Peter Power: Blog en-us (C) Peter Power (Peter Power) Tue, 08 May 2018 23:01:00 GMT Tue, 08 May 2018 23:01:00 GMT Peter Power: Blog 120 120 Photography and Mental Health May is Mental Health month so I’d like to take a brief break from discussing the technical aspects of photography and address an issue that impacts everyone in some way shape or form.

I’m certainly no expert in mental health and do not presume for a second that my advice is a solution for serious mental health issues. The trend towards more open conversation about our mental health is very positive and I encourage anyone who is struggling with mental health issues to speak with friends and family and to seek professional help when required.

As a photojournalist for the better part of three decades I have been fortunate to have had opportunities to document many world events, both joyous and incredibly tragic. It is the nature and most vital component of journalism that we bear witness to history in order to record it accurately and with sensitivity for the world to see, to feel, and to learn from. It is impossible to imagine that exposure to tragic events, either brief, prolonged, or repeated over years of work does not have some level of impact on the mental health of the professionals who share stories from around the globe. Yes journalists choose to work in these environments, as do soldiers, doctors, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and so on. But it is only in recent years that PTSD among soldiers and first responders has really been getting the attention it deserves and in my personal experience the journalism field lags far behind in addressing the needs of its professionals.

PSPMP01APSPMP01AStenlove Migine, 8, in her white dress, walks home from her father's funeral on Jan. 20, 2010. The whereabouts of her mother were unknown. The earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12 , 2010 devastated the country and left hundreds of thousands of people dead, suffering and homeless. But 45 per cent of HaitÕs population is children, and these survivors are among the most disoriented and vulnerable. Many are confused, have lost their parents, their homes. Separated from their families many have taken shelter in camps or orphanages, been taken in by relatives or have just been picked up by strangers. Many can be found wandering alone, foraging for food, or looting with violent mobs. Their lives have become a thing of nightmares, but yet, the resiliency of a child could still be found amongst the destruction as some children played with kites, and soccer balls, and doing their best to be children. There is a myth that the camera acts as an insulator between the photographer and what they are shooting. In my opinion this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When we are making images the level to which we must visually engage with what we are photographing is elevated far beyond the glance we can give something with our naked eyes. It is the details in a scene that we cannot look away from while we wait for that moment when the image is strongest. We cannot look away when looking becomes too difficult. And we cannot be cold to the people whose lives we are portraying. It is those photojournalists who feel compassion and empathy for the individuals they interact with who are able to tell their stories in the most effective way. If you can remember an image that has left an indelible mark on your psyche then imagine what the person who lived and worked through that moment must feel.

If you choose to work in these environs, or know someone who does, perhaps there are things you might do to mitigate the impact of these moments.

In my career I have enjoyed beauty and have shed tears of sadness in hospitals, conflict zones, and during natural disasters. Telling any story honestly in challenging circumstances can be difficult but I will always look for moments of beauty - no matter how small - that give me hope and a brief break from everything else that is going on.

Rarely have these images been published but they are important to me because they show hope and human resilience when surrounded by chaos. They are a reason to smile when there are few, and a memory to look back upon that can be a distraction from the more dire details of that period in time.

ppower1596-080911Refugee portraitRefugee girl, and her tortoise in Mogadishu, Somalia. In Haiti I encountered a little girl in a white dress walking along a rubble-strewn street following the 2010 earthquake there. She was walking home with her uncle after a funeral for her father. There was no single assignment harder to photograph than Haiti in 2010 - physically, logistically, and emotionally - but I think that being able to find something to smile about, even if for only a brief moment, helped me get through those terrible days.

While in Mogadishu, Somalia I most unexpectedly stumbled upon a refugee girl and her pet tortoise. I was working on a story about mental health in Mogadishu and was visiting a very run-down warehouse that was being used as a mental hospital by a local doctor. In the courtyard I came across the little girl whose family had fled from conflict and famine and had found shelter inside a single, dilapidated room. She simply sat there, looking strong and confident, and allowed me to make images as her tortoise slowly tried to inch out from beneath her. n That scene, stark contrast to the famine around her, will bring a smile to my face until the end of my days.

Outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, a country whose people have endured centuries of war, I was able to photograph some school children playing among the ruins neighbouring their schoolhouse and was struck by their laughter as they danced.

KABUL CDNS_PMP070.JPGKABUL CDNS_PMP070.JPGChildren play inside the rubble strewn Naswar Primary girls school in the village of Tangi Seyyedan. Most of the school has been destroyed during past fighting. Twice before NGO's have promised a new school, but nothing has been done.(Photo by Peter Power) These images may be few, but they are a regular staple of my work and endure as reminders to me of all that is good and beautiful in the world. When I look back on my career and my images I realize that I never set out to find these moments of respite from an often cruel reality, but I can see now how they have helped me focus on something uplifting instead of something much worse when I needed it.

Today I find peace and tranquility in the company of family and friends; most often surrounded by nature. My personal images, and often my approach to making them, help me slow down and appreciate the wealth of love and joy in my life.

Dealing with mental health issues is of course not as simple as thinking positively or finding a distraction from the world around us. It is not just a matter of finding something to smile about. Our mental health needs to be taken seriously regardless of who we are, what we do, or where we live. We are all a family and need to trust in others, share our thoughts, speak our minds, and provide encouragement and support in whatever forms that may take.



]]> (Peter Power) advice career communicate community conflict disaster famine health inspiration instruction learn mental photo photography photojournalism ptsd support talk teaching tips Tue, 08 May 2018 14:57:39 GMT
Photographing Texture for Impact Photographers are always on the hunt for beautiful light, interesting subjects, great moments, spectacular colours, inviting compositions, and dramatic contrast. These are many of the things that contribute to the final images that people remember - the kind of images we all want. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there is one photographic element that is all too often left off a photographer’s list of “go to” compositional tools; and that is, texture.

Forest Texture 01Forest Texture 01Similar textures in the limestone and a tree on the Bruce Trail at Split Rock Narrows side trail in Mono MIlls, Ontario. Forest Texture 02Forest Texture 02Various shapes on a mushroom peppered with snow add texture in this image from the Bruce Trail at Split Rock Narrows side trail in Mono MIlls, Ontario. Defined as the visual and especially tactile quality of a surface texture can provide great opportunities for photographers to make images that may not be obvious at first glance. This is one reason why, as photographers, we need to look harder to see (and then capture) images that others may not even imagine.

Texture may be subtle, found throughout a scene, or be the dominant element in a fine detail shot. It may be simply be apparent in the finer details of your subject or only be visible when the light falls in just the right way.  To capture texture you first need to see it, and then you need to find the best time and method to capture it.

You may find good textures in subjects that have similar shapes or patterns, like the image of the tree against the limestone cliff. Other textures may reveal themselves in contrasting shapes. The image of the leaf and other forest debris on the mushroom is helped by the fine crystals of ice throughout. Sometimes it depends on how the light is falling on a subject for the texture to be revealed so you need to imagine how the appearance of the subject may be altered depending on the light.

This is where an understanding light and shadow and the impact they have on every image is very important. Why do photographers venture out in early in the morning? Or later in the day? Of course the warmth of the light at these daytime extremes is quite nice, but beyond that the lower angle of the sun adds shape and contrast, and helps to reveal detail in your subjects. This is texture.

