Summer workshops to get you shooting…better!

I love spring. It provides me with much needed hope that summer is just around the corner. It means the beginning of more favourable “keeper-to-loser” image ratios, warmer light, new blooms, bluer skies and longer shooting days. In great anticipation of the short (seems shorter anyways) season, I eagerly plan shoots and workshops that will keep me shooting as much as possible while the weather is delightful rather than frightful. 

With this in mind, I have now put together the new Inspired By Nature photo workshop series here in Powell River. The new series consists of four, four-hour evening workshops spanning the glorious summer/fall months on BC’s Sunshine Coast. The workshops are geared towards those that wish to vastly improve their photography skills, but are limited due to time restraints and unforgiving commitments called life. Topics include: All About Light, Composition 101, Intimate Sunshine Coast (macro/close-up photography), and The Magic of Water. Each workshop begins with a recap of camera basics to ensure that everyone is in the know when it comes to their basic camera functions. I will email a camera basics worksheet a couple of weeks before each workshop for all participants to review for homework (darn rights there’ll be a test…it’s called the field shoot :)). Then once we are done our recap, we will start putting that new knowledge into practice in some of the most spectacular locations on the upper Sunshine Coast. Here’s the catch. To ensure everyone gets as much attention as possible, I am capping each workshop at 10 people. So make sure you contact me as early as possible if you would like to reserve your spot. Each workshop is only $75 per person!

If you are the kind of person that doesn’t want to wait to learn…there is also Coast in Focus, a weekend chalked full of classroom and field instruction, fun and unforgettable photographic experiences in Powell River. My good friend Kelly Funk hosts this weekend workshop with me as part of our Discover BC photo tours. Stay tuned as we continue launching more experiential photography workshops throughout our beautiful province. To steal an old cinematic cliche, it won’t be long until we’re “coming soon to a theatre near you.” Or something to that effect. Coast in Focus is now 1/4 of the way booked, so contact me right away to book!

Coast in Focus weekend workshop is confirmed for 2011!

The Sunshine Coast of British Columbia is undoubtedly one of the most stunning areas of Western North America. On July 22-24, 2011 Kelly Funk and myself will teach you how to capture all that this place has to offer.

See the pdf here

We’ll start the weekend with a ‘camera basics’ lesson and a meet and greet on Friday night. Saturday will be a mixture of field time and informative classroom lessons. We’ll work in the field for a half-day on Sunday in order to give enough time for people to travel home. Last year, the format seemed to work very well, and we had 14 happy participants leave this beautiful part of the province.

Along with the nature aspect of the weekend, Kelly and I will answer questions and showcase techniques that include: utilizing the human form in your imagery, how to make your pictures stand out from the rest, story-telling, impact, color balance, movement techniques for effect, artificial light and the list goes on. This is truly a unique workshop that brings you a combined 25 years of professional experience.

We’ve moved the date from last year as well, as we were hit with torrential rain throughout most of the weekend. We should (cross fingers) have great weather and fantastic sunrises and sunsets. This will be a ‘bang for the buck’ workshop, so we want everyone to come out with their hard-hats and steel toed boots on, because we not only intend to have a hoot but to work you like rented mules as well!

If you have any questions about the weekend please contact either myself or Kelly here right away as this weekend will book fast.

Kelly and I both share the same informal, non-stuffy nature with our workshops, so if you’re looking to learn a ton and have some laughs this is the place to be in July! Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Getting married in 2011?

Christmas is a season of wedding proposals. With family and loved ones gathering together everywhere, it truly is a magical time to get engaged. Well, the holidays are now behind us and for many of you the wedding planning begins now! And one of the most important elements of wedding planning is securing a good professional photographer…before someone else does! 

I have put together my wedding rates for 2011 and you can view them here.

Congratulations to all of you that did get engaged this season, the best is yet to come 🙂

The Deep Freeze

So this “Landscape Guy” decided to take another stab at portraiture.

