10 February

Building a Code of Ethics

With more and more people getting into photography, we at oopoomoo think it’s timely to open a discussion about ethical behaviour and field etiquette. It’s also about time we post a code of ethics here on oopoomoo.com. Here’s our first kick at this; we might modify the code from time to time based on your input and changing cultural values.

JackRussel terrier with tennis ball

Baiting…is it cruel?  😉

Let’s start with an underlying assumption: most people get into photography because they love to take pictures of people, places or creatures – and not to destroy them. Sounds reasonable! So this means that any harm caused when people take pictures is probably incidental either through carelessness or ignorance. So that’s why it’s a good idea to revisit the concept of ethical shooting from time to time – and especially as the digital revolution has brought the joy of photography to more and more of us.

Most of us photograph the things we love!

Most of us photograph the things we love!

First, we need a guiding principle. This is going to be the yardstick against which we measure all our actions. “Do I or don’t I?” should be easily answerable if we get this main idea right. An obvious starting point is that old idea ‘do no harm’ which is something most of us understand even if we’re not doctors taking the Hippocratic Oath. We learn this one early on, usually because when we hurt someone else, something bad happened to us. I hit a kid in the sandbox, he punches me back, or the teacher gives me a time-out. We just don’t seem to get far ahead if we go around harming things!

There is a price to pay for harm.

There is a price to pay for harm.

But is it enough? It’s morally neutral, at least. The status of people, plants and animals is unchanged. If you think about it, causing no harm is actually really hard to do and is almost impossible to measure! Just by stepping out our door we crush insects underfoot, trample grass and compress microorganisms in the soil. And let’s not even talk about the effects on pollution we produce when we travel somewhere to take pictures!

Can we actually ever do 'no harm'?

Can we actually ever do ‘no harm’ and how can we measure the harm done?

Maybe it’s impossible to do no harm in its most literal sense. We might as well stay home in bed with hot chocolate and Pride and Prejudice for the rest of our lives (which might even harm our health and sense of reality). In any case, do as little harm as possible also seems apathetic and vague. Who decides what is ‘as little as possible’? Does this change day-to-day, place-to-place and person-to-person? And how do we meaningfully measure harm? Such a moving target is not going to be a good guiding principle.

Perhaps then we should take things up a notch. Perhaps we should take a moral stance. Perhaps we should promote the well-being of things as our guiding idea, leaving them better off than before we took our picture. This at least might help mitigate any unintentional harmful effects our mere presence might cause! Our guiding principle would then be: “If I do x, will I leave my subject matter better off?” If the answer is “no”, then we should not do x; if the answer is “yes, I think so”, well then fire away!

Will our actions leave the dog better or worse off?

Will our actions leave the dog better or worse off? What is the purpose of making this photo?

Now, we could get hung up on the same problems as with the ‘do no harm’ idea: how do we measure ‘better off’? There really is no way to be absolutely sure, so part of being an ethical photographer must involve some amount of educated judgment. Note the term educated. Part of a code of ethics has to involve some obligation to inform ourselves and a commitment to doing our best. These at least move us in the right direction and keep us from being crippled on the couch with carby snacks and historical romances.

Inaction is an action!

Inaction is an action!

So we have our guiding principle: promote the well-being of the things we photograph. This necessarily includes doing our best at not harming things, and it also puts a positive obligation on us to engage with our subject matter in a way that makes it better off after our interaction with it. This might be as simple as inspiring public appreciation of the person, place or critter photographed. Or it might be as involved as a raising critical awareness through a life-long project to protect an endangered habitat. But by following our guiding principle of promote the well-being, we’re going to be on the right track. Also, actively thinking about your positive obligation in advance will make your decision a lot easier about whether to take the photo or not.

Nobody’s perfect. We both confess to actions in the past in the name of “I gotta get that shot”, that we now would not do. Maybe it’s maturity. Maybe we grew a conscience. What we do know is that we’ve been trying to follow this guiding principle of ‘promote the well-being’ for some time, and we can tell you we are more comfortable making our images and more proud of them.

How can our pictures add good to the world?

How can our pictures add good to the world?

