Michael Gauthier's Blog

Play Ball!

Community Comes Together

I have led a pretty fortunate life when it comes to dealing with serious illnesses or the deaths of close family and friends. And every once in a while, I experience something that makes me realize how really fortunate I am.

Al Paul is a 40-something young man from the Almonte area (10 minutes down the road from Carleton Place) and was one of four Paul kids that went grew up in the shadows of Mount Pakenham, skiing whenever he could, and working at the hill to help fund his passion.  He followed his dream to the Whistler area in BC, working, skiing, and building a family – welcoming a new son into his life just last year. But things took a challenging turn when he was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, and went through an initial round of surgery and chemotherapy treatment. His friends and family back home in the Almonte area were understandably shocked by the news, but they rallied to support Al and his family, and held a huge fundraiser for him at Mount Pakenham this past weekend (February 19th, 2011). Air miles were donated to bring Al back home, and the event took place with him as the guest of honour. Surrounded by family and friends, he spoke about his challenges and expressed his thanks for the support – both moral and financial.

As he prepares for a seven month battle with chemotherapy treatments starting next week, it is certainly a sobering thought to see first-hand what many people are challenged to deal with. Good luck Al!

Al with event organizers Moira Wilkie and Sarah Roberston

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Personal | , | Leave a comment

Pakenham Frost Fest

The annual Pakenham Frost Festival was this past weekend. Couldn’t have asked for a better late-January weekend for the outdoor activities – just below freezing and sunny. So my camera was busy, and, as with most festivals, cute kids dominate the photos. Those are the ones that make the newspaper, usually with a front page shot and an inside full page spread.

The first event was the crowning of Miss Pakenham, a contest for 14-18 year olds, offering one of them a chance to represent the town for a year. She get lots of exposure and public speaking experience as part of the town’s many special events. The goal at something like this is to get the delighted look when the winner is announced, and I think I came pretty close to capturing it.

On the indoor rink on Friday night, Little Miss and Mr. Pakenham were chosen from costumed skaters at a free skating event. This little guy was pushing a walker so he could get around the ice.

Saturday afternoon The local volunteer Fire Department had the outdoor rink in excellent condition, and the “kiddyjack” activities drew a good crowd of competitive kids. The challenge here is to get some sense of the action, as well as facial expressions that tell a story. This one shows the home stretch of the log rolling race (that’s my shadow at the bottom of the shot, about to get rolled over!)

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Photography | , | Leave a comment

Busy Weekend of Pucks and Music

My camera was busy this past weekend with a hockey game and two concerts. Lots of shots from all three events at the usual place.

Friday

The Carleton Place Canadians continued their drive to a playoff spot, with a victory over the Nepean Raiders. The win gave them the fourth best record in the league, one point in front of the Raiders. After a ninth place finish and missing the playoffs last year (their first in the league), this is a different team with lots of potential.

Photo Notes: Nikon D700 with f/2.8 70-200mm lens, and a 1.4 extender; shooting from just inside the blue line, I can get extremely good close-ups of the near net, and the 280mm extended lens gets me close enough to the far net to pick up the action there.

Saturday

On Saturday night, the Folkus Almonte series of concerts continued with Selina Martin opening and Dave Bidini headlining. Selina is a local girl with a “folk-rock” leaning and puts on a great show.

Dave Bidini is a little more “rock” than “folk”, and brings a lot more intensity to the stage. He is a founding member of the now defunct Rheostatics, an accomplished book author, and a regular columnist with the National Post. Interesting person, music, and concert.

Photo Notes: Nikon D700 with f/2.8 70-200mm lens, and my trusty Manfrotto monopod; the Old Town Hall in Almonte has good stage lighting (actually it is excellent lighting for a small venue) and even the band members were reasonably well lit. There was less than a full house, so I was able to move around fairly well and even took some front row seats for a while to get some really good close-ups.

Sunday

On Sunday afternoon, the local Presbyterian Church held a hymn sing with Garth Hampson, now retired from an extensive career with the RCMP, mainly in northern Canada. Along the way, he was the lead soloist for the RCMP Concert Band for over 25 years, and was the star of hundreds of concerts and productions. With citations and awards way too numerous to mention, he is now heavily involved in charitable fundraising, in particular for our First Nation communities in the north.

