Category Archives: Photography

A Dozen Plus Goat

Dear Reader,

Last weekend there was no road trip.  Instead, I experimented in the garden.  Those experiments produced lessons for me but nothing I care to share.  Earlier this morning,  there were roads new and old to me.  I slept through the alarm at 3:45, and only woke up at 4:20 when my wife asked me if I was still going for a drive.  10 minutes later I was out the door.

So, I have started to think in terms of series.  All these photos were taken this morning, and are contributions to multiple series, except for the goat.  The goat was for fun.  He and his mate were near the middle of the gravel road and rather hard to miss.  Though I was thinking of series this morning, I was also just reveling in the drive and the experience.

Rather than a collection of related thoughts, these photos and today’s posting are Works in Progress.  The photos are numbered in the order they were captured.

Cheers, Sean



Dear Reader,

Today, I drove South.  I had an image in mind.  I did not capture the envisaged image.  That will have to wait for another day.  Despite a couple of events that did not go well, the morning was rewarding.  I hope the deer I clipped is ok.

The alarm was set for 4:00.  I woke at 3:59. Initially, the skies were grey, and the land was without contrast.  Sol, showed his (or perhaps she is her) face briefly.

Today’s quartet continue with the overtly stated ideas of last week.  Into the mix, there is also my interest in fences both physical and metaphorically.  For so much space we as Western Canadians have spent an amazing amount of effort establishing ownership over the land, often in highly ironic ways.  Metaphorically we establish boundaries to our own thoughts and actions, for any number of highly debatable reasons.

Or perhaps, you just like the photos.

Cheers, Sean

Not The Planned Day

Dear Reader,

Yesterday evening, I checked the weather and said to myself, “self tomorrow will be a good morning, and you should get your ass out of bed bright and early, drive just west of Drumheller, and explore an area on your list.”

4:30 this morning arrived.  I turned over, saying to myself it’s too early.  65 minutes later I awoke again and 15 minutes later I was out the door.

I was thinking of cultural landscapes, as I drove.  At its simplest cultural landscapes are vistas that recognize the human touch to the land.  Later in the day, I was also thinking the photographic explorations I share with you are often all over the map.  As a result, the photos appear disconnected.   To be honest not only are the photos disconnected, but my thoughts are not always coherent. Today though, I have 4 photos exploring cultural landscapes.  As well I wanted to let you know visually that these were roadside attractions.

By the time I reached my intended destination, I had become so distracted by the previous hours’ light, the best light of the morning was gone.  These are some of the distractions.

Cheers, Sean

Pano Time 01

Dear Reader,

Today, I have some lighter fare for you.  The 3 high resolution photos are from my recent trip to the Yukon.  Magic light and landscape.  Photo no. 3 could print at over 52 x 18 inches at 300 dpi.  Photo no. 1  is an early experiment in panorama.  It is the result of older technology and a processing error.  It makes me smile.

 Cheers, Sean



Dot Dot Four Five

Dear Reader,

I could have just easily titled this “so, what is art.”  This post is a continuation of the thread and response from yesterday (2018-04-04).  Thank you Keith for your comment  and taking the time to do so (so-what-are-you-trying-to-say).

First of all let’s address the easy question first.  What to do about liking a photo in Instagram that has been split into more than 1 panel.  The easiest answer is it doesn’t matter.  The fact that you have visited and possibly found the image rewarding gives me great pleasure.  The second slightly more difficult answer is to like the top left most panel.  To that end I will add that as guidance to my Instagram account.

And now to the minefield.   But before that I have an admission.  For a host of neurotisms that I am slowing working through with a team of highly trained professionals I actually have trouble translating my thoughts into words.  Musically and rhythmically I am a basket case.  But, I do understand visual language.  Which leads my back to photography and art, today (remember yesterday’s comment about contradicting myself) art is about the creative exploration of an idea or set of ideas.  My tool for exploring ideas happens to be photography.

It took me a long time to get what the Cubists were about.  In part they were trying to capture multiple perspectives in a single canvas.  A classic example is Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”.  Photographers have tried exploring that idea through multiple exposure techniques (oh I feel sleepy).  There is though something that photography is very good at because it is fundamental to the technologies (regardless of simplicity or complexity).  Time is inherent to photography.

