The Creative Sabbatical Winds to an End…Or Does It?

In one week, it will be one year since we finished packing our bags, squeezed Brando in the back seat and pulled out of Cochrane with our red-and-white Trillium trailer in tow. We were heading off on our Creative Sabbatical, venturing forth into unknown territory with a goal of evaluating our business, our lifestyle and our roles as creatives on this wobbly globe called Earth. So, a look back at our year wherein we try and tackle the big question that many of you might be wondering: But Did They Learn Anything?

The journey began one year ago!

The journey began one year ago!

Artists in Residence

For the first half of the year, we were stationed out of Aurum Lodge, an eco-lodge in the Canadian Rockies. We have partnered with and supported Aurum Lodge and its owners and proprietors, Alan and Madeleine Ernst, for years. We believe it is important to have hospitality-based businesses in the national and federal parks that emphasize low-impact enjoyment of nature, and this eco-lodge certainly conveys that message. We rounded out over ten years of tours and workshops at Aurum with a full slate of private mentorship and workshops last fall, meeting many keen photographers eager to refine their ability to make images from the world around them. Despite a tough summer of hot, dry, smoke-filled weather, our time spent in this natural region was, as ever, magical. The Kootenay Plains will always have a special place in both our hearts.

©Darwin Wiggett - We were on evacuation notice twice due to the forest fires in the Kootenay Plains area.

©Darwin Wiggett – We were on evacuation notice twice due to the forest fires in the Kootenay Plains area.

©Darwin Wiggett - The Kootenay Plains is an area we love and have introduced many photographers to - we hope you love it as much as us!

The Kootenay Plains is an area we love and have introduced many photographers to – we hope you love it as much as us!

Brando Goes to His Happy Hunting Grounds

As many of you who follow oopoomoo adventures know, our beloved companion, film star and chowhound Brando passed away last August at Aurum Lodge. Many people ask us if we are planning on getting a new dog, but we feel that there is not room yet in our hearts for a new friend. Brando was not replaceable. Maybe in the future a furry friend will pick us, but for right now, we think about him often. He must have touched the hearts of others, especially in the instructional videos he starred in on our YouTube channel, because when we played the Lens Choice video during this past April’s Toronto photo workshop, Brando received a spontaneous round of applause at the end of it. He was a special dude. Read our tribute here (with Darwin’s original music – but turn up your speakers because the recording is low volume) for lessons in how to be your own dog.

Brando was his own dog.

Brando was his own dog.

Penguins and Polar Landings

Next up – the bottom of the Earth! We traveled to Antarctica on a photo symposium expedition and visited the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and spent a brief time on Antarctica. One of the perks of being photography instructors is that sometimes you get to travel to exciting destinations to teach others photography – something we wouldn’t be able to afford ourselves. The south pole does everything large – instead of a handful of penguins, let’s have thousands! Grass grows on South Georgia in giant clumps creating weird mazes that are hard to navigate. On the continent itself, craggy mountains crowd a skimpy, fur seal-coated beach making landings a challenge. Building-sized icebergs sail serenely past. Antarctica is an incredibly fragile place, protected for most of human history by its inaccessibility. That has now changed, and the region now features on many photographers’ bucket lists. Here on oopoomoo, we strive to teach ethical photography. So please, if you find yourself somewhere beautiful, either Antarctica or a small urban park, join us and set the level of care high for our vulnerable and shrinking natural areas.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

penguins in Antarctica

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Adventures in House Sitting

The final leg of our journey has found us house sitting in various homes across Alberta. A sort of ‘try it on for size’, our house sitting has allowed us to discover new communities and ponder the question of what makes a great community, and how do you build one? We did learn a couple of valuable lessons, including ‘more’ is not better, and always turn off the power when testing a shock collar (newsletter subscribers will know what we’re talking about here). During this time, we also embarked across Canada teaching multiple workshops to eager learners in, among other places, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. The support and positive feedback from participants from these events had been almost overwhelming and definitely very gratifying! We are happy that so many of believe in yourself and your creativity.

©Darwin Wiggett - House sitting in Turner Valley, Bragg Creek and Calgary gave us lots of opportunities to explore communities.

©Darwin Wiggett – House sitting in Turner Valley, Bragg Creek and Calgary gave us lots of opportunities to explore communities.

And Now…What?

Some of you have noticed that we don’t have any workshops lined up for the fall or winter. Or spring, for that matter. Some of you have made requests for special workshops which we have turned down. This is very strange behaviour for a photo education-based business like oopoomoo. The truth is, our Creative Sabbatical was an incredible success in so many ways. We made new friends. We ended toxic relationships. We refined our business focus and our priorities. We inspired photographers to be true to their own creative vision. We sold a slate of highly successful workshops and increased our eBook sales. We traveled Canada from British Columbia to Quebec and to the bottom of the world. In short, business is booming.