By the way, if imposing a positive obligation on ourselves feels onerous, consider this: we don’t have a right to make a photograph. It’s a privilege. So let’s ensure we get to keep this privilege for ourselves and others by avoiding careless or ignorant behaviour. Photographers have been getting a bad name lately mostly because we all think we have the right to photograph anything, anytime and anywhere. We don’t. Let’s rise to a higher standard. Let’s set the bar above the level of ‘everyone else is doing it’. Let’s put our subject matter first and ourselves second.  We bet that if we do this, our images will sing with sincerity and the photo industry will be a role model in the art world instead of its poorer second class citizen.

Enough of the grand theorizing. So what kinds of specific behaviours might our guiding principle of ‘promote the well-being…’ entail?

We’ve surveyed some photo organizations for their ethical codes (see below for links to some prominent groups – there weren’t many which says something right there), and the bulk of the actions can be distilled into three main areas: environment, social and self. We’ve summarized them and tried to put them in terms of positive actions. So here’s our proposed Code of Ethics:

Code of ethics includes stay on the trail!

Code of ethics includes stay on the trail!

Environment

This category involves the world around us, especially the natural world.

  • Inform yourself and follow all rules and regulations when visiting a natural area or public attraction. These might include shooting distance to subjects and refraining from using certain kinds of artificial light or even photographing an animal or plant at all.
  • Receive permission before stepping on to private property even if the property appears abandoned.
  • Stay on designated paths and trails. If there is no trail, follow proper field etiquette by educating yourself on the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Aim for authenticity: photograph plants and animals in their natural habitat engaging in their natural behaviours.
  • Research and inform yourself about the plants and animals you intend to photograph. Be aware of their distress signals, times of physical strain or breeding seasons, and avoid photographing plants and animals during these times. If you see any signs that your presence is causing stress, move back until the stress signals end or leave the area immediately.
  • Leave the environment in a better way than you found it by picking up trash you find when in the field.
  • Improve your photography composition skills by using your full arsenal of tools to make a great composition rather than moving objects, pulling plants or otherwise ‘tidying’ a scene for your composition.
  • Move your position or patiently wait rather than attempt to influence an animal’s posture with catcalls, hoots or whistles.
  • Remove all artificial attractants you find in wild places that were placed there by people to attract animals and refrain from baiting or placing attractants to entice wildlife to move to you. This is especially important with some large animals since they tend to be relocated or killed when they become habituated to humans.
  • Refrain from sound baiting if its use may cause stress to the animal.
  • With animals living in an urban environment such as songbirds, consider not putting out seeds as bait. If you do, research the proper natural organic food and follow proper procedures to ensure cleanliness of the feeder to minimize risk of disease. Place the feeder such that the birds will not be exposed to hazards such as predators under cover or at danger of flying into reflective house windows.
  • Keep rare species safe and intact by not broadcasting the location of a fragile area, plant or animal. Remove GPS data from your images and refrain from sharing the location to others after the shoot.
  • If by stopping to photograph, you are likely to start a chain reaction of other visitors crowding the area, do not stop but find another time or place to continue photographing.
Keep your distant from wildlife as designated by regulations in the area you are visiting. ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Keep your distance from wildlife as designated by regulations in the area you are visiting.

Social

This arena is about relationships with other people. So some sample situations are going to be interactions between photographer and client, photographer and tourists and photographer and photographer.

  • Ask permission before photographing an identifiable person.
  • Treat all people with respect.
  • Treat your professional models with professional courtesy, repaying them with prints or fees for their work. Do not reimburse people where to do so would take advantage of their social or economic position or unduly influence them to pose for your picture.
  • If you see someone violating the Code of Ethics, diplomatically attempt to educate them about the effects of their behaviour. If that person continues with their improper behaviour, document the situation and report them to the appropriate authorities.
  • Be patient and courteous with non-photographers visiting a scene. Be creative by adjusting your expectations of the images you hoped to make and be open to new ideas as they present themselves.
  • Be aware of your position and how it may interfere with the ability of the photographers and non-photographers around you to enjoy a scene.
  • If someone inadvertently wanders into your scene, be courteous and wait if possible for them to move, adjust your own position, or kindly ask them to move their own when they are ready.
Be respectful of other's privacy and space when deciding where to set up your photograph.

Be respectful of others’ privacy and space when deciding where to set up your photograph.

Self

This category relates to how you personally internalize and live the Code of Ethics.

