Worth a Thousand Words: Issue #025


May 16, 2012


This month, we have another inspiring article from guest writer Barbara Bender on water photography. Enjoy her stunning images and helpful tips. Also, enjoy a fellow reader’s tip on a handy DIY flash photography accessory. Consider setting yourself a personal photographic project. All this and much more – read on!

What’s New this Month at Ultimate Photo Tips

Water Photography

I absolutely love taking photographs of water — any and all water, from the kitchen tap to the ocean. I find it fascinating how it can change from moment to moment to produce beautiful and unexpected forms. That’s why I was delighted when Barbara Bender, photographer extraordinaire, decided to contribute an article on the topic. I hope you enjoy her inspiring images, and her helpful how-to tips.

© Barbara Bender
© Barbara Bender

“Water. It has no colour. It’s transparent. It’s common. Doesn’t sound too promising as a photographic subject, does it? Yet in spite of these seemingly uninspiring characteristics, water photography can provide you with endless possibilities in countless situations for making interesting images.”


Live in Toronto and Ottawa, Canada!

Do you live in the Toronto, or Ottawa areas? If so, I invite you to hear me live and in person! In a Friday evening presentation that’s open to all, I’m super-excited to be speaking about creativity! On the Saturday or Sunday (repeats), I’ll be conducting more in-depth field workshops for those of you who want to practice what you’ve learned.

Toronto: June 1 (presentation, June 2, 3 (workshops)
Ottawa: June 15 (presentation), June 16-17 (workshops)

Find out more and get your tickets here:


Your Thoughts

Since I’ve been eating, breathing, and dreaming creativity these last few weeks, in preparation for upcoming talks and an eBook, I used last month’s poll to ask how you feel. Are you creative? Wow! I was thrilled to see that the vast majority of you feel that you are creative. 33% of you said you are very creative, and another 47% said you feel somewhat creative. Only 14% of you said you’re not very creative, and 6% said you’re not creative at all. To that last 20% of you, I do firmly believe that we all have creative potential, and that creativity is something that can be learned through training and practice. Hold on for my eBook on the topic!!

This month, I’d like to find out who uses their camera’s histogram. It’s a great tool to help you get your exposure right. I check mine all the time so that I can adjust my settings on the fly. No more waiting until the film comes back to see if you nailed it! Cast your vote in this month’s poll, and let me know! The poll is in the right-hand nav bar of the website:

Want to learn more about histograms, what they do, and how to understand and use them? Check out our histogram articles, starting with:

Photo Challenges

The topic for April’s challenge was “Vanishing Points.” It presented a bit of a challenge to find images that contained a vanishing point within the frame — a point where parallel lines appear to intersect as they recede into the distance. Thanks to everyone for participating! I was really delighted to find people shooting specifically for the challenge, rather than digging through their archives. That’s the idea! I hope you enjoy this month’s winning image from Wendy Reeve in NZ — taken with a point-and-shoot no less! Another reminder that it’s not about the gear…

The topic for May’s challenge is “bridges,” and was submitted on our Facebook page after I reached out for help in dreaming up new topics. Thanks to Sam Cox for submitting a record number of ideas! Let’s see those bridges from above, underneath, or from the side! Enter your photo here:


Creativity Exercise

Personal Projects


Today marks a huge milestone for me. It is the last day of my 365 project (which turned into a 366 project because it’s a leap year)! This project has been the single best thing I’ve ever done for my photography. Taking a photograph every day has pushed my limits, made me see more creatively, and made me feel at times curious, frustrated, satisfied, exhausted, exhilarated, and happy. I highly recommend the experience. I guarantee you will grow as a result. Here’s a link to my project, with one photo left to post:

I know that not everyone has the time and energy to invest in a 365 project. If you don’t, consider scaling back to something more manageable. Try a 52 project, taking one photo a week. That’s what I may do next!

Whether or not you combine it with a 365 or 52 project, setting a theme for your project is another great way to push yourself. A couple of months ago, I talked about my parking lot project, where I have been looking for beauty in the unlikely setting of parking lots. There are many other themes you could explore. Restrict yourself to one place, or one color, or one subject, and see what happens. As you explore your theme, you will exhaust the conventional approaches to photographing it, and that’s when you find yourself venturing into new, creative territory!

I took this photo below, of a melting ice cube, after being inspired by Barbara Bender’s article. Why not try “water” as your theme?

© Julie Waterhouse
© Julie Waterhouse

I know I harp on this a lot :), but I really think that setting yourself a personal photographic project is the BEST way to improve your photography.

Feel free to share your experience and your images on our Facebook page:


Tip of the Month: Something Every Photographer Needs to Know

DIY Flash Bounce Cards and Diffusers

One of our readers wrote to me last month to share a tip he learned while at a “Camera Flash Basics” seminar by Jason Gennings. You can use a piece of cardboard milk carton as a flash bounce card. The inner surface is white and slightly shiny, and reflects light well. Try attaching a piece to your camera’s flash with Velcro. The attachment is lightweight, compact, stores flat, and is very inexpensive!


By the way, another thing you can use to bounce flash, if there’s nothing else available, is the palm of your hand. That’s even more portable, and works surprisingly well. Just hold your hand where you would hold a flash bounce card, i.e., point the flash up, and cup your hand around it. You even get a little warming effect because of the color of your skin.

Can’t afford a Gary Fong diffuser? Try this!

You can use a translucent plastic milk bottle as an alternative. Using scissors or a knife, cut off the top around the mouth of the bottle, just wide enough to fit your flash in. To make the unit a little smaller, you can also cut the middle section out of the bottle, and reattach the ends together with clear packing tape. It works like a charm!


Cool Link of the Month

TED Talk with Erik Johansson

Erik creates fantastic (in the true sense of the word!) photographs that couldn’t exist in reality, yet he carefully maintains photo-realism so they look believable. He lets us in behind the scenes to show how he creates his amazing illusions. Check out his work and explanations in this short (6 minute) TED Talk:


Happy shooting from Ultimate Photo Tips!