Cartier Bresson went with the definitive moment and sought that single fraction of a second  when time, form, and tension were in balance.  Bresson helped make Leica famous.  To this day I still lust for a Leica rangefinder camera, and I blame Bresson for that.  There have been those rare times when that fates have favoured me and I have caught that moment.  Bresson went with the single photo.  Other photographers have explored time and ideas using series.  Rather than collapsing a nude on the staircase into a single image, photography gives us the ability to explore that nude as a sequence or set of perspectives.   When placed together we see that set as an exploration in a similar way to what the cubists were doing with painting.

My Instagram grid experiment began simply enough.  I wanted to show an image larger than the Instagram format permits.  Now I am not only stuck with the grid, but it also provides an opportunity to present the image as something more than the sum of its parts.  The best of those using a grid actually have each panel strong enough to stand on its own (I am not there yet).

So at its simplest two or more images placed together are automatically related.  When done well the relationship is discernible.  Do all my blog posts have this intent?  No.  But whether or not I take the responsibility for the relationship, photos presented together are connected (the medium makes it so).

For your viewing pleasure I have a salute to Bresson (Fall 2015), and two images (March 2018) from my many year exploration of space.  One was captured on a morning ramble south east of Calgary, and the other came from Whitehorse.

Cheers, Sean

So What Are You Trying to Say

Dear Reader,

Since last I wrote here, I have had an extended weekend in the Yukon photographing the Northern Lights and the creamy daze of northern light.  I also made a brief trip to England.  This last weekend I finally responded to a friend’s request to comment on his photographs.  This last event re-emphasized my responsibility to be clear about some of the ideas I am exploring with my photography.  Here are some thoughts on that subject.

  • There are images technology records, but we do not perceive until we see the resulting image. For instance, photo 1 shows the results of a hand-held attempt at HDR.  The light wasn’t great, but I enjoy the ghosting of figures that occur over the 3 photos taken in quick succession.
  • Space and form. There is space on its own, especially when ground and sky blur.  These rare photos are both inviting and disquieting.  Again there is an interest in perception. The viewer (ok me) tries to add a horizon that is not there.  This past winter I had a couple of number 5s in this vein.
    The idea of form is manifest in two ways.  There is the form of land and line that define space.  There is also the way human constructs interrupt space with shapes both smooth and jagged.
    I am slowly going through the process of organizing a slide collection that goes back decades in preparation for having them scanned.   Initially I was a little disturbed to see that form and space have been a long running interest. Now, I am taking comfort in that same observation.
  • Just so I don’t get too high on an intellectual horse, there are also images I try to capture because I get a particular kick out of colour, light, and form converging in a way that is pleasing to my eye.
  • As I have mentioned before, 3 or 4 years ago I started making individual books for friends and family.  In recent months I have started thinking about collections in a much narrower light and engaging the viewer (admittedly a small number) by presenting a set of images which have small variation or have a very narrow focus.
  • Time, Perception, Light, and Colour.
  • Related to the above, I recently presented an “Exploration in White” on Instagram at ArtSpud80.

I of course reserve the right to contradict myself tomorrow.

Here are photos from a ramble around Oxford from early March.  The first 5 photos are vertical and display correctly when you click on them.

Cheers, Sean

Exposure Review 2018

Dear Reader,

Just over 2 weeks ago I decided to participate in the Exposure Review.  This is an event, part of the Exposure Festival, where a minimum of 4 people from the photography community spend 20 minutes each in one on one conversations with photographers.  Yesterday was an interesting day.  I had 5 conversations with reviewers and spoke with a number of participants.

Before I go further it may be helpful to share with you the names of the reviewers I met, and the portfolio I presented.  Each photo has 2 numbers.  The first is the order in which it was presented.  The second is the number of stars on the Sean scale.  Photos can have a maximum of 5 stars, and as I have written before a 5 is rare.  The one photo without a score is the one that precipitated my signing up.  Number 13 is and was a problem for me.  On one hand I find it captivating.  On the other hand, I feared it was too banal, and that I had stripped so much from the image I was on the verge of Malevich’s “White on White” (1918).

My general take these days on art in general, and photography in particular is that if the supporting essay makes more sense than the piece (whatever that is), then the expression of the idea is the essay and not the piece.  While were on this small digression, I also believe it is good to see the original, when possible, rather than the copy in book or article.  Invariably, the scale of a piece is important.

Unlike many of the people I spoke with, I was not particularly interested in finding marketing opportunities.  My objective was to get some thoughts on where I can take some of my visual ideas.

