Q and A with Kai Behrman and the Art of Creative Photography

As part of my interview for Kai Behrman's Podcast: The Art of Creative Photography, Kai asked me the following questions. 

1.) Favorite photograph – by whom and why?

My favourite photo at this moment is A Winter’s Night by me.  It is a photograph I took one night around 11 pm in mid-November.  The ice had just frozen over and people were beginning to walk on it.  I was unsure of whether or not I should venture out to capture the scene but I noticed a truck parked on the ice so it couldn’t be too bad.  I was alone with the exception of a fox that crossed my path.  I  love the darkness with a glimpse of light streaming through what seems to be an opening in the clouds, the storyline of traces of human life and community in barren and cold conditions.  And I especially love the stillness and mystery that it evokes. I currently have it hanging in my living room. 

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2.) Favourite inspirational quote about photography (or life in general)?

I have two favourite quotes:

“Work is love made visible” by Kahlil Gibran

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And

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”  Ralph Hattersly

3.) Favorite book – by whom and why?

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis.  I loved this book because it is a story about 15 dogs who received the gift of human consciousness from two gods on a bet.  The bet was that dogs would be even more unhappy than humans are if they were given human consciousness.  It was my favourite read because I love dogs of course and I like to think about these things i.e. what constitutes a good life and how one should achieve happiness and meaning in life.  Also, one of the key canine protagonists Majnoun reminds me of my 10-year-old Golden Doodle named Saydee. 

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4.) Favorite photographer – why?

Yousef Karsh - As you know, I have already mentioned how much I like the work of Annie Leibowitz however, I thought I should also mention a Canadian master portrait photographer who happens to be from my hometown in Ottawa, Canada.  His portrait of Winston Churchill is masterful.  I’ve seen an original print of it in the Speakers Chamber in the House of Commons and it is arresting.  He had an uncanny ability to know and connect with his subjects in a way that is congruent with their story.  He has photographed some of the great personalities of the 20th century:  Queen Elizabeth, Einstein, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Picasso and others. 

5.) One contemporary photographer, you’ve recently discovered?

David Burdeny… I love his colourful medium format aerial work.  He makes gorgeous very large prints. 

6.) Favorite photography gadget?

I love my Peak Design Slide strap.  It enables me to switch cameras effortlessly as well as distribute the weight around my shoulders.  

7.)  The favorite song when traveling / for the road? Why? —> 

The new rendition of Paul Simon’s classic:  The Sound of Silence by American rock band:  Disturbed. He sings it with such passion and the song’s lyrics really resonate with me.  Actually, it might be a good theme song for my favourite picture. 

8.) What’s in your camera bag?

I have both the Fujifilm XH1 and XT2, cameras along with several Fujifilm lenses:  XF16MM, XF23F2, XF35F2, XF56APD, XF10-24, XF16-55 and the XF50-140.  I also have a Fujifilm EF500 flash as well as a Godox V860II Flash.

The Tulip Festival with Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens

Recently I had the opportunity to test drive Fujifilm's new 80 mm macro lens.  The Tulip Festival was just getting underway here in Ottawa.  It is an annual celebration starting way back in 1945 when the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs as a gesture of thanks for having provided a safe haven for the future Queen and her family during the second world war.  

Every May there are millions of tulips blossoming throughout the capital and so Fujifilm Canada was kind enough to lend me their lens for the festival.

When the lens arrived it, I found it a bit larger and heavier than my other prime lenses but it was nothing unmanageable. I apologize for not having taken any pictures of it which seems to be the thing to do for a lens review, however, I am usually more excited about what a lens can do rather than what it looks like. It is quite the capable lens with a fast aperture of 2.8 rendering beautiful bokeh, image stabilization and weather sealed.  

I rushed outside as it had just rained and tulips look great with water glistening on them. This picture happens to be my favourite. 

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I had heard that there were a few complaints about a 'clunking' noise in the lens and to be honest I didn't really notice it until I thought about it.  It only happens when the camera is turned off and some of the glass elements shift in the barrel of the lens.  As soon as you turn on the camera it stops.  

I found that in good light the lens will focus rather quickly but it will hunt around a bit if the light isn't great or if there isn't much in the way of contrast. 

 A little street photography.

A little street photography.

I probably won't be investing in this lens because I just don't seem to do enough macro photography to justify it. 

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However, if you are into Macro photography then you won't go wrong with having this lens in your kit. 

And it would probably be an awesome lens for portrait photography.  

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Ice Storm

It is supposed to be spring.  I must admit the weather here in Ottawa is leaving a little bit to be desired.  It is going up and down like a yo-yo.  At the end of February it was positively balmy and now that it is mid April we have been getting snow and freezing rain.  In Yellowknife, it is predictably freezing cold for much of the year.  But with a good coat and a pair of mukluks, you are pretty well set for venturing outdoors.  

Today it was so crappy I could barely take Saydee for a walk.  Schools were closed, power lines and tree branches were down and many homes were without power.  I literally had to drop my poochie off at the park and waited by - no hung on to the car as the wind was gusting at about 60km hour.   I did, however, think it was beautiful.  The trees were all glistening with ice as were the roads.  A good day for a photo shoot then.  So off we went in search of beauty amidst the chaos.  

