7 January

Twelve Favourite Images from 2012 – Winter in the Canadian Rockies Photo Tour (Plus a NEW 2013 Tour!)

Of all the photo tours we do each year, one of my favourites is the Winter in the Canadian Rockies tour because the landscape is reduced to simple graphic elements of shape, form and line. More and more I appreciate the simplicity of winter images (although making them is anything but simple – getting dressed for the adventure is half the struggle!) Each year we offer two winter tours based out of the Aurum Lodge on Abraham Lake. This year both tours are sold out with a wait list. To accommodate those who missed out on booking our regular winter tours, there is still a possibility to see the stark beauty of winter in the Canadian Rockies….  We have set aside Feb. 14 – 18, 2013 for a tentative third winter tour. I say tentative because we need five people to run this tour! So if you are keen on getting the best the Canadian Rockies has to offer in winter and to see and visit secret spots you likely would not find on your own be sure to contact Alan at the Aurum Lodge to register (cost is $1519 plus GST all inclusive! Don’t worry; if we don’t get the five people by January 31, 2013, your deposit is fully refundable this time!) To learn more about the winter tours and what is included please see our tour description page.

Below are twelve of my favourite images from the three 2012 winter tours – to see more photos from these tours go to our Flickr page for Tour 1, Tour 2 and Tour 3. Most of the photos are taken with my tilt-shift lens for the big advantages these lenses give landscape photographers. Plus, I almost always use filters in my photography for these reasons. So get on your boots and gloves and join Alan and me for a winter romp through the Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake and the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Park. Check out the group shot at the end and guess which person is Sam (she has a unique sense of fashion!)


©Darwin Wiggett – Abraham Lake with a 15mm fisheye lens (no filters)


©Darwin Wiggett – The Reflecting Pools (24mm TS-E lens using tilt plus a polarizer and a grad filter)


©Darwin Wiggett – Hoodoo Bay, Abraham Lake (24mm TS-E lens using tilt plus a polarizer and a grad filter)


©Darwin Wiggett – North Saskatchewan River Ice Details (90mm TS-E lens plus a polarizer)


©Darwin Wiggett – Abraham Lake from South Side Windy Point (17mm TS-E lens using tilt and shift, no filters and HDR)

©Darwin Wiggett - Quartzite Boulder Pile, Jasper NP (using a Sigma 120-400mm lens and focus stacking, no filters)

©Darwin Wiggett – Quartzite Boulder Pile, Jasper NP (using a Sigma 120-400mm lens and focus stacking, no filters)



©Darwin Wiggett – Wolf Willow abstract  (Sigma 85mm lens at f1.4, no filters)


©Darwin Wiggett – Sunrise on Abraham Lake from the Belly of Abraham (24mm TS-E lens using tilt plus a polarizer, a grad filter and a 4-stop solid ND filter)


©Darwin Wiggett – Abraham Lake from Hoodoo Creek Bay (24mm TS-E lens using tilt plus a polarizer and a grad filter)


©Darwin Wiggett – Abraham Lake in wind (24mm TS-E using tilt plus a polarizer and a 4-stop solid ND filter)


©Darwin Wiggett – Cline River Canyon (24mm TS-E using shift plus a polarizer)

Fire burn abstract, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada

©Darwin Wiggett – Forest Burn abstract (Sigma 120 -400mm lens plus a polarizer and a 4-stop solid ND filter)

Feb 2012 Winter Photo Tour

Feb 2012 Winter Photo Tour


18 December

On Dave’s Pond – Images from a Prairie Slough

During my three week stint as a temporary kennel operatorI managed to get out to photograph a couple of sunsets on Dave’s Pond which is a little prairie pothole pond on the Gone Wild Kennels property. The great thing about the Cochrane, Alberta area is that we get fantastic sunrises and sunsets especially in the winter when a chinook arrives. Anytime I see an arch of chinook clouds I head out for sunset in hopes of a colourful light show. Literally it’s as easy as  ‘f8 and be there’. I am not joking. I use my 24mm tilt-shift lens, tilted to match the plane of the prairie, and then set my aperture to f8 (for the best resolution) and start pressing the shutter button. I also always have a polarizer on my lens (to reduce reflected glare) and in all the cases below I also used a grad filter to hold back brightness in the sky. In two of the images I used  a combination of a grad filter and HDR together to make sure I got a photo with detail from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlights. For the square and the vertical panorama image I used shift on the tilt-shift lens to make a multiple image stitch. To learn more about these photo techniques, simply click on these links: filters, Tilt-Shift lenses and HDR.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

Pond in winter on praire near Cochrane, Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett

20 November

Fave Photo – Kootenay Plains

Taking a break from some office work here…. I thought I would share a couple of images from one of our instructional workshops this past summer. The Kootenay Plains is a very fragile yet beautiful region, and we’re fortunate to be able to conduct many photo workshops there. We really think photographers can make a difference to protect this incredible area. If you want to learn more about the great opportunites here and what you can do to help see our Special Places eBooks on the Kootenay Plains.

