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

3 December

The Compressed Landscape

In the last year or so, I’ve found myself making the occasional odd photograph.  What I mean by odd is that they seem to have the air sucked out of them; they are pressed landscapes, flattened like a pretty flower in a heavy book.  It’s an optical illusion created in part by compositional design and focal length, of course.  But I like it because I can use my creative photographic toolkit to portray reality in an unusual way.  Gets one thinking!

rocky outcrop at Whirlpool Point, Bighorn Wildland, Alberta, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Folded Landscape


Lodgepole trees and the Sawback Range

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Peek-a-boo Sawback Range, Banff National Park


snowy shore and lone aspen tree by a blue lake, Abraham Lake, Bighorn Wildland, Alberta, Canada

© Samantha Chrysanthou - Life at the Edge

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)?

28 November

Dessert Before Dinner: What is Your Business Style?

The one thing I’m learning about being self-employed and running my own business is that I have—seemingly simultaneously—too much control over my daily tasks and no control at all.  Let me explain.  When I worked in a law office, someone else (my boss) decided how much work I should have and generally the hours I had to be working there.  Even if I did not have much to do, I still had to show up at work.  In the office, we used to call this ‘face time’.  If you didn’t appear to be just snowed under with work, you soon would be, so while you had to be at the office, you also might lay low to avoid a big file landing on your desk at 6:00pm on a Friday.  But if you had too little work, then you weren’t going to make your billable hours that month which would hurt your plan to ask for a raise at contract renewal time.  So stressful!

Sam thinking

Now, no one sets my hours, and I don’t have to do face time.  But ironically, no one tells me when it is safe to quit working either.  Weekends?  What are these days of the week called ‘weekends’?  Oh sure, you are saying, you don’t need a weekend because you can just pack up and go to the mountains any time you want!  But it is not that simple.  When you run your own business, you do the work of 10 staff people.  You are not just a photographer, writer and teacher, but you are also your own secretary, ad-man, graphic designer, copy editor, CEO, COO, CMA and, well, you get the idea.  There is always something to do which means you have to physically book your time off (and then not cancel on yourself when a big problem lands on your desk at 6:00pm the day before your scheduled day off).  It is harder than it seems.


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.