From the category archives:

Photography

Easter eggs 2014

by DaniGirl on April 18, 2014 · 1 comment

in Ah, me boys,Photography

Beloved asked me, as I was mixing the dye for the eggs with the water and vinegar, if I’d still be taking photos of the boys colouring Easter eggs when they were in their twenties.

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Of course, I replied. That’s the point.


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Wow. I did not see this one coming.

Getty Images announced last night that it is making approximately 40 million images – including 600+ from me - free for use on social media. If you are a blogger, this is great news for you. If you are a photographer who sells imagery through Getty, maybe not so much.

How does it work? Visit GettyImages.com and find an image you like. Click on the box that looks like this < /> and copy the embed code. Paste into your blog and voila – free stock photos.

Getty’s stated goal is to combat stolen imagery with a sort of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. If people are going to use the images on social media anyway, and clearly they are, might as well offer them for free with proper attribution and links back to the source. Over the longer term, they’re hoping to add some sort of advertising element similar to what you see on YouTube, so the photographers may eventually get a (miniscule) percentage of the ad revenue as well. And there’s the ludicruosly optimistic idea that people will see an image, love it, click through and pay for it. And there’s massive good will and advertising to be earned by Getty. No more infamous Getty takedown notices, but instead lots of free images for everyone, carefully framed in Getty’s embedded ad.

I do admit that it’s clever how Getty has taken control of how the image is used via the embed code. If the image is simply copied illegally and then uploaded somewhere on the web, Getty loses control of the image, and has to pursue illegal use through takedown notices and legal action. If they make the embed code easy to use, they retain control of the imagery from the back end – they can see how and where the image is used but the image is ultimately hosted by Getty so if the image is pulled from the catalogue Getty can simply pull it from the frame if they need to – or if they want to.

Blogger beware, if you use the embed code you are ceding control of the images in your post to the whims and pecadilloes of Getty. Don’t be surprised to see those “free” images are later overlaid with ads you can’t control. If I were a blogger, this alone may scare me out of using these so-called free images – I can’t bring myself to sign on for any network ad affiliate program where I can’t control the exact content of the ads I am displaying, and this is exactly what would happen (potentially, at least) here. Also, there may be SEO implications with the links back to the Getty site, and some feed readers don’t perceive the embedded frame as an image if you push content to an aggregator, so you lose your thumbnail photo if you are only using Getty’s framed images.

There is some debate about which sites can and cannot use the free embed tools. Getty says the images are for “non-commercial, digital use only.” To me, this means any site earning any income (blog ads, sponsored posts, etc) would be excluded, but it seems Getty’s definition is considerably more forgiving. How they will define let alone police commercial versus non-commercial sites remains to be seen, I suppose.

On a personal level, I fear this will devalue any image up for grabs via the embed code – why would anyone choose to pay license fees for an image that is available for free all over the web? Would you pay for an image to use in your product, book or ad campaign if you knew it was already in use on every social media platform, blog and website? On the other hand, the sheer scope of the number of photos available may in fact mitigate this dilution of value. If they’re all free, maybe it won’t devalue individual images? I keep seeing references to the music industry, from Napster to Spotify. *shrug* I suppose it remains to be seen, and there’s not much I can do except suck it up and watch it unfold or yank all my photos from Getty entirely.

I think my biggest peeve in this whole development is that the photos are free of watermarks. I don’t post images on my OWN blog without watermarks, so having offering them up for ALL THE BLOGGERS free of charge and watermarks is somewhere between discouraging and exasperating. . It is, on the other hand, a brilliant business move by Getty and a bonanza for bloggers and other social media content creators.

What do you think? Brilliant business move on Getty’s part or a shiv in the back to the contributors who supply the images? Or both? Will you use the images on your site and are you at all worried about embedding a frame that Getty controls and may later pepper with ads? Anybody more familiar with SEO able to offer insight about the implications from that perspective? How should “commercial” sites be defined?


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I love Photoshop. I don’t always use it, but it sure is fun to play with sometimes when I feel like stretching the possibilities of a given photo. There’s a handful of blog posts I’ve been thinking about writing on the subject of Photoshop in a more philosophical sense, but this one is just for fun because I’m happy with how this turned out.

This photo of Lucas and Tristan from this past weekend was a nice enough photo. The boardwalk leads the eye nicely to the subject, their jackets pop nicely from the background, and I think it tells a lovely little story.

outdoor portrait of brothers on the jack pine trail in winter

But by the time I’d finished it, I took a hard look and thought, “Meh.” It was a perfect candidate for a little tweak.