Kootenay Plains, Alberta

© Samantha Chrysanthou – Reflection

Kootenay Plains, Alberta

© Samantha Chrysanthou – The Sandy Pool


31 October

Happy Halloween from oopoomoo!

Hey everyone, oopoomoo says: Happy Halloween! What’s the spookiest thing you ever photographed?

Winking pumpkin

Winking pumpkin – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Grinning pumpkin

Grinning pumpkin – © Samantha Chrysanthou

23 October

Sam Plays In the Snow!

Wow, we’ve had some incredible snowfall here for this time of year — several inches over the last few days and a forecast snow warning for Calgary for today. Whew-hoo! Of course, as a former commuter, my thoughts are with those who have to get on the roads in the dark and drive to work on the slippery highways. I don’t miss that part of my old day job. My commute now consists of walking the dog every morning after breakfast so he does his daily constitution. But with the recent precipitation, Darwin and I decided to lug our cameras on our ‘commute’ and capture some of the scenery on the trip to the office. For all you who have to drive today, be safe!

View of the Bow River, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

View of the Bow River – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Aspen, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Our mini aspen forest – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Pathway near Bow River, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Watch out; it’s slippery!! – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Aspen, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Winter stand – © Samantha Chrysanthou

I’ve been playing with aperture effects on my new Sigma 50-150mm f2.8 lens. (I’m really lovin’ this lens, by the way, and I don’t often wax poetic about gear as many of you know!) Shooting through transparent material like leaves or turning twigs into weird patterns has been lots of fun for me recently. Here’s some ‘aperture play’: which do you like better…the detailed shot or the shallower depth of field?

Aspen, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

It’s all about the detail – © Samantha Chrysanthou

Aspen, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Or is it? – © Samantha Chrysanthou


27 September

Images from the oopoomoo Vault

With Darwin on a workshop, Brando and I are holding down the fort here at oopoomoo HQ. (Remember that Darwin is on a one-lens, one-camera outing this trip, so we’ll see how our hero managed when he gets back home! He was a little stressed about not having a back-up body but, in the end, he persevered.) Autumn is a glorious time to be out shooting, but we’ve had a busy September so I’m rather stuck here in the office catching up on stuff. Late fall, early winter is also the time we finally get around to processing some of the images sitting on our hard drives. We don’t cherry pick ones to process very much — if an image is sitting in raw format on a hard drive, then it ain’t makin’ us any money. So, we drink a lot of hot chocolate and process for hours. From time to time we’ll share one with you that we like. So, delving into the Vault for the first time, here’s an image from 2011 (yes, we are behind years, not months) of a pathway in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Pathway in Glenbow Provincial Park, Alberta

© Samantha Chrysanthou – Pathway in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, Alberta


5 September

The Rewards of Seeing Deeper in Landscape Photography

There are two different ways to approach landscape photography. The most common is to seek out stunning scenery and photograph it in the golden hour (1/2 hour before and 1/2 hour after sunrise and sunset). The goal here is to put yourself in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’. This approach is all about the photos first.  I have built a career photographing glorious locations in sweet light.

The second approach is much less common. This approach has the photographer go into nature for connection and experience first; the photography is a distant second. If the person feels inspired to make images, they will, but that is not necessarily their end goal. The main goal here is to just immerse themselves in nature. The photographs that result from this approach are more personal. Samantha has built her career using this second method.

The first approach usually results in images that are less about the photographer and more about the location and magic of the light. Done successfully these images usually have wide appeal and can be commercially successful. But these kinds of images are very common and so there is sea of big light/grand landscape images out there.

©Darwin Wiggett – My ‘trophy’ shot from the Lake Minnewanka outing

©Kory Lidstrom’s interpretation of the trophy light at Lake Minnewanka

The second approach produces more thoughtful, introverted images that say much about the photographer and less about the subject. They may not have as wide of an appeal to the general public, but there often is a smaller audience to whom these images resonate. Commercially, these kinds of photos work best as art prints or as collections in essays or in books. The photos don’t rely on big impact to grab the viewer but rather are more subtle and often have longer staying power to be viewed again and again.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – Sam’s intimate approach to the Minnewanka landscape

One time Samantha went out with three big light shooters, Marc Adamus, Kory Lidstrom and me.  With the glory light on the mountain peaks and a big reflecting lake for a foreground, the three of us guys snapped away furiously. Sam was facing the opposite direction mostly just looking around. Only occasionally did I see her making an image. The few images she made were very different from our big trophy shots.

Her favorite shot from the session is the image below. Just for fun, she entered it in Alberta Views Magazine’s annual photo contest where it garnered a runner up award from the prestigious photography judge George Webber. Congratulations Sam on seeing deeper and following your own vision! By the way this image looks amazing as a big print on the wall!

©Samantha Chrysanthou

30 August

Leaving the Scrapyard…Or Not

Darwin and I rarely shoot for ourselves during a workshop. I find it hard to switch gears from being a photo instructor to a photographer. But we had four hours at an autowrecker’s yard at last weekend’s Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings photo workshop, so I found myself with time to make a few images. Part of the challenge of working in the junkyard was being able to isolate subject matter from the overall clamour of the place. I felt rather sad for this car here which was in pretty darn good shape compared to the other vehicles. It seemed to me that the car was just driving out of the yard after perhaps picking up a spare part or two…although of course this old Delta 88 is never leaving and will soon join the rows of rusting hulks being slowly scraped clean by wind and sun in the boneyard.


