Thursday, December 18, 2014

2015 Mini-Calendar by Finesilver Design

 A huge thanks once again Martin to Finesilver, Mark Smith and Laurie Reifel of Finesilver Design as well as Stew Miller of Ideal Printing for making this year's limited edition mini-calendar possible! The theme for my version of the calendar is captured in this quotation from Junichiro Tanizaki:

"We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, light and darkness which that thing provides."

We had decided to photograph objects that were either mostly or completely white, on a partially white background. And for white on white, lighting is everything!

While the subject matter for the Finesilver version of the calendar included only objects from nature, I spread my net a little wider and opted for simple objects that were basically pretty simple and mostly white, but also just appealed to me visually and for which I could envision interesting and creative treatments. 

Originally, I planned to use different backgrounds for each image, but quickly found that I preferred the effect of the small blue and white acrylic one I had painted for one of the shots. I ended up using that background plus another slightly bigger one I also painted, and actually had to reshoot at least one shot so that the backgrounds would ultimately be consistent. It was worth it, though, as we ended up with a really great little series of still lifes. (To see my favourites click on this link to my website: And I, once again, had the satisfaction of succeeding at one of my favourite photographic challenges: starting with something either fairly mundane, or something beautiful but much photographed and rendering it interestingly, and hopefully a bit differently. 

Of course, I must briefly acknowledge that as it happens, I chose for this post the image of the one thing I shot that falls into neither of those categories. This small plaster bust is beautiful but may never have been photographed for all I know. I knew that lighting it carefully, in a specific way would bring out it's beauty in a way that it just didn't effectively project, itself, sitting under ambient room light. I found it in a fantastic gift shop I happened upon totally by accident driving along Queen near Parliament (called Adornments on Queen) which is absolutely overflowing with fabulous "adornments" of all kinds. Coincidentally the friendly, cool guy running the store turned out to be a photographer I hadn't seen in years (exploring his retail side). Oh, and I wanted to acknowledge the sculptor, but there's no indication of who it is. If anyone knows, let me know!

The organza pouches for the calendars have been held for ransom by the courier company competing for the title "most hated by Canadians," but once I get them (I've now paid the shipping/handling fee on top of the shipping/handling fee), I'll have the pleasure of giving these little gifts to my trusted and valued clients. 


Happy Holidays!

On the off chance that anyone wondered about the image on this year's Christmas card I thought I'd post a brief explanation here. I know the image looks a little like an illustration, but it's not. It's a photograph of a small paper Christmas tree I made just for the card. I was inspired by my recent photo shoot for the 2015 version of Finesilver Design's, and Hollinrake Photography's mini-calendar featuring white or mostly white objects on a partially white, partially blue painted background. As I often do with still life subjects, I shot the Christmas tree several times, lighting it differently each time, and combined partial layers to create the one final image, thus the slightly surreal effect. I also used a cool light source and enhanced the blueness of the shadows to get the overall blue-ish appearance. And then applied a subtle glow filter to the whole thing. 

This image is a bit more effective viewed larger than this, so hopefully if you are reading this you've already seen it in higher res, and greater detail.

Happy holidays and happy 2015!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wizard Of Ads

As I write this, my friend of many years Director Pete Henderson has just joined boutique production company Someplace Nice, based in Toronto after a successful run with Steam Films. One of his upcoming projects is a reality TV show, at this stage called Wizard of Ads, being pitched by Fadoo Productions. One of the characters in the show will be Pete's 1970 Chevy Malibu, the pre-souped up version of which he inherited from his grandmother in 1995. (I gather Pete doesn't think his grandmother would approve of the new engine.)

To add to the supporting promotional imagery (I shot Pete in studio for the initial pitch), we thought we'd take some pictures of Pete and the car, ostensibly on one of the road trips which will create the narrative framework for the series. And we thought of this about a week or two too late. Imagining the rich and brilliant fall tableaux we'd find around Caledon and The Forks of The Credit we waited for a perfect weather day, jump-started the Malibu and roared out of the underground parking lot to head off to the countryside. The closer we got, the more clear it became that winter had come, seemingly considerably sooner north of the city than downtown's trees would have suggested.

