12 January

Interview with Environmental Portrait Master Dave Brosha

We are thrilled to have Yellowknife photographer Dave Brosha coming to the Calgary, Alberta area on January 28th to give a talk for photographers entitled Mastering  Environmental Light. The talk will be held in Cochrane (just west of Calgary) from 2-4 pm on Jan. 28, 2012. We think it is much better to have the talk in small-town Cochrane rather than downtown Calgary because this way you get free parking (and when was the last time you had cheap parking in downtown Calgary!) Plus we’re just a short jaunt out of Calgary and we are minutes away from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park for those wanting to do an outing before or after Dave’s talk.

Dave will discuss how he gets his signature location portraits. Anyone who is interested should sign up soon; we only have room for 40 people. In advance of his talk we asked Dave a few questions:

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – You have the rare ability to capture both story and technical perfection in your location portraits. Many professional photographers are good at technique but few capture story and mood. Any tips on how you get those great moments in your work?

Dave – I think the key is not to get so hung up on the technical that you fail to make a connection with your subject, work with them, and really… just let your creativity bubble.  Ultimately, your subject doesn’t really care if your light is diffused by a softbox, double-diffused, camera right or left, table-topped, or from a planet far, far away.  They are there to work with you, and if you’re fumbling with light and settings too long, you’ll lose them.  Aside from that, you mention “story and mood”.  That’s very important to me; once I have my technical figured out (and this is where practice makes perfect, and makes you quick), it’s “play” time.  Shoot and shoot and shoot.  Try different angles, different expressions.  Don’t be afraid to work with your subject; to ask them for suggestions.  Some of my best images have been out of suggestions from my talent/subject.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – When we see any image you made we immediately know it to be a Dave Brosha photo; you have a signature style. Any advice for photographers on developing their own voice?

Dave – First of all, wow, thank you.  It’s funny, I think my style developed out of my love of landscape photography (which I considered myself first and foremost for years).  I always had a love of “The Environment”, whether that be windswept tundra or dramatic lines of a building with great architecture.  Either way, it was stuff I wanted to incorporate into my images of people.  Although I have a studio, my passion is photographing people in other natural and man-made environments.  So that’s a big part of my style, I think.  The other would be when I took it upon myself to learn and then introducing lighting to the mix.  People may not know this, but I would say 90% of my studio or small flash-lit portraits are made with one light source, and very simple techniques that I use again and again.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – Living in the north gives you access to many unique opportunities but it can also be a struggle because the number of clients are small. How have you grown your business in a city (Yellowknife) with a relatively small population?

Dave –  I had a fear for a long time of plunging into the full-time world for just that reason (the relative smallness of Yellowknife).  Before I opened my studio I can remember two or three of the other photographers in town telling me that I was nuts:  that there would never be enough business to support a studio.  Luckily I had a gut that told me that it could happen, and a fantastic, supportive wife who basically forced me to follow my dream.  I think the business reason why it’s “worked” is that I haven’t been afraid to try, well, everything.  Portraiture, studio work, wedding, underground mining, aerials, headshots, various corporate shoots, advertising, magazine, creative, newborn, maternity, fashion, model, and so on.  This place is too small to really specialize, so I had the unique opportunity to photograph basically everything and everything.  And what a way to test and grow your skillset in a short time:  shoot lots and shoot very diverse.

©Dave Brosha

Aside from that, word-of-mouth is gold.  Each and every person I photograph is more than just a client that pays your bills.  This is very important for all photographers to understand.  I  subscribe 100% to the belief that if you are good to people, they will be good to you.  Care about what you do. Care about doing a good job for the people who have put their trust in you.  When people have criticism, accept it and work with the client to make it right, rather than getting defensive and potentially ruining a relationship.   While this is true everywhere, it’s especially true in a small market.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – Most working commercial photographers have little opportunity to leave their local community, yet you seem to be able to make several major travel photography trips a year. What is the secret to affordable travel photography?

