Archive for January, 2012

Richmond Park Fashion

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Danni and I made the lengthy bus ride from West Brompton to what was worryingly describable as a ‘ghetto’ on Sunday.  Fortunately, the ghetto was just where the bus terminated and London’s lovely Richmond Park was just down the street and around the corner.

We don’t make it out this far that often, so we had a purpose in mind.  A lot of my fellow photographer friends come to the park in order to photograph the wildlife like the many, many deer that can be found here, but we were after a doe of a different kind.

Danni was kind enough to get dolled up and pose for a few photos in the chilly winter air.  She was a real trooper as it was only about 3°C and she hadn’t actually picked an overly warm outfit for the day.

All three images were shot roughly the same way.  One great, big softbox sporting 2 of Canon’s 580 flashes as a main light, and a single, unmodified flash (another 580) as a rim light.

Normally this is where I’d link to the remaining images in the gallery, but as it was so cold we only took about 15 shots in total and quite a few of those showed my poor wife visibly shaking from the cold.  You’ll have to make due with 3 images I’m afraid!

Project 365 – 2011 in Review

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Well, I wasn’t really sure if I could pull it off but I managed to actually take at least one photo every single day for 2011.  If nothing else, I certainly picked an eventful year to document.  2011 covered my second trip to China, this time to meet Danni’s family, my engagement, a move, a trip back to Canada, the passing of my father, my wedding, honeymoon, many, many photo shoots and loads more.  All of which I get to remember as if it was yesterday just by looking at the calendar.

For the most part I really enjoyed the project but there were certainly days when I just wanted to pack it all in and not look at a camera for a few weeks.  It wasn’t the process of taking the photos that I struggled with, but coming up with a unique (ish) idea every day for 365 days in a row gets to be mentally draining.

I feel I got quite a lot out of the project in terms of my photographic abilities, especially in regards to lighting, but also with my post processing.  There’s nothing like taking a frantic photo just before going to bed and then trying to make it even remotely interesting in Photoshop five days later because it’s the only image you have from that day.

Did I ever cheat?  Well, yes and no.  When I initially wrote the code that would extract the images from my gallery and display them on my 365 page, I did it all based on the images individual EXIF data.  What this means for you non-photo types is that each image stores the date and time it was captured in the image itself and I used that information to display the photo for a given day.  This meant that I couldn’t just name an image Day 77 and expect it to show up on the calendar for that day, I had to actually take a photo that would include a timestamp for March 18th, 2011.

There were a couple of nights where midnight had come and gone before I realized I hadn’t taken an image that day so I rolled the time in my camera back to 11:30ish and took my photos.  There was exactly 1 day where I’d forgotten to take an image all together so I took 2 photos the next day and fiddled with the timestamp and there was also another day where I’d taken an image but then formatted my card and couldn’t recover my photo.  Fortunately, my cousin was here for my wedding and had taken a similar image with her camera, so I took that image and used it as my own.

So, out of 365 images I’d say that 360 of them exactly fell within the initial guidelines I’d set out to fulfill.  A couple bent the rules slightly, one image was lost and psudo-recovered, and one day where I failed completely to take a photo.  All in all, not too bad.

Favourite Images

One of the main things I’ve noticed about the images I like best over the past year is that they almost all contain people.  I did waaaay more self portraits than I thought I would have (roughly 66, depending on how you define a self portrait) and it’s really helped me to decide how I want to pursue and further my photography.

Initially I wanted to include a favourite image from each month in this wrap-up post but that seems a bit excessive so here is a selection of 5 of my favourite images from this project:

Day 41

Day 80

Day 170

Day 300

Day 354

Along with the highs, there are also some truly dismal images that made their way online.  I’m chalking these up to bad weeks, time constraints and general lack of motivation.  Also, I started playing a new online game part way through the year and it tended to compete with the time I should have been allotting to this project.

Tips for your own Photo-A-Day project

If you’re planning on pursuing a project like this yourself, here are some helpful tips.

1. Tell a lot of people about your project.  This may seem a bit self-serving but I did this mainly to motivate myself into continuing.  The last thing I wanted to have was people asking me ‘what happened’ or ‘why did you quit’.  Especially from my parents.

2. Buy a macro lens.  Seriously, this saved me on many an evening where I had no ideas, no motivation and just needed a photo of something.  A macro lens in the right hands can be an amazing tool, but it can also be a life saver when it’s 11:48pm and you’ve been staring at your TV remote control for the past 15 minutes wondering how you could make a decent photo out of it.

3. Carry a camera with you everywhere.  I picked up this rule from other 365’ers before starting and it really is helpful.  Unfortunately for me, I take public transport everywhere so tossing my camera and a couple of lenses in the car isn’t an option.  And since my camera alone weighs 2 pounds before adding a lens to it, not to mention being rather bulky, carrying that with me every day wasn’t an option either.  The solution for me was to buy a small point & shoot camera that would fit in my pocket, or barring that my phone has a camera I could fall back on as well.

4. Focus only on taking a photo every day.  What I mean by this is don’t get too hung up on worrying about shooting, processing & posting a photo each day.  Generally speaking I would take photos all week long and then upload them in batches on the weekend when I had some more free time.  If I had set out to post a photo every day, I likely would have thrown in the towel very early on.