We searched for a suitable location. But finally, with heaviness in our hearts and a couple of lame pictures in the can, we turned around to head back to Toronto and almost drove right past this lovely hold out. Actually we did drive past it. But Pete spotted it as we whizzed by, and yelled "Is that what you want?!" or something like that. Just in time, I turned my head to his side of the highway and said "Yes!" So we did a safe and legal U-turn and pulled into what looked a lot like an empty lot until we realized that the perfectly leaf covered dirt driveway we were on led straight round to a partially obscured house nestled behind a hedge and a bunch of trees. 

Pete bravely and correctly wandered over to the house and called in a friendly voice to see if anyone was home, and decided nobody was. This was true, until the elderly woman who lives there returned from walking her dog and found us doing a photo shoot in her yard. Luckily, I hadn't got my lights out of the car. We chatted a few minutes and told her what we were doing there (sort of, but not really). (Sorry!) I offered to do a portrait of her and her dog but she declined. We took a few more pictures with her permission and got out of there. 

And I would have been pretty happy with what we got if Pete hadn't been wearing, as part of his shoot wardrobe, a purple sweatshirt, with white trim. ("Bring mid-tones, nothing too dark, no black, something like what you'd actually wear on one of your trips," I'd said. "Some options would be good.") His t-shirt under the sweatshirt was black. And the only other piece of wardrobe he brought was a black Hugo Boss jacket. Really. There'd better be someone taking care of wardrobe if this show happens. 

Anyway, I guess we can always change the colour of the sweatshirt in post if one of these pics is actually needed. I think Pete wants smoke coming out of the engine, too. So we may need to add that. In the meantime, here's hoping the pitches go well and we get to see Pete do his inimitable thing on TV!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cornerstone Physiotherapy

Joon Nah - Founder, Cornerstone Physiotherapy

One of my new favourite people in the world, Joon Nah is one of the two founders of Cornerstone Physiotherapy conveniently located near Yonge and Carlton in downtown Toronto. Turns out I am not the only photographer to have suffered some damage from years of lugging heavy equipment around and standing in weird and body stressing positions to get the shot I want, not to mention the whole sitting at a desk retouching for hours on end part of the job, which apparently is really not good for you either.

My husband (who can now play golf least it's physically possible) had raved about his experience with Joon, and thus, during a particular period of unrelenting pain I called and made an appointment. As I type this from my fabulous new ergonomic chair (who knew what you sit on could matter so much?!), I am struck by the relative lack of pain compared to a few months ago. Must remember not to sit here for such long stretches, though...excuse me a sec...

O.K., I'm back...

I wouldn't have known what to expect, never before having been to a physiotherapy clinic, but apparently I totally lucked out. Not only was the ambiance bright, warm, friendly, professional and calmly energetic, but the staff was, conveniently, in need of new headshots for their website. Joon knew right away he wanted environmental portraits (as opposed to a flat, more conservative, corporate backdrop) which would be more in keeping with the clinic's personality. I am a big fan of environmental portraits when they make sense. There's a sense of depth achievable with a hint of an out of focus room that simply isn't with a piece of fabric.

So, I got to meet almost all of them. What a super nice bunch of people! When I heard they were actively searching for a new office manager I actually fantasized briefly about how nice it would be to wake up and go to work there every day. I shot only the "Our Team" photos on the Cornerstone website as the rest of the site was already complete. As always, not everyone could be there on the day, so we may be doing a make-up date at some point. But if you go to their site before that, see how quickly you can spot the one portrait that doesn't quite match.

And now, time to do my exercises again!  I'm sure the motivation to do my 'homework' is enhanced by the feeling, in the face of such generosity and commitment, that failure to do it would amount to nothing less than total betrayal of someone who really deserves compliance!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My New Portfolio!

