Happy New Year Photo

Portrait by Luca Ragogna

Well, that’s the end of 2012 I suppose, eh?

Not a bad year, really.  We had some great events in the first half of the year – Fighting Cancer at the sugar shack in early spring and the Pet Event at the OSPCA’s Walk-a-thon in June.  Met some fabulous families as we created some really beautiful portraits for them. Some of these portraits have already been featured, some are still waiting for the final reveals to the families and some are withheld out of respect of the privacy wishes of our clients.

We also had some huge fun working on some mountain biking portraiture, most notably working with the fabulous crew at ProAction Mountain Biking Club.  I’m already looking forward to working with them again this year when biking season opens up again.

So, what’s on tap for 2013?

We have a huge list of ideas in the concept stage. From a Sugarbush Pet Calendar and Book Project to really getting deep with sports portraiture. (Hint, if you know a teen athlete who’d like to model for us, let us know as we’re seeking models to get this thing kicked off.) We’ve opened the conversation with Team Hardwood to help them with their fund raising efforts for the Nordic Ski team there. Planning for some more OSPCA fund raising events and I’m quite sure we’ll be back at the Sugar Shack again this year for some more fun and laughs – thinking about how we can mix that up for something really different this time.

Oh and lest I forget, Jen’s good friend Ruth Blanchet of Arbee Designs has double dog dared us to take on 365 Day Challenges. What’s that? Well, Jen has committed to blog on her Quilts by Jen site every day of 2013!

And me? Well, I’ve made two 365 day commitments (what on earth am I thinking!!!). First? I’m going to post a photo everyday for the next 365. Not necessarily a new photo, this isn’t a “take a photo-a-day” challenge, instead my challenge is to review my archive and every day highlight a photo that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was taken. For some of you, that means, yes, finally I will be presenting images from our fabulous photo trip to Ecuador! Yay!  At the end of the year, I’m going to print a book of all 365 photos. Fun. I need to decide in the next 11h and 45min if I’m going to do this chronologically or just go archive-diving each day. Hmmm. Chaos or system?

Second? A couple days ago, I discovered Cubeecraft. Cubeecraft is a website that presents folding paper crafts and in particular, cube shaped characters from pop culture (video games, movies, etc) like this one of R2D2:

R2D2 Cubeecraft

R2D2 Cubeecraft

For some crazy reason I decided that I would print, cut, fold, photograph and present a new Cubeecraft every day. Oh dear! Anyway, I’m not going to clog this blog with those images every day. Instead I’ll be starting up a Tumblr feed for them, so stay tuned for the link.


Innisfil Beach Multigeneration Family Portrait

Hi everyone!

This past summer I had the privilege of photographing another multi-generational family portrait.  Geez, I really love creating portraits that span the generations.  I think, too often, these moments are left as fleeting after thoughts attached to family gatherings like weddings and funerals.  Everyone’s together, for sure, but the photographer really is under the pump at these events so creating a relaxed, engaging portrait of the whole family is generally not on the cards.  Too, everyone is dressed up, which is great for a formal portrait though a relaxed casual portrait is just somehow out of place with everyone in their finest, ya know?

Anyhow, I connected with this wonderful family from Newmarket through our charity events at the Sugar Shack this past winter.  As with most large family portraits with grown and married children and subsequent grandchildren, it did take a fair bit of schedule finessing on everyone’s part to get a date that would work.  Everything came together beautifully in the end and we all met at a small woodlot in Innisfil to create their portrait.  While the full family portrait turned out magnificently, was very well received by the family and is now hanging as a 30 inch canvas over their mantle, it was this image of the grandparents with their grandchildren that really made me smile.

In fact, Joanne, the matriarch of this terrific family had this to say about the experience:

Michael, we are so happy with our family photos. Our canvas print is gorgeous and looks amazing on our wall. I thought it would have been a challenge with 7 adults, 1 baby, 3 toddlers and our dog Marley but it was well orchestrated. Its been a pleasure meeting you and Jen and hope to see you again. Thank you, Joanne, Mike and family.

