I came back to Edmonton to a very warm weather for some outdoor family portrait session at the Ice Castles YEG. What a beautiful family!We started our shoot with a walk around this winter wonderland, and had a nice little chat before getting started. The girls warmed up super fast and we had a lot of fun exploring the castles. I planned a route prior to the shoot, and basically led the family around while asking them to do different tasks. It’s kind of obvious to keep the kids interested by bringing frozen and Elsa into play here. The family did such a great job interacting with each other in my presence and I totally got a lot more than I anticipated in such a short time! If you have seen my last post in the night, you would have learned that it was a night and day difference!
I really did contemplate whether driving down from Calgary back home to the Edmonton Ice Castles was worth it. I mean it was -30C that weekend! But who would have thought I ended up getting the staff there to join me with the photo shoot in this winter wonderland at Hawrelak Park?! Did I also mention I met the master builder there, and they closed the place down later just because of me? (sorry haha) That in itself was definitely worth all the sacrifice I made to go. Come to think of it, we were all just passionate big people playing in an adult sized sand box in a playground at our own natural habitat. I began my Ice Castle shooting with the University of Alberta Photography Club as a photowalk right at sunset. My plan was to go once with the group and another time at night with my family. The line didn’t actually take that long, and there are lots of staff there who came around the line to make us sign waivers. Yes, the possibility of slipping on ice and us breaking icicles and stabbing people is indeed possible.
We were told that we should not be late for our booked time slots, and we are allowed to stay there as long as want before leaving the exit. No matter what time you book it for, you are still expected to line up at the door. The Ice Castles in Edmonton is basically a large fenced up ice land with different paths. It has a “lobby type” area which contains mainly the entrance and exit. It also has a very fire pit area where a staff sits on the top to manage a fire that I’d say is enough to fit 7 people around this fireplace. This area is rather large and that’s where most people congregate. (See photo of staff ). Once you walk in, there are also a few pathways that leads you to different areas. There you will see a large open area that leads you into smaller narrow pathways. I didn’t find the ground to be slippery at all, but definitely watch out for running children and crowd in these narrow areas. Although there are strict rules against sitting on ice and touching the icicles, I find numerous children attempting to break the icicles, and many adults grabbing snapshots while sitting on icy surfaces as thrones. What do I think? It’s basically picture worthy everywhere, so I could understand their urges. But a well trained photographer like myself obviously obeyed the rules fully. 🙂
Photographing the Ice Castles
I don’t know how many people actually care, but I get support from this i’ll definitely continue to add depth and content into this! (So here is an unpaid advertisement… like, comment, subscribe my facebook, instagram, twitter, YouTube! It’s the only way I could keep this alive you know!) ALRIHGT ALRIGHT here it goes. The Ice Castles are basically LED lit ice structures that emits light from the inside. It is also very “maze like” and stretches down the path. So creatives out there can get very creative with their angles, but it is definitely ESSENTIAL to be mindful of the colour and lighting in this place. Most importantly, staying warm and keeping your camera gears light could save you from a lot of hassles!
Staying Warm (and treat your gears properly!)
Yes the official website said it and i’m going to go more in depth with this. Keeping your body in check will probably help you get sharp photos and longer shooting time! It’s also important to mention that camera gears are also affected by the cold! Let’s start with our bodies first! I usually go with slim cotton gloves so I have a good balance of grip to press buttons and keep my fingers from getting a frost bite! Boots and double(triple) layering your socks will also really help! At the end of the day, it’s your toes, fingers, ears that are going to keep you from staying if anything!
Now let’s talk camera gears. The cold generally does not affect the mechanics of modern day digital cameras, but the memory cards, batteries, and fogging is our main concern here. My biggest life saver I learned by experience (painfully) is that covering your tripods and metal gears up with foam or hockey tape will help get yourself our of a freezing burn. One of my friend’s iPhone actually shut off after being taken out that day lol (yeah she was REALLY when that happened), so how do we keep our camera/phone batteries strong? You can bring in external heat source, or simply bring a spare battery in your pocket to swap out throughout the shoot. Fun facts!! AA batteries can actually operate in extreme cold temperature, so if you have a battery grip that takes AA batteries, that’d be another option for you. As for myself, my Nikon EN-EL15 batteries did pretty well, and I only notice batteries depleting faster than usual. As for fogging, a rule of thumb is to avoid bringing your gears from extreme low temperature to room temperature. There are lots of ways I can go in depth with, like use of ziplock bags and stuff like that, but perhaps another time…
Photographing Ice Castles at night / Tips on low light photography
So it was dark, and the ice cave turned into an amazing light show. While my family stayed there for about 15 minutes and their happy faces began to turn into a sour shivering look. That’s when I know it’s a green light for me to stay alone and get down to business!! It’s my favourite low light photography sessions! When you are in low light, your camera’s focus and metering system is no longer accurate or even disabled. Luckily, the LED lit ice structures could light your way out of a sticky situation. I would definitely double check each frame to see if it’s sharp and in focus. When focusing on a human subject, you may be able to rely on reflected highlights of the subject to gain focus, but I would put my cellphone flashlights and a torch handle if I can for sure! I will try my best to update everyone with more tips on low light shooting if more people find this helpful.
