Archive for the Photography How to… Category

Simple Digital Art: A Specific How-To

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Photography How to... with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Good evening.

It’s a dark, windy, rainy night here and I have just finished a piece of art-as-a-gift I thought I’d share with you. Not only will I share the finished piece, but because it was all done with photographs and Photoshop, I thought it might be fun to share the process, to show how simple it can all be.

Here’s the finished, yet untitled piece. It is for my guitar-playing nephew, for his birthday.

Rock and roll!

Rock and Roll, the heavy way.

This finished piece is actually a compilation of multiple, manipulated photos taken in my basement within the space of ten minutes. Canon EOS 60D on a tripod. No flash. Electronic remote control.

The first shot taken was the headshot. This is simply me making an angry face while wearing my wife’s steampunk wig.

It's the hair, man!

Heavy Metal Timmy!

Next came the skull. Much easier than you think, because in my vast collection of shit and paraphernalia, I have a skull or two. This one is actually an aquarium prop from Walmart and cost less than $20. I made sure to take the skull at the same angle and in the same light as the face shot. I also had to blacken in a hole in the back of the skull where it looks like a large calibre bullet passed through. Yes, it’s one of my favourite props. 🙂

Aquarium prop skull

Aquarium skull

Since I wanted the face in the image had to be younger than my 53 and have a full, black goatee (and not just my greying red Beatnik chin fuzz), this had to be added. I knew that fine detail would be lost in the final piece, so rather than spend months getting each strand of hair perfect like the animators at Pixar would, I went for the quick and easy fill-it-in solution.

Angry rocker with beard

Making the beard black and full.

This next part is my favourite part because whenever I do it the images freak out my friends and family. The effect is very cool. I copied the image of the skull and superimposed it over the angry, bearded face. A few easy adjustments were necessary to find the right scale and placement and by playing with the opacity, I was able to find just the right mix of skull and face to let both come through. I then used the digital eraser to carve back the skull to look like the hair draped over it.

skull overlay on face

Skull overlay on the face

Since my nephew plays guitar, I needed to incorporate an axe in the image. Since my own guitar is a hollow-body jazz guitar, it wouldn’t have worked, so I used one of the miniatures in my collection. Yah, I know, you want to know where I got this cool little prop. Unfortunately, the only place to get them is from an Ontario merchant at the Calgary Stampede or the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. He does not have a website so it’s in-person shopping only. It’s a pain in the ass.

Clapton Miniature

A miniature of one of Clapton’s guitars

First I had to erase my hand, and whiten the background. Once that was done, the skull/face were added and the parts not overlapping with the guitar were erased. Also, because I wanted the rocker to look much more gaunt than my own chubbiness, I drew some hair in to make his face look thinner.

Compilation of the images

Combing the guitar and the rocker

It looks kind cool and haunting here, but I wanted the final piece to look like it was hand sketched in black ink, like a band member had done it on the road, lounging in the bus between gigs. I used the sketch filter of Photoshop to find just the right brush length and contrast. Once I found that balance I signed it, textured the signature, and was done.

The end result.

The finished piece.

Not exactly wild and exciting, but it has taken me longer to write this blog than it did to create the artwork, once I knew what I wanted.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Ciao for now.


UPDATE: After an editor asked for something with a bit more to it, I created these two for her to choose between, using parts from the other piece plus an image I took years ago of Tyler from the Barenaked Ladies…

Rock is Death, Baby!

Rock is Death, Baby!

DEath MEtal MAsk

Putting the Black back in Sabbath.


Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise taken from Fairview Lookout.

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Photography How to... with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2012 by tgmreynolds

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise taken from Fairview Lookout.

This is my photo of Chateau Lake Louise at the shore of glacial Lake Louise in Banff National Park.I sold the original to the hotel back in the 90s and this link is from their website where they are still using the image.