As a photographer, there really isn’t any better feeling than setting up a scene, capturing the moment and creating a joyful portrait like this one.  So, I’m honoured to be able to share it with you today.

With Christmas and New Years rapidly approaching, this is one of those great opportunities for a family portrait of your own, so start planning now.

Alright everyone, until the next post…


Cincinnati Portrait of three young men

A couple of months ago I had the honour of being invited to assist David Ziser with one of his mega-wedding events.   The wedding was a large Jewish affair, at least a quarter mill, maybe a half – spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it.  It was my first exposure to a Jewish ceremony, and lemme just say – what a wonderful ceremony and celebration.

But that’s not what this story is about.  Seeing as the last time I was in Cincinnati, this past spring for David’s week long Master Class on portrait photography, I didn’t get much of a chance to see any of Cincinnati, I decided to go a couple of days before the wedding and do a little exploring.

I nearly didn’t get to do that, as I tried to kill myself on the Friday when I got there.  Well, not intentionally, but that was the effect.  A very o’dark early wake up, breakfast, drive to the airport, fly to Cinci, skip lunch, not much to drink through the day, decided to go for a 10k run at 5pm, 30+ degrees and 85% humidity.  Can you see the disaster coming here?  Yeah, heart rate monitor was through the roof for the whole run, couldn’t get heart rate under control, then suddenly noticed that I was starting to shiver and was covered in goose bumps….  uh oh – heat stroke coming on fast.  Managed to drag myself back to the hotel, guzzled a whole lot of water and then warmed up in the jacuzzi…

Anyway, that’s not what this story is about either.  Ha.  Really building up to this one.

So, Saturday morning I hopped on Google and searched for some walking routes of downtown Cinci.  Found an interesting looking one, loaded it into my iPhone and headed into town.  My walk took me past many very interesting buildings and parks and at one point I found myself in area a bit more run down, crossing a vacant lot when I was hailed by three young men.  “Hey mister, can you take our picture?”

Uh oh, I thought.  I’ve had the camera out seeing as I was photo-walking my way around down town, I hope I haven’t just been targeted to get jacked.  We’ll just be cool here.  The lads came in close and we started chatting about creating a portrait of them.

Sure enough, one of Cincinnati’s finest rolled by in her squad car, stopped in the middle of the street and called out “everything fine here?”.  “yeah, no worries, we’re all good” I called back.  She didn’t look too convinced.  Stayed stopped there in the middle of the street for a bit looking at me questioningly.  “sure sure, I’m fine” as I waved her on.

As she rolled away one of the guys grumbled “friggin’ racial profiling right there”.  I gotta say, I felt bad for the guys.  Is this what they have to put up with on a regular basis?  Every time they stop to talk to someone, the authorities stop to see if everything’s on the up-and-up?  Then I realised that I had profiled them when they approached me in the first place.  Though my concern was more to do with being approached by three young men fanned out across the street approaching me because I had the camera out, than that they were black.

Moving right along, I quickly scanned the street and identified an interesting building with some stairs up to the front door and most importantly, in the shade.  I arranged the guys on the stairs, asked them to throw some signs and created the portrait in this post.  We exchanged emails and went on our way.

Cool guys.  Cool Portrait.  I decided to process it a bit more heavily than I would in my usual portrait style.  Unfortunately, the email address they gave me bounced so I haven’t been able to deliver this portrait.  And that’s too bad, because I really like how this one turned out.

Right o then, we’ll catch up with you all again soon enough!


Hey there everyone!

I want to show you some of the portraits I created for the youths and instructors of ProAction Mountain Bike Club.

But first, a bit of background on this club and how I came to be involved with them.

ProAction is a fundraising organisations whose sole purpose is to raise money so that police officers in Toronto (and now Durham and Hamilton) can develop programs which bring police and youth together in meaningful, constructive programs.