Although I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of Photoshop’s tools, there are some menu items I’ve never clicked before. Up until last month, the Oil Painting filter was one of them. I kinda thought the idea of rendering a photo as an oil painting was kind of cheesey, to be honest. But then I saw some amazing work in a photography forum and I was inspired to try it. I don’t love it at full strength, but look at the dreamy quality of this as compared to the version above.

outdoor portrait of brothers on the jack pine trail in winter

I love how subtle it is – you don’t really notice you’re looking at something with a filter on it, but the colours are richer and there’s a lovely dreamy quality to it. When I zoom way in, you can see how the details have been rendered smooth and sort of swirly – I love the effect on Lucas’s hair and the winter grass.

portrait of brothers on a winter walk detail

I think this would be really neat on a portrait of a girl taken from behind with really long, curly hair, or a whimsical sort of shot with lots of details, like a little tea party in the woods or something. I can see hanging this on the wall as a canvas – it really takes an ordinary shot and gives it that wow factor, but I really think you need just the right photo to pull it off.

What do you think? Do you like the effect?


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So, the Diefenbunker. You’ve quite likely heard of it if you live in Ottawa – but have you ever made the trek out to Carp to check it out? You absolutely should! It’s been on my vague list of things to do with the kids for years, but it was only when my friend Kirsten (*waves*) came back from her recent visit with a favourable review and terrific photos that it shot to the top of my list of potential adventures. Add yet another day of bone-chilling winter temperatures and the whole family was happy just to get out of the house for an outing that didn’t involve the risk of frostbite.

For those of you who don’t know it, the Diefenbunker is a decommissioned military base. Back during the cold war, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had a complex built deep under some pastoral meadows in Carp, on the very western edge of Ottawa, to house Canada’s top government officials in the case of a nuclear attack. It was the biggest of a series of such complexes built at the time, known as the Continuity of Government plan. From the Diefenbunker website:

The Diefenbunker is a four-story, 300 room, 100,000 square foot underground bunker, and was meant to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. Shrouded in mystery, the Diefenbunker, nicknamed after then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, was designed and built in secrecy during the crest of Cold War fear, between 1959 and 1961. The name of the facility was given by a Toronto Star journalist who exposed a story of its development.

The entrance to the complex was originally just a big door that lead under a berm of soil, but the tour guide told us a small outbuilding had to be built because the spy satellites would have been suspicious of all the supplies and building materials being hauled into a random field out in the boondocks. That outbuilding is the only sign of the giant warren under the ground. You follow this blast tunnel and then make a right turn and enter through one-tonne steel doors to get in – so in the case of a nuclear detonation, the wind would basically blow straight through the tunnel and not into the facility. It’s sobering and fascinating at the same time, which is pretty much evocative of how the entire facility felt to me.

Diefenbunker-14

We opted for a guided tour (free with the price of admission) but you can do a self-guided tour if you prefer. I highly recommend the guided tour, though – our tour guide Louis was excellent. He was very personable, enthusiastic about the topic and spoke in a way that was engaging for all three boys and us as well. We lucked out with a private tour – nobody else was foolish enough to be out early enough for the first tour on a frigid Sunday morning, I guess. And for all but the last 10 minutes we were there, we had the whole place to ourselves! The tour lasted just over an hour, and then we were free to wander through most of the complex to explore at our leisure.

Diefenbunker-16

This is what elevated the Diefenbunker from interesting to a great family activity for me – the fact that we were free to walk into the offices and sit in the chairs, dial the rotary phones, lay on the beds and inspect everything up close. Which we did – a lot!

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The Diefenbunker was built between 1959 and 1961, and was decommissioned in 1994. I find it both evocative and a little depressing how familiar the mid-1980s bureacratic look is – when I started working for the government in 1990, this was still a functioning Canadian Forces station. Considering it’s only been a couple of decades, some of the anachronisms are jarring. We had to explain to the boys what ashtrays were, and how to dial a rotary phone – which they did, over and over and over again.

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The room full of eight-foot by six-foot banks of mainframe computers was fascinating, too. The value of these computers at the time was in excess of $8M, but I have more computing power and RAM in my iPhone.

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This room was Tristan’s favourite part of the tour. The tour guide paused before we entered and told us that when it was functional, the security clearance required to enter was so high that the Prime Minister himself was two levels of clearance shy. When it was an active military station, the commander on site did not have a high enough clearance to enter. So when we finally got to go in and see what was denied to Prime Ministers, the boys were wowed. They were underwhelmed by the computing power of the old magnetic tape reels, though! ;)

Diefenbunker

And later, Tristan took a bit of a rest in the rather, ahem, austere living quarters in the Prime Minister’s suite.

