18 July

Atmospheric Haze: A Landscape Photographer’s Dream or Nightmare?

This article was first published in Outdoor Photography Canada magazine over one year ago. To keep up with the freshest content from top Canadian nature photographers we highly recommend subscribing.

The view from Bald Butte during a hazy sunset (Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Centre Block, Saskatchewan)

Nature photographers like their landscapes pristine; generally, we don’t want to see any ‘hand of man’ in our pictures but rather we want to present nature in her purest and finest form. So we venture forth in hopes of recording clean and crisp mountain, desert, and forest landscapes. When nature photographers encounter atmospheric haze it dampens their enthusiasm for making pictures like chores ruin the day of a kid on summer holidays. We know of many photographers who have cancelled trips to areas like the Canadian Rockies when they heard that forest fires have obscured the clear alpine skies. It’s a shame that our preconceptions of what’s good and what’s bad colours what and how we take photos. Atmospheric haze can offer up unique opportunities for stunning photography if we’re open to seeing beyond our expectations.

The low tonal contrast and scattered light of atmospheric haze kills colours so why not work with this condition and make B+W images that emphasizes the subtle gradations in tone in the scene (Lower Waterfowl Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta).

 

Forest fire haze creates scattered particulate matter that helps add drama to the sky (Upper Brazeau River Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta).

Atmospheric haze results when smoke, dust and other dry particles accumulate in relatively dry air. Most of the time we blame human activity on atmospheric haze and consider it un-natural. For example, in the fall, activities from the harvest of cereal crops stirs up dust and particulates that results in hazy conditions. Fires burning, dust from gravel roads and particulate pollution from industry also creates atmospheric haze. But atmospheric haze has been around longer than humans. Lightning strikes burn vast tracts of forest, volcanoes spew out tonnes of particulate matter, wind storms churn up dust from dunes… the list goes on. So rather than fight or avoid haze, embrace it! Haze is a natural part of nature.

Atmospheric haze, in this case caused by a forest fire started by a lightning strike, looks blue because short blue wavelengths of light are bounced off of particulate matter in the air to be recorded by our eyes and cameras. To retain the blue cast be sure to keep your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or ‘sunny’.

 

When haze kills colours turn to monochrome.

Atmospheric haze does several interesting things that can be used by the creative photographer. First, it reduces contrast in the scene due to the scattering of light by the particulate matter. These low contrast scenes look moody, ethereal and even painterly. Second, haze selectively scatters light waves with shorter wavelengths, like blue, being scattered more than red wavelengths. This is why haze and smoke look blue – the blue wavelengths bounce off and are recorded by our eyes (and cameras). Red wavelengths tend to pierce through the particulate matter and so in backlit situations we see warm colours coming through the haze. Anyone who has seen the sun through thick smoke knows the sun appears as a reddish ball even at mid-day because only the red wavelengths of light are passing through the smoke. As photographers, we can use this natural filtering effect of light bouncing off of or moving through haze to add further mood to our photographs. Indeed, atmospheric haze creates incredible mood and ambience. Just ask anyone who has travelled to India or China whether haze has added to the mood of their travel photos. You’ll get a resounding yes!

Mid-day sun becomes an orange fireball when filtered through thick smoke.

Winter winds churn up blowing snow, ice and dust causing hazy conditions in the distance (Abraham Lake, Alberta)

And so, when it’s hazy, don’t give up. Your expectations of clear, crisp, and contrasty nature scenes has evaporated. Advanced shooters see the potential in the murky skies. Look for scenes where the blue, low contrast light works with the subject to give a dream-like mood. Or, find situations where the glowing warm backlight creates an ethereal glow. Some of my favorite images have been created when nature (or human activity) created atmospheric haze and I was open to possibilities beyond my expectations. Rather than the haze being a nightmare that destroyed my nature outing, it became a dream that allowed me to create memorable images. Happy hazy shooting!

Dust from a gravel road creates beams of light when back lit by the sun (Water Valley, Alberta)

Hazy days help add mood and atmosphere to scenes we would normally pass by (river path in Cochrane, Alberta).

13 June

Best of the League Award – Freeman Patterson

As many of you know, Samantha and I started League magazine and the League of Landscape Photographers as an outlet for photographic creativity with a conscience. League members photograph the world around them in accordance with high ethical standards and they make imagery with purpose, meaning and integrity. League photographs engage, question and challenge the viewer. League and the League of Landscape Photographers seek to raise landscape photography to a personal expressive art that comments on the world around us.

