Friday, May 30, 2014

Useful Camera tips for artists’ reference photos I

(click on image to enlarge)
Using the BURST capability
©2009 Charlene Brown

Don’t you love it when an otherwise helpful article or blog post about photography suggests you “refer to your camera’s instruction manual”…?  Don’t they know nothing has an instruction manual anymore? What you get with a new camera is a DVD with a downloadable owner’s manual of randomly-nested menus and sub-menus of indecipherable icons and useless party tricks.  You can print out this worthless pile of pages if you want, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to if they’ve read more than about three of them and discovered how ambiguous and repetitious they are.
Anyway, you don’t want a pile of pages. You want a quick reference list of techniques to handle specific problems such as:

Dim lighting: Bad lighting often results in wonderfully evocative photographs. Blurry evocative photographs, unfortunately.  If a tripod is out of the question there are other possibilities, such as the sensitivity (ISO) setting…

Obstructed view: This too is usually a people problem, like when you’re in the back row of something, but there are also landscape photography situations when it would be nice to be about a foot higher, and you can achieve this by holding your camera as high as you can... and using the High Angle capability on your screen so you can actually see what you’re doing.

Fast-moving subject (or fast-moving photographer, as in shooting from a car when the driver can’t even slow down, much less stop – ie the reference shots for ‘Using the BURST capability,’ above)

TMI: Too much information (for those not fluent in Internet slang)… Happens when you’ve got a detailed subject in front of a detailed background. You have to reduce your depth of field (wide aperture, lowest f, low depth of field) so that only the subject is in focus.

To ensure that you can read and understand this list quickly, you have to devise your own code. At the end of my next blog post, after outlining a few more problem situations, I will list some examples in my ‘mode/number’ code, pertaining to all the situations I have described.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

An unusual view of Rundle

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Sunrise at Lake Minnewanka
Charlene Brown
(based on a photograph by James Wheeler)

Mount Rundle is one of the most frequently painted and photographed mountains in the Canadian Rockies, and almost all of the results feature the iconic west slope of the mountain.

I have a few photos of the east face shown here, but none of them is particularly well composed or likely to inspire a painting.

I realized when I saw the stunning photograph by James Wheeler that inspired ‘Sunrise at Lake Minnewanka’ that I hadn’t gone far enough along the lake, and certainly didn’t get there at the time of day he must have shown up. And that’s just for starters… I’m barely keeping up with digital camera technology, and only occasionally take great pictures.

Be sure to have a look at James Wheeler’s portfolio at and you’ll see he is consistently in the right place at the right time… and seems to know his way around a camera.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A ridge too far

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Rawson Lake again
Watercolour and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a very pleasant hike to this lake that I did about 16 years ago, and I mentioned that the climb had gone so well that we’d decided to continue up to Sarrail Ridge beyond the lake. The hiking guidebook said that our elevation gain so far, from the trailhead at Upper Kananaskis Lake to Rawson Lake, was not quite 300 metres spread out over two kilometres, and the rest of the climb to the ridgeline would only be about one kilometre. The fact that the latter included an elevation gain of almost 400 metres should have been a clue…  Parts of the ‘trail’ were really hard to get up, and even harder to get down, but the view was wonderful.  Apparently the view over the other side of the ridge (okay, I didn’t actually get to the top) is even more spectacular. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Virtual Paintout in the southern parks area of Chile

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Aisén Region
©2014 Charlene Brown

a ruggedly beautifully part of the world with no shortage of mountains, my favourite painting subjects. The Virtual Paintout was in Chile once before, not in the mountains, and my painting at that time couldn't have been more different. 
I had hoped that one of the southern parks we'd be looking at this month would be the Torres del Paine National Park, but it turns out the Google car didn't get that far south… not surprisingly, as there doesn't seem to be a road.  Even the almost heroic Ruta 7, on which I found this beautiful outlook on the Aisén Region, doesn't get anywhere near it!
Here’s the link to the Streetview of my painting location. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

An easy hike for the early elderly

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Rawson Lake
Watercolour and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

This pretty little lake is in Kananaskis Country, a group of Alberta Provincial Parks just east of Banff National Park. In 1998 I got together with an old Banff High School friend who still lived (and hiked regularly) in the Rockies, and she persuaded me to try the climb to Rawson to see this spectacular view.
Being a grandmother of three at the time, I considered myself to be getting on in years, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I handled the ascent from Upper Kananaskis Lake with no difficulty. Unfortunately, I was so impressed with myself that I agreed to continue up to Sarrail Ridge (on the extreme right in this painting) for what my friend promised would be an even more spectacular view.  I’ll tell you about that in a couple of weeks.