If you’re not out looking when the light is interesting you may not see textures that are right in front of you. Consciously look for textures and if the light isn’t right in the moment make a mental note and revisit the scene another time. By this I mean another time when the light falls on your subject at an angle that helps to create highlights and shadows and reveals all of those rich textures.

Mr. ButcherMr. Butcher pauses while fixing up his garden late in the afternoon in rural Nova Scotia. Think of photographers who add or completely light their subjects with artificial light. Rarely are lights placed directly behind or above your camera. Photographers place their lights off camera, at angles that will help give their subjects shape, and of course, texture. If you have a subject whose face is “full of character” you want to have your light, natural or artificial, at an angle to your subject in order to create those areas of light and shadow and enhance the those facial textures. [A very common exception to this is the use of beauty dish where the light falling squarely upon the subject reduces the apparent skin texture and “softens” the skin in a very flattering way. Shadows on the sides of your subject may still be present which helps give shape, but the fine textures will have been largely eliminated. More to come on this in a future blog.]

Remember that with every image you shoot, you may wish to consider if the effect you are hoping for will look better in black and white, or colour. Textures may naturally look better in colour but don’t discount how a conversion of your image to black and white may really help those textures pop. The choice is yours so play with the possibilities.


]]> (Peter Power) help instruction learn light photography shadow shape teaching technique texture tips Sat, 28 Apr 2018 22:20:07 GMT
Creative use of shutter speed Most people appreciate a photograph with a peak moment frozen in time with every detail crisp and able to be studied at length. But what what happens when we allow movement into our images by using slower shutter speeds? Once again, as a creative photographer, the choice is yours to make.

While shutter speed is one of the three necessary elements to be adjusted along with aperture and ISO for a proper exposure there is far more that to consider if you’re to make the best use of your camera to create the memorable images you crave.

CFL: 1/1000 sec @f4, ISO160020170715 CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats B.C. Lions - Hamilton Tiger-Cats Brandon Banks (16) pushes off off BC Lions defensive back T.J. Lee (6) during first-half CFL action in Hamilton on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Let’s not get too technical

While there are many technical factors to be considered when choosing a shutter speed I am not going to go into any of it in-depth here. Shutter speed is simply the amount of time, measured in fractions of seconds [or whole seconds] during which the mechanical or electronic shutter of your camera is opened, allowing light to pass through the aperture of the lens to strike the camera’s film plane or image sensor.

You need to understand that your choice of shutter speed will be dependant upon the speed of movement of your subject, the focal length of your  lens, the stability of your shooting platform, and the artistic effect you hope to achieve.

Simply put, to freeze peak action you need to choose fast shutter speeds - in the 1/500 sec range and higher - while still lifes or slower moving subjects can easily be photographed with slow shutter speeds as long as you are able to steady yourself appropriately. The general rule of thumb is that 1/60 sec is the minimum shutter speed for handheld photography, although with practice many photographers are able to shoot much, much slower than this.

Freeze the Moment

Assuming you have a suitable lens, decent light, and an interesting subject you should have no problem photographing peak action and keeping your image sharp, both in terms of focus and motion blur. This is where you may need to increase ISO in order to get the fastest shutter speeds possible. If you need your shutter speeds to be higher and you must sacrifice a small amount of image quality by boosting your ISO then do so.

Mogadishu: 1/8sec @f1.4, ISO100An agitated man undergoes an initial interview and assessment by Dr. Abdurrahman Ali, or Dr. Habeb, right, in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sept. 8, 2011. The man was admitted immediately following this interview.

Motion Blur

Don’t think for a moment that you cannot shoot action if you don’t have the best equipment or the light available to you is poor. This is where you can use your imagination to use shutter speed in some creative ways.

Many photographers allow a certain amount of motion blur into their images on purpose, creating very dynamic photographs that bring life to the subject matter. If you’re using slow shutter speeds in this manner you may need to brace yourself depending on how much of your image you want sharp.

Motion is relative

The other creative method for incorporating slow shutter speeds into your work is called panning. Panning the method of matching the speed of your subject as it moves with the movement of your lens. Since motion is relative you can essentially eliminate movement in portions of your frame by equalling the movement of your subject during a slower exposure. Since your camera and lens will now be moving “relative to” the background this is where the motion will now appear. Panning takes practice and getting an image is often the result of trial and error. The shutter speed at which you can pan is heavily dependant on the speed of your subject and how smooth you can pan with them. Objects moving in one direction perpendicular to you are more easily panned that those that are changing their position on two planes relative to you.

NAIG: 1/15th sec @f22, ISO200NAIG Athleyics - Women race down the opening chute during 2017 North American Indigenous Games X-country 16U competition held at the UofT-Scarborough campus in Toronto, Ontario on July 17, 2017.(NAIG2017/Peter Power) With both methods success will often mean having the focus of your image sharp while allowing motion blur to dominate other portions of the photograph, although it can be quite interesting and/or effective to have an image that is completely filled with some level of motion. There are other techniques that incorporate slow shutter speeds that I will write more about in future blogs. One incorporates the use of slow shutter speeds with flash, and the other is the use of extremely long exposures, sometimes measure in minutes, to achieve some very cool effects.

Knowing how you can be creative with shutter speed will help you to prioritize your settings and help you to simplify the entire photographic process. Go shoot, experiment, and don’t be discouraged by the amount of images that don’t work. You only need one gem from your series to shine.


]]> (Peter Power) blur instruction learning motion pan panning photography shutter speed technique Sun, 04 Mar 2018 16:53:59 GMT
Creative Use of Aperture As a photographer your creativity weighs heavily on an understanding of aperture and shutter speed (in combination with ISO) that goes far beyond proper exposure. There are very good reasons for choosing one setting or another which forms the basis for the decision-making I wrote about last week. This week we take a closer look at aperture.

Every photographic exposure is based upon the exposure triangle. The three elements of the exposure triangle, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture need to be set in combination to achieve an appropriate exposure. The rule of equivalent exposures states that if you change any of these variables you must change one or both of the others to achieve the same exposure you started with. So how then do you decide where to begin?

Bokeh ExampleDundas Valley, Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday, October 15, 2016.(Photo by Peter Power)

Artistic impact

Understanding the artistic impact that aperture has on your images will allow you to make critical decisions to produce the images you have in mind from any particular scene. The ability to manipulate aperture (and shutter speed) is what differentiates a person who records a given scene and the person who is actively makes a memorable photograph from it.

Aperture, which is measured in f-stops, is the physical opening of the iris or diaphragm of the lens. Just as the iris of your eye adjusts itself according to the level of light available a photographer is able to open and close the aperture of the lens. Aperture is measured in f-stops and the terms “open up” or “stop down” are most often used to describe the process of changing your f-stop to open up or stop down the opening of the lens. The mathematics behind the f-numbers requires more space than I have here but you should understand that they generally range from f2.0 to f32. What you need to know is that the lower f-number, f2.0 is a very wide open aperture that allows a lot of light while f32 is a very small aperture which allows a much smaller amount of light to pass through the lens during a given time frame.

Shallow Depth-of-Field

The aperture you choose impacts the depth-of-field (DOF) of your image or the area of acceptable sharpness before and beyond your point of focus. Many portrait and documentary photographers today choose to work with the lower f-numbers (shallow DOF) which helps to separate your subject from the background. Lenses with large apertures like f1.2 and f1.4 have become very popular despite their higher price tag. The aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas in an image, known as bokeh, has become quite popular with amateurs and professionals alike. The use of very shallow depth-of-field not only separates your subject from the background but the out-of-focus areas themselves very much help make the image unique.