Samantha and I always acknowledge and reward those in the photographic community who are doing exceptional work and who inspire and teach others to do the same. We can think of no other photographer in Canada (or the world, for that matter) who has done so much to raise landscape and nature photography to an art form and to encourage photographers to express their creative vision than Freeman Patterson. Many of you will know Freeman and will have been influenced, inspired and moved by his work. Freeman’s influence weaves through both Sam and my work and our teachings. Indeed, we think that subconsciously Freeman’s influence germinated the seed which became League. So who better to honour with the inaugural Best of the League Award than Freeman Patterson?

For those photographers not familiar with Freeman’s work, we highly recommend you head to your nearest library or book store and pick up at least one of his many books on photography, creativity and seeing. Our three personal favorites and a must read for all expressive photographers are Photography and the Art of Seeing, Photographing the World Around You – A Visual Design Workshop and Embracing Creation. We also highly recommend any of his life-altering (no exaggeration) workshops – anyone who has been on a Freeman workshop will talk and talk and talk your ear off about how amazing it was!

Talking creative expression is all the rage in photography right now especially in the wake of all the fascination with the gear of digital capture. But Freeman laid the foundation long ago by teaching photographers to embrace their creative self. So much of what is in vogue today by those teaching ‘creative vision’ is based directly or indirectly on Freeman’s early teachings. Thanks to Freeman we can all finally move away from gear and technique into what truly matters, create self-awareness and develop personal expression.

For all of Freeman’s influence, his respect for people and the environment, his tireless sharing and mentoring of photographers, and for his lifetime body of artful, thoughtful images, we are honoured to award Freeman the Best of the League Award! We are thrilled that Freeman shared with us a moving story and portfolio of images that will be published in League this September. Subscriptions to League end June 30 so if you want this collectible magazine on your book shelf subscribe now!

 

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3 June

oopoomoo May Photo Challenge Results – Juxtaposition

For May 2017, we challenged oopoomoo Creatives to photograph and interpret the theme of Juxtaposition. Below are some of our favourite entries. Our photo challenge for June will be released in the next oopoomoo newsletter (sign-up here and get our Born Creative eBook for free!).

©Tracy Riddle

©Pam Jenks

©Michael Greenlaw

©Mandeep Bal

©Kristof Lauwers

©Keith Walker

©Keith Walker

©Kathy Stinson

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Braud

©Janice Braud

©Jan Clark Lyall

©Henrik Fessler

©Connie Quinton

©Christian Van Schepen

©Christian Van Schepen

©Bernice MacDonald

©Alan Garner

17 May

Spring and Summer Mentorships for Creative Photography

Here at oopoomoo HQ we enjoy helping people become better photographers (e.g. hone their craft) but what truly gets us excited and what we LOVE to do is help photographers become artists. We are all creatures born to create, and in photography the image is the conduit for personal expression. Channeling your vision through that conduit is easy if you know how to use your tools (the technical part of photography) AND if you are in touch with yourself, honour who you are and know what you have to say (the visionary part of photography). To help with both these aspects of photography, we are offering small group mentorships this summer designed to immerse you in the technical craft and artful expression of photography. Where will your personal vision take you?

Mastering the Creative Potential of the Tilt Shift Lens – June 18, 2017

For us, no other other tool in the camera bag offers as many technical and creative advantages as the tilt-shift lens. With a tilt-shift lens you can correct keystoning in-camera, make seamless horizontal and vertical panoramas, create giant, megapixel monster images, alter the plane of focus for incredible apparent sharpness independent of aperture, and manufacture dreamy, blurred and miniaturized-looking images.  And, best of all, every one of these techniques is created in-camera with nary a pixel altered by less capable software substitutes! The possibilities are almost endless. In the hands of an artist, a tilt-shift lens is a superhero paintbrush! To create art you still must master the brush, but once you do, your creativity will be unleashed and your photography will never be the usual ho-hum. This three-hour hands-on workshop will have you the master of the Tilt Shift lens so that you can use its potential to express your creative vision!

7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project

The Mentored Photo Project is a week of intense self-discovery through photography. With the guidance of us, your mentors, Sam and Darwin, you will conceive of, plan and execute a small photography project. A mentored photo project engages many different creative skills and is a rewarding way to transform your ideas into a guided, published reality. Several of our past mentored students have gone on to expand their projects in a way that has positively influenced their development as creative artists. Limited dates available! Register before May 31 and save 40%!

