<![CDATA[Dougall Photography - Tips and Trips]]>Sun, 28 Jan 2018 08:37:49 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Do I Need a "Pro" Camera To Take On A Cruise?]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 19:32:10 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/do-i-need-a-pro-camera-to-take-on-a-cruise
The short answer?  No, you do not need a big (or small) black camera to take on a cruise.  Cell phone cameras have become so good that many of us don't even need another camera at all.  Are there times that a Digital SLR (DSLR) camera has some advantages?  Yes, and they tend to be at times when the light is low to non-existent, wildlife is at a distance and you need to "pull it in" with a telephoto lens, or when speed is of the essence and a lag on the shutter makes the difference between getting the shot and not getting it.

People constantly ask me what I shoot with and what they should take along on a cruise.  I am currently shooting a Fuji X-Pro 2 with a selection of smallish lenses.  I sold off my Canon 5D and associated lenses as they were just more bulk and weight than I wanted to carry on my shoulder.  Another option these days are 4/3 cameras which are also light and easy to carry.

If you are thinking you want to go beyond your point and shoot or cellphone camera, there are a number of great resources out there to help you make that choice.  One very good one is Jenn Miller's "How to Choose a DSLR According to Science".  It is not a long read but covers everything you should consider if you are going to plump for a new camera.  If you choose a new camera to take on a cruise, PLEASE buy it months ahead of time to learn how everything works.  No need to return from the "once in a lifetime trip" with poor or non-existent images!

"How To Choose a DSLR" can be found here.

<![CDATA[Which Alaska Cruise Itinerary Should I Take?]]>Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:29:34 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/which-alaska-cruise-itinerary-should-i-takePictureCollege Fjord
This is a very important question asked by most people thinking of taking their first Alaska Cruise and there are really several parts to the answer:

Where should we board the ship?

Embarkation ports for trips to Alaska are usually Vancouver, Seattle and less often, San Francisco.
  You can also sometimes get one or two early season re-positioning cruises that offer a sailing out of Los Angeles.  Whether you choose a US port or a Canadian one is dependent on which is easiest to get to and what you want to see along the way.  US ports can be easier and cheaper to get to for Americans looking to travel to Alaska, although you will want to confirm that as you look for a sailing.  You should also know that a number of cruise lines that sail out of Vancouver offer bus transfers to and  from the Vancouver pier to the airport in Seattle.  Just fly into Seattle and let the cruise line take care of getting you to Vancouver.

Ships sailing from San Francisco usually take passengers on an eleven day cruise rather than seven day itineraries offered from more northern ports because of the further distances travelled.  Additional stops out of San Francisco may include Astoria, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia.  Beyond that, the ports of call for ships leaving from all departure ports are about the same. 

One of the biggest differences is the route to and from Alaska.  Ships departing from the USA tend to take a route in open water to the west of Vancouver Island on both the outbound and inbound legs of the cruise.  Ships departing from Vancouver usually follow the sheltered eastern side of Vancouver Island up and back.  If you Google images from "Johnstone Strait" or "Canadian Inside Passage"
you will see how magnificent the scenery is and how narrow the navigation channel is - it feels like you can reach out and touch the mountains on either side of the ship.

Ships leave Vancouver between 4:30 and 5:30 pm, which means you will not see the "Canadian Inside Passage" on your way north.  You will be awake the next morning about the time the ship clears the north end of Vancouver Island and enters open water.  Coming south, on your last full day at sea, you should clear the north end of Vancouver Island about noon or 1:00pm.  From then until sunset you are in for a wonderful view of some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.

PictureSkagway, Alaska
Should we do a round trip or sail one way north/south?

The simplest way to go is round trip - and it is often the cheapest.  The advantage to the round trip is that you start and end in the same place so everything is familiar and relatively easy. 

Doing an entire northbound itinerary means you will be dropped at one of two Alaskan ports - Whittier or Seward and then be transported to Anchorage where you can head off on your own or take a conducted land tour to see some of the Alaskan sites by train or bus.  Once done, you can fly home from Anchorage without a great deal of difficulty.

