December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays from me & mine to you and yours. All the best for 2009!

December 3, 2008

On the Job

I haven't been updating the ol' blog as much as I should be...babies take up a lot your time, don't you know. :)

Here are a couple shots of me 'on the job'. These were actually taken on my birthday.

Yes, I know I have a bird house growing out of my head...what can I say? I didn't take the shot. :)

October 23, 2008

Forrest Hodson

Well the big event has come and gone. On September 16, Forrest Hodson came into this world at 9lbs 8oz. After a very long labor, he still required 'the' operation before he came out to say hello. Mom and baby are both doing well. Without further adieu, I give you Forrest Hodson....

September 8, 2008

Belly shot

I finally got it together to get a shot of my beautiful wife and her belly, in all of her maternal glory. Less than a month to go!

August 14, 2008

Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

I ran across this article and thought it was worth putting it up here.

Digital technology is brilliant. The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility and amazing amounts of control for the photographer, the hobbyist, the professional, the amateur. With flexibility comes a price though. Camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in its’ lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into all of this.

Even though you pay $1.99 for a print at your local drugstore and paying for film is pretty much a thing of the past (although you still pay for memory) you may be wondering why you may pay upwards of $40, 50, 70, 90 for a custom photography print. Some photographers hear this statement every once in awhile:

"How in the world can you charge $60 for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at the local drug store?"

The answer is multifaceted and has a lot to do with the time, aforementioned equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer, expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business.

Approaching it from a time standpoint, for instance let’s imagine if you will that you have hired a photographer who has work that you love and that is travelling an hour to your on location session. Time break down:

session prep time (30 mins - 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
one hour travel time TO session
15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
one hour travel time FROM session
30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
1 hour sorting through and checking order
30 minutes-1 hour prep time for delivery
30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped
any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues
As you can see, average client time for a session ranges from just under 13 hours to 19 hours dependent on the photographer’s level of service. This is time dedicated only to your session. When the photographer charges $150-$300 for the photo shoot you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.

Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run up $900 to $2500. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer.

Then come lab costs for specialty products. A good photographer knows the lab is integral to their success. Photography labs dedicated to the professional photographer often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for you, the discerning client.

Discussion other costs of running a photography business could take awhile so we’ll skip the intricate details. There is of course much more: including costs of running the business, taxes, studio rental/mortgage if the photographer has ownership of a dedicated studio, vehicular costs, costs of advertising/marketing, costs of sample pieces that the photographer will likely bring to your session, etc.

Often times clients will mention to their photographer that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $25 for an 8×10 or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains. The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service. According to several articles at the time, did you know that in February 2007 a rather well known discount department store that started in Arkansas closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation? The reason is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ "professional" prints if you do not sell enough of them. Interestingly enough - those same studios that offer the loss leader packages often charge much much more for their a la carte pricing (as high as $40-50 for an 8×10). The whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait studios in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments. Your "PORTRAITS" are considered the true "loss leader".

Going to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention for 2 hours at your home where your child is allowed to explore, play and be comfortable in their home environment, nor do you get the experience that many custom photographers are known for or the lovely captures of natural expressions. You simply get a bare bones, "SAY CHEESE" experience. Keep this in mind when selecting a photographer.

Being in demand, being well known for quality work, having a good reputation often costs time on the photographer’s part. Their expertise comes at a cost, their time learning their craft and learning the intricacies of lighting and the commitment put forth on their end to create a persona about their business that oozes professionalism. A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money at the business of photography. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be easily profitable in no time, how expensive could it be to get a camera and use it to create their dream? They often neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back ups, etc..

Being of sound reputation, a better professional photographer knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch. To create good work good equipment, reliable equipment, back up equipment is a necessity. The photographer who desires to be known as better/best/unparalleled reputation-wise knows that the most important thing they can do for their business is reliability and dependability. This is how reputations get built. Good work often is a wonderful side product of building that good reputation.

I hope this (lengthy) article helps shed some light on WHY a custom photographer is a better choice for your family’s memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that your photographer has will be cherished for a lifetime (or more) and great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.

Article from HERE

August 8, 2008

It's been a busy summer with plenty of weddings to shoot. Here are some shots from a wedding which fell on my birthday, July 12.

The guys, just before heading to the ceremony.

Here is the backdrop to the ceremony location and we can see the groom and his parents before he walked down the isle.

The wedding was at the Devonian Gardens, and as you can see, it was a beautiful location.


It was a beautiful day with nice blue skies and white clouds. It was a little hot though.

The canola fields were in bloom, so I insisted that we stop for some photos. Kudos to the bridal party for actually getting into the field, even though it was a little muddy and uncomfortable.