Yes, the Lake really is that colour. This was taken in the fall after the first snowfall (late Sept or early Oct) but before the lake freezes. The lake doesn’t thaw again until June so to get clear skies, fresh snow and no ice is a real treat for a photographer up there, even one who lives in the buildings behind the hotel.

Damn, I miss the place. But cold? It hit -60C with windchill there once and -40 isn’t uncommon. And winter is outrageously long. No wonder we drank a lot.

Once the lake freezes nearby Brewster Stables runs horse-drawn sleigh rides down one shore of the lake. Cuddle with your sweetie under the blankets and see one of the most stunning winter views in North America.

Time to go make some tea, because just thinking about winter up there makes me cold. I used to work ON the frozen lake in winter, standing next to an ice castle, offering people hot chocolate. Hey, someone had to do it.


Ciao for now.


Photo by Timothy G.M. Reynolds. Image is the property of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

A Break in the Blog…

Posted in (Almost) Totally Useless How-to Guide, Books Books Books, Cynical Poetry, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Photography How to..., Stand-Up Comedy & Life with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2010 by tgmreynolds

Hi, faithful readers.

This is just a quick note that I’m going to be taking a break from regularly posts here at The Tao of Tim. I have a couple of new Cynglish poems pre-posted for future weeks (to keep the ball rolling for the upcoming release of the book, The Cynglish Beat), but as for “How tos…” and other lengthy creations, I have to put them aside and concentrate on the writing projects I actually have deadlines for and a publisher waiting to see.

One of the projects is the reading of the proofs of the Podthology: The Pod Complex (requiring this entire weekend) and the other is the novelization of one of my screenplays, and this really needs to get done sooner rather than later. The little projects are cool and fun, but if I let the novels — the heart of my writing — languish, then part of  my soul goes unfed. That’s the curse of writer’s A.D.H.D.

Too long I’ve put these projects aside for others. I’m hoping that what comes of this writing spurt will be as much or more entertaining than the tiny tales of my life’s misadventures.With luck, those tiny tales will themselves become a printed collection… but not yet.

The second reason for trimming my writing down to one or two major projects at a time is that my health needs improving and the little projects have been giving me umpteen reasons & excuses not to run or bike or workout or eat properly. I’m just finishing my first 50 years and really want to be in good enough shape to enjoy the next 50, or even the next 20 or 30. Even my stand-up comedy is going to be shelved for the most part. Is that a sigh of relief I hear? :p

So, I’m going to take a shot at prioritizing and self-discipline and see how long I can keep it up. Of course, if enough people leave comments here requesting more stories, I might be able to stir up one or two in a not-quite-weekly basis. How and why I got kicked out of a Nevada brothel is one of the stories which comes to mind and begs to be told, even though no one has ever believed the truth.

Anyway, even writing this post has taken me away from going over the proofs so I’ll cut it off here and get back to work.

Thanks for reading. With luck, there will be a podcast to come soon, but not until I start to make progress on the big projects.

Ciao for now.


The Cynglish Beat: What’s in a Cover?

Posted in (Almost) Totally Useless How-to Guide, Books Books Books, Cynical Poetry, Photography How to..., Stand-Up Comedy & Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by tgmreynolds
The Cynglish Beat Full Cover

The Cynglish Beat Full Cover

For some strange reason I thought that there might be one or two folks out there who might want to know what goes into the designing of a book cover, at least from the point of view of a self-published author with artistic talent but no experience or training whatsoever. And since there were a couple Beta versions of the cover for my upcoming poetry book The Cynglish Beat, I thought I’d pick on that one. (Click any image to see it larger.)

