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.

4 December

Welcome to oopoomoo

Samantha and Darwin taking a break on the Rockwall hike in Kootenay NP

Welcome to the new home of photographers Samantha Chrysanthou and Darwin Wiggett!  Those two names are a mouthful so we made it easy for everyone and just called the site oopoomoo.  Your first question probably is:  “What is oopoomoo”?

Well, the name actually doesn’t mean a thing.  Darwin made it up one day while lounging on the couch (there was probably wine involved).  We just like the name and it stuck; it makes us laugh.

But the concept behind oopoomoo relates more to our attitude towards life. Life is short:  why not just do the things you love and live a balanced healthy lifestyle? Why not give back a little instead of always taking? Why not live a little softer on the planet? Why not have fun and smile a lot? Well, oopoomoo is our attempt to live that kind of life. We are photographers and photography instructors and we love our work. But we also love nature, hiking, eating, drinking, art, music and, in short, life. We want oopoomoo to reflect our passion about these things, and we want to share our passion for living well with the world.

But oopoomoo is also about listening.  We’ll share lots of information on photography but also on a wide variety of other topics that are relevant to people who care about the earth’s natural systems.  And we want to hear from you about steps you may be taking to be healthy, happy and yet a little softer on this well-worn earth.

Welcome to oopoomoo!  It’s going to be a great journey.

Sam and Darwin

1 December

Pimped Out Tripod For Winter Shooting

Surprisingly a lot of people ask me about my legs… I mean my tripod legs (no one asks about my athletic personal legs). They wonder where I got the special soft covering for the upper legs of my tripod that keep my hands off the cold metal.  Of course, you can go on-line and buy manufactured tripod leg coverings but you’ll spend from $30 to $50! Ouch! For less than five bucks you can make your own tripod leg covers from foam pipe insulation and hockey tape (the best tape to use ’cause it can handle the cold). I went to my local ‘hardware’ store to get what I needed. Canadians probably know where I mean and that special place even gives you their own printed money for each purchase saving you another 5 to 10 cents to boot! The only other thing you’ll need are a pair of scissors. Heck, I am the least handy of handy-men. If I can make my own tripod leg covers then so can you. Watch the video below to see how it is done!

If you are looking for more winter photography tips for cheap be sure to come to our Twoonie Talk (a twoonie is a $2 coin up here in Canada) on Winter Photography in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park on January 21st here in Cochrane (free parking, free coffee and close to that special ‘hardware’ store so you can buy goodies for your own tripod leg coverings. Hey did you know they even carry hockey tape in all colours including the ultra chic Camouflage, Lilac and Hunter Orange)?

27 November

How to Create Great Nature Photos No Matter Where You Live

The two most common excuses I hear for a weak portfolio of nature photos is that the photographer doesn’t own the ‘best gear’ and that the photographer lives far away from any area of scenic beauty. Neither of these excuses is valid. I know of many photographers using old or inexpensive cameras, and living in less than inspiring locales that consistently create wonderful nature photos close to home. In the end, photography is about seeing the potential of your surroundings. You don’t need to go to exotic destinations or visit a national park to get great nature photos. The next great image is as close as your backyard.

Give Yourself an Assignment 

At least once a month I give myself a photographic assignment to stretch my ability to see.  For example, most people have houseplants or flower bouquets in their home. I will book off a morning and just roam around my house with my camera and tripod and try to create interesting photos of the flowers and plants. This exercise forces me to see the light in my house and to recognize the beauty of my familiar surroundings. Often I find things beyond the plants that turn into photographic gems such as raindrops or frost on a window, a ladybug in the leaves, or a cobweb in a corner (what a great excuse to avoid house cleaning, eh?).  The point is simple, give yourself time to really look at your surroundings and you will find images that are powerful and evocative.

©Darwin Wiggett - Graphic interpretation of houseplant leaves

©Darwin Wiggett - Water drops on window at dawn

Get Outside 

A lot of nature photographers shut off their shooting eyes when they are on home turf and often turn to mindless entertainment (e.g. TV, the internet, or video games) to unwind after a day at work.