Black (& White) Friday: O Canada!

You may have heard about the events that unfolded here in Ottawa on Wednesday. While on honorary guard at the National War Memorial, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, an army reserve, was fatally shot in the chest at point blank range with a shot gun by a fellow Canadian.

After such a dark day here on Wednesday, I am adding just a hint of colour to my Black & White post this week to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s memory with an image of our National House.

o canada

To Nathan’s family and friends, I extend my sincerest condolences. We are where we are, and as safe as we are, because of Canadians like Nathan.

In related news, I was surprised and extremely honoured to learn that another one of my images has been widely shared throughout Instagram, along with a text overlay that someone did saying “One Love 613″, as a symbol of strength for many in the city. The feeling is probably partly selfish and ill-timed at a time like this, but I’m also glad that I have been able to contribute to the movement with something I’ve created.

one love 613 image 2

one love 613 image



Image Processing: From Start to Finish

How in the heck did I go from this image on the left, to the image on the right…


Disclaimer: I am not obsessed with my looks, and I am the furthest from being a model. However, I am my only readily available model, and am willing to work for free :)

This is a post inspired by one of my favorite bloggers on WordPress, Stacy over at Visual Venturing.

Stacy and I have been blogger buddies for quite a while, and we’ve watched each other improve our photography skills over that time… at least, I’ve seen Stacy drastically improve the quality of her photography. For nearly six months, she has been running a weekly feature on her blog called “After-Before Friday” where she she shares her post-processing techniques in a video, as well as the image processing of other fellow bloggers. I’ve wanted to participate for quite a while, and I felt that this was the perfect time to jump in.

As you can see from the image on the left, there’s only a hint of a subject in the image. The funny thing is that that same image looked a lot nicer on the back of my camera, which goes to show that you should never fully trust what you see on the tiny screen on your camera… which is actually a compressed jpeg version of your RAW file.

Being a RAW shooter, I thought I’d take on the challenge of trying to bring this image back to life, and through this post I’ll show you how I did it.

My original intent with this lighting setup was to create a dramatic low-key black and white image, but when I converted the image, something just didn’t feel right. So I started over.


Often when I’m not sure of the direction I’d like to take with an image, I’ll press the “Auto” button and let Lightroom begin my journey. What Auto does, is look at all the light and dark areas, and make it’s best guess on the exposure, and in this instance it added five stops of exposure, removed a lot of contrast, and adjusted the light and dark sliders. Unfortunately, this resulted in a well lit, unfocused, and dull image.

auto tone


If you’ve ever seen one of my images, you’ll know that I love adding clarity and contrast to my images. In an attempt to draw attention back to my face and my “intense stare” (insert laughs and insulting jokes here), I reduced exposure by two stops, increased clarity to 100%, and manually added contrast by drastically adjusting the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders. This instantly brings the focus back to my face.

clarity adjust


To black out the background and maintain the low-key effect I envisioned, I brought in a radial filter and two graduated filters so I could reduce the background exposure by nearly three stops and create a black backdrop to my scene.

radial filter


After a couple more highlight/shadow adjustments, an increase to vibrance, and a decrease in saturation, I completed my “movie poster” look by cropping the image to a 16×9 aspect ratio.


EYE ENHANCEMENTS (Adjustment Brush)

I next used the adjustment brush to make the eyes pop! Here, I basically boosted the exposure, highlights, and clarity slightly, so that they catch light was more visible and they eyes looked more alive.

eye adjust


Lastly, I made a few slight adjustments to the orange and red tones in my skin, made a slight increase to overall exposure, a reduction on the highlights slider, and the image was complete!

final retouch

Thank you so much for following along on this longer than normal blog post, but I had fun sharing how I worked on this image. I probably won’t do this every week, but I’ll definitely participate in Stacy’s forum again soon. In the meantime, click on over to Visual Venturing to see Stacy’s work… I know you’ll like what you see.

I’d love to hear what you thought of the post – what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you would have done differently. My favorite posts are the ones that generate great discussion in the comments, so please chime in.

Farm Colours

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving passed a week ago which means we’re in full fledged harvest mode here. The temperatures are also dropping, and I took my little guy on a cold and rainy cycling trip to the farm again late last week. It’s so nice to visit the farm during the school year because the crowds have disappeared and it’s almost like having our own eleven hundred acre farm… but without the work.


Since we had time on our side on this day, we took our time biking through the farm to get to the animal barns. We stopped to watch combines cutting the corn, looked at the various barns scattered throughout the property, and watched cows grazing in the fields.

I loved the pop of colour in the wagon and trees against the mostly monotone corn and wheat fields that surrounded us, so I snapped this pic. I was going to share more images from the trip, but I’ve decided to scatter them into other posts that you’ll see over the next couple of weeks. What I’d really like to do is make some portraits of the farmers who work this land. It’ll happen someday, but I may just have to figure out how to catch them when they have a few minutes to spare.

I hope you all had a great weekend!


Black (& White) Friday: Layers of A Farm

On a recent trip to the Experimental Farm, a rural sprawl of land right in the middle of the city, I paused to snap some shots of the human-less landscape. I’m still getting used to the vast amount of space and the incredible number of trees Ottawa has, that I didn’t see while living in Toronto.

I saw this scene as I cycled up to it and hoped it would work as a black and white image. I really like the textured layers, and how they move from dark to light as your eye moves from the bottom of the image to the top. I also like the barrenness of the landscape coupled with a tiny cluster of MASSIVE trees on the left. For me, the trees add perspective and a sense of scale, because they absolutely tower over you when you’re close to them.

This image will be part of Leanne Cole’s upcoming Monochrome Madness challenge.

corn field