Beyond the Handshake

Written and Photographed by Darren Creighton
I first started shooting with my father’s film camera around my home in Niagara in the 90’s. Most photographers probably all start by shooting subjects that are close to home. As I progressed further into the hobby, I was hungry for new things to shoot and started to think that I had to travel the world to exotic locations to make interesting photographs. But, that’s simply not true. I have traveled to interesting photo locations and shot thousands of images on various trips and one thing remains true: I realized that you don’t “take” a picture, you make it. The important part being “you make”.
I found that when I am truly engaged with my subject, thinking on a creative level, and following my own visual instincts, that there are plenty of subjects here in my own backyard of Niagara, that same subject matter that was there for me when I started photography. I needed to seek out this local stuff and explore it more in depth, go beyond the handshake. I needed to take away the layers of typical shots to arrive at something new. Something that I feel has some of me in it.
So I recently gave myself a challenge to shoot some images of Niagara-On-The-Lake. I had taken photos here a long time ago, but looking back at them, they all have a tourist kind of feel to them. I have grown a lot as a photographer since then, devoting a lot more time to honing my craft and really enjoying the images I create. So with this in mind I spent some time shooting in town and came up with some images that made me happy.
Remember, it’s not just the subject matter or the right equipment but what you as the photographer do with them that make great images.
Peach Festival    –    32mm, ISO-100, F16, 33 sec.
I woke up early and went to Niagara-On-The-Lake to capture the downtown street in the morning light, though more importantly, with less people & vehicles. Much to my dismay when I arrived that day I realized that it was the Peach Festival. The road was closed off and full of people. I immediately thought of something I have wanted to try for a while. Long exposure photography can be done with the use of a neutral density filter and a tripod so you can slow down the shutter speed at anytime of the day, even in broad sunlight. The most popular use of this technique is with running water or waterfalls. I am always open to other moving subjects that can benefit from a long exposure. The possibilities are endless. Like a river flowing down a stream, the people at the Niagara-On-The-Lake Peach Festival flowed down the street and made for a very interesting image. The fun part was watching people’s faces as they passed me standing in the moving crowd with my camera and tripod.

Beyond1scene: Old Fort Niagara
details: 35mm, ISO-100, F8, 1/125 sec.

 It has been said that one of the best pieces of photo gear is an alarm clock. Certainly true if you want to take advantage of the golden hour around dawn. This shot of Old Fort Niagara was made just before the sun breaks the horizon in the few minutes that the light sometimes reaches the underside of morning clouds. I love the light in the two windows of the fort, It kind of gives a spooky feel.

Beyond3scene: Queens Royal Park Shoreline
details: 70mm, ISO-100, F16, 1/25 sec.

Minutes after I made the image of Old Fort Niagara the sun came over the horizon and lit up the shoreline brilliantly. A vertical composition with a leading line drawing your eye in to the frame. With the distant shoreline and the detail of clouds that give your eye somewhere to land.

scene: Dream in the Park
details: 24mm, ISO-100, F4, 30 sec.

Another very popular form of shooting these days is Infrared Photography. Using a filter on the end of your lens (or a converted camera) you can limit the light coming into your camera to infrared light only. This can give you soft dreamy ethereal images unlike anything else. This image was taken just after sunrise with an R72 IR filter and tripod. Compositionally I really like having the main subject offset giving room in the frame for the subject to sit. To complete the look I converted to black & white and sepia toned.

scene: Tractor & Trees 
details: 40mm, ISO-100, F22, 25 sec.

Another  long exposure image, but in this case there was no neutral density filter used. I simply waited until the sun was going down which gave a soft low light. It was then easy to achieve slow enough shutter speed to let the wind blow the trees into a soft paintbrush look. What is particularly interesting for me with long exposures is the contrasting softness of things in motion versus the sharpness of things that are static in the same frame. It can give images an artistic look.

scene: Fort Wall
details: 52mm, ISO-400, F8, 1/200 sec.

I was drawn to this section of wall at Fort George because of its graphic nature. It makes for a nice flat composition (no depth). You have the wall, the structure behind it and this nice little bush growing. Arranged like this in the composition they have balance. The original image has an uninteresting bald sky so I composited another image in Photoshop to give it the feel that I was looking for.

scene: Picnic tables
details: 38mm, ISO-100, F16, 1/8 sec.

Repeating patterns or rhythms can always make for an interesting photograph. They don’t have to be obvious, but can be more abstract like the repeating trees and picnic tables in this park. The way this pattern runs diagonally in the frame draws the eye to the back of the image giving it depth.

scene: Grill Lines
details: 18mm, ISO-400, F8, 1/400 sec.

When I saw this old truck and started making images of it I asked myself what drew me here? What was it that made me pull over the car to photograph? It was the lines and texture. As a lover of black and white imagery, when I see strong lines and strong texture together I can’t help myself, I must photograph it. Sometimes that means getting up close and making things a little abstract to emphasize those aspects. Remember as a photographer it is your job to make the viewer see what you see instead of getting lost in the whole scene as it was first presented to you.

Improvement in my photography the last few years is a result of pushing myself to shoot more and more. Part of that push has come from being a member of the Welland Camera Club. I’ve been a member for the past 10 years, serving in various positions and currently hold the position of President. Being a part of a camera club provides me with opportunities to share and learn with fellow photographers through workshops, field trips, critiques etc. For me the most rewarding part is being inspired and pushed by fellow photographers to be the best I can be. When you join, you get to know the other members, build relationships, and find inspiration from them, and that means more than just looking at images from random people online. It’s that little extra push that can take your hobby to the next level.
For details on the Welland Camera Club visit:
To check out more of Darren’s photography, visit

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