  • Adopt a Code of Ethics and post it somewhere conspicuous to remind yourself to follow these important principles. Strive to adhere to the Code and commit to a lifelong education of these principles.
  • Be an ambassador of ethical conduct in the industry through your own behaviour and by educating other photographers and the public about ethical photography.
  • Know and respect your physical limitations and keep yourself out of harm’s way by avoiding situations where your health and safety or the health and safety of others could be put at risk because of your actions.
  • Educate yourself about the weather, terrain, culture and possible hazards before visiting a new area.
  • If you are leading a photo group, whether commercially or not, ensure that the group members are informed about the Code of Ethics, hazards and safety concerns and that the group size is appropriate to the sensitivity of the place you are visiting.
  • Always be forthcoming about your processing and refrain from representing your photographs as something they are not.
Respect, care and sensitivity to your subject will result in more personal and evocative images.

Respect for, care of and sensitivity to your subject will result in more personal and evocative images.

What steps will you take to be an ethical photographer?

What steps will you take to be an ethical photographer?

Links

Nature Photographers Network

Professional Photographers of Canada

National Press Photographers Association

American Society of Media Photographers

The Royal Photographic Society

Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography

Suggest a link to a good Code of Ethics in a comment on this post!

10 January

Resolve: Discover Your Creative Self – Third Session Added!

©Samantha Chrysanthou

It seems we have touched a nerve with our latest eCourse offering “Resolve:Discover Your Creative Self”. Our first run of the eCourse sold out in three days and our second offering sold out in a single day! We have decided to add a third and final session of the eCourse to run January 31 to February 6, 2016.  To learn more about this unique photography offering please go to this link. May you have a creative 2016! (sorry now sold out!)

P1060205

28 December

Best of 2015 – oopoomoo Best for Darwin Wiggett

This year, Darwin and I decided to curate each other’s images to select what we felt was that photographer’s oopoomoo best for 2015. Just as we stipulated in the oopoomoo Newsletter announcing the challenge, an oopoomoo best had to meet three criteria:

  • represent who they are photographically as an artist or demonstrate something they learned this year
  • be as well-composed as they can do at their learning level, and
  • be taken ethically.

You can see what Darwin picked as my oopoomoo best here. And here is the image I’ve chosen as Darwin’s best image of 2015.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

In pouring over Darwin’s work for this year, I’ve noticed a shift in his usual subject matter. Instead of photographing grand landscapes, Darwin has started to concentrate more on intimate studies and abstractions. Some of the same elements of style are present in his work, making them a ‘Darwin shot’, such as a fascination with light and shape and an attraction to colours and tonal contrast. But I sense with this image a refinement perhaps of ‘seeing’, an engagement with the mind rather than just senses. There is many layers to this image and it is quietly intriguing.

This image was taken at Lake O’Hara, probably one of the most iconic of places in the Canadian Rockies. We were standing far uphill on the trail to Opabin Plateau and Mary Lake was being covered by a giant shadow cast by Oderay Mountain as the sun set behind it. Darwin had to work fast to frame and make this shot before the light was gone and the lake covered in shadow. When photographers say that they refuse to photograph iconic places, I feel sorry for them; I suspect they are insecure and may suffer from a lack of imagination. A great photographer can always make a place his own as Darwin does here.

8 December

NEW! – Resolve Photography eCourse

We’re excited to announce a new course on oopoomoo! Resolve: Discover Your Creative Self is a self-directed eCourse all about YOU!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

There are plenty of ‘how to’ courses in photography – heck, we’ve taught our fair share of ’em! – but what seems to be missing is a backgrounder course that explores your inspirations and motivations behind pressing the shutter. What are your photographic strengths and weaknesses? What are you most terrified of photographing? What new heights could you reach artistically if you were able to peek under the hood and understand the why of photography for you?

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

By parts fun-silly and brutally direct, the Resolve Photography eCourse is a little like a self-help course complete with its own straitjacket. There’s no empty fluff here! Expect to dig deeper with daily challenging assignments designed to peel back the comfortable complacency we often settle into as artists. It’s like that paternalistic Polonius guy said to Laertes, “to thine own self be true” because then you can’t be false to any man – or your photographs! Something like that.

So is 2016 the year you invest in your photography? Then it’s essential you start off on the right foot by understanding who YOU are as a photographer and the talent that underlies your images.

Photographer, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada

What will you find? ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Intrigued? Are you ready to soar creatively? Then check out our Resolve: Discover Your Creative Self eCourse. Our first session sold out in three days. We are offering a second session this January but again with limit spaces.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

24 November

Three Part Creative Vision

Usually, but not always, I’ll have a plan for post-processing an image while I’m setting up to take that shot in the field. The image below is a good example.