The Power of Composition and Light – May 27, 2017

This full day seminar in Medicine Hat, Alberta covers The Language of Light in Landscape Photography, Harnessing the Power of Tone for Compelling Images, Working Advanced Compositional Patterns in the Landscape, and Putting it all Together: Creative Landscape Imagery. We have a special announcement regarding this seminar…we’ve opened up a special offering of our popular online course,  Resolve: Discover your Creative Self for seminar attendees! We’re also pricing this informative and insightful course at $95 (regular price $150) to encourage everyone to participate in this unique course! See you at the seminar!

 

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3 May

oopoomoo March Photo Challenge – Emergence from Henrik Fessler

In our last blog post we showcased images on the theme Emergence (#emergence) submitted though our oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group. In this post we want to highlight an image we received via email from Henrik Fessler. We love the photo and wanted to share it here on the blog. Henrik says of the image:

Every spring I feel the urge not to miss out the bloom of things after a long gray and dull winter. After a short blossom phase of 2-3 weeks everything is switched back to “normal” spring mode. That way, I have the sense of emergency to not miss the phase of plants’ emergence phase (-;  To celebrate this magic period, here’s my submission (It’s a magnolia tree in our small city park taken at Bruchsal/Germany). On a technical note: it was taken with a 60 year old GDR lens -Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm F2-, with an APS C Camera and a cheap focal reducer … I do not want to bother with a bulky full frame camera any more (-;

©Henrik Fessler

2 May

The Results of the March 2017 oopoomoo Challenge: Emergence

For March the monthly challenge over on the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook Page was “Emergence”. Below we present our favourite submissions posted to the Facebook group. Congratulations to everyone who participated. Stay tuned for the April challenge which will be sent out shortly in the oopoomoo monthly newsletter (sign-up form in the side-bar to the right).

©Chris Baird

©Chris Bone

©Chris Greenwood

©Cindie Fearnall

©David Klautt

©Drake Dyck

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka

©Kathy Stinson

©Michael Gay

©Monica Schimanke

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Phyllis Fitzsimons

©Riana Vermaak

©Riana Vermaak

©Robert Skoye

©Shooting Earth Naresh

6 April

Janice Kretzer-Prysunka: Non-iconic Images in Iconic Locations

Each month we send out a newsletter to our oopoomoo newsletter subscribers with an assignment for the month. In March, we wanted photographers to show us a non-iconic view of an iconic location. We themed the assignment #league_landscape in honour of our new publishing project League magazine (which is now open for subscriptions and submissions). There was a lot of fabulous non-iconic assignment images shown by photographers in our oopoomoo Facebook group but one photographer, Janice Kretzer-Prysunka, really stood out with her portfolio of personal takes at iconic locations. Great work Janice!

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Mount Robson

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Horseshoe Lake, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Medicine Lake, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Mount Rundle, Banff

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Athabasca Falls, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Tangle Falls, Jasper

©Janice Kretzer-Prysunka – Three Sisters, Canmore

22 February

Creative Pet and Dog Photography Workshops

We’re excited to announce two new photo workshops for pet lovers! Held at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society, there will be live demos in one and a chance for participants to photograph the animals in the other. Anytime we include animals in a live show there are sure to be hijinks so that’s worth the price of admission alone!  😉

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Come learn some new skills, have a few laughs and polish up your pet photography skills. Check out our two new offerings below.

Better Pet Photography Made Easy!

In this workshop we’ll teach you simple tips and tricks to make your family pet images creative, fun and engaging. If you wish you had the knowledge needed to make better pet photos we have the easy and effective answers! This is not a photo course full of jargon and tech talk but one that focuses on getting awesome results whether you use a smart phone, a point-n-shoot or a dSLR camera. You already have a bond and know your pet better than anyone; the only ingredient missing is some easy-to-learn photography basics to make your images soar. Come and join us on March 5, 2017 at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society for this two-hour fun-filled romp through the exciting adventure of pet photography (complete with live demos). To learn more or to register go here.

