Favourite Images of 2011

I must admit, one of my favourite parts of the year coming to an end is reading “Best of ____”  posts and articles. For some reason I’ve always loved seeing what people consider the “best movie” or “best song”, I like to look at what happened over the course of the year and what contributions were made during the past 12 months. I’m hoping to do a post about my own adventures in 2011 but  I also wanted to share with you some of my favourite images by other photographers this year, here is my own personal Best Of 2011. These artists make me want to be a better photographer and I hope they inspire you as much as they have me.


The Parting Part ii – Luke Sharrat
I love the drama that Luke created in this, the levitation is seamless and works so perfectly in this image.

The City Beautiful by The365SpiritSearch
One of my favourite photographs ever, so much so that I have a print of it hanging above my desk! I love the layers that the buildings create and it almost makes me want to live in a big city….almost…..


I read the news today, oh boy – David Talley
It’s almost impossible to pick one favourite image from David’s collection of photographs, his eye for detail and concepts are brilliant. I love how he uses space and you can tell from images like this one how much work he puts into his images.


the world above -Brooke Shaden
What would a favourite images post be without an appearance by Brooke? She is a magician with a camera, creating new worlds showcasing her unique perspective and distict style. I love the whimsical concept behind this image.

just another day – Andrea Pun
When I first saw this photograph it was like “BAM! Perfect” and to me that’s the sign of a great peice of art, that you recognize it’s beauty and quality right away. This is such a simple and beautiful piece that looks so natural and calming.

First Contact – Marwane Pallas
The stories that Marwane tells through his images are captivating, you almost feel that you’re reading a vintage book on the history of civilizations. The amount of skill that he has to pull off his cloned images is absolutely incredible.

Alice’s broken tea party – Sarah Ann Loreth
This is one of my favourites from Sarah’s collection of work, her style is so vivid and so full of contrast and I love how she manages to make images just pop.

rorshach – Robby Cavanaugh
This is just a simple and beautiful photograph that seems so real yet so full of whimsy and fantasy.

draft – FiddleOak
Ah, the wonderful brother and sister duo that is FiddleOak have developed such a wonderful genre in conceptual photography, their perspective has certainly opened my eyes to the tiny areas of the world that can be filled with art.

More to check out:
I could keep going for a long time so here are some more incredible artists to check out!

Sean Wright
Casey David
Misconception Photography
Brad Wagner
Gurbir Grewal
Rob Woodcox
Nichlas Boysen
Seanen Middleton
Nicholas Max Scarpinato


Photographer’s Wish List

With Christmas on it’s way, I remember back to when I was a kid flipping through the christmas catalouge (taking turns with my brothers) and writing out my christmas wish list for Santa. Written in crayon, in that little kid scrawl I’m sure I had quite the list. Now as a ‘grown up’ I don’t really write out those lists, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things that I’d like. Now, of course I wouldn’t mind a new camera, some lenses, maybe a lighting setup but my Photography Wish List is actually a list of things I’d like to photograph rather than material objects. Here’s my wish list of what I’d like to photograph next year 🙂

1. The Ocean

I grew up and still live in the mountains, in a valley about 10 hours away from the nearest ocean. I think for that reason, I’ve always been intruiged by taking photos next to the open water. I find something so isolated and beautiful about the vast landscape, the backdrop providing the most surreal negative space. I feel that my mind naturally wanders to visions of water, boats, and seascapes so being able to shoot images with an ocean as my muse would be awesome.

2.  Animals
I’m not just talking about a cat or dog, I’m sure I could borrow my parent’s pets with no hesitation, I would really love to shoot a photo of something bigger, or wild! I’d love to incorporate a horse into an image, I don’t exactly have an idea for what I want to do but being able to include the magic of an animal into an image would be something that I would really enjoy. I secretly wish that I could include something wild like a real elephant or a bear or (going back to my first wish) a whale….wouldn’t that be awesome?

3.  Collaborations
This year I’ve been fortunate to meet up with a few flickr-ites from other cities and a few from my own neck of the woods and I really loved the experience of getting to see another person work with a camera, I would LOVE the opportunity to meet up with more photographers and work on some images together.