Old car in a scrapyard, Alberta

Dreams of Escape ©Samantha Chrysanthou

8 August

A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography?

I wrote a blog post awhile back about Contemplative Photography – Letting the Place Speak to You. That post was a result of an outing with friends Wayne Simpson and Ian McGillvrey to Kananaskis Country near Calgary, Alberta. One night during our trip we had big glory light (see below) and we were hoping for the same the next morning but instead we had drab overcast light. That previous post was about letting the place speak to you and pulling out the good stuff that is offered up in any light even if at first glance the light looks boring. That ‘drab’ morning was truly a contemplative experience!

This post is about our big light night, about the ephemeral nature of dramatic light,  and about  the lack of connection I feel when chasing big light. Trophy light lasts for such a short time that I find myself rushing around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off . To get ‘trophy’ shots you need to put yourself in the right place at the right time, you need to to know your gear, and you have to work quickly to pull off a decent composition. For me, trophy photography is like sprinting – you never know your result until you cross the finish line, and it all goes by in a blur. The experience is not contemplative at all!

In big light I rarely ever connect with the subject I am photographing! My memories have more to do with the hunt than the thing hunted! I focus on lens changes, filters, exposure, and tilting and shifting. I am cursing the camera gear, the dead batteries, filled CF cards and stupid bugs! I’m watching the light and not my subject. In short, I don’t  connect at all with the subject I came out to photograph, namely nature! Sometimes I wonder what’s the point?

In the end, I much prefer the slower contemplative approach that overcast light nurtures. I feel whole and calm when I experience nature at my pace. The race demanded by trophy photography is less and less satisfying as I grow older. Maybe trophy hunting is a game for the young photographer? Many of my older photographic colleagues who were big light trophy hunters in their youth are now contemplative photographers searching to making the extraordinary out of the ordinary. In my opinion, these old guys (few women hunt trophies) are producing deeper and richer work than ever before (women seem to do that much earlier than men). Maybe it is just part of the evolution of the photographic artist to look deeper in themselves by practicing more contemplative photography. Or maybe trophy hunting is just too hard for old guys 😉

Anyway here are my ten photos (not sure if they are trophies) from the night I barely remember ;-). Stupid brain!

Be sure to check out Wayne’s blog and Ian’s Blog for their own unique way of seeing the world on this photo outing.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

21 July

Contemplative Photography – Letting the Place Speak to You!

Two day ago, good friends Wayne Simpson, Ian McGillvrey and I went out to Kananaskis Country to camp for the night with plans to shoot sunset and sunrise. After setting up Ian’s giant circus tent complete with elephant ring and a trapeze we headed up over Highwood Pass where I introduced Wayne and Ian to a hidden little beaver pond near Mount Lipsett. We had fun bushwhacking through thick willow fresh with bear sign. We were less worried about the bears than we were the helicopter-sized mosquitoes! The Red Cross takes less blood each visit than one of these hungry girls (yes only the female mosquito draws blood). In the end we balanced our tripods on the lip of a beaver dam and made classic sunset reflections of the Canadian Rockies under glorious sunset light. What a great night! Photos from that night will follow in an unpcoming blog post.

Pumped from the amazing light show, we headed off to the tent for a good night sleep. Well… Wayne didn’t sleep at all; apparently one of us (I can’t say who) snores ‘lightly’ and gives off more fumes than an Alberta sour gas well! Gee, those artist types are so sensitive!

Anyway, we woke to thick fog (outside the tent, thankfully) and our hopes of a glorious sunrise were dashed. We started driving highway 40 looking for a crack in the sky but alas the photo Gods failed to deliver and nary a coloured cloud could be found. Ian suggested we just go walk the shore of Wedge Pond because maybe we could make some nice detail shots along the shoreline.

Once we got to Wedge Pond it was obvious that no trophy light was in store so we settled into looking around for what was actually there and not what we wished or expected from the place. All three of us began to see the potential of a lake with a flooded shore of still waters under an overcast sky. Three hours later only the grumbling of our angry stomachs reminding that time had sailed by! Each of us made very different and personal images that morning. If the sky and the peaks had lit up as expected I’m sure we’d have like the photos but they would not be nearly as  meaningful and personal as the images captured once we let the place speak to us! Stay tuned on Wayne’s Blog and Ian’s Blog for their images.

©Darwin Wiggett – Perfect Calm

©Darwin Wiggett – Flooded Aspen Reflection

©Darwin Wiggett – Monet at Wedge Pond

©Darwin Wiggett – Summer Greens

©Darwin Wiggett – Simple Bounty

©Darwin Wiggett – Spruce Tree with Robin and Mount Kidd

©Darwin Wiggett – Red and Green

©Darwin Wiggett – Stop and Look Beyond the Obvious

©Darwin Wiggett – Wedge Forest

©Darwin Wiggett – Wedge Pond and the Flooded Shoreline