Portrait from Nunavut - Shallow Depth-of-FieldPeter Ningeosiak, 73, and eleven of his family members reside in his small, three-bedroom house in Cape Dorset, Nunavut on November 10, 2010.

At the other end of the spectrum landscape photographers and those using long-exposure techniques (a topic for another blog) choose to work with their lenses stopped down to their smallest openings, usually f22 or f32. This allows them to have sharp, crisp detail in their foreground elements as well as distant objects.

If you understand depth-of-field and how to control it you can then prioritize your aperture setting to give you the look you desire. You have now taken control of your settings and once again the complicated exposure triangle has been reduced to a single element. Because your ISO will likely be the first thing you set at any given shoot there remains only shutter speed to be adjusted to find your perfect exposure and give you the artistic effect you’re looking for.

With this knowledge your imagination and creativity can more readily be applied to the technical decisions needed to elevate the quality of your images. I encourage you to get out with your camera, experiment a little, make mistakes, and learn from all of them.


]]> (Peter Power) aperture bokeh creativity depth-of-field exposure focus instruction learn photography teaching tips Sun, 25 Feb 2018 12:30:00 GMT
Photography Simplified by Creative Choices There is one practice you can adopt that can dramatically change quality and consistency of your images. But if you think there is an easy solution to all of your photography woes then you are mistaken. Photography’s magic bullet simply doesn’t exist.

Your mind’s eye

The one key element that makes or breaks a photograph is the photographer’s ability to decide what your final image will look like before ever bringing the camera to your eye. This ability to “see” an image and its importance to successful image making cannot be understated. Once you understand what it is you want to accomplish with the camera the rest becomes mechanics. You must decide what is in front of you that you want to capture and how you can best use the tools available to you. You must make this decision and commit to it.

The manipulation of the tools of photography, the craft if you will, is what most people are able to learn. But the creative aspect remains heavily dependant on the eye of the photographer. Some say that you either have an eye for a photograph, or you do not. The photographers whose work stands out certainly have a unique eye - a unique way of seeing the world - that differentiates them from the masses. But if you are able to master the tools of photography to match what you see in your mind’s eye you will have made great progress toward a dramatic improvement in your own images.

Children play on an Innu swing, a Ueuepeshun, at an Innu camp on the western shores of Mistastin Lake, in the interior of northern Labrador on Sept. 21, 2014. Community leaders from Natuashish have come to these traditional Innu hunting grounds to help some of their young men and boys discover some of their culture and form better community bonds. The hope is that fewer of them will follow a path of substance abuse that has plagued these communities for many years.

Today’s cameras can be quite intimidating and do not easily inspire confidence in a struggling learner. The seemingly endless amount of features to choose from all need to be understood and navigated in order to make the best use of all the cameras have to offer. But, if your goal is to make great, thoughtful, inspiring images, you might consider simplifying your process. This simplification begins with knowing what you want and then using the tools available to make it happen.

I encourage my students to resist being intimidated by the plethora of dials and buttons and to reduce the necessary adjustments for their photography to a bare minimum. In practice there are only a few adjustments that one needs to concentrate on, and these become even more simple once you understand their relationship to one another and how they will impact your final image.

Basic exposure involves the choice of shutter speed, aperture and ISO - the exposure triangle. Add on an understanding of how focal length, focus point selection, and composition impact an image, and you have the makings of good photographs. There is no avoiding having to learn the relationship of the elements in the exposure triangle. A reliance upon an automatic camera mode may result in some pleasing images but will not necessarily give you the images you had in mind.

Shoot in manual mode

You must take control to make the most of your creativity to get the images you envision. This means working in manual mode. With a clear goal for your final image(s) you can then prioritize your settings and check them off one by one starting with the setting that will have the most impact on the final image. Doing so will reducing the confusing exposure triangle to a single variable that you adjust for the best exposure.

If shallow depth of field is your goal, for a portrait for example, you would choose the lowest ISO possible for the situation and set your lens aperture to the widest available. The final setting to adjust will be the shutter speed. This process can be repeated if you understand what the various camera settings will do for you and you make decisions to make your image a certain way. Once the creative decision is made and you know which variable will most impact it the other variables became secondary.

It can be a frustrating process trying to figure out how to get the images you want. There will be times you are pleased with your results but more often than not you may find yourself scratching your head and asking why your images did not meet your expectations. Professionals and skilled photography enthusiasts make the creation of memorable images look far easier than it really is. Try not to compare your photography to the works of those you admire, but rather use their images as inspiration for your own vision.

Do your homework to equip yourself with the basic technical know-how. Once you understand how creativity is impacted by your choices you will be free to make decisions and see pleasing results more often.

]]> (Peter Power) creativity exposure focal improve instruction learn length photography simplify teaching tips Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:30:00 GMT
Photography and Navigation There are few things I enjoy doing more than wandering around, camera(s) in hand, looking for good light, interesting shapes, beautiful vistas, striking details, and great moments. If you’re at all like me it is easy to lose track of time while on the hunt. But it’s important that you don’t get lost yourself whether you’re in the city or the wilderness.

Preparation is key

Perhaps it’s my previous military training or simply a personal need to be organized down to the smallest detail, but past experience certainly contributes to how I prepare for every shoot and for every outing. Seasoned wilderness travellers know the safeguards necessary to ensure your ability to enjoy yourself and get home safely; preparation is the key.

Limehouse after fresh snowLimehouse after fresh snowAt Halton Hills Conservation Area during fresh snowfall in Halton Hills, Ontario on Saturday, February 10, 2018.(Photo by Peter Power)

Always let someone know where you are travelling, and when you are expected home.

Prepare by researching the weather, looking at maps of the area you’ll be in, download maps to your smartphone (in case you lose your cell signal), as well as a navigational app or two. I use MapMyHike+, Canada Maps, or AllTrails to keep track of my location but I’m old school so I still insist on carrying a paper map and compass with me in the woods.

Noisy River Provincial ParkCanada Maps App for Navigation Using the Canada Maps App to log position while hiking on the Bruce Trail in Noisy River Provincial Park in Creemore, Ontario on Saturday, February 3, 2018.(Photo by Peter Power) You cannot beat local knowledge

Seek out local knowledge to better understand areas that might provide you with some great photographs but also where you might want to avoid or road/trail intersections which may cause you problems.

In the city or in the wilderness take some time to make note of key landmarks. Experts suggest taking photographs of unique features or prominent intersections, especially where you change directions. This should be easy for photographers, as long as we don’t mind making the odd snapshot just for safety’s sake.

Keep track of where the compass points are relative to you. Where is North, and in which direction is your destination or closest safe point?

Navigate safely home

If you do wander off the trail, or take a side street, stop before going too far and have a look back the way you came. This mental picture will help you navigate back to the trail/main street once you’ve captured and image of what caught your eye in the first place.

At the moment you realize you may have lost your way maintain your position and employ the STOP method of finding your way again. Stay calm, think about where your “error event” may have occurred, observe the area around you to find recognizable features, and plan how you will move from this point without getting lost further. This is the point where you should begin marking your trail clearly so if worst comes to worst you will be able to find your way back to this point - which may be the closest point to your original trail/route.

Remember, anytime you venture out it’s a good idea to bring along a few safety items. At minimum, bring some extra food and water, a map and compass, an emergency thermal blanket (space blanket), a first aid kit, a lighter, a flashlight, and a smartphone for when you do get a signal again.