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If you think that’s austere, you should see the dorms that the lowly cabinet ministers and high-ranking military members would have shared – nine beds to a room, sleeping in eight hour rotations three times every 24 hours, so 27 people to a room. Lap of luxury, yes?

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You see the lovely green quality of the light? That’s why so many of these photos are in black and white. Clearly nobody thought to outfit the place with soft white daylight bulbs! While I found the recycled air and the idea of being in a windowless bunker 80 feet under the ground more than a little disturbing, it was the light that would have done me in if I were to spend more than an hour or two in the Diefenbunker!

Other cool things we saw:

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(Props to Kirsten, from whom I stole the idea for the shot above!)

I’m not sure what this is, but there are intriguing machines just like it all over the place in the Diefenbunker, and you can poke at them all you want as long as you are careful. I still can’t believe how open everything is and how much they trust the patrons moving through the museum to be respectful.

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And deep underground, behind a door 15 times heavier than the blast door at the entrance, lies the vault where the Bank of Canada would keep the nation’s supply of gold (and thus, the entire value of the Canadian economy at the time) free from contamination in the event of a nuclear strike. (Having not seen Goldfinger, I had no idea that gold is immediately rendered valueless when it comes in contact with nuclear fallout. I’m still a little sketchy on that one – maybe because the gold becomes radioactive? So many cool lessons learned today!)

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Apparently they started building the bank vault somewhere near Pakenham, but the site kept filling in with water. They eventually gave up and built the vault adjacent to the Diefenbunker – and you can still see a perfectly square lake somewhere out in Mississippi Mills. Must check the Google satellite maps for that one someday!

I think this sign in the cafeteria perfectly sums up the quirky gallows-humour experience of visiting the Diefenbunker. “You’re lucky to be alive, so just eat it.” Bwhahahaha – I really, really need one of these for my kitchen!

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I was completely charmed by our Diefenbunker adventure. It’s a little bit of a history lesson, a little bit of a time capsule, and the polar opposite of a stuffy museum visit. I didn’t expect the kids to be as engaged as they were, and we ended up spending far more of our day there than I had anticipated. I’m also madly impressed with the Diefenbunker admin for offering not only a family admission price, but one that is not limited to just two adults and two children.

I’m not sure that we’d revisit this one on an annual basis, but I will go out of the way to take my family and friends for a visit – it’s definitely worth checking out at least once. Just remind me never to get talked into doing any professional photography under that dizzying cocktail of fluorescent and tungsten lights!

If you go:
The Diefenbunker Museum is located beside the Carp branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 3911 Carp Road. The museum is open seven days per week from 11:00am – 4:00pm, and closed on Christmas and New Years Day. A family admission is well worth $40 + HST. More details on the Diefenbunker site.

Have you been? What did you think?


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I love anniversaries. I keep track of the most esoteric dates so I can reflect and wax nostalgic on them, to consider the difference between then and now and to wonderingly consider all that has happened since. Next month will be the 19th anniversary of the day Beloved and I met, for example. In October, we’ll be four years in Manotick. And this week, I celebrate five years since I started my first photo-a-day Project 365.

It’s almost painful to look back at that first month of photos.

Project 365:  one-tenth of the way done!

There are only a few photos I like in that set – and quite a few more that make me cringe. That’s what progress is about though, right? There are a few I’d like to go back and re-edit, and a dozen I’d like to go back and re-shoot entirely. I wish I knew when the boys were babies what I know now about photography! And yeesh, I thought I was pretty good back then.

I decided to start taking a photo every day pretty much out of the blue, a rather random decision borne of a desire to learn to take better pictures and to document our lives in pictures as well as words. I’d say I’ve managed to achieve both of those goals. Still, never in a million years would I have guessed that one day someone would buy one of my photos to use on the cover of a book! *squeeee*

Watch for this book, featuring a cover photo taken by me of Lucas, in bookstores near you in June 2014!

My first book cover!

And it sounds like a pretty neat book, too. At first, I thought it was just a self-published memoir, but I when I read the description and author bio, I was intrigued. I was already planning on ordering one as a ‘trophy copy’ (my mom has already ordered hers!) but I think I might actually read this one, too!

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.