At the reception, I used a combination of off-camera flash and on-camera flash.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, even if I did have to spend my birthday working. After leaving the reception, I raced home just in time to get there while it was still my birthday for a few minutes...and my wonderful wife was waiting for me with a birthday kiss.

July 17, 2008


A while back, I had the chance to shoot a set of nine month old twins. They are related to my wife somehow or another...those Ukrainian families are huge. I was actually working with my wife's cousin, who is a professional painter. I help him out and put in a days work, painting houses...every now and them. One day, we were painting a house that belonged to some relatives of his, I had heard of them but had never met them. I knew that they had recently moved back to Canada and had twins.
Before long, they came home to see how the painting was progressing. I introduced myself and let them know that I was a photographer. Before leaving for the day, I made sure to put one of my fridge magnets on their fridge. It wasn't long before they called me to shoot their '9 month' photos.

They had a large house so there was room to set up my studio in the 'bonus room'. I got everything ready and we got down to business.

They were at a perfect age and developmental stage for baby portraits. They could both sit up very well on their own...but they had not yet learned to crawl. This meant that we could plop them down into position and they didn't crawl or run away...if only all children's portrait shoots would be that easy.

Well it turns out that shooting two babies at once is as tricky as you might imagine. I made the mistake of having both parent behind me on either side. This meant that the kids were often looking in different directions. A fair number of shots were wasted because they were looking all over the place.

I did manage to get some pretty good shots though. The little boy was great. I don't remember shooting such an expressive baby. In every shot, he would show me a different expression. The little girl wasn't into it as much, but she played along nicely.

I'm hoping to shoot these twins again, there were great to work with and who doesn't love twins?

June 13, 2008

Blake Portrait shoot

It was my nephew's 2nd birthday last week. His parents wanted photos to mark the occasion and it just so happened that we booked the photo shoot for a few hours before his birthday it made for a long day for both him and me. ;-)

I bought some fabric from work to try out as a white backdrop. I think it worked out fairly well.

He's a snappy looking little guys, isn't he? His vocabulary is so good, it's hard to believe that he only just turned two.

He seemed to like having his photo taken, which makes my job a lot easier. Or maybe he just likes hanging out with his Uncle Mike.

Upside down!

He still likes his Bumbo chair.

He loves his books. No wonder he's such a smart kid.

Here he is with his new little brother. The little guy wasn't in a great mood that day...and Blake didn't want to get too close. This was about as close as I could get them.

Did I mention that the little guy wasn't in a good mood?

Eventually he calmed down a bit...well, for about 10 seconds.

June 10, 2008

Wedding Photos

These are from my first wedding of the season, which I shot with another photographer. Having two of us, really allowed us to get great coverage of the wedding and it allowed me some time to get creative.

The weather on the day of the wedding was great, it reached 30 degrees that day, which is amazing, considering that it was the May long weekend. There could easily have been two feet of snow that day, so we were very happy with that.

My day started at the Groom's parent's house where I was able to get a few detail shots.

We headed to the church quite early because we had planned to shoot the formals before the ceremony. Many people don't like doing it that way, because of the common tradition that the groom shouldn't see the bride until the actual ceremony...but it can make the day go a lot smoother and give us more time for photos.

Still, I did stage a 'first sight' for them by hiding the groom outside the back of the church and having the bride on the other side of the door.

They had booked City Hall, so that was our first stop. It's a very grandeur venue for photos and it has an enormous stair case and many balconies, not to mention a glass pyramid for a roof.

After the formal family shots, we tried a few fun shots like this...

After City Hall, we went to the Ledge Grounds, which is the most common location for wedding photography. It was early in the year and early in the it wasn't too crowded but if you show up there at 2:00 on a Saturday during the summer months, you will have to fight for your shooting location.

This spot is a favorite of mine.

From there, we rushed back to the church for the ceremony...a little late, but none the worse for wear. The ceremony was short and sweet (my favorite kind) and then they greeted their guests with a receiving line.

We took a few more shots with some family who hadn't made it out to City Hall and then we took the Bride & Groom to the U of A campus for some more private photos.

This is just outside the Arts Building. I wanted a Gothic feel for this photo to go along with the old architecture. Do you like it, or did I over do it?

This was a nice little spot we found on Campus. I wish the sun flare wasn't right on their faces but it looks pretty nice otherwise.

By the time we were done with the photos, we were all getting hot and hungry. We headed to the reception, a little late (again) but in good shape.

One of the obstacles of being a wedding photographer these that just about everybody and their dog has a digital camera and they are constantly snapping pics. When you can't beat them, join them... :-)

May 15, 2008

RIP Canada Mug

Today is a sad day. Today I broke my favorite coffee mug.

