Theme: Alleys by Craig Roberts

2016-02-13 076-Edit.jpg

I've long held a fascination with back alleys, wondering what secrets they kept from the front fascades they present to the public. Exploring them almost feels like an intrusion, being somewhere you shouldn't; the grafitti code for the stories of the streets, the air permeated with the raw and pungent odors of humanity.

2016-02-13 059.jpg

I'm drawn to the material textures of the buildings, looking to find balance within the barred windows and doors, the intrusion of nature, disgusted as it attempts to reclaim the land.

2016-02-13 039-Edit.jpg

These pathways are no longer just for interurban transportation and garbage collection - for some this is a microcosm of their existence: their bedroom, bathroom exposed to indignant views. This is their source of commerce, and even food - their survival. 

2016-02-13 030-Edit-2.jpg

Theme: Tabletop Photography by Craig Roberts

Blue Light Leica

Our recent monthly theme for the local camera club was tabletop photography; I actually began my digital photography path cutting my teeth on a small 2ft square table set up in a utility room, amongst the furnace, hot water tank and various stored boxes, making images for my online auctions. Back then my setup consisted of a 24" x 36" piece of gray poster board that I fashioned into a sweep against one wall, two drafting lamps with articulating arms on either side, which allowed me to move them around for the best positioning of the shadows and my 3megapixel Kodak point and shoot positioned on the tripod.

Fast forward to this and the setup wasn't much more high-tech; since I no longer had any strobes, softboxes or even flashes available to use, I improvised with a combination of long exposures and LED lights to "paint" the subject camera. The base is simply a storage trunk I made use of while my background, again, was no more than a piece of black art board, this time swept against a roll of white seamless hung from a mini boom arm on a c-stand.

The first image file, with exposure lightened considerably and set to monochrome to illustrate the basic setup. Each subsequent layer was masked & painted in to strengthen areas of sharpness, color and focus.

The first image file, with exposure lightened considerably and set to monochrome to illustrate the basic setup. Each subsequent layer was masked & painted in to strengthen areas of sharpness, color and focus.

My idea for this image was to have the camera back-lit, and I had 4 acrylic ice cubes with blue LEDs that I lit and placed behind the model camera, to create the enveloping glow. I made a handful of images moving the cubes into different positions to broaden the glow, then used them in a couple of files to pain the front of the camera. Finally I used a small white LED light-pen to paint the front of the camera and focus highlight some specific areas. All in all, it took 15 minutes tops to set up and shoot. 

Once I had all of my files in Lightroom I exported them out as layers to Photoshop, then proceeded to adjust the individual exposure, mask each layer and then selectively apply them back to the base image. This allowed my to choose areas that had been selectively light-painted to create a stronger cohesive image. Some final adjustments to contrast and color gave me the completed image, however I noticed that when I printed the first time, the overall look was darker than I was looking for - two subsequent printings later, each incrementally lighter (and brighter) gave me the final printed image I was looking for.

Westminster Abbey, Mission BC by Craig Roberts

Every now and then I'm still surprised that after 25 years of living in the lower mainland I continue to find hidden gems to explore. A few years ago, during an outing to explore some of the local waterfalls, we drove past the drive leading to Westminster Abbey, and this past weekend I finally managed to get back out to explore it with a local meetup group.

Originally established in 1939 in Ladner by five Benedictine monks sent from the Abbey of Mount Angel, Oregon, it relocated first to Burnaby then to this location overlooking the Mission valley in 1954. The pastoral grounds offer expansive views up the Fraser River below, and a variety of architectural subjects both inside and outside the abbey itself.

Inside the abbey church are a number of wonderful reliefs and a fantastic collection stained glass windows - while I'm not an architectural shooter per se I have the upmost appreciation for the interior's characteristic curves and lines, providing a great foundation for me to explore that creative aspect.

2016-01-23 043-Edit.jpg
2016-01-23 061-Edit.jpg
2016-01-23 063.jpg
2016-01-23 009.jpg
2016-01-23 058-Edit.jpg

Although we were visiting between prayers, I did notice one monk sitting in the pews, perhaps preparing for the next session or just in tranquil thought - I did not wish to intrude upon him in this sacred space but I did want to give my images some human context, so I chose this shot which maintains his anonymity.

2016-01-23 051.jpg

I know I will now need to plan a return visit later in the spring to further experience the foliage and gardens located throughout the area.   

