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Whenever I see a university graduation ceremony in a movie, it is outside on a beautiful summer day.

Unfortunately, a pitch black gymnasium and hallways filled with horrible fluorescent lights are the reality when I am taking photos during the week-long convocation ceremonies at the University of Calgary every June. The moments in beautiful natural sunlight are brief.

However, along with the challenging lighting conditions there is a lot of excitement and genuine emotion to be captured. And that is what I spend my week looking for. Those great candid moments.

After years of late nights, energy drinks, research and stressful exams, the students get a chance to reflect on their hard work, to be proud and to finally collect that little white piece of paper with their name on it.


I was also lucky enough to have one of my photos featured on a billboard again :)


  1. Jorge
    June 30, 2014

    Hi Riley, great images!, I really like the variety and colors. Where these edited in darktable?, I ask because I’m still using aftershot, tried with darktable but at times it really overwhelmed by it, too many sliders and controls.

    • rileybphoto
      July 1, 2014

      Hi Jorge,

      Thanks! These photos were edited in Lightroom. There are multiple graduation ceremonies a day, so I was going through 800 – 1500 images a day. Though I use darktable at work some days, I am just not that fast enough in darktable yet to attempt using it during such a busy week.

      I agree that darktable’s user interface is overwhelming. In comparison, Aftershot Pro is simple and much easier to learn. However, now that I have been using darktable for a while, I miss all the features when I go back to Aftershot.

      Also, in case you didn’t know, the new version of Aftershot Pro is finally out (they finally have a proper 64bit version): http://preview.tinyurl.com/ashotpro

      • Jorge
        July 2, 2014

        Thanks Riley, 1500 images wow, I cant remember the last time I shoot over 500 on a single day, you really have your hands full. I saw there was a new version of aftershot and tried it for a day, but to be honest, when I first started using aftershot I found the interface less intuitive than lightroom and with this new version I found it even more over the place, I think the first one is mostly bibble with some additions and this one has more of Corel inside of it, and also the fact that have to pay for an upgrade, well, it’s been only a year since I bought mine, and when there’s a shoot where a get paid, it’s not that much. I’d have to try it again but with more calm.
        I know Darktable has so many tools, very useful tools, graduated filter, curves, watermarking, spot removal, etc etc, but every time I try to work with it with say 5 images, it really annoys me with the differences. For example the increments, couldn’t just be on 0 to 100? why using decimals, and all those sliders. I know it’s just a matter of taking some time to know the program better and to use it more, but still is difficult to digest.
        But well, back to your photos, excellent job and I’m really glad you are getting those billboards!

        • rileybphoto
          July 3, 2014

          I understand your hesitation to upgrade to Aftershot Pro 2. Once you are familiar with an application and have a functional workflow, it is hard to change. And if there aren’t any new features that you really want in the upgrade, why upgrade? If it works, it works. I’ll try out the new version soon.

          In case you don’t already know, when you are making adjustments in darktable you can right-click on the slider and either type in a number, or move your mouse left or right on the “graph” that appears. It allows for really subtle adjustments. That might help you a little.

          My biggest problems with darktable at the moment are the Base Curves and the Denoise (profiled) tools.

          darktable never applies a good base curve automatically, so I waste a lot of time making changes to the Base Curve, Tone Curve and Levels modules just to get a good exposure. In Lightroom, it just does it automatically. I rarely have to deal with it.

          And when I enable the “Denoise (profiled)” module (which does a good job of removing noise), darktbale become crippling slow. In Lightroom I rarely have to deal with noise reduction because the presets that are automatically applied are so good (and I often shoot at ISO 2000).

          Anyway, that is my rant for now. I am actually just happy that there are some great options for editing RAW photos in Linux now.