Another option is to fly up to Anchorage, do whatever kind of touring you would like and then sail south to Vancouver or a port in the US.  Flights to and from Alaska are just as easy to find and not as expensive as you might think.  Spending a few days in an around Anchorage, a town of 250,000, is quite interesting even if you don't take a land tour.  The divided interstate highway out of Anchorage headed for Fairbanks is easy to drive on, so renting a car and touring on your own is a distinct possibility.

Creek Street in Ketchikan
What ports should we try to see on our cruise?

The breakdown goes something like this:

  • Cruise ports you are almost guaranteed to see:  Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway.
  • You will probably also get to see a combination of the following as well:  Hubbard Glacier and/or Icy Strait Point, or Glacier Bay.  I have never seen an itinerary that included both Hubbard and Glacier Bay but it is probably out there somewhere.
  • If you are north or south bound, you may get to spend some time in College Fjord as well.

There are other possible port stops if you are on a special cruise itinerary, but these are uncommon and include ports like Sitka, or Haines.  If you can find a cruise that stops in Sitka (often on a north or southbound cruise) you will not be disappointed.  This used to be the capital of Russian Alaska and the history is all over, including a Orthodox church set into the middle of main street - yes, in the middle of the road.  This is the port to take a marine tour to see rafts of sea otters and other marine creatures.  No other port gives you such access to otters.  There is a wonderful raptor rescue centre to visit and a totem pole heritage centre next to a  forest where totem poles are scattered around for visitors to find and admire.

A previous blog gives a little more information about Alaskan ports.

As you can see, there are many option available to you.  Select an embarkation port that is convenient for you once you understand what you get or give up with a particular itinerary.  Watch too for special one of a kind itineraries that can take you to the Aleutian Islands or all the way to Japan.

We are always interested in hearing about a trip you may have taken, the ports you visited and whether they provided interesting things to see and do.  Feel free to add a comment if you would like.
<![CDATA[Smart Phones Replacing "Real" Cameras?]]>Sat, 13 Sep 2014 17:40:25 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/smart-phones-replacing-real-cameras Picture

For many people the quick answer to this is "yes".  With smart phones now equipped with cameras that resolve north of 8MP, the picture quality is getting pretty good.  Yes, the size of the sensor is tiny and the grain in the image if low light images can be distracting, but since most of us will not be making large prints, the results can be quite good. 

A real indication of just how good smart phone images are, iStock and Getty Images have begun to allow contributors to submit pictures taken on contributor's smart phones.  I have had a number of my iPhone images accepted and some have sold as well.

The advantage to these cameras is that they are always with us so the chances of "capturing the moment" are very good.  Without an optical zoom - and even with a telephoto add on, you are not going to use these for hunting land animals or birds, but for people pictures and landscapes they preform quite well. 

It is now possible to download a number of very good apps which will improve the photos you can capture.  Some even help you with the presentation of your final images.  I have been playing recently with these apps on my iPhone.  The same ones, or similar, exist for Android phones:

Simply B & W: an easy to use program that lets you convert your camera or photo library images to very credible black and images.

Layout: an great way to, ah - layout your images with good looking frames around them.  Display individually or in groups as seen above.

Pro HDR: takes to differently exposed images in a fashion closer to true high dynamic range rather than tone mapping a single image.  You have to be pretty steady or brace the camera, but the results look pretty good.

Dynamic Light: a great way to tone map a single image to give some subtle to extreme HDR effects.

Distressed FX: provides some subtle to extreme option to give a grunge effect to your images.

645 Pro: is a great camera app that turns your iPhone into a "regular" digital camera with all the usual controls and behaviours you would expect, including a histogram, GPS data visible on screen, film and filter simulations, various metering modes, AF, AE and WB locks as needed.  A really interesting way to interact with your phone's camera.

