Saturday, July 28, 2018

Portrait Workshop? Yeah, I did that.

Likely not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I do not shoot a lot of portraits of people.   It's not that my introverted self doesn't like shooting people (tho that remains outside of my comfort zone), it is that the traditional head shot style that I associate with portraits doesn't really stoke my creative energy. 

However I do believe that one can learn valuable insights that will help ones photography by learning about all aspects of the craft, not just ones preferred genre.  Plus, when the workshop instructor is as amazing and accomplished as Ron Clifford, I couldn't sign up for the workshop fast enough.

This is why, in the middle of my recent vacation, I found myself in a studio in Newmarket Ontario with my wife, 6 other photographers, a make-up artist, a model, and Ron Clifford, attending a workshop on natural and single-strobe portrait photography.

At the end I even changed my mind, a little, about portrait photography feeding my creative spirit.

So, first some behind the scenes shots.

The workshop started with some math to cover the theory of cameras and light.

The math took about an hour, then we got down to actually shooting. First Ron would demonstrate the concepts:
Then we, the participants, were given the chance to practice the concepts, under Rons supervision.
The model used for both days of the workshop is Ron's daughter, Beth.  Over the course of the two days she, with the help of the make-up artist Dio put on several different looks. 

Beth was an amazingly good sport, and a lot of fun. 
Once I got over the social awkwardness of pointing my camera at new people, I got into the swing of things.  Me, being me, made it a meta game by asking Beth to do weird things, more to get her to laugh (and thus remove my social anxiety), but also cause of the theory that the natural smile of someone can be discovered the moment after they laugh.

It started with my asking her, while dressed up in a prom dress, to put on boxing gloves. I really liked the idea of a tough girl in a pretty dress.  Girl power and all that.

Someone else asked Beth to get on the floor for this post, but I jumped in and grabbed this shot anyway.

After a while everything got artsy.

This is my most favourite shot I got from the workshop.  I love her timeless expression, and that lonely chair in the corner.  This girl is alone somewhere in the world, with only her dog and a guitar to keep her company. 
So that was the workshop.  I learned a ton, had a ton of fun, and got some decent shots in the process.  Not a bad way to spend two days of vacation eh?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Scavengers In Canada: Fire-ban, Schmire-ban

Sometimes one has to adapt to make the best of a bad situation.

Recently, during a shoot with Scavengers in Milbrook Ontario, in which I dressed up as Gandalf The Grey, I had an idea.  That idea was to have Gandalf holding a lantern, walking thru a dark, foggy night.

The original plan was to use smoke bombs to create a misty effect, however a few days before we headed off on the shoot disaster (for my idea) struck.  Due to dry conditions a fire ban was put in effect buy the local fire chief.  Since smoke bombs used fire, we couldn't use them.


I decided to try to attempt my shot and fix it in post using the wonder of the world that is Photoshop.  So I had the original Paul Howard shoot me in an action-y pose.  This is what it looks like:

Not a bad shot.  It has some problems, if I am honest.  For one there is no mist.  For another it is shot in daylight, and the concept is a night shot.  However it has good bones, so I begged, borrowed, and stole the image from Paul, and ran it thru Photoshop.

This is the result:

Not to bad, if I do say so myself.

It just goes to show one shouldn't let bad light keep them from reaching their vision. When one is armed with Photoshop, the world is your canvas.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Shocker! I Try Smoking Grass!

Since it is going to be 100% legal in Canada, on my most recent visit I decided to give "grass" a try.  

Personal conclusion: I really don't see what the fuss is all about.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Scavengers In Canada: Being Fat Gandalf

Frequent readers of this blog are familiar with the Scavengers - a crazy group of photographers that met on Google Plus and have become a crazy tribe of like minded crazy artist types.

This past week a bunch of Scavengers met up in Toronto for some epic fun times.  The weekend started with a model shoot at this old train bridge thingy near Milbrook Ontario. 

