Established 1988

Category: Techniques

Sports Photography

Sports Photography

with Angela McMullen

Don’t Worry About the Noise

Shooting amateur sports often means shooting in less than optimal conditions, especially at indoor venues. To compensate for lowlight, photographers must raise the ISO on their cameras to capture the action, and this results in noisy images or images with a lot of grain. However, a noisy sports image is not necessarily a bad image (and in fact, noise sometimes gives an action shot more punch and grittiness), and you should think hard before using that noise reduction slider in Lightroom or Photoshop Camera Raw.


Reducing the noise in an image also reduces its clarity by

blurring. Try it yourself. When processing a RAW image taken with a high ISO (2500 or greater), magnify the image 200-percent and then reduce the noise using the Noise Reduction slider. See thedifference? Your image has less noise but also less detail.


So, when processing your sports and action shots, ask yourself

which you would rather have: a great action shot with a little noise

or a blurred image with little detail? And remember, I’m talking

about noise here not focus. Still not convinced? Look at this image I shot at a Whitby Wolves’ hockey game. It’s noisy, but is still a good action shot.



Photography by Angela McMullen

Environmental portraits

Environmental portraits

Frank Myers
Frank Myers, Latow Photographers Guild, Burlington
An environmental portrait can be defined as a photo of a person that includes enough of their natural surroundings to tell a story about the individual. The shots may be “posed” but the setting is ideally rich with visual information about the person’s life. If you’re successful, the viewer gains some insight into the person you’ve portrayed.
Ron with his beauties

My subjects are mostly people whose work or skills impress me. Often they are family or friends, but occasionally it is necessary to break the ice and approach a perfect stranger for permission to photograph them. Ideally, being in their own environment will help your subject to be natural and at ease. I always offer prints of the finished work, which seems only fair.


Shir in living room
I find a wide-angle lens is often useful, allowing me to work in close while including elements of the person’s surroundings. Occasionally, however, a longer lens and closer crop can incorporate just enough additional detail while emphasizing the appearance of the subject. Bounce flash can maintain a fairly natural look, as can using higher ISO to work with the light available.
Fibre artist Judy Martin
The key to good environmental portraits is finding that fine balance between the individual and his or her environment. A cluttered scene can detract from the main subject. The person must remain the focus, while the surroundings provide detail about their life. Chose that detail carefully and don’t be afraid to ask your subject to move around; everything in the scene should contribute to the story you are telling.

Creativity in Photography


Creativity in Photography

By Sheri Bélanger

Coordinator of the Creative Challenge Group

Toronto Camera Club

It never ceases to astonish me when photographers say that they are not creative. ‘Creativity’, a late 17th century concept we’ve adopted today, is the ability to make something new or unique that has value. Both ‘new’ and ‘value’ are, of course, subjective. But one thing is indisputable—the uniqueness of every photograph that is taken. No one else has your experiences, nuances, beliefs, and perspectives. Every time you pick up a camera to compose a shot, three factors work together in a synergy of events that create a uniqueness all your own.

The first factor, of course, is you. Everything about you influences the photographs you shoot. Your experiences, beliefs, confidence, perspective, and connection to the subject all come into play as you compose your photograph.

The second factor is your subject. Whether that subject is a person, a rock, or a sunset, you have a relationship with your subject—even if only briefly. How that relationship is portrayed depends on your connection.

The final factor is your audience. Who views the photograph, and when they do so, what are they bringing from their own perspective when they see what you create? It’s the last facet that determines the true creativeness of the photograph—confirms that something new and of value has been made. The individuals who view the photograph are as varied as the photographers. Keep in mind that you will most likely be the first to view your new creation. Judge it not by how others might see it, but by how it makes you feel. If you are not satisfied with it, instead of feeling that you are not creative (which I firmly believe is simply not the case), you might consider that you were not feeling inspired at that particular moment.

Learning to be more receptive to creativity and inspiration takes effort. The most important part of being creative, which you won’t discover in a book or a class, is knowing yourself. What makes you excited to try something new? Do you enjoy tight deadlines and strict rules? Does open-ended exploration bring you into that zone of inspiration? Do you imagine the photograph you want to take and fastidiously plan how to best make it into a reality? Is the moment best captured when you’re confronted with something novel? Are you aiming to photograph something for your own interest and self-satisfaction, or are you aiming to impress others with the image? Maybe a bit of both? No matter which way we find ourselves opening up to our creativity, so long as it gets us there, it is valid and exciting.

Consider the two images below. The first image, “Painted Lady” was very well thought out. From creating the headdress, hiring a makeup artist (Dorota Buczel), painting the background layer, creating Photoshop brushes out of ink splatters–I spent considerable time working on the image. I knew I would be entering this image into competitions.



The second image, “Running away from Home” I created in about ten minutes one day at the studio when I was bored and staring at my keyboard. It made me laugh. That was the motivation behind that image. Both were worthwhile endeavors, and better yet, they inspired me to try something different and new.


