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January 27, 2011

I’ve always believed that one person can make a difference, and my friend, Marcus Bell is doing just that.

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I’ve always believed that one person can make a difference, and my friend, Marcus Bell is doing just that.

Based in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Marcus Bell is one of my photography heroes. His images are epic, in the truest sense of the word, and he brought me to tears the first time I heard him speak about his images.

But it isn’t Marcus the photographer that I adore, it is Marcus the man. A family man with three children and a beautiful wife, Marcus is the real deal. Kind, caring, compassionate and a bit of a prankster, Marcus escaped the worst of the floods’ damage, but too many others did not.

So I am going to pass it over to Marcus, in a sense, and let his appeal share what he hopes to do. I hope that you will all take a moment, and help where you can.

Marcus Bell Queensland Flood Appeal


Photographic Fine Art Print Sale
You may have seen the news footage of the significant flooding that occurred throughout Queensland Australia during late December 2010 and January 2011.  Many lost their lives, many more lost their homes.  Three quarters of the state was declared a disaster zone.

This is an area roughly the size of Texas.

A resident of Brisbane Queensland, award-winning photographer Marcus Bell is raising money to help flood victims, by placing ten of his own classic images up for sale.  All proceeds from each sale will be going to the Queensland Governments Flood disaster relief fund. Each signed “Artist Proof” print is an original award winning photographic work.  Each unframed 24 inch print for sale for $950 (plus postage) and is printed to the highest quality 300GSM Archival cotton paper.  Many of these prints represents a saving of between 50 to 75% off the normal edition print price.

Here are just two of the images:


In addition 20% of ALL of Marcus Bell Photographer Resources Products sold during January and February will also be donated to the fund.  This also includes the 5 new Instant Effect Presets products recently released after a year in development.

For more information in relation to the floods and how you can help please visit Marcus Bell Blog where you will find links to both the Fine Art Gallery and the Resources site.

September 15, 2010

Change is the one constant in life. Without it, you are simply treading water or even moving backwards. Change is something we have always embraced, but it is rare to see us make a change this big, this all encompassing…

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Our blog has been naked this summer – we haven’t been posting much and it’s time to change that!  But first, an explanation and apology of sorts…

Steve and I had no plans to sell our home and studio this year. We were actually really happy with both. I was living about 3 blocks from where I grew up – the boys were going to go to the same high school I did. We had (and have) a rich social life, based around the friends we made through our kids. But there was something inside both of us that wanted change, craved it, in fact. And when we each shared that desire, we started down the road that quickly led us to today.

The first step involved finding an area/home that we loved. We had some pretty strict criteria – it had to be in a family friendly area, close to a great school, on a cul-de-sac, preferably on a greenbelt/park. It also had to have a place where we could meet clients, a place we could have our office, and a place we could shoot if necessary. And finally, it had to have great curb appeal and be relatively new. Our secondary criteria centered around sports for the kids, shopping for us (me) and centrality of location for clients.

After days spent driving all areas of the lower mainland, talking to people in and out of the industry, going through homes, talking to builders, and researching our client database to find out where our clients called home, we focussed in on an area known as many things: West Cloverdale/South Surrey, etc.

Yeah, I said Surrey. Here I was, the die hard North Vancouver girl, seriously thinking about moving to Surrey. Talk about being a long way from home!

Our original list included other cities like Nashville, Atlanta, San Diego, and more, but staying in Canada was also important to us.

So there it was, the decision to make this move and really change things up for our family. And the move was driven by family – business was a secondary consideration. After all, we can work anywhere.

What we finally decided on was a home that was framed and at the stud stage of the build. We came on board in time to finish the house exactly how we wanted, within the confines of the existing layout. And we had 8 weeks in which to finish the new house and sell our current home. By the way, we decided that in order to sell our North Van home we also needed to renovate two bathrooms and finalize some other projects we had been working on – so, yes, we were essentially building on two properties at the same time.

We had to make some tough choices and really focus our attention on the things that mattered most. Obviously we chose to forgo blogging and focus on getting our family into its new home before the kids started school. All that while photographing more destination events than any other year.

Crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

But here we are, in our new home/studio. We’re still under construction, but the kids started their new school with their new classmates, enrolled in their sports and started those with their new teams, and we are in the process of organizing, unpacking, and getting back into the flow of our daily business. That means editing, blogging, writing, teaching, and more…it means we’re getting back to normal.

With fourteen weddings yet to be blogged, we’ll be updating frequently. We’re also finally launching that new product we have talked so long about, and finalizing our teaching schedule for the fall. Catching up on email (it really piled up during three weeks with no internet) is a huge priority as we are horridly behind right now. In fact, if you are waiting on an email from us, please re-send your message…apparently we also lost a lot in transition.

Thanks so much for your ongoing support and understanding. The messages you have been sending via facebook and twitter have been like rays of sunshine on a dark day. And as we move back into our normal we are excited about the new place we are in and the changes we have made.

Most importantly, we look forward to seeing clients in our home, starting up the SMUG again, and welcoming photographers & friends into our new home!

Jen & Steve

May 25, 2010
When we were in Edmonton earlier this month, we had the opportunity to photograph a couple that was married recently and didn’t hire a professional for their wedding. As a result, they have lots of wonderful...
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filed under: For Photographers

When we were in Edmonton earlier this month, we had the opportunity to photograph a couple that was married recently and didn’t hire a professional for their wedding. As a result, they have lots of wonderful images of their wedding day, but very few of the two of them. Trina, of Creations Photo, found the models for us, which was fantastic – thanks Trina!!

The Bebbinars are more about the business side of what we do – finding out the kind of business you want to have, goal setting, target marketing, and more. But we almost always spend at least a little time making photographs. Generally, we have assignments for our Bebblings to complete, but when we woke that morning to a May snowstorm, our plans for the shoot went out the window. Much like anything can happen on a wedding day, we suddenly had to improvise and work with places and light we hadn’t planned for.

There were three areas we wanted to focus on with the Bebblings: lighting, posing and location. Those are pretty big concepts and we only had two hours to work with our couple. So we broke it down – we took light away from one area, used available light in another, and chose a challenging location that had some logistical issues. Many of our Bebblings were uncomfortable with video light and/or off-camera flash. So the first thing we did was to take light away and use our Lite Panel.

Here you can see Steve holding the Lite Panel for our Bebblings. What you can’t see is that they are all crowded around the couple, making their images. For this image, I stood quite far away and exposed in such a way that the Bebblings all but disappeared and all you can see is the Lite Panel on one side of the frame, and the couple in the middle. The Bebblings faded into the darkness of the room. I like the fact that this shows that you can make images and remove distracting elements in your composition and exposure choices.

The next area we worked with was window light. Diffuse light like that created on a snowy day is a simple way to create stunning bridal portraits. It’s the kind of light we should all be able to use with ease and take advantage of when appropriate. And, as Steve was explaining to the group, when the light falls off in the background, and you expose for the skin, the background goes black. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to get it right, and that’s alright. The point is that you can use soft frontal light to make stunning portraits, and let the background fade to black.

Here they are, giving it a try.

As much as we love the simplicity of soft, frontal light, we find the real challenge is in using backlight well. We challenged the Bebblings to create images where the window was completely blown, but the skin was well exposed, and then to play with the same light source to create different images, in the same location. Here you can see on our of students working on just that.

In this image, we used the window light in a different way. This was a moment of rest for our model, she was simply sitting, waiting for us to set up another scenario. As photographers we must always be aware of these moments as it is sometimes the times in between that make the most compelling images.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a wedding inspired shoot without a little attention being paid to the shoes:

Again, it’s the in between moments that offer some interesting images. Here our groom is laughing at something his bride said. We simply used the curtains and some of the Bebblings to frame his face.

And then it was off to a stairwell at the end of the hall. Here we found all sorts of ways to use perspective, off camera flash, the Lite Panel and more. But for me, one of my favorite images uses the architecture and light available in the space and having them simply relax into the moment.

Thanks again to our wonderful models – you guys were such a treat to work with and we hope you love the images you are receiving from all the Bebblings!