During the last some-period-of-time I finally stopped showing my old portfolio which one 'friend' lovingly said looked like a 'crypt,' and I started showing my book on an iPad. Great as that worked in some ways, the limitations became obvious, pretty much instantly, so I am excited to announce the publication of my new hard bound portfolio. Such was the combination of my vast technical knowledge (amassed over the past 30 years spent learning my craft) and the handy online tutorials of which I availed myself, that although this was my first personal foray into custom CMYK conversions, it appears that I got them right! (Usually I leave the prepress to my expert partners and will continue to do so...don't you worry!). Anyway, woohoo! Please e-mail me if you'd like to see it!

Hurricane Hazel by the Hurricane Herself!

 This was another cover shoot I was really excited about. A political icon, at least in this part of the world, Mayor Hazel McCallion is 93 years old and has been the Mayor of Mississauga for 36 years. The list of her accomplishments and contributions is really, really, really long. She has been voted the second most popular mayor in the WORLD. And the thought of the knowledge, experience and wisdom she has amassed during so many years in a high profile, highly demanding job, as well as so many years of life, while remaining whip sharp, strong and committed to this day, is kind of overwhelming to contemplate. I'm in awe. But I had a job to do the day of the shoot, so as impressed as I was (and am) I had to focus on the task!

This shoot was yet another occasion upon which I was vindicated for almost always being the uncool first one at the party. We were told we would have exactly one hour to set up, do hair and make-up, shoot and tear down. That sounded challenging, but doable to me until I found out that the editor wanted variations. There wasn't an opportunity to scout the Mayor's office (thankfully I had, at least, snapshots to look at), but I did make a test trip just to figure out the logistics of parking, unloading gear and getting it to the right place as efficiently as possible. We also asked if we could come early to set-up. Yes, half an hour. So we arrived closer to an hour early and very politely asked if we might be able to start early, if the Mayor was not in her office anyway. As I suspected, she was not, so we got in!

Once Mayor McCallion arrived, we asked if she would mind sitting down with our make-up artist Christine Cho, and she agreed without hesitation. There had been some question as to whether we'd even be allowed to do make-up but we came prepared, and Christine set-up in Her Worship's spacious bathroom. We set up in the office as planned. Christine did a fast and really lovely job, and we did the shoot. 

We even had time to do a second set-up in another room.

More about this book at Hits shelves Oct. 2014. This is another one I'm really looking forward to reading!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Let's Start a Riot by Bruce McCulloch

Who knew when I was a photography student at Ryerson being blown away by this hilarious new comedy group called Kids In The Hall that one day I would get to meet and photograph the incomparable Bruce McCulloch?! What a trip! I have to admit I was very slightly intimidated, given his accomplishments since those early days, but Bruce was generous, gracious and not surprisingly, totally professional.

Our somewhat shy little butler was making his modelling debut and came through with a perfect performance. (See my earlier post re photographing children.)

I can't take credit for the suburban oasis in which the writer and his little servant find themselves. I think it's actually a painting combined with my photography thanks to the book designer's digital artistry. The book hits shelves October 2014. See more about it at I can't wait to read this one!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hockey Confidential by Bob McKenzie

This had to be one of the craziest shoots I've done yet, at least with regards to timing. Talk about a test. We had what I figured was reasonable amount of time to get to the Mattamy Athletic Centre, set up a preconceived shot (I'd location scouted a couple of days before, and a rough layout was devised so we knew what we had to do), and shoot Bob McKenzie when he arrived at noon. But little did we know as we finished locking the camera into position, getting tethered to the laptop (now mounted on its own stand) and almost finished securing the light stand to a spot that wasn't wide enough to accommodate three spread legs that we would be told there was going to be a press conference right where we were set up so we would have to pack up and move.

What a scramble. We were shooting in the bleachers and not all sections were alike or would work in our layout. But we found a similar enough spot and humped all the gear over to the new spot, set up all over again, and were ready to go at 12:00 sharp! But where was Bob? Bob, it turned out, was stuck in traffic. No problem. The designer and I headed over to the other side of the rink to scout another possible spot for a second, alternative shot. 

Still no Bob. Apparently, according to the editor who went to greet him, he is now being stopped by fans. But eventually he arrives and we shoot and we get the shot!

