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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alright, maybe it was not the smartest thing to start the FAT Project right before Christmas. Surprisingly, it was not the temptation of chocolate, turkey and candy that made the time difficult; it was the upset to schedule. We got used to following a fairly set schedule. We exercised at a consistent time and our meals were all planned out. One of us fetched the groceries and cooked for a few days and the other was on Kitchen Patrol. We managed to mostly pull this off, and felt better and lost inches in the right spots. But then came the train wreck called “the Holidays” and we were magnificently off-schedule and off-diet. We only messed up a few days here and there, but every time we traveled, it was really tough to stay to the diet and our vigorous exercise regime.
You really find out how hard it is to find something appetizing and healthy when you travel. Most healthy food has to be prepared somehow. The stuff that doesn’t need to be chopped, cooked or even refrigerated tends to be less healthy (e.g. processed). That’s because the more processed a food is, and the less it resembles its original form, the more unhealthy it probably is. Along with good ‘ole salt, more chemicals are used to extend its shelf-life and more lab-created, synthetic materials substitute the fresh flavours found in natural foods. When you return to a basic food palette, most processed food you used to enjoy tastes like salted cardboard.
Along with a busy time of visiting and travel, we have been working in the office on the new and exciting things we hope to do this year for oopoomoo. The feedback to our new business has been wonderfully positive with lots of ideas from the oopoomoo community – that’s you! But it’s surprising how almost incompatible a full work-day is with a healthy lifestyle (we are sure many of you can relate). You have to be very organized. As self-employed workers with a new business, we work more than eight hours a day. Finding the time to fetch ‘fresh’ food from the grocery store (how old produce is by the time it gets here and how much nutrition is lost during travel is probably another issue) and then wash, chop, combine, cook and serve—three times a day—is like a part time job! This isn’t even factoring in the exercise program which takes a minimum of at least one and half hours per day! And did we mention that we still need to walk the dog three times over the course of a day as well? Whew, when to sleep?
Remember how in our original post we decided to live 80/20? 80% ‘good behaviour’ (active lifestyle, moderate portions, healthy foods) and 20% for our fave treats and eating out. After the struggle of staying on a rigid 100% hard core diet/exercise schedule with only minor interruptions, we’ve decided that the 80/20 lifestyle is a more sustainable program. If we go hardcore we’ll likely just do the yo-yo weight ups and down that is common with any diet. We hope that by building in an allowance now for changes in schedule and travel, we can still slowly lose weight but still be flexible enough to ‘roll with the lunches’ so to speak and maintain this for the long term.
Darwin has lost 7lbs and is holding steady (even after sneaking the occasional peanut butter sandwich when Sam wasn’t looking)!
Sam has lost 6lbs and is still sloooooooowwwwllllyyy losing more (but she has gotten more muscle and so weight only tells part of the story — she can now bench press Darwin’s Canon 1ds Mark III no problem!).
We both feel great physically overall and we actually don’t miss fries, or potato chips or other junk food. It just does not taste good to us any more (but beer still does!) Some things probably won’t change.
(How are all you hard core P90X people doing??)
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!
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!
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.
The infamous ice bubbles of Abraham Lake in blue monochrome.
‘Tis the season of self-improvement, and what better way to improve oneself than setting a creative goal like becoming a better photographer! But ‘better photographer’ is pretty vague, isn’t it? Sometimes it helps to come at these kinds of things sideways. We often advise our students to try a project for a set period of time if they feel like their photography is in a rut. The project should be as detailed as possible, with a finite time and a measurable goal. You also want your project to be realistic so that it is achievable. Many shooters were inspired by the ‘Daily Snap’ project Darwin took on at his old blog in 2010 but photographing every day may not be realistic for all of us. A good project that is very effective but a bit less time-intensive might be to choose a nearby location and visit this spot once a week for several months, making images at different times of day, in various weather and when you are in different moods. This kind of a project helps you learn to see by challenging you to find something worth photographing even after you become familiar with (and often desensitized to) a location. It also improves your self-awareness of what motivates you to click the shutter and how your state of mind influences your photography. By keeping your images, you’ll have a ‘photographic record’ of your evolution through the project…and maybe even an image or two that you are proud of taking and that is worth sharing.
How do you continue to develop your artistic skill as a photographer?
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!
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.