Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pole Adapter

Since my post on the Magazine cover I have had several inquiries about how I took a self portrait from above so high.

Basically, the camera was mounted onto a pole and the pole is attached to the tripod head and extended about 25 feet or so. The pole I use is a standard painters/window washer's 40 foot fibreglass pole.

The hand grip is on the ground with a sand bag over it to keep it firmly down. About 5 feet up it is attached to the top of my tripod using a super clamp and at the end of the pole to attach to the camera I use a great little adapter made by Kacey Enterprises (

The adapter I used was the 'Kacey Pole Adapter' which is a very well made machined aluminum adapter that just screws onto the paint pole end. The other end of this adapter is designed for a standard Flash Head but using another adapter I can attach a Camera. All triggered wirelessly.

Now, Kacey has created a new adapter specifically for cameras called the 'DSLR Camera Paint Pole Adapter' which is better suited and will connect directly to a pole and a standard tripod head.

I like the one I have for Flash Heads and Umbrellas as that was why I purchased the adapter in the first place, but since creating that self portrait I have a few other ideas and will now order the actual DSLR Adapter... more photos to come.

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.00 - October 2010)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Magazine Cover

I was going to add the Day 4 of the Cape Breton Experience here but while at the airport in St. John’s Newfoundland I saw the new Popular Photography Magazine had just been released. I had to pick it up as I had heard that my photo was going to be in there.

Digital Version

News Stand Print Version

On the cover of Popular Photography November 2010

As I grab the magazine I quickly notice my image on the bottom of the front cover! My first magazine cover! Anyways, here it is. You have seen the photo before . . . my self portrait on my little planet. I posted the blog as an ad for a Workshop on how to create the image.

My Little Planet - Self Portrait

It is times like this when you realize your passion, hours of shooting and editing and lots of trials and errors are finally paying off and improving your work.

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.02 - May 2012 (Nov 2012))

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Late Fall Photography and the Weather

Late fall travels can be a great time for photography but it also has it’s drawbacks. The largest of these can be the weather. I will discuss more drawbacks later but for now lets tackle some weather issues.

We had done some traveling in and around Cape Breton for several days and we did have a lot of off and on rain, mostly on. We were prepared for this as we both had our warm clothes, our Vancouver wet weather Gore-Tex parkas and pants and some waterproof hiking boots. If you are warm and dry, cold and rain are OK.

To keep my camera gear dry I use a LowePro AW-300 SlingShot All Weather Bag that has a built in Rain Cover and for my camera when I am shooting I use the Kata E-702 Large Rain Cover. I have previously posted an article on Rain Covers here: Shoot In the Rain with the Right Rain Gear.

Cape Breton Hillside Photographed in the Rain
With a lot of rain in Cape Breton and some very heavy wind-blown rain in St. Pierre and Miquelon, the Kata rain cover performed exceptionally well. Since my last review I have changed my camera strap to the excellent Black Rapid RS7 over the shoulder strap and the rain cover worked great with this new strap also. I still stand by my rave reviews of both the Black Rapid Strap and the Kata Rain Cover. Both excellent products.

So I mentioned that late fall can be good. Yes cold and wet but good nonetheless.  For starters the lighting is different this time of the year and it can add warmth to Landscape images. The early setting of the sun can also be advantageous. The fall colours of course are only available this time of the year and if it happens to be wet with good lighting it can make for exceptional colours. If you can catch wet leaves with some sunlight it will add another dimension to your image. Shooting on stormy days can also be a bonus! Always take advantage of whatever is thrown at you. Early snow fall? Bring it on!

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.10 - October 2010)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Cape Breton Experience - Celtic Colours International Music Festival - Day 3 Continued

In the last post I forgot to mention that after that great performance we went to the After Hours Club at the St. Ann’s Gaelic College. We had heard that this was an exceptional experience not to miss. It’s an after hours club setup for the artists to meet and play and do some impromptu stuff. They have a lineup of artists playing but later as the evening wears on, anything can happen.