]]> (Peter Power) apps city navigation photography preparation preparedness stop streets tips trail travel urban wilderness woods Sun, 11 Feb 2018 12:30:00 GMT
Cold Weather Photography - How to Dress Winter provides many amazing opportunities to capture great photographs. But the challenges of working in the cold can limit your enjoyment and reduce satisfaction with your photographs.

Track and Tower TrailTrack and Tower TrailOn the Track and Tower Trail in Algonquin Park, Ontario on Sunday, December 10, 2017.(Photo by Peter Power)

Anyone who has ever had frozen fingers or toes has experienced the pain and nausea when the blood finally starts to slow into your extremities again. There are a few basic things you can do that will not only dramatically decrease your chances of getting the “screaming barfies” but will allow you to concentrate on capturing the great winter images you desire.

The bare necessities

All things metal, including our cherished cameras, lenses and tripods, become heat sinks in sub-zero temperatures. You cannot avoid handling your equipment so the first thing I want to stress is the use of a pair of thin gloves or glove liners. Avoid holding your cold gear with bare hands or exposing your bare skin to the elements for any period of time. The effects of windchill on exposed skin can be swift and serious. To protect against this I wear gloves made with wind-stopping fabric that are small enough to fit inside a larger pair of over mitts. I keep a small carabiner attached to my clothing or backpack to ensure that my over mitts don’t get lost on the trail, are easily accessible, and remain free of snow. Many brands of thin liner gloves are now made so that you can use a smart phone without taking them off. This is handy if you are using a helpful photography app like The Photographer's Ephemeris or similar.

Get a grip

Warm, waterproof boots and a pair of traction devices like YakTrax (or crampons for serious ice) will keep your feet warm and you upright and injury free. I always purchase an extra pair of thermal insoles for my winter footwear. Inevitably you will find yourself standing for a spell making your long exposures images or time lapse projects. This is when the frozen ground or ice beneath your souls you will zap the heat from your feet very quickly. A small investment in some good socks - I prefer wool - and some thermal insoles will help protect against this.

Track and Tower Trail, Algonquin ParkTrack and Tower Trail, Algonquin Park

Layer Up!

Adding and removing layers of clothing is the key to staying warm and dry. Avoid working up a sweat as damp clothing will draw heat quickly from your core. A prolonged period of time with a reduced body temperature and no way to warm yourself will not only distract you from your photography but can prove life-threatening. I pack a huge down jacket that I can throw on over everything else to stay warm if I’m stationary for a lengthy period of time.

A balaclava or a buff will help keep the chill (and spindrift) off of your neck and can be pulled over your face when it’s biting cold. Chemical hand and toe warmers can be useful and a thermos of hot tea or chocolate is always a good idea.

Finally, I always carry a small pack of basic equipment which includes a small first aid kit, headlamp, knife, and a method for making fire. Educate yourself, review your systems, invest in the items that will keep you warm and your cameras working in the cold (last week’s blog) and go make some great images.


Good luck!

]]> (Peter Power) camera clothing cold dress equipment how-to photography technique tips weather winter Sun, 04 Feb 2018 12:00:00 GMT
Cold Weather Photography - How to Keep Your Cameras Working There are many photographic possibilities when temperatures drop below zero degrees Celcius and if you adopt a few simple practices your shooting experience will be prolonged and will preserve your cameras for future outings.

Battery performance is decreased in sub-zero temperatures but it’s important to know that they are not necessarily draining more quickly. Despite what your camera may suggest a battery indicating a low charge can often be resuscitated simply by warming it up. I  recommend having at least two batteries per camera body with the spares being carried close to your body where it will remain warm. Make a switch whenever the cold battery is indicating a low charge and each time you’ll discover that the once "depleted" battery inside your clothing will now indicate a greater charge. Continue this routine throughout the day and you’ll get much more life out of your batteries.

Not all batteries are created equal so shop carefully. I prefer to stay away from third-party manufacturer’s batteries because sometimes they do not hold a charge as well and may not “communicate” with your camera to provide you will the battery level. This is the case some after-market batteries made for the EOS 1D Mk IV, which is why I now make the investment and purchase only the Canon batteries.

Chemical hand warmers are a great addition to your kit that will not only keep your hands and feet warm in a pinch but can be used to keep your batteries warm, even while shooting. As part of a larger series on the Arctic I shot a three-hour time-lapse above the arctic circle - during a very short day - and needed to leave the camera in the elements to do its thing. To help preserve my battery’s function I left the 5D MkIII body I covered it with a waterproof cover and taped a hand warmer to the body adjacent to the battery compartment. It worked like a charm! Arctic TimelapseA collection of short time-lapse videos from a 2013 trip across the Canadian Arctic with Ian Brown for The Globe and Mail. When shooting extreme long exposures or time-lapses in the cold the possibility of your lens fogging up is very real. A simple solution is to wrap a hand warmer or two around the body of your lens. A bit of tape or elastic bands can be used for the temporary fix.

Condensation on and inside your equipment can be another danger which may limit the lifespan of your equipment. If you are moving your gear inside at all condensation will form when the warm air comes into contact with the cold air surrounding the camera. Everything will fog up, possibly including the elements inside your lenses. Should you then go back out into the cold you will have a major problem with ice on, and possibly inside your camera. The way to avoid this is to seal your gear inside an airtight bag before going inside. The condensation will form on the exterior of the bag and not on your gear. Carry a few ziplock bags in a variety of sizes that will fit your equipment and keep them where they can be easily accessed. These bags now come large enough to fit a full camera bag in if need-be.

Remember that snow is solid and will not leak inside or melt on your equipment. Even if your camera is buried in powder you can simply brush it off, give your lens a wipe, and get back to making photographs. Just don’t use something warm on your lens, or blow on it because that is when you will leave fog or water residue behind.

Next week I’ll share my system for staying warm while shooting in winter.


]]> (Peter Power) camera cold condensation equipment experience instruction lapse outdoors photography time tips wet winter Sun, 28 Jan 2018 18:27:47 GMT
PPPInc. going strong! It has been awhile since I last posted but I'm happy to say that things are going great and PPPInc. (or P3 as friends fondly refer to it) is progressing very well.

While I continue to do assignments for my editorial clients, I have been steadily increasing the client list for PPPInc. with valued companies in the corporate and commercial sectors. I have embraced this new work and new partnerships and am finding it a wonderful environment with new challenges and many opportunities to showcase photography and grow my business.

We Built This - Communitech - Vol. 1We Built This - Communitech - Vol. 1 In the the past couple of years my work has ranged from writing a 5,500 word essay to accompany my images from a self-assignment in Natuashish, Labrador to a book of creative portraits of technology industry leaders for Communitech, all shot on location using Profoto lights. Both were very different but satisfying professional achievements.

I was very pleased to see my story, Hunting Demons in Labrador, given five pages in The Globe and Mail, and a wealth of space and promotion on-line. Sharing such a wonderful experience with the people of Natuashish was a privilege I will never forget and it was an honour to be able to draw some attention back to the many challenges faced by the people who populate Canada's remote northern regions with a story that is both chilling and to a small degree, encouraging. My thoughts still go daily to the people I've met I'm my travels and wish them  continued success in their struggle to make their communities happy and healthy places for families to grow and prosper.





