We are so sorry to hear that Edmonton’s Paul Burwell, wildlife photographer, Outdoor Photography Canada magazine columnist, founder of the Burwell School of Photography (BSOP) has passed away yesterday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on December 24.
I first met Paul when he came on one of my winter photo tours at Aurum Lodge in the early 2000’s. In the time since then he single-handedly built an amazing photo education school in Edmonton that has graduated hundreds of students. Paul asked Samantha and me to teach landscape photography at his school which we did for several years and we always had a blast. Paul was the consummate professional and so easy to deal with and had a dry, witty sense of humour. Had we lived in the Edmonton area I am sure we would have been close friends. The photo community will miss Paul but fortunately his legacy will live on in the BSOP which will be run by his wife, Kathryn, and with the help of friends and photo instructors. If you’re in the Edmonton area please support this wonderful institute of photographic learning by taking a course – you’ll be happy you did.. There is also a support group set up on Facebook for condolences and a funding site for donation.
Paul, there are free 500mm lenses in the great beyond and furry puppies everywhere. You’ll have a blast! We miss you.
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 but we are offering a requested second session January 17 – 23, 2016 with the same introductory 40% discount until December 15 2015. After the 15th we’ll be charging $79.95 for the eCourse. To learn more about this unique photography offering please go to this link. May you have a creative 2016!
Samantha and I have written extensively on the oopoomoo blog about honouring your creative vision. To be an artist you need to follow your muse especially when outside forces always seem to want to sabotage your progress. For example, my output in photography was directed for years by the need to produce saleable images for stock photography. I shot things I normally would not be interested in and I learned how to make images which would please photo buyers. Once stock photography started to dry up (post 9-11), then money was to be made in providing tours and workshops to other photographers. The imagery I created was meant to entice participants to sign up for desirable destinations or to learn technique driven processes. My own development as an artist suffered. And so the time has come to allow my creative vision free reign of expression.
Samantha and I have taken the pressure off ourselves to produce work for others. We are not shooting for stock nor are we shooting to gather potential tour or workshop clients. Sam never really pursued these things anyway. Instead, we’re returning to photography purely as a creative outlet. Of course, giving up our successful and acclaimed workshop program means we have cut our income by about 1/3rd. But that is a small price to pay to go on a path of self-discovery. To finance our journey we have cut expenses and gotten part time jobs outside the world of photography. Our jobs are what we do to support ourselves as artists. We have decided to purposefully walk the pathway of creativity and see where it takes us. For too long we have been teaching others to do this but we haven’t done it ourselves. You’ll see oopoomoo stay true to its roots of create, inspire and educate through us sharing both our journey and, increasingly, the journeys of others – in fact, we make this adjustment in order to focus more clearly on this important aspect of photo sharing and story-telling. We have a great desire to help photographers be artists. And we welcome all creatives to share their discoveries and stories here on the oopomoo blog or in our oopoomoo Facebook group. Stay tuned!
To read part II of this post, Carving Out Time for Creativity, please go to this link.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Many of you know we rented out our house for a year starting last July. We did a six month stint as artists in residence at Aurum Lodge, traveled to Antarctica for one month and then did house sitting in various locales in the Calgary area for the last five months. We lived with a minimum of personal effects for the entire year and we loved the simplicity. Frankly, most of the stuff we left at home we rarely missed (but Sam did really miss her food dehydrator and her cast iron pot in oopoomoo blue).
Now that we are back home we see that much of what we own just clutters our life. The most cluttered area of all is in our hobby and business of photography. So to get rid of the clutter we are having a photo garage sale to help clear our photographic excesses (there must be rehab for this problem). And joining us in clearing the clutter will be our friends and Outdoor Photography Canada magazine columnists, Mark and Leslie Degner. It seems they have also accumulated too many photo goodies over the years.
So here is your opportunity to help us clear our clutter – and increase yours! You might actually find some of this stuff useful! We’ve got some rare and interesting photography gear that might just be what you are looking for at really low prices. Below is a overview of the things we are selling or giving away. Even if you don’t need anything, come by and say hi. We hope you can make it out!
Where: 22 West Terrace Close, Cochrane, Alberta
When: 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, Saturday Aug 22, 2015 (rain or shine – the garage door will not open before 9 AM – sorry early birds!)
What: See list below:
- Original sleeved prints from us and from other respected nature photographers from our collection (5x7s – 3 for $5.00, 8x12s – 2 for $10, 12x18s – $10 each). Great for xmas presents!
