Archive for the ‘Tips and Techniques’ Category

Model and Property Releases

Friday, April 13th, 2012
Mykonos Taverna

Nikos Taverna - Mykonos, Greece


One of the most asked business related questions that I am asked is about model and property releases. FYI – The most common question is “how to make a living as a photographer?” The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has a series of very informative business resources, including releases. If you have ever wondered if you need a release, then this is an excellent article that you should definitely read.

In the Park

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012


Around 10 years ago in the park at the end of our street I met a neighbourhood teen-aged girl and her father. He was teaching her the basics of how to use a (film) camera. We chatted about photography for a little while, well Okay for a long time.

Fast forward 10 years to this past December when at the Christmas lights on Parliament Hill photo shoot I met up again with that same girl, who is now a young woman.  I hadn’t seen her since we had met at the park so many years ago. Over the years she really hadn’t had the time to be serious about her photography and the only photographs that she had recently been taking were with her cell phone (not that there is anything wrong with that). Then about a year ago, she decided she wanted to get back into photography. She bought a DSLR  camera and lens, filters, extra battery, tripod and after much research she also recently bought a camera bag.

The camera bag that she ended up buying was a Tamrac Evolution 8 Backpack. Which is a really good choice for a bag, but the strange thing about all of this is, that I also recently got the same bag. Except, that mine is black and hers’ is the brown one. It got me thinking, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out why she chose exactly the same bag as I did. You would think that our needs for a bag would be completely polar. I mentioned the idea to her about writing an article about the bag and why both of us chose it and what we liked and disliked about it. She thought is was a great idea too, so this past Saturday we got together and went over all of the good and bad points of the bag and what made both us chose this bag over all of the others that are available.

The good news is that I have lots and lots of notes about the bag. The bad news is, you are going to have to wait just a wee bit more until I have a chance to write the article. Right now, Val and I are getting all of the reservations in place and everything organized for the Scotland Photo Tour.


BTW – The little girl in the photo was playing hide and seek with her friends.

Secret to taking better photos

Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Blue Domed Churches - Santorini, Greece

Blue Domed Churches - Santorini, Greece


If there is a secret to taking better photos – This is it!

For nearly 30 years I have earned my living by taking pictures while travelling the world. I have also taught many photography workshops at home and abroad. This has put me in contact with quite a few people and as a result I have had many phone calls and emails asking for my advice on a range of photographic topics. These topics range from where to go in Namibia,  to which camera, lens, tripod or accessory to buy, to how to become a professional photographer. I can understand why people ask me, whether you are a beginner or have been taking pictures for years, the sheer volume of photography information that we need to know and process is quite intimidating.

Now with the information overload from the internet we have access to everyone else’s opinions, thoughts and endless debates about camera equipment, lens resolution, sensor sizes, Photoshop, RAW converters – the list goes on. It is so easy to get lost in all of this information and forget the reason you are taking photographs in the first place. Personally, even though I work with it every day, I find it all very daunting. I can certainly understand how “amateur” photographers feel.

I have one piece of advice which will definitely help in taking and creating better pictures, but it is going to take a major commitment from you. Ignore all of the talk about equipment; it really doesn’t matter what you use to take pictures, the important part is for you  to get out there and shoot. Just keep on shooting, practice in different situations and lighting conditions, review the images then go out and shoot some more. The more you practice the better and stronger your images will be, you will eventually become more observant which in turn improves your photographic vision.

So what does it take to make a strong compelling picture? There are a lot of factors, some of the most important ones are; exposure, composition, the light, the location, the subject, your vision and your imagination. Did you notice there was no mention of equipment or software?

Ottawa Photo Shoot Locations

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I just wrote an article for the Camera Club of Ottawa about the importance of getting out and using your camera and how that will help in improving your photography. Another side benefit from it, is that by getting out you will find and explore many new locations for your photography. Since I have been photographing for a “few” years, I have discovered many great photo locations.

Quite often I am asked, where is a good spot for photography. Given that, and also that I heard this past weekend an Ottawa photographer and the couple that he was photographing were all given $95.00 tickets each for trespassing at an abandoned NCC barn off of March Road. Here’s a list of legal and excellent places for Wedding Ceremony Location Photos in the Ottawa region. These locations are also great for engagement and model photo shoots too!