Lodgepole pine forest

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Out in the mountains this past fall, Darwin and I were meandering along my favourite highway, the Bow Valley Parkway. The bright overcast light was turning the forest into a magical realm, highlighting the skeletal branches and brightening up the underbrush. The bright yellow caught my eye, but even as I worked this stand of pine, I wondered if this might be a candidate for conversion to black and white later on the computer. The reason I thought this might work better than the lovely colour which first attracted me is that I didn’t like the green colour of the trees in the background. Converting to black and white would preserve the bright tones in the yellow leaves but strip away the interest in the dark green background. So did it?

lodgepole forest in black and white

©Samantha Chrysanthou

Creativity and vision are tough concepts to define sometimes. They’re even a little overused. When Darwin and I think of creativity, we think of original expression, as in, something you made yourself from your interests and passions. In a world saturated with images, it can be tough at times to even know what our interests are! That’s why getting out by yourself to photograph what catches your eye is such an important part of being a photographer. And when you are more comfortable with knowing what motivates you to press that shutter, that vision is going to carry you through the process in three parts: ‘seeing’ the image, making the image and processing the image.

What do you think? Is your creative vision a three-act play?

15 October

Light Painting for Beginners – No Calculations Required!

In advance of our Scaretography: Halloween Light Painting Event on October 25, we thought we’d have a little tutorial on light painting so that you can try some spooky effects on your own at any time. We’ll be doing more fun things with flash at Scaretography than just light painting, but this should get you started!

What is Light Painting?

Light painting is a photographic technique in which pictures are made by moving a hand-held light source onto a subject while taking a long exposure photograph. The results are unpredictable and different each and every time which adds to the joy of discovery! I use a few simple steps to set up for light painting.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Here I used a flashlight to skim over the Limber Pine during this 25 second exposure at dusk.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Here I used a flashlight to skim over the limber pine during this 25 second exposure at dusk.

Back in the good ‘ole film days, getting around the reciprocity problem (the degradation of the film’s sensitivity with loss of light during exposure) required more advanced knowledge of exposure calculation. With today’s digital cameras, you can “guesstimate” your exposure and adjust as needed without having to expertly calculate exposure. Although knowing more about exposure will always make you a better photographer, here is your cheat sheet for easy light painting.

©Darwin Wiggett - Back in the film days you often had to double or triple the normal exposure time required when you had exposure longer than 30 seconds. This is a four-minute exposure at dusk with Velvia 50 slide film.

©Darwin Wiggett – Back in the film days you often had to double or triple the normal exposure time required when you had an exposure longer than 30 seconds. This is a four-minute exposure at dusk with Velvia 50 slide film.

There are only a few simple steps I follow to set up for light painting. First, determine an appropriate subject. You will have to visualize how it will look lit up at dusk. It’s often best to select a single, prominent subject with a clean background. The point is to highlight the lit subject, not to capture a full landscape! Old vehicles in a grassy field, a lone skeletal tree, or a small barn work well for light painting. Often, I will only subtly paint the subject or select certain parts of the image (old tail lights on vehicles work well for this) to bring to life with the flashlight.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - A skim of light over the grass and truck and a directed beam of light on the head lights of the truck make this old truck come alive in the dusk light.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – A skim of light over the grass and truck and a directed beam of light on the head lights of the truck make this old truck come alive in the dusk light.

Second, buy appropriate flashlights. You will need at least one, and often two is better. Click the flashlight on and evaluate the type of light it provides. Is it a hot, small white light from a compact handheld? Or is it a yellow, larger, less focused light from a big tungsten flashlight? I like to shoot with warmer hued lights with one-million candle power or more. With newer LED lights take a yellow or orange gel and tape it over the light to give a warm glow against the cobalt blue dusk. Having your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or ‘sunny’ will also return a pleasing warm/cool contrast. Ensure that your flashlights are fully charged! (Everyone makes this mistake at least once.)

©Samantha Chrysanthou - You need lots of battery power to light bigger subjects!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – You need lots of battery power to light bigger subjects!