There are a variety of sources on line which have great advice on how to increase your creativity. Remember that what works for some may not work for you. Advice that works for me includes the following:

  1. Give yourself permission to play and make mistakes.
  2. Learn your camera the best you can so that when you are in the moment, there is just one less thing to think about.
  3. Do everything you can to explore other individuals work. The best is having the chance to meet other creative individuals, and talk about their art. However, the internet is a rich environment to see many different pieces.
  4. Find a subject you have strong feelings about and go out and photograph it. Your passion will show through.
  5. Talk to children. Listen to their stories. It is a fantastic way to see the world in a whole new light.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
Roald Dahl

Online Resources:

Becoming a More Creative Photographer by Harold Davis

How many of these creative photography ideas can you use?

100 Ways to be a more creative photographer by Tanya Smith



Night Shooting

head 2

Barb Redford

Halton Hills Camera Club

Night Shooting

General tips:

  1. Tripod… Tripod… Tripod
  2. Manual setting – Bulb… or a long exposure setting generally between 10 and 30 seconds or more
  3. Release cable or timer and lock up mirror if you have the ability to do so ( live view locks up the mirror)
  4. Use lowest ISO possible to reduce noise in most instances
  5. Turn OFF your image stabilization on your lens when on the tripod
  6. Have an alternate light source – flash, flashlight, sparklers, glow sticks etc

Aurora – aka the Northern Lights:

  1. High ISO – 1600 or more
  2. Focus on infinity
  3. Short exposures ( 5-10 sec) to get “ribbon”effects
  4. Wide angle or fish eye lens is best

Car Trails + Streaks :

  1. Low ISO ( 100-200)
  2. Watch backgrounds
  3. Longer streaks require longer exposures
  4. Streets with curves give greater interest
  5. Oncoming white streaks – outgoing red streaks

Long Exposure:

  1. Low ISO ( 100-200)
  2. Increase exposure time by 5-10 sec increments
  3. A very long exposure will create daylight effect
  4. Dawn or twilight will leave a bluish tinge to photo adjust white balance to Kelvin setting (8000K)
  5. Lights in pictures will “ star”

long exposure

Fireworks + Lightning:

  1. Low ISO ( 100-200)
  2. Manual focus on a distant object or infinity
  3. Daylight white balance to get colours in fireworks
  4. Wide angle lens is best for multiple “ explosions” on single shot cover lens between fireworks / lightning strikes while lens open

fireworks 3

Lens Spin:

  1. ISO doesn’t matter – lower ISO gives more time, aim for 5-15 sec exposure
  2. Turn lens while open, stopping at end before lens closes will put last object solidly in picture
  3. Creates streaks across picture, slow turn shorter streaks, fast turn longer streaks

Moon Shots:

  1. Moon is very bright and moves very fast across the sky mid range ISO depending on moon brightness
  2. Manual focus or some cameras will focus on edge of moon
  3. 5-10 sec exposure
  4. Telephoto lens if want just moon
  5. – moon rise and moon set plus times and angles

Painting with light:

  1. Low ISO ( 100-200)
  2. Use flash off camera or flashlight to light scene, can use coloured gels over light source
  3. Move quickly through your image and DON’T stop moving !
  4. Do not fire flash directly at camera unless you want a bright “ star” in the shot
  5. Use side lighting to create depth to objects



Star Trails or just stars:

  1. High ISO ( 3200)
  2. Best time is at least 3 hours after sunset
  3. Wide Angle lens
  4. Focus manually on a bright star or object
  5. For circular trails must focus on the North star as centre of shot
  6. The trick *** a series of 30 second exposures stacked in photoshop gives best shot with least amount of noise
  7. 15 min of star trails is approx 1-2 inches long in a picture

star trails

Finding Your Creative Bent

judy portrait

Judy Griffin

Etobicoke Camera Club

Unfortunately there is no cut and dried approach or magic formula for developing creativity.  We are all different; the way we visualize and process the world around us. To some, creativity comes easily while for others it feels like an impasse.

The photographer needs to see beyond the ordinary and push the boundaries to develop new ways to capture and enhance images. Often a good way to start is to look at other photographers’ work to get ideas and then put your own spin on the concepts. Perhaps sign up for a course which specializes in creative photography.

Of course, the photographer has to have technical skill using the camera, but that may provide only technically competent images.  The principals of composition and design are there as the backbone to your craft, but sometimes breaking the rules can give you the creativity you seek.

The photographer has to be willing to loosen up and be playful. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try various ways to capture your subject, and use different techniques in your favourite digital editing software to make your images more imaginative and inspiring:

  • play with zooming, panning, and camera movement (rotating, swirling, swooping, etc.) to see the world in a new way. IMAGE – Autumn Gold


  • Use various shutter speeds to play with motion and see the effect. Long exposures for clouds and water can give a beautiful silky appearance.
  • try an unorthodox point of view to present your subject,
  • use different lenses and focal lengths to change the perspective and relationship of elements in your image.
  • use different apertures creatively to alter the depth of field and the sharpness in your images.
  • be alert to the potential of subject matter for post production in an altered way. Try to imagine what you might be able to do with a subject, graphic elements, or textures to bring an original and creative approach to your work.
  • play with filters, montages, texture layers, Ortons, and blend modes in your post production software to alter your images and give them an innovative edge. IMAGE – Midnight Rider


  • your planned day may have been a bust, but there may be hidden gems if you are willing to look for them. Our planned photography was to visit an exciting area full of scenic and natural beauty.  However our vehicle was acting erratically so we spent a good portion of the day at a garage. While there, I noticed an interesting wall to photograph and thought about its wonderful potential. In post production, I played with ideas and allowed my imagination to create this final image of The Watcher.