Token Landscape Guy

This time around, I took on a post-Christmas session with the Stathams at Willingdon Beach here in Powell River. Although the lighting was low and cool by the afternoon helping to control the contrast, it was bloody cold out! The real challenge was to keep the models comfortable despite the bone-chilling winter conditions sans snow. They were all great sports about it and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun, even though there was no hiding the discomfort that came over them when we weren’t shooting.

A real bonus was that they are a very good looking bunch, ensuring that my keeper-to-tosser ratio was well in check. A few technical issues with my gear reminded me though that anything can (and likely will) happen during a portrait shoot. The icy chill coming off the water was evidently harder on my gear then it was on the Stathams and I commend them on their spirit.

One of my favourite moments was seeing the family huddled together against the cold while we set up by the water. The love I sensed in this family was real and heartwarming. I discovered at that moment that although there are some real differences between landscape and portraiture photography, there is one striking similarity: it’s all about catching the pinnacle moment. Whether snapping that golden ray of light burst suddenly through the passing storm clouds, or catching that raw emotional reaction to an impromptu kiss on the cheek, it’s all about freezing the magical moment in time in hopes of enjoying it again for years to come.

I wish a very happy new year to all of my friends and clients. Here’s to freezing many more moments in 2011…and fewer freezing moments as winter presses on.

Batteries not Required

Pre-emptive rant: So today’s blog isn’t necessarily about photography, it is more about life lessons caught on digital files 🙂

Advertising works! Sometimes though, in ways advertisers probably never expected, or hoped for. I saw a mildly amusing television commercial about giving the gift of computers and i-Phones to your family and friends so you can all have a “virtual Christmas” this year. Who needs to actually spend quality time together when modern technology allows us to creep each other through tiny, buffered windows all season long? Well the commercial got to me. No, I didn’t hit the local electronics retailer and dump a few thousand dollars on gadgets. Instead, I grabbed my camera and my four year old daughter and we headed up Duck Lake Road for some real winter family fun. With technology advancing so rapidly these days, my mission was to show my daughter how we used to have winter fun back when I was a kid. You know, the days when Atari and Pong were at the forefront of innovation.

The snow that was falling in the area was awesome!

Duck Lake after first snowfall of the season

Powell River got hammered with the white stuff, so hunting down a good play area for snowman building, angel-making and good old fashioned snowball throwing was rather easy. No ski resorts, no fancy sleds, no snowmobiles, and best of all, no handheld gadgets to distract us from daddy-daughter interaction. I just wanted to see how much fun she could generate with her own imagination. And the moment we stepped out of the car near Haslam Lake she put that imagination to work.

Sadie's slope

Snow shower

Whatchya looking at?

Her winter playground consisted of nothing more than a short slope, a partially frozen pool of water and a heap of fresh falling snow. We spent nearly an hour here having sliding contests, breaking the ice-pool with rocks and arming ourselves with snowballs, just in case a cougar decided to show his face. Good thinking huh?

We then continued down the road to where the Blue Trail meets the road. Nothing terribly special here in the way of roadside attractions, but the snow was intense here and Sadie just couldn’t wait to get back out into the thick of it. This time, our goal was to make a huge snowman that would wave at any like-minded adventurers that decided to pass on Facebook in favour of a more natural reality.

Once the three-tiered snow dude was built to our satisfaction, my daughter came to an unsettling realization. 

“Daddy, what are we going to use for his eyes, nose and mouth? Did you bring any carrots?” 

Um, no. Thinking quickly, we slipped into a trickling creek on the side of the road and I asked her to find the best pair of rock eyes she could find. His nose was nothing more than two broken twigs forming a triangle. His mouth was a piece of fern that we shaped into a smile. His arms? Deadfall.

Voila! My young apprentice-of-life is now armed with the necessary skills to pull off an impromptu snow being whenever called upon.

Look! Twins

Here comes our first passer-by! So we pose together like a couple of hams beside our new friend and wave as the vehicle’s occupants wave back with enthusiasm. They looked genuinely happy to see such a simple moment in a rather complex day and age. 