May 6, 2010
As we continue our travels, Canada seems to be the destination of choice for us this year. We loved visiting a warm Winnipeg in April, and we were sure that Edmonton would grace us with the same type of weather...
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filed under: For Photographers

As we continue our travels, Canada seems to be the destination of choice for us this year. We loved visiting a warm Winnipeg in April, and we were sure that Edmonton would grace us with the same type of weather surprise. And it did, but not with the warmth we saw in Winnipeg. Nope, it snowed.

Snow.

In May.

A lot of snow.

For real?

Wow.

At least the snow began to fall on the second day, and we got to experience some sunshine on the first! Needless to say, it through our plans for shooting outside for a loop and we were forced to improvise.

But I digress – the snow had me completely discombobulated. We were in Edmonton this week for a three day Bebbinar. We have never really taken the full program on the road in Canada before and we were excited to get started. We took our entire program apart and, based on the feedback from past attendees, revamped it for 2010. The Edmonton class would be the first to see everything we had worked on.

As always, we were humbled and amazed by the photographers who joined us this week. Some were multi-year veterans while others were just getting started. But all were struggling in many of the same ways. We asked our group before hand about their struggles and were surprised at just how many of them were similar. And it made planning the Bebbinar a different experience this time – never before have we had a group with so much in common.

A Bebbinar is not about us. Steve and I can stand in front of a group and talk forever, but the real impact comes with interaction and understanding, with hard work and inquisitiveness, with open hearts and open minds. And one of the most important things we need to make a Bebbinar a resounding success is trust – the trust of our students in us, and our trust in them.

This group, the first class of 2010, is going to be big! No joke – expect big things because they are going places! If they implement even half of what we worked on with them, it will be unbelievable to see.

We started the first day with an easy question – who are you? And from there we just kept moving, working on questions that got more and more difficult, shaking out the pain as their hands began to hurt from writing so much. Day One is tough – it’s all about figuring out some of the big things, the things we should all know, the things that allow us to define the direction we want to go and the success we want to have. There was definitely a lot of laughter, and maybe even some tears. But we persevered and made it through together, and we celebrated over dinner that night.

As Tuesday dawned, the snow was upon us! Steve and I spent far too much time staring out the window at the unbelievable sight of snow falling in May. Driving was tough, and it meant that we got a bit of a late start. But that was alright – it was shooting day!

If you know anything about a Bebbinar, you know it’s never about the shooting. But the shoot is a way that we can work with our class to challenge what they are already doing, and facilitate growth in a new or different direction. For some the challenge is in using natural (believable) light. For others, the challenge is flash or video light. Still others struggle to find their voice and use this opportunity to take new risks. Others merely watch and learn from what their classmates do. All, though, shoot something, in some way, they never have before. And all images are submitted SOOC. No photoshop, no lightroom, nothing. We want to see the images as they are made in camera.

We give ourselves the same challenge – to show work SOOC. That being said, we don’t shoot as much as we should since we are too busy working with the students to make images for ourselves. And really, as teachers, our job is not to make photos for our own use, but to help our students push their boundaries and limits. So we shoot just a little, in an effort to demonstrate concepts and ideas, observing our students as they take the lead in turn, pushing themselves.

With the reward of photography complete, it was back to the work books and some questions that, on occasion, stumped the entire group. It challenged us as well, as our students sought to understand and we sought to explain in a different way. We learned from them, as they are completely different than every other group we have had, and that learning was something incredibly welcome for us.

The final day is spent taking everything to that point and wrapping it up in a pretty bow. We make an action plan of sorts as we determine how to move forward in our businesses. Nothing is left unsaid, all questions are answered, and we leave them to now fly on their own. It’s bittersweet for us, letting them go, after spending three very intense days together. We know that we have armed them with the tools to soar, and that each of them will be a success, but we are sad to leave new friends we won’t see again for a time.