Photo Notes: Nikon D700 with f/2.8 70-200mm lens, again mostly on my Manfrotto monopod;  whoever first thought of using churches for concerts certainly had a great idea! The locations are beautiful, the sound is superb, and there is usually lots of good light. St. Andrew’s in Carleton Place is certainly all of the above.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Concerts, Hockey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baseball is back in town

Way back in 1993, the Triple A Ottawa Lynx brought professional baseball to Ottawa. In the early years, the team set attendance records, with crowds of 10,000+ in the brand new stadium (I was one of the early season ticket holders!). Those were heady times, but for whatever reasons, the crowds stopped coming, and the team packed up and moved to Pennsylvania after the 2007 season. In 2008 the Can-Am League (semi-pro) placed a team in the park, but small crowds and bankruptcy ended that pretty quickly. Last year, the beautiful stadium stayed empty, with weeds and long grass taking over the diamond. It was a sad sight, for sure, especially for an avid baseball player and fan. I’ve played at the stadium numerous times, and it was certainly a shame to see it go to waste as politicians argued over what to do with it.

This spring the big news was that the Ottawa Stadium Group (OSG) was successful in a franchise bid for a team in the Intercounty Baseball League, and the Ottawa Fat Cats were born. Based in south western Ontario, the IBL has been in operation since 1919 – so this is its 92nd year of operation. It is not professional baseball, but it does provide a very high level of ball for ex-college players and the ones that almost made it to the “show”.  Since we are a 4 hour drive from the nearest team, the schedule presented its own challenges – each team in the League will visit Ottawa for one weekend, and the Fat Cats will make a couple of tours into south western Ontario, knocking off a number of games in each trip. It makes for a lot of old style double-headers, but it promises to be an exciting summer with 18 home games in 11 dates.

And of course, the new team needs a photographer to record the highlights, so yours truly will be the official team photographer for the Fat Cats this summer. So watch for lots of exciting baseball shots, or even better still, head on down to the stadium and take in a game or two.  Play ball!

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Baseball, Photography | | 1 Comment

We’re Drinking The Kool-Aid…

I’ve pretty much always been a PC kinda guy. Not (I hope!) like the guy in the “I’m a MAC” commercials, but most definitely – I’m A PC. I think it has more to do with my needs and wants over the years, and my desire to support mainstream technology. I’ve always liked getting my hands dirty, and I turned this into a business working with and supporting PC’s. I don’t hate MAC’s or anything, it just has never been my cup of tea. Even my cell phone is a Windows Mobile device, in spite of the incredible coolness factor of the iPhone.

Our youngest son Mark (who will be 23 this month), on the other hand, is much more artistic than I will ever be, and in spite of my very best teaching and lecturing, has settled firmly on a MAC as his technology of choice. And it suits him perfectly. It handles his music. He could easily sub for Justin Long in the commercials.

So when my wife Lorrie started to think about an iPhone to replace her expiring Blackberry contract (do cell phone contracts REALLY ever expire??), I could see the storm gathering. Mark gets his artistic flair from Lorrie, and she has always struggled with PC technology. It just never seemed to make sense to her. I don’t know why I never thought of an iPhone for her before – the intuitive interface and the ease of use should be perfect for her. And it is – she’s only had it for a day or so, but it is like her long lost friend. I suspect she may even carry the phone with her occasionally and be able to answer it before it heads off to voice mail.

So I find myself looking over her shoulder at this cool thing. And wondering when my contract expires. Oh my God, we really are drinking the Apple Kool-aid!!

(For those of you too shy to ask what the hell “Drinking the Kool-aid” means, Wikipedia will take you back to 1978 to explain.)

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , | 1 Comment

Bookmark This

It is always nice when someone recognizes your photography, and even nicer when they want to do something with it. Such is the case with one of my shots from the Pakenham Fall Fair, that I covered last August.

Pakenham is part of the Township of Mississippi Mills, and they are working on their marketing campaign for this year’s fair. One of the items they have created is a bookmark, and they want to use one of my images on it. How cool is that?

My image is the top one – the horse being led by a father and his young son. It was the boy’s first horse show, and Dad was letting him do as much as he could. The horse was a little large for young Tyson to lead by himself, so Dad helped out. I had an even better (I thought) shot a bit later on, when the judge was leaning over to talk to Tyson and ask some questions about the horse. In both cases, there is certainly a story to be told in the picture. I also got a picture of Tyson with his grandfather, who was at the Fair as well. Three generations, well represented!