  1. National Gallery of Canada
  2. Nepean Point Park and the Sunken Gallery behind the National Gallery
  3. Major’s Hill Park
  4. Locks next to Chateau Laurier
  5. Along the canal and under the “overpass” bridge across fro the Chateau Laurier
  6. In the market “Tin Court” around the Black Thorn Restaurant
  7. Around the Courtyard restaurant. Great place with lots of stone, sort of an old feeling.
  8. The stairs by the US Embassy and the area around there.
  9. Currency Museum Bank of Canada – good interior location as well.
  10. Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa
  11. Canadian Museum of Civilization
  12. Mooney’s Bay – little white arched bridges and Hog’s Back Falls
  13. Experimental Farm – Ornamental Gardens
  14. Experimental Farm – Arboretum
  15. Garden of Provinces – Wellington at Bay
  16. Graffiti wall at the corner of Bronson and Slater
  17. Graffiti wall Brewer park, across from CU – Bronson Bridge at Carleton
  18. The Grounds at Rideau Hall
  19. The Gazebo in Rockcliffe Park
  20. The Ruins at Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park
  21. The Rockcliffe Rockeries

Michael Orton

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Michael Orton Technique

Compound camera motion while changing focus


Michael Orton has to be one of the most creative individuals that I know. Now while, everyone knows him as the creator of the “Orton Effect”, his creativity goes far beyond that! Last year he sent me a couple CD’s of music….his music, all of which he had composed and performed using a multi-track recording. He used a synthesizer (drums, strings, piano, horns, etc ) along with him playing an acoustic and electric guiter. On several of the tracks he also sang. I was pretty impressed.
In recent conversations with Michael he has been telling me about his “new” passion of working with camera motion (which he had used many times over the years), but not like this. He was now using compound movements, at times changing focus and focal length during the exposure as well. The blending of light and colours that was resulting is quite simply amazing. They are more visually exciting that any Orton imagery from years gone by.
Last week I received an email from Michael Orton, letting me know he had launched his redesigned web site. Be sure to watch the Slideshow presentations in which he combines his musical and photographic talent. The presentation “Earth Symphony” features the “Orton Effect” as it evolved and his latest work, “Freedom”.  They are just incredible!!!!!
Michael Orton Techique

Compound motion while changing focal length

Tip #3 Photographing the Moon

Sunday, March 20th, 2011
Photographing the Moon

Photographing the Moon

The full moon this weekend (the full moon was actually last night) will be the biggest in about 20 years, but if you try photographing it with anything shorter than a 300mm lens it is still going to look small. The technique of photographing the moon is pretty simple. For exposure use the sunny F/16 rule, since the moon is being lit by direct sunlight, it doesn’t matter that you are in total dark of the night – the moon isn’t.  So if your  ISO is set to 200, the exposure should be 1/200s and f/16, set your camera to manual exposure for this. I would suggest bracketing the exposure a stop/shutter speed.

Use a tripod and cable release in order to get the sharpest possible picture. You will probably find that you will have to continually reposition your camera/tripod as the moon “races” across the sky. Depending on your camera make/model you may have to switch off the autofocus and manually focus the lens, if it is having trouble focusing as it searches back and forth for something to lock the focus on.

Good luck and hopefully you will have clear skies!

Tip #2 – Winter Photography

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Winter Photography Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Photo Tips #2


I received an email after last week’s tip. And with the freezing temperatures that we’ve been experiencing, I thought I should include it in this week’s tip.  “How do you know when you put your camera in your camera bag without putting the camera and lenses in Ziploc bags that condensation isn’t forming on everything?” Well, that is sort of like asking, does the light stay on in the refrigerator when the door is closed? You don’t really know for sure!

Basically condensation forms when warm moist air meets any cold surface. If your equipment is in the camera bag, the only possible place that warm air can enter is through the zipper. If you think that the zipper is letting too much warm air through and you don’t want to put all of your equipment in individual Ziploc bags there is still an easy way to insulate your equipment from the warmer air. Simply put your entire camera bag with all of your equipment in a large garbage bag and tie it up. Just make sure that everyone in the house, particularly the person who takes the garbage out knows that your equipment is in that garbage bag!

When I get back home I don’t want to wait several hours for the entire camera bag to warm up so I can get to the memory cards to download my pictures. So what I do is, before packing up my equipment outside, I will take the card out of the camera and any other cards that I’ve shot and put them inside a small Ziploc bag.  The card(s) will warm up within half an hour, so I can get working on my pictures as soon as I’ve thawed out too!

