Events are important communication tools. They connect people face-to-face, and allow emotional connections to be forged in ways that print or online media just don't match. For attendees, they feel part of the proceedings, whether they're active participants or bystanders.

In my last post, I talked about the art of wedding photography. Weddings are very special and emotional events, with huge artistic opportunities.

Today, I'm talking political events. When I worked in government, I'd organized and photographed many of them. This post is my own photography - one I took of Justin Trudeau at a family event hosted by LiUNA Local 183 at Downsview Park in 2015, three months before he was elected Prime Minister of Canada.

Justin Trudeau speaks to the media

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at LiUNA Local 183 family day in 2015

What do you like about this picture? What could have been better?

Things we can't control

Weather: It was a very bright day, so Justin and the other members of his team have shadows on their faces. We can use fill flash to help reduce the shadow. Cautious that when it's hot, people are sweating, that can lead to glare. Post-processing can do a lot, too. The subjects are also squinting in the sunlight, which can make them look severe. It isn't Justin's typical look.

Bystanders: The fellow in the striped shirt, standing in front of the LiUNA trailer in the background is a little distracting. You wonder what he's saying as he gestures with his hands. Depending on what your role is, maybe you can have assistants serve crowd control, often this isn't the case. You can try to be aware of them, and use the subject to block them out while not compromising framing.

Subject placement: Sometimes as a photographer, you can direct people where to stand - in a group portrait for example. Sometimes you can't. Experienced politicians learn to be aware of their positioning for photos, but there is never a guarantee you'll get the exact shot you want when groups of people are involved in a candid shot.

Things we can control

Framing: At most political announcement events, the speaker will be standing alone. This makes it very easy to frame the speaker with just the podium sign and backdrop. The theme of this event was unity, so his team of Toronto candidates were clustered around him, along with officials from the hosting union. I think the framing is good, with Julie Dzerowicz and Ali Ehsassi at either shoulder, looking towards their leader with pride. I bisected Michael Levitt, which is a little unfortunate in this tight shot.

Exposure: I think Justin is captured with good exposure in this shot. I'd used fill flash, to reduce the shadows on his face. It didn't use quite enough power to reach his team to the side and a little further back. The gentleman behind Justin has some shadow on his face, cast by Justin and my fill flash. I think it serves to give separation between the main subject and others around him in this example.

Our own positioning: I was standing directly in front of the podium for this shot. The sign is straight on, while Justin is scanning the audience catching people's eyes. He happens to be looking away from me at this moment. We can say it demonstrates his ability to connect with in-person audiences, but that means he isn't connecting with the viewer of the image in the same way he would If I'd caught him looking straight at my camera.

Field of view: Choose the right lens. Event photographers will typically work with a standard zoom like a 24-70mm and a telephoto like a 70-200mm. These are your workhorse lenses. This photo was taken with a telephoto, to keep the shot tightly framed around Justin and his team standing nearest to him.

Post processing: This image was good right from the camera, but I used post-processing to adjust the exposure so the sky isn't blown out. I adjusted the crop slightly, as well.

What would you add to this critique? How would you use this photo to share the story of the event afterwards?


Read more

Wedding photography. Let’s talk about it for a moment. For many years now, weddings and photography have shared a romance as intimate as the couples sharing their special day with family, friends and others important to them.

The wedding lasts a day, or at most a few days, depending on traditions. Photographs and/or videos are the memories of the day, captured in images. Brides and grooms are looking for beautiful images to remember their wedding by.

Photographers have their own motivations. Paying their bills is always one. Ensuring their clients are satisfied once the contract is fulfilled is another. They may also be motivated by the art of photography. While capturing images of a happy couple on their wedding day, there can be ample opportunity to create truly artful images.

While scanning through Explore on Flickr, I found this image that astonished me. I love the juxtaposition of the veil and the waterfall, against the solid rocks. Both the veil and waterfall appear soft and flowing. The rocks are hard and eternal. Finally, the bride is in the middle, framed on all sides.


photo by Donfer Lu

I can't say whether it's actually a photo of a bride on her wedding day. It may be of a model in a wedding gown.

How important do you think wedding photography in the world of photographic art?


Read more

We don’t see a lot of film being shot these days, it's true. That doesn't mean it isn't alive and well. My friend John Meadows is connected with an avid group of film photographers. Search a photography community site like Flickr for film photography groups. You'll find plenty.

Digital is convenient, and in many practical ways, superior to film. Most professionals will agree that they'd prefer to work in digital for most applications, especially when there's action. But for special applications, the photographers who work in film can produce stunning results.

If you want a photographic experience - and I've said this before on my old blog - try out film. Especially if you've only ever shot digital. Find an older manual film camera on the cheap at a garage sale or 2nd hand shop and play, or borrow a film camera if you know anyone who has them. Then find a shop to develop and scan your film for you.

Here's a recent photo by John Meadows. I hope you'll visit his website or Flickr Photostream to see more of his work.