Panorama image taken at Joshua Tree National Park with Pano Camera app on iPhone 5
Pano Camera: a very simple to use app that will create panoramas up to 360 degrees wide.  Simply take your first image and then line up the automatically generated targets for the next shots.  The final image is pretty good considering it takes next to no time to do and doesn't require a tripod.

Whether you use your camera in "plain vanilla" mode or tarted up with an app or two, smart phones today provide a great alternative to a compact digital camera.  If you don't need a telephoto, if you aren't using it in exceedingly dim conditions and if you don't make large prints, this may be all the camera you need.  If you haven't tried some of the photo apps out there, treat yourself, they cost very little and can add a great deal of versatility to your photography.

Do you have a favourite camera app?  A hardware add on?  Why not share your experiences here in the comments.
<![CDATA[Will I Get Sick On A Cruise Ship?]]>Wed, 09 Jul 2014 23:03:26 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/will-i-get-sick-on-a-cruise-ship
Prepared salads for evening meal on cruise ship.
While there are no guarantees that you won't become ill, major cruise lines these days are usually clean as a whistle.  The American Coast Guard performs random surprise inspections of cruise ships as does the Canadian Health Inspection Agency when cruise ships call in Canadian ports.  As of this writing in July, 2013, the ship we are next sailing on, Island Princess, can be checked here and here.  Not only can you see the score the ship received, but you can also see any problems that were identified and the solutions undertaken.  It is not unusual for ships to score 96 - 100, although lower score do appear from time to time.  Ships scoring below 86 are considered to have failed the inspections.

What about Norovirus you may ask?  Noroviruses are a very common group of viruses (only the cold virus is more common) that can cause stomach and intestinal illnesses.  The virus is spread from person to person quite easily and is often brought on board a cruise ship by a passenger or crew member.  It can also be spread through contaminated food or water.  There seems to be a report of Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships with alarming regularity but this is because it is so closely tracked on board with each ship having to report instances of illness (including zero illnesses) for each itinerary they sail.  These results are then made available to the public here.  The Center For Disease Control provides suggestions about preventing Norovirus here. There also appears to be no correlation between inspection scores and instances of Norovirus outbreaks so it is important to me diligent about sanitation regardless of how well the ship you are travelling on scores.

Washing your hands regularly, carrying and using hand sanitizes, not touching public parts of the ship are always ways to limit your chances of getting ill.  One area we really like to avoid touching are handrails in the stairways.  We will lean our hip or forearm into the railing to maintain balance and avoid touching a part of the ship that is regularly handled by large groups of people.

Jan and I also only drink bottled or boiled water on the ship.....or ice cubes sanitized in various types of alcohol :-). As we are sensitive to changes in water (often laid in at each port of call), we find the consistency of bottled water good for us and it eliminates the possibility of drinking contaminated water.

We have been very lucky.  On fifteen plus cruises we have never come down with anything resembling Norovirus.  We have, on longer cruises, developed a dry cough.  This kind of "cruise cough" is often attributed to the air conditioning system in stateroom dying out the air too much in the evening.  I have only noticed it on cruises of ten days or more, and a couple of cough drops seems to help out if this should develop.

Don't worry about illnesses at sea.  Take regular precautions and you will find yourself fit as a fiddle upon your return to dry land.

<![CDATA[Update - What's My Camera Bag?]]>Sat, 28 Jun 2014 17:18:29 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/update-whats-in-my-camera-bag
Think Tank Urban Disguise 40 at Calgary Airport
Back in 2011 I wrote this piece about one of my favourite camera bags, the Think Tank Urban Disguise 40.  Well, the bag is still around although it is now known as the Urban Disguise 40 V 2.  I have had this bag for years and it is still my "go to" camera bag for travelling.  This is especially true for anything that involves air travel as I can fit everything in and it still fits inside that little cage that sits beside every airport gate in the world.  The photo above shows my camera bag stuffed to the gills and resting on the floor of the Calgary airport on our way home after being away for five weeks.