The After Hours Club is supposed to run from 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM but we had already heard rumors of it running until almost 7:00 AM the previous day. So, on our way home we stopped in to check it out. The cover charge was $20.00 but if you had a ticket stub from any of the events during that day, the cover charge was reduced to $10.00. A great deal, as you’ll see. This is also setup as a drinking facility and so wine, beer and highballs are available. This creates a much more festive atmosphere.

We acquired some drinks and sat down in the great hall that is very well designed for this type of musical event and sat down at a table. Live music was already playing. After the performers last set there was a break as the stagehands setup for a new show. The break was only seven minutes long and a new group was up on stage playing. Turns out it was the excellent duo of Chris Stout and Catriona McKay that we had seen earlier at the festival (see previous posts). They played four tunes and finished to a standing ovation.

Again a quick five to ten minute break and another band was on. This time, an excellent Bag Piper and an accompanying Violinist hit the stage. They were great and the crowd loved them. And so the evening went on. At around 1:45 AM when we decided we needed to head out, as we were both exhausted from our travels with little sleep, Natalie McMaster showed up. Seven months pregnant, played all day and here she was! We were not sure if she was going to play or when so we headed out anyways.

In the morning we did hear that she had in fact played and that many of the artist had stayed very late once again. What an excellent setup and what a great and inexpensive way to see so many great artists. Another cool thing about this setup is that all the artists themselves are milling about the joint chatting and mixing with the crowd. What a great opportunity to meet the artists.

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.00 - October 2010)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Cape Breton Experience - Celtic Colours International Music Festival - Day 3

Irish Music, Cape Breton Music or Celtic Music can sound weird at first if you have never heard it before. The foreign sounding instruments can throw you off of your regular music haunts. But, once listened to, Celtic Music touches the heart. This music is why we came all the way to Cape Breton and specifically to the Celtic Colours International Music Festival.

Fort Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia - © 2010 François Cléroux
After a nice evening with Tracy and then a great show the following evening in Wagmatcook (Tunes gu leòr - see previous post), which was pre-ceded by some traditional Mi'kmaq drumming, we were anticipating another great evening of music.

It was another wet and cold day as we headed out to Fort Louisbourg before our evening concert. Along with the music we were trying to fit some photography in along with some touristy stuff. We had missed Louisbourg last year and so we fit it into this trip. Did I mention it was very cold and very wet. Fort Louisbourg was disappointing mostly because of the weather, and also because many aspects of the Fort were closed because we were visiting after tourist season ended.

Singer & Songwriter Lennie Gallant - © 2010 François Cléroux
What we did find was that another Juno award winning east coast singer and songwriter, Lennie Gallant, well know for both his English and French music, was doing a special one hour mid-day free concert at the Fort as part of the Music Festival. Lennie was a joy to listen to and he spent time talking to the crowd at the church about the music and some of the local history. Along with all his great music it was an excellent performance. Notch another autographed CD Purchase.

Our third evening brought us to the little town of Whycocomagh for 'Women In Tune'. This is what we had been waiting for. We couldn't purchase tickets for the opening act of the Festival which featured Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deep but we did manage to get these tickets to see the great, and locally worshiped, Natalie MacMaster.

Laoise Kelly - © 2010 François Cléroux
The evening started off with an impressive performance on the Harp by the much celebrated Laoise Kelly. After hearing many harpist in my lifetime her performance was simply riveting as she made the harp do do things I had never experienced before. Just wonderful. Another CD, another autograph. We chatted a little and she even asked if I could send her a photo, which I will gladly do upon my return home.

An aside here on Photography at these types of events. Photography was strictly prohibited except by vetted Media. When attending these types of events always check if Media registration is required. Another point to consider is that these settings were very dark and poorly lit. Several of the musicians even commented as such and even for Media, flash was not permitted. Most of the photos were shot with a 200mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8 using ISO 1600 or 3200. Always be ready.

Liz Doherty - © 2010 François Cléroux

Next up was a folk singer from Denver, Nevada, Mollie O'Brien. Perhaps she was part of the festival because of her last name but she was most definately not and Celtic musician. That aside, this woman has the voice of an angel and for those that love Folk with a hint of Jazz and Bluegrass, she is a must listen to. She has just released an excellent new album along with fellow musician Rich Moore titled, Saints & Sinners.