Third, head out to your subject in the evening before it becomes dusk. You want plenty of light so that you can walk around your subject and determine the most interesting composition. Usually, depending on how early you start and on how light the sky stays during the shoot, only one or two compositions will be taken. It is very difficult to compose and focus as it gets darker, so determine the best composition and set up your camera before it’s dusk. Once focus is achieved, switch to manual focus so your camera will not hunt to focus in the dark. Use a polarizer to help darken the sky. A polarizer will also allow you to start shooting a bit earlier as they remove one to two stops of light. Your camera must be on a tripod for such long exposures, and using a cable release will help prevent any camera movement. If you want to blend parts of several exposures of the light painted image into a final image, then don’t move the camera or tripod during the session!

©Darwin Wiggett - Tungsten flashlights (or gelled LED lights) give a warm subject glow against a dusky blue background.

©Darwin Wiggett – Tungsten flashlights (or gelled LED lights) give a warm subject against a dusky blue background.

How do you know when to start taking pictures? Ideally, you will want to take pictures when the ambient light is the same intensity as the sky. But what does this look like? First, determine which direction you are shooting. If your camera is pointing away from the sunset, you may notice that the sky in that direction is darker than the sky just above where the sun went down. This means that you will be able to start shooting sooner if your camera is pointing in that direction than if your camera was pointing toward the sunset. If you have no sky in your picture, then you will need to evaluate the ambient light compared to the sky in general. One trick is to look at your subject and squint your eyes a bit. If the light on your subject seems as bright as the sky, then it’s time to take your first exposure. If the light around your subject still seems a bit brighter than your subject, it may still be too early for a light painting.

©Darwin Wiggett - We like to shoot when the light on the subject is just a bit brighter than the surrounding light.

©Darwin Wiggett – We like the results best when the light on the subject is just a bit brighter than the surrounding light.

When the ambient light and the sky seem about equal in intensity, set your camera to bulb function so that you can have exposures longer than 30 seconds (the longest the shutter will stay open on a camera on shutter or aperture priority setting). Leave your aperture at f16 or f11 to start, although you may have to select a wider aperture like f8 later as it gets darker. Take an exposure at 30 seconds, and press playback to check your histogram (if you don’t know how to view the histogram of the image, refer to your camera’s manual). A histogram is a graph that shows the tonal values of a photograph. Knowing how to read the histogram is the most important part of light painting! You want the image to be properly exposed so that you have enough data when you process the image to avoid noise that results from an underexposed file. A ‘good’ histogram should have most of the data in the centre or centre-right of the graph without any data jamming up against either end of the graph. This is because digital cameras record more information in the brighter tones of the spectrum (represented by the right hand side of the graph) and record less data in dark tones. If your histogram shows data jammed at one or both ends, then data is being lost through clipping: the tonal range of the exposure is too great for the camera to record. If all the data is in the graph, but appears to be concentrated on the left side of the graph, the image is likely slightly underexposed. The actual shape of the graphed data does not matter for our purposes, and it also does not matter if data spikes through the top of the histogram.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Be sure to judge your exposures based on the histogram and not how good the image looks on your LCD. In the dark, underexposed images look really bright on the LCD!

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Be sure to judge your exposures based on the histogram and not how good the image looks on your LCD. In the dark, underexposed images look really bright on the LCD!

The biggest mistake most photographers make when light painting is to take the image, look at the back of their LCD and determine that the exposure is fine because the LCD display looks good. But don’t be fooled! The display you are seeing is not the actual photograph you just took; it’s your camera’s best guess, represented in a small jpeg image, of what your final image will look like. This is why it’s critical to look at the histogram to determine if you have not underexposed your dusk image. On the LCD, the image may look too bright, but ignore this. When you process the image, it will come out looking as your eye saw it at the time.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - You can always darken a slightly bright picture to make it look more dark but making a dark image brighter will cause increased noise and degradation of image quality.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – You can always darken a slightly bright picture to make it look more dark but making a dark image brighter will cause increased noise and degradation of image quality.

If at 30 seconds, the data is jammed to the right on the histogram, wait until it gets darker and take another test shot. If the data is contained within the histogram and centre or centre-right, then you are ready to start light painting. Take another exposure of 30 seconds but this time aim your flashlight on your subject. You will want to pass the beam of the flashlight in an even manner over the areas you wish lit up in the 30 second time frame. (If 30 seconds is not enough time for you to pass the flashlight over the areas you wish to cover, wait until it gets darker for a longer exposure time). To avoid hot spots where the flashlight was held too long in one spot, twist your wrist in small circles as you paint and wiggle the beam over the entire surface to be painted. When your 30 seconds is up, check your histogram to ensure all the data is in and slightly balanced to the center or center right without going off either end of the graph. If the subject is too brightly lit by the flashlight, then paint for less than the full exposure time. Continue a few exposures at 30 seconds to get a variety of images to work with back home. The beauty of a light painted image is that no two are the same!

