observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

  • Welcome to my photo journal

    Living on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada Diane loves the scent of forests and rain, the rhythms of the sea, and holds discoveries and stories in high regard.

    Where mornings begin with a drum roll! --Diane M Schuller

    Updated on random Mondays ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    Shutter Sisters Asked the Questions


    Today at Shutter Sisters, Tracey asks some thought-provoking questions of herself — and us — such as,

    “What is my true passion photographically speaking? What is my style? What direction should I really focus on? And then there’s the Name Your Dream Assignment. What, if I could hand pick my jobs? What if I called the shots? What, if there were no boundaries at all, would I choose to do with my photography?”

    I’ve certainly asked myself those questions before. In fact, sometimes I’ve struggled with the questions and the answers. My struggle is less about what my style is or what my true passion is (photographically), but more on what direction I should take with my photography. The reason I’ve had to ask myself that question is solely because of my geographic location. Truth be told, I’d love to focus more on photographing people with a lifestyle perspective. I’d also love to include pets in that focus. Because I live in such a remote rural area, I’ve had to focus far less on the people aspect and have made the decision to move forward with photographing pets, livestock, and nature. Why? To photograph people you must be near people. Since there are plenty of animals (dogs, cats, horses, and other livestock) up here, I’ve made the recent decision to pursue that aspect more than any other.

    I’ve lived with animals all my life (and that’s over a half a century): cats, dogs, horses, chickens, and geese. Heck we even had pigs for while. I know a great deal about dogs and horses, in particular. I understand their instincts, their body language, and individual personalities. This bodes well if you wish to photograph them. I’ve always been what some people refer to as a “nature baby”. I love the outdoors, nature, wildlife, and the changing of seasons. That doesn’t mean I dislike the city — oh no! I adore the city but circumstances have played out to remove me from that one love (at least for now). Like the saying goes, I’m playing with the hand I’ve been dealt.

    So that deals with Tracey’s question about boundaries. A few of my choices have certainly not been based on constraints or boundaries, however. I have never been a fan of posed studio shots — people or pets. I do love the natural essence of lifestyle photos where the subject is photographed in his/her natural surroundings. Whether it’s animals in their homes, parks, or backyards or if it’s people in their home, attending a celebration or other event, at work, or any other surrounding that identifies with them in a significant way.

    More often than not I’m taking photographs for the sheer pleasure of capturing moments or subjects that draw me in emotionally and sometimes aesthetically. It could be a spider web wet with dew in the morning light, a neighbour’s horse grazing lazily, my dogs playing & cavorting, people at an event caught off guard, or a close look at a flower in my garden. There is a connection and a satisfaction in capturing those moments. The feeling is intensified when it can be shared or appreciated by others.

    Last year, on one of my earlier photo shoots, I was so elated when the client expressed her sheer pleasure at how well I captured her dog. The first birthday party I was fortunate to do was a delight from the moment I arrived to the finished products selected by the client. Each day, when I take photos for myself ‘just because’ I feel the same pleasure and gratification. The degree of gratification does jump up a few levels, however, when taking photos for someone else. So if I ask myself Tracey’s leading question, “What is my true passion photographically speaking?” I come up with multiple answers. To condense my response to that single question, I’d have to say my photographic passion is the pleasure in taking a photograph (whether for me or for others) and the images express the true essence of the subject, whether that subject is human, animal, or totally inanimate. What better than to freeze for eternity an image that expresses something from within, however that manifests itself.

    So what is your true passion in life (regardless of what area you choose)? If you write a post about your passion, please leave a link to it in the comments and I’ll pop by and read it after the weekend.


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    Life’s Sweet Ordinary


    This post is going to be short and sweet. Here is a prime example of why we should never ever judge anyone. You know the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well please do click on the link I’m about to give you. It will be five minutes that will stay with you forever — I guarantee. Now please, you must see Susan Boyle.

    dsc_9731{Top photo: an in-camera experiment || Bottom photo: a simple conversion to black and white done in Lightroom}

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    What’s New can be Old Again

    Huh? You’re probably thinking I have that old cliche turned around. You’re right, I do.

    peaches behind the scenes

    For those using film and not digital, the darkroom is where the final processing occurs for photographic prints. Ansel Adams is known to have worked magic in the darkroom ‘finishing’ his masterpieces. Now that so many of us are using digital, a darkroom still exists — it’s the digital darkroom. I’m no master in the digital darkroom though I’ve been spending time in that digital darkroom practicing, experimenting, and even stretching the limits now and again. Today’s image is a result of some of that practice.

    The image above, as it came straight out of the camera (SOOC), was nice enough but I thought it had potential for altering it somewhat to give it a more vintage feel. Using my Lightroom 2 software, I created a negative applying specific levels of processing. I’ve found it so much fun to experiment and play around in this way. Recently I also created my very first high-key image which can be done either in the camera or in the processing. I took an already somewhat overexposed image of a horse, increasing the exposure in the digital darkroom, made a few other minor adjustments, and ended up with a more artistic version that you can view at my photoblog. I was really pleased with the results.

    dsc_9736This image of a bloom on my Easter cactus has been through the digital darkroom. Using Lightroom I was able to make it appear like it was created with Velvia film. Velvia film is known for having brighter colours and deeper saturation, among its other attributes. While in that darkroom I could have just as easily made this black and white, sepia, or many other options for final processing. Remember the beautiful close up of that clematis and the pink peony I offered for desktop wallpaper? The colours were more brilliant and crisp but I reduced that brilliance, purposely desaturating both images to give them more of a faded old-time feel. All done in my digital darkroom.