We now have approximately half an hour to take whatever gear we will need to the other side of the rink for shot #2, but we can't get into the penalty box, where we will be shooting, until the players take their ten minute break, at which point we will have exactly ten minutes to get the gear in there, set up the camera (have to use a tripod because of the shutter speed), tether up, set up the light, shoot and get out. The buzzer goes and we leap into gear and as Bob is moving into the penalty box a player who recognizes him skates over to chat. I am briefly trapped behind him. But we get through and set up as fast as we possibly can. Someone yells "Zamboni!" and we spin the light (which we have on a boom out over the ice) out of the way so it doesn't get clipped. Almost as soon as we start shooting my assistant yells "shoot to card!" The capture software on the laptop has stalled. Thankfully I have an empty, formatted card in the camera just in case, so I yank the tether cable out of the camera and have shot maybe a dozen frames when the buzzer sounds and the players are at the gate. We have less than a minute to get out of their way. 

Not for the first time, once I get back to the studio to review the images, I find myself really liking one of the very last frames we shot, from the set-up that was 'just an alternative'. I know as I write this, of course, that they didn't go for that second shot for the cover, but I'm happy with the select. The book is out Oct. 2014. Read about it at

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Simple and Summery

When Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin were interviewed for the Globe and Mail by Susan Krashinsky for an article entitled "Motherhood or career? A dynamic duo's case that women can do both" published June 6, 2014, one particular line in the piece really resonated for me: 

"Parents often develop greater patience, empathy, and coping skills. Those are traits bred out of necessity when faced with a tiny, screaming, irrational being, all while sleep deprived. But they can also be valuable in a work setting."

I have photographed quite a  few children over the years, both before and after having my own child, and I have to say, I really do have a different perspective now as a result of my own experience. One might say "well, duh" but I had some very smooth and happy shoots with babies, toddlers and children, before. I loved working with kids. Except for one brutal shoot that I will never forget. If only I could go back in time. 

Anyway, a few years ago I did a quick personal test shot of my son, never intended to be shared, and without much attention to detail or concept, but which had elements about it I really liked. I looked at the test print on my bulletin board every day for a long time and finally decided, with my now 10 years-in-development (parental) perspective, it might be worth redoing, with the same bright, simple feel, but with some planning, and a point. 

I knew the model I wanted to use, a certain little girl I knew to have a bubbly, slightly mischievous, but charming, independent and spirited personality. So I went in knowing full well I was really just going to have to let happen what would happen, within the somewhat loose (maybe not all that loose) framework I had created. And what happened? We shot over 200 frames and this little five year old girl was the most well-behaved, cooperative little trooper ever! (Note: she is not a model. But she could be!) What happened!?

The floral arrangement, which could not have been more perfect (thanks to a highly intuitive, and, really, spot-on interpretation of what I was looking for), was the work of my new friend Maija Reisenauer of the whimsically named Midge Flower Boutique. One of the newer creative tenants in our building, Maija brings ten years of experience (coincidentally the same amount of time I've spent experimenting with parenting!) to her art. The multi-talented Maija has also founded a successful line of cosmetics, and sells unique and lovely gifts in her boutique. How handy!

One final note: I realized going into this project that once again I was creating an image that doesn't really fit seamlessly anywhere in my current portfolio. Last year I 'threw out' a ton of images and made a concerted effort to define my vision more precisely. But honestly, I'm not interested in doing the same thing over and over again. One of the great things about being a photographer is that one can play with light, and play with subject matter, and create completely different images based on the way one combines those elements. That's what I love doing. And I'm going to keep doing that as long as I can. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Do I shoot video?

Select Components of Wolfpack Night Vision System

Do I shoot professional video myself? I was going to say "no, not really," but I think it would be more accurate to say simply "no." Although if you could clearly see the reflection in the lens of the piece of high tech imaging gear in this video frame you would see me, as well as the guy holding the gear. So I did actually shoot this. (And no, we did not use this take in the final cut.) But I am not going to shoot your video.

I am, in every other instance, a big believer in bringing a high professional standard to any work I do and, probably to my detriment as a professional photographer I've never been one to say "Sure, I can do that!" if I had no idea how to do it. Richard Branson

"If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later!" 

would not be impressed.