- Matted and sleeved prints of various sizes ($5 – $40).
- Canvas, metal and matted and framed prints ready to hang (starting at $10)
- Studio lights, soft boxes, lighting umbrellas, light stands, light modifiers, reflectors – everything you need for studio work or natural light portraiture!
- Film fanatics, pay attention, we have bulk film loaders and film accessories
- We have darkroom stuff galore including 35mm, medium format and 4×5 film development accessories for developing slides (E6) colour and B+W negatives.
- We have enlargers for 35m to 4×5 format (we even have a free one to give away)
- Camera filters and filter holders (Lee and Cokin)
- Lots of camera bags from small to large to waterproof and everything in between
- Cotton carrier system
- Unused fine art digital print paper packets
- Instructional photo DVD’s
- Photography books
- And maybe even a camera or lens or two!
Most images we make are like flavours of the day. They are wonderful at the time, but soon we long for something new, fresh and tasty. And then there are those images that like fine wine taste better and better as they age. These images we call sleepers, or as Samantha like to say, “they pass the wall test.” These are images that, if hanging on your wall, you don’t grow tired of but enjoy more and more over time. Such images are rare.
We have been asking our oopoomoo Facebook group to post some of their favourite sleeper images every Sunday. These post are categorized under #sleepersundays (some people have mistakenly used #sleepersunday as well – you need to be signed into Facebook for these search terms to work). The results have been inspiring and we invite all photographers to post their sleeper images each Sunday on our Facebook group. Every few months we’ll gather up the most inspirational images and share them here on our blog complete with links to each photographer’s website (we always ask permission in advance). We are planning to start gathering up our faves after this Sunday for our first blog showcase. Join our Facebook group and share your #sleepersundays images… maybe you’ll see your tasty work displayed here on oopoomoo.
Here are some recent sleepers that Samantha and I have shared:
Happy Canada Day!
Samantha and I have been lucky enough to travel to many different parts of the globe and every time we come home to Canada we realize how fortunate we are to live in this amazingly diverse country. We are blessed with stunning natural beauty and vast areas of wilderness. Our friends don’t believe us when we tell them, but it’s true – no place we have visited compares to Canada!
Canadians have a unique opportunity to preserve, nurture and embrace the bounty of nature bestowed on Canada. We could be world leaders and celebrate our abundance before it is gone forever. Many other countries have learned this lesson, the hard way… they don’t appreciate what they had until it’s gone. Rather than mourn what we had, let’s work hard not to lose it in the first place. We need to think bigger picture and longer term than just the immediate future. The election of the NDP in Alberta is a signal that people want more than just “business-as-usual” short-term economic riches. Most Canadians want an ethical social fabric, a diverse economy that rewards quality of life over quantity of goods, and we want to keep the awesome nature that we all benefit from and enjoy.
One of the best ways to preserve natural habitat and the species that live there is to preserve watersheds. Thinking watershed is thinking holistically… we all need water to live and saving water requires saving large chunks of habitat (which saves many species at once)! A common statistic flaunted about Canada is that we have 20% of the world’s fresh water. But according to Environment Canada:
…less than half of this water — about 7% of the global supply — is “renewable“. Most of it is fossil water retained in lakes, underground aquifers, and glaciers.
For Canada’s 30 million people — about half a percent of the world’s population — this is still a generous endowment. But, more than half of this water drains northward into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. As a result, it is unavailable to the 85% of the Canadian population who live along the country’s southern border. That means the remaining supply, while still abundant, is heavily used and often overly stressed.
This blog post is part celebration and part exhortation. Let’s call upon our governments (and ourselves) to take action and protect our water and riparian habitat.
And so in celebration of Canada Day, I present images from across Canada showcasing our water (both fresh and salt water).
Samantha and I will continue to vote with our ballets, our wallets, our conservation habits and our time to do our part to keep Canada biologically and socially diverse. Canada, we toast you (with a cool glass of fresh water!) Happy Canada Day!
For May our shooting theme over on the oopoomoo workshops Facebook group was ‘shadows’. And, wow, did we get a great bunch of images. Thanks to everyone who participated! Below are our favorite creative interpretations of ‘shadows’ by oopoomoo photographers. If you want to be kept abreast of our latest assignments just subscribe to our newsletter (upper right of this webpage) and you’ll also get our free Born Creative eBook! And if you want to participate in sharing and providing constructive feedback on images be sure to check out our active and fun Facebook group.