    Then again, I could run a photo through that digital darkroom, leaving it as it came straight out of the camera, but add one small touch: a bit of vignetting (that darkening of the edges) like with this box of cupcakes. The only difference between the film version of processing and the digital version is that one is done with chemicals and one is done with the computer. I hope you’ve enjoyed walking through my digital darkroom.

    In what ways do you like to experiment or play around with any of your creative pursuits (gardening, photography, painting, crafting, sewing, woodworking, or …)?


    “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward De Bono

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    Good Morning Star shine …


    The weekend was great, mostly because spring truly is showing its face around here. The snow is melting (though it snowed all day Sunday) faster than you can say “zippity-doo-dah” flawlessly fifteen times; the Canada Geese have returned and some of the Trumpeter Swans flew overhead as well; Easter Sunday was a day filled with great conversation with family; the chickadees are seeking out safe nesting spots; saw a Snowy Owl perched on one of our spruce trees this weekend; the air is filled with the smell of snow melt; hubby drove all the way to the city & back Easter Monday so we could have a sushi treat (took lots of photos of it too); and I no longer have to wear 3 or 4 layers of clothes when I go outside!

    As you can see, I couldn’t help but put out two posts today.

    I hope you enjoy this sunshine-y store-bought chrysanthemum. What makes your star shine today?


    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie, Alberta & northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    Grab the Reins to Learn Camera Exposure

    I can credit one book for helping me move from a rank amateur with lots of interest in photography, yet lacking in technical skills, to an amateur who finally understands how to get the most out of her camera. This one book slapped the reins in my hands enabling me to turn my little DSLR into a real workhorse.


    I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl, mesmerized by the little Brownie box camera with the leather handle my parents used. Life moved forward and I focused my creative side on writing. Photography, though still a creative outlet I loved, got left behind. That changed a few years ago.

    When I finally made the decision to get serious about improving my photography skills, there were roadblocks. Where I live I don’t have the benefit of access to professional photography workshops or classes though I did take an intermediate course that helped me more with post processing than anything else. I felt a void because my goal had been to become adept at maximizing my use (and understanding) of my camera’s controls.

    I tried a few online forums but got absolutely nowhere because of attitude (I should KNOW those things, don’t you know). That was the whole point: I asked those questions because I was trying to learn and decipher how to fully understand the specific details about correct exposure. Someone with less attitude recommended a book that was sure to answer my questions, so I ordered it, and voila! That book made everything perfectly clear to me.

    Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Cameraby Bryan Peterson was the single most significant tool that helped me better understand exposure and how to get the most out of my camera. By the time I finished the first chapter, the questions I had been asking not only were answered but he taught it in such a way that I had no more confusion about f-stops and lens opening (and determining the best exposure without it being guesswork). As I progressed through the chapters, I learned how to achieve certain effects with my camera and experimented more (while understanding what I was doing). Peterson also had suggested exercises in each chapter to encourage the reader/photographer to try out the different lessons and to expand your capabilities. With the positive reinforcement that came as a result of trying his exercises, there really was no place to go but forward! I highly recommend this book (now available as an updated version) if you wish to better understand exposure, to get the most out of your camera (whether it’s film or digital), and to improve your technical skills with any camera.

    Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    I still use the same entry level DSLR but I know I’m getting the most out of it. I’m still hoping to get a professional level camera like so many others have, but I’m comfortable that my little camera is like a little draught horse working his haunches off for me. The only reason I’m getting so much out of my little camera is due solely to what I’ve learned in an earlier version of Understanding Exposure.

    That said, photography – like any creative art form – is a lifelong learning process. I still make mistakes but at least I know what I should be doing. 🙂 We never stop learning and growing with the art.

    Have you found a book that helped move you forward in any particular task or other part of your life? Or, if you are also an amateur photographer, what have you found to be the most helpful in moving your skills forward?

    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    What we hear


    Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

    This week I heard:

    • the return of the crows, “caw, caw”;
    • the dark-eyed juncos (I haven’t seen them yet but I hear them);
    • coyotes howling and yodeling each day and night;
    • an owl hooting outside our bedroom window in the middle of the night;
    • “Green onions” by Booker T and the MG’s … man I love that tune!
    • News, both good and bad, on the radio and TV;
    • Canada Geese returning north (but there’s no open land or water yet for them);
    • “Stranger on the Shore” … to me that melody sounds like what it would feel like to be floating on a calm sea in twilight;
    • heard that owl again, though he was further away from the farm this time;
    • My mother’s voice within mine when I chuckled to myself.

    What did you hear this week?

    PS: Last week I promised to do a brief post about one of the books that helped me the most in moving forward with my photography. Time has slipped away like a snail on wet glass so I hope you won’t mind waiting until after the Easter weekend. I promise to have the post ready to roll out after this long weekend.

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