Reviewers (They all deserve better introductions than I am providing here)

  • Caroline Loewen – curator interested in cultural geography, memory, cultural and natural landscapes
  • Costas Costoulas – co-founder of Resolve Photo, photography advocate, gallery curator
  • Greg Garla – commercial and fine art photography
  • Su Ying Strang – artist, arts advocate, director of The New Gallery
  • Natasha Chaykowski – writer, curator and art historian
  • Thank you reviewers for you time and comments.

Portfolio Presented on my laptop as a Lightroom Slideshow

1 – 5 2 – 5 3 – 5 4 – 5 5 – 4
6 – 4 7 – 4 8 – 4 9 – 4 10 – 4
11 – 4 12 – 5 13 – ? 14 – 4 15 – 4
16 – 4 17 – 5 18 – 4 19 – 5 20 – 4
21 – 5 placeholder placeholder placeholder placeholder

As in all conversations there is what was said, and what I took away.  I can’t remember the first. So, here are the headlines from what I took away.

People / Works To works to check

  • Andreas Gursky;  “Rhine II “; 1999; last sold for approximately $US 4.2 Million.  Compare to photo 13 above.  I had vaguely heard the name but did not know his work. 3 people suggested I have look at this piece in particular.
  • Wanda Koop; Winnipeg  painter new name to me
  • David Hockney; I have enjoyed his work for years
  • Edward Rucsha; painter; I have seen his text work (sometimes I get it sometimes I don’t) before but did not know it was him.  More investigation required.  An initial check suggests that there is a point of reference from the 80’s.
  • Alfred Stieglitz; one of the pillars of photography.  I know some his work. 2 people suggested I have a look at his series “Equivalents”.  This series is new to me.
  • An ACAD student suggested Josef Hoflehner; some of his images are familiar.  I didn’t know it was him.


  • Colour Pallete
  • Composition
  • Painterly
  • Form
  • Not everyone agreed with my 5’s but that is at it should be.
  • Technical Execution

Things to Think About

  • In an age of visual saturation, how do you engage the viewer for more than a 10 second glance. I have some ideas that resonated with 2 reviewers.  No, I cannot share those ideas yet.
  • Are you making a nice photo, a photo to sell, or exploring an idea.  There is nothing wrong with any of those possibilities.  The key though, is to be clear on the objective.  PS if you have seen my work, then you probably recognize that the first and third options are the most likely possibilities for me 😊. The nice photo is a slippery slope, to cliché.
  • Strip out everything but what is of interest.  Explore subtlety, minimalism,  whitespace, image flatness.  This requires intent, because anything in the image becomes very present. While we’re at it what about texture.  Is it there, and do you or don’t you want it there?  I knew 5, 6, 9 were 4’s, and now I can articulate why they didn’t make the grade.  There is either too much,  not enough, or they’re on the verge of  the old Microsoft screen saver (oh horror).
  • Explore what is disquieting (see 13 above).
  • There were too many photos and too many ideas in the portfolio.  Think about the subject, viewer, photographer triangle.
  • What are cultural landscapes?
  • What is the Dusseldorf school of photography?
  • I am part of an historical continuum.  I knew this but I am out of touch.  It was nice to hear that my garden path is contemporary.

Cheers, Sean

Mini Wheats

Dear Reader,

Not so long ago or once upon a time our son would only eat about 5 things,  cheerios, bananas, bacon, crunchy fruit, milk, and mini wheats.  On Saturday, Keith and I took the long way to Red Deer through the foothills northish of Cochrane.

At other times, I have referred to the large round hay bales that dot the prairie landscape, as sentinels of the land.  The snow fell heavy last week.  Saturday, those bales were all frosted and looked like mini wheats. Keith has a couple of posts, and photos from the drive.

Cheers, Sean

Happy Accident

Dear Reader,

Here is another photo that may make you question my sanity or at least perspective.  I have kept coming back to it since it was first captured last weekend.   The more I looked at it, the more I enjoyed it.

It is the result, in part, of negligence.  I thought the shutter speed and aperture settings for the sunset photo earlier in the morning were a little strange.  When I got home from that morning’s ramble, I realized that the photo below had been captured at an ISO setting of 1000. That is a substantially higher than I normally use.  I think the grain works.

What do you think  of the photo?

The second photo is one of the sunrise photos from that day that survived the digital cutting room floor.  I like just the hint of sun rising to light the day.

Cheers, Sean

PS Coming soon – a visit to the Exposure Festival.