]]> (Peter Power) aboriginal business canada canadian career community current affairs globe and mail issues labrador photography projects Thu, 14 Apr 2016 06:23:00 GMT
155th Queen's Plate - My 1st
But that all changed yesterday, and it was a fantastic experience!

I joined a team of about eight photographers and editors, from various backgrounds to cover the race and the festivities surrounding it for Michael Burns. Michael and his father have been the track photographers in Toronto for decades. It was an opportunity I was very pleased to have, but covering an entire day of racing and all of its pageantry, demands many hours of work.

Hats of every kind adorned many of the racing fans who attended the 155th running of the Queen's Plate in Toronto, Ont. on July 6, 2014. (Photos by Peter Power)
The most colourful aspect of the day has to be the Hats and Horseshoes party that lives up to its name, and then some. There were hats of all kinds; most quite striking and beautiful, and some, just, well, not so much. But they were interesting all the same.

The race day culminated with the 155th running of this historic race. It's certainly an exciting couple of minutes, but everything visual depends on the horses, and the jockeys. Photographers, including myself, had remote cameras set up at various places around the track, some that provided good results, and some that did not. The winner, started in the back of the pack, so my remote stuff from the inside of turn one didn't even show him. But I was able to shoot the first turn from the outside and then get back to the finish in time to photograph Lexie Lou, ridden by jockey Patrick Husbands, cross the line first and celebrate.

Jockey Patrick Husbands reaches forward to rub the head Lexie Lou after crossing the finish line to win the 155th running of the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario on July 6, 2014.(Photo by Peter Power)

Like many sporting events, everything was very civilized until the big race. Then HBL - or hell breaks loose as Mike described it. But it was great to be in the mix, making pictures at a great, and historic Canadian event. I'm looking forward more horse racing, and certainly this event, in the future.

]]> (Peter Power) Queen's Plate event horse jockey photography racing remote sport Mon, 07 Jul 2014 07:51:00 GMT
World Pride 2014
Two men walk over one of the Pride flag painted sidewalks in Toronto during World Pride celebrations on June 21, 2014. World Pride activities continue in Toronto, Ontario until the parade on Sunday, June 29th.
The only downside for me this year was the application process for getting accreditation. There was nothing unduly challenging about it in itself, but it was another reminder to me of the challenges of getting accreditation as an independent photojournalist. I am finding this process very difficult to accept on a regular basis, and I'm sure it will continue to be a regular issue in the coming years.
In any case, I was successful in getting a media credential for Pride events, and separately I was able to access the Grand Pride Wedding that took place at Casa Loma, sponsored by the Liberty Entertainment Group and The City of Toronto. This was a free event to same-sex couples who wanted to be married, and on that beautiful sunny day 110 couples either renewed their vows or were married. The jury is still out but organizers say this was a record-setting event. Visually this wasn't all that photographers had hoped for thanks to the huge clear plastic tent that was erected in case of bad weather, but we all endured the intense heat, and puddles of sweat to make images of the proud newlyweds.
Today I am preparing to cover the last of the Pride events this week - the Pride Parade - which will shut down much of Toronto's core, and make the streets into a stage for hundreds of thousands of celebrants to express themselves and cap off their incredible week. It should prove to be interesting, especially if the organizers are successful in keeping journalists off the parade route. What a ridiculous idea! They are siting huge crowds and security concerns as a reason. Obviously they've never looked carefully at how the media covers other huge events around the Globe.
In the meantime, I have posted some images from the Grand Wedding on my website.
]]> (Peter Power) Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:37:00 GMT
Friday 13th Port Dover 2014   So I spent my yesterday making pictures at the 57th Friday13th biker rally in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada. This is the only Friday 13th in 2014 so I wanted to to take advantage. This event is never disappointing visually, although logistically it can be hell getting into an out of the small Lake Erie town when the population swells to well over 100,000 people. I met some great people and was constantly intrigued by the variety of folk who attend this event. If you've never attended I suggest you check your calendar and try to attend the next one.

I'm going to try something new and post the bulk images from the day here instead of on my website. We'll see how that goes.




]]> (Peter Power) 2014 bikers festival friday 13th motorcycles port dover rally Sat, 14 Jun 2014 06:38:00 GMT
Incorporated! Peter Power Photography Inc. is now a registered corporation! 

Now all I have to do is start earning a living with it. Well, not yet, but very soon. And thanks to a wealth of colleagues, friends and family who have been incredibly supportive through this transition I am feeling very confident about the future....most days.

There seems to be a never-ending list of minutia that needs to be dealt with before my business is up and running, and it's not easy getting things done while still working my scheduled shifts at the paper, waiting for that final day. April 2, 2014 will be my last official day as a staff photographer by the way. The fact that it's also the anniversary of my dad's passing doesn't help either. I'm sure it will be an emotional day.
But I'm discovering there's plenty of time to get things done as long as I whittle away at it in a steady, organized fashion. Plenty of time if I'm content to be up and running for April 3rd, but the problem is that in my head at least I've already moved on from being a staff photographer and I'm already running my business. Every day I wake up thinking I need to have my affairs in order TODAY.  I need to be getting assignments TODAY. I need to be invoicing people and depositing cheques TODAY. But then common sense prevails and I relax enough to deal with the challenges directly before me at a given time. This new phase of my career will evolve but I need to take it one step at a time, and allow time for everything else in my life. And that still includes making images for a newspaper, as it always has.
The thing about most people I know in this industry is this; We love what we do, and we take great pride in doing it exceptionally well. This includes photographers, writers, editors,....everyone! Regardless of work environment, politics, circumstance I know very few people who would ever "mail it in." Of course, employers know this, and count on it on a daily basis. 
But I don't just work out of personal pride, or professionalism, or because somebody expects it of me, or because my name might appear with an image, or a video. The most important reason I work hard to make the best images possible is because I owe it to the subjects of my images.
Whether its a simple portrait or a sensitive documentary story we owe our best to everyone we focus our lenses upon.
Pride, professionalism, respect, passion, patience, commitment, consistency, innovation, dedication, determination, duty, dependability, flexibility, compassion, sensitivity, honour, honesty, and humour are all things that I have tried to live by and base my career approach upon. I have always done the best possible job for everyone involved and this has always served me well.
So now, as I transition from being a staff photographer to working independently I have no intention of changing the way I work and the way I approach my life.
Peter Power Photography Inc. is my company, but my company is me. Everyone I know, meet, photograph or do business with will continue to get the absolute best I can offer, and they deserve nothing less. In this I will not compromise.
]]> (Peter Power) business career life photography transition Sat, 22 Feb 2014 06:36:00 GMT
Career Change This past couple of weeks has been like riding a roller coaster from hell.

It all began with planning meetings for The Globe and Mail's recent project on the North, and the excitement of being involved with something so large, and with so many resources being poured into it.

(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Smoke from oil stoves heating temporary housing tents for workers at the Baffinland Iron Ore mine site at Mary River, Baffin Island, Nunavut. 

Then the proverbial shit hit the fan, and news came that three of the four staff photographers in Toronto would be getting layoff notices on Feb. 5th. Fawk!

There was no math to be done. No bumping. No uncomfortable union shit. Myself and two talented colleagues had essentially been shown the door. Another friend who has been working as a part-time photo editor is sadly gone as well, along with about 30 others. It was a sad, sad day.