From an acclaimed, prize-winning novelist celebrated for his “indelible storytelling” (O, The Oprah Magazine), this extraordinary literary memoir captures a son’s single-minded search for a father wherever he can find one, and is destined to become a classic.

Here’s the original photo on the left, and the book cover on the right:

Fun, eh?

So the moral of this story is follow your heart, no matter how silly and random an idea may seem. You never know where it might lead just five years down the road!

Edited to add: How does this story have an even happier ending? When the author of the book finds you via the big old Internet and sends you an e-mail to say thank you for your photo. “In short: THANK YOU. Your picture is an incredible gift that’s made my book complete.” Wow!


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Ah, the selfie. Celebrated. Reviled. International word of the year for 2013 and also at the top of words to banish for 2013.

Clearly it’s a polarizing idea. People love them or hate them. I love them and hate them. I really appreciate a well-done selfie – when they’re insightful and show something about the person both holding and in front of the camera. I love the creativity involved, especially when someone is doing a year-long 365 project of selfies. I love seeing what people want to expose about themselves, and I love when people who are usually behind the cameras are brave enough to step in front.

So what do I hate? My selfies. Ugh. I can count on one hand the number of photos I’ve taken of myself that I truly love, and maybe there’s another dozen that I like because I’m framed with the kids. Every single time I try to set up a photo of myself, I feel self conscious and ridiculous. To be honest, selfies play to my most visceral of fears: looking foolish. I cringe at the idea of someone looking at my photo of me and thinking, “Oh that’s so sad. She’s way too {old, fat, boring, plain, ugly} to pull that off.” While I don’t lack confidence in so many other areas of my life, I cannot imagine why anyone might want to see any more than the occasional photo of me.

Which is precisely why I joined the #365feministselfie project. Sometimes, ya gotta do what terrifies you, right?

Don’t worry, you’ll not have to suffer through hundreds of photos of me posed coquettishly with lips puckered and chin raised. There’s no way I have the tenacity to make it through 365 of them, but I am aiming for one a week for a year. One of my main inspirations is this article that I shared last year, something I want all my mom friends and photo clients alike to read. I read it last year and it has stayed with me, because it is oh so very true:

I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.

When I look at pictures of my own mother, I don’t look at cellulite or hair debacles. I just see her — her kind eyes, her open-mouthed, joyful smile, her familiar clothes. That’s the mother I remember. My mother’s body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood. I always loved that her stomach was soft, her skin freckled, her fingers long. I didn’t care that she didn’t look like a model. She was my mama.

So when all is said and done, if I can’t do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.

I plan to play just as fast and loose with the definition of “selfie” as I did with the idea of a 365 project after the first year was in the can. A photo taken any time during the week, posted maybe on Instagram or maybe Flickr or maybe Facebook. Maybe of my feet, or my reflection, or my shadow. But me, once a week, for a year. Let’s see where it goes!

Easing into this #365feministselfie thing cuz Angela dared me to. Apparently I am still 14.  Oh and #mo365 too!

Want to play along? It’s not too late!

What do you think of the whole “selfie” argument? Do you see them as narcissistic or celebratory? Is the selfie any more self-indulgent than endlessly loquacious blog posts? Should there be a “best-before” date on turning the camera regularly at yourself? What would keep you from doing a project like this?


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(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: 50 favourite photos from 2013

1 January 2014 Life, the Universe and Everything

I was going to post my top 10 favourite photos from 2013, but I couldn’t get it whittled down to anything close to that. Oy, if there was ever a girl in need of an editor, it’s me! Oh well, it’s my blog and pixels are free, right? Heh, just be glad I didn’t post [...]

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Funniest use of a photo yet

27 December 2013 Mothership Photography

Ha ha ha ha! This may be the best, weirdest use of one of my photos yet! You know I license some of my photos through Getty Images, right? I’ve been collecting some of my favourites on my photography Facebook page – they’ve been used in calendars, flyers, websites, books and in magazines like Good [...]

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Flashback Fave: A Christmas Story

16 December 2013 Flashback faves

Another seasonal favourite post to re-share this holiday season! I think this is also Lucas’s favourite blog post that I have ever written. He often asks me to show him “the story with Willie and the red ball.” There I was, minding my own business, playing with the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and taking pictures [...]

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Hunting a Christmas Tree in Twelve Photos

8 December 2013 Happy holidays

We went back to Thomas Tree Farm in North Gower (rapidly becoming our favourite!) to get our Christmas tree this weekend. It was a little bit on the crazy busy side, but we still had a great morning out. I love that the boys are big enough to start taking on some responsibility for the [...]

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