I wanted to achieve a few things with this cover, besides keeping the pages together,

  1. It had to draw a viewer’s attention.
  2. It had to have some class & a professional look (too many self-published books look like amateur shit).
  3. It had to have a ‘retro’ feel, so as to harken back a few decades to the era of the real Beat Generation (Allen Ginsberg & Jack Kerouac, not Bongo Buddy & the Beatniks)
Original Cynglish Beat cover

Original Cynglish Beat cover

It took a number of elements to create the look I wanted but before I break them down for you, let’s take a quick look at the first cover I created for the book. The idea here was for a one-man version of a trio of Beatniks in the image Hollywood has popularized — black turtlenecks, bongos, beads, little round sunglasses.

I love the visual harmony of this cover, with the balance of black and the other many colours, but once I did a bit more research into the Beat Generation, I found that the Hollywood image was as wrong as it ever was. The images I found were of college students on campuses and intellectuals pondering the meaning of life.  Some day I’ll use this cover for something else, but in the mean time, I wanted the first edition of the book to be more of an homage to the Ginsberg & Kerouac, not Hollyweird. Back-burner one cover design and The Timbo Trio.

It took a number of elements to create the final cover so let’s deconstruct it one piece at a time. Because this was all created with digital images in Photoshop, peeling back the layers is actually much easier done than said.

Starting with the bottom layer: the background of red leather. The leather effect was achieved by simply photographing a large brown leather-bound photo album, then adjusting the contrast to punch up the image and then the colour, to go from muddy brown to blood-of-the-poet red. I even adjusted the scale of the leather image in order to get the grain to a size which matched the size of this book (5 1/4″ x 8 1/4″ at the time of writing).

Cynglish Beat front step photo original

Cynglish Beat front step photo original

With the background settled, I moved on to the photo. Here’s the original photo, shot on our front door step with a self-timer and a tripod. There’s very little in the photo to date it as 21st century, except maybe the vinyl-clad screen door, which I cropped down (see below) to minimize its presence. I went with baggy slacks, a corduroy jacket and the simple button-down shirt — as close to a 1950s college intellectual look as could be found in my closet. Can you tell I used to be a school teacher AND an accountant?

The cigarette is fake and the mickey is real, containing Jack Daniels. The somewhat flat light still had enough punch to it for the shadows on the lilac bushes to give the image some natural texture.

The Cynglish Beat front step photo

The Cynglish Beat front step photo

Next, I cropped it down to roughly the dimensions of a 3 1/2″ x 5″ photo and did my Photoshop magic on it to make it a semi sepia-tinted black & white snapshot. It looked okay, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. When Sue got home I suggested a tour of Ingelwood, one of Calgary’s older neighbourhoods, in an attempt to find a building more suited. We also wanted to try the old ruins of the General Hospital in the Beltline.

The ruins were a bust, lacking completely in spontaneity simple because no one just ‘hangs out’ at ruins. All of the images looked too staged. We wandered over to Inglewood and found an old, closed garage with perfect light. Sue took up the camera and took a handful of terrific shots, one of which I eventually picked for the cover.

the Cynglish Beat Front Cover

the Cynglish Beat Front Cover

With regards to the final finish on the ‘snap shot’, although plenty of photos taken back in 1955 still retain their crispness and contrast, I decided I wanted a slightly faded, sepia tint, as though it was processed in a home or college darkroom and was exposed to the sun for a few years because it was someone’s favourite photo. Rather than going with the usual scalloped edges so prevalent at the time, I opted for a straight edge with a little bit of wear and tear. I stopped short of adding wrinkles or creases because they would be too distracting, and I did try using black photo corners to ‘attach’ the photo to the cover (see last image below), but the look was more appropriate for an interior image. The angle, shadow, and placement are all carefully calculated to create a balance between the photo of me with the blood-red leather and the softer text above and beneath the photo. The soft colours of the text of the title are meant to add to, but not detract from the red & the sepia. A closer look will also show that I’ve tried to emulate the texture of the leather within the text in order for it to look more integrated.

