Nov 152012
The RCMP Musical Ride

The RCMP Musical Ride from the 2012 Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Prints available – click on photo to order!

I’d have to look it up in the rule books, but it’s potentially sacrilegious to visit Canada and NOT photograph the world-renowned Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  Keeping this in mind as I prepared for my July 2012 visit to Alberta in support of the first Through Each Others Eyes Arizona-Alberta exchange, I naturally put photographing a Mountie in a flashy “Red Serge” uniform towards to the top of my shot list.

But it wasn’t just a portrait of these fine servicemen and women I was seeking.  No, no, the photograph needed to tell an intriguing story about the RCMP.  But what did that mean?  Hmmmm….

After some pre-trip research, different ideas danced in my head until we arrived at the Calgary Stampede Stadium in July 2012.  There, I had the honor of seeing my first RCMP Musical Ride during the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, thanks to the efforts of our hosts and fellow photographers Peter Carroll, Royce Howland, and Kerry Smith.

To open this historic rodeo, thirty-plus RCMP members – each riding an elegant horse  – flawlessly moved through an artistically choreographed series of formations and traditional movements within the dirt arena.  With obviously much precision, skill, and teamwork, the galloping horses and straight-backed riders holding stately flags somehow didn’t get tangled!

As I clicked away with fast shutter speeds during the event, I couldn’t help but feel all my frames were too static.  And there was absolutely nothing static about what I was experiencing!

Hastily, I visualized a new approach, one that would allow me to record the impressive formations but yet include a distinct sense of motion.  Within seconds, I set my ISO to its slowest setting (ISO 50), spun my aperture dial to its smallest (f/36), and added a polarizing filter to the front of my 100-400mm lens to slow my shutter speed down as much as possible in the mid-day light.  The result was 1/10th of a second, which in my opinion seemed a little too fast to capture the sense of movement I desired for the scene.

I tried holding the camera still during the slower exposure while allowing the riders to create red streaks and patterns.  Didn’t like it.  I tried panning – a technique where you move the camera from left to right (or vice versa) – to help freeze the riders while blurring the background.  Didn’t like it.  I was quickly running out of tricks…and time!

Then, towards the end of the performance, the troop gathered into the “Dome” formation, where all the riders form a circle and then lower their flags into the center.  Keeping my settings the same, I focused on a single rider in the front with my lens zoomed all the way out, then physically pulled the lens back during the 1/10th of second exposure (referred to as a “zoom pull” or “lens pull.”  You can also recreate this effect in Adobe Photoshop under Filter/Blur/Radial Blur).

Luckily, the combination of the slow shutter speed and zoom pull technique allowed me to capture more energy AND enough structure to provide much-needed context in this more abstract view of the RCMP Musical Ride.  Though my visualizations evolved over time, I felt this perspective successfully told an intriguing story about the RCMP Musical Ride and decided to include this photograph as one of my 20 selected prints to display during the recent Through Each Others Eyes Exhibition at the Art Intersection Gallery in Gilbert, Arizona. (Exhibitions in Alberta, Canada coming your way in early 2013 – stay tuned for more details!)

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 100-400mm lens at 285mm zoom-pulled, f/36 @ 1/10th of a second, polarizer, basic post-processing.

Nov 022012

Visit our new website Galleries at to see this image and over 650 different images available as prints to help Emily and Emmy’s Army!

On May 17, 2012, life for my friend Emily changed forever.  This lively third-grader underwent emergency surgery to remove what turned out to be a malignant brain tumor (known formally as a medulloblastoma:  Since then, Emily has bravely endured intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments to her brain and spine.

Though her mother, Tammy, and I used to sit next to each other at Intel in Arizona (I remember when Emily was born!), we both left Intel, and she and her family moved to Virginia a number of years ago.  I’ve watched Emily’s journey from afar with heartbreak initially, but now with much happiness and hope as I see how her family, her team of doctors, and her community have rallied around her.

I want Emily to know, though, that there are people here in Arizona and across the country rooting for her too!

So in honor of Emily, from now until November 30, 2012, 100% of the profit from any print you purchase from me/CMS Photography will be donated to Emmy’s Army, a fund recently created to help cover Emily’s treatment and expenses.  (Medical insurance covers much – but not all – of what Emily and her family must do to help her fight.)

That’s right, 100% of the profit.  Not some of it.  ALL OF IT.

To help support Emmy’s Army, please visit our new website Galleries at  By clicking the “Add to Cart” button for any photo, your purchase in any size or format will directly benefit Emily.   If you’ve ever thought of buying a photographic print from us – the holidays are coming up quickly! – please consider doing it RIGHT NOW to help her stay strong in her fight against childhood cancer!

Let’s show Emily we’re cheering for her in her road to recovery!  And thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(P.S.  If you don’t wish to buy a print, but would like to still help, please visit the Emmy’s Army fundraising campaign at make a donation.)