Guest Article – Rick Carroll

Ottawa street photographer Rick Carroll is this week’s guest blogger. I have known Rick for many years and I am constantly looking forward to seeing the new work that he produces. I think he’s out on the streets of Ottawa shooting every day, so I don’t have to wait long to see that new work!  His sense of visual design is incredible and he really understands light.


I always hesitate quite a bit when it comes to writing anything on photography. Then again I hesitate about writing most things because I have this awful tendency of being brutally honest. Oddly enough, that is not always a popular way to go.

About twenty years ago I had the pleasure of assisting Anthony Scullion, a commercial photographer located here in Ottawa.

Working for Anthony was without question, working. With his headband on we’d often put together some elaborate shoots for clients such as the N.R.C. as well as other government departments. Also included in Anthony’s bag of magic was catalogue work with the odd portrait thrown in for good measure.

Anthony was always patient and fair but he was also a good listener. In hindsight I realize just how rare a good boss actually is. Needless to say my time with him was an enjoyable experience. Hard work but worth it.

The reason I brought Anthony up has to do with something that we disagreed on years ago. At that time, I was quite convinced that the most important required element in creating a photograph was it’s composition. Anthony on the other hand believed that light with all of it’s properties was what mattered most. Anthony was right.

The photograph of Queen Street was exhibited a few months back and the curator of the exhibit pulled me aside one day and told me a little story about a photographer from Argentina.

It seems that the photographer was looking at the print and he couldn’t figure out how I did it. Thinking to myself I thought “How I did it?”, “Well it was easy”, “I saw something and photographed it”. I guess I can be pretty cocky. Looking at the print the Argentinian photographer thought that there must have been some sort of manipulation done to it. The fact is there wasn’t. The only thing critical in getting this shot was getting the right exposure.

I’m out on the streets quite a bit and I do still sometimes forget to really look at the quality of light, where it is placed and it’s colours. Often even in the brightest whites, one can see the blueish colourcast of daylight. When I first stepped on to Queen Street that morning the light struck me instantly much like a slap in the face. It’s qualities were obvious and from there I simply added the subjects. Within a couple of minutes I knew that “I got it”. I love when that happens.

What remains key in images that are successful is the quality of light that is captured and how it impacts the elements within the composition. It’s easy to forget though. We get distracted by events and the things all around us. That’s why I enjoy life through a lens. With a camera to my face my view gets restricted much like putting blinders on a horse. Paradoxically I often see more when in reality I see less.

This article is really just a reminder. Remember light, go to it, get to know it and try to find compositions in areas where the light is excellent.

Light is key. Happy shooting.

Thanks for reading,

Rick Carroll

To see more of Rick’s work please visit his website and blog.

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