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Photography | , , | Leave a comment

I Met A Street Artist

I was in Texas on business last week, and I had a couple of hours to kill in downtown Austin. If you have never been there, the 6th Street area is home to numerous pubs, live music venues, and all kinds of artists – a very cool place. Armed with my camera, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to enjoy the afternoon. After lunch and a walk, I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. In one corner of the store was an artist, quietly sketching away with a pencil. He was looking up and down, obviously working on an image of another customer in the store. While waiting for my coffee I asked him if I could take a shot of him at work, and he smiled and said OK. I took a couple of quick pictures and then sat down with my coffee where I could watch him at work. I fine-tuned my camera settings and started on a few more shots. As I was doing this, he continued to look up and down – but this time at me! It dawned on me that I was now the subject, as he was mine!

So I moved over to his table and started chatting with him. He is about 45 years old, and figures he has been drawing for about 40 years, and has probably completed some 30,000 images. When I asked where he stores them all – he said that he doesn’t store them, he gives them away to his subjects. So we chatted for a while, as he worked away at my drawing. When he was finished, he pulled it off his clipboard, and his face went white with shock as he saw the back of my picture. He dropped his face into his hands and I thought he was going to cry. I asked him what was on the back, and he turned it around for me to see – it was a self-portrait! I felt bad for a few seconds, but realized that now I really had to have it.  I wondered only briefly what might motivate him, and then asked if he accepted donations. Of course he did, and I pulled out a twenty for him and took away my picture – with gorgeous images on BOTH SIDES.

Pictures of both and Art Martez are on my flickr page.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Personal, Photography | Leave a comment

Color Management

When you start editing and printing photographs, it doesn’t take too long to run into issues and problems with matching color all the way along the workflow. You spend hours carefully tweaking the colors on an image until it is perfect, only to find out that the printed copy is horrible. Where do you even look to fix the problem? Well, I went back to school again this past weekend – to the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO) – to try and figure out how cameras, computers, monitors, and printers deal with color.

While color itself is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, it turns out that it can be reasonably easy to manage. While there are lots of tips, tricks, and important settings to deal with, the single most important piece of the puzzle is the color that your monitor reproduces. If you can solve this problem, most of the rest is easy. While there are some people that can calibrate a monitor by eye (sort of like tuning a guitar by ear), most people will rely on monitor calibration tools. These devices (such as a Datacolor Spyder) attach to your monitor and read the colors that your monitor reproduces. It can then create a unique and specific profile for your monitor, which your operating system will use to modify the colors it reproduces. So when you look at an image of a red apple, it will be red. If you are already lucky enough to have a printer that you can depend on, then most of your color printing problems will be solved.

To finely tune monitor colors for critical work – corporate logo colors, for instance – you need to be concerned about the light in the room you are working in. Some people will need to calibrate monitors with the drapes closed, under a consistent work lighting environment.  And to ensure the printer is doing the best it can, you will need to have printer profiles for the specific paper you are using, as well as up-to-date drivers for the printer of course. But, if you do nothing else, get your monitor calibrated.

So we worked for two fairly intense days, experimenting with settings in Photoshop and testing the printing workflow. It was a good opportunity to work on some of my better photos and to get good prints of them. It all went very well, and I learned a lot. Ask me anything…

The only downside is that I now have a monitor calibrator and a new printer on my wish list🙂

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Photography | Leave a comment

A Model Assignment

A couple of weeks ago, before my Ottawa 67’s workshop with Harry Nowell, Harry sent out a request for models for one of his other photography classes. Luckily the requirements were minimal – human and breathing were the essentials – so I thought I might volunteer. It would give me a chance to meet Harry before my workshop, and get a feel for what he was teaching his students. It would also give me some appreciation for what models actually have to go through. This, of course, is a topic worthy of its own web site, but I figured I might learn from the students – either how to properly “engage” the model, or perhaps how not to do so. Anyways, worst-case scenario is that  I would likely get some photographs that I could use for my web sites, since sitting in front of my own camera and doing self-portraits isn’t really my style.