But who says he's right? What about Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours (ref. Outliers, Penguin Books)? If I am not going to be an expert until I put in 10,000 hours of practice I need to find someone who's already done it. And I have! In truth, I've known this very well established film and video producer for a really long time.

So if you need a high quality corporate video, by all means call me! I've got Dave and Dave's got the talent, the skill and way over 10,000 hours!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Today is launch day for the brand new BLACKS website by Forge Media + Design working with Environics PR! The new beta site is a work in progress featuring multitudinous solutions for making tangible art out of photos. As they say on their Facebook page:

"BLACKS is your Playground for Photography, an inspiring one-stop shop to express yourself with your pictures. Explore, experiment, learn & create!" So many cool ways for people with a passion for recording and interpreting their worlds through photography to actually get their images out of storage and onto walls and into their decor.

Ever since digital capture effectively took over from film it has been my concern that a huge number of family (visual) records are at risk of being lost forever as technology makes it easier and easier to shoot tons of images and just leave them in your camera, phone, iPad, or whatever capture device you're using, any of which could be lost, or damaged in a heartbeat. So I love the idea of making various forms of output more and more accessible and affordable. And I hope people use them! (At least, as a start, please, please backup, backup, backup!)

My team and I had the chance to create eight of the new web banners, with the rest of the site imagery coming from various sources. We were lucky to get Bridget Sargeant, prop stylist, in between interior decorating, staging and propping gigs. Bridget brought the perfect mix of talent, knowledge, experience, style, vision and hard work to the project. She had the challenge, as always with a well considered branding exercise, of sourcing props that fit within the guidelines, in this case developed by Taxi (lead agency for BLACKS). The BLACKS team from Taxi dropped by on the first shoot day to offer some additional art directorial input which was great. Thanks Dave Watson! 

Bridget and I also had a chance to look at one of the newly renovated stores at Yonge and Eglinton ~ great looking store ~ so different from the old Black's stores we've all known for so long! I didn't take any pictures but, as someone who rarely uses Facebook, I am, yup, going to reference the BLACKS Facebook page again if you want to see pics of their new store look. Honestly, I wanted to order something myself! I wish I had space on a wall somewhere.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Another WoodGreen Annual Report

Rites Of Passage Program Participants

I don't think many of my clients know I shoot annual reports, and it's true that I haven't shot a ton of them, but I have had the privilege, for the last few years, of working with the tireless and inspiring people at WoodGreen on theirs. Such a fantastic organization, and as the Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications Jessica Malone mentioned to me, not an organization you would necessarily know about if you're not in the demographic having direct need of their multitudinous programs and services.

Here is a ink to a PDF of their 2012-13 AR which I'd have to say is my favourite yet : 
(I think the only shot that's not mine is the headshot of the Board Chair.)

I particularly like the image above. Although the sun came out, the sky was not blue (it was white...I had to add this one in later), the ground was almost a swamp and it was so early in the season there was hardly a blossoming plant to be found. (You'd never know from the picture, right?) These (temporary) gardeners were troopers having had to traverse a very large maze of soaking wet ground to get to this spot. And then a bee came along and made it almost impossible to get a shot at all. (Not kidding.)

We're about to start shooting the 2013-14 AR and I can't wait to see what the super talented and creative team of designers at Gravity Inc. comes up with this time. We could use some leaves on the trees!! Just saying...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Natural Makeover Diet

 When H-C Canada's senior designer and I started to discuss the perfect counter top for this cover it turned out that he had literally just bought a table with the exact kind of surface we were looking for. Thus began the making of this very group effortful cover. When we couldn't quite hide the strap on Dr. Joey's undergarment she was lent a strapless one (by moi) that wasn't quite the right size, but was just going to have to be to be close enough! And somehow during hair and make-up Joey and the talented and gracious Victoria Dixon make-up artist decided Victoria's bracelet would be the perfect accessory for the cover shot. Discovering that not only did they have similar taste in jewellery but that their birthdays are on the same day, they then gifted each other their bracelets, Joey explaining the inspiring story behind her funky beaded bracelet. Very cool and inspiring: the bracelet was made by Heads Up For Charity.