©Splotchy uneven lighting on the subject is part of the charm of light painted images.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Splotchy uneven lighting on the subject is part of the charm of light painted images.

©Darwin Wiggett - Each frame will have different looks because you can never move light over the subject in exactly the same manner.

©Darwin Wiggett – Each frame will have a different look because you can never move light over the subject in exactly the same manner.

As the light dims, you will quickly find that 30 seconds is not enough time to expose your subject properly. Since you are on the bulb setting, you can keep the shutter open as long as you like (either on timer or with a locking mechanism on a cable release). As soon as 30 seconds produces a histogram that is becoming biased to the left (that is, underexposed), you will need to let in more light. A handy rule of thumb is to double your exposure time. Try a 60-second exposure and check your histogram. As the light continues to dim, double your exposure time if needed for the next photograph. There is no hard and fast rule; the trick is to interpret the histogram and adjust your exposure time as the histogram shows the image is becoming underexposed. When you are up to 4 minutes exposure time, you may wish to dial your aperture to f11 or f8 (if depth of field is not critical) to let even more light into the camera. You can keep shooting as long as you like, but keep in mind at some point the ambient light will not be strong enough to record behind your subject and separate it from the background. This is why light painting works best at dusk or dawn and not when it’s dark out. For long-exposure effects, look for wind-blown grasses or moving clouds. With this easy method, I get consistent results without having to bother with calculations (math is nasty!) or lugging around extra gear.

©Darwin Wiggett - Four minute exposure with northern lights in the background

©Darwin Wiggett – Four minute exposure with northern lights in the background

 

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Darwin goofing around on Halloween night.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Darwin goofing around on Halloween night.

winking pumpkin

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Happy Halloween!

 

9 October

Scaretography Light Painting Party

It’s Halloween — and time to party! How do photographers celebrate this wacky season? With wickedly good images, of course. We’ve rented a spooky hall in the countryside and planned a full afternoon of light painting, flash effects and a costume party! All the grisly details are here. Can’t make it out? Don’t worry – the October Newsletter will be coming out soon with your monthly challenge – be afraid…be very afraid.

Old door with cracked window

What’s behind the door? ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Backlit door opening

Dare you proceed? ©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett - Don't be scared!

©Darwin Wiggett – Don’t be scared!

Scorched tree

We dare you to attend… ©Samantha Chrysanthou

©DarwinWiggett

©DarwinWiggett

winking pumpkin

©Samantha Chrysanthou

 

3 September

The Return of Fabulous Film Fridays!

Here at oopoomoo we love photography, and we mean that in the most literal sense; we use cameras to make our art and the more we strive to graph light with our cameras, the better we like it! When we shot film, all the work was done in the camera especially when we shot with slide film (ok, who ‘we’ kidding – Darwin is the master slide film guy). With slide film, there was no darkroom work and no manipulation outside of the camera. What you got was what you managed to capture with your camera. Talk about naked skills.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Darwin with his film cameras shot with a 4x5 view camera with polaroid film.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Darwin with his film cameras shot with a 4×5 view camera with polaroid film.

So, as a thoughtful exercise in the roots of photo-graph-y, we are relaunching a feature that Darwin and I co-launched on our old blogs. When you have a spare moment skip over to my and Darwin’s old blogs to enjoy a blast from the past – make sure you visit both! There’s some hilarious film pics on my old blog of our early relationship.

Me with all my film gear!

©Darwin Wiggett – Me with all my film gear!

Here’s where you come in. We want you to share your images taken on film (yes, film, that old, plasticky stuff you have to get developed elsewhere unless you are a darkroom guru) on Fridays over at our oopoomoo facebook group. Use the hashtag #fabulousfilmfridays on Facebook to showcase your work. Every month or two we’ll gather the best of the images and do a summary here on the blog to celebrate photography’s roots! Be sure to start posting this Friday September 4, 2015!

©Samantha Chrysnthou - Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland with a Holga camera.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland with a Holga camera.