Its a hard pill to swallow on the best of days, but to say it wasn't somehow expected would be a lie. I simply didn't think it would happen quite the way it did, and I didn't expect our department to be hit so hard. There will remain only two staff photographers for Canada's National Newspaper; one in Toronto and one in Vancouver.

"Oh well!" necessarily became my motto for the rest of the week.  There were only a few days left until publication of what would essentially be my last hurrah as a staffer at The Globe and Mail. I have been determined to accept the layoff for what it is and to maintain a positive outlook on the future. Thoughts beyond the coming days needed to be kept in the back of my mind, and if they did creep forward I didn't want them to compromise the work I still needed to do with a great team to make The North project as good as we possibly could.

(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Walrus hunter Nuna Parr's footwear is made from sealskin, which when sewn with traditional methods is waterproof.
I spent 25 days in November and December north of The Arctic Circle with Ian Brown. (Ian is @BrownoftheGlobe on Twitter) This was my second trip to document life in Canada's North and it was a spectacular professional and personal experience. [I wrote about my first northern assignment here.] Not only is Ian one of Canada's best writers, but he's a funny, thoughtful, and gregarious travel partner. We had a blast! [We last paired up while working on The Boy in the Moon]

Everyone who touched this work gave a fantastic effort, and it will forever stand out in my memory as one of those assignments that was done right from its inception through to publication. In the office I spent a huge amount of time with our web team and our newspaper layout designers. The new web publishing tool rolled out for  The Magnetic North on the web is brilliant thanks to them, and the paper was no less so impressive. If you haven't opened this link on a computer with a large screen I suggest you do so. It is a model we are all very proud of.

We also elected to return to larger photography galleries for this series and two from my work were published in similar formats. A Kaleidoscopic Portrait of the North and Twilight in Canada's North are the two titles of these galleries. I've been joking that this has been the "blue period" of my career. The incredibly unique, and very cool blue light in the north is half of that equation. The rest you can figure out I'm sure.



(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
A young boy hides from the biting cold while his mother walks backward to protect her own face in Igloolik, Nunavut. 



In addition to the galleries there are also a number of videos that can be found here. These include a small compilation of the my first ever attempts at time-lapse photography. Feedback on the entire series has been extremely positive, and through it all I have received an incredible amount of moral support from friends and colleagues in Toronto, across Canada and throughout the globe. (That's the big blue ball in space I'm referring to, not the newspaper) For this experience I am forever grateful, and humbled by the generosity shown me in so many ways.

I doubt this will be the last of my work published in The Globe and Mail, but my career is about to take a dramatic turn. I am excited about the possibilities that lay before me and while I am determined to continue working on stories that matter to me, and to continue to work as a photojournalist, I will also be seeking out new challenges with photography, video and multimedia.

Journalism has always been my first love, and the reason I became a photojournalist. This will never change. But our evolving world has provided people in our profession with a wealth of opportunities in many, many areas and I would be a fool not to be excited about new challenges, new adventures, new techniques, and a new and varied group of people to work with.

Beginning in April I will be making images for which I will be the first copyright holder for the first time in my career. That is very exciting to me.

And so, I was laid off one week and published insanely well the next. Bittersweet indeed! But the sky is the limit from here on. Bring on the next 25 years!

]]> (Peter Power) arctic career exposure globe and mail long mining newspaper north nunavut photography photojournalism publishing technique tent web Sat, 25 Jan 2014 10:40:00 GMT
Lac-Mégantic, Que
In the early hours of Saturday morning a run-away train hauling 72 tankers filled with light crude brought hell-on-earth to the town's historic downtown. Media from across the country flooded to the small town to cover this story. The track configuration will certainly be a consideration in the investigation, as are the events that lead the rolling time-bomb to begin rolling down the steady grade from where it was parked in Nantes, about 20km away. The momentum alone of this mass of steel derailing in an urban centre is frightening enough, but the explosions, inferno, and a flowing river of fire toward the lake meant that people nearby never stood a chance. Officials estimate that as many as 50 people may have lost their lives, but the recovery process will be painstaking and lengthy. Many more residents were displaced for several days as the fire was brought under control, and the "crime scene" secured. Most were able to return to their homes by the end of the week, but many, still in temporary housing, will likely not return to their homes, if they are still standing, for weeks, or months.
A house still stands adjacent to the destruction in downtown Lac-Mégantic, PQ on July 11, 2013.(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
For those whose homes are inside the screened steel fencing erected by the authorities it will be some time before they experience the emotional return to home and re-uniting with neighbours that we witnessed on the 11th. For many their homes are tantalizingly close but unreachable; peeking almost mockingly at them over the menacing black fencing.
This lengthy barrier, purported by authorities to be "protecting a crime scene," has screening that denies passers-by a view to the carnage beyond. On the sides where public, and media access, is denied, there is no black screening. But the Lac-Mégantic's residents are curious, as are the media, and now, there are throngs of tourists who have been flocking to the small town to catch a glimpse of their own of this disaster. For the media, who have had limited access to the site, the curious onlookers have themselves become a story.
Someone has elected to decorate the screened fencing in Lac-Mégantic, PQ on July 13, 2013.(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
What hasn't become a story, and should at some point, is the fact that authorities in Lac-Mégantic have repeatedly done everything they can to inhibit the media, and the public, from witnessing the work being done beyond the fencing under the guise of "protecting the evidence." Photographers especially have been told repeatedly that "it is illegal to photograph a crime scene." Nonsense. Or, "it is illegal to photograph a body." Nonsense. It even became ridiculous to the point that photographers were denied the ability to approach residents to ask to use their balconies to secure a view.
The scope of this disaster is yet to be fully understood and absorbed by everyone who has been touched by it. The pain felt in Lac-Mégantic, and the healing that will take place over many years is certainly what is most important. In its scope and its impact, this disaster is unprecedented in Canada.
A small hand-made cross placed by local Helene Drapers sits at the front of St. Agnes Church in Lac-Mégantic, PQ on on July 13, 2013.(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
What is not unprecedented is the methods used by authorities to stymie the efforts of a free media, in a democratic country, to gather information. Authorities in Lac-Mégantic have chosen to police morality rather than the law. They have taken it upon themselves to decide what images are gathered from the scene, and are attempting to decide for the media what we can or cannot publish in good conscience. This is simply wrong, and outside of their mandate.
Their concerns, that some media will publish something that is hurtful, or insensitive to the community are not without precedent either. But in my experience most media organizations historically err on the side of caution especially when it comes to image use. The instances where an organization consciously or inadvertently publicizes disturbing material are few, and is not the responsibility of the emergency services to control.
At one point, we the media were even asked, by a PR official, not to take images of people working on the site. What a ridiculous request to make.
What is almost as upsetting is the way every media outlet allowed this to continue without any real challenge. I know of only one photographer, perhaps a little motivated by a late arrival and the need to generate some fresh images, who challenged the top PR man, their policy, and their lack of authority to enforce it. Without the support of the mass of media present, which should have existed, this attempt was doomed to fail, as it did.
Police and forensic team members take a break in the shade of a home inside the red zone in Lac-Mégantic, PQ on July 14, 2013.(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
It has not been lost on the media that much of the work being done inside the perimeter borders on the heroic. Many workers have fallen ill on the site. Long hours and exhaustion in the extreme heat have been a constant concern. Over time the horrible job many workers must endure is sure to take an emotional toll. But this is indeed part of the story, and should be told, in words, and in images. Asking residents to keep us off of their roofs, or suggesting that their insurance wouldn't cover an injury to a media person is, again, untrue, and beyond the mandate of authorities.
In a community that is coming together for strength, two women smile and clasp arms following a moment of silence at noon in Lac-Mégantic, PQ on July 13, 2013.(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Lac-Mégantic has felt this tragedy at its core. Many of us have witnessed the community coming together and showing great strength, and support. Compassionate acts of condolence have filled the memorial inside Sainte Agnes Church from near and far. I know that I have been touched by the kindness of the people I met on this assignment, and the strength this community showed despite such a great loss.
For more images from Lac-Mégantic, go to my personal website or The Globe and Mail.
]]> (Peter Power) Lac-Mégantic MMA Quebec canada community curiosity derailment disaster grief photojournalism train Sat, 20 Jul 2013 07:13:00 GMT
Birth of a Notion
These words lead off a Folio centre spread in The Globe and Mail about a new program of free healthcare for expecting mothers and mothers of young children. Geoffrey York, our African Bureau Chief wrote the piece and the images are mine. Designer extraordinaire David Pratt did the layout.

