Snapshots and Small Prints

It was a long, bitterly cold winter here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the instinct to hibernate meant I spent my digital darkroom hours organizing and cleaning-up catalogs and archives of photos. There has been a day or two of steady gentle rain, and while the air is still crisp (and dropping below freezing at night) there is finally a softening of the landscape as green grass and evergreens emerge from the dull brown and grey of the past six months.

My thoughts have turned to the garden – I am working with a new yard, new climate – and I am looking forward to the warm, humid summer months, however brief, because they will bring a depth of colour and light that is special to that time of year. New plants will mean a return to my personal work to abstract florals and surreal botanical images, which have long been favourite subjects.

Humidity creates condensation on a window, against which the green leaves of a tree are pressed and backlit

This image was actually captured with my phone a few years ago, back when I had a less-seasonal garden in Monterey, California. I have recently rediscovered this photograph and love the way the lush green leaves pressing against the steamy foreground window also blend into the shadowy branches beyond. The focus falls narrowly while repeating shapes echo throughout, and splashes of colour from green to yellow to a spectrum of blue invite the eye to wander around the frame. All of this behind the striking textural details of of water drops on the glass.

Every now and then I am able to capture with my phone a lovely little snapshot like this, and while it is true that the best camera is the one you have with you, these files are only suitable for small prints. Luckily, smaller prints are also an affordable, versatile interior decor option for photo art, and I have put together a collection of Small Prints images suitable for printing up to 8×12, available as giclée canvas wrap prints, mounted on modern bamboo, or as archival fine art prints ready for framing. Sometimes small images like this one can make a big impact, and these momentary intersections of light, colour and texture are beautiful to behold.

Winter escapism | Bright and bold Barbados

This January morning, I am sitting at my kitchen table, watching the deep midwinter pre-dawn gloom just outside. Cars hiss along the street in icy darkness, their headlights illuminating canyons of piled snow. It is 7:29am and there is still no sign of the sun.

Being from California where gardens never stop growing, I am particularly drawn to the quiet, dormant beauty of this season in Western Canada; the stillness and insular peace of a snowbound prairie horizon is more comforting than I expected. When the wind whips down from the North, the cold air carries drifting curtains of snow, and even the trees appear to shiver.

However, while I genuinely enjoy these philosophical moments of winter from a cozy indoor perspective, it has also become my habit to use the short days and dark hours to escape into editing colourful photos from warmer places and times. I’ve started 2019 off with a dip into last year’s visit to Barbados…

This was my first trip to a truly tropical climate since living in Hawaii over a decade ago. Immediately, the vivid blue hues of the water and the unabashed lushness of the plant life were a tremendous relief after a few months of monochrome winter weather.

Gentle sea breezes filtered through curtains of palm fronds and the constant soft movement of clouds and waves were hypnotic and soothing. Looking at these photos, I can almost feel the calming warmth of this slice of Caribbean paradise…

If you need a little more warm weather and colourful, tropical escapism, this batch of scenic details and many more have been added to my Barbados Scenery & Flowers gallery.

Fano, Italy

Where the landscape of pastoral, rolling hills and fortified villages perched on small craggy peaks meets the Adriatic Sea, the ancient city of Fano offers a unique Italian experience, far from the throngs of summer tourists who tour the country.

Charming, narrow, cobblestone streets? Check. Quiet neighbourhoods and bustling market squares? Check. Colourful details, textural walls, doors full of character and the occasional friendly dog in a window? Check.

The first historical mention of Fano dates to 49 BC, when Julius Caeser ruled the region. By 2 AD a wall and large arch had been constructed around the city, which can still be seen today at the main entrance to the older downtown district.

Wandering the streets it is easy to get lost, but taking note of some of the distinctive churches throughout the city can offer useful waypoints. Cafes offer sunny nooks for enjoying an afternoon espresso and around every corner is another arched passage, revealing more colourful buildings and the sort of elegant patina that Italy is known for.

With so much to see in and near Fano, Italy, this city and its history could fill the better part of an Italian vacation. I enjoyed how easily one could find quiet places to explore between the layers of old and new. While many Italians know Fano for its beaches and holiday atmosphere along the waterfront, if one ventures toward the heart of this ancient place, there are many beautiful, meditative moments to be discovered.