Three years ago, Marc Hayford, of 54 Division in East York, Toronto started a mountain bike club for some of the underprivileged youth in his area. Working with funding from ProAction and support from various businesses, the club is able to provide a weekly programme to approximately a dozen youth each year. At the start of the school year, the youth are all kitted up with everything they need to enjoy mountain biking – bikes from Kona, and this year Trek, helmets, gloves, camelbaks – and the instruction starts. 54 Division and neighbourhood where these youth live is right beside the Don River and the hundred or so kilometres of mountain bike trail there. Every Thursday afternoon the cops and youth converge, unload their bikes from the trailer and head out for a ride.

Once winter comes, the bikes are stored away and the club shifts to indoor wall climbing. Come spring, they head out Milton to put their climbing skills to the test on some real rock walls and then the bikes come out again. On weekends, they might go camping, compete in a 24h mountain bike race or head up to Hardwood Ski & Bike for some intense training (that’s where I come into the story, but more on that in a minute!).

At the end of the summer, providing the youth have stayed out of trouble and kept with the programme, they get to keep the bikes and gear and the club starts again with a new group. Of course, the programmes graduates are always welcomed back for a Thursday ride with the new group.

So, this past summer, Hardwood called me up and asked if I would provide a lesson a group of Cops and Kids from Toronto. Sure, why not. Love riding, love teaching. What a great group I met. I quickly realised that these riders were not the usual group of uncoordinated, bike-clumsy teenagers we usually see in the school groups at Hardwood. I rapidlly started shifting gears and modified my programme to put these guys to the test. And then, I took them out on Sidewinder – but not before introducing them to Boneshaker on Radical.

Fabulous day. Exchanged contact details. Kept in touch. New group started this fall. “Can we set something up to give this new crew some awesome instruction and riding?” You bet.

And I got thinking. I was really impressed with what this group was trying to accomplish – introduce youth (high immigrant fraction) to mountain biking, show them the wonders of urban trails on the Don, develop cooperative relationships between youth and cops. I sent Marc an email saying next time they were up, I wanted to create mountain bike portraits for all the members. And so it was on.

Weekend before last, the gang was up here for some lessons and another crack at Radical and Sidewinder. We had to veto some trail features until they were more experienced when they come back again next summer. Speaking of which, the way these guys are riding now, I’m going to have to really pull out the stops to put together the next level of training. hmmm, maybe some big drops, log hopping and elevated skinnies?

Last week I drove down to 54 Division and joined the club for their last ride in Don. What a great place to ride. A bit muddy compared to here, but great, great trails.

I’m really looking forward to joining up with them some time this winter to go wall climbing with them and create another set of portraits – Stay tuned!  In the meantime, here are some of the portraits I created for these guys (Click the full screen button for awesomeness!):


Child Portrait in Field of Flowers

Hey Everyone,

Pretty excited today to announce that I was invited to submit a few portraits to an installation being created in Minnesota.  A photographer friend of mine whom I met at a workshop several years ago is curating a exhibition of environmental portraits from around the world to display near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To say that I was thrilled by this invitation would be something of an understatement. After the initial glow wore off I was left with the task of selecting just three images. Selecting 25 images was pretty easy.  With much soul searching I was able to whittle the selection down to 12.  At about that point I sent my friend a note asking if I couldn’t please send more than 3 images.  She laughed, naturally, and said “No, now comes the hard part!”  It took me all evening to get down to the three images you see here.

In the end I was able to add 3 countries (Canada, Australia and Ecuador) to the gallery’s exhibit of international environment portraits.

The curator’s reaction to my submission?  I’ll let you be the judge:

I can’t stand it! These are just stunning Michael! You blew me away friend! The images are absolutely stunning and I am grateful to have them in the exhibit! Thank you for taking the time to do this! Really, these are an amazing addition to the exhibit – thank you! In addition to the visual scrumptiousness, they represent three additional countries!