So much of our work in the media involves bringing light to problems and difficulties around the globe. It's critical that we continue to draw attention to areas that need it, but it felt great to be able to help tell a positive story, especially out of Africa, and specifically Sierra Leone, a country that has seen more than its share of suffering.

While there is much to be done in Sierra Leone there is no denying that this dramatic step is a very important one. The program in itself is not without problems, and the long-term sustainability of it in such a poor country will be a question for some time.

In Somalia last September Geoff  and I witnessed a lot of death and suffering. I photographed a 7-year old boy who had just died, and his grieving family. Those are images that I feel need to be made, and stories that need to be told.

But I have to say that being allowed to photograph a woman giving birth to a healthy baby boy, and coming through it herself without issue at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown was a real privilege, and one that I will never forget.

Ruby Williams, Matron, Princess Christian Maternity Hospital

Likewise I won't ever forget the smile and the generosity of Ruby Williams, the Matron of the Hospital, who took a lot of time during her hectic day to shepherd me around her hospital and patiently waited while I made images. Thank you Ruby.

Geoffrey York's story and links to a photo gallery and audio slideshow can be found at

]]> (Peter Power) Africa Canadian Crisis Maternal Sierra Leone birth birth rate death healthcare maternity midwife mother nursing photojournalism story telling success training Fri, 11 May 2012 06:57:00 GMT
Monrovia: Charles Taylor Found Guilty
Only minutes after the special court at the Hague announced it’s verdict in the five-year trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor on April 26, 2012 a halo appeared around the sun as it hung almost directly above the crowds gathered in downtown Monrovia to listen and watch the news. Immediately people here began to speculate on the meaning of this strange, and rare, atmospheric phenomenon. If people were supportive or not of the former warlord seemed to determine whether they thought God was happy or unhappy with the court’s guilty verdict in the eleven counts against Mr. Taylor for crimes against humanity.
The day before the verdict the inside back page of The Globe and Mail – a coveted glossy paper space usually reserved for international news – featured an advance story by our African bureau chief, Geoffrey York, and two of my photographs. Yesterday we ran a double page spread of stories and images from the streets here as Liberians waited and reacted to the news.
Geoff’s thoughtful planning ensured we were here in Liberia’s capital for the moment that the Charles Taylor’s verdict would be read at the Hague. The piece in yesterday’s paper provided some background to Globe and Mail readers and spoke of the level of support the warlord still has here. There are many here who support Taylor. There are many here who do not.
I sent ten images for my photo editors and editors to choose from for Wednesday’s story, and in the end they chose as their main an image of a young man named Peter Tarr. When he was eleven years old Tarr was captured by Taylor’s forces and was soon carrying a weapon and fighting battles. His story is similar to other child soldiers during that bloody time in that he was later captured by opposing forces and then forced to fight against Taylor. Somehow he survived the war and became a member of President Taylor’s Liberian Army. It was during this time, while fighting some of Taylor’s opponents that he was injured twice; first by a bullet through his upper thigh, and later a gunshot wound to his right arm that required an amputation from just below the shoulder.
Tarr’s story is heartbreaking, but sadly, not uncommon in Liberia. Unemployed and disfigured, Tarr now spends his days, like many of this country’s child soldiers begging on Monrovia’s streets.
Remarkably Tarr has few angry words. He is unhappy that Taylor brought war to an otherwise peaceful nation, and that the years of war affected him, and so many others in such a negative way. And yet he seemed confident that justice would prevail. He was confident that if Taylor was guilty of war crimes he would be found guilty. If he was not, he would be found innocent.
In a country where many people seem to be judging Taylor based on the price of rice during his presidency (it was far cheaper then), this indifference by a grievously damaged young man like Tarr amazes me. Perhaps he is resigned after his ten-year struggle on Monrovia’s dirty streets and knows that neither decision in Taylor's case will change his fate.
Perhaps he is right.  Any damage that Charles Taylor, and men like him, could ever inflict upon Peter Tarr, and thousands like him, was done a long time ago.
But as several people expressed on Thursday, regardless of the verdict, Liberians may now finally be able to put this dark chapter in their lives behind them and move forward. 
[The complete articles and a gallery of images can be found on]
]]> (Peter Power) Africa Charles Taylor Liberia Monrovia child children conflict court crimes dictator hague humanity news photojournalism soldiers verdict victims war Sat, 28 Apr 2012 13:04:00 GMT
A Delicate Balance of Respect and Boundaries (This entry was originally published at on March 17, 2012. It accompanied stories by Globe and Mail writer Lisa Priest about hospice care in Ontario). The original piece can be found here with links to two image galleries.





The Globe and Mail was granted access to Kensington Hospice to observe care provided to those who come to die and to see how people live out their final days.





Why hospices? End of life care is an important health issue, one that given the aging population, will grow in importance. About 70 per cent of people die in hospital, even though most say they want to die at home. Hospices offer something between those two worlds: they provide a residential, home-like feel with doctors and nurses for those who can't die at home, but for whom a costly hospital bed isn't appropriate, either.
Mostly, they come to accept what we all must: death. Their willingness to allow journalists to document that journey is a gift.
– Lisa Priest
Basia Hoffman hugs Kensington Hospice Social Worker Maxxine Rattner during a visit with her mother, Andree Hoffman, a few short hours before she passed away on Feb. 9, 2012.