©Samantha Chrysanthou -Baby carriage on lawn, Lac La Biche, Alberta shot with a Holga camera.

©Samantha Chrysanthou -Baby carriage on lawn, Lac La Biche, Alberta shot with a Holga camera.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - Lone tree, near Cochrane, Alberta shot with a Holga camera.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Lone tree near Cochrane, Alberta shot with a Holga camera.

©Darwin Wiggett - Old car, Trochu, Alberta shot with a Fuji 645 camera.

©Darwin Wiggett – Old car, Trochu, Alberta shot with a Fuji 645 camera.

 

10 August

Campfire Stories

In Canada, summer is the time for camping. I know this because I just looked up availability to one of our fave, local campgrounds to find there was only one spot left out of hundreds. Apparently all of Calgary has already headed out there. And this was for camping mid-week! Usually, one of the perks of being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. In the summer this means leaving home early to arrive at a campsite and register before all those other poor schmucks can get off work and drive out there. Not anymore! Alberta’s pre-registration system has made the whole process more egalitarian if less impromptu.

Darwin at Squanga Lake Yukon

Darwin at Squanga Lake, Yukon – Cyclists have their refreshment, we have ours!

But this is not a rant about Alberta Parks. No, I thought instead, if I can’t get out camping, at least we can have a little campfire fun so to speak on the blog. My question for you is, what was the eeriest moment you ever had camping out in the great big wild? Share in a comment here on the blog – and even better, a pic (if you were brave enough to get one)!

Dempster Highway, Blackstone Mountains, Yukon

Dempster Highway, Blackstone Mountains, Yukon. Do you dare?

Now gather round, and I’ll tell you one of mine…it happened when Darwin and I were traveling through Yukon Territory several years ago. We were way up north on one of Canada’s most infamous roads: the Dempster Highway. Known for potholes big enough to swallow a small car, sharp rocks and frost heaves, it is not a journey undertaken lightly or by the uninformed. The weather can also be a bit extreme. The shots in this post are from that visit August 21, 2008. As you can see, we are well into fall colours during our little trip.

Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon

Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon. A little further on up the road.

My campfire story doesn’t involve a campfire, but it does involve a campground. After hours of driving, we’d managed to reach Engineer Creek Campground where we decided to stop for lunch. Mother nature had been tempermental all day with bursts of sunshine peeking through menacing clouds and fog. We pulled into the campground and found it quite charming with its black rock roads contrasting with fresh yellow leaves. Charming…but quite deserted. There was not a single soul in the place!

Engineer Creek Campground, Yukon Territory, Canada

Engineer Creek Campground. Hellooooo! Anyone home?

We were not deterred and got out our lunch stuff. This involved firing up our small portable cook stove to make a warm lunch. We each set about our tasks of preparing lunch (me chopping veg, Darwin trying to get the stove to work). Pretty soon we noticed though that there didn’t even seem to be birds in this campground, or if there were, they weren’t making a peep.

I think that’s when I started to get a little creeped out.

“Hey Darwin,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s awfully quiet here?”

Darwin looked up from fiddling with the stove. “Come to think of it, where is everybody?” It was later in the day on a very long, lonely road – no one was planning on staying the night here? We kept on prepping lunch but both of us would peer into the dense foliage from time to time. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched whenever I turned my back on the woods. Surreptitiously, I kept my bear spray nearby on the table. We ate facing opposite sides of the forest, not talking much and keeping an eye out.

Shelter, Engineer Creek Campground, Yukon Territory, Canada

Is someone there?

Well, sorry to say no yeti strode out of the shrubbery and sat down to lunch with us that day. I’m pretty sure something was out there though – usually you get the heebie-jeebies in your tent, in the dark, after a good round of scary stories. But this was during the day, in a beautiful place that we were lucky enough to have all to ourselves. Even our dog, Brando didn’t seem as excited as usual to go for a walk. If there was a critter eyeing us with intent, we never saw or heard it. By mutual agreement we decided not to camp there – or even spend another minute – and pressed on a little further up the Dempster before turning back and beginning our long journey homeward. I shuddered as we drove past the campground on our way back. It still seemed as we drove by as silent as the grave.

Darwin at Two Moose Lake, Yukon, Canada

Darwin at Two Moose Lake, Yukon. Maybe we should eat here? I love summer camping!

Watch out behind you!

Watch out behind you!

Yukon camping.