4.  Abandoned Buildings
I have always had a soft spot for those secret places that are long abandoned but still seem to have so much life left in them, unforuntately so few of those places exist where I am, but I would love to explore an old factory, hospital or school to use a backdrop. I’m slightly jealous of those that are able to visit these places and create such amazing pieces of work within their walls.

That’s not a big wish list is it? Here’s hoping that 2012 brings with it some awesome photography experiences for all you! What is on your photography wish list?


It’s been a tad quiet over here in blog-land, this past week has been quite busy with all sorts of random things on the go, but hopefully over the holiday’s I’ll be putting up a few more tutorials and posts!  In the meantime, I’ve put together a few before/afters of some of my recent images. I have a terrible habit of deleting images from my camera to save space  so I don’t tend to keep a lot of the before photos….must get in the habit of doing that!

All of the before images are before I’ve done the expansion, adding in about 10-20 more images to expand the frame and get more space to work with.


Extra Extra Read All About It!

About a month ago I had a nice interview/conversation with a reporter from my local newspaper. I’ve done short interviews over email but never face to face so I was a tad nervous but excited about the possibility to have my name and images in print. I waited and waited but the article didn’t show up, until today that is!

Let me just say that I am beyond surprised that it’s an entire page and that it is so wonderfully constructed! My town can sometimes focus heavy on the sports (hockey) and light on art so it’s amazing to see such a prominent article (I even made the header of the front page!) I’ve linked the image so that you can read it on the larger size, but I’ve also typed up the interview below 🙂

p.s. on an unrelated note, I am BLOWN away by the support and enthusiasm by my leaf tutorial. It’s been so amazing to see the beautiful creations that have come out of it and I am hopefully going to have another one up soon!

Happy reading!


(from the Cranbrook Daily Townsman)
Up, Up and Away with Joel Robison
by Annalee Grant

Joel Robison sometimes finds himself weightless, suddenly inspired by something that caught his eye. His body distorts into a seemingly impossible position, inverted over the Cranbrook Community Forest, and strange images emerge from the ground. This isn’t real life, though. This is Joel’s impossibly beautiful conceptual self-portraits playing out on a Photoshop document. What was a hobby has turned into a part-time job for the budding photographer, who spends two to three hours each day turning simple ideas and quirky thoughts into digital imagery that is slowly gaining an international cult fan base online.

“I’m a visual learner,” Joel says. “I really like to see pop culture kind of flipped around.”
Joel has never been taught how to use Photoshop, but simply learned through trial and error; anyone who has tried to self-teach the program knows this is a  daunting idea. When Joel was in high school he learned about film photography, not digital, but it seems he has adapted well.”It’s like learning to paint,” Joel says of the program. “The opportunities are endless.”

Endless, just like the worlds Joel has created from familiar scenes in the community forest, which is a short walk from his Cranbrook home. Joel is his own model, photographer, graphic artist and public relations person — and he likes it that way.”It’s kind of like my time to be in my head,” he said.

To build an image, Joel sometimes takes hundreds of photos before he’s satisfied. The shots where he’s floating in the air are sometimes made up of many different images all patched together, with objects he is leaning against cut out. He uses a hand-held remote so that he doesn’t have to run between the camera and the scene, and get into position before the shutter releases. “I don’t have to worry about running back and forth” he said. Joel enjoys showcasing the natural beauty of the scene around him and loves that the community forest is just a short walk or bike ride away from his house. “It’s a perfect place to take photos.”

Joel uses inspirations that are close to home. Throughout his childhood, Joel says his family encouraged reading and he grew up loving Disney characters. Images from books and popular literature appear in his art. In one image taken in Joel’s living room, Kermit the Frog sits next to him on the couch. In others, Joel rides a broom with a Gryffindor scarf, chasing after the golden snitch just like Harry Potter. “I enjoy reading,” he says. “Books are like an escape.”