5. Start the project with friends.  This is actually an extension of #1, but I found that posting photos of my project with a group of other folks who were doing the same thing really helped to motivate me (in addition to being a good source of inspiration for those slow days).  Ideally, this would be something you could do with some real life photo centric friends, but I couldn’t convince any of mine that it was a good idea so it’s likely you’ll need to fall back on something like the flickr groups or similar.

Technical Breakdown

This part you can likely skip over if you’re not at all interested in the technical side of photography (camera settings, lenses, etc).

I wrote a little script that went through all of my images for the project and tallied up all of the technical details.  It’s a little insight into my most used settings which is probably only interesting to me but I’m going to include them here.  I’ve cleaned up the scripts output so it’s easier to read.

Camera Usage

I was mainly interested to see just how often I resorted to using my point & shoot camera over the year.  It was used on days when I was generally feeling lazy, but every now and then there were images made with it because I saw something I wanted to take a photo of and it was what I had on hand.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV: 309
Casio EX-FC150: 40
HTC Desire HD: 6
Canon G9: 4
Canon PowerShot ELPH 100: 1
Unknown: 5

The unknown shots are likely images where I did something in the processing stage to remove the camera information, and the ELPH image was the previously mentioned photo from my cousin’s camera.


I’ve cleaned up some of the ‘weird’ aperture settings that were likely reported by my point & shoot camera or my phone.

f/1.2: 12
f/1.4: 16
f/1.6: 6
f/1.8: 9
f/2.0: 35
f/2.2: 3
f/2.5: 1
f/2.8: 31
f/3.2: 6
f/3.5: 40
f/4.0: 34
f/4.5: 8
f/5.0: 7
f/5.6: 50
f/6.3: 7
f/7.1: 10
f/8.0: 56
f/9.0: 5
f/10.0: 6
f/11.0: 8
f/14.0: 1
f/16.0: 1
f/22.0: 1
N/A: 12

Using f4.0 as my own personal definition of ‘wide open’, I took 192 images (53%) at the open end of the spectrum and 159 images (44%) ‘stopped down’.   This actually surprised me as generally I assumed most of my images were taken at f-stops wider than f4.  I suspect this is down to the number of self portraits I did as well as the amount of images taken with flash (both of which tend to work better with higher f-stops I’ve found).

Focal Lengths

I’ve actually edited this to just list the lens used instead of the actual focal length.  I find that’s more useful to me when looking at the year as a whole.

16-35mm: 26
24mm: 82
24-70mm: 2
50mm: 44
70-200mm: 13
85mm: 78
100mm: 56
135mm: 6
P&S: 58

It’s very likely that there would have been more photos from the 24-70 as it’s a great lens, but I sold it fairly early on in the year (March 25th to be exact).  Beyond that, I think it’s safe to say that my shooting is mainly dominated by prime lenses which isn’t any big surprise.

Exposure Times

Again, I’ve just simplified this into short, medium and long exposures.  For the purposes of this project, short is anything faster than 1/250th of a second (outside of my camera’s flash sync speed), medium is 1/250th down to 1/30th and anything under 1/30th of a second is what I’m considering a long exposure.

Faster than 1/250th: 37
1/30th to 1/250th: 224
Slower than 1/30th: 73
N/A: 33

Nothing too exciting here.  The bulk of the shots were taken at normal speeds, probably more so due to shutter speed limitations when using flash.  I was a bit surprised that there were so few high shutter speed shots, but I think that comes down to the fact that so many shots were done inside, plus the general lack of bright light (aka: the sun) here in the UK.


I was going to leave this chart out, but I suppose for completions sake I’ll add it in.

50: 23
80: 1
100: 82
125: 5
160: 3
200: 71
250: 1
320: 3
400: 65
500: 1
640: 2
800: 50
1000: 1
1250: 2
1600: 34
2000: 1
2500: 1
3200: 5
6400: 2
N/A: 12

About all this really tells me is that I generally use full stop ISO increments (232 times vs. 20).  I should probably change my camera settings to full stop switching instead of 1/3, but I’m so used to the action now that I’d rather not have to retrain myself.


I’m afraid I don’t really ever shoot with on camera flash, so even when I am using flash (via radio triggers) they aren’t recorded in the EXIF data.  At a guess, maybe 2 or 3 images/week were done with some sort of flash or another?

Wrapping it all up

While I did have quite a bit of fun with this project, I’m not certain I’d ever do it again.  It provided me with the opportunity to get a lot of fun images, but the days when I was without an idea were simply too frustrating and I’d end up unhappy with whatever I ended up posting online.  It’s possible I’ll do something like a photo-a-week project in the future, or possibly a 365 for our first wee one whenever that happens.

I had a lot of support from my girlfriend/fiancé/wife (to be fair, she was all three this year) who was happy to be my model every now and then.  She was also kind enough to let me leave most of my lighting gear set up in the living room which meant I used it more often.

I also had a lot of moral support from my family, mainly my mom who would make sure to email me to ask why I’d quit if I was more than 3 or 4 days behind in uploading images.  My good friends over at POTN were also helpful for motivation and ideas.  There’s also a group of folks there who are dedicated to doing 365 projects in 2012, so it’s not a bad place to check out if you’re thinking of starting your own project.

What next?  Well, I have several months worth of images that need to go online and accompanying blog posts to be written so that should keep me busy for the better part of January.  Then I suppose it’s back to my usual routine of a few shoots each month but I’m definitely going to try to do more organized outings with specific themes and goals.  And if my favourite images from the year have any influence on me at all, expect a lot more portrait photography in 2012.

Happy New Year!