  • don’t be afraid to fail! You can’t improve and expand your creative side if you never take chances and think “outside the box”.

Above all, enjoy the creative process and have fun with your photography.

Planning & Preparation

Tug boats in harbour at night,Tim Story

Latow Photographers Guild

When we hear a photographer talk about the planning and preparation that went into the creation of an image, we are likely to envision photography done in studios, planned interior shots or maybe a trip to a far off country. Indeed these types of photography require planning and preparation of the subject matter, but most photographers stay closer to home, shoot outside in available light and go looking for subjects to capture when they have time. Will planning and preparation help under these circumstances? Absolutely!

The tug boats are docked in the same area of Hamilton harbour 52 weeks of the year. How much planning is required to capture a subject this large, mostly stationary and easily accessible? How hard can it be? Unlike photography done under controlled conditions, I have little to no control over the elements for this image. Weather conditions, direction and type of lighting, subject placement and subject availability are out of my direct control. By understanding the impact all the variables will have on the final image will greatly increases my odds of capturing the image I want in an uncontrolled environment.

I wanted to capture the tug boats with a mood not normally seen by the thousands of people walking by on the Waterfront Trail every day. I decided a night shot would meet this challenge. For this type of night shot I am totally dependent on manmade lighting. I began to regularly visit the site after dark to see what lights were on and how they illuminated the subject, if at all. It was crucial the lights attached to the boats to be illuminating for the final image, so I turned to the people managing the tug boats I had met during the previous winter months. With some carefully worded questions I had an approximate date when the boats might be worked on at night.

I wanted the lights from the boats to be captured as reflections on the water, so winds have to be 5km or less in speed or the reflections will be lost in the ripples. Too much wind will also cause the boats to bob up and down resulting in a blurred image with the long exposure times used for night time shuts. All of the variables will have to come together the week on May 6-12, 2012 when they “might” be working on the boats It has been two weeks since I started planning and preparing for the actual moment and I haven`t even taken a picture yet!

Remember the only physical control I have over this image is the time of day I can visit the tug boats. It’s my planning, research and understanding of the photographic variables that will capture the image I have envisioned during the week of May 6-12. Finally at 1:36am on May 12 all of the variables came together, the lights were on and the entire bay was calm.

In the end it took roughly a month of patience and planning to capture the image I envisioned. Most of the time in the field was only minutes per visit to better understand the scenes variables with most planning being done from my  home. So yes, planning and researching your next photograph when you have limited time to spend in the field will show in the finished image.

The image was captured on a Nikon D800, in 14 bit RAW, at 200mm, f8, ISO 400 with a 6 second exposure on a Gitzo tripod, mirror locked up and the shutter was activated with a cable release.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at



Easy Abstracts

Allan Flagel of the Don Mills Camera ClubAllan Flagel of the Don Mills Camera Club

Rarely do I ever walk past a puddle or pool of water without checking out the reflections on its surface.

If there is a slight breeze blowing, the gentle ripples can produce some amazing abstract designs. These lend themselves to colour images with blobs of luscious hues or black and white prints with interesting patterns, graphic shapes and lines.

The trick to getting artistic-looking results is to use the correct lens, filter and shutter speed. Here I am taking for granted that you have already had plenty of practice in honing your sense of seeing (not just looking) and that you have a good grasp of what constitutes a pleasing composition. These of course are prerequisites, before you even start walking around your reflecting surface, hunting for your image.

For you see, just very minor shifts in camera location can produce totally different results. In fact, every picture that you take of the moving surface of the water will be unique. It is virtually impossible to take two identical images!

  1. Correct lens: this would be a telephoto zoom in the 70-300 mm range. This makes it very easy to isolate many different great images.
  2. Filter: a polarizer is often used to reduce reflections, but here we are using it to just take the sheen off the surface, to intensify the reflection, colours and contrast. You should rotate the filter to get just the correct amount of reflection that you desire.
  3. Shutter speed: this is the most important part, to produce clean, crisp reflections and not blurry messes. Usually 1/250 s or faster is preferred. This also allows you to shoot hand-held for easier hunting while you are stalking your amazing reflections.

These abstracts have the feature that they can turn the most mundane objects into incredible works of art. This technique can also be used on reflections in shop windows, chrome on cars and curved mirrors.
Images can be totally abstract, with unrecognizable subjects, or just altered enough to be intriguing.

It is totally up to you and your imagination plus the conditions of course.

Having said all that, you can still have fun with a simple little P & S (if you don’t feel like dragging out all of the suggested gear above) as the pictures included will illustrate, taken while I was on holiday in the Caribbean.

Yacht Reflection

Yacht Reflection

Glass Roof

Glass Roof