This shoot was inspiring to me on another level as the topics of nutrition and healthy eating are close to my heart. I am constantly amazed at the seemingly pervasive lack of knowledge and sense around food and eating. (I don't mean to be negative but the journey of a close personal friend who has a diabetes-like condition has really opened my eyes to the amount of misinformation out there.) Dr. Joey obviously walks her talk appearing so glowingly healthy and fit that at one point we were worried she looked too young in the pics! 

See more about the book at, and more about Dr. Joey at 
BTW, assistant Melanie Godecki managed to score a bag of Dr. Joey's Skinnychews and reported to me that they are delicious!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

I have very mixed feelings calling this shot Beauty and the Beast because Mark Prendergast, metallurgical artist and owner of Deity Metallurgy on Carlaw Ave., Toronto, is so not a "beast." Mark, whose hard-edged appearance belies his gentle, spiritual nature lives and works in my neighbourhood in Riverdale and over the years we have said hello many times, fellow redheads in the 'hood. So when I was conceiving this shot, the third in a series of three location creatives, I thought of him and set out to find him, without being able to remember his name, or knowing the name of his business. Turned out that he is pretty well known in this area having been here at least as long as I have. 

It also turned out that he created the metal art in House of Moments, the incredible art gallery/restaurant/event space I had chosen as the shoot location. Just up the street from my studio, House of Moments is a place I had walked past a hundred times without ever going in, until one day my husband and I went in the check it out as a possible spot to take out of town guests for dinner. We were so taken by the huge, moody, art-filled environment, that we made a reservation on the spot. The Japanese-Middle Eastern fusion food was original and delicious and our guests loved it.

Sherry Mahdavi, Sales and Events Manager was generous and supportive allowing us to come in and take over a portion of the space during what would normally have been a quiet time but turned out to be a busy facility tour day for prospective clients. Whoops. Thankfully, Sherry assured us that clients of HoM are very much the kinds of people who appreciate art in progress, so when Mark yelled at the top of his lungs to get into his part, apparently it was O.K. In fact, and I love this, on any given day, if you go into the space during off hours you will likely see talented artists right there working on huge original paintings which, when completed, add to the ongoing art exhibit. Thanks to owner Hamid Kouchak, too, for allowing us to incorporate his vision into ours. It really is a unique and fascinating space.

The other star in this piece was model and actress Vanessa Lai represented by Hero Artists. I had a shopping list of attributes I was looking for when casting the female character and Vanessa fit the bill exactly. Great attitude, total team player and a great actress she captured her part perfectly, hanging in there like a trooper while the wind machine brought tears to her eyes. She even brought her own fabulous dress which made the shot. (We had dresses for her, but not as great as hers!)

Karima Sumar make-up artist from Judy Inc. brought a similarly super enthusiastic and professional attitude along with her talent and created exactly the look I had envisioned. And thanks once again to Melanie Godecki for her tireless and dedicated assisting prowess.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Toiling Away in Obscurity

I recently had an opportunity to photograph another artist and colleague in his personal space, the latest in my series of creative people in their personal worlds. This is Ed Gatner who specializes in motorsports photography. He is busy enough working in this niche that he doesn't even have a website or I would direct you to it! But he can be reached at

I have never seen Ed actually shooting....I'm not sure I have ever even been to a real race track! But he did allow me to see his private live/work space where he spends countless hours toiling away on his computer perfecting image after image of the one thing I really do not shoot: cars. Ed is yet another talented and experienced artist who may not be well known outside his field (thus my use of the word "obscurity" in the title of this post) but who is certainly known by the numerous publications he's worked with for the past twenty years. Unassuming and very private he kind of quietly flies under the radar toiling away, building his oeuvre, not unlike some of the other artists I have come to know, or the many others of whom neither you nor I are even aware, yet.

Another fascinating discovery for me even though I have known Ed for years! Call him if you need someone to shoot a race car or as he just explained to me, more specifically, anything with a motor... cars of all sorts including go-karts to Formula 1, as well as the latest car tests and motorcycles from motocross to superbikes...!