We did some pre-planning.  Some local Scavengers lined up a couple of models.  I raised my hand and said I could dress up like Gandalf The Grey.

Before we left for Ontario my wifey sewed me up an awesome Gandalf robe, which I put on and modeled with one of the amazing models, Erin.  This is what a Scavenger photo shoot looks like (taken by Rita Ziestma):
Photo by Rita Zietsma.
And this is the result - taken by "Damnit" Gary Munroe:
Photo by Gary Munroe
While I was all gussied up as Fat Gandalf, my portrait was taken by the authentic Paul Howard.

Totally worth it.

I didn't take a lot of photos on this shoot, even tho we were there for a couple hours.  I spent most of it dressed up as Gandalf and modeling.  It was interesting being on the lens side of a shoot - something I've not really done for other photographers (just my own self-portraiture work).  It was informative, and I got to see what it felt like being a model (something that will come in handy in the next few days... stay tuned for details.) Specifically it helped sink in what it feels like to both get direction from the photographers, and to be left directionless - as a result I was more intent on directing models in front of my lens in upcoming shoots.

This shoot also underscored something I have observed about myself in previous experiences: I tend to lose all creativity when I am behind the lens when around a bunch of other photographers.  As such, getting this modeling experience, and providing my fellow Scavengers some camera-fodder (such as it is) was a lot more satisfying than struggling to take my own photos.

This is just day one of a full weekend of amazing photography with crazy scavengers - stay tuned to this very blog for more stories, and personal insights.


Thursday, July 05, 2018

Depression: Follow Up

It was about 4 months ago that I posted on this very blog that I was diagnosed with moderate severe depression, and was getting treatment.

Since so many of you fine folks have expressed concern, and wanted to be kept up to date, I decided to do a follow up post about it.

The short summary is that things are going OK so far.  I have some down days, and some up days, but they seem to be in the normal range - everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed every now and then, right?  However since I stabilized on my brain meds, I’ve not had any long term feelings of wanting to run away and hide, or a lack of ambition at work. Maybe the occasional string of afternoons of bleh, but that’s far better than the months of bleh I had before.

In short, things are going pretty well, all things considered.

I have made the following observations, which you all may find interesting.
I have a lack of trust in the past

I’ve noticed I don’t really trust my opinions on past events.  Basically anything in the year or so before my diagnosis are fuzzy opinion-wise.  Things like the project I was working on when I burnt out at work. Without going into too much detail, it was a project that made use of some new software tools.  I became one of the experts on the team about the tools, and developed some bad feelings about it. Since I burnt out I have had fewer reasons to work with those tools .  However when I am asked about my opinions on using those tools, I have a hard time knowing if my opinions are based on bad perceptions due to my depression, or if the tools actually are not that great.

Same with road trips - do I have bad feelings about some locations because the locations were bad, or because my brain is warped?  Is it both?
You can see how annoying that can be. I even feel that way about current events - do I dislike that idea because the idea is bad, or cause my brain is being a bitch today?

I am more vocal about expressing opinions

Unless I was directly asked, I used to keep most opinions about things - all things - to myself.  I tend to have a different outlook on things than others - this has nothing to do with the depression.  You know that expression about some people seeing a glass as being half empty or half full? I’m the guy who thinks the glass is the wrong size.  Just, different perspective, ya know? I got tired of having to explain why my opinions were odd, so it was easier to just not talk about em.

I have realized thru this process that I held a lot of stuff in as a result, and I think that contributed to the depth of my issues.  I mean, I am quite sure most of my depression issues is brain chemical imbalance, but it didn’t help that I kept myself marginalized and as a result not being understood.