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Sit, Stay and Smile: Creative Dog Photography with your dSLR

This hands-on course is for anyone with a dSLR who is interested in making compelling and creative images of dogs using existing light. The magic in great images of dogs occur at the intersection of dog behaviour and the creative use of camera controls. In this four-hour course, we’ll explain in easy-to-understand terms which camera controls create story-telling images and how to make photography a fun game for your pooch. After the 1.5-hour classroom session (with live demos!) students will spend  1.5-hours photographing dogs, on site, at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society. The resulting photos will be discussed in a one-hour critique session so students get immediate feedback on how to improve. To learn more or register go here.

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To whet your appetite for the kinds of tips and techniques we’ll be talking about in the Creative Dog Photography workshop check out our Shooting Blind for Better Action Portraits of Dogs article or look at some of our favourite dog photos.

Shyme - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

 

8 February

Wag Wednesdays (and help for the Cochrane and Area Humane Society)

If you are a member of the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group you already know that every Wednesday we encourage people to post creative photos of their pets (or anything else with a tail that could be wagged, wiggled or waved). To participate, just post your photo to our group with the hashtag #wagwednesdays – once a month or so we’ll round up the best submissions and feature them here on the blog (with your copyright info of course).

Affie

Affie, the puggle, behaving for treats.

Speaking of Wag Wednesdays, we borrowed that slogan from the Cochrane and Area Humane Society which has a Wednesday play group of the same name of which Affie is a member. He comes home on Wednesdays wagged out and wasted!

Affie playing hard at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society

Affie playing hard at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society

One of the needs the humane society has is to get an instant photo printer that can print 4×6 photos that they can use to raise funds by printing photos for clients, adopters and for educational uses. For example, many participants in Wag Wednesday would love to have a printed photo of their dog in action (see the CAHS Instagram feed for examples). If anyone has a used instant digital printer or wants to buy and donate a new one to the CAHS, especially one that can accept smartphone pictures wirelessly, that would be awesome (even if it does not have wireless that will still work as well). Just drop on by the humane society or you can contact us here at oopoomoo and we can deliver whatever you have. Below are a couple of examples of the kinds of printers we mean (older discontinued models are fine as well). And if you have any paper and ink to go with the printers that is even better (the disposables are where the expense comes in).

Instant printers designed to print smartphone photos:

Fuji Instax Share SP-1 or SP-2

Polaroid Zip

HP Sprocket

Instant printers designed to print smartphone photos and memory cards

Canon Selphy CP1200

Canon Selphy CP910

Epson Expression XP640

The puppies thank you!

The puppies thank you!

UPDATE – The Cochrane and Area Humane Society is now the proud owner of a Canon Selphy CP1200 thanks to the kind donation from a wonderful couple from Calgary!

28 January

Photography with Meaning – What Do You Do for Exposure?

If you’ve been in photography long enough you’ll get a request from someone to use your pictures in exchange for ‘exposure’. What that means is they want the benefits of your fine photos but don’t want to pay you. Having the privilege of them publishing your photo is reward enough… or so they say. The funny thing is whenever we get these requests they are usually from large multi-national corporations with deep pockets… and a big advertising budget… and yet they won’t pay for quality images. The promise of them exposing your work to a wide audience is often hard to resist but we have found from experience that such exposure always falls flat.

Exposure - Is it worth it!

Exposure – Is it worth it!

On the other hand, when it comes to small community groups with no budget for photography they will often bend over backwards to try and pay you and give exposure that is respectful and meaningful. These groups need great visuals and they know the value of the image. Samantha and I love working with local groups who have causes we believe in because they offer the best kind of exposure. We get to meet real people, develop friendships and feel like we make a difference in the community. And of course we are happy to provide our services for free because we feel great helping them do good work. And feeling great charges up our creative juices and we get excited about photography all over again! Now that is the best kind of exposure!

What do you do in for ‘exposure’ and how has it worked out for you? We love to hear about it!

Chef Darren MacLean at rooftop veggie garden, Calgary, Alberta

Chef Darren MacLean at rooftop veggie garden, Calgary, Alberta

Portraits of local musicians

Portraits of local musicians

Passive solar tiny home - Hereabouts B+B, Cochrane, AB

Passive solar tiny home – Hereabouts B+B, Cochrane, AB

Local CSA farm portraits

Local CSA farm portraits – Seeds to Greens

Permaculture 'permablitz' in Calgary, Alberta

Permaculture ‘permablitz’ in Calgary, Alberta

Local organic farming practices

Local organic farming practices

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Portraits at the local humane society

Humane Society dog portrait

Humane Society dog portrait

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