I could tell my daughter did not want the day to end just yet. Neither did I. So Sadie decided we needed to build another snowman on the other side of the road, one that could greet drivers coming from the opposite direction. Again, good thinking. 

Two snowmen later, I could see that the winter daylight was fading quickly. Plus Sadie’s hands were now wet and she could no longer ignore the discomfort, as much as she wanted to. So we hopped into the car and headed towards home. Normally when we drive, we listen to our favourite songs on the cd player. But this time, Sadie wanted nothing more than to open up her window and listen to the snow fly past, still trying to catch some in her mouth.

It’s like we just spent the entire afternoon, totally unplugged from the modern world, while completely plugged into the moment and each other’s company. 

That night, after many hugs and snuggles from my worn-out daughter I thought again about that commercial earlier that day. Those advertisers were absolutely right. I do need to go shopping ASAP…

…for a warmer, more waterproof pair of child’s winter gloves for the next time the snow flies on the Sunshine Coast.

Hey is that a new lens, baby?

I love discovering new tricks in Photography. Especially tricks that save me money by not having to purchase new equipment. Case in point is this constant nagging in my consumer-driven psyche to purchase a Lensbaby lens to capture that dreamlike, selective focus effect that I fall for every time. I know that the lens would have been quite fun to play with…for about a week. After which, it would likely stay buried deep in my camera bag talking about its glory days with my never-again-used Armageddon Red ND Filter that I just had to have when I first started photography. A filter that would turn any sky a deep, unrealistic red. Good impulse buy Robinson. Real good. That filter rendered one good image in the several years I have owned it and the minimal times I even used it.

Aliens are coming...to get my red filter

So here I was contemplating another ridiculous spend, when my good friend and pro photographer Kelly Funk passed on a great tip in Photoshop that will produce the same effect as a Lensbaby…when applied correctly. It gives you that dreamy, hallucinogenic-mushroom, Disney Viewmaster type of look and feel. Basically allowing you to keep one element of your image in sharp focus (subject), while blurring the rest of the image elements to look like you just put in eye drops. This effect is used mostly in wedding photography. I don’t see it too often in nature photography, so I thought I would give it a try.

Here is an intimate shot of Lois River near Eagle Falls in Powell River. The colour of the main rock in the image jumped out at me when I captured this shot last year. I thought I would apply the selective focus technique to really make the rock pop. Nothing against the original image, but adding this new application made me fall for this shot in a new way.

As captured in camera

After applying Selective Focus effect in Photoshop

Here’s one of my favourite shots of Saltery Falls, the very first bit of eye-candy you get when you start the 180 km Sunshine Coast Trail. I set up this shot on my tripod and used my self timer to add the human element to a magnificent natural scene. By placing a person in the shot, me, the image becomes more appealing to tourism marketers. Again, I like the original shot just fine. But there is something so cool about the new and improved shot post-effect.

Mushrooms anyone?

Here’s one last example of the effect as applied on this panoramic interior shot of Powell River’s historic Patricia Theatre. Once again, the sharp-as-a-tack image is commercial ready in itself, but considering it is like a time-warp inside the theatre I would try that effect here.

As shot

I woke up and it was 1930

The selective focus method has made me go back into some of my old files for some reworking. It is a lot of fun to see images you forgot you had and bring them back onto your desktop. I anticipate a whole lot of experimental fun with this new technique….for about a week 🙂

But that is ok, because this kind of fun cost me nothing. I am completely guilt-free and I didn’t have to add any more weight to an already back-cramping camera bag. And my Armageddon-enducing Death Filter? It is now a lovely colourful beer coaster for my cold bottle of Miller. Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle.

Cheers!

PS. For those that want to know how to apply the selective focus effect in post, visit http://www.elementsvillage.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47882

Tunnel vision to the extreme

People are nature too, no?