The Cynglish Beat Back Cover

The Cynglish Beat Back Cover

On the back cover, I wanted to convey the creative process, but rather than hand-scribbled notes, I went with the idea of recipe cards that look like they were run through an old Olivetti manual typewriter. Instead of creating them from scratch with Photoshop I simply photographed a recipe card in natural light so as to get more natural shadows and light.

I had three pieces of information to convey on the back so I went with three recipe cards scaled down. Because “Cynglish” is a word I made up and was so prominent on the front, I thought I owed a definition to anyone who picked up the book and made it as far as the back cover. That’s the first card.

Jumping down to the third recipe card, it needed to give a sample of what was in the book, because this was not “Flowers in the stream, I dream, of cream and smile” poetry. The restrictions were the obvious ones: the snippet had to be clean and it had to be universal, and so I went with the opening lines of “Me, Myself & Age”, the first poem I wrote for the collection before I even knew there was going to be a collection.

For the second card I wanted to give the idea that someone other than myself and Sue had actually read and enjoyed the poems, so a review/blurb from a well-known person was needed. For the ‘celebrity endorsement’ my first and only thought was of Mark Breslin, the CEO & Founder of Yuk Yuk’s, the largest chain of comedy clubs in North America and the man many consider to be the grandfather of Canadian comedy and mentor to such comedy legends as Howie Mandel and Jim Carrey.

Mark caught my scruffy third performance as Bongo Boy (doing a poor imitation of Beat poetry) at the Calgary Yuk Yuk’s at Elbow River Casino and he pulled me aside after the show. For half an hour he generously gave me his time to tell me how unique what I was doing was and how to raise it up off the street and into the limelight. Those kind words of encouragement got me writing like a madman, and once the idea for The Cynglish Beat took hold of my lapels, I put aside performing to concentrate on what I suspected would be the most interesting way I could come up with to raise some funds for Cancer Research.

When I approached Mark with my finished project and asked if he’d consider doing the cover blurb he loved the idea and what he sent back was this: “Kudos to Tim Reynolds for channeling Fifties Beatnik culture in his new volume, ‘The Cynglish Beat’. If you like your poetry hip and bop and full of barbed wire, Reynolds is your man.” Wow. He nailed what I had been trying to achieve and hadn’t even articulated to myself. “Full of barbed wire”. Yup, that’s exactly what it is, and I am honoured to have Mark’s words on the back cover, to draw readers in.

Other stuff on the back cover needed to be the Cometcatcher Press logo (‘self-published’ doesn’t have to mean ‘unprofessional’ — create an imprint for your works!) and the two websites, one for the book and one for Cometcatcher Press. I have half-a-dozen others, including one for all of my writing, but the two URLs I included have links to all of the others.

The Cynglish Beat Black Cover

The Cynglish Beat Black Cover

With all that decided, designed and created do you think I was able to just sit back and let it be, ready for the printer? Oh no, not me. I came across another notebook amongst the detritus of my office and got another brainstorm. I then spent far too much time creating this cover, just so I would have a third option. Sue loves the red cover, as do I, but there’s something raw and spontaneous about this black one. Maybe it’ll be used for a special edition with hand-written interior font, or maybe for a sequel, should it be warranted.

If you have an opinion about which of the three you prefer, leave a comment below and I’ll take it into consideration.

Thanks for listening. I hope this answers questions you didn’t even have.

Ciao for now,


Shooting for Success: ‘Shooting’ Your Pets

Posted in Photography How to... with tags , , , , on March 2, 2010 by tgmreynolds

(All photos copyright Tim Reynolds.)

Phoenix on the Run

Puppy Phoenix on the Run

Okay,this blog is a little late so I’ll fire out the facts as quickly and as simply as I can.

Sedona & Phoenix in a Teacup-Sept07

Sedona & Phoenix in a Teacup-Sept07

When photographing your pets you want — above all else — to capture their personality. If Fido sleeps all day, don’t try to get him to chase a ball for the camera. If Fluffy likes to chase her tail all the time, capture that.