I now travel with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and a series of prime lenses, but by the time I put a 17" laptop and iPad into the case with the accompanying adapters and connectors, I can fill this bag easily.  Always remember, when you are looking for a camera bag, consider how much extra stuff you are going to want to carry rather than consign to the baggage hold in checked luggage!  I highly recommend setting out on a table everything you would want to travel with - try to trim it down and only then begin to think about what size of bag you want.  We often forget about all the extras we carry including power adapters, spare batteries, spare camera body, lens and sensor cleaning supplies, filters, cables, paperwork, etc.  This all adds to the weight you will be carrying and quickly takes up a great deal of room. 

If  we are going to fly someplace where we intend to stay for a period of time, my bag is packed ridiculously full for the plane ride and then is emptied upon arrival at our final destination. 
If we will be flying somewhere and then moving around quite often, I will really lighten up on the accessories and then carry everything in the camera bag all the time.  If we are travelling by car, I usually just put a steamer trunk of gear into the trunk and hope the backseat will hold our luggage.

So, with all this in mind, I thought I would post this update just in case you were looking for a great and versatile camera bag.


Photographers spend a great deal of time looking for the perfect camera bag hoping it's available on the next trip to the store.  Every bag is a compromise unless you have found one that folds the space-time continuum in such a way that a small bag holds a lot of gear and all of it doesn't weigh very much.  Sadly, I haven't seen that bag available at my local camera store, so I have had to make some sacrifices and select a bag that obeys the laws of physics.

One of my first camera bags for my digital camera equipment was the now discontinued  Bob Krist Travel Bag sold by L.L. Bean.  It had the distinct advantage of being taller than wide, thus allowing for a full size camera with a mounted long telephoto to be dropped into it.  At 14" X 12" X 5" and with a vertical configuration, it always felt a little awkward to carry.  While it had some endearing features including the ability to transform into a backpack, after a couple of years I was back to looking for a different bag.

Years later my over the shoulder travel camera bag is still a ThinkTank Urban Disguise 40.  Into this 13" X 10" X 4" black ballistic nylon bag goes as much gear as I would normally want to carry.  Typically I can put a Canon 5D Mk II body with grip and separate 70-200 f/2.8, 24-105 f/4, 2X extender and a digital derringer of some sort.  Without the grip on my 5D, I usually store the camera with a mounted 16-35 in the middle compartment, a 70-200 f/2.8 on one side and a 300 f/4 on the other.  Again, this still leaves room for a digital derringer to be stored in the central compartment giving me more than enough equipment for almost any circumstance.

As with most other camera bags, the inside can be configured in many different ways by attaching various partitions and platforms using hook and loop attachments.  The folks at Think Tank provide a huge selection of these partitions with the bag so there is no shortage of ways to configure the inside.

The rear zippered compartment holds my netbook and power cable.  The two expandable front pockets can hold portable hard drives, small prime lenses or an external flash.  This still leaves another zippered compartment between the main one and the front pockets.  Here there are pockets for pens, paper, lens cleaner and cloth as well as a "Pocket Rocket" - a folding wallet that will hold CF and SD cards and clips to an lanyard mounted in the bag for security.  Soft, stretchable outside pockets on each end of the bag allow for water bottles or the like to be stored where they can be easily accessed.

It's really the little extras that set this bag apart and shows that photographers were involved in the design and testing of this product.  While most bag hardware is now made of plastic, all clips, rings and zipper pulls on this bag are of metal to stand up to the most severe wear and tear.  The zippers are weather resistant and the bag comes with its own rain jacket that can be installed over the bag on rainy days.  There is an open pocket on the back of the bag that can be used to hold paperwork or, with the bottom portion open, it becomes a sleeve that will fit over the upright handle of a rolling suitcase. 

The adjustable, curved and well padded shoulder strap makes this bag relatively easy to carry even when loaded to the max with gear.  The zippers are lockable with any luggage lock you would care to use.  Most importantly, this bag is airplane friendly and will fit under the seats or in the overhead bin on the tiny CRJ's that fly in and out of Saskatoon.

As the name of the bag implies, it is meant to be nondescript rather than shouting out that it's filled with expensive cameras.  Short of carrying around a converted diaper bag to discourage thieves (I've done that,  by the way), this bag will limit unwanted attention during your travels.