Fall Family Portrait Session by Craig Roberts

I was hopeful that before the final days of 2015 passed I would actually compose at least one blog posting for the past year  ...
That didn't happen - but maybe this will kickstart my creative thinking (and writing) for 2016!

Back on an early Sunday morning last October I joined our friends Leanna, Phil, their daughters Bryn and Kylie, and two of the sweetest golden retrievers, Ben and Bowie, for a family photography session.   

This location was a bit of an after-thought, as I had another location that I ah scouted the day before, but the tall grasses and magnificent morning light, the tranquil river and the first fallen leaves of the season, combined with a sense of purpose & vision culminated easily in one of the most relaxed and fulfilling sessions.

These folks are so darn photogenic, we couldn't help but produce a varied selection of poses and locations, and deliver some great results! 

Theme: Cars & Car Details by Craig Roberts

The theme chosen to represent this month, Cars and Car Details, falls into an area that I have a great affinity for ~ especially for vintage automobiles. While I can never claim to be a car-guy, I do certainly admire the older vehicles from the 30's through to the edge of the 70's; current cars don't generally draw me to them often, and when they do its only because they have features they've borrowed from those other past designs. Respecting those great engineers and designers who were able to bring their visions & classic design elements to light, I've spent the past few years focusing my attention and images on the finer details that I see when looking at these cars: headlights and tail lights, chrome grills, emblems, hood ornaments, hub & gas caps and even those absolutely imposing profiles. I've always appreciated the amount of sweat equity folks put into restoring their vehicles but am now enjoying those survivor vehicles that retain their original paint and patina, texture and battle scars.

The great thing about vehicle photography is the car community is vast; most owners are happy to exhibit and share their vehicles (and stories) , and with your subject parked and captive you can definitely take your time making creative images.

2014-09-06 030_new.jpg
2013-09-07 108.jpg
2013-05-20 103.jpg
2013-05-20 101.jpg
2014-09-06 042.jpg

2014 Fort Langley Zombie Walk by Craig Roberts

After an overwhelmingly successful first year introduction of the Fort Langley Zombie Walk last October, the organizers decided to make it an annual event with this year's walk of the living dead happening this past weekend. It was great to see back many of those who made last year's inaugural walk such a great event, but even more so to see so many new faces this year. 

2014-10-04 143.jpg
2014-10-04 119.jpg
2014-10-04 162.jpg
2014-10-04 181.jpg
2014-10-04 227.jpg

Theme: Beautiful Blur by Craig Roberts

In the process of learning and developing our photography skills there is an enormous amount of time and effort spent on fundamental techniques, only to sometimes throw that out the window in the name of artistic creativity and a unique photographic vision. I shot the images below during a local bicycle race, the Fraser Valley Gran Fondo back in July with the express intent of creating compositions of 'beautiful blur'. Whether it is athletes in motion, vehicles or even the subtle movements of a stand of maple trees moving slightly in the fall/winter, it is the deliberate nature of making these images that elevates them from poorly timed (and planned) out-of-focus pictures to an asthetic approaching "art" .

2014-07-20 162
2014-07-20 192
2014-07-20 207

And of course, this image made from my previous post regarding the Lynden WA fair:

Tilt-a-Whirl in motion, Northwest Washington Fair 2014

Tilt-a-Whirl in motion, Northwest Washington Fair 2014

At the Fair by Craig Roberts

Tilt-a-Whirl in motion, Northwest Washington Fair 2014

Tilt-a-Whirl in motion, Northwest Washington Fair 2014

In my youth Vancouver's annual late-August PNE fair seemed to be a metaphor for the end of summer, and we knew the days of sunshine and beaches, & nights of unabashed freedoms were counting down to the inevitable return to school and slide into fall.  While its been more years than I care to admit since my last PNE visit,  this year I wanted to head down just south of our own Fraser Valley and the 49th, to visit one of the many regional fairs that happen throughout Washington state during August.

Rural events such as the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden WA really are a backdrop to the celebration of the vital role agriculture plays in the entirety of these farming communities; it transcends from just being a "job" and becomes the fabric of the region - they become as much about being a showcase of the regions sustainability as they do about being a social release.  It's this type of atmosphere I visualized growing up, perpetrated by Hollywood - and while there might be the same something-deep-fried-on-a-stick as I can find at our local PNE, the intangibles are what really sets these fairs apart.

... as well as the people.

2014-08-16 016
2014-08-16 006
2014-08-16 013
2014-08-16 012
2014-08-16 004