Before the break we were splashed with the sounds of Liz Doherty and Andrea Beaton. With the accompanying artist they were wonderful to listen to and their lively music was appreciated by everyone attending.

Niamh Ni Charra - © 2010 François Cléroux

After the break we returned to the sounds of Niamh Ni Charra. Although Niamh is a Fiddler, she started by playing the concertina, also known as a Ladies Accordion. What a beautiful sound this instrument makes when used by skilled hands. She then went on to play the fiddle.

Capping of the show was the musician everyone was waiting for, Natalie McMaster. Natalie started of her show playing a hard fast paced piece of music. Into her second tune she broke a string. An awkward moment at best for any musician but expertly handled by Natalie.

Natalie MacMaster - © 2010 François Cléroux

She went on to discuss current size as she is now seven months pregnant with her fourth child. She spoke about some personal life things and showed us a glimpse of who she truly is. In a sense we share a personal moment with her because she wanted to share this time, and to fill space while she replaced her broken string.

After replacing her string and tuning her fiddle she asked the crowed if they would mind if she started over? After much cheering she was able to continue her set. I have been a fan of Natalie's for many years now but even on this trip I heard a local stating she is so loved because she is so 'pretty and so wonderful'. You can always wonder as why someone is such a hit or celebrity, is it perhaps because of their looks, but when you hear her music and see the skills with which she plays, it's easy to understand why she has won so many awards. An incredible performance.

Natalie MacMaster - © 2010 François Cléroux

As with the previous evening all the cast were brought out on stage for a final few tunes. After the concert we had a change to speak with Natalie and since I already have her CDs, I had her autograph her new book about her, her life and Cape Breton titled "Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Aire: The Story of a Musical Life and Place". A beautiful book expertly photographed by Eric Roth that gives a great insight into her life and music. An excellent souvenir.

Coming up, days four through six . . .

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.01 - October 2010)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cape Breton Experience - Celtic Colours International Music Festival - Days 1 and 2

Weddings, other peoples weddings, can seem obligatory, or even chore like at times. Weddings abroad however can be turned into great travel opportunities. That was the case last year when we travelled to Hubbard’s Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada. Not the ‘obligatory’ part but rather the ‘great opportunity’ part.

Catriona McKay - © 2010 François Cléroux

We used the wedding location as a base to visit all of Nova Scotia including the southern townships of Lunenburg, Peggy’s Cove, Digby, Annapolis Royal and the Evangeline Trail. From there we headed over to circumnavigate Prince Edward Island and then back over to visit the northern end of Nova Scotia, or more appropriately, Cape Breton Island.

With only two nights to visit Baddeck, catch two caleidhs, do the Cabbot Trail and see a moose, we had little time for much else. We loved the music and the caleidhs, the Cabbot Trail was spectacular, the French District and its people on the West of the island was terrific as was the great sunset. The food was exceptional, can’t go wrong with Mussels and Lobster, but we never did see a moose. All in all the visit to Cape Breton was way too short and upon our departure we decided that what we loved the best, was its people. Nova Scotians are amongst the nicest people we’ve ever met. Cape Bretoners are even nicer!

Colin Grant - © 2010 François Cléroux

After such a wonderful 3 days in Cape Breton we decided we needed to return. After some quick investigation and seeing they had a music festival during the changing of the colours of the trees in the fall, it was a quick and easy decision to return to Cape Breton to attend the Celtic Colours International Music Festival. With Cape Breton in our hearts, plans and preparations were put into place.

A year and three weeks later we found ourselves in Baddeck once again. After a long flight in followed by a long drive in a new Lincoln MKV rental car we needed a rest. We were out for dinner and learned of a local musician playing at a local hangout and off we went, so much for rest. From here on we ended up seeing music every night we were in Cape Breton.

All the Artists - © 2010 François Cléroux

Our first evening of music was ‘Tracy’ at the Inverary in Baddeck. He is a local artist and was playing for a local crowd where he was known by everyone. Later into the evening we were joined by a new Groom and his best men. They had just snuck out of the wedding reception to go to the pub to do some shooters. Even Tracy commented n how lucky he was “Barely married and already allowed to go to the pub”.

