Powwow Days

Traditional Fancy Shawl Dancer

I had the joy of visiting the Grand River Powwow last weekend and what a great event it was! Its a few years since I’ve been to a Powwow but I was quickly reminded of what a colourful and vibrant experience it is.

Male Fancy Dancer at Powwow
A male Fancy Dancer dancing in full costume

Billed as the Champion of Champions Powwow this is an aboriginal multicultural event organized by volunteers from the Six Nations of the Grand River and it takes place on the Six Nations Territory near Brantford, Ontario. Since its original meeting of just four small families many years ago this annual event has grown to attract thousands of visitors each year. Over a hot July weekend the many competitors and vendors are able to highlight traditional and modern arts, dance and music.

We went to the powwow on Sunday afternoon and one of my first thoughts was to wonder how we were going to survive the searing heat but as I glanced around I wondered more about the competitors in full regalia and ready to dance the afternoon away. They deserve a prize just for being there!

With dance, competitions going on throughout the afternoon there was plenty to see and hear, though just looking at the costumes was an event in itself. The range of designs and colours were amazing. I’ve included some shots of just a few people here but really the variety and complexity was staggering.

Fancy Shawl Dance at Powwow
Woman in traditional clothing participating in a Fancy Dance

 

Certain costumes are meant for certain dances. An example would be the jingle dance where women wear dresses decorated with metal cones that jingle as the women perform a healing dance. There’s also the fancy shawl dance where the shawl gives an impression of colourful butterflies in flight and it can be quite graceful. Then there’s the men’s fancy dance, based on the war dance, and which is a fast energetic dance performed in elaborate costumes that feature large feather bustles, beading, bells and more. While dancing fast they also have to anticipate the final beat of the music and come to a dead stop. I saw it happen and was quite impressed with their quick reaction. You can see these dances at any powwow across the continent.

Aboriginal Headdress
A man wearing a traditional aboriginal headdress

Enjoy the pictures and if you get a chance, try to attend a powwow. You’ll get a great impression and some understanding of aboriginal cultures, and of course, a wonderful welcome. I’ve pasted a few links below where you can find little more powwow info.

http://www.powwows.com

http://aboriginalcanada.ca

https://www.facebook.com/GrandRiverPowwow

 

Portraits and Headshots

Portrait of Young Girl. Portraits and Headshots

You can’t beat taking portraits and headshots of people who are comfortable in front of a camera, if not loving it! Being relaxed, looking straight through the camera, or even not giving it too much attention at all, can go a long way in creating impressive portraits and headshots for any occasion.

Mother and Baby. Portraits and Headshots
Camera curiosity

 

I think some of the key elements to photographing people include knowing what they like and how they want to be seen but also how to to help them feel comfortable. Taking the time to talk about likes and dislikes, expectations (what do you want do with your portraits and headshots?) and being in familiar surroundings can go a long way in helping people to relax and make it a positive experience all round.

Family portrait. Portraits and Headshots
No camera worries here

 

Different backgrounds can help set the mood too. These can be plain so as not to distract from the subject, or can they can act as props to help reflect something about the person.

At this time of year outdoor photos are a particular joy with all the developing colour and warmth of the seasons providing a lovely backdrop for any portraits and headshots. I’ve included a few samples of my photos here (different backgrounds) and you can see some more in my “People” gallery. I’m now taking bookings for spring and summer portraits and headshots, with an emphasis on outdoor settings. For pricing on the different packages you can click on the “Contact” tab at the top of this page and send me your details.

 

Young Girl by a Lake. Portraits and Heashots
Standing by the lake
Portrait of Young Girl. Portraits and Headshots
Look into my eyes

Speaking as a person who loves to take photographs I have to admit to being just a bit camera-shy when it comes to standing in front of the camera myself. Somehow, I just don’t seem to have the same degree of comfort as I do when I’m creating images and there’s often an element of self-consciousness that’s hard to get past. That’s probably an unfortunate admission to make as it could make it harder to coax an unenthusiastic model to give it a go if they know I think like that. However, it’s not all a desperate loss as I find even I can overcome my fears and it really is a matter of practice or a case of mind over matter. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

Self-portrait. Portraits and Headshots
Self-portrait of the camera-shy

To see examples of some of the different types of portrait photography you can click here.

Frozen

Yes, frozen would be a great way to describe the last few months! Winter’s great but even around relatively warm Toronto the temperature didn’t rise to zero once throughout February. A long run of sub zero temperatures has kept the landscape and people well frozen. Cold to the bones.

Walking in Winter
Young woman walking outside in the winter snow

 

Going outside, even when well wrapped up meant having to be organised ahead of time and working to a tight deadline. I went down to the lakeshore in Etobicoke a few times and it was beautiful but brutal enough that I could feel the exposed skin on my face painfully freezing after just a few minutes. Taking my gloves off to fiddle with my camera meant that my fingers got painfully sore pretty quickly though sometimes I wouldn’t notice it until they were almost numb.

Of course, this is all tempered by the fact that it’s a brilliant time to be outside – great scenery, plenty of winter activities, and really refreshing! This shot above is one of a set taken on one of the aforementioned forays down to the lakeshore, heading into sunset, when the sun was really bringing out the colours and the brilliance of the snow.