The best indication that a bag works is how long a photographer uses it and this one has been my primary travel bag for ten years now.  The bag still looks great - as the photo above will attest - and is large and flexible enough to carry all manner of camera gear.  If you are still looking for that perfect bag, this one - or another in the Think Tank lineup may be in order.
<![CDATA[Will It Be Crowded On My Cruise?]]>Sat, 27 Jul 2013 17:45:50 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/how-crowded-will-it-be-while-cruisingPicture
Passengers waiting to board their cruise ship in Vancouver.
No doubt about it, cruising can be a relaxing way to see the world at a leisurely pace away from the daily grind of busy lives.  While cruise companies would like you to believe that you will be sharing your adventure with few other passengers, this is simply not the case.  As ships increase in size, so does the number of passengers on board.  With a number of ships now carrying 4000 to 5300 passengers each, they are really like floating cities.

While there are bottlenecks or choke points along the way where you may feel like your part of a cattle call, the cruise lines have developed methods of quickly organizing and moving large groups of people.  If you want to avoid feeling crowded on your next cruise, consider some of the following strategies:

1. Avoid the new, mega-ships.  Holding in excess of 5000 passengers, mega-ships manage these numbers relatively well while at sea.  Upon reaching land, it takes a while to disembark this many passengers and get them away of their shore excursions.  Even if you are not taking a tour, you are left in town with a huge number of fellow passengers doing the same as you.  The streets and shops become crowded and local sights are difficult to get near.  God help you when two other mega-ships are in town at the same time that yours is!  My advice - find a "smaller" ship - there are great one out there that carry 1800 to 2300 passengers that will give you a more intimate experience.  Several cruise lines also offer "small ship" options where there are 800 or fewer passengers on board.

2. Use Cruise TT (Timetable) to determine what ships are in port with you on a given day.  Once you have chosen an itinerary and ship, drop by Cruise TT to see if there are many ships in port at the same time as you.  You may find that going a week earlier or later means that there may be less passenger traffic in town with you.  Travelling earlier or later in the cruise season also means there should be less ship traffic to compete with.  The fewer ships in port with you, the less congested the streets and sites will be and the more you will enjoy your time on shore.

3. Consider private tours in the ports you visit.  It is now possible to make your own tour arrangements, often at a discounted price, online before you leave.  The cruise lines will scare you by telling you that you will be left behind if you aren't back in time (this is entirely true) and that the quality of the tours will not be a good (not entirely true).  With the ability to read reviews online, you can usually be assured that the tour will be of equal or better quality than the ship can offer, and with fewer participants.  Make certain that your tour gets you back to the ship one or two hours before you sail, just to give you a time buffer should things go wrong. 

4. Go against the flow whenever possible.  Many passengers go on tours early in the day when the ship had docked and shop once they are back.  Consider doing your walking and shopping first thing and then take a later tour.  If you are taking a ship sponsored tour, the ship will never leave until the tour had returned and everyone is on board.  Another option is to avoid the main tourist areas of a port and move a block or two off the well travelled tourist trail.  Ask your crew on board where there are interesting things to see and do in port - often they know how to avoid the crowds and the tourist traps.

5. Think creatively on sea days.  Many passengers find sea days the most crowded as everyone is on board and apparently on the same schedule.  Everyone wants breakfast in the cafeteria between 8:00 and 10:00 am, lunch between noon and 2:00pm and dinner between 6:00pm and 8:00pm.  If you are an early riser, no trouble, but lunch can be a problem.  Rather than fighting your way through the cafeteria, consider a civilized sit down meal in the dining room or order in room service.  Many ships have specialty restaurants that are open on sea days for lunch at no additional charge so this may be your chance to try a different location to eat.  Most ships also have pizzerias as well as hot dog and hamburger stands so you can grab a quick lunch on the go without fighting for a table in the always crowded cafeteria. 