So those of you that know me and my photography, likely know that my passion is outdoor/landscape/nature imagery. I don’t delve too much into the world of portraiture. You know, the world that actually pays!! But photography to me, has never been about the cash. I know, how Eddie Vedder of me to say, but I gain more satisfaction from the art of photography, rather than the financial gains. The truth is though, the business realities of photography simply shouldn’t be ignored any longer. Besides, expanding my business to include portraiture doesn’t mean I cannot incorporate nature into the assignment shoots, right?

So when my friend, a local realtor, asked me last week if I wouldn’t mind providing him with some professional headshots, I immediately thought – what better way to see if this portraiture-world was right for me. Or at the very least, see if the whole experience would send me running to the nearest waterfall, frantically trying to re-ingite my lost love for the finer art. Ok, I’ll give it a try.

We started off at the Powell River Rec Complex. Beautiful trees with fall colours and an awesome bridge pathway made for great backdrops. It didn’t take too long to discover that I actually kind of like this 🙂

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

 We then headed to Townsite, which would offer up a chance to put Josh in front of some character homes. He is a realtor, made sense to show him being one 🙂

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

We then decided to hit the lake. Incorporating even more nature into this shoot? I’m in. Josh even decided to skip a few stones at the end and show even more personality. Keeping your models comfortable is key to any good shoot and I could see Josh really starting to find his groove.

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

We were getting some really good stuff, so we thought we would try one more locale to make sure we got everything we needed. I am really glad we did because this last spot rendered what I believe are the strongest images. A rustic wood deck and chair was all that we needed to round out a fairly successful portrait session.

Darren Robinson Photography

Darren Robinson Photography

All in all, I am quite pleased with the overall experience. I discovered that shooting people can be just as rewarding as catching a mountain reflection on a lake. And in my case, even more challenging. With that said, I will now be putting together a plan to expand Darren Robinson Photography to offer portraiture services in the near future. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more about them!

I do admit however, that my very next shoot will likely involve silence, the outdoors, and likely a whole lot of nature, without the human element 🙂

See things differently

See things differently. This was our theme for the Fall Photography Workshop which happened over the past weekend. Technical and artistic knowledge aside, I really wanted to stress to my workshop participants the importance of seeing things differently. With so many images in the world and so little time to appreciate them all, as a budding photographer, this is how you best get your images noticed. Start seeing things that others might have missed. Look at your subject from a different angle. Climb a tree for a bird’s eye view. Hit the ground and compose upwards. Shoot that stunning mountain meadow through a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Challenge yourself to constantly see things differently. By doing so, you will become a better photographer, blowing your audience away with your fresh perspectives on subjects they have likely seen time and time again.

Looking up into the towering trees at Haslam Lake

Zooming into the eye of a bighorn sheep

Sir Donald through the sunglasses

Contrary to the Coast in Focus workshop earlier in the year, the weather that we experienced this past weekend was outstanding. Dramatic clouds, vibrant early fall colours and flat lighting only when we needed it – shooting the many waterfalls of Appleton Creek. This was the ideal workshop setting and I had the ideal group of participants.

I was instructing a very geared and excited group of individuals. After some “inside time”, covering topics ranging from camera basics, exposure, lighting techniques and the rules of composition we hit some of the most amazing locales where participants were able to put what they just learned into action.

And did they ever.

What I love most about these weekend warrior workshops is that I get to witness some very amazing transformations in my students in a very short period of time. During the first few field shoots, most participants tend to stick close by me, ask a ton of questions and timidly wait for subject matter to smack them in the face. But as the weekend goes on, their confidence levels increase dramatically as they take in knowledge and they become unstoppable image hunters in the field. This group was very much the same. By the time Sunday’s Appleton Creek waterfall shoot came around, my students were self-sufficient, waterfall shooting maniacs. I was excited to see them climbing waterfalls (safely of course), shooting low, shooting high, eagerly attacking the beautiful scenes from all angles. I actually had to pull them out of the field against their will so we could cover post-production techniques before the weekend ended. I love creating monsters.