Bus line 2

I've been planning to try developing my own film for a while, and John set me up with a few pieces of important equipment. I've since bought the necessary developing chemicals and will try it soon.

Read more

Pokémon Go has become an instant phenomenon. Are you surprised? As one of the largest video game franchises since 1996, it has a huge following. It's also dragged augmented reality (AR) into the mainstream.

The Pokémon games have boasted a fun experience from the beginning - always silly, but with serious RPG battle mechanics and a lot of easter eggs to discover - the game had broad appeal for children and adult gamers of all interest levels. Then the spinoff games introduced some truly creative concepts; Pokémon Snap for the N64 really impressed me at the time.

Let me tell you about an event surprised me... Last night, I saw a guy on his bicycle with the game open, nearly cause an accident at Danforth and Victoria Park in Toronto. This was a grown man, and definitely not the demographic I expected to see playing Pokémon Go!

I've resisted the urge to download Pokémon Go. Though, I'm curious to give it a try. I have fond memories of Pokémon Red & Blue. I'm just not a big mobile gamer. Should I just give in?

To the average player, what might be most surprising is how invested the developer Niantic is in Pokémon Go as a marketing platform. Basically, there are tools within the game that brick & mortar business can use to draw players into their stores. It's quite ingenious. I wonder though, If you enjoy video games, do you feel a little on edge when the game you're playing reverses your role in the product/customer dynamic?

This article gives a clear overview of the current marketing potential of Pokémon Go.

Read more


I’ve had a few conversations lately about what’s important in work. The discussions came back to how to use work as a growth opportunity.

This sent me looking for some articles to read and found a couple of pieces on the Psychology Today blog.

What did these pieces have to say about hard work?

  1. Hard work grows the mind
    When you’re working hard – and let’s leave physical labour aside for this one – you’re also learning key skills. You’re developing confidence in solving problems and overcoming challenges. It’s no different than exercising our bodies, whether at work or at the gym. When you push your mind to solve harder problems, it responds and gets better at it.No, self-confidence isn’t just a product of loving parental support, it’s also developed through personal success in facing life’s difficulties. So to parents who feel good about taking care of life’s problems for their children, maybe it’s a good idea to let them struggle a bit, too.
  1. Work gives satisfaction
    When you’re nailing it, and things are going along your way – or even if they’re not but you’re seeing real improvement – you feel satisfied. Have you ever sat down at the end of a long day of hard work, and thought “I deserve to treat myself to something.”Maybe the treat is something you could do any time you wanted – watch a movie, have a cold beer, or order pizza instead of cooking. The point is you feel better about treating yourself. It adds to your satisfaction.I’m borrowing the below quote, attributed to Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, Bhante Gunaratana, from the previous link. He’s known for his writings on mindfulness.

View all problems as challenges.
Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow.
Don't run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence.
You have a problem? Great.
More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.

  1. In time, hard work will look effortless
    This one’s a bit more complicated. If you want to be an expert, or achieve excellence in a particular area, it takes a lot of work. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in Outliers. You don’t see successful people – regardless of the privilege they inherited – get there on sheer luck or natural talent alone. Everyone has to work hard to climb a mountain.Recalling the a friend’s description of her multi-day hike to Machu Picchu, and the porters that carried the gear up and down mountain passes seemingly effortlessly. They weren’t super human, they carried heavy packs up and down mountain passes so many times, they reached a point where they made it look effortless.And what are the benefits of reaching the point where it looks effortless? All I can say is, a study by Chia-Jung Tsay in the January 2016 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that experienced managers might be more interested in hiring you if you’re seen as a natural.You can read a bit more about that, summarized in this psychology today piece, titled Hard Work Is Good, But It Is Better to be Seen as a Natural.

Featured Image: Creative Commons License attribution to Ryan Hyde

Read more

I’ve been admiring George Socka’s work on Flickr (mostly from afar) for a number of months. I find his surrealist photo art astonishing. This is one of his more recent pictures that wowed me.

His work reminds me that photography is a broad art form, and there's so many ways to approach it - beyond capturing landscapes, portraits, wildlife and action - to evoke stories and emotion.

Digger breakout, July 9, 2016

If his work appeals to you, I definitely recommend following George Socka on Flickr.

Read more

Probably one of the most promising technological ideas of the past few decades, virtual reality never really delivered on its promises in the past.

I remember trying a buggy arcade hang gliding simulator, oh… I can’t remember how long ago.

The computing power, from a consumer perspective, simply didn’t exist to drive the VR technology at the time. The game consisted of little more than bad 3D wireframe graphics. The physics processing wasn’t much better.

From everything that was shown off at CES 2016, it appears VR is finally ready to become reality. This piece from Toronto-based Cream360VR really highlights what's becoming available this year. Imagine how immersive 360 and VR video can be used for communications and storytelling - these folks are putting the technology top-of-mind!


Read more

Doesn’t it show?

I’m still growing into my new WordPress install. Expect changes around here over the coming week. If you want to get in touch, try contacting me at

Read more