Now?  I don’t care.  I honestly don’t give two craps anymore if people agree with my opinions, or even understand them.  If they are important, and will affect me, I am going to speak up about them. It is not that I expect to get my own way or anything - I really don’t.  I expect decisions that affect a group to be the best decisions for the group - but I refuse to let that decision be made until my views are expressed, even if they are ultimately dismissed.
Tho, I have found, that my opinions are not as marginalized as I expected they would be. So bonus there.
I feel fragile

I’ve never felt fragile before.  It is a new experience for me. I’ve had health issues before - injuries and illnesses that have knocked me on my ass for a few days or weeks.  However never anything that I felt I wouldn’t recover from. This depression stuff feels like it’s going to be with me for a long time - likely a lifetime.  

People do recover completely from depression, and get off the meds, so I may not be in this exact situation my whole life.  However I am a lot more conscious of my mental health, and I don’t see that ever going away.

Not that being aware of my mental health is a bad thing.  It is actually a good place to be - I just had to get there the hard way.  However I know my brain can break, and bring me down and that makes me feel fragile.  However that also makes me feel empowered to take steps to protect my mental heath, even if I never experience a bout of depression again.

Another thing that makes me feel fragile is that several times I have had friends check in on me.  I have never been “checked in on” before - at least I didn’t recognize it as such. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it when they did check in (you know who you are - thank you!).  It is a level of caring friendship I’ve not really experienced before, which is awesome. However the fact remains that they felt the need to check in, and I actually understood it, and welcomed it, and that just helps to sink home that I got some real problems going on.

Even tho things are looking positive, this shits real, yo. I am more protective of my mental space I have started changing my behaviour to protect my mental health. For example If I am feeling emotionally weary I'll take naps in the middle of the day, if I can. If I can't (like being at work), I'll change my environment (go outside, go for a stroll around the office etc.) to give myself a mental break. I have also dramatically lessened by consumption of current event news, and political social media consumption - especially stuff that doesn't affect me, or I can't control. I have silenced some folks on Facebook for 30 days if they get too uppity on Trump discussions, for example. (Don't get me wrong, I still think he is the worst thing to happen to the US politics since Jefferson Davis - but I can't vote, and most of his decisions don't affect my day to day life, so I tuned that twatwaffle out of my world as much as I can.) I am better off for it. Little things, but little things add up.
I am more open than ever

Since I have been posting about my depression on a public blog, this likely doesn’t surprise you that I am open to talking about my depression.  However I am open about it to folks in real life as well.

All my close co-workers know about my issues.  If I am having an off day and I think it’s related to my crazy brain, and it’s relevant to what I am doing (stressful oncall week, or having an in depth conversation and I am feeling overly cranky or sensitive), I’ll let them know.  I feel it is only fair to let them know that any frustration I may be expressing isn’t their fault but my own brain.

When it comes to personal interactions, I do the same thing, and for the same reasons.  If I am hanging out with a bunch of friends for a weekend, I am not afraid to say “Hey, I need to get some quiet time right now ‘cause of my mental health” or something similar.  Again I think it’s only fair to let them know that the reason Dave seems miserable is cause his brain is wonky, not cause of anything the group is doing.
In conclusion

So that’s where I am right now.  I am generally in a good head space, but I feel different than I did 6 months ago. I feel less sure of myself, and more cautious about things that seem to bring me down. However I have a better awareness of myself, so I think overall it’s a more positive change.

As always, if you have questions, comments, witty limericks, or a snarky retort, feel free to drop it in the comments, or send me a private note.


Monday, July 02, 2018

The Birth Of Thanos (Action Figure Edition)

Warning: Worst animation ever coming your way!

The Marvel Legends series of action figures are really good choices for toy photographers because they are highly articulate and very detailed.  They release them in various series, with the clever marketing ploy of putting a piece of a second action figure in the box - thereby encouraging folks to get the entire series so they collect all the parts for that extra figure.

I decided to dive whole hog into this evil marketing ploy and bought the entire series to get the pieces for Thanos.  Why?  Cause Thanos, man! Thanos!

I decided to put together a GIF of his birth as an action figure, which happened right in front of my eyes, on my wife's quilting desk.

So, worst animation ever of Thanos's birth: