Featured Photography Workshop – Buicks, Badlands and Old Buildings

From time to time, we receive inquires about what is included in our instructional photography workshops and what a participant can hope to achieve by attending. Actually, I made that up. Hardly anyone asks us those questions (see here for why). But since each workshop is different, we have started this new series to go into a little more depth about a particular oopoomoo workshop. If you’ve been considering one of our current workshop offerings, here is a little more information that should help you make your decision.

Not all workshops are created equally. Choose wisely.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Get on the bus for our prairie photo workshop

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Get on the bus for our prairie photo workshop.

Preliminaries (Again)

So, if you didn’t click that link we provided in the first paragraph, may we gently suggest you take the time to do so now. oopoomoo photography workshops aren’t the usual run-of-the-mill, ‘everyone line up and shoot’ event; our focus is on you and your learning. We also throw in some helpful criteria to evaluate any workshop. Past participants have told us that oopoomoo workshops are special. Read this article first to discover why.

Getting Bad in the Badlands

Whether something is worth visiting depends not on where it is, but your interests and goals in heading there in the first place. Yes, we are about to make the argument that the Alberta prairie is just as exotic and extreme a place as the Amazon (and interestingly, just as endangered from climate change). Just think: if you were so unfortunate as to have lived your entire photographic life in the tropics, caressed by warm breezes and drinking coconut milk all day, well, things would be pretty boring!

Ok, maybe that’s a stretch. We could all enjoy more coconut.

But what the jungle doesn’t have is that herby, sweet, clean, crisp prairie spirit. You haven’t really felt insignificant until you’ve looked to the horizon and seen nothing but a strip of rippling grass bending under a sky at once benevolent and maleficent. Everything under that sky gets stripped to its basic compositional elements of bone, wire, steel. Under a sky like this, a photographer finds out what he or she is made of.


©Darwin Wiggett - Oh those Prairie skies!

©Darwin Wiggett – Oh those Prairie skies!

©Samantha Chrysanthou - did we mention the skies?

©Samantha Chrysanthou – did we mention the skies?

So if it’s location you’re after, this is it. As Darwin frequently puts in his blog posts (and Sam frequently edits out) it just doesn’t get any better than this! In this case, we both agree. The prairie is the bomb. During this workshop, we dream the nights away in a family-owned, treasured, historical mansion. We journey to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park to photograph the sun cresting (or descending) the lip of a cliff so sudden and unexpected it was used as a tool to trap stampeding bison to their deaths so that First Nations tribes could survive the harsh winter to come. (Did we mention this workshop is in August during some of the prairies’ most clear, beautiful skies, and NOT during the stark, harsh winter? Jus’ sayin’.)

©Darwin Wiggett - Dry Island Buffalo Jump overview

©Darwin Wiggett – Dry Island Buffalo Jump overview.

Buckin’ Buicks

Sure, you can find an old car or two, hulking in the grass near a back road somewhere. But have you ever approached the property owner for permission to photograph said vehicle? Can be scary. Rest assured you are welcome at this junkyard delight! Wander at will for a few hours in the autowrecker’s boneyard (just avoid the crushing machine).

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Old and new and everything in between at the auto wrecker's yard.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Old and new and everything in between at the auto wrecker’s yard.

Old Buildings (Not Just any Old Stuff)

Along with staying in an historic (and possibly haunted by a friendly ghost??!) mansion, we are also situated on the grounds of the old Trochu townsite complete with a handful of preserved buildings (including a hospital and school – not haunted to our knowledge). Explore these during your downtime, but save energy for our trip to an historic town east of Trochu to lightpaint the train station and character buildings of this unique gem of a town! Bring your flashlight to experiment with light painting these period structures.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - We'll explore priaire towns at dusk with flash lights!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – We’ll explore prairie towns at dusk with flash lights!

Meet Your Fellow Participants!

This all sounds pretty good so far, but a key benefit to oopoomoo workshops is the learning opportunity available to participants from each other. With such a small group and two photo instructors, you get the benefits of private mentorship with the bonus of feedback from your fellow shooters. No two photographers see and experience the same location in the same way. How do you quantify the value of your peers’ feedback during the workshop? We don’t know, but we have heard time and again how helpful it was to see another photographer’s interpretation of the same place. With such an intimate group, you won’t have shooters in your way but you’ll still have new friends to be able to share your work for constructive feedback and creative inspiration.

©Darwin Wiggett - Photographer Wayne Simpson contemplates the warm light of the prairie.

©Darwin Wiggett – Photographer Wayne Simpson contemplates the warm light of the prairie.

oopoomoo Workshops – Join the Crew!

If we haven’t covered your concerns in this post or on our description of the workshop, feel free to email us at info@oopoomoo.com. Or scout past participants’ work in our facebook group, oopoomoo Photography Workshops, (it’s an open group; send your request to join).

And now, to whet your appetite…the awesome work of some of our past past participants!

Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

©Dale Sorensen

Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

©Ian McGillvrey

Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

©Dave Williamson

John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari


About the Author

Photographing the incredible beauty of natural things, filming quirky videos, trying new foods with unpronounceable names, curling up with a good book, sharing ideas on how to live lighter on the Earth...these are a few of my favourite things!

1 Comment

  1. Dave Williamson
    July 8, 2014

    I attended the workshop last year. It was fantastic. The variety of locations, critique sessions, food, accomodations, fellowship and instruction were all great.
    Darwin and Sam are entertaining and provide expert advice and support.
    I’m not saying all these nice things just because they have shown a couple of my images from the workshop. It really was an inspiring workshop and I picked up many new techniques that have made photography more exciting for me. The light painted buildings was a result of what I had learned that day.

    Thanks for the effort you put into the workshop!


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