Ideas that Joel uses can be simple, from sometimes on the table to a more profound idea. “What if I made that cup really big, or really small?” Sometimes Joel takes on the world, and uses his favourite quote of all time to speak his mind. “You must be the change you wish to see” appears in many of his images”

The idea to use himself as the subject of his photos came out of the 365 project, a photography challenge that asks people to take a picture of themselves everyday to document small moments in their life that would otherwise be forgotten. The goal is learn how to use a camera and document life faster than with a blog or diary. Through the 365 project, Joel has managed to build a fan base and has launched pages both on Facebook and Flickr for his photography. Word of mouth has been spreading, and Joel’s been contacted by international photography magazines for interviews that have further lifted his burgeoning career. “I’ve been really fortunate,” he said.

What Joel hasn’t done much of since launching his photography online, is local promotion. He is branching out into some freelance work and hopes to someday turn his hobby-turned part-time job into a career. “It’s a hobby, so anything above it being a hobby, I’m open to try,” he said.

When he’s not out snapping photos in the community forest, Joel is an education assistant at Mount Baker Secondary School who works with students with special needs. The job itself is a constant source of inspiration and creativity for his images. “It’s a great opportunity to be creative, it’s a perfect fit.”

To view Joel’s images, visit his Facebook page, Joel Robison Photography.

Playing With Leaves Tutorial

I’ve been planning this tutorial for a few weeks, ever since I took the last of my “leaf” images.


I saved all the different photos that I took for that image and decided that I would just use the same base photos to do another image, this time explaining how I did it. The same method applies to all the other leaf photos I’ve done, but if you have any specific questions please feel free to ask. Hopefully I can explain myself in a clear enough way!

Step 1:

Your photo! Here is the base image that I’m using (without the leaf for now). This image in itself is composed of 9 different photos stitched together to give a bigger canvas to work with. You don’t need to do that if you’re trying this out, but I did since I like lots of space. Aside from adding the images all together, this is straight out of the camera.

Step 2:
Adding the leaf. In theory you could use almost any thing leaf-like for this kind of image, like a piece of paper or fabric or even a feather…anything that is flat and would be able to disperse. I had a few different leaves to choose from, but I went with this one and just pasted it on as a new layer. It’s important to have your leaf or paper on top of the base image as a new layer, don’t merge anything until the last step!

Step 3:
This is where the fun part begins! For this image, I’m using a butterfly brush but for the other ones, I used bird brushes and leaf brushes. This is the creative part where you can choose what silhouette you want to use in your leaf. You could have a tree, a balloon, a cityscape…it’s up to you! You can easily find brushes of almost anything (try DeviantArt).

The first part of doing this step is to pick the brush that you want to use and then choose the clone stamp tool.    Select a sample of the leaf ( pressing alt and clicking on the part of the leaf you want to sample) then you point to part of the image you’d like to see that butterfly shape appear and just click your mouse. You should get a butterfly with a leaf texture. Now, using the eraser tool select the same butterfly brush and click the mouse once on the leaf to erase a clear butterfly shape. 


Repeat this step using a variety of brushes and sizes. For this image, I did the cloning first and then went back and deleted the sections of the leaf. You can do as many or as little as you want. I always make sure that, using the eraser tool and the brush that I’m using, I erase the edge of the leaf,  leaving little details like parts of wings. I also use the blur tool on low opacity just to soften the edges a bit.

(this is before erasing the butterflies from the leaf)

Step 4:
It looks pretty good even at this point but it needs a little bit of extra pop to give it the impression that the butterflies are actually coming alive and leaving the leaf (ha!) I looked through my brush collection and found  this brush set (from deviant art) that is a set of paint splatter brushes. I tried it on a little bit of the leaf and it looked neat. I used the same technique as the butterfly step. Using the clone stamp tool, I used these splatter brushes (on a small size) and cloned the leaf texture near the edge of the leaf to make it appear that the leaf was breaking apart. You could use smaller butterfly brushes or other brushes if you like, I just thought that this worked pretty well.




Step 5:

The hard part is over, now you can tweak it to your liking! All I did for this after the brushwork was increase the contrast and brightness a bit.