Of course, that being said, don’t be afraid to capture the moments that are unusual. Children and pets can never be photographed too often, unless it’s by a stranger sitting on a park bench, just watching and watching.

Laptop Dog

Laptop Dog

I also like to try different angles than my usual standing upright. Get low, get high.

Get silly.

Phoenix age 6 (flash)

Phoenix age 6 (flash)

Then try different lighting. Try the flash, then try opening the curtains and shooting in natural light.

Phoenix`s 6th Birthday

Phoenix`s 6th Birthday (no flash)

Check out how the colour changes and the image gets softer.

Be inventive. Have fun.

Ciao for now.


Shooting for Success: Reflecting on the Image

Posted in Photography How to... with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2010 by tgmreynolds

I wanted to talk about good light and bad light in terms of sunlight but every time I went to take a midday shot this week the sky was a nice solid blue and I didn’t see the washed out light I wanted to use as a bad example. But I’ll keep trying, and will go through some of my old images to see what I can find.

Lake Oesa Reflection

Lake Oesa, Yoho National Park. Copyright Tim Reynolds.

In the meantime, lets look at reflections. Like all photography, it’s all about the light. Some reflections are perfect mirror reflections and sometimes the details don’t need to be reflected in order for the image to work.

In this first image the reflection in Lake Oesa is simply of darks and lights, leading the eye up to the tree silhouette which leads up to the mountains themselves.

Vancouver Reflection

Vancouver at Night. Copyright Tim Reynolds.

In the next one, of Vancouver from Stanley Park, because of the wind on the surface of the water, the reflection is reduced to streaks of light and colour pointing straight up to the nighttime lights and details of the city.

The next shot is the reflection of Rundle Mountain which I entered in the National Geographic Traveler photo contest and although it didn’t win, they asked if they could use it in their calendar.

Mt. Rundle & Vermilion Lakes

Mt. Rundle & Vermilion Lakes. Copyright Tim Reynolds.

This is a near mirror reflection. so there’s no leading of the eye through the use of the light, but the compositional lines of the snow-covered Mount Rundle certainly leads the eye to the full moon.

MGM Grand Las Vegas Reflection

MGM Grand, Las Vegas. Copyright Tim Reynolds.

For a mirror-like reflection, small areas of water are best. This next shot is from the Theme Park at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where the pond is much smaller than any of the lakes or the harbour in the other images.

Now, the last shot is one of my all time favourite images because of how the clouds, the light, the shadows and the colours all come together in the reflection and the reality. The only thing I would change is the use of a graduated neutral density filter.

Cokin ND Filter 120

Cokin ND Filter 120

The use of the filter would allow the sky to be a slightly darker, to match the richness of the reflection. If you look at the last three reflections, you’ll notice that the reflection is slightly darker that the source. Water acts as a natural filter for some of the light. If you want a balanced image, the graduated neutral density filter is a great tool.

Herbert Lake Reflection

Herbert Lake, Banff National Park. Copyright Tim Reynolds.

So, whether you’re capturing reflected details, the highlights and shadows or simply the colours and shapes, reflections can be some of your most stunning images. Day or night, urban or rural, keep your eyes open for reflective opportunities.Yes, even in Las Vegas.

And enjoy.



NEXT WEEK: Something to do with light and cameras and images I expect. Possibly simplicity. Yes, that sounds good. Simplicity it is.

All images here copyright Tim Reynolds, except filter image, copyright Cokin Inc.

Shooting For Success: Unique Self-Portraits

Posted in Photography How to... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by tgmreynolds

(All images and words here are Copyright Tim Reynolds.)

While it is possible to take a self-portrait without a tripod, suffice it to say that a tripod of some sort really does make it so much easier. I own about six (yes, I’m a freak), ranging from a 6″-long plastic one that will hold a small camera or video camera and can Velcro to posts and fences, all the way up to a steel Manfroto tripod which allows me to adjust the leg angles independently and reverse the center post so that the camera is under the tripod and closer to small immovable objects (endangered flowers you may not want to pick, or grave markers you can’t pick). The big one also allows me to fend of a black bear when I get too close to the cubs. Please do not stalk wildlife. They get nearly as angry as the Park Wardens.