It was an unfortunate fell from the kitchen counter onto the floor. It didn't shatter, so at first I had hope that it was OK, although the sounds it made gave me a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I quickly snatched it off of the floor and had a look...maybe it would only be the handle, and I could glue it back on. Well, it was the handle...but the handle was so solid that the mug itself cracked on either side of the handle.

It was a good mug.

It was over sized, so that I could cook a 'cup-o-soup' or a package or Mr. Noodles (Ramen noodles for you Yanks). There were a lot of lunches eaten from it...we have made it though some lean times, me and that mug. It could hold a full cup of coffee without being too full, which meant that I never spilled coffee on the way back to my office from the kitchen.

I got it from my Sister Alia and it's been with me for 10 years and at least 4 different jobs.

You will be missed...Canada Mug.

May 13, 2008

First Photos

Check this out...the very first photo of my kid. Actually...'photo' means light and this is an it's the first 'picture' of my kid. cool is that?

We went in for the ultrasound this Monday...was an awesome experience. We could see the little guy (or girl, we didn't ask) moving around and opening his mouth like a fish. We even saw him hiccup a few times. It was really neat how the ultrasound tech could alter the depth of the scan and we could see different parts of the baby. The spine & neck would show up really clear, then he would change it so we could see some ribs. We saw his hands, feet fingers and was really cool. It even looked like he gave us a thumbs up at one point.

It was all over, far too soon...but we did get to have a couple pictures...although, we had to pay for them. I joked that this was the first and maybe only time that I would actually pay for pictures of my kid. Like any parent...I plan to take tons of photos of my kids and I've got some great ideas that I want to try out...he's just got to come out first.

May 1, 2008

Baby Portraits

After my photo class last Saturday, I rushed home to pick up my wife, my portable studio equipment and my camera gear. Then we went to Russell & Megan's house for a photo shoot.

We had to move the furniture around to make some space and I set up so that I could use the large living room window for light. Window light is great because of it's soft quality. I also had someone hold up a reflector on the other side, to fill in the shadows.

Aidan was a perfect little dude for the photo shoot. We started with a shirt & diaper but quickly went to the artistic nude shots. He was in great spirits and didn't even pee on anyone, what a gentleman. Just like with any baby portraits, the hard part is getting them to look where you want them to. Aidan couldn't stop staring at me when I first got there and when I was setting up...but of course, I wasn't as interesting when I had a camera in front of me. He's a smart little guy, so it really wasn't too hard to get his attention though.

The real problem was posing him. He can sit up on his own, but he just didn't want to...Mom and or Dad had to keep him from falling over and off of the table. There were no accidents but Megan's heart skipped a few beats now and then. When we tried to lay him down, he was very adamant about showing us how well he could roll over...and over and over. Lastly, I tried to get some shots of his feet...but then he was showing up how fast he can kick and punch. Eventually, he figured he would taste his toes, and was able to get the last shot.

Anyway, here are a few of the shots from the session. What an adorable kid, don't you think?

Photo Class

So I had a photo shoot booked for the morning of Saturday April 26th (last Saturday). We also had an appointment for a representative of ComFree to come over to the house on Saturday afternoon.

On Friday I got a reminder, via Microsoft Outlook, that I had signed up for a photo class on Saturday. Oops...I had to reschedule the photo shoot and the ComFree meeting.

The class was at Metro Continuing Education. I've taken a few classes there before, they are usually pretty good...this class was 'Family and Group Portraiture'. The instructor for this class was Tracy Grabowski, a professional photographer.

Tracey was a real spark plug. She was full of energy and enthusiasm...even though she admitted to not being a morning person. She was full of great stories that helped to illustrate the point that she was trying to teach up. She did tend to get off topic, but based on how fast and how much she was talking, we certainly got our money's worth for the class.

We were supposed to have a test family to practice on, but they cancelled. That was too bad because we (the students) had to be the people in the group portrait, which meant that it was hard to see what Tracey was seeing and doing, to get us set up nicely.

Overall, the class was pretty good. As with the other classes I've taken there, I didn't really learn too much technical knowledge. I don't claim to be an expert (or do I?) but I usually know most of the material that is being taught. The real benefit of these classes are the instructors. They are working pro photographers and they have a lot of great knowledge, the stuff that you don't find in books etc.

Tracy took a few shots of the group, we even had a little girl (a ballet student who walked by) take a shot, so that Tracy could be in the shot. She said that she would E-mail the shot to us...and I was going to put it up here. If it shows up, I'll be sure to post it.

April 22, 2008

Stuck in Calgary

I had to get up very early to fly from Edmonton to Calgary. There were a few delays because of planes having to be de-iced. By the time I got to the terminal, I had to hustle to get to my connecting flight. I made it just in time as was one of the last passengers boarded. When I landed from Edmonton, it was just starting to snow in Calgary. Now that I was waiting to take was snowing very hard...I mean really hard.