We had four sets of tickets to different Celtic Colour’s events. Our first show was Tunes gu leòr with Troy MacGillivray, an excellent fiddler who then welcomed his sister on stage to do some Celtic Step Dancing. Then the Nuala Kennedy Trio entertained us followed by renowned and always exceptional Andrea Beaton who gave a stellar performance. Two internationally acclaimed and award winning musicians, Shetland Fiddler Chris Stout and the mesmerizing Harpist Catriona McKay made an appearance that was received by a well deserved standing ovation. Their new and very playable and enjoyable CD “White Nights” was released this June. A must have for any Celtic music collection! Our host Colin Grant then brought out his band, the  Colin Grant Band to entertain us. This young, energetic, vibrant band plays a fusion of Celtic, Rock, Funk and Jazz that is soulful and was in keeping with traditional Cape Breton Music. Everyone, young and old were well entertained. Rounding out the evening all the musicians were brought on stage to play a few Reels and Jigs. What a great way to end the evening.

Coming up, days three through six . . .

© 2010 François Cléroux
(Version 1.01 - October 2010)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Planning a Photo Trip - Part 2

Now that you have planned your trip, in concept, and booked all your tickets, accommodations and transportation it’s time to think about photography.

Flying is a great way to travel and depending on your destination perhaps the only way. When heading out locally it’s fairly easy dumping everything into the car along with all the extra gear. When boarding a plane it can be difficult bringing all your required personal belongings along with all your camera gear. Specific destinations and/or specific airlines can make this task even more challenging.

The security concerns of 9/11 along with higher fuel prices and a down turn in the economy, many airlines now only allow a checked bag and one carry-on. Checking in extra bags or overweight baggage can be costly. Luckily here in Vancouver with most airlines you can still have two checked bags up to 50Lbs each and two carry on bags (or rather one bag and one personal item?) up to 22Lbs each.

Another concern is what do you do with all your gear? Do you check it in risking never seeing your precious cargo again? Or perhaps receiving your gear neatly organized into a 100+ piece puzzle of broken pieces? Neither of these circumstances will be covered by most, if not all, airlines or even you home insurance policy.

The answer here is obviously carry-on. Only then can you ensure that you’ll have your camera when you arrive at your destination and also have it in one piece.

Carry-on baggage policies have limitations and restrictions on what, and how much stuff can be carried. For the ‘what’ portion, check with your local Aviation or Transport Regulatory Bodies in your area but rarely are cameras and gear on the list. I have heard of tripods or monopods not being allowed as carry-on but so far all your other gear is good to go. But again, check the rules.

Where you will run into problems is with the ‘how much’. There are size and weight restrictions and as mentioned before, the numbers of carry-on bags allowed. Here is where the fun starts.

First you need to check your airline’s baggage rules and regulations on limits and restrictions, but you need to check with all the carriers you will be using during your entire trip. Some small airline in a third world country may only allow one carry-on and NO checked baggage at all! You wouldn’t want to show up with four bags total?

So, check weight and size restrictions on all the airlines you will deal with. Note that many airlines will allow a little leeway in size but rarely in weight. Some airlines will not allow for ANY differences so it can pay to follow the rules. Note also, that with some airlines may have one set of rules when you leave home but the may have different rules when returning from a different country. This may be the airlines ripping travelers off but in most cases, these are regulations imposed by the country where you will be returning from.

Now that we have our weight and size requirements, you need to find a camera case, or two, that meet these requirements, meets your personal style photography work and organizational styles and a case that can carry all your equipment. This is no simple task.

For more on Travel Bags check out by blog post titled: Traveling With Photography Gear

Now I did say “all your equipment” but I should clarify that to be “all the equipment you want to bring”. And that is another whole question. What should you bring? This in part you will need to answer based on your gear, the type of photography you do and your photographic style.

I’ll discuss what gear I bring along in my next blog.

© 2010 François Cléroux
(Version 1.01 - October 2010)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.