See the full set of my photos from Fano, Italy in the APK Photography archives, prints and licensing available.

Corinaldo, Italy

Corinaldo, Itay is a quintessential, charming, enchanting hilltop village in the Province of Ancona. Surrounded by well-preserved 15th century walls, the maze of quiet, narrow cobblestone streets are a welcome escape from more crowded Italian destinations.

The views are remarkable, from the ramparts and even from the heart of the town, from which one can see the lovely pastoral countryside of the Marche region. A little cafe sits at the top of these picturesque steps, and offers a wonderful place to pause for a refreshing drink and lunch.

The array of colorful doors and the textural, faded patina of the buildings provides countless photographic opportunities, and the sheer variety of door designs were quite remarkable,

As one wanders through a narrow cobblestone passage, the sudden appearance of the ancient stone walls can come as a surprising juxtaposition, and when these medieval structures are viewed from slightly further, the position and layout of the village makes even more sense.

A visit to Corinaldo, Italy is highly recommended; it may offer a more intimate Italian experience during the busier travel seasons, and even hosts some remarkable festivals that bring its medieval roots to life. I was only able to spend an afternoon exploring, and as a brief stop on a driving tour of the Marche region it was my favorite experience of the day.

See the full set of my photos from Corinaldo, Italy in my archives; prints and licensing available. A collection of Doors, windows, details collected while travelling through Italy is also available.

Digital Darkroom Notes | First Steps

Two weeks in Italy is a photographic dream come true – colorful, textural architecture, beautiful sunlight, gorgeous landscapes and coastal scenery. Several memory cards later, after the fun of exploring and photographing is done, the post-processing begins.

Without fail, it appears daunting at first, and over the years I’ve developed a few simple steps that will help with the digital darkroom workflow, making the overall project more manageable.

In my early Lightroom days, organizing photos was an afterthought, but as my archives grew it became imperative that initial sorting happen before editing began. It can be incredibly exciting to dive right into an edit, and occasionally I’ll allow myself the pleasure of a little preliminary editing of an image I’m particularly excited about, h, but for any larger project I try to stick to sorting first, editing after.

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With travel photography, creating collections based on accurate locations is an obvious choice, and in this case I am using a numbered structure to keep the collections in an accurate sequential order. Some of these collections will be refined further as I edit, and this flexibility is part of the beauty of using Lightroom to manage large collections of images.

My first pass through any batch, big or small, is simply to identify viable content and ‘flag’ it. This allows me to filter out the frames that are problematic and to quickly focus my editing attention on the frames that have the greatest potential. I have also flagged some frames that are merely for reference purposes – photos of signs, for example – as I will use those details to build accurate keywords and descriptions, and want those relevant frames to ‘float’ up through the editing process alongside the flagged images.

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Of 2347 total images captured in Italy, I have 1440 flagged. Around 50 of these are reference frames only. Another 100-150 are near-frames, which will require some editing and comparison before I can choose the best from those sequences. Another 50-100 images will be for personal use, shots of family mostly, and will not be included in the final edited batch uploaded to my website. So I am looking at a final edited total of roughly 1100 images, likely closer to 750, as I am constantly paring down my selections during the edit process, so that only the strongest images survive.

Now that these simple first few steps are complete, the work I have ahead of me doesn’t look quite so monumental. I can see that for some of the locations, the edits will be short and sweet, while others will require more time, and I can at-a-glance choose batches of photos for editing based on what kind of time I may have to spend in the digital darkroom on a particular day.

There are many tools and configurations offered by Lightroom and similar programs, to ease the process of organizing large batches of photos, and my workflow continues to evolve with experience. I have worked within the massive archives of other photographers, and managed digital assets in various commercial environments; I am always fascinated by the challenge of finding the organizational structure that best suits the ways in which different minds prefer to work. The biggest lesson over the years has been to pay attention to how my editing and end-use-requirements have changed, and to identify strategic ways of organizing my files, so that my workflow becomes entirely intuitive. What works for me may not work for others, but any approach to refining one’s own digital asset management can benefit from insight into how someone else has solved similar problems.

Now the real fun begins…