The pilot said that we would have to wait it out, so we sat there in the plane. It was snowing so hard that snow was sticking to the outside of the plane and we could barely see out of the windows. About an hour or so later, they turned on the TV system for us. I tried to watch Juno, but it wouldn't load so I settled for 'There Will be Blood'. It seemed like a pretty good movie and Daniel Day-Lewis is always a good actor. About half way into the movie, with the snow still falling as hard as ever, they canceled the flight and let us off the plane.

With most of the flights delayed or canceled, the airport was chaotic. I quickly called Air Canada to see what my options were. Rather than spend all day waiting to see if any flights would get out, I took a seat on a flight to Houston the next day. With the airport so busy, it was hard to get something to eat, but I waited in line for half an hour and got some grub.

I called my Aunt and asked if I could stay at her place for the night. She lives in South Calgary and the airport is on the north side. The cab cost me $70 and the roads were treacherous...but I finally made it there.

Here are a couple photos from the airport.

Well, it turns out that we set a record for the most snow to fall before noon...the previous recored was from 1920. It stopped snowing for a while, and even warmed up above zero but then it dropped to -10 just as quickly and started snowing hard again. I don't know how much snow fell that day, but I heard it was as much as 19 inches in some parts of Calgary. By the next morning, it was all melted off of the roads and about half melted everywhere else. Crazy.

So by the time I got to Houston, rented a car and found a hotel it was Friday evening rather than Thursday afternoon. A little behind schedule but still do-able. I found a Mexican fish restaurant to have dinner and ordered 'Catfish and Shrimp'. I was scared to order catfish but I figured 'why not?' It actually tasted like any other fish...not to bad.

The next day I made my way to the job site and met with the people I needed to. I had a look at the rig but couldn't actually go onto it because they were doing a crane lift and it was all roped off. The project manager said that we would send me some drawings (so why did I come all the way down here?).

I finished up at the rig and drove around the Houston area. There sure have a lot of freeways. Someone has since told me that they have the biggest interchange in North America. I probably drove over it and didn't even know. I didn't really want to get too lost so I headed back to the hotel, got some grub and settled in to watch NHL playoffs.

The trip home was pretty good and I was back in my car around 3:00pm. Funny enough...the weather in Edmonton was as nice as it was in Houston....25 degrees and sunny. All the snow that was still hanging around when I left was now gone and it looked like Spring had not only come...but had passed into summer.

Fast forward a week later and Edmonton has been in a 'Winter Storm Warning' for 4 straight days and we now have several feet of snow...don't you just love it here?

April 9, 2008

Houston, we have a problem.

I'm going on a business trip to Houston tomorrow. I don't get to go on many business trips, so I'm pretty excited. I've never been to Texas before. Hopefully I'll have some time to take some photos and maybe I'll be able to check out the area.

Should I bring my coyboy boots and hat? (yes, I actually own those) I'd probably look like a tourist who shows up in Edmonton with a parka and dog sled team.

I wonder if I'll be able to watch hockey playoffs down there? Probably not, they seem to prefer watching bowling, fishing and poker.

The last two times I've flown in and out of the US, I've had long flight delays and was even stuck in Salt Lake City for a night. Let's hope for better luck this time.

Mike out...

April 3, 2008

Beer Darts

Tired of the same old outdoor games? Looking for something with more kick than badminton?

Beer darts may be for you

Best played outdoors with four players (two teams of two), Beer Darts, is fun for both participants & spectators. The object of the game is to make the opposing team chug their can of beer by puncturing it with a dart.

You will need four lawn chairs, a standard set of darts and a case of beer.

Set up
Set up the lawn chairs to form the Beer Darts court as seen in figure 1. The teams sit facing each other with their target beer between them. The target beer must be shaken vigorously prior to being to being placed into position.

Figure 1

Playing the Game
Players take turn throwing all three darts at the opposing team's target beer. Players must remain seated while throwing the darts. See figure 2. & figure 3.

Figure 2

Figure 3

If a player's dart punctures a beer can, the opposing team must immediately chug their punctured beer. The beer must be finished before play can continue. See figure 4. & figure 5.

Figure 4

Figure 5

After finishing their first beer, the team replaces their target beer with a freshly shaken beer and continues play. Once a team has punctured two of the opposing team's beers, they are declared the winners and may taunt the loosing team. See figure 6.

Figure 6

Variations to the game may be necessary depending on player skill and amount of beer consumed.

If players are having trouble hitting the target beer, move each players chair 10cm closer each time that player misses with all three darts.

Another variation is to place both of a team's target beers out at one time.