I hope that made sense, if you decide to try this out I would love it if you leave me a comment or message so that I can see!

365 – A year In Photos

Today marks a strange day in my life. The first day in the past year that I don’t need to pick up my camera! For the past 12 months I’ve been working towards completing a 365 self-portrait a day challenge and yesterday I quietly turned my camera off and took a deep breath. It was like that feeling that you get when you finish a great book or get to the top of a mountain and you know that you’ve finished something really great. 

Now, it’s not my first 365 project…not even my 2nd, this was my 3rd project and I really think that the saying “third time’s a charm” really applied to this past year’s go around. I started the project with a bit of apprehension as I didn’t know if I would have the brain power to do another year of images and knowing that I’m extremely hard on myself and that I would finish the project no matter what. What followed after that first image was a year of amazing experiences that I’m so proud of and thankful to have been able to have happen. Never would I have imagined that I would meet so many beautiful kindred spirits, or that I would see my face on the cover of a magazine, or my work on a CD cover, or have people appreciate my work as much as they have. I’m humbled by the opportunities that have popped up in my world in the last year and I am so excited to see where my life will go in the next year and beyond.


The idea of a 365 project isn’t new, nor is it original but it is such an amazing chance to not only learn more about photography but to learn more about yourself as well. I’ve been asked (or had comments) regarding self-portraiture and 365 projects as being narcissistic or self-absorbed but it’s not like at all. Photographing yourself everyday for a year is a lot harder than you might think, there are days that you feel ugly, days that you feel tired or angry and you have to shoot through that. It really is an exceptional opportunity to learn about photography about how to create new ways to present yourself, your views and your artistic vision.


In the course of my journey through photography I have come to not only accept myself for who I am, but appreciate what makes me different. Before I began these projects, I truthfully had a hard time looking in a mirror or a photos of myself because I didn’t like the person that I saw. I remember one day a few years ago, finally looking at myself in the mirror, eye to eye and I realized that it had been so long that I had actually looked at myself that I didn’t even know the last time I had. Maybe it does seem a bit narcissistic, but for me working on these self-portraits has given me an opportunity to see myself in a new light, to appreciate myself and to be proud of myself. I’ve struggled with self-confidence for most of my life and this journey that I’ve been on in the past few years has really helped me to overcome my negative self-talk and to try to set a new course for myself.

I tend to be a perfectionist around certain things, when I sign up for something I have absolutely every intent on finishing it. I have a slightly intense competitive side which I think helped fueled my dedication in completing this project! At one point I was training for a marathon, running races each weekend, working full-time and still managing to post an image a day. Depsite the fact that my brain was being pulled in so many different directions, I felt inspired (I thrive in chaos, which you’d know if you saw my desk) and I loved the challenge of meeting all my goals.

I really appreciated the opportunity in the last year to get a chance to share my views, my imagination, my passions, my anger, my fears, my goals. I tried not to take myself too seriously and to have fun (which didn’t always happen!) and I really just wanted to put a tiny footprint in the world, a little chapter of hope, peace, love into the big world book. A 365 project is a chance to write a story, give a glimpse into a year of your life and begin a story that doesn’t necessarily have an ending.

I can say with almost certainty that I won’t do another 365 project, I feel that the need to post an image everyday has passed and that I want to work on a slower pace to create my images. There were a few frenzied days where I literally ran home from work, torpedoed through the house to gather my stuff and sprinted out into the wood to work on getting the images I had in my head, I won’t miss those days of feeling like time was running out and I was scrambling to finish on time (reminded me of waiting until the last-minute to write an essay!) I am looking forward to working on new projects, I have a few ideas for some series of images, and I am hoping to start a 52 week project in the new year which will give me an opportunity to keep a schedule. I know that the book is long and that this 365 was just a chapter and there are many more to follow.

With all that said, I really appreciate and I’m humbled by the support that I’ve been given by you through flickr, facebook and now this blog. You make it easier to stay committed to this and to challenge myself. I am inspired by your kindness, your passions, and your art.