6. Sit back and relax.  There are bottlenecks you just can't avoid.  One of them is usually in the embarkation and disembarkation halls - especially in Canada and the US where US Customs agents are involved.  Vancouver's Canada Place is a great example of this.  With sometimes three ships sailing on a given day, the number of passengers who must pass through customs and check in can be quite large.  Customs clearance and boarding usually won't start until noon and then will carry on until 4:00pm or 4:30pm.  By the time you clear airport-style security, customs and make it through check-in, you will have been standing in line for quite a while.  Carry the least amount of weight you can - drag or wheel your carry-on and leave the heavy bags with the longshoremen to wrestle on to the ship.  Everyone has to go through this process and whether you arrive early or late, there will probably be some waiting in line.  Disembarkation can be just as long, especially if US Customs is on high alert.  We have stood in line for close to two hours waiting to clear Customs in Los Angeles.  Having said that, we have walked right on to and off at ports like Southampton and Dover in the UK, so your mileage may vary!

Finally, enjoy the company!  Ships become like small towns - almost everyone is up for a conversation about the weather, the scenery or the last tour they took.  If you enjoy meeting and visiting with people, a cruise ship is a great place to make new friends and acquaintances.  So, the next cruise you take, bring your curiosity and patience and you will be rewarded with some wonderful new experiences to bring home with you.

Had any crowded experiences or have you developed ways to avoid/manage crowds?  If so, leave us a comment to help fellow passengers!

<![CDATA[Do Vegetarians Starve on Cruise Ships?]]>Mon, 20 May 2013 15:19:21 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/do-vegetarians-starve-on-cruise-shipsPicture
Solberry Muffins
We are sometimes asked if folks with special dietary needs will have difficulties finding things to eat on a cruise ship and the answer we give is always the same - there is always a way to accommodate your specific requirements.

Your first action is to identify what you need in the guest profile you fill in on the cruise company's website once you have registered for a cruise.  If you require Kosher or gluten-free meals, they can be provided for you as long as you let the cruise company know four weeks in advance.  If you are booked for a cruise, do this now!  If you have ANY questions about having your needs met, don't wait until you are on the ship, phone your travel agent or the cruise line today and discuss this with them - better to know in advance what is possible than to have surprises once on board.

You will notice that vegetarian and vegan diets are not listed on the guest profile as cruise companies work to meet these needs every day on every cruise.  There is always a selection of fresh fruit and salads on the buffet and two or three vegetarian selection in the restaurants.  The secret, whether you eat in the restaurants or buffet, is to get to know the head waiters.  They will consult with you about which items on offer meet your needs and what they can do for you if there are none that interest you.  In the restaurant, the head waiter can bring you the next day's menu and help you make a selection that works - or they can help you order off menu.  There always seems to be excellent vegetable stir fry and curries to order and the kitchen will go out of its way to meet your needs - you just need to identify what you require as soon as possible.  Head waiters are programmed to produce acceptable solutions to each guest's dietary needs so your request will not be the first they have had.

At the buffet, talk to the servers behind the line and if they are not able to help you identify vegetarian or vegan options then ask what else they can make for you - the kitchen is not far away and can make off menu items just like in the restaurant.  I have found that working with the same waitstaff each evening means that they remember your needs and will more readily be able to help you.  In the regular restaurant this will not be a problem.  In the "Anytime Dining" restaurant where you may be seated anywhere, you are going to want to sit in the section with the same head waiter so he/she knows what your requirements  are.  In the buffet line, try to speak to the same servers or locate the same head waiter on the floor to deal with.

As with anything else on a large cruise ship, you need to be proactive in identifying your needs, deal with the same staff as often as possible and give staff some lead time to meet your requests.  Remember, if you don't get the assistance you need, ask to speak to the guest relations representative on board as soon as possible so you are not disappointed during your adventure.

<![CDATA[Craft and Vision Ebook Giveaway]]>Sun, 12 May 2013 17:37:22 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/craft-and-vision-ebook-giveaway
Throughout May and June, 2013, we will be drawing for one Craft and Vision ebook each week.  Simply comment on each week's new blog posting and be eligible for the draw.  While you need to leave an email address so we can contact you, it never appears on the web site and we do not collect or sell emails.  You will never see an email from us unless you win.