The truth is, the Creative Sabbatical was a success in all ways but two: it wasn’t creative for us, which means it wasn’t a sabbatical. We worked our cans off. We aren’t complaining! But in twelve months, we delivered over 18 events – a record, even for us. We moved house and office 9 times with one more to go. There was no time for us to pursue our own creative projects and once again another year passed in which we did not do what so many of you do which is invest in your own creative development. So the truth is, we are easing up on the oopoomoo workshop gas pedal and pressing down on the oopoomoo creative publisher pedal. We hope to publish some more of our own photography projects – maybe some new eBooks! – and to continue a dialogue with all of you about what makes your creative life fulfilled. The discussion is hopping on the oopoomoo facebook group where we’d be happy for you to join in, and of course we will continue to publish thoughtful and (hopefully) artful work here on oopoomoo central.

So onwards and upwards to all good things oopoomoo!

©Darwin Wiggett - Sam doing a little creative photography!

We are very serious during photo workshops, as you can tell!

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. Fran Gallogly
    June 24, 2015

    So glad you had a successful year but sorry it did not leave you time to focus on your own creative projects.

    Once again I’d like to invite you to come to Florida and enjoy a real change of scene to something tropical. Great landscapes, birds and flowers and even people shots. After renting for many years, Vin and I purchased in a modest little condo in Ft. Pierce (east coast near Vero Beach). It’s in a senior community and about 15 min. from the shore. There is a lot of interest down there photographically. We’re in a very diverse community ethnically and economically and fishing is a major interest to many. Some do it for sport and others so they can have dinner. We’re not terribly far from the Everglades, the Keys and the National Wildlife Preserve near the Kennedy Space Center. Wonderful parks, even some sports photography opportunities. One can cross to the West Coast for the Ding Darling preserve, Corkscrew Swamp and other birding venues. In fact, we are an hour away from one of the best birding venues in Florida, the Viera Wetlands.

    We have a guest room with its own bath. We’re there from Dec. through mid-April. Not fancy but comfy. Happy to have guests.

    • Darwin Wiggett
      June 25, 2015

      Fran, you have made us this awesome offer for a few years now and our busy schedule kept us from taking you up on it… but maybe this winter (no workshops scheduled) will be different!

  2. Drake Dyck
    June 24, 2015

    I’ve enjoyed following your adventures over the last year while you were on your “Creative Sabbatical”, and am not surprised that you didn’t get enough time for your won projects with the hectic schedule you had. I am also looking forward to seeing what kind of eBooks your creative minds will come up with next.

    Maybe once you’ve recovered from your Creative Sabbatical, and visited Fran in Florida 😉 you will find yourselves looking for another adventure. If you do, Vancouver Island has so many great opportunities for a photographer and such a laid back atmosphere, you couldn’t go wrong coming here. And I know a certain little photo club that would love to have the opportunity to meet the Oopoomoo gang (as would Henrietta, I’m sure)!

    And you are right about not being able to replace Brando. When we lost our little guy several years ago we knew he could never be replaced, but when we started to look for a new companion about a year later and thought we were looking for a puppy, we were surprised when our hearts were stolen by a two year old. She’s not a replacement in any way, but she is a special part of the family. I’m sure when the time is right, you will find or be found by, the right special four legged friend.

    • Darwin Wiggett
      June 25, 2015

      Hi Drake, thanks so much for the invite… be careful what you ask for 😉 And thanks for understanding about the loss of a loved pet… they are all individuals and are never replaced.

  3. Alan and Madeleine Ernst
    June 25, 2015

    Hey Darwin and Sam,
    Great to work with you two over the years and hope to see you once in a while in our neck of the woods. In the mean time, the three of us wish you success in your future endeavours and that you will find what you are looking for without having to work so hard; if you figure that one out, let us know how it’s done :). Could use a few pointers in that field…

  4. Connie Quinton
    July 31, 2015

    Darwin and Sam, It is great to hear you had a successful year. I loved following your adventures and admire that you stepped out of the routine of life to do that. I too run my own business and know what it is like to find the time to go out be be creative yourselves. You have been very inspiring and encouraging. I do hope that you take the time to work on your own creativity this year. I hope to check out the Aurum Lodge and surrounding area with my hubby. I want to thank you for all that you are doing. Love the e books and look forward to seeing more.


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