The Light Painting
As I walked around taking snapshots of this ice palace, I used long exposure to get rid of some crowd and people walking in my shot. There may be some ghosting happening, but it is safe to say that long exposure can drastically remove many people walking when done right. I am also noticing more and more people leaving, I found a quiet corner and parked all my gears on the ground. I took out my metal chain like a thief in the corner and flicked the light switch on. YES it’s light painting time! Obviously clicking the camera shutter and running around like a maniac attracted some attention, but all in good hands. Some of the staff also came to watch, and I confidently executed some shots thinking “yup this may be last shot before these guys kick me out”. I was very careful about not blocking anyone’s path, and waited most of my shots when people weren’t around. Fortunately, the staff stayed to watch with a smile of approval. Light painting at the Ice Castle is completely possible, and I even moved to different places and approached some strangers and talked them into getting some shots done. It’s almost certain that human subjects will be darker than the environment, so be sure to leave enough highlight in both the subject as well as the ice structures. Remember! Darkness and shadows are better to keep around than blown out highlights!
After some time, a staff came to me and suggested a few spots and we began to chat. I knew my time was near and i’m really limited in time. So I toughed it up and asked the staff for his axe and shovel LOL ! What happened next was pretty magical. Not only did he gave me the axe to shoot with, I got more staff to join in with the fun and they were excited about my orb light painting. These shots were a collection of 6 seconds exposures that needed stitching before turning into a panorama. I had to be extremely careful with the amount of light the ice structures emits and what color it was turning into. Be very mindful of the volume and tempo of the song, as it is what triggers the LED lights at the Ice Castles!
Exposure/Camera Settings (iPhones, SmartPhone Photography, dSLR alike!)
You may notice in my photos that there are “bright spots” inside these ice structures Many people don’t realize that the huge amount of white in this beautiful ice cave will trick your camera into thinking that your photo is too bright and attempts to darken it. So it is recommended that you should set your captures/exposure “brighter” than what your camera would like it to. A rule of thumb would be to increase exposure compensation by +0.3 to +0.7 EV. [Read More]
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Amidst all the insanity moving to Calgary, I managed to get some fun shoots in my system. I don’t remember how long I have stepped away from shooting at studios indoor! Today I got Jennie and his friend on board at a vacant real estate I got hookups for, and tried out some ideas. Jennie was super excited as usual, with loads of clothing to choose from and put me on the indecisive train. These are the results!
This is the last session i’ll post on engagement sessions at KDays in Edmonton! This couple has got to be my favourite couple of all times. They’re sweet and very calm, which gave me lots of time to check my photos and discuss with them during the shoot. They were also super fun and took all my silly ideas to a whole new level! We played and It was extremely easy to pose them and we had loads of time to work on new ideas and perfect an already beautiful pose! Not only that, I encouraged them to actually enjoy the process and go out to buy some food and have a good time, and they truly did! They even treated me on the Farris wheel so we could grab some pictures at the top. Everything was so easy and these amazing photos just fell right on my lap!!
I know the Calgary Globalfest is coming, and there will be loads and loads of opportunity to photograph some amazing fireworks but i may not be able to make it this time… Until next year! There shall be loads more fun in Calgary stampede and Edmonton Kdays in 2016!! It’s been so much great memories :”)
Carnival Themed Stylized Fashion Shoot at KDays Edmonton
I have been looking forward to shooting at the Calgary Stampede since last yearsince the photo I took of my friends at the faris wheel became viral on Facebook. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Calgary in time. So I returned to KDays for this legit photography session fully prepared! I met up with the lovely Kailyn for this session and plan on doing a full coverage of KDays on different rides. We spent a lot of time exchanging ideas and ended up with the wardrobe she had and the props we used!
Northern lights (aurora borealis) taken on a cold winter night at Elk Island National Park. I haven’t even finish editing all the photos and another G1 storm shows up!! Below is a nice little tool to predict Aurora activity brought to you by Aurorawatch.ca
A great night photographing the banquet event and hosting a photo booth for the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus group last night at the Faculty Club! These people sure knows how to party! Great DJ and music, and great photographers (including myself 😉 ) The organizers were super amazing people with amazing food! The funny paper plate award and speeches set the tone for what they were all about. It almost felt as if they were one big family full of laughters and passion.
whoa! 200+ likes on my facebook page! To celebrate, I decided to make a speed edit video of my favorite light painting photography on Photoshop. This couple of weeks have been crazy! First a road trip down Calgary and living in a hostel, then meeting Renee Robyn from Renee Robyn Photography, and getting a chance to eat dinner beside her and talk to her for hours about photography and life! Not only that my mpStudio Photography YouTube channel was finally born a few days ago!