Dave –  Honestly, I have no idea how these things happen (the continued work/travel), but they just keep happening.  I’m looking for a major piece of wood to knock upon right now.  Last year I found photography work in five countries and all across Canada and I would say, again, that word-of-mouth was key. Don’t under-estimate the power of your local clients and contacts to lead to jobs beyond your immediate vicinity.  That, and putting yourself out there as a photographer that is willing to travel through your website and the work that you show.  I picked up a great three-day job in Alaska last year because a company had Googled “underground mining photography” and I think some of my stuff came up in the results.  They liked it, picked up the phone, 10 days later I was on Prince of Wales Island.  If I had been afraid of marketing myself online, that wouldn’t have happened.

©Dave Brosha

oopoomoo – You are coming to give a seminar here in Cochrane on January 28, 2012. What can we expect to learn during your session?

Dave – Our afternoon will be a fun, fast, and furious look at the world of assessing your surroundings and choosing the right approach for lighting and photographing your subject within these surroundings.   While we’ll cover some of the technical essentials (i.e. camera settings) and gear (i.e. different light-shaping modifiers), this will more be about how we can balance ambient and artificial lighting while – most importantly – working with your subject to make a memorable image.  We’ll look at some of the differences between “small” (i.e. flash) and “big” (studio) lighting, look at the differences of quality and shape of light using different pieces of gear, and demonstrate on a (hopefully willing) model.

Bottom line, it will be about making environmental portraits that “pop”.

oopoomoo – Thanks for bringing your expertise to Cochrane, Dave! We look forward to your talk.

For those photographers interested in learning how Dave makes these great images just click here to sing up.

©Dave Brosha

11 January

Alberta Views Photo Contest Deadline Extended

Hey all, we have some good news. The Alberta Views Magazine photo contest deadline is now extended to January 31, 2012. That means you have more time to enter. Yippee! To read more about the rules and how to enter just click on the photo below.

The great thing about this contest (besides the $1000 prize) is that your entry fee of $30 nets you a subscription to Alberta Views which is a great read for you or for someone you know that needs (or should have) “thoughtful commentary on the culture, politics and economy of our province.” Alberta Views‘ website states the magazine’s goal is to present “diverse viewpoints to give expression to a wide range of opinion and to encourage discussion and debate.” For us, the magazine often provides a balanced look at the issues of the day. We think all Albertans should read the magazine.

In fact, we think a few of our local politicians would also benefit from a subscription to the magazine! Maybe our new Premiere Alison Redford would find guidance in the multitude of viewpoints on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. Or perhaps a subscription for our Wildrose MP, Blake Richards would aid him to produce thoughtful commentary in his newspaper columns. How about Alberta’s new environment minister Diana McQueen debating the merits of clear-cut logging in semi-protected Kananaskis Country? Heck, we think even Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, should get a subscription so he can tune in to the abundance of privately-driven activism in this supposedly complacent province.

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Personally, we’re going to pay the entry fee and enter again so we can gift our subscriptions to a politician to help our political leaders understand the true complexity that is Alberta.  It can never hurt to have “diverse viewpoints” and a “wide range of opinion” on some of the current issues facing this province.

If you enter the contest, and don’t give yourself a subscription, who are you going to send your gift subscription to?

BTW, the judge of the Alberta Views photo contest has also been announced; it is none other than fine art documentary photographer George Webber. Do you have a photo that will be a surprising view of Alberta for George? George has seen a lot of Alberta and it would take something quite surprising to get his attention (like the time the Alberta government used a picture of a British Beach to promote tourism in the province — now that was surprising!).

© Darwin Wiggett - Is Alberta going down the drain?

6 January

Fabulous Film Fridays 2011 Year End eBook is Available!

For those of you who followed our old blogs you knew that we did a project in 2011 where we posted an image or two each week that we had taken with one of our many film cameras. Sam and I have summarized the project in a free little eBook which is the ‘best of 2011’ from our film outings. Just click on this link or the photo below to download your copy! Please be patient while the eBook loads into your browser because it’s 18MB in size (that is a lot of film grain to transfer across the web)!

Thanks again to everyone who followed along and who showed a lot of interest in film!

5 January

The Glacier Discovery Walk – Part II

We blogged about the development of the proposed glass-floored Glacier Discovery Walk over Tangle Ridge in Jasper National Park previously. To read more about the proposal see our link. We would like more public input before this proposal goes ahead.  For those of you who are opposed to these kinds of intrusive, large-scale developments in our National Parks there is an online petition started against this development. Simply click here and add your name.  Thanks to John Marriott for the link!