I probably could have used Fuji's new XH1 with in body image stabilization as I wasn't too sure on my feet. 

Here are some of my favourites. 

Print of the Week - Autumn Storm No 196

I have a couple of new years resolutions already and one is to write more often in my blog.  It is not enough these days to just merely be a photographer, one has to be constantly talking about it.  More importantly it is about me not being silent anymore.  To help me with this task, I thought I would begin a Print of the week series to discuss my print work.  As well, it would serve to be a shameless plug for selling my work wholesale via my website before putting it up on Saatchi for a wider audience. 

So given my first sale of a 30x40" print of one of my Aurora Borealis photographs, I thought it would make sense to start the series with that image.


On September 27th of this year, I witnessed one of the most amazing Aurora G2 storm.  Eddie was traveling and Saydee and I were alone with some guests from China.   It started just after 9 pm.  I was thinking I should really get serious about doing a time lapse before we had to leave Yellowknife to go back home to Ottawa.  On previous outings, my friend Bill Braden, who also shoots with Fuji in Yellowknife, encouraged me to be more patient with Timelapse.  Also, Fujifilm Canada kindly let me use their new medium format camera:  GFX50s for this reason.  They were enjoying my photos from Canada's north.  

I didn't have to go far for this scene as I just had to open the back door, take a few steps out past my balcony and there it was.  It was an intense storm which lasted for a couple of hours.  What was unique was that it wasn't very cold out.  It was probably 8 degrees Celsius meaning I didn't have to wear mitts and with a good winter coat I could stay outside comfortably for the entire evening without succumbing to frostbite which is the norm during the winter months. 

I set up the tripod, camera to ISO 3200 to enable a faster shutter speed of 2 seconds which I've learned is essential in capturing the crisp curtain-like effect of the aurora.  I was shooting with Fujifilm's GF23F4 lens which was perfect for shooting the aurora.  It was easy to mark infinity via the LCD screen.  The tilting LCD screen is also genius so that regardless of the angle you are shooting it is easy to see what it is you are doing.  Especially useful when tipping the camera straight up to photograph an exploding korona.  

Anyway, it went on for about an hour and a half and I was somewhat diligent.  Halfway through I thought it would be neat to have a photo with Saydee and I in it.  It was great to have this photo but I have to admit it didn't really add to timelapse.  Oh well.  

In any case, a friend of a friend down south was looking for a large print of an Aurora to display over the fireplace and having shot with the GFX I was pretty confident that I could make a beautiful print of the size they were asking for which was a 30x40".  

For this, I turned to Jim Lamonte, one of Ottawa's premier printers who also teaches the art of fine art printing at SPAO (School of Photographic Arts in Ottawa).  Jim is a pleasure to work with.   He was very considerate about making the print exactly to my specifications and vision.  He recommended Canson Baryta paper as being the best one with the Highest D-Max which is a measure of the deepest black tone a printer/ink/paper combination can reproduce. If properly cared for this combination of Epson inks and paper should see the print last for well over 100 years.  It will outlast me and the people who are purchasing it.  It is a limited edition 1/10 and I can't wait to see it framed!

Huge thanks to all who were involved:  Fujifilm Canada for lending me their GFX50s, Peter Waiser for connecting me with a friend who was looking for what I have to offer, Jim Lamont for helping  me produce this size of print and my husband who is supportive of my work. 

To purchase your own copy see Fine Art Prints

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Christmas Tree Farm

We pushed off our annual outing of going to get our Christmas tree until the snow came.  It just didn't seem right otherwise.  Here it is almost mid-December and finally, we got a couple of centimetres of snow last night.  So today was the day.  

We decided to go to the Fallowfield Tree farm.  We had been there three years before - the year before traveling to Yellowknife.  It was a mild -3C so given that we are used to -30C at this time of year, that was no big deal.  I was looking forward to photographing the typical Canadian winter scene of hay rides, Christmas trees, goats and horses.  Since I still have Fuji's medium format camera I wanted to try it out at the tree farm.

So here are some favourites from the day.  

Nine and a Half Apples

One can never truly know the importance of a photograph.  I received a call not too long ago from someone who was wanting to surprise their father at Christmas.  It seems that approximately 30 years he had purchased a framed photograph of nine and a half green apples set against what looked like a cement wall.  Four apples were cradled in a ridged white bowl.  That photograph had been hanging in the family's kitchen for over 30 years.  The children had grown up with it.  The problem was that it was fading and was horribly dated.  Could I recreate the photograph for them?  It would be a print of 12.25" by 33.5".   I thought the GFX50s would be just perfect for this project and the kind people Fujifilm Canada kindly leant me their camera along with the 23mmF4 and the 120mm lens. 

The camera arrived and I got busy looking for a similar white bowl to the one in the photograph, ten apples, a background and cloth.  I ended up purchasing a kitchen counter for the background and a painter's dropcloth for the table.  

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The GF120mmF4 with its macro capabilities turned out to be perfect for this job.  The trickiest part was balancing the apples in the bowl.  

Anyway, here is the final image and I must say the print at 33.5" was spectacular!  The apples seemed larger than life and ready to eat. 

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Thank you to Fujifilm Canada for the use of the camera for this project.