So off I went on a Sunday afternoon to the National Gallery in Ottawa, which would provide sufficiently interesting backdrops for a range of pictures. There were four sets of models – two couples (one of them with changes of clothing and everything), one family (mom, dad, and THREE kids under 6), and me. There were three pairs of photographer-students, and one single. The idea was that each photographer set would have a  half-hour session with each model set. The photographers were told to break the ice with conversation about what kind of photograph I was looking for, and then to engage in small talk to relax me and make the session easier on everyone. With all three pairs of photographers, there was a dominant one, and most of them did a reasonable job of quizzing me and making small talk without it sounding too much like small talk. All the photographers did a reasonable job with basic positioning and posing, but none of them moved much past that. In fact, I did most of the work for one couple. Since it was an available light exercise, the photographers needed to be able to position me so that the light was reasonably correct, at least avoiding obvious dark spots and shadows. They all needed to pay more attention to this, as many of the pictures were flawed with poor lighting. In their defense, this is what they were supposed to be learning, of course, and part of the learning process is to make mistakes, see them, and fix them. Taking portraits like we did is a HUGE challenge, since the photographer needs to direct the model, watch the light, and get the pictures. It can be (and was) overwhelming for some.

When I received the images from the shoot, it was interesting to review the presentation package. There were no specific rules to follow, but the deal was that I would get some photos for my time. Most of the photographers processed their images and gave me the best of  their work, in various sizes of JPG’s on a CD. One CD, however, contained over 100 raw images – basically a camera dump containing every shot – bad ones and all. At the other end of the scale, one CD was imprinted with one of the photos – a very nice touch – and had a nice handwritten thank-you note on the sleeve. When you see something like that, you just know you are going to like the photos.

So all in all, it was a very interesting experience. I learned a lot about how photographers should (and should not) treat models. And I got some very nice photos in return. Thanks to Harry and all the photographers for their efforts.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | Photography | Leave a comment

My day at the rink…

As team photographer for the Carleton Place Canadians, I have shot 30 or so games this season, which probably translates to almost five thousand pictures. I have learned a ton, but it has all been pretty much on my own. I can find lots of sports photography web sites to read, but not too many deal with the specific challenges of ice hockey. So when I saw that Harry Nowell was holding a hockey photography workshop, with access to an Ottawa 67’s game, I was quick to sign up. My Canadians are Junior A level, with kids between 16 and 20, playing against other teams in the Ottawa Valley, one level below the Major Junior A 67’s. The 67’s are part of the Canadian Hockey League, with three separate divisions encompassing all of Canada. These are the kids that are going to turn pro – the future stars of the National Hockey League. The Canadians draw 300 fans to a game, but the 67’s play in a 10,000 seat arena in front of an average of 7,000 fans. This is a pretty good achievement for these kids. So the opportunity to work with Harry and get to shoot a 67’s game was most inviting.

There were six of us including Harry, and we met on Sunday at the Ottawa Urbandale Center to shoot the game against the Guelph Storm. The ice surface is completely enclosed by the boards and high glass, which means that we will be shooting through the glass (at the Carleton Place Arena, I have a location just off the end of the players benches where I can shoot over the glass by standing on a small ladder). And rather uniquely, the first row of seats is raised and set back about three feet from the boards, leaving a walkway completely around the ice surface. This is perfect for photographers!

We all had media passes giving us access to the walkway, and we shared space with some of the local newspaper photographers. We also met one of Harry’s students from a previous course, who hosts a blog on the Ottawa 67’s and has full access to all games to take photographs. Valerie gave us some good insights on working in the Urbandale Center. The first thing I noticed was how much better the light was here – I was able to get shutter speeds of 1/1000th of a second with more light than I can get at 1/300th of a second in Carleton Place. This meant MUCH cleaner shots, with less noise and less blur from the motion. Shooting through the glass was a bit difficult to master – there are dirty spots and puck marks, and there are often reflections to deal with. But the flexibility of being able to move around the rink was tremendous. We even had one 15 minute slot in one of the corporate boxes, to get some shots from up high.

There were lots of good photo opportunities – seven goals in total, a few penalties, and lots of action in the corners. I took about 250 shots, and discarded around 100. I don’t know where these numbers stand in comparison with other photographers, but I certainly took a higher percentage of good shots than I usually do. From the 150 that I kept, I narrowed the field down to about 20 that I thought were pretty good. Not sure if I had any newspaper quality shots, but I did catch three goals being scored, and had numerous shots with the puck frozen in mid-air. I also got quite a few good images with story-telling facial expressions – those are usually my favorites. Look at the eyes of 67’s goalie Petr Mrazek as he tries to find the puck around the Guelph forward blocking his view

So it was a very good day at the rink. More of my favorites are on flickr.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Hockey, Photography | Leave a comment

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