Help protect Jasper NP from further development!

3 January

Winter Blues: Enhancing Mood in Monochrome

Most Canadians long to escape the icy claws of winter and head south for sand, sea and umbrella drinks. In fact, book publishers used to tell me that they never allowed more than 10% of a picture book of Canada to be images of winter because, if they did, book sales would plummet. It seems like Canadians simply do not want to be reminded of winter. I used to be the same; I would retire to the fireplace and put my camera into a deep winter sleep. But no more! Over the last seven years, I have actively plunged into the icy cool hues of winter and have created some of my most memorable and rewarding imagery.

©Darwin Wiggett - Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles

The infamous ice bubbles of Abraham Lake in blue monochrome.


27 December

2012 Alberta Views Photo Contest

We want to pass along an announcement about a wonderful little photo contest over at Alberta Views Magazine called  The 2012 Alberta Views Photo Contest. The theme of the contest is “A Surprising View of Alberta”. The prize is a cool $1000! And we checked with the magazine about usage rights and here is the response we got,

“Alberta Views has a one-time right to publish the photo. The intention of the contest is not to accumulate an indefinite ownership to the photos submitted to this contest.”

Not only can we endorse the rules of the contest, we also like how they have structured entry of the competition which ensures that Alberta Views (2009 Canadian Magazine of the Year) will be read in more households.

Your first entry costs $30; subsequent entries cost $15. All entries include a one-year subscription to Alberta Views which can be gifted to family, friends or a local library.

Support Alberta Views Magazine!  This is a publication we believe should be read by all Albertans for its ‘surprising views’ on the political, social and environmental issues in this province.

Hurry deadline for the contest is December 31, 2011!

24 December

Sit, Stay and Smile – Easy! Outdoor Dog Photography

We are very happy to announce our first oopoomoo how-to photography eBook – Sit, Stay and Smile – Easy! Outdoor Dog Photography (there will be lots more new titles coming in the future!)

We have been photographing dogs for years for  stock photography,  for magazine assignments, and for our local humane society. And now we bring all our tips and tricks on dog photography into one detailed eBook. The most challenging aspect of dog photography is understanding how to make photography a fun game for your pooch — we teach you how!

We give you the guidelines you need to get your subjects ‘paws’itively performing for the camera! In addition, you’ll learn the essential techniques behind the lens to pull off great photos no matter what breed of dog you are photographing or what outdoor lighting situation you find yourself in. Anyone who has struggled to make exciting photos of dogs will benefit from this eBook.

To learn more simply click on the photo above –  only $10 CAN!

You can get this eBook for free by signing up for our Easy Outdoor Dog Photography to be held on April 28th, 2012 in Cochrane, Alberta.

Big shout out to our amazing eBook designer and all around amazing collaborator on all things webby – Stephen Desroches! Stephen helped us design this website and did a spanking job on this new eBook. Plus he is a great guy and a fantastic photographer.  Check out his blog as well.

19 December

Minnewanka Memories

In early December, Samantha and I headed out to Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park to meet up with and do a sunset shoot with Marc Adamus and Kory Lidstrom. Marc was on a three week adventure of shooting the Canadian Rockies and Kory met up with him for a week. We headed to Minnewanka for some ice on the lake which was just beginning to freeze. Below are my four favorite compositions from the evening. Thanks for the nice evening guys and hope to meet up again sometime! Can’t wait to see everyone else’s images.

©Darwin Wiggett

Canon EOS-1ds MArk III, Canon TSE 17mm lens, 1/10s at f11, Lens tilted for DOF

©Darwin Wiggett

Canon EOS-1ds MArk III, Canon TSE 17mm lens, 1/20s at f11, Lnes tilted for DOF and shifted to make a vertical pano.

©Darwin Wiggett

Canon EOS-1ds MArk III, Canon TSE 17mm lens, 1/4s at f10

©Darwin Wiggett

Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, Canon TSE 24mm lens, 3.2 at f10, lens in portrait orientation and shifted left and right to give a larger image.

Thanks for looking! Darwin

15 December

Glacier Discovery Walk in Jasper – What Do You Want?