Have you ever tried using your tripod in deep snow? If you try using the same method that you use for the rest of the year, of spreading the legs as far as they can go and then putting it down, you’ll find that it only will go into the snow a few inches deep (several centimetres) and it won’t go any further. If you try pushing it any further into the snow, you will bend and warp the legs – ruining your tripod. Also with your tripod sitting on top of the snow and isn’t very stable or sturdy. The trick to using your tripod in these conditions is the spread legs a couple of inches short of being fully extended. Then as you put the legs into the snow the snow will “push” the legs open and the tripod will go deeper into the snow and will be very sturdy.

If you have been using your tripod in or around water or in wet snow, don’t collapse the legs until they are completely dry. If the temperature drops you might not be able to get them open again in below freezing temperatures. (Think about kids sticking their tongues to metal posts) Normally while I’m shooting I leave the legs fully extended to avoid this problem. If I am going to be in and out of the car shooting at different locations I dry off the legs with a small towel that I keep in the car for that purpose. That way when I get to the next shooting location the legs don’t freeze up.

The last tip about tripods is to wrap the first section with foam pipe insulation or specially designed tripod leg wraps. This isn’t to keep them warm but to act as insulation between your hands and the cold metal and keeping you warm(er).

And finally, if you are out shooting in extreme cold weather, the LCD on your camera might stop working. Don’t panic, as soon as your camera warms up it will come back to life!

Tip #1 – Winter Photography

Monday, January 17th, 2011
Winter Weather Photo Tips

Winter Weather Photo Tips #1


Here is my cold weather winter photography tip – Stay inside or head South! (I really hate the cold weather) Now, if you put your camera away right after the last of the fall colours, then there is no need to read any further. Stay inside your house until May.

But if you do want to venture out into that bitterly cold freezing winter weather, here’s a tip that might help…..your camera but not you!  If you wear glasses or know someone that does, you already know this one. As soon as you come inside from the cold weather your glasses fog up immediately with condensation. Same thing happens to your camera, which is Okay for the glass optics but it’s not very good for the electronics and the mechanical parts of the lens and camera.

When you head outside you don’t have to worry about condensation forming on your camera, that only happens when you bring the camera in.  The best thing to do is to let your camera/lens get cold and keep it cold.  Once the camera is cold and if it is snowing then the snow won’t melt as it falls on your camera. However if you do get snowflakes building up on the front of your lens or on your camera don’t try to blow the snow off like you are blowing out birthday candles. If you do, you will just melt some of it and fog up the lens and viewfinder and end up in a real mess. Simply brush away as much snow as you can with your glove, also a Hurricane Blower works well in removing snow as it is only blowing cold air.  One thing you don’t want to do is to try and warm up the camera by keeping it next to you inside your jacket. That is just going to create condensation, and then every time you take the camera out to take a picture and then put it back in to warm it up again you are just getting more and more condensation each time, that’s bad!

Make you sure you start the day off with fully charged camera battery(s).  The cold will reduce a battery’s performance, whether it’s your car’s or camera’s battery.  Bring along a spare battery (for your camera…. not your car) and keep it warm inside your jacket. Then you can switch or rotate between the batteries from time to time, which gives you more time to stay out in the cold.

When it’s time to come back in, is when you have to worry about that condensation I mentioned earlier. What I do, is put everything in my camera bag (Lowepro Fastpack 250) zip it up tight and bring it in the house/car and let it warm up for several hours before opening it. If your camera bag has foam padding then this technique should work for you. If not, then you will have to put your lenses and cameras and everything else in individually sealed Ziploc plastic bags and then put these in your camera bag.  Bring everything inside and let it warm up slowly, just like your toes and fingers.


New Blog Series – Tips and Techniques

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I will be starting a new blog series next week with tutorials and tips. My goal for this series is to help you make better pictures, technically and creatively.  The topics that I will try to cover will range from technical  how-tos to tip-oriented articles, basics and advanced techniques.

I will also be answering a few of your questions, so if you have any – NOW  is the time to ASK!  In the meantime if you are looking for any answers try here about  “ASK GARRY” , it’s  a section on my web site I started years ago, many years ago. There you will find some of the answers to questions that I have received from other photographers, ranging from which camera to buy to starting a career in photography.