I also have a heavy-duty Ziploc bag filled 3/4 with sand, for use on less-than-flat surfaces where a tripod just won’t work. And then there’s the monopod — a one-legged version of the tripod which gives you more stability than  hand-held combined with flexibility and speed of motion for events like football games. The monopod also allows you to sit in a seat, place the monopod between your legs and still get the support for the camera without interfering with anyone else’s view of the event.

Ibanez Blues

Front Step Ibanez Blues

Fedora Ibanez Front Step Blues

Fedora Samick Front Step Blues

Banjo Front Step Jam

Banjo Front Step Jam

To start with, I’ll show you three versions of a self-portrait I set up on the front steps of our house. Once I found a setting I liked (timeless leaves and concrete steps) and the lighting was just how I wanted it,  I brought out all of the props I was considering, including the instruments and the hats.

My camera happens to allow me to set the timer for it to take a picture at an interval so I could simply pose, count to ten, lift my head, change my hat, whatever it might be, and then hold for the next shot. These three images are the three best for the props I selected. The joy of digital photography is that you can shoot and shoot and shoot and then simply delete the crappy shots and reuse that memory for more shots. You also get immediate results so you can get much more done alone than you could with film.

I’m not a big fan of the stupid hold-the-camera-up-above-my-head-and-smile Facebook self-portraits, though I have taken one or two to make fun of the Facebook shots we see and hate.

For me, a self-portrait should show me doing something I enjoy. A self-action-portrait is one of the most difficult to do, but a self-timer or a cable release makes it all possible. Here are some of my favourites from over the years. For some of these I had to set a ten-second timer and then run like hell to get there in time.

Kodachrome State Park, Utah

Kodachrome State Park, Utah

The one in Kodachrome State Park was the toughest, although the distance isn’t nearly as great as it looks because I used a 20mm lens to capture all of the rock. I’m the little red speck on the left side of the base of the rock. It’s not just a photo of me, it shows the scale of this very cool natural oddity.

Now some of you make say “Hey, this jackass likes to take a lot of pictures of himself”, and they’d be right. I was a bachelor for 42 years and did almost all of my travelling alone. I’d get somewhere cool, see a great shot and take it. The big difference is that I’m not happy just handing the camera to some other tourist and asking them to take it, because they usually suck at photography so it’s all head and no setting or vice versa.

At Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

At Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

I don’t just want a picture, a record, I want a GOOD picture. One I can look at over and over and say “That was a cool day” or even sell it. The one of me in the red jacket at Moraine Lake is one I’ve sold for advertising. It’s also one of my all-time photos I’ve ever taken of anyone or anywhere. I had to ride my bike in a winding mountain road 11km to catch the lake when it was frozen, but not yet covered in snow. I’ve never been in great shape so I worked hard for that shot.

Good Night, Sun

Bidding the Sun Farewell

As for the other shots,

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

two of them show me travelling in Utah and the fourth shows me on stage.

At The Laugh Shop

Tim Reynolds at The Laugh Shop, Calgary.

Believe it or not, the stage shot is a self-portrait. I set the timer for a thirty-second interval and then I want up on stage to do my set, hoping that the camera would capture something I could use.  This is the least reliable method because it’s a candid self-portrait because you can’t be sure exactly when the shot will be taken so you might just get crap.

So, don’t be afraid to take your own picture but please, stop holding the damned camera over your head and snapping your forehead. Get a tripod or a sandbag and have some fun with it. Hell, even a t-shirt bunched up on a stone wall out in the Scottish highlands is better than the Facebook shot.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,


NEXT WEEK: Good light bad light.