My students, no…friends, are now well-armed with the knowledge and confidence to take their respective photo sectors by storm. I had an amazing time with each of them and wish them all the best in their future photographic endeavors.

Participant Carolee Penner's shot of Gorge Falls

My view of participant Candace Roadknight getting low and shooting the creek

Fall Photography Workshop in Powell River – October 1-3, 2010

Want to learn to improve your imagery in beautiful Powell River, BC? Here’s your chance!

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Kelly and I had decided to postpone Coast in Focus in Pender Harbour until next year. However, I am offering an intimate workshop here in Powell River from October 1-3. It is a more condensed version of the Coast in Focus workshop, arming you with the neccessary knowledge and skills to vastly improve your imagery in one of the most picturesque locations in British Columbia.

The workshop takes place October 1-3, a great time to catch the beautiful colours and textures of fall. Because of the small group size, one on one instruction is maximized and tailored to just about ever level of shooter.

Space is limited, so book your spot now by emailing me at darren@darrenrobinsonphotography.com

Click here for more details!

The Importance of Balance in Imagery; Achieving Visual Zen

Balance. Such a pleasing word isn’t it. We live our lives in search of it, whether it be a work/life balance, or perhaps a well-balanced diet. Sometimes, we simply strive for balance when standing, depending on how many wobbly pops we’ve that night. Look up balance in the thesaurus and you can instantly see why we yearn for such a thing. Harmony, peace, stability, poise, composure, even steven (yup, it’s in there); these are all things we as humans tend to strive for. When balance is acheived, we tend to be at one with the world, far away from the vaccum-sucking power of chaos.

Ohmmmmmm.

Okay, I’m back. My point here is that there lies deep within our psyche, a yearning for…balance. We then could assume, that we seek the same controlled outcome within our imagery. One thing that myself and Kelly Funk stress within our Coast in Focus photography workshops, is the importance of a balanced composition. Time to bring in the visuals.

Haslam Lake in Powell River, BC

So, what does balance mean within the realm of photographic imaging? It means that the image is evenly weighted within its borders. Take the image of Haslam Lake here. Balance is achieved thanks to some pre-thought elements found within the environment. First of all, the clouds are a bit more vibrant and fluffy on the left side of the image. Offering a sense of counter-weight on the right side are those two rocks protruding from the lake shallows. Zenfullness (couldn’t find this on dictionary.com, but it sounded right) is present within the vertical split of the image (left vs right). Now, to achieve a similar state of  higher Zendom within the horizontal split (top vs bottom) I needed a foreground anchor balance. Something that even-stevens the weight of the upper half of the image in the clouds, mountains and blue sky. My solution was to make that rock on the lower left side of the image the anchor.

Voila! The image can now be hung safely on the walls of yoga studios everywhere without disturbing even the shakiest Downward Dog pose.

So what does an imbalanced image look like? When the image doesn’t successfully keep your eyes moving within it, and instead drives your attention to one side vs the other, the image is unstable and may self-destruct without ample warning. Not really, but hopefully you get my point. Imbalanced images tend to create uneasiness in the viewer, if you feel that, chances are balance is missing from the image. The easiest way to achieve imbalance, is with a crooked horizon line. Watch those very closely.

Straight horizon line

Crooked horizon line tipping the image

The yellow line was drawn in Photoshop to show how important a straight horizon line is to achieving visual balance. The second image with the crooked horizon line, tends to pull on your chakra, giving the image a heavy left side.

There are times when a crooked horizon line and imbalance offer pleasing results. These are not the norm and are usually the result of trial and error. Wedding and fashion photographers are usually very good at this and the results can render very dynamic and impactful imagery. As with anything, photographic rules should really be considered guidelines. Challenging them can truly be half the fun. Just know that most viewers are effected by balance and tend to appreciate images of the stable variety, over ones that tend to cause neck strain.

Cheers!

Dragon Boat team in Powell River for a calendar photo shoot