At the Foot of the Falls
Snow and icicles at the foot of the American Falls in Winter

 

And of course, there was the news that Niagara Falls was frozen. My first thought – doesn’t that happen every year? I find it’s much more photogenic in winter and usually make at least one winter trip down there to see how it’s going. I must admit though, this year was spectacular, with much of the American Falls frozen over. The massive crowds milling around there were also proof of the attention it was getting.

Ice Patterns
Patterns in ice on a window in winter

 

And then, there are all the patterns and colours in the landscape. Ice can create all sorts of eye catching features – icicles, patterns like those in the image above and a great sheen over the top of white, white snow that crunches delicately when it’s broken. Yes, I can’t resist putting my foot through it. You can see some more great shots taken by people around the city at BlogTO.

Still, the good news is that the temperatures are now starting to rise and we’re about to lose the minus sign. It’s funny how anything around zero starts to feel warm and the coat gets unbuttoned, scarf might come off and it feels like spring is here.

Winter Outdoors

Winter outdoors is certainly something you need to prepare for, especially when you’re living in Canada. A climate of extremes, from 30 degrees in the summer to -15 in the winter (that’s in the more moderate Toronto area and not counting the humidity or wind chill), the weather is always the making of a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Sunrise over Frozen Lake Simcoe
Winter outdoors – Sunrise over frozen Lake Simcoe

The kind of outdoors activities that the cold winter kicks off can be quite intriguing. It’s not all skiing, skating and tobogganing, but they do set the stage. I was up and out early one recent morning and took a drive to Lake Simcoe, about an hour away, to see the sun come up across the frozen, snow-covered lake. I’d passed by there a few days before (near Bradford West Gwillimbury) and had an idea of what to expect but I was nevertheless a bit surprised to see the amount of activity going on from well before dawn.

For a good number of people this is primetime for a bit of ice fishing and the place was bustling. Making their way to the lake in their trucks, many bring their snowmobiles, fishing equipment, supplies for the day and of course, there are the numerous fishing huts already out on the ice. Watching all the people in their snow gear (mainly or all men, and a few kids), heading off into the darkness on their snowmobiles or in a snow bus is quite mesmerizing, in spite of the freezing cold temperatures. The shot I took above, shows a hut near the edge of the lake, lit up by the lights of a 4×4 getting ready to head out, just as some light started to appear on the horizon. The sunrise was exceptional that day, with lots of burly clouds lightly illuminated by the brilliant rising sun.

Welcome Winter!

Welcome Winter! No more “Winter is Coming” – it’s finally here! I love and welcome winter but it’s always a bit of a shock when the temperature suddenly drops (like, overnight) to -10 celsius or colder. It’s the final reminder that you really do need to get out all the layers of clothes, inflatable coats and snow boots, and this is even more important when you have to get out there to take your photographs. Brrr…

Not many people are keen to have their portraits or family shots done outside in the winter, though for those who are hardy enough to brave the temperatures, you can get some great shots. It’s also a great time to see some massively impressive scenery and get some great landscape shots full of atmospheric snow, ice, clouds and of course, brilliant sun. So guess what I’m just getting ready to do? Look out for some samples of my winter work over the coming weeks.

Sparrow in Winter
Welcome Winter! Snow? What snow?

 

In the meantime, if you like Winter scenery and you’re looking for some greetings cards, new wall or furniture décor or cell phone covers to reflect this, you can now order these via this web site. I’m very excited to be able to offer this new feature. You’ll see on the right of this home page that you can connect to my gallery at Fine Art America to order any of this material. Please follow the link and take a look. If you see any images on my web site that you’d like to order but that aren’t posted at the FAA gallery, please send me an email and I can set that up for you (email icon under “Follow me!”). The gallery at FAA will also be gradually expanding to offer more choice.

So, Happy New Year and have a great Winter. Don’t forget to come back and take a look at the new Winter pics soon!

 

Autumn Colours

The full bloom of Autumn colours highlight my favourite time of year! The natural landscape is bursting with a vast array colours, light mists, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and comfortably warm temperatures. Well, it was roasting hot outside today, but you know what I mean! September is drawing to a close as we launch well and truly into autumn.

The many tones of yellows, reds and greens offset against a backdrop of blue skies and fluffy clouds, or even turbulent grey skies, are the epitome of autumn colours to me. I have to get out there with my camera to capture the excellent landscape images it offers, and for basking in the great outdoors.

 

DSC_2920v2w
Autumn Colours of Ontario

 

I took a few shots last week when I was near Cambridge just over a one-hour drive from Toronto, to the west. There I could hike around and appreciate the first significant sign of the autumn colours. Most interesting was the contrasting farmland with beautiful rich golden tones, tinged with reds and sitting alongside deep green fields. There’s just something warm and soothing about it all. It’s also exciting to watch the rapid development in the season even though winter looms ominously in the not-too-distant future.

Autumn in Ontario
Autumn in Ontario

 

These are a sample of what I’ve done so far to record and show off the autumn colours for this year. Not quite in full seasonal bloom yet but getting close. I like these because they look so bright, clear and simple. I’ll be posting more images in the coming weeks so please come back to take a look. Remember too that you can order prints of any of these images, framed or unframed. You can contact me for prices and orders by clicking on the “Contact “tab at the top of this page.

Autumn in Ontario
Two Trees

 

Autumn in Ontario
Blowing in the Wind

 

I also saw some very atmospheric autumn colours shots taken by photographer Rob Stothard in Richmond Park in London earlier this week. Morning mists, roaming deer and tranquil waters. Click here to view them. Beautiful.