Yukon camping.

10 July

Photography is Like Parenting

I recently had the chance to go camping with family. Now, I have chosen not to have children, but I have lots of nieces and nephews so I can easily get my ‘kid fix’ when I need it. I’m always amazed by parents. It seems to me a tough job some days.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

The great thing about being an aunt is that you can hand the kids back when things get tough 😉 ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Unlike photography, there’s really no manual to guide you. But it struck me that, in some ways, parenting and photography are alike. Using some of the things I’ve learned from my parents, and from watching other parents, I’m going to make the case that photography is like parenting…so here goes.

Eat Your Broccoli

Remember how your parents were always telling you to eat that healthy, green stuff on your plate? “It’s good for you,” they’d explain. Well, even though we knew they were right, it was still hard sometimes to choke down those veggies. Photography has veggies too – those things you should do to become a better photographer that you don’t really enjoy doing. Like, for example, photographing frequently around home rather than planning exotic photo trips. Sure, traveling some place new is exciting, but you’ll have stronger skills if you practice often in your local area.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Eat your broccoli! ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Practice honing your photography skills locally before you head off on that once in a lifetime travel trip! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Practice honing your photography skills locally before you head off on that once in a lifetime travel trip! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Don’t Stay Up Too Late

We know that staying up late and watching TV is bad for us, but we do it anyway (until we get told to turn off the light and go to bed). It can also be tempting to go hard, guns blazing, with your photography. Chasing the sweet light can mean you’re up late photographing star trails after sunset and still upright when sunrise burns up the sky. You don’t want to miss anything of course, but one thing I’ve learned from long photo trips is the need to pace yourself. There’s nothing worse than hitting that creative wall and having no energy to stand up let alone make a good image. Stay in it for the long haul and respect your body and mind’s need to recharge.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Samantha taking a creative recharge break. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Keeping rested and sharp allows you to see images beyond the obvious. ©Samantha Chysanthou - oopoomoo.com

Keeping rested and sharp allows you to see images beyond the obvious. ©Samantha Chysanthou – oopoomoo.com

Respect Your Elders

There are many, many talented photographers out there and so much to learn from studying the work of artists who have created before us. In the photo industry I’ve seen a tendency to self-aggrandizement, the belief that you and your work is unique and ‘never been done before’. True creative vision is actually pretty rare, so it’s a good idea to stay a little humble and maybe take some time to review the images and art works of photographers and artists whose work has stood the test of time.

Most of the really great photographers we know, like Wayne Simpson pictured here, are humble and readily acknowledge the work of those who have influenced them.  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Most of the really great photographers we know, like Wayne Simpson pictured here, are humble and readily acknowledge the work of those who have influenced them. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Mind Your Manners

One of the tasks of parenting is to teach your children how to behave with other people. Sure you want that toy, but pushing that other kid out of the way and stealing it from your sister is not going to make you many friends. Parents succeed at teaching manners to varying degrees. But as adults, we really have no excuse for bad behaviour. Why is it then that some photographers feel it is just fine to trespass on private property to get a better position? Or scare wildlife away by getting too close? Or yell at tourists who get in their way? I think one of the most remarkable stories from Darwin’s 50 at 50 eBook relates to the incredibly bad behaviour of a bunch of photographers at iconic Delicate Arch. It seems some photographers need to go back to kindergarten to learn some manners.

Here Samantha demonstrates how to tread lightly so as not to stress or disturb wildlife in its natural habitat.

Here Samantha demonstrates how to tread lightly so as not to stress or disturb wildlife in its natural habitat. ©Darwin Wiggett

Pick Good Friends

We’ve all seen this…a nice, sweet kid falling in with ‘the wrong crowd’ and turning into a swearing, pierced, slouched creature. How does this happen? Apparently, parents are right to feel concern over who their children hang out with. Your peers will either elevate you – or bring you down. Finding a mentor in photography can be one of the best things you can do to take your images to a higher level. Consistent, clear, caring feedback can do wonders for your artistic ability. So make sure you pick good friends who not only support your creative efforts but also give you a little challenge sometimes.

Pick great friends to make each journey more rewarding. ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Pick great friends to make each journey more rewarding. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Well, I’ve come up with five points. Can you think of some ways in which photography is like parenting?

A 'serious' self portrait - ©Samantha Chrysanthou

A ‘serious’ self portrait – ©Samantha Chrysanthou

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