted to also try my Promaster carbon fibre tripod out with my GX1 and 45-200mm and see how it actually worked in the field.  I knew the ball head I got for it wasn’t quite adequate for that bigger lens, but it would be adequate for the shots I was planning.  This is looking almost directly south:

Nose Hill_skyline_downtownNose Hill_big_zoon 

There was a bit of a haze over the city but all things considered, not too bad.  More important – I now have the shot Smile  What I’ve also been trying to do, is see how my tripod works with my National Geographic sling bag.  I’ve been using this bag specifically for the GX1 for the last little while and so far, it actually works quite well.  I initially got this bag for carrying multiple cameras and that may still be the case, but then I got the GX1, and that thought ended real quick Smile  Especially when I added the extra zoom.

NG Explorer and tripod

This was also a pretty good test for me using a tripod. In the past, there were very things I did that involved me or required me to use a tripod.  Studio things/portraits, of course, but landscapes, etc.  very rarely.  AND, back then, tripods were big and heavy – the smaller ones were pretty well useless once you stick an SLR on them.  Today’s technology, though, has allowed for a reasonably sturdy tripod in a pretty small package.  This ProMaster and ball head combination would never hold a DSLR, and it JUST barely holds the GX1 with the 45-200 (it’s fine with the 14-42), but it  sorta gets the job done.  When I did the big zoom on my skyline shot, I actually had to hold the lens steady, as the ball head screw didn’t secure the camera steady enough (this is the ProMaster2 ball head).  From the setup standpoint, this is a 5 section tripod with twist :-)locks.  They work really fast  Smile  romI wanted a fast set up and take down when I initially started looking for a tripod.  From a weight standpoint – it’s light enough that in the event I needed to carry this rig for a while, it would be light enough that it wouldn’t be an issue.  So far, so good.