There are few phrases more painful than “It is with a heavy heart.”
After the death of a loved one, these words most often mark the earliest stage in the grieving process – an intimate and emotional moment when family and friends are coming to grips with their loss.
For journalists, even though many have heard these words repeated several times throughout their careers, the emotional charge never seems to fade.
These emotions – pain, sadness, confusion, loss – make covering death and dying one of the most challenging assignments for writers and photographers.
The best way for a photojournalist to approach this kind of assignment is to draw on personal experience – to put yourself as much as you can in your subjects' shoes. This means trying to remember what it feels like to touch a loved one for the last time, to have them look upon you for the last time, and to desperately want more. To realize there is no way to fully prepare for that final moment.
For a recent story about hospice care, I found myself drawing on this personal experience, as well as the many stories I've covered in my career, where strangers have granted me the privilege of witnessing some of life's most intimate moments.
These experiences help when trying to approach people and families in the most unobtrusive manner possible.
And this is the point. You cannot, and must not, endeavour to work on stories about one of the most challenging times in anyone's life if your presence will in any way make those moments more difficult.
Before I introduce a camera into any sensitive situation I always try to introduce myself first. Meeting people in person allows me to better understand their situation, but it serves the more important purpose of helping them to understand who I am, my goals and my methods. These meetings might be brief, or may take hours, days or months depending on the subject, but for everyone involved they are critical.
At Kensington Hospice in Toronto my involvement started with a meeting. My goal was to build on the trust earned by my colleague, reporter Lisa Priest, to gain permission to come and go as the story required, and to establish rules so I could work in a manner that fell within their guidelines, and with constant consideration for all of its residents, not just those I was documenting. Lisa had already laid much of the groundwork for me, and so this meeting was very straightforward. The next step was meeting the families involved.
You never simply ask if you can take photographs of someone. To do so is risking immediate refusal. Photographers understand that visual storytelling requires a more sophisticated approach and I have yet to speak to an individual who does not appreciate the difference.
I have never worked on a story of this nature without believing that I can do justice to the story, and that I can do so honestly while preserving the dignity of everyone involved. This is what I try to convey in trying to secure someone's trust to participate in a story.
This is what I concentrated on during my initial conversations with members of two families with loved ones at the hospice. While I would always prefer not to rush into any story, time did not allow a leisurely approach to this one. While Marianne Kupina and her husband, Andrew McCarthy, weren't quite sure what to expect from me, they readily accepted what I proposed in terms of photography. There would be no posed portraits, but only real moments as they arose. Andrew, a handsome man, who, at 55 was dying of cancer, seemed all too aware that time was of the essence. After only a short conversation he simply looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well. Go get your cameras.”
Marianne Kupina spends time with her husband, Andrew McCarthy, at Kensington Hospice in Toronto on Feb. 7, 2012. Mr. McCarthy passed away on Feb. 20, 2012.


This rapid progression from introduction to working is certainly not the norm, and yet it did repeat itself the following day. Basia Hoffman, who had travelled from California to be with her mother, Andrée Hoffman, during her final moments, did not hesitate to allow me to be present in their lives. I think she was pleased that I hoped to find beauty in some of the moments that would be so sad. Where there is sadness in death, there is also love and tenderness.
While both families agreed to the presence of me and Lisa, it was still critical to have a frank and honest conversation. Not every acceptance comes so readily, but regardless, the initial conversations are when you lay it all on the line. This is when you try to understand the comfort level of each individual, improve it if you can, or at least determine how their comfort level might change over time. I try to establish a starting point with an understanding that the rules might evolve.
I would never photograph, or use images from a moment, that in anyway betrays the trust that people grant me. Only by being present, aware, flexible and sensitive, are you able to make photographs of those tender moments that will enhance the readers' understanding of your subjects' true experience. It is this trust that you hope for, and this trust that will allow you to be present when it really matters.
But you also need to know when to draw the line. You need to know when to back off, when to get close, and when to stop shooting. There may be moments when you are unsure of how to proceed. Anticipate this and discuss the possibilities openly before they arise. I simply let people know that if ever they find a situation where my presence is too much they only need give me a “look,” and I'll understand. They need to trust that they are in control, that they are making the rules, and that their comfort level and their lives are most important. And you need to understand that it is not your story that is paramount, but their lives.
You need to judge which moments are needed to tell the story and when an image is perhaps not worth the discomfort it might cause. This is a constant challenge, but one of which to be keenly aware. It will challenge your sensitivity as a human being and your skills as a visual storyteller.
This method has never failed me. I have certainly missed some moments over the years, but I have never walked away from a story feeling that I did more harm than good.
Stories of this nature can be emotionally draining, but it helps, at least for me, if you can take away some of the positive from the experience.
Mrs. Hoffman passed away during the night, with her daughters, Basia and Tatiana at her side, only hours after I had the pleasure of first meeting them. During the evening I was able to photograph some beautiful moments and before I left for the night I whispered a few words to her in her native French that included goodnight and thank you.
Andrew McCarthy, who had been a resident at Kensington Hospice for nearly six months, passed away on the afternoon of Feb. 20, 2012 with Marianne at his side. He was only 55 years old. Theirs was a love story, and one that I was privileged to see. On a Sunday, a week before he died, Marianne poured Andrew and I each a wee dram of Irish whisky. I was the last to have a drink with him and feel honoured to have done so.



]]> (Peter Power) care death dying health hospice life photojournalism Wed, 28 Mar 2012 17:39:00 GMT
Hugs for Free!
That's not to say I'm not a fan of love, and romance, a nice meal, flowers, soft music. Kathleen and I are on the same page when it comes to allowing this extremely commercial day to come and go without much fanfare at all.

I stood in the rain on Valentines Day, while taking a break from another story I'm working on, to get a photo of a young woman and man giving away free hugs. I thought it was very refreshing to see this, and was pleased to learn that there were absolutely no strings attached. It was just a nice gesture by two people trying to pass along a kind act.

Stephanie Mulhall, 23, right, and Fernando Brava, 22, behind, braved the cold rain to stand on the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets in Toronto to offer free hugs and valentines to passers-by on Feb. 14, 2012.(Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
While I'm happy not to participate in the mad dash for flowers and chocolates, I have to admit that I am still of two minds about the whole thing.

I don't think we need a special day to tell those most dear to us how we feel about them, or to do something romantic. However, as a society that seems to be getting busier and busier, with each passing day, if it is necessary to have a special day to kick-start some lazy lovers then I guess that can't be all bad.]]> (Peter Power) free hug love photojournalism street valentines Thu, 16 Feb 2012 08:50:00 GMT
"Maybe Next Year!" and mean it!
Today the results of the World Press Photo contest were released and I have to say that the winning images are seriously impressive. Congratulations to the winners!

While we don't, or shouldn't, work as photojournalists to win awards, it is nice to have your work recognized. WPP is the worlds largest photo contest and a prize in it isn't exactly bad news to wake up to.

But as I've said in the past, a person can't sit on any single contest prize and hope to be successful on bragging rights alone. Photographers who are successful over time, and some time and time again, repeatedly use their skill, their motivation, their creativity, and their opportunities to make images like many that are included as winners in this year's WPP.

Success at anything is about continuing to work hard to improve yourself and your craft. It's about not being happy with the status quo, and about thinking outside of the box. It's about never giving up and finding inspiration in the work of others around you.

Finding the proper and most efficient ways to do this is more than half the battle.

What strikes me often about many winning images I look at from contests, beyond the memorable images of course, is the access that photographers were able to secure, for one reason or another. Access takes forethought. It takes planning. It takes organization. And it takes vision. It takes patience. And it takes persistence.

There will always be award winning images that come from a photographer "just being there," but in my opinion these are the exception.

Beyond the stellar images produced this past year - and not just those that placed - I want to congratulate those photographers and photo editors that see the value of time spent planning, envisioning, and working to create those rare situations where compelling photographs are made.

The starting point for great photojournalism is foresight and fortitude.

I think we all have the potential to make stunning images, and to tell compelling stories, but you have to be there, and getting there is where the difference is made.

So, again this year, I'm doing my best with the opportunities I have, and trying to reach beyond what's immediately obvious, or available. We should all do this. And in doing so we can hope for great images and stories to develop from it.

And then we can say, with conviction, and not hollow words, "Maybe next year!"]]> (Peter Power) WPP World Press Photo motivation photojournalism vision Fri, 10 Feb 2012 05:54:00 GMT