But then we come home, to a welcome of warm hugs and sloppy kisses from the children we wake to hold tight. Today our youngest surprised us with breakfast in bed, tears in his eyes, denying that he missed us as he snuggled closer all the while. Our oldest jumped into bed with us soon after, sharing his week so far, and his plans for the day. They reminded us, again, why we do what we do…and why we work so hard for our time with them. And while we love what we do outside our home – every moment of it – we love what is between our walls even more.

So, thank you, to the wonderful people who shared their lives with us this week. You each brought something so wonderful to the group and we are certain you will all find the right path to walk. And thank you for sending us home, full of joy and satisfaction, to our boys.

April 23, 2010
At each workshop we teach we encourage our attendees to take go through their body of work and select their favorite images. The next step is to really look at those images and determine why you love them and what, if...
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At each workshop we teach we encourage our attendees to take go through their body of work and select their favorite images. The next step is to really look at those images and determine why you love them and what, if anything, ties them all together.  It’s an exercise designed to get us thinking more about what we love about the images we make, and why. It’s also designed to help determine if there is a consistent thread running through our work, and what that thread is.

We’ve had occasion to go back through our body of work recently, pulling our all time favorites and choosing a “signature” image. Pulling our favorites wasn’t hard, but narrowing them down to a reasonable number certainly was. And trying to pick just one to be our signature was all but impossible.

When we need to do this sort of thing, one of us will go through the past couple of years and pull images (usually a couple hundred). We try for a mix of various times on the wedding day, moments both found and made. Once that is done, we go through the images separately, each of us choosing our favorites. Invariably, when we get our lists together, we find that they are almost identical. Because we both choose almost all the same images, it reminds us of how cohesive our working relationship is and how we are both of the same mind when it comes to our image making.

For some insight into what we love and why, we thought we would share some of our favorites with you (in no particular order).

For me, this image really stood out. I love the moment: the nervousness in the bride’s posture and the need of the bridesmaid to do “something”. There is nothing set up about this image and it feels like we’re watching the action, rather then being engaged in it, yet we are very obviously in the center of what is happening. There is both grace and awkwardness in the way she is pushing the veil with her arm, and it makes her vulnerable in this image.

This next image is appealing to us in its simplicity. The flowers compliment the dress and shoes, creating a sense of the rural in this very urban garden. Something about this image is interesting to both of us – perhaps it is the sophisticated shoes and the way she is holding her dress. Perhaps it’s that we remember the moment with fondness. We both find ourselves drawn to this image.

The obvious connection shared by these two is the reason why the next two images are among our favorites. Putting aside the fact that we simply adore these two, the images themselves speak volumes about their relationship and their spirits.

We love this image for many reasons, not the least of which is the composition. The use of a tilt-shift lens really focusses our attention on our couple, allowing the background to simply fade away from them. The subtle colours match the mood of the setting and bring a sense of timelessness. And while she is looking at us, she is very obviously engaged in the moment.

It is the quiet intimacy, tempered with a hint of laughter, that so appeals to us. Again, the processing of the image compliments the moment, drawing into the image and leaving us to wonder why she is smiling. And, although we don’t see his face, we know that he is also engaged in this moment as the angle of his head suggests he might be whispering in her ear. It’s not a perfect image – her hair is blowing in the wind and tickling the side of his face – but the imperfections are what make this photograph stand out to us.

The movement of her dress and the shoes in his hands are what draw us into this image. You can feel the movement, almost feel the warmth of the sun at their backs. And when you look closer you realize this image was made with a tilt-shift lens while the couple was moving. The combination of the moment, the movement and the technical bring us an image that invites you to linger a while.

After countless shots of the boys, this one consistently stands out for us. I think that the appeal lies in the totally natural expressions on each of their faces, and the way in which the personality of each comes through.  The light and shadow helps with that, defining the planes of their faces. It’s a simple image, yet powerful in that simplicity.

We just can’t seem to shake this image out of our all time favorites. The intimacy of the moment, combine with the composition to draw us into the connection this couple shares. The falling snow creates the illusion of looking through a curtain, or a window, allowing us to glimpse a moment that is close to perfect in its sincerity. It reminds us again and again that the power of an image lies in the attention we pay to our subjects, in the capture of their truth, whatever it may be. Simple, uncluttered and timeless.

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