Wardrobe Example for Casual Portrait Session

Wardrobe Example For A Casual Family Portrait Session – Compliments of Blink Branding & Design

“What should we wear?”

This is probably our most commonly asked question when we are consulting with our clients prior to a portrait session. Often this question is asked in an off-hand, casual manual.  Indeed, one of the biggest contributors to the look of your portrait (and consequently, how much you love it!) are your wardrobe choices.

If you are looking for a formal portrait for a formal dining room furnished in dark antiques, it doesn’t really make sense to have everyone dressed in brightly coloured, casual clothing and photographed in a relaxed, candid moment, does it?  A dressier wardrobe choice with the family posed in a more traditional style will fit the decor of that formal dining room much better, right?  Of course, traditional style doesn’t have to mean stiff and awkward! On the other hand, you might be planning to display your family portrait in a very relaxed, bright and comfortable family room with lots of natural light flooding into it.  That more formal portrait is going to look a bit out of place here, so we would suggest a clothing choice that is more relaxed and casual and then create portraits which capture your family in a relaxed moment, interacting with each other and not necessarily appearing to be aware of the photographer creating the portrait.

When we start to talk about clothing choices for portraits with a casual feel to them, it can be seem a bit overwhelming trying to work out what everyone should wear.  Most everyone understands how to coordinate clothing for a formal portrait as this is pretty easy to do by selecting shirts the same colour and pants and skirts the same colour.  Note that a semi-formal look can be created even in jeans.  However, when we get to a casual look, well… how about I just give you some ideas and you’ll see what I mean.

When we start talking about wardrobe choices one of our favourite ways to describe it is to ask our clients to imagine if just one person were to wear everything, would they still look good?  Of course, I’m not suggesting that Dad wear the little girl’s dress!  What I’m talking about are the colours and patterns of the clothing.  Do they clash if they are all assembled into one outfit?  Moms are usually pretty good at knowing if clothing choices clash!  Not always though, so Jen has an awesome eye for spotting clash hazards and is ready to help!

A particularly effective wardrobe planning technique is to choose a dress or blouse with a fine, multi-coloured print pattern for your daughter to wear.  Then, pulling from the colours in your daughter’s dress, you can create outfits for everyone else.

The wardrobe selection at the top of this page, created by a friend of mine at Blink Branding & Design, is a great example of this last method.  The tight pattern on the girl’s dress isn’t big and loud, so it won’t be distracting.  The main colours, red and purple, of her dress pattern are then pulled out for the rest of the family’s outfits – blue for dad’s and the boy’s outfit and the red for mom’s dress.  By coordinating like this the whole family pulls together really well AND all the smaller combinations are going to look great too (Dad with son, Dad with daughter, mom with son, mom with daughter, son and daughter together).  You can also see how you could put all these colours and patterns on a single person and not have any clashing – so it passes the single person test with flying colours.

It’s so important to consider wardrobe styling in preparation for your portrait session and to have a really good conversation with your photographer about this.  One of the biggest mistakes I see people making in having portraits created is not working out a coordinated wardrobe that fits with the style of portraiture being created.

One of the things that sets us apart from other studios is that all of our portrait sessions include a consultation session prior to our clients booking with us.  In fact, we provide this as complimentary service to everyone who inquires about portraits, regardless of whether they commission us or not, because we believe it is an absolutely vital step in creating portraits you love.  We accomplish many things during this consultation.  We get to know you.  You get to know us.  We learn about what types of photography you like and don’t like, how you plan to decorate your home with your portraits, the style of decorating you prefer, to name a few.  All of this information helps us ensure that we create images that you not only love and will treasure forever, but that will look spectacular in your home and fit with your decorating style.

Can you just imagine how awesome your portraits will be when you both adore the portrait AND it fits into your home and lifestyle perfectly?