Craft and Vision ebooks are inspirational reading for all photographers.  The books are not about the equipment you should buy or the buttons you should twiddle.  Instead, they will help you hone your photographic potential by improving your vision of the world while bringing new excitement and impact to your photos.  For years I have enjoyed these books and have learned a great deal from them.  Treat yourself - leave a comment and perhaps walk away with an ebook that will inspire you to new things.  Watch for weekly announcements on Twitter and Facebook or drop back here from time to time.

Our first draw is from May 8 to 15.  Drop by here and leave a comment.
<![CDATA[Looking at the Details]]>Sun, 12 May 2013 16:18:59 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/looking-at-the-details
HO Train Set at the Living Desert, California.  Photo by Jan Dougall
Out door HO train set at the Living Desert, Palm Desert, California. Photo by Jan Dougall
Pioneer Town, California?  Ghost town in British Columbia?  Nope, the HO model railway at the Living Desert, Palm Desert, California.  You can make even the smallest scenes seem like they are real by using a telephoto lens, shooting from ground level and using a wide aperture.  This gives the image the same perspective as if you were very small and standing on the ground. The wide aperture gives a narrow depth of field similar to a life size landscape.  To complete the illusion, you need to watch the background to ensure there are no "giant" people standing in the background tol spoil the illusion.
Another Living Desert shot taken at "ground level" (actually I was crouching down) with a narrow depth of field - notice how the waterfall in the background is out of focus.  Converting the picture to B&W gives it more of a period feel, I think.  The small model fireman on the train gives away the fact it's a model and not the real thing, but I like the overall look and the tonal range in this image.

Give this a try next time you are near anything miniature.  Just image you are small enough to walk around in the scene and shoot from that "eye level". Use a long lens and a wide aperture and you should have images that look very real.

<![CDATA[Sometimes It's Not About The Colours]]>Mon, 06 May 2013 14:56:02 GMThttp://dougallphotography.com/tips-and-trips/sometimes-its-not-about-the-coloursPicture
In this age of super saturated images, it's sometimes easy to forget the simple beginnings of photography when everything was rendered in black and white, sepia or, for a real change, selenium.  When you strip away the colour from an image you are left with only tonal values from white to black, as well as the shapes and texture of the scene. 

To create an effective black and white image you need to look at a scene in front of you differently.  You need to pay attention to the highlights and the shadows, where they fall in the image and how they relate to one another. You need to ask yourself if there are sufficient differences between the lights and the darks of an image to give a pleasing range of greys in a final picture.  If all the colours have the same tone, the final image will appear flat and muddy.

Looking for  shapes and their textures in a scene help to determine where the interest will be and where the shapes should be placed in the final image.  This is a great place to rediscover the rule of thirds.

The image at the left was photographed at the Living Desert in Palm Desert, California.  The adobe walls in the original image were great but the texture was lost amongst the colour.  Stripping away most of the colour and toning the image slightly brought out the texture in the wall and cacti and the complimentary shapes of all of the picture elements.    The colour image had too much information in it and the composition appeared to be quite flat. 

Sometimes a picture has so few colours in it that it is, by definition, already monochrome.  The image to the left of Paris rooftops had shades of grey and beige and not much else - a flat and optically boring image.  By converting it to a high contrast black and white image, all the boring colour was stripped away leaving only the shape and texture of the roofs to contemplate.  The image has the added advantage of looking like a black and white etching or antique postcard and I think the image now reflects the age of the buildings themselves.

It takes a while to train your brain to think in black and white but once you start noticing shape and texture, you will be on your way to making some very compelling images.  You can start by taking some colour images you already have and converting them to black and white in your favourite image editor.  You will soon begin to see which ones lend themselves to being rendered in black and white.  Once you can see the difference, you will be ready to go out and experiment in monotone images.