There is a proposal by Brewster to build a a 400-metre interpretive boardwalk and a glass-floored observation platform extending 30 metres out over the Sunwapta Valley at Tangle Ridge Viewpoint just north of the Icefields Centre. According to Brewster, “The Glacier Discovery Walk will enable visitors to engage with this dramatic landscape in a way that was not previously accessible to the majority of Jasper Park visitors”.  Their illustrations of the proposed structure are intriguing.  To learn more about this proposal click here or on the photo below:

Brewster says the function of the walk is so that “visitors will experience a guided interpretive walk… [that] will contain interpretive stations highlighting the ecology, geology, glaciology, Aboriginal history and social history of the area.” Of course, there will be a charge to walk the glass walkway (visitors will be bused from the nearby Icefields Centre.)

Some people are very excited about this proposal (meaning more revenue for the park and for travel companies — mostly Brewster).

Environmental groups such as The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is opposed to the development for the following reasons:

  • It would set a dangerous precedent for renewed commercial development in our mountain national parks.  If this goes ahead, what will be next?
  • The long term impact on wildlife, including mountain goats and big horn sheep, cannot be predicted with confidence: there just isn’t enough data.
  • It would contravene Parks Canada’s own policy that says that “Only outdoor activities which promote the appreciation of a park’s purpose and objectives, which respect the integrity of the ecosystem, and which call for a minimum of built facilities will be permitted.”(Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policy, section 4.1.3). Read entire policy here.
  • There is no evidence that this would meet the objective of connecting Canadians with the natural heritage in their national parks.
  • There is little evidence that this infrastructure-focused development is what Canadians want for their national parks. The survey the company conducted was not representative of the views of all Canadians, but focused primarily on bus tour customers.

If you want to have a say in whether this project goes ahead or not then please drop a line by December 16, 2011 to:

THE HONOURABLE PETER KENT – Minister of the Environment
email: Minister@ec.gc.ca
819-997-1441 (tel) or 819-953-0279 (fax)

Jasper National Park, Parks Canada Agency
Fax: (780) 852-6229
email: Greg.Fenton@pc.gc.ca.

Sheep at Tangle Viewpoint using the already spectacular natural view!

What do we think? Well, we have grave concerns about these kinds of ‘theme park’ developments.  We go to Jasper (and all our natural areas) to get away from man-made structures and human-altered environments.  We also try to minimize our impact on the Parks as much as our business allows.  To get great views, we hike the wonderful trails in the Park.  While we appreciate that Parks Canada may be under pressure financially and searching for ways to make the Parks more profitable, we believe some things have inherent value that can’t be measured by how much they make some company rich.  We have heard that this area is important for critters like mountain goats and bighorn sheep which might be displaced so that humans can get a better view.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough information for us to measure the benefits of this development against its potential costs.  What are your views?

10 December

Paralyzed by Choice

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Photography asks us to make too many decisions. What aperture should we use, what lens, what camera, what ISO, what filter, what angle of view etc. etc. All of these choices can become confining! We often need constraints to keep us creative. That is why we love to reduce our choices. When we do, we seem to make better art.

A common way that we make it easier to be creative is to leave most of our camera gear behind. Often we’ll just take one camera with one lens. Even more restricting but liberating is restricting yourself by only using a prime focal length lens like a 50mm or a 24mm. Reducing choices forces you to use your tools more creatively. The more creative you are, the better your art.

One of the cameras we love the most is the Holga. A Holga is a plastic camera that uses medium format film (remember film?). It has only two exposure settings (sunny or shade), two shutters speeds (1/60th of a second or bulb), and four focus settings (infinity, group, couple or portrait). The camera forces you to really see by limiting your technical choices. Once past the hurdles of technique we are free to really ‘see’!

If you don’t like film, then a point-n-shoot digital camera or even a smart phone camera can also very liberating. It seems that when we put away the ‘serious’ cameras and bring out the ‘play’ cameras that we immediately get creative simply because we put less pressure on ourselves to perform. Point-n-shoots free you to try things, experiment and just be silly. Surprisingly the results are often more refreshing than anything our big expensive, menu-driven top-end cameras give us. So… be brave, reduce your choices and free your creativity.