There are so much I’d like to write about! But first, LET ME TAKE A SELFIE!!
This session was taken inside a huge sewer pipe that I found on the first snow in Edmonton. At the time the snow just hit, and I was getting desperate because the pipe was getting wet, so I called Micahel up to explore this cool opportunity. After our shoot, I was ready to do this for real… but before I even called anyone up the pipe was taken away the very next day! I guess I should be glad I got to do a shoot here! It was so much fun!
Had SUCH a blast taking rolling car shots that I’m still looking at the photos at 3:45am… This is the first time I did it and I honestly don’t know anything about automotive photography, so I probably did a lot of things wrong but here it is! There are so much more but I really need to stop and finish this later!
What an amazing photo day with my two dear old friends and the amazing Sara! I met Sara through Dani who is also assisting for me in this photo shoot. Sara is a young lady just finishing up junior high, but already has a contract with a modeling management company. She’s had some shoots and agreed to do a shoot with me for learning experience. Today marks the first day of me shooting with assistants, who by the way had no training so extra points to them for being awesome!So here, we have four very eager to learn people trying to bounce some knowledge from each other and ready for a fun day!
We had a brief conversation and decided that we would like to shoot in the beautiful canola field in Edmonton again, but the force was not with us and an unexpected storm rolled in an hour before the shoot started, even after the weather man promised it won’t rain. What would a professional photographer do? Certainly not bail! So I suggested a couple of locations we could try out, hoping no one was going to bail on the shoot. I was scared to drop the “we could reschedule” bomb out but I had to, since the plan was totally off tangent today. To my surprise, everyone was as excited as I was to do this shoot, so what are we waiting for?!
While driving to the University of Alberta, our chosen location, we were deciding between the new CCIS building and the Telus building. Both locations are very modern and are both beautiful architecturally, so could you guess where we ended in? If you have been studying there, you would know! Dani was leaning towards the CCIS building since it is brand new, and she has been there quite often. I have graduated a little early so was more familiar to the Telus building. By then it’s already 7 and we weren’t sure what’s open and what’s not, but the outside of the building would be our next fallback plan!
The goal for me is clear today, I was going to try any lighting I could possibly do with two speed lights and I will be executing something unique and somewhere close to my idea of “on location high fashion” sort of deal. So… other then running everywhere, I need to nail the hair light, the location lighting, and make room for some unique editing! Well when I say “unique” I mean something totally new to me, and hopefully something fresh and tastefully good for viewers as well. So? Here are the results 🙂
We took this light painting photo at the end of the day. This one was a one take sort of deal as it was getting way too late! I can’t believe how talented she is at light painting. I didn’t even help or anything! I told her how it works and she just did it… Perfect hand writing and all… Looks like somebody’s a natural at light painting!
So here in Edmonton, July is finally snow and cold free! There are canola fields in full bloom all over highways in Edmonton right in the city! This is the beginning of my serious journey to get into shooting portraits. I’ve spent lots of time scouting for locations to do photo sessions and try out loads of different lighting techniques and force myself to survive in harsh lighting conditions too! I’d carry my gears to work to save travel and time. Having looked forward everyday, I shot in the rain, overcast days, gloomy cloudy days. Any serious photographer would tell you how much they enjoy shooting, but I think most of us are forced to put down the camera and flex our leg muscles, the car engine, and powerful internet search engine to look for unique and beautiful locations for photo sessions.
On a side note, today is the first Edmonton #yeg post since the summer, trying really hard to catch up on my past sessions! I’m also offering free photography sessions to people in my friend pool on facebook, so hopefully I get a good response. The awesome Alison H has been extremely kind and designed a cool logo for me to use from now on! So a huge thank you to her support and selflessness! I know she is super busy with her work at a media firm, but feel free to check out her work here.
No matter how many times I said I won’t go to #kdays I still end up going! This year, a bunch of friends were sure to go and so I act smart and act fast! I got the early bird all day admission + ride passes for $45 along with all my friends going. I even sold a few that I got for $10 more when a few friends ditched. It’s funny because I had two friends asked me in a very worried tone whether I was going to haul my camera luggage out to the rides. lol Anyway, as soon as the sun’s down and the our heads were too dizzy to handle any more rides, I suggested that we walk around the #carnival and check out the games and grab some food. So I